Monday, October 17, 2005

Fly, Be Free!

A freelancer who occasionally writes articles for the newsletter I edit alerted me a few months ago to the magic of Freecycle, and, still riding the high from having just unloaded a pile of bedding that was lurking in our linen closets from my husband's bachelor days, I thought I'd share.

Freecycle is a network of listservs that have popped up in cities and towns across the US. How it works is this: You find your area's local Freecycle list at and sign up. You can only offer items that you want to give away for free--no selling or trading allowed--and you can also request something that you need (for free) from listmembers. Once you make an offer, you wait 12-24 hours, choose the most worthy (or least scary-sounding) respondant, and make arrangements for the person to come and take your unwanted items away. It's a quick, easy, and painless way to keep old items out of landfills and get them into the hands of people who can use them.

It's also sometimes astonishing to see the weird items that people are willing to snap up. I mean, so many times I'll read an offer thinking no one in her right mind would take the proffered item, only to see an update a day later saying, "TAKEN: my late Aunt Gertrude's false teeth! Thanks for all your replies! Wish I had teeth for everyone who responded!"

Old computers, old electronics, old clothes, old bedding, spare parts, and more have found new, happy owners through my local Freecycle list.

It's also sobering to receive responses to an offer for something you consider just this shy of garbage, only to discover that the person asking for your "garbage" has a true need and couldn't afford to buy the shiny new replacement that's already gracing your home. I gave some of the aforementioned bedding to a woman for her cousin, who had severe health problems that kept him from driving and earning a steady income. He used it to cover the bare mattress on one of his son's beds. I looked at the beautiful new "Shabby Chic" brand bedspreads on my daughters' beds with a whole new appreciation for what I'm lucky enough to have.

So far, I've unloaded a garage full of moving boxes and packing paper; an ugly-but-functional mosquito net; an ENORMOUSLY fuzzy bathrobe with Pooh bears all over it that my sweet husband, concerned that my own beloved terry bathrobe would still be in transit, bought for me when I arrived in Korea--which made me look like Veruca Salt post-blueberry-bubblegum incident when I put it on (but probably looks fun and even flattering on the tall, beautiful single mom who picked it up); and the bachelor bedding.

It feels good to give this stuff to people who can use it, and it feels even better to know that I didn't have to resort to throwing it away or allowing it to keep cluttering my closets. Try it--I highly recommend setting your unwanted stuff free.


It's been a banner month for books in my house. Tails by Matthew Van Fleet met its untimely demise at the hands of my toddler, who had been reading peacefully but suddenly had a Tasmanian Devil-like bout of frenetic destructiveness and shredded the book in about .72 seconds. (And, once that was accomplished, promptly picked up another book and continued reading peacefully.) But on the other end of the scale, I've been on a small streak of finding some really great reads.

First, I recently finished Marital Privilege, a Harlequin Intrigue by Ann Voss Peterson discussed in my initial blog post. Only Ann could take something as over-the-top as the Russian mafia and make it not only realistic, but genuinely scary.

So then I moved on to Poison Study, a new fantasy hardcover by Maria V. Snyder. Again, I can't blurb to save my life, so apologies to Maria, but it's basically about a woman who's about to be executed for murder, and she's given the choice of either dying a quick death from the hangman's noose, or becoming the current ruler's food taster and eventually suffering a slow, painful death by poison. When she chooses the latter, the ruler's right-hand man gives her a poison called Butterfly's Dust to keep her in line; each day, she must show up for work to receive a temporary antidote, or she'll die a REALLY painful, slow death. I couldn't resist the premise, so I picked up this hardcover by a brand new author, and I'm very glad I did. An innovative plot, engaging characters, and a story that never stops moving make this one of my favorite reads of the year.

And now I'm reading a romantic suspense by Rita-award-winning author Karen Rose called Have You Seen Her? I haven't even gotten past page 100 yet (my cutoff page where I either keep reading or throw it at a wall), but I can already tell it's going to be good. The plot centers around a serial killer who targets young women, but Rose's creepy, creepy villain and all-too-human protagonists take this tried-and-true suspense device and make it new again.

On the nightstand waiting for me to finish Have You Seen Her? are bestseller Diana Gabaldon's newest giant historical/time-travel/epic thing, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, as well as Alisa Valdes Rodriguez's latina lit, Playing with Boys. I'm hoping to finish at least HYSH? and A Breath of Snow and Ashes before the new baby comes, but I keep having bouts of narcolepsy that have been keeping me from reading as much or as quickly as usual. Oh, well, maybe the books will be even better when I'm on percocet....

Thursday, October 13, 2005

My Plan for a Better Florida

So we recently moved to Florida from Korea, due to my husband's being an officer in the Navy, which likes to ping-pong us around the globe (never-mind-the-global-warming-emissions-caused-by-transporting-us-and-our-stuff-all-over-the-free-world) and I have to say, this place is not doing wonders for my deep, deep fear of spiders. I hate, hate, LOATHE spiders with the white-hot fiery passion of a thousand suns, and the mere sight of a daddy long-legs is enough to make my skin slough off and crawl into the next room. Florida, it seems is not only the place for those seeking tropical weather and year-round sunshine, but it must be Spider Valhalla as well. (ASIDE: Did you ever notice that just about everyone is deathly afraid of one of three things: spiders, snakes, or rats? I've always found that interesting.)

Our new house is built on a preserve lot with a patch of "woods" in the back, which, while lovely, must be somewhat akin to that patch of woods in the Harry Potter movies/books where the giant, people-eating, ten-eyed spider monsters live. Because I seem to have more than my share of bugs and arachnids, which those who've been here for awhile blame on the preserve lot we paid a premium price for. You'd think there'd be a disclosure law about that....

Anyway, concerned about just what kind of spider I most often spotted skittering around my house, I did a little research on the web and decided it was most likely a wolf spider. Hairy, six-eyed, and about the size of a fifty-cent piece. Wolf spiders, said my sources, are scary as all get out, but not poisonous. So. While I was still massively creeped out by the sight of one, I wasn't as worried as I'd have been had the nasty things been venomous.

Until yesterday, that is, when a woman on a writers' listserv I'm on mentions that she has hobo spiders in her house. Curious as to what exactly a hobo spider was, I looked it up ... and was horrified to discover that they bore an even greater resemblance to the creatures in my house than the photos I'd found of wolf spiders. In short, the scaryass but non-poisonous wolf spiders that have been lurking about are not, indeed, scaryass but non-poisonous wolf spiders, but scaryass AND poisonous hobo spiders. UGH!

Did you know that the bite of a hobo spider will necrotize like that of a brown recluse? And sometimes it takes 2-3 years for said bite to heal? And in some cases, said bite results in a systemic reaction that causes chronic headaches, nausea, lethargy, and even some kind of bone marrow issue that I can't completely remember due to the traumatic nature of this news that can lead to death?!?!?!

I'm currently dealing with this revelation the only way I know how -- I'm developing a plan to saw Florida off the continent and watch it float away. Who's with me?

About Me

My photo
Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter