•November 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Life under the dome.

As someone who grew up in a region where the seasons are clearly delineated by changes in temperature and precipitation, I still find the winters of Southern California to be eerie and strange. Not that it’s truly winter yet: based on the trees in the neighborhood, it is barely even fall. And as far as the citrus trees are concerned, it’s fruitin’ season. Still, I always get this feeling in the late fall as if the city of Los Angeles made some deal with the weather gods that winter would consist of six months of September. (If this is the case, then Chicago made a similar deal to have six months of March instead of spring.)

At any rate, it’s heading into winter now. We’ve finally turned on the heat and gotten out the comforter for the bed. It’s light when I walk out the door in the morning, but dark long before I head home at night. I occasionally resort to wearing my hair down as a way to keep warm. We finally gritted our teeth and took a Christmas picture. (Does anybody actually enjoy taking Christmas pictures? Like, actually get a kick out of it? Or is it a yearly ordeal like getting a smog check or going to the dentist: you do it because that’s how life works?) 


Fine Feline

•November 13, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This is how she prefers to watch television.

The cat, apparently, was astonishingly healthy.

“I’ve never seen an eleven year old cat that had nothing come up on the blood work.” The vet told me when he called with the results of her tests. 

This was welcome news. We’d brought her in to the vet on Saturday for an annual checkup and the preliminary response was that she was in good health. But eleven years old counts as ‘elder’ in cat years, so the vet recommended a complete blood panel… Just to, you know, be sure. It’s not a cheap test: several hundred dollars on top of the exam, and right at the leading edge of the holiday season. Last year I’d put it off: ten seemed too young to be pushing for a lot of elder care.

But then again, last year I’d had two cats. Now I just have the one. I still sometimes wonder whether getting the blood test done would have warned us about the tumor. Mostly I assume that it wouldn’t have made much difference, but there’s still that little voice that asks what if? So this year I got the test done. And the results were resoundingly good. 


I’m relieved, but not really surprised. The cat, Tortuga (Tuga for short) doesn’t act like an eleven year old cat. She is small- has always been small- and cuddly like a kitten. She avidly runs laps around the house, even if the hardwood floors necessitate parkour techniques in order to turn the corners. If I’m not paying attention to her VERY CLEAR signals that she wants to be picked up, then she will climb me like a tree and make herself comfortable on my shoulders like a fur stole. If I’m not wearing a heavy enough sweater, she has no compunction about digging her claws into human flesh to keep her balance. 

Then again, I’m just the hand that feeds. It is the Curmudgeonly Lion who is her special friend. If he is reclining at his desk, she will climb into his chest and curl up under his chin. If he is sitting on the couch she will find some comfortable nook to settle down in. If he is napping she makes a point of stretching out beside him. Or, if he’ll tolerate it, on top of him. He tolerates this attention with a kind of resigned satisfaction: he is adamantly Not A Cat Person, but there’s no such thing as not being a Tuga person. 

•November 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Don’t breathe too deep, don’t think all day
I haven’t written much this week. I don’t really have an excuse: I just haven’t had much to say. Or, at least, not much that I felt like writing about- I’m sure if I’d actually sat down and tried to put words on paper I would have come up with something. 

I have been writing: I managed to complete a chapter of the novel I’m working on. It was an elusive bit of writing that required a lot of massaging. I’m still not sure that I’ve quite gotten it in tune, but I think that all the salient plot points have made it onto the page- at least enough so that I can move on without feeling like I’m missing anything necessary for the character arcs. 

I haven’t been in a particularly introspective frame of mind lately. My mood has continued to be erratic, by which I mean that I keep experiencing sudden drops in my energy and motivation and sudden spikes in my anger and annoyance. I suspect that I have some unresolved issues that I’ve been bottling up. It’s not that I’m trying to pretend that they don’t exist, but rather that I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with them constructively yet and I’m trying to buy myself time until I can gather my wits. So a lot of my attention goes sliding across the surface of my mind without sinking in too deep. Hopefully the weekend will bring some relief. 


•November 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Yeah, yeah, whatever you say…
By the time I made it home yesterday, my energy levels had hit zero. The thought of doing anything- even something as simple a taking out the trash bins to the curb seemed like more than I had the energy to handle. I could blame the weather, or the time change, or low blood sugar or high hormones- the truth was probably some combination of all these things. I collapsed onto the bed and stared at the ceiling while persecuting voices enumerated my faults and told me all the things I was doing wrong with my life. 

What’s the point? Why bother?

The worst part of a fit of depression is the futility of it. The whispering suspicion that everything I do is a waste of time is infinitely worse than the mental name calling.  I didn’t have the energy to fight. When the bullying voices realized that I wasn’t going to be good sport, they ran out of material and drifted away. I was able to push myself up again and get on with my day. Because the trash needed collecting whether I had energy for it or not. 

I took out the trash and repaired my shoes and puttered around at a few other tasks around the house. I made myself get out the to do list yeast I’d written earlier in the day and crossed a bunch of things off. 

Look how much you managed to do. You’re doing just fine.

Another voice spoke to me now. The Angel on my other shoulder, I suppose. It was nice to know that if I had to listen to the opinions of voices that speaking in my mind that at least I had more than one voice to choose to listen to. 

I spent the rest of the evening eating leftover pizza, drinking Writer’s Tears and watching the Ken Burns Vietnam War special, which seems like a questionable choice considering my mood and mindset, but it seemed to help. By the time the episode ended, I felt like I was back on an even keel. 

I get these low swings from time to time. I suppose that I keep getting them right now due to all the end of year stuff that I have on my mind: the added burden of the approaching holidays and end-of- deadlines throwing my feelings into much sharper relief than usual. And, of course, the season, the time change, the hormones, and the blood sugar spikes/drops from all that leftover Halloween candy. So really I guess I have no one to blame but myself. 

Ring Cleaning

•November 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I took my wedding ring to the jeweler to have the stones inspected and to get it cleaned. It’s a task that I have to repeat every six months for the sake of the warranty, and since it’s the only piece of really valuable jewelry that I wear on a daily basis, it’s worth getting the checkup. I understand that some women take off their rings before engaging in tasks that would dull or damage them: washing dishes, gardening, etc. The only times that I typically take mine off are if I’m making dough (of the pie/bread variety, not of the cash variety) or if I’m spray painting. So there’s a fair about of wear and tear. 

And gunk.

So my wedding ring is, at present, sparkling with renewed glitter. Having inspected it at some length, I turned my attention to one of my other rings- a silver ring with a black stone that I wear on my right hand. This ring did not have a jewellers warranty that required a six month checkup, and I found myself wondering just how much it might be in need of a cleaning itself. On the surface it seemed fine: the stone is deeply set and the silver stays bright thanks to regular buffing from constant wear, but the setting involves a pattern of thistles which leave small openings to a hollow beneath the stone. I hadn’t seen light through any of those openings for quite some time. 

I made the mistake of investigating. It was possible to see some build-up beneath the stone, but really- how bad could it be? Have you ever cleaned the underside of a computer mouse and discovered that it was covered in blackish grime? Well the hollow beneath the stone turned out to contain a  bottomless supply of this substance. I probably spent half an hour prodding the depths with the unbent end of a paperclip, thinking over and over again that surely this time I’d gotten the last of it. I’m still not sure that I actually succeeded in getting it clean or if I just chose to quit while I was ahead. But the ring feels lighter now. 

•November 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The unexpected beauty of composting.


•November 3, 2017 • Leave a Comment

It’s around here somewhere…
It took me more than a week to notice that the pages were gone.

I always do this thing: when I give pages of my writing to someone to read, I find myself overcome to re-read it myself, trying to see it through their eyes in anticipation of their response. After giving a chapter’s worth of pages to a co-worker to read I did this and noticed a few typos that needed to be corrected, so before passing the same chapter on to my writers’ group I sat down to do a proofreading pass. 

I’m not sure what it was that tipped me off, but something reminded me about a scene that I’d thought I’d written in which a character makes an important phone call.

 I couldn’t find it anywhere. 

 Now that I was looking for it, I realized that I hadn’t missed it. I wondered if I’d decided to cut it altogether and had simply forgotten that is made that choice. It wasn’t very central to the action of that particular chapter, but that set up a few important facts for a follow up phone call down the line, and the characters themselves made reference to making that phone call.  

At last I found it in an alternative draft. This is the pitfall of having multiple iterations of a draft in progress at the same time. I was flooded with relief. It was a solid page and a half of material and I’d worked on it for several days. Even if I decided to trim it out later, I was relieved that I at least had it now. 

So clearly I need to work out some kind of backup system. All my work on this project is on one laptop and in Google drive, but even that feels like a very tenuous form of insurance. I suppose that I ought to print hardcopies of the completed chapters so that I can file them away- that way I’ll at least have some of my work in hand in case something happens to my digital files. 

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