24 Nov

Birthdays

My mom would have been 72 today.

At yoga this morning, I was swept by such an intense wave of sadness that I had to fight not to burst into sobbing tears. A few little tears leaked out, but I brushed them away and kept going. But it made me realize that the sad is only a step away, not as far gone as I’ve been thinking as I prep for Thanksgiving.

A long, long time ago, I read The 5 Love Languages. The basic concept is that everyone has a way in which they best express and receive love, a love language. The five are 1) acts of service, 2) words of affirmation, 3) physical touch, 4) gifts, and 5) quality time. My mom’s love language was one or maybe all of the first four. I don’t know that she cared about receiving gifts all that much, but she loved giving gifts. She liked our Christmas tree to be piled high. In years past, this time of year would spin her into a cycle of doing — decorating the house from top to bottom, baking cookies and breads to share with family and neighbors, shopping and buying and wrapping, and the Christmas music on from morning to night.

I know that it wouldn’t be better if she was here now. The last couple years of her life were difficult. She hated what was happening to her and hating it didn’t make it any better. But I miss her. I want time to move backwards and just give me another day, another hour. Instead, I think I will make a shopping list that includes ingredients for Christmas cookies. I shouldn’t eat them, but this year, I think I’m finally ready to remember and celebrate my mother as she would have liked.

17 Nov

Counting blessings

I’m in a miserable mood this Monday morning. I’ve got reasons–health, bureaucracies to deal with, words that won’t flow–and part of me feels like whining about them. Instead, I’m going to count some of my blessings, because it’s healthier.

1) I have a soft Jack Russell terrier curled up next to my side who loves me with her whole heart and wants nothing more in life than for me to be happy and give her cuddles and treats. Well, she’d probably also really like it if the pool was warm year round so that she could swim every day. We’re both a little sad about how cold the water is right now. But wait, no whining! Instead, we’re both grateful that we get to play together in the pool as often as we do.

2) A ridiculously fluffy, embarrassingly small dog wandered into my life sixteen months ago and he did not throw up on my bed last night. Or on the floor, either. He doesn’t love me quite the way Zelda does, but he likes me a lot and was willing to come for a long walk with us today. He trudged along like a trooper, one step after another, for a full mile.

3) I live in a place that is warm and sunny, which meant that I could be outside for a long walk this morning and enjoy the feeling of nature. I saw a heron by the water, and they always remind me that life is full of miracles. It’s hard to believe that a bird can be so ungainly and so graceful at the same time.

4) Despite being very, very grouchy about my diet and its failures this morning, my refrigerator has food in it that is both healthy and delicious.

5) This is pathetic as a blessing, but I have modern painkillers in the medicine cabinet. And maybe it’s not so pathetic — all my joints hurt today, which probably means a weather change coming in, and knowing that I can ease my pain if I need to is a luxury that throughout history not too many people have had. It does mean that I’m lucky, really lucky. Or blessed, since I’m counting my blessings.

All right, my blogging has officially inspired me. Off I go to write more of A Gift of Grace. I’m at a part that is so fun in my head, but I’m not doing it justice in pixels. But I’m going to persist. It’ll get there, I hope.

09 Nov

The Sauerkraut Cult

Today–grey, misty, cool–felt like a good day to have waffles for breakfast. Instead, I had a spinach and arugula salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette. It was so good that I made more after I finished my first one. The funny thing is, it sounds all healthy–ooh, spinach salad instead of waffles–but you make the vinaigrette with bacon fat. I find it really hard to believe that a tablespoon of pure fat poured on spinach is all that healthy. It tasted great, though. Although note to self: the red wine vinegar had a little too strong of a tang, so try it with balsamic or apple cider vinegar next time.

I hit a book milestone that I have been waiting a long time for this week, and it was disappointing. For the first time since setting Ghosts to be free, I sold more books in a day than I gave away. So combined, the four titles for sale outsold the number of copies of Ghosts downloaded. Isn’t that nice? Except it was because the number of free downloads dropped to a new low. Drat. That was not how it was supposed to happen. I’m mostly kind of amused by this–it feels like one of those classic life ironies. Be careful what you wish for.

In other news… um, yeah, I’ve got no other news. My house is ridiculously clean because I’ve had a ton of energy lately. I have hung pictures and organized bookshelves and scrubbed the bathtub and done so much laundry that it is apparent to me that I should get rid of some clothes, because when they’re all clean, my drawers can barely close. Yesterday I actually did some Christmas shopping. Christmas! It’s single digits in November. This is not me. But I am absolutely committed to the sauerkraut part of my diet. Yes, it sounds disgusting–well, if you don’t like sauerkraut, which I do not–but I have literally (in the original meaning of the word) never felt healthier in my life. I’ve broken other parts of the diet–Friday I merrily ate as much gluten as I wanted at the Food & Wine Festival and then ate cheese and pate on baguette crackers when I got home–and I still felt better yesterday than my old “normal” ever did. I suppose I should be careful about giving all the credit to sauerkraut–I’m also trying really hard to eat leafy greens every day, and organ meats and seafood four or five times a week, plus avoiding the universe of foods that don’t fall into those categories–but still, the sauerkraut is the thing that most feels like a change. C jokes about AIP (auto-immune protocol diet) being a cult but I think I should start a sauerkraut cult. Well, and also, I should try some other fermented foods, too. I still haven’t made my own yet, but maybe someday soon.

I have written over 800 words this morning (posted on the writing blog, too) and not a single one of them belongs to A Gift of Grace. Time to change that!

02 Nov

A Story to Make R Feel Better

It’s NaNoWriMo. The first weekend, in fact. I should be typing my fingers off. Instead, I’m reorganizing my bookcases, hanging pictures that have been in my closet for five years, and organizing files. My procrastination abilities have soared to entirely new and unexpected levels.

However, while going through ancient CDs to try to decide if there was anything on them I ought to keep, I found a folder called “Writing.” It held the novel I wrote back when my son was a toddler, a few brief bits of a story that was my nighttime go-to-sleep tale for a long, long while, and a short story that I flat-out don’t remember. Like, not at all. Not a word. But it’s in a folder of my writing and it reads like my writing and the subject matter seems very appropriate for where we were in life ten plus years ago, so I think I probably wrote it. And honestly, I found it insanely charming. So, for you, my lovely readers, and maybe for me in the future…

A Story to Help R Feel Better

Once upon a time, there was a castle in a land where nothing ever grew. A boy lived in the castle, with his butler, two geese, and a mouse. One would think that a butler, two geese and a mouse would be plenty of company, but the boy was lonely. He longed for someone to play with.

The geese could be fun. He loved to chase them. But if he caught them, they turned and bit him and he didn’t like that much.

The mouse was delightful. He had tamed it using bits of bread and cheese from his own meals and it would come and sit in his hand and quiver its whiskers at him. But one couldn’t really play with a mouse; for one thing, it was too small. For another, it couldn’t talk.

Sometimes, he could play with the butler. But not often enough, for the butler always had work to do. If it wasn’t cleaning the silver, it was dusting the shelves. And if it wasn’t the shelves, it was the floors or the pantries or the acres of armor that always needed to be polished.

And so the boy was lonely. And being lonely made him sometimes afraid. For he couldn’t help but think how awful it would be if the geese got away, and the butler disappeared, and the mouse never came back, and somehow he was left all alone in the castle. And that thought always made him cry, even though he didn’t want to, and thought privately that he was much too old for crying.

One thing the boy liked to do when he was lonely was wander the castle in search of new books. For it was a big castle and there were lots of rooms and many of the rooms had bookshelves and many of the bookshelves held books. (Although some held other things like tiny statues of dragons or miniature tea cups or pictures of the king and stuff.)

One day, he found a room that was most unusual. It was green. But not painted green. No, it was made of green glass. And in the room were all sorts of mysterious things that he had never seen before, tools and pots, and packets and papers, and vials and bags and all sort of interesting things that one would think he would look at. But the boy was used to lots of strange objects in the castle, most of which he never understood and the butler was too busy to explain, so he ignored the things and headed straight for the bookshelf he spotted over a doorway that led outside.

The bookshelf held only one book. But it was a great big book, one of the biggest the boy had ever seen. It was even bigger than the giant dictionary that lived in the library downstairs.

And when the boy had pulled it down from the shelf and opened it up, he discovered that it was filled with pictures, as well as his words. Ahhhh—that was his favorite, very favorite kind of book. For although he could read, many times he had to sound out the words the way he had been taught and yet still never understood them. The library was filled with books that made no sense to him.

Carefully, the boy flipped through the pages. And as he did, he was struck dumb with amazement. Well, there was no one for him to speak to, so he wasn’t really struck dumb (which means silent, not stupid) so maybe it would be more correct to say the boy was struck numb with amazement. He had never seen such things.

He had books with pictures; pictures of aeroplanes and automobiles, pictures of trains and tractors. But this book was filled with pictures of plants and flowers and vegetables. And not just pictures. The boy quickly realized that the book contained instructions for how to grow plants and vegetables and flowers.

For the next weeks and even months, the boy was far too busy to be lonely. Every day, as soon as he’d woken up and eaten his breakfast and fed some crumbs to his mouse, he dashed off to the glass room, where he planted seeds in the pots, using the tools and dirt that were in the room.

Can you imagine his delight when his first seed sprouted? Perhaps not for you take it for granted. You see flowers all the time. But for this boy it was magic, the way the little green sprout poked through the dirt, the way a leaf appeared and then almost overnight unfurled, and then grew more and more leaves.

The boy loved it. He couldn’t play with his plants, but he could talk to them, and he could pretend that they listened.

One day, he decided that it was the right season to try planting plants outside. He went out and he dug in the dirt and he furrowed the ground, and he made holes and he planted and he watered and he got wet and dirty and messy and he had a most amazing time.

And his plants grew. Somehow in that land where no plants grew, his plants managed to grow. Perhaps it was because he loved them so much. Perhaps it was because he watered them so carefully. Perhaps it was because he fed them, first with plant food he found in the green room, and then with compost that he carefully created using directions found in the big book.

One day, he was outside watering his plants, and he realized that something strange was resting on one of his flowers. He walked a bit closer. Do you know what it was? It was a butterfly. He looked at it in amazement. He’d never seen such a thing.

From that day forth, more butterflies came to his garden. And with them came other bugs. Ants, bees, cicadas, grasshoppers, beetles, ladybugs, spiders, aphids…he didn’t like all of them. He especially didn’t like the ones that ate the plants. But at the same time, he had gone from being someone who knew only four other creatures: the butler, the two geese, and the mouse, to someone who knew who many other creatures. And he did like that. (The geese were happy too. Although they had been perfectly content with the food that was regularly delivered by air drop, fresh bug become their favorite appetizer.)

What do you think happened next? Geese are not the only ones who like to eat fresh bugs.

One day the boy was outside, and he heard a strange noise. It was unlike anything he’d ever heard before. Tweet-tweet, tweet. It was a bird. The boy was entranced. He had thought the butterflies were amazing, but the bird actually spoke. “Tweet-tweet” he whistled back at it, and the bird darted off in fear.

But the next day it was back. And the next summer, it was back with friends.

And the year after that, there were mice. And the year after that, a cat showed up to chase the mice. And then one night, the boy spotted a raccoon, prowling around. Soon after, the geese put up a ferocious squawking one night when they realized that there was a fox nearby.

And the boy kept planting and tending his gardens. As the years went by and he grew older and older, he planted more and more. And some years, he would plant in different areas and let his old gardens run wild.

By the time the boy was very old, the butler and the two geese and the mouse had all died. And the thing the boy was afraid of had happened: except that it hadn’t really happened at all. He knew thirty birds, maybe more. He knew cats and mice and raccoons. And his geese had had goslings and they had had goslings and now he had many geese. And his mouse had met a nice girl mouse who’d moved into the garden and they’d had baby mice and now the boy had many tame mice.

As for the butler—well, when the boy grew he decided that no one needed to polish the acres and acres of armor. So when the butler had grown old and tired (many years before he finally died), the boy advertised for a replacement, only for a gardener not a butler. And the gardener who came in answer to his ad was a nice girl who loved plants as much as he did. And fortunately, she also loved children too, because they had seven of them. And when the boy was very old, the castle was a very crowded place to live and the country was green and lush and beautiful.

And the boy was not lonely and he was not scared of anything. And although he knew now that one is never too old to cry, he seldom did, for he was very, very happy.

The End

PS If I ever reach a more fiscally stable place, I am so going to find an illustrator and turn that into a children’s book, after a little editing, of course. It makes me want grandchildren just so I can read it to them.

31 Oct

Happy Halloween!

So much stuff!

I don’t even know where to start. But maybe I’ll start with a lesson for my future self. (I pretty much expect that I’m the only one who ever reads the archives, but I do occasionally hit a random month from the past just to see what was happening back then. Maybe someday this will be the one I pick.)

Lesson learned: change is not always bad.

During this summer’s refrigerator disaster, my floors–my lovely looks-like-hardwood laminate floors–suffered minor damage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to repair just the damaged bit. The entire floor, one of the nicest elements of the house in my opinion, needed to be replaced.

A moment on the elements of the house: I love the French doors, the overhead lights in my office/dining room, the window seat in the office/dining room, the layout of the kitchen, and the existence of the back porch. And I loved the floors in the family room and my bedroom.

I do not love the front door, the dryer, the cracked and broken surface of the patio, the peeling paint on the garage, the bathrooms (everything about them), and the pool’s desperate need for resurfacing. Or the overgrown trees, the size of the lawn, the aging air conditioner, the crumbling concrete in the garage, the ever questionable sprinkler system, the carpets in the bedrooms, or the desperate need for interior paint in some rooms. (I know I could paint but when I did, I discovered that I am seriously allergic to paint. It made for a miserable week and I’ve been reluctant to go through it again.) I also did not love the floors in the living room/dining room, even before they were damaged by the water.

So the floors: pro, replacing the living room floor with its squishy spot; con, replacing the family room floor, which I loved. Unfortunately–or fortunately, as it happens–the pros/cons didn’t matter. This house really belongs to a bank and between the insurance company and the bank, the floors were getting replaced.

I was grouchy about it.

But then the laminate guy–the lovely laminate guy, who deserves a very nice review, which I will write when I finish this–said, “you know, this laminate is in great shape. You should save it. Maybe you could use it in one of the bedrooms if you wanted to change out that carpet.” To which I said, “Um, yes, how much would you charge me to do that?” For an extra $300, I got rid of the ugly and frayed carpet in the bedroom, replacing it with the floor that I loved. Yay!

Plus, the new floor in the living room is wonderful. I should take a picture but it won’t be as revealing as it could be, because the huge difference is that the entire room is lighter. I liked the old floor, which was dark, and the way it contrasted with the white walls. It was sort of Tudor-ish feeling. But the new floor (called, technically, “earthy maple”) is warmer and sunnier, and it lightens the entire room.

So the change which has made me grouchy and irritable every time I thought about it for months has turned out to be delightful. Every time I walk through the house, I feel charmed by my gorgeous floors. So unexpected. And so good to remember. Change is not so bad. Admittedly, I wish the thing I could have changed had been either a need–like the need for the house to get painted–or a long-time yearning, like the resurfacing of the pool and/or replacing the cracked back patio. But still, this is a good change.

Other good changes:
cover of A Gift of Time

AGiftofThought2

21 Oct

Finally Satisfied

C didn’t quite tell me I was crazy the last time we talked about book covers. Not quite. I could tell that she wanted to, though.

See, I made a ridiculous decision last month. I’ve been waiting for a cover designer for A Lonely Magic since April. The cover on it was a great placeholder while I was posting chapters on Fictionpress and Wattpad, but it didn’t satisfy me enough as the final cover. The designer I really wanted, though, had no time until October. While I was waiting, I fell in love with another artist’s work, and decided–much too impulsively–to hire her to design a cover for ALM. As it happens, I’m pretty sure that was a mistake, and if I had realized two weeks ago that it was a mistake, it would have been a no harm, no foul situation, as if it had never happened.

As it went, however, I had a cover designer hired, an artist working on the cover I had hired her for, and so I went another direction–I asked the designer to redesign the cover for A Gift of Ghosts. The right response is, “Again? Didn’t you just do that a few months ago? What’s wrong with that cover?” The answers are, “Yes, yes, and I don’t know. Nothing, I suppose, and yet… it always felt more like a collection of weird compromises than the right cover.”

The new cover feels like the right cover.

AGiftofGhosts_print_web2

I’ve got a ton of work to do, getting new files working correctly, uploading them to all the different sites, changing all of my various marketing pages… but as I manage all that hassle, I’m feeling a nice happy glow of contentment. Beautiful, mysterious, a little spooky… it makes me want to read Ghosts again, as if I didn’t already know what it was all about.

17 Oct

Just write the book

My laundry is piled high. No, seriously, it’s overflowing the basket, making a mountain on the bathroom floor, in pseudo-neat piles by the bedroom door. It feels symbolic of my inability to get things done at the moment.

I’m feeling stuck. Like I want change, but don’t know how to get it. I want to sweep all the clutter in my house–oh, so much clutter right now–into boxes and throw them away so that I never have to see them again. I want to leave the ripped up floor and the peeling wallpaper behind. I want to escape, to move, to run away.

But when I start to think seriously about where I would go, what I would do, my brain comes to a dead halt. To move–well, living in a college town would be nice. Oh, wait, I do live in a college town. The weather has to be good, because I know that S.A.D. hits me hard in darker climates. Hmm, the weather is darn nice here. Cost of living has to be reasonable, like, um, it is here. And it would be good if I knew some people, like, oh, I do here. Not to mention finding a place that is perfectly balanced between a sense of nature–like spotting hawks and herons on my morning walk–and convenient urbanity, like having multiple grocery stores within a ten minute drive.

In other words, where I live is just about perfect for me. Except for the fact that I feel desperately in need of change, like I want to escape, like I’m stuck.

I’m going to guess that doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom, getting the floor repaired and the walls painted, would all go a long way to making me feel better about life. And writing a book would help a lot, too.

Three years ago, I was two weeks away from finishing A Gift of Ghosts. I wish I could go back in time and remember exactly how I was feeling. I know that back then I confidently expected that I would have finished writing my million words by now. I anticipated that I’d be starting to consider how seriously I wanted to take my writing, whether I wanted to try to earn money from it. I also expected that I’d have my master’s degree and be working towards my licensure. I thought that would take me three years, but I’d be a year into it. Yeah, that’s weird to remember.

What I should remember, though, is that this week has been an absolutely lovely week. R is home for fall break and it has been such a pleasure to have him here. He’s happy–really, seriously, having fun and excited, loving school happy–and it is such a joy to bask in his stories and know that he’s feeling great. The weather has been phenomenal–it’s turned now, so is cool and lovely, but I swam for five or six days in a row. We’ve eaten good food and watched television together and I’ve listened to interesting stories about the Byzantine empire and public transit in Sarasota and yeah, life is good. I don’t know where my life is going or what I’m doing, but maybe for now, I need to let it be enough to enjoy the day.

Well, and do some writing, too.

10 Oct

Not-so-awful Offal

So the diet continues. I haven’t really started re-introducing foods yet, because I don’t feel well. On the other hand, the few times I’ve goofed, I’ve felt even worse than usual the next day. On Wednesday, I went out to dinner with the wonderful Orlando Independent Authors group and while I ordered off the gluten-free menu, there was something in my food that I probably shouldn’t have eaten. I needed a nap by 10:30 Thursday morning and spent most of the day feeling desperately in need of caffeine. Since it’s actually not a natural state to need caffeine–our bodies ought to be able to function without stimulants and I’ve been off it for over a month–it was a reaction to something.

C’est la vie. The reaction was inspiration to decide that it was time to take this stupid diet to the next level. While I’ve done great on the restriction phase, omitting a purely crazy number of foods from my diet, I haven’t done nearly as well on the nutrient-dense part of the plan. Ideally, I am supposed to eat ten cups of greens a day. Now, even that measurement annoys me. How do you measure ten cups of greens? Are they tightly-packed or loosely-packed? Cooked or raw? Is a cup as much as you can stuff into the cup? I have no idea, but I’ve resigned myself to the principle of eating a lot of greens. That one’s not hard to manage, since I do anyway. Ten cups worth? Eh, probably not. But five, easily, so I can up that.

Next up, at least a tablespoon of fermented food daily. I’ve been managing that two or three times a week, but frankly, it’s gross. I choke it down, occasionally gagging, but reminding myself that it’s medicinal, not food, and no worse than cough medicine. I still haven’t done it every day, because, well, because knowing something is good for me doesn’t make it more bearable and some days I just don’t feel like it, but I am resolved now to start. Every day, a fermented food. For… two weeks? I should probably make it thirty days, but I think I’ll start with two weeks. I suspect that’ll be enough to prove to myself that it’s worth doing, because I have definitely started to wonder whether my road map of good days and bad days might be tracking pretty clearly with the day after I’ve choked down some sauerkraut being a good day. But two weeks ought to be enough to see whether that tracks, as long as I stay good about everything else.

But the last items on the list — last because they’re the only other things I’m not doing, not last because there are no other rules for AIP — the last items are to eat bone broth every day and organ meat four to five times a week. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck some more. I honestly don’t know if I can manage these two. They say to just heat the broth and drink it like coffee or tea as a morning beverage. It revolts me. And organ meat — just no. But I want to feel healthy again. So last night I made my first attempt at organ meat.

Chicken heart pate in a christmas tree mold

Offal pate

Behold. Chicken heart pate . Yes, it’s molded with a Christmas tree on top. That’s because the only container I could find (I’ve been using my containers prolifically what with making soups and stews and freezing portions) was an old Jello mold of my mom’s. I could have made it a heart-shaped pattern or a couple of other options, but the Christmas tree amused me the most. Doesn’t it look disgusting? Grey mystery meat.

If you’d seen it cooking, it would have looked even grosser. Chicken hearts sometimes have blood in them and when you try to trim the fat off, the blood comes out in clumps. It’s revolting. Even the thought of it is forcing my cheeks to pull back in a disgusted expression. Ick.

Taste-wise, though–eh. It’s not so bad. It has pear, onion, garlic and applesauce in it and I’ve eaten it on slices of pear and slices of apple. While I wouldn’t choose to eat it regularly, it won’t kill me to treat it like the fermented food and try to manage a serving every other day while it lasts. I’m counting a serving as two tablespoons, so it’ll last a while. Three-quarters of it is already bagged and in the freezer, giving me three or four weeks worth, I hope.

But the real picture I need is one of the three dogs. For the entire hour I cooked it, they were pains. Every time I turned around, the three of them were lined up behind me, eyes intent, tails flapping on the ground, quivering with hopeful anticipation. If I decide I can’t eat it, they will happily take it off my hands. And the next time I need to get Zelda to take a pill, I know exactly what I will go for.

In a related diet note, I now weigh a number that I fully expected never to see on a scale again and … I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s definitely bringing up lots of past stuff for me, enough so that I wish I could afford to go back into therapy for a while. Not because I’m worried about my current weight, but just because I can see how I’ve got some unresolved emotional issues about the meaning of weight and what it says about how we present in the world. It might be good for me to get some clarity around my subconscious crap.

Thinking it out, I was content being ten pounds overweight. My self-image was/is that I was/am a comfortably plump, middle-aged mom type, safe and non-threatening. Safe and non-threatening. Interesting choices of words. But I’m back into the normal weight range and my collarbones are noticeable again and … it’s less comfortable for me. I feel like I’m starting to look fragile again and I don’t like it. I don’t know why it matters–I’d have to lose 45 pounds to hit my (extremely unhealthy) 23-year-old weight and that is definitely not going to happen. But… hmm. Being that thin was one way of being invisible. Being mildly overweight is another way of being invisible. Yeah, this is why I need therapy. Oh, well, maybe my nutrient-dense offal is also high calorie and I’ll drift back up to my comfortably plump zone.

And now I should go write some book words. Or maybe go for a swim. The season is almost, almost over, but I swam yesterday and it was lovely.

06 Oct

And a half

Tomorrow is my half-birthday. Not the kind of thing that one normally notices past the age of five or six, but I happened to look at the date, and it made me think of it. Back on my birthday, I wanted this year to be magical. It was a silly number game–my birthday and my age were the same, which is something that doesn’t happen to very many people, and it felt like it meant that the year should be special. Unique. Extraordinary.

So far… yeah. I’ve been sick a lot, and most work-related things have been a bust. I hoped I would find an editor who I loved but instead the editor I hired was a huge waste of money and time. I had fingers crossed for a marketing intern, hoping she’d be an enthusiastic assistant, but she quickly figured out that she didn’t want to be in marketing. Good for her, but a bust for me. For the first time, I was optimistic about a book before release, but… yeah. It was misplaced optimism. I hired a cover designer because I fell in love with her work and thought she’d give me something extraordinary, but many empty promises later, I haven’t seen a thing. Honestly, my magical year has, work-wise, been enough to send me looking for a job in retail. Not to mention that I haven’t done any good new writing since April, which probably ought to be first on that list.

All that said, though, I fired a gun for the first time. It was fun, like holding an explosion in your hand. Heavier than I realized it would be. I traveled in the RV as the adult-in-charge for the first times. It was awesome, a serious feeling of competence. I drove a tractor and played with the shovel lifter scoop thing and just the memory makes me smile and feel joyful. I had a dinner party, with games, for ten people, none of whom I knew two years ago. So I don’t want to wallow in disappointment. Those are the things that I want to remember–the unexpected moments of trying something new, doing something different, enjoying an experience that pushes my boundaries.

26 Sep

Swimming dogs

Last Sunday, in a brief spurt of feeling well, I went swimming. The water was wonderful, a little cool but clean and with the hot sun beating down, it felt lovely, a perfect swimming day. Zelda, of course, was playing with her basketball, so I’d swim to the side of the pool and throw it for her, and then swim some more. None of that is anything exceptional.

But Macie–Macie, who hates the water!–really wanted to play, too. She’d splash into the top step of the pool and bounce straight out again. For most of August, she’s watched me bring Bartleby into the pool with mild horror in her eyes. That day, it was more like speculation.

Little digression: I want Bartleby to be comfortable in the water–it’s safer, obviously–so most days when I swim, I scoop him up, bring him into the water, hold him loosely, let him relax, then have him half swim, half be supported to the steps when he’s ready to get out. He’s gone from being resistant, growling and trying to get away from me, to amenable and tolerant, if not enthusiastic. Given that he’s got a ton of black fur, I think hanging out outside with us in the Florida heat is probably a lot pleasanter when he’s wet, anyway.

On this day, I brought him in, then let him out, and apparently that was the cue Macie needed. The water–the horrible, horrible water–couldn’t be that bad if Bartleby was okay with it. So three or four times, she made it to the second step, then turned and fled and raced around the backyard as if she were being chased by demons. On the fourth time, she actually made it to the third step. Her entire head went under and when it came up, her eyes were so wide she reminded me of a cartoon character, with eyes popping out of her head. She immediately turned around, swam the step back to the stairs, and that was it–she wanted to go inside after that.

Ten minutes later, I was floating in the water, face up to the sun, eyes closed, when I bumped into something. It took me a minute to realize that Bartleby was swimming in circles around me. It’s the first time he’s ever come into the pool by himself.

The irony is that it was cool this morning when I was walking Zelda, and the love bugs–these atrociously maddening Florida bugs that swarm in late fall and late August–were out. Lovebugs are harmless but during their mating seasons, they get everywhere, and then die. You can wind up with four or five of them crawling on you at once if you try to sit outside and their bodies stack up on the tables, by the doors, in the pool, everywhere. Completely harmless, but oh, so gross. Anyway, both those things–cool weather and lovebugs–mean that swimming season is probably over or close to it. The dogs might have tried swimming on the very last day of swimming until next spring.

That somehow feels poignant to me. There are times when everything seems possible, but this year, fall feels like endings and lost opportunities and great moments already gone.

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