Sophie & Me

a picture of Sophie (my super cute dog) and me, outside, at our dog training field day I don’t know if I’ve ever posted a picture of me to my blog before. That seems impossible — it’s a personal blog, surely I’ve got some photos of my actual person on it? Maybe from my trip to the British Virgin Islands, maybe from a birthday celebration somewhere along the way? A Thanksgiving, back in my house in Winter Park? But I really don’t think so. And I’m not feeling quite so curious about the answer that I’m going to waste my time searching, so, voila, perhaps my first ever picture of me posted to my blog. (Or perhaps not.) Posted because I love it.

I love this one, too:

Sophie jumping

I personally did not take any pictures at our dog training field day yesterday, because I was too busy playing with Sophie, and she was too busy playing. I described her attitude to Suzanne as, “Sophie was not on her best behavior. Too exciting! But she did great.” That pretty much sums it up — she did the jumps, she did the tunnel, she did the balance beam and bouncy ball, she said hello politely to a few of the other dogs, and she sniffed every square inch of grass (<–only a slight exaggeration on that last). She wasn’t stellar at listening and her attitude toward the things she was supposed to circle around can best be summed up as, “why are you wasting my time, my human?” but we had much fun. And I was delighted to find these photos from the instructor in my email last night, so that I will get to be reminded of a really nice day whenever they pop up in my photo stream.

I’ve now wasted about two hours with some wandering thoughts on the North Country Fair, and I’m feeling annoyed with myself, so I think I’m going to move on to more productive ways of spending my day (yes, deleting all those meandering thoughts on the fair!). May all your Mondays be productive — or if not productive, at least pleasant! My advice for myself today: avoid overthinking. 🙂

Getting back to work

I shared my tiny house with a mosquito last night, much to my dismay. Or maybe there was a flock of them. Herd? Swarm? Murder? It should really be a murder of mosquitoes, like it’s a murder of crows, because that is how one feels after one shares space with them for a while. It was one of those times when I belatedly wished I could have seen the future, because if I had known at 11PM that I was going to repeatedly fail to kill the damn thing, I would have gotten up, turned on the light, and hunted it down mercilessly. Or hunted them down mercilessly, because it’s possible that there was an entire murder of them haunting my presence throughout the night. I don’t think so, though, because my bed wasn’t filled with dead mosquito bodies. But it was so annoying, and as a result I’m feeling quite tired and cranky.

Fortunately, it’s a beautiful day, which is always good for mood improvement. Sophie and I walked to the marsh this morning. They’ve got a construction project happening there — new pipes, I think — and have closed it to traffic, but because of the holiday, no one was working, either. It was so peaceful and lovely. We startled a flock of birds a couple times, redwing blackbirds, I think, and passed a few other walkers, but mostly it was just us, out in nature, appreciating the fresh air and solitude.

scenery at the marsh

The marsh

I finally found the picture I was hunting for last week, and spent a couple of days playing with it.


cover for Cici and the Curator Search for Treasure

It mostly involved a ridiculous amount of playing with the typography, but I also added a few subtle lines to the image to make the dragon more obvious than it was in Cici and the Curator.

For comparison purposes:

Cici and the Curator cover

An entirely legitimate question would be, “How could you spend hours making a cover that looks exactly like the last cover?” The answer would be, “Because I did the last cover in an app that I no longer had installed, and didn’t know what fonts, sizes, or weird glyphs I’d used.” Also, I was willing to experiment and I could have re-done the cover of Cici 1 if I’d decided to go in a different direction. At the end of many hours, though, I really liked the original best, so I stuck with it. I’m pleased with the final (maybe) result and am hoping to find it motivating as I continue pushing my way through the murky middle of the story.

And I am well into the murky middle, which is quite murky. I know where I’m going, I just haven’t quite figured out how to get there. I was really hoping I’d be done with the story by the end of September and I think that’s probably not going to happen. But, fingers crossed, I should be close. If, that is, I don’t waste too much time on blog posts and dog training and long walks to the marsh and learning Japanese, and get back to work.

Getting back to work now!


Photo over-abundance

I have so ridiculously many photographs.

Last week, I was trying to find an old image — one that I bought from a stock photo site in 2018 and haven’t looked for since — and I realized that all my files are backed up on USB drives. Well, I didn’t realize that, I knew that already. What I realized was that my current computer (which I’ve owned for well over a year) doesn’t have a basic USB port. This is embarrassing on so many levels. I mean, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know, but I’m also embarrassed that I haven’t had a reason to back up files in over a year. Ugh. Just… yeah, ugh.

Anyway, I spent most of a day trying to get files off of my old USB drives, via various convoluted means, involving an old computer with a dead battery, DropBox, iCloud, a portable hard drive with a USB-C cable, etc, before getting so annoyed that I looked up adapters on Amazon and discovered that the proper adapter — or rather a set of four adapters, one of each variation — would cost me $5. Sigh. Honestly, I’m embarrassed about that, too. Would it have killed me to have just checked the option that would cost money before I started? I went ahead and spent my $5, ruing the many hours that I’d wasted, and now I can plug my USB drives into my computer and find my photos the perfectly straightforward way.

Except… I’ve got thousands of them. Many, many thousands. The photo library on this computer is missing huge chunks of time currently, and yet still has over 8000 photos in it. My phone has 9241 photos in its library! It’s just not sensibly usable. A long while ago, I did a major project of exporting photos from my photo library so that they wouldn’t get trapped there if/when file formats changed (or I ever switched to a non-Mac), so I’ve also got a few thousand favorite photos that aren’t in these photo libraries. Those are all nice photos, but wow, such a pain to try to look through. At least photo libraries make it easy to skim through lots of photos at once.

And photos are such a huge time suck. They’re like a time vortex, stealing minutes and then hours and then entire days. I thought, maybe I’ll make some photo albums in the app. No, maybe I’ll choose some to have printed to put on my wall. No, maybe I’ll make a photo book. That last is actually a great idea. But time-consuming and not how I want to use my time this week or maybe even this month. And now, of course, an hour later, I’ve spent a big chunk of the morning looking at photos, thinking about what should go with this post.

How about a very, very early puppy photo with Gina in the background?

puppy Sophie photo

Or another cute Sophie photo from July 2021?

But actually I’m still hunting for the stock photo from 2018, so maybe I should get back to that task. It felt like such a minor goal, a nice thing to check off on my to-do list. Instead, it’s turned into a quest.

Meanwhile, autumn has arrived in Humboldt. Last night, I was snuggled into my warm blanket, grateful that I had it. I told myself I should get up and close the windows, but I didn’t, of course. When I woke up fully, I realized that was probably just as well, because the windows weren’t open. I’d closed them the night before, because it turns out Arcata with school in session — during my very first real, non-pandemic year — is crazily loud on weekend nights.

I was at least a little sympathetic to the drunk women having a raging argument with many f-words on Friday night — they were too emotionally invested to realize that they were being rude to all the people around them who were trying to sleep — but the singing fraternity or sports team on Saturday night, chanting together as they jogged down the street at 1AM, inspired nothing but loathing in me. Organized disrespectful jerkiness is much worse, IMO, than inconsiderate emotional breakdowns. I hope that neither is going to become a feature of the weekends from now on, though. I guess if winter brings endless rain again, that will discourage outside partying. Positive side to everything, right?

Last week, people asked me about the hurricane. We did get a tiny bit of hurricane related weather, but it was nothing, just a chill in the air and a breeze by the time it reached here. The wildfires, though, are big enough and close enough that our air quality is currently listed as Unhealthy. This is better than Crescent City and Medford, both currently in the Dangerous zone, but still. It’s strange how much wildfires have just become a background feature of life. Like thunderstorms in Florida, maybe —  they’re just part of what it means to live in northern California in the 21st century.

I don’t really feel ready for it to be autumn, though. Not only because summer seems to have slipped through my fingers entirely unproductively — what have I been doing with myself? — but also, it was just much too short. There was literally a single day where it was hot enough that I wished I’d bought the overhead fan I’ve been thinking about for three years. One day! Which does justify not having gotten a fan, I guess, but one day does not feel like sufficient summer to me. Of course, everyone sweltering in all the places that have been much too hot this year probably wishes they could say the same. I should work on appreciating what I have instead of worrying about what’s to come — always a good plan.

All right, time to go find that photo. I’m sure I have it somewhere. If only I knew where…

Inevitable, and yet

Gina, an orange cat

Gina, always curious

On Sunday night, halfway between asleep and awake — although maybe tilting to more like 90% asleep — I dreamed that Greg, Suzanne’s husband, came to visit me, bringing with him Vivani, their cat.

Greg didn’t say anything, except maybe a wordless hello, but Vivi was irate. “Tell her I’m tired of waiting around for her,” she ordered in her most imperious voice. “We’ve got better things to do.”

“Mmm, okay,” I said in my dream, although I was thinking that it was a pretty rude message and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deliver it.

In the morning when I woke up, the memory was as vivid as if I had just dreamed it before waking instead of when I was falling asleep, except that I knew it had been the previous night. Suzanne was outside, feeding the chickens, so I went out and asked how Gina was doing.

“Still hanging in there,” she said (or something similar. I’m paraphrasing from memory, of course.)

Resigned, I said, “Okay if I go in and talk to her?”

“Of course,” she replied.

Gina was lying on the kitchen floor when I went in. So thin, so tired, and she’d stopped being able to jump onto the furniture at least a few days earlier. No more curling up in boxes, no more conversational chatter, no more requests for more and better food.

I sat down next to her, stroked her fur, hoping for a purr, but I didn’t get one. I relayed Vivi’s message. Gina let me know that Vivi was a jerk. I didn’t argue, but I did suggest that letting go of her body would probably be a good idea, that it was time.

She let me know that she didn’t want to leave. I suggested that she could come back, like Zelda/Sophie did. A new kitten body, fresh and young and able to jump and explore. It would be her turn to bully Olivia Murderpaws again, wouldn’t that be good?

She let me know that she was worried she’d get lost on the way, that she’d end up in the scary metal place again. I told her that I didn’t think that was inevitable, I was pretty sure she could manage things better than that, and that for a very good cat — a very good cat like she was, a best cat ever kind of cat; one with people waiting for her return, looking for her, and hoping for her — that maybe the universe could make gentler arrangements. I promised her that we would be looking for her, and listening too. That when a noisy kitten with an entire repertoire of demanding meows showed up, we would welcome her and celebrate her return. She let me know she’d think about it.

On Tuesday, I sat with her for a while when Suzanne had to be out. I didn’t feel like she said anything to me, but she felt very peaceful. Every once in a while, she’d stand up and move, shifting around, and I’d tell her she needed to leave her body behind next time. Just step out of it. Walk away from it.

On Wednesday morning, she finally did.

It has been clear that this moment was coming for a really, really, really long time. I was sure she was going in the summer of 2022, right before Suzanne broke her ankle. We’ve actually joked about whether she was somehow managing to steal life force from the other animals, because if you’d asked us in the winter of 2020 or thereabouts which pet was likely to die first, she would have been a front-runner. Almost every pet-sitter Suzanne has had over the past year has worried that Gina might die on her watch.

And yet I’ve finished off my box of tissues and started on a new one.

I’m not a cat person, mostly because I’m allergic to them, so I haven’t known a lot of cats. I’m still gonna say that Gina was the best cat ever. She was so conversational, so curious. She wanted to explore everything. She liked cubbies and corners and boxes. If I left the door of the van open, she’d be inside, making herself at home before I could turn around.

A screenshot of an instagram post

The first time she showed up in my Instagram feed, it was just as a tail and I was still in the van.

I called her Gina Bellina and told her she was beautiful, but really, I adored her because she was so interesting and interested. She talked a lot — a person who loved her less might say that she was shockingly noisy for a cat — and she was very opinionated.

When Zelda died, she basically moved into the tiny house for a few months. She didn’t get in my face or on top of me, but she’d curl up at the foot of my bed and purr. I’d carry her back to her house at night and meal times, but she’d show up again first thing in the morning. It was a period of immense grief for me — mourning the loss of my beloved dog, my beloved son, and a person I’d spent 30 years believing was a friend — and Gina… kept me company. Carried me through. Showed up and loved me on a daily basis when I felt as alone as I have ever felt.

another screenshot of instagram

A couple years later, she was on my pillows and I was writing my instagram captions from her point of view.

Suzanne kept her inside for the last couple of years, because she was worried Gina would wander off and die alone, so I saw a lot less of her. But she still said hello every time I went in or out, and not infrequently suggested that I could give her some cream cheese or mozzarella shreds when I did. I did my best to oblige.

I know that I can’t ever have a cat. I am much too allergic to actually safely sleep with a cat in my house. (Ten people a day die from asthma in the US and I would very much prefer not to be one of them.) But I loved Gina and I will miss her. She was #notmycat, but she was also #bestcatever. I hope she comes back to Suzanne very soon, because the Mighty Small Farm is much too quiet without her.

Another cat pictures

A Single Saturday in Summer

I have so many stories and thoughts bubbling around in my head that I could probably write a 5000 word blog post. I’m not going to, though, because that’s a lot of words and it would take me all day, maybe two days, and I have other things to do. But these are things I want to remember, all from a single day: this past Saturday.

First thing in the morning, I took Sophie on a walk, to our usual park, Stewart Park, where we played ball for a while. When we were leaving, a mid-size black dog came running up from behind us, its owner calling after it. Sophie said hello, politely enough, they did a circle of greeting in the way dogs do, and Sophie came back to me, ready to leave. The dog followed her and then… just… attacked. Grabbed Sophie by the scruff of the neck, yanked her down to the ground, much growling, Sophie yelping. I grabbed the dog’s collar and smacked it with my ChuckIt stick, yelling at it, while its owner came running.

Sophie was fine. I was somewhat less fine. The owner was apologetic, and shocked, authentically, I think. Not the pretend shock of “Dang, he did it again,” but the real shock of, “What did she just do, that was so crazy?!” The dog was sheepish, turning her back on Sophie and me. Sophie sat patiently while I checked her for injuries and then talked to the other dog’s owner for a few minutes. On the way home, I was shaking. Not because of that interaction, weird as it was, but because of the memories it brought back. It’s kind of amazing that we live with and love these dangerous predators.

It’s also kind of amazing how resilient human beings can be (and dogs, too, of course.) After Zelda was attacked, I really did have some post-traumatic stress around dogs: strange dogs made me jumpy, and a dog moving quickly in my direction would trigger major anxiety: adrenaline, accelerated heart rate, fast breathing — not quite panic, but anxiety. But I’ve recovered from that. When this dog came running toward us, I didn’t have the slightest bit of concern. I’m sure it helped that it was a black lab-ish kind of dog, not a pit bull or a German Shepherd or a Doberman, none of whom I would want to see running toward Sophie. But still, I wasn’t worried in the least. Incorrectly, as it turned out! But I don’t think there was a thing I could have done about that situation, short of never leaving the house, and I don’t think it’s going to trigger renewed anxiety. Well, maybe a little. But not a lot. It was a strange experience, however, and not a fun one.

Next up on my Saturday, though, some definite fun: the farmer’s market. The farmer’s market in August is so different than the farmer’s market in the middle of winter. Packed with vegetables and packed with people. And most of the people are — not tourists, that’s not the right word — but… browsers? They’ve come for the event, for the outing. They’re having a little Saturday adventure that might include some delicious food, while I’m trying to do my grocery shopping. It’s such a different mindset.

But it’s nice to remember to step back and say, oh, yes, this is an outing. (It’s a three minute walk from my tiny house, it’s a very tiny outing.) It’s not just picking up groceries; it’s a celebration of nature’s bounty. It is, of course, much, much easier to feel this way about the farmer’s market when it’s sunny and 65 degrees than when it’s raining and 45 degrees. And also, of course, with summer foods instead of winter foods — peaches, not just carrots. I’ve been eating yogurt and granola with peaches for breakfast and it feels deliciously summery.

Also deliciously summery: I brought some hibiscus aqua fresca home, and froze it in an ice cube tray. I’ve been drinking sparkling water with hibiscus ice cubes while sitting in the sunshine on the back patio. Total summer. Yum!

After the farmer’s market, Sophie and I went to her dog training class. We so love her class. Marilyn, the main instructor, asked how we were all doing with pulling on the leash, and then said something to me like, “You probably don’t have that problem, do you?” I laughed and said, “Mostly, no, but walking to class today, I put Sophie on leash the block before Samoa, because that’s where the road gets busy. But she knew exactly where we were going and for those last two blocks, she was definitely pulling. Go faster, go faster, that’s what she was saying!”

There are three dogs in this class (Level 2) and the way the class is structured is that we all sit and talk about our dogs for a little bit, and then we all go to separate corners, created by temporary fencing covered with sheets. Then Marilyn walks us through an exercise, sometimes using her dog to demonstrate, and we all practice in our separate corners. We’ll come out, one at a time, to work with our dog in the center of the room, with the instructors offering advice and suggestions.

Sophie is a total ham. When she’s in the center of the room, she will run through all her tricks as quickly as possible, trying to guess what I want. Up, down, tummy, hugs, kisses, tummy again, down, sit, eyes, paw, tummy, tummy, tummy… It’s never the goal, but she usually manages to make me laugh. This week, Janet (the assistant instructor) called her delightful, and Marilyn said she was surprised Sophie wasn’t fat from getting treats just for incredible cuteness. In her defense, however, twice recently, strangers on the street have asked if I’d like to train their dog, too. I admit, I find that seriously gratifying. She’s probably moved to an average of 2/3 compliments on her cuteness, 1/3 compliments on how well-behaved she is. The former are nice, of course — yes, she is adorable! — but the latter are so satisfying. She’s not perfect, of course, (I will expect perfection from my dog only after I have achieved it myself, ie never), but we’ve worked hard on good behaviors, both of us, and I’m proud of her.

After class, Suzanne and I walked down the street and went to the movies. My first movie since pandemic times, where I think I only went once, but it was much nicer to sit in the movie theater without a mask. Movies are not in my budget, to be honest; I’d rather eat, go to the dentist, and buy the occasional book. Well, I don’t prefer to go to the dentist — but that’s where my money goes. Anyway, I hit the point of thinking, much to my surprise, that I wanted to see Barbie. Much, much to my surprise! I can’t possibly express how little interest I had in seeing a movie about Barbie a month ago, but it would probably equal how little interest I would have in seeing a GI Joe movie or, I don’t know, the Super Mario Bros movie. No interest whatsoever, it will never happen. Except I kept reading things about it and it sounded a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.

It was, in fact, a lot more interesting than I expected it to be! Also, really fun. Also, really unexpected. Also, it made me laugh out loud. And, I admit, I actually shed two tears for Ken, who I think is kinda the villain? Anyway, it was an excellent movie and I do recommend it. Well worth seeing.

I had turned my phone on airplane mode for the movie and when I got home, I turned it back on. I had some text messages and a couple of alerts. One of the alerts was sort of odd: the NYTimes was telling me about the Perseids meteor shower. Um, okay, that’s nice. Not the sort of news that usually warrants an alert, but whatever. I looked at the article and thought, well, maybe I’ll stay up and see how foggy it is, and maybe I’ll wear something warm to sleep in so that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I can easily go outside.

Then I got another text: this one from a friend whose mother had just passed away. I texted her back right away of course, and we exchanged messages for a while. The death wasn’t unexpected, but it wasn’t easy, either. Somewhat randomly, I eventually said, “Tonight is the Perseids meteor shower. Any chance you can get outside and watch the night sky? It might be just the kind of cosmic moment that would feel good.”

What an odd thing to suggest, you might be thinking. True. But it turns out that falling stars had emotional significance for her — she’d seen one when her mother went into hospice, another one when she decided she needed to quit her job to be there. And it was exactly the right suggestion at exactly the right time: she went outside, saw a shooting star within two minutes, and then the clouds started to come in. Sometime recently I wrote about not believing in the malicious universe, and I don’t, but I do believe in the mysteriously magical universe, the one where the NYTimes sends me an alert on a subject that I don’t follow so that I can offer a suggestion to a grieving friend at exactly the right moment.

I did not, then, go out to see any meteors myself. I did think about it! But it was foggy early on and then later, when it was full dark and maybe there were some stars, I remembered the skunk who I really didn’t want to meet at midnight. Still I think I got the meteor magic without actually needing to see the meteors myself.

I should find a photo to go with this post, but not unexpectedly, I’ve been writing it for hours. I can’t believe it’s almost 2PM and I haven’t even looked at my email. So no picture, but use your imagination — blue skies, lots of flowers, especially roses and dahlias, and an incredibly cute dog. That’s what August 2023 in Arcata looks like.


At about 10PM Friday night, Sophie asked politely to go outside. I went to the door, asked her to sit and wait, which is something we’ve been working on, opened the door, took one sniff, and then slammed the door in her face.

“Sorry, honey,” I said. “There’s a skunk out there. You’re just gonna have to hold it until morning.”

Sophie was rather surprised by this behavior, but being an agreeable sort of dog, sighed and went back to bed.

Until 4:30 AM or so, when she said, “I REALLY have to go now.”


I got up, opened the door, took a sniff. No skunk smell, so I gave her my permission and off she went. 30 seconds later, I heard her scratching at the door. Of course, I got up again and opened it for her, although I was a little surprised at her haste. She usually takes more time than that.

She came in, head down, tail between her legs, and peed on the floor. And while my sleepy self was trying to process what she had just done/was doing, the reek hit me.

I swear skunks are truly practicing chemical warfare: skunk — really close, immediate, fresh skunk spray — is just SUCH an overwhelming smell.

Fortunately, I’d washed my dishes the night before. I grabbed Sophie and put her in the kitchen sink before she could go under the bed. Also fortunate, it wasn’t a direct hit the way it was last summer. It was bad — so bad! — but not as astonishingly, mind-bogglingly awful as it was then. Still, I wasn’t quite fast enough. Later in the day, I also wound up washing towels and sheets and the clothes I was wearing, and feeling quite sorry for myself. But by Sunday morning, the smell was mostly gone, which means I’m way ahead of the game compared to 2022’s July skunk experience, which could still be smelled in October.

Amusingly — to me, anyway, if not to her — I was sleepy enough that instead of washing Sophie with the internet-approved combo of Dawn, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda, I used Dawn, baking soda and white vinegar. At the time, I was surprised by the way the reaction turned into an incredible mess, overflowing the bowl I was using onto the floor, the counter, and me, but not surprised enough to realize that I’d screwed up. It was only later in the day, when I was putting things away, that I saw what I’d done. But wow, what a beauty treatment for her fur — I’m sure it’s the vinegar, but her white fur is practically glow-in-the-dark right now, it’s so very white. I think she might still have preferred hydrogen peroxide, though, since I’m not sure a dog would choose to smell like vinegar. Honestly, she was quite sad about the whole thing, really. And so was I. I guess my skunk check only works when the skunk is  close to the house.

In completely unrelated news, I was at the grocery store this morning when an older gentleman in the line next to me said to his cashier, “Did you hear that they’re talking about making it illegal to sell shredded cheese?”

I think I probably had exactly the same reaction as the cashier did —  and the same reaction as the person behind him in line, my own cashier, and every other person within hearing range — which was an internal eye-roll about people’s weird internet conspiracy theories.

I’m not quite sure how the cashier responded, but I’m gonna say that he gave the polite murmur one gives when faced with a conversation that one really doesn’t want to get into.

The gentleman went on to say, in the same tone of deep conspiratorial foreboding, “Yeah, they want to make America great again.”

I giggled. It took me a couple seconds, and I was eavesdropping, so I wasn’t going to be too obvious, but I definitely giggled.

No one else responded at all. Stony silence. His cashier said something along the lines of, “I don’t really follow politics.” Whoosh! That’s the sound of a joke flying right by.

The guy did not keep trying; no explanation, which I would probably have tried, to be honest, but a joke that you’ve missed is not much of a joke.

On my way out, he was still packing up his groceries, so I patted his arm, and said, “My grandpa would have loved that joke. Loved it! I wish I could call him up and share it with him.” He gave me a huge smile and said, “Thank you,” and I waved good-bye to him as I went out the door.

Suzanne had missed the joke, too, so as we were walking through the parking lot, I re-told it, and she got it as soon as I added a hand motion of one closed fist sliding over the other, ie, a grating motion. Shredded cheese, make America grate again, yep. I’m still laughing, and actually, really wishing I could tell that joke to both my grandfathers. I wonder if, fifty years from now, there will be AIs completely capable of simulating people who are gone? And I wonder if that will be profoundly creepy or really quite nice? Maybe it’ll be both…

But I’m not going to let myself get distracted by new ideas! Today hasn’t included any real writing, just some revisions to Cici 2 (now titled Cici and the Curator Search for Treasure), and a business blog post about an SFWA StoryBundle, which includes A Lonely Magic, and which, if you read fantasy, you should absolutely check out: Take No Prisoners. It’s a great deal: 13 books for $20 if you buy the bigger bundle, which of course you should. The deal ends August 17th, so it’s a limited time offer, and you should act fast. My, how marketing speak of me. 🙂 But you’d be supporting a bunch of independent authors and a good organization, so you’d get to feel virtuous for your $20, too, which is always nice.

And now… well, I was going to say that I was going to get back to real writing, but it would be a lie. It’s a really nice day and I’m going to put on my shorts and go sit in the sunshine and read a book. But tomorrow will involve real writing, I swear!




Mid-summer update

How quiet I’ve been!

I’m actually really surprised to discover that I haven’t posted in almost three weeks. What have I been doing with myself?

Not, I’m pleased to say, wallowing in ill-health. Maybe it was the antibiotics, maybe it was the season, maybe it was just a natural slow recovery, but I’m finally over my cough. I haven’t quite gotten my daily walking back up to where it was in early May, but I’m getting there. (For my own future reference, May’s walking average, 3.8 miles. June, 2.2. July, 3.2.)

I haven’t been doing much, though. Suzanne and I took a quick camping trip up to Oregon over the 4th of July, mostly in order to keep dogs away from fireworks. As far as I know, Sophie doesn’t care about fireworks at all, but they make Riley pretty unhappy and it was a good excuse to go camping.

It was only Sophie’s second camping trip, which surprised me when I realized it, but of course Suzanne’s broken ankle derailed our camping plans in the summer of 2022. And I don’t currently own a car — or a vehicle of any sort, in fact! — so I’m not doing any camping on my own. The good news is that Sophie was a much better camper as a two-year old than she was as a puppy, “better” being defined as more relaxed. When we got into the tent, she curled up and went to sleep, instead of alerting on every passing noise.

Tent camping in campgrounds, though, is less fun than Serenity camping mostly because people are really noisy. We had neighbors one night who stayed up chatting at their campfire until 1AM. Ugh. I felt like I should invite myself to join them, but I didn’t want to join them, I wanted to sleep! It was also chilly and foggy on the coast, which isn’t surprising, but wasn’t what I was hoping for. On the other hand, it was more comfortable than if it had been sweltering like most of the rest of the planet, so no complaints.

And it was fun to be out and about. It’s already almost two weeks ago, but I think my favorite part was probably stopping at a river with the dogs and letting them swim.


I don’t actually know how to embed a video, but that link is two seconds of Sophie swimming. Earlier in the month, we took the dogs to a splash pool event at the local shelter. Bear loved it and swam like crazy: Sophie was completely unwilling to step off the ramp into the water. Obviously, it’s fine if she doesn’t like to swim, and I’m not going to force her to. But I was glad she was willing to give it a try at the river.

Locally, I’ve gone to pick blueberries a couple of times; also appreciated the glories of the farmer’s market; also enjoyed the back yard and garden; also played lots of ball with Sophie at our local fields. We started the next level of dog classes and are currently working on “middle,” where she sits between my legs and waits patiently, and “tummy,” which is basically roll over and get petted. I’ve also worked on a book or two or three — for some reason, I’m having trouble sticking with a project and keep hopping between them. And I’ve planned some future fun trips, including investigating Mexican dental tourism. I haven’t quite taken the plunge and made an appointment, but I’m going to.

Anything else? Hmm… well, this happened:

Ghosts on a best giveaway list

Not because of anything I did, in either case. Well, I guess I set Cici to be free (via KU free days), so that was something. I’m fairly sure that one of the sites that advertise free books much have picked up both of them and mentioned that they were free, because books don’t generally make it onto the best giveaway list just for existing, but I didn’t do any kind of promotion to make it happen, so it was a pleasant surprise. It will be a more pleasant surprise if it helps sales or reads of the other books, of course, but I’m not counting on those chickens.

And now I should get back to writing a book. I keep reminding myself that persistence always gets me there in the end, but… well, persistence! It’s my new mantra. 🙂

I hope you’re enjoying your summers, too, and for those of you sweltering in the heat, remember to hydrate!

The Wrong Reality

My friend Christina lost her son this week.

Andrew was 34. He played all types of games — video, board, RPG, D&D, everything. He loved Disney, and theme parks, and superheroes. My most vivid memory of him is calling him in to adjudicate a battle in Superfight. He wasn’t playing, probably because he had to work, but he had passionate opinions about which superheroes would be superior in a face-to-face conflict.

I’ve got other memories of him, too — a conversation about learning to cook for other people while in the kitchen one day; laughing with his mom about which media mom she most resembled on the back porch when he’d just moved to Florida; a long afternoon spent playing a game that became a catchphrase for awful; and lots of meals. So many meals. Christina loves to cook and feeding people is her love language, so Andrew and I sat next to one another at more than one feast over the years. I hate that we will never do so again, just hate it.

And I am so incredibly sad for Christina. I want to get on a plane right now and cry all the way to Florida so that I can give her a hug. If I thought that hug would make anything any better, I’d do it, but it wouldn’t, of course. I’m not sure there’s anything that could.

It feels unreal, though. Not surreal, not like reality is twisted, but unreal, like of course that couldn’t have happened. Of course that can’t be true. Of course this isn’t real. It is, though. Every day, she has to wake up into this new reality that is just wrong. Truly so very wrong.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Christina’s immense loss has left me thinking a lot about my own son. I used to want to reach out to him all the time. I’d cook something good and think, “Oh, I should tell R about this,” or read an article and want to share it, or laugh about something the dog did and remind myself to remember it for our next phone call. That’s been over for a pretty long time. I still think of him every day, but I haven’t had to resist the urge to call or message him for… well, probably not since he called me whatever it was, an emotionally stunted creep or something like that. But this time… I just wanted to hear the sound of his voice. I just wanted to feel the visceral certainty that he is alive from an actual interaction, real words, responsiveness. I didn’t even try, though. I didn’t choose this estrangement, so there’s no point in me trying to un-choose it. I wish him well, though, wherever he is, however he is. I hope that he’s happy and thriving and… well, alive. Really, today, that feels like almost enough. Alive is so much better than the alternative.

I am so very sad for Christina.

The malicious universe (not)

Things I’ve appreciated today: cough drops, tissues, my thrift store rain jacket.

Level of happiness about my appreciations: pretty low, actually.

I bought tissues at Costco a couple of months ago and joked about how nice it was going to be to have a lifetime supply of tissues stashed in the storage shed. Today I took my 5th box out of the shed. Yeah, maybe not a lifetime’s worth after all. It feels a little like the universe is laughing at me for my over-confidence. Not that I believe in a malicious universe, but if I did, it would be laughing.

On the plane to SFO, I chatted with the woman sitting next to me. She’d just lost her live-in job (and therefore her housing) and was feeling a little shell-shocked, I think. She needed to talk. She was on her way to visit a son in Florida, to babysit for the grandkids while he and his wife vacationed, and was debating whether she should tell him what had happened. Along the way, she asked me if I had kids. I was so tempted to lie. I didn’t, because it felt like that malicious universe — the one I don’t believe in — would jump on any such statement and make it come true in some awful way. Like denying R’s existence would make him stop existing. That’s obviously ridiculous, and I know it’s ridiculous: even if he’s dead (no reason to believe he is, no reason to believe he’s not), his existence shaped my life. I am who I am because I chose to become his mother. No casual words to a stranger will change that. Fortunately, I no longer cry every time I mention him. I simply answered the question and immediately turned it back to her and we spent the rest of the flight talking about her five kids, fifteen grandkids, and first great-grand.

Random thing I want to remember: I had a little time to kill in Florida, between lunch with my friend Lynda and my stepmom’s birthday party, so I did a Japanese lesson in the car before starting to drive. While I was driving I was thinking about how little Japanese I know, even after 200+ days of tiny lessons. Then I thought, well, I do know the word for beach. Umi, that’s how you say beach in Japanese. And also, I know how to say that I’m going somewhere — ni iki masu. So I can say that I’m going to the beach — umi ni iki masu. And I know how to say tomorrow, too. Ashita umi ni iki masu — tomorrow, I’m going to the beach. So I guess maybe I’m learning more than I think I am. Tiny lessons leading to tiny triumphs. The next day I really did go to the beach, so it was even useful. Well, or it would have been if anyone I knew spoke or cared about speaking Japanese, ha.

Hey, good news: tomorrow is my last day of antibiotics and I am not going to be so afraid of them in the future. My stomach has had moments of uncertainty but I’ve been drinking my probiotic beverages every day and so far that’s worked to prevent too much misery. Less good news: as far as I can tell the antibiotics haven’t done a thing. One can’t have everything, I suppose.

Meanwhile, the prescription cough drops were/are completely useless as far as I can tell. In my not-entirely-scientific but extremely extensive experimentation, Ricola really are the best cough drops. Turns out, though, only the Honey Herb Ricola are guaranteed to be gluten-free, so it’s entirely possible that my cough drops were causing my cough. I honestly don’t believe in a malicious universe, though. Really. It’s just ironic. Or it would be if it were funny.

Time to go write a book! I’ve gotten a little stuck on Ceres, so yesterday I pulled out Cici. Beginnings are so easy; middles are so hard. I wonder if that’s a life truth, not just a writing truth?


Nostalgia for awful things

Yesterday, I coughed so hard I threw up.

It was a bizarrely nostalgic experience. When I was pregnant, I spent the last few months throwing up every day, multiple times a day. I’m not quite sure when it started — end of October, I think — but I caught a cold, and the baby pushing up on my diaphragm plus an intense cough equalled vomiting. Lots and lots of vomiting. It turned into a weird self-perpetuating cycle where the coughing made me vomit and the vomiting made me cough and so it just kept going. For weeks. Months, actually.

I threw up so much and so often that I started strategizing about the best foods to eat before throwing up; if I knew it was coming, I’d quickly swallow some mint ice cream, which is honestly the very best thing to vomit. If you do it right, it’s still cool and creamy on your throat and the mintiness makes the taste bearable. Mmm, mint flavored vomit, so infinitely much better than tomato or orange juice flavored vomit.

I also knew all the best places to vomit on the streets I had to routinely walk. I was waddling along, of course, carrying a beachball in my belly, so I couldn’t move very fast. I’d pause at specific sewer grates to see if I needed to use them before continuing on. Worst place to vomit: at an ATM. I’m still sorry about that for the people who were waiting in line behind me. Second-worst place: on my plate at Christmas dinner. Fortunately for me, my sister saw it coming, and so pulled my plate of food away and slid her empty plate before me. I threw up on the empty plate, and she then replaced it with my unfinished meal. I kept eating. I wasn’t nauseous, I just threw up a lot.

Ah, nostalgia. LOL. It was weird to feel wistful about what was fundamentally an awful life experience, but I guess time puts a hazy glow on bad memories if good things come out of them eventually.

As a result of yesterday’s unpleasantness, however, I did go to the doctor this morning. My oxygen level is fine, my lungs are clear, and I’m not running a fever, so I’m more or less okay. He prescribed some antibiotics, given that I’ve been coughing for about a month now, but also asked if I was using a new detergent. Ans: why, yes. (Along with a few other allergy-related questions.) Do I think my new detergent is what’s causing insane allergies? Not really, no, but I’m probably going to switch back to my old detergent for a while. And reluctantly take the antibiotics. I’ve had such horrible luck with antibiotics in my life that I am very dubious, but I am also extremely tired of feeling awful.

Despite the coughing, I had a lovely weekend. It was a quick trip to Florida for special events and family time. It felt much too short, but also perfect. Now that I’m home again, though, I have two goals: write a book and stop coughing. Easier said than done, but I am sure I will manage to do both eventually. But not today. Today my goal is to unpack, to eat something healthy, and to appreciate Sophie, having already very efficiently gone to the doctor, picked up antibiotics and now written a blog post. Go, me!

pristine blue sky and light sand beach

Saturday started out rainy, but we went to the beach anyway, just in time for a couple hours of that intense blue sky. We saw dolphins, too, and loads of pelicans. No sharks, though, even though the beach is known as the shark attack capital of the world. (According to some sources, 10% of the world’s shark attacks happen at New Smyrna Beach. Not really the statistic you want to be thinking about while you’re swimming!)