…And I Missed It.

Well, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks… as far as I know. To be honest, I was stoned and I missed it.

I knew in advance that I wasn’t going to enjoy my COVID booster shot. My second shot had made me feel as though somebody had thumped me in the back for a day, and my arm hurt for three days. So when I woke up at midnight feeling like I’d been repeatedly kicked in the armpit with a pointy-toed shoe, I wasn’t surprised. I took an acetaminophen and went back to bed to tough it out. Next came pain in every joint. Then fever. For the next twenty-four hours, I watched the clock and gulped acetaminophen at the exact minute my next dose was allowed.

I almost never take acetaminophen, and I was surprised at how dopey it made me. I guess it wasn’t a bad thing in retrospect: I was miserable, but at least I was stoned. I didn’t even bother trying to work that day; just lay around and binge-read. After four books and most of the day, the fever subsided and I went to bed knowing the worst was over.

The next day I was fine, except that somebody had apparently sneaked into our bedroom overnight and replaced my armpit lymph nodes with red-hot pebbles. Painful, but an improvement overall.

Until the insanely itchy rash appeared.

No good ever came from a conversation that begins with “Let me tell you about my rash”, so I won’t. But it turns out that antihistamines make me even dopier than acetaminophen. For most of the day, I stayed in the kitchen baking because I had to stay on my feet. If I stopped moving, my eyelids dropped shut. And I read the recipes VERY CAREFULLY. Over and over. Even though I’ve been making them at least once a month for the past couple of decades. Yes, I was that stoned.

But I’m pretty sure I was doing it wrong, because these guys look like they were having ’way more fun than me:

(I’ll have what they’re having, please.)

Anyhow, I’m finally back to normal; or as normal as I ever get. So, hmmm… I wonder what I should do for a high this week?

Marijuana is legal here, so I guess I could try that; but I’ve heard it causes the munchies. I have a permanent case of the munchies even when I’m stone-cold sober, so that could get scary. If my next post contains nothing but a photo of me nesting in a pile of empty Doritos bags with a beatific smile and crumbs all over my face, you’ll know what happened.

Actually, y’know what? Maybe I’ll skip the weed and go straight to guacamole corn chips. And Cheezies. And sour-and-cream-and-onion potato chips… Mmmm… now that’s my kind of high!

What’s your “food drug” of choice?

Book 17 update: Despite my ongoing back problems and my chemically-altered downtime, I still managed to make a bit of writing progress. I’m on Chapter 12, and charming liar Ian Rand has just messed with Aydan… again.

Happy 2022

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you made it into 2022 unscathed by weather, viruses, or discomfort from overindulging in holiday goodies.

Well, maybe a bit of discomfort is okay. As the saying goes, “Everything in moderation, including moderation”. 😉

Hubby and I had a quiet Christmas and New Years for two, but we stuffed ourselves with turkey and trimmings like a pair of champs. And my pastry recipe makes enough for two pies; so I kinda had to make a pumpkin pie and a cherry pie. Two people = two pies, right?

Unlike the rest of the country, we haven’t been plunged into -30°C and -40°C weather, so we’re counting our blessings. But we have been blanketed by snow since mid-December, so don’t get me started about all the times we were told ‘it never snows here’. It’s beautiful, though!

My “holiday” time got a little messed up when my back demanded attention with a loud crack and some crazy nerve sensations. The ensuing trips to doctors and an MRI ate into my writing time as well as my ability to focus on anything other than ‘Why does my spine hate me?’, but I managed to make some progress on Book 17 nonetheless. I don’t know how the back issues will turn out; but for now I’m moving cautiously and not hurting, so I’ll take what I can get.

I hope you all had a happy holiday, and I wish you all the best in the new year!

Book 17 update: I’m on Chapter 9 and Aydan is flying across the country with a man she doesn’t quite trust, to meet another man she definitely doesn’t trust. Let the games begin…

The Christmas Sweater Conundrum

Christmas will be here in only three days, and I have a confession:  Even though I hear about them all the time, I’ve never seen an ugly Christmas sweater.

Apparently everyone else has. Everybody makes fun of them.  Before COVID, there were even entire parties dedicated to the wearing of ugly Christmas sweaters. 

And I… just don’t get it.

I mean, obviously I’ve seen Christmas-themed sweaters, in all sorts of patterns and colours.  And (as I discovered when I searched “ugly Christmas sweaters” on the internet) they’re frequently *ahem* off-colour.  And educational.  For example, I never would have thought of painstakingly knitting a sweater that features reindeer having a threesome.  I learn something new every day.

But (excluding the one with Santa taking a dump down the chimney, which was just gross) I still didn’t find an ‘ugly’ sweater. 

I have a design degree (though admittedly I sucked at design) and I understand colour theory.  So, Christmas sweaters use complementary colour schemes and not-so-subtle patterns; but so what?  I still don’t see where the ‘ugly’ comes in.

They’re bright, for sure.  Sometimes literally, if you get one with built-in lights and batteries.  But since when is ‘bright’ a synonym for ‘ugly’?  Is calling them ‘ugly’ just preemptive self-deprecation by people who secretly love to wear them, but fear that some Grinch-hearted fashion guru will mock them?  Are our adult lives really so dull and sad and drab that we’re not allowed to break out some exuberant over-the-top colour just once a year?

Or… (this is a distinct possibility) is this just another example of my general lack of fashion sense?  Go ahead, lay it out there.  I can take it.  😉

But regardless of the Christmas sweater conundrum… if you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very merry one.  If you don’t, I wish you joy in whatever tradition or ritual you do observe; or I wish you the contentment of no celebrations at all.  Sometimes the quiet moments are the most precious.

May peace, health, happiness, and prosperity be yours, now and in the New Year!

Book 17 update: I’ve just hit Chapter 6, and things are getting complicated in Aydan’s world already. Stemp has been suspended pending an official inquiry, and charming liar Agent Ian Rand has a mysterious message he insists on delivering in person. What could possibly go wrong…?

Apparently I’m A Sissy

I’d give credit to the person who originally said “Old age ain’t for sissies”, but even Quote Investigator doesn’t know for sure who it was.  Nevertheless, the older I get, the more apt the adage seems. 

It’s bad enough that my body is staging a slow and sneaky mutiny.  First my thumbs complained about heavy work.  Then light work.  Then they started whining for no reason at all. 

Next my eyes got into the act, gradually but stubbornly focusing farther and farther away.  I’d love to write some inspiring metaphor about ‘seeing the bigger picture as I age’ or some such shit; but the truth is that no matter how big the picture is, I need reading glasses to see it.

So I got progressive lenses. They’re fine when I’m focusing at six feet or less; but as soon as I look up from my task, I shove the glasses onto the top of my head because I see better without them at a distance.  It’s not how they’re meant to be worn, but at least they’re handy whenever I need them. And it’s nice to be able to see what’s on my dinner plate, so I grudgingly accepted the glasses… until I realized they’re trying to choke me to death.

I didn’t think it was possible to be strangled by eyewear unless one was intentionally seeking a Darwin Award, so at first I didn’t recognize their diabolical plot.  I had noticed that sometimes I almost choked when I was eating something juicy, but I put it down to bolting my food too fast in my hurry to get back to work.

But it was happening more and more frequently, and I started to get concerned.  Was I developing some degenerative disease, or what?  I know swallowing can get less efficient with advancing age; but I’m not that friggin’ old.  (Or so I tell myself… shhh, leave me with my illusions!) 

But everything became clear (literally) last week, when Hubby said something at the breakfast table while I was eating an orange.  I tilted my chin up so I could focus on him through the bottom part of my lenses, and promptly choked when a tide of orange juice rushed down my throat.

Damn murderous glasses.  Can’t live with ’em; can’t see without ’em.  This aging stuff sure ain’t for sissies.

Book 17 update: I’ve got words on the page, woohoo! Chapter 1 always takes a while to write because it’s hard to provide enough backstory to orient readers without doing a boring brain-dump; but at least I’ve had 16 books’ worth of practice. 😉 Onward!

Fate: The Practical Joker

Fate seems to think I need a surprise every now and then to keep me on my toes.  Last month’s dough snake certainly succeeded in that, and now Fate’s twisted sense of humour has struck again.  The setup for its latest practical joke was elaborate, going back more than two years.

My vehicle was only a couple of years old at the time and still had its ‘new-car’ scent, but one day I hopped in and got a whiff of… something else.

A really gross ‘something else’.  As if meat juice had been wiped up with sweaty gym socks, then sealed in a plastic bag and left to ferment for a month.  Fortunately it wasn’t terribly strong, but it was definitely pungent.  So I took it to the dealer for a warranty repair. 

When I picked up the vehicle, the service manager gave me a patronizing smile and assured me the smell had just been a bit of stale moisture in the cabin filter:  “It’s all fixed now, so don’t you worry your pretty head about it, little lady.”  (Okay, he didn’t actually say that — if he had, he’d still be nursing the scars; but that was the gist of his attitude.)

They’d ‘fixed’ it, all right. Or rather, fixed me:  They’d poured some vile air freshener into the cabin air intake.  For the next several weeks I had to drive with my windows down, surrounded by a stench like a half-rotted zombie drenched in cheap perfume.  At last the foul miasma faded, and I heaved a sigh of relief. 

Fast-forward to a couple of weeks ago.  (Fate is nothing if not patient.)

I was doing some routine vehicle maintenance, changing the oil and replacing the air filter.  Hubby wandered over and peeked under the hood. 

“What’s this?” he inquired, tugging at a small stick protruding from the air intake.  A moment later he recoiled.  “Ugh!  You can take that out of there — you’re wearing gloves!” 

As he stomped off to wash his hands, I investigated.

Sure enough, the ‘stick’ was the stiffened tail of a mouse that had crawled into the intake and died two years ago.  (Clearly the service department had investigated the problem thoroughly… NOT.)  Anyway, by now the mouse was desiccated and odorless, and when I extracted the little corpse it was feather-light and perfectly preserved.  I’m sure Fate was doubled over, laughing so hard it peed its pants. 

I’m afraid to contemplate what its next prank will be, but I’m bracing myself…

*

P.S. Thanks to everyone who expressed concern for our safety during the recent catastrophic flooding and mudslides.  (Last week’s news report here:  https://www.accuweather.com/en/severe-weather/death-toll-climbs-following-catastrophic-flooding-in-british-columbia/1049096)   

We’re fine – we missed the worst of the rain, and our creek didn’t overflow.  But our hearts go out to all the people who lost their lives, livestock, and/or homes.  On top of COVID and the summer forest fires, it’s another devastating blow.

Book 17 update: Plotting is going well, and I’ll likely start putting words on the page this week. It’s good to be off and running! 🙂

Alien Volleyballs And Other Garden Lessons

Well, another gardening season has come and (almost) gone.  I’ve been gardening for decades, but every year I learn something new.  For example:

  • Never let Hubby start the tomato plants unsupervised.  Each spring we talk it over, decide which varieties we want to grow, and figure about twenty plants should do us. Then Hubby plants the seeds in their little cells (allowing a few extra in case of germination failure).  This year we had forty-three tomato plants, up from thirty-seven last year.  ’Nuff said.
  • Chickweed is a cover crop.  I’ve finally accepted that chickweed springs up to form an impenetrable carpet in the winter here no matter how I try to stop it.  So now I’m embracing it.  Chickweed conserves nitrogen and protects the soil structure, it’s cheery bright green all winter long, its fragile leaves and stems till easily into the soil in spring; and it’s even edible.  Win!
  • We rarely eat as many beets and carrots as I think we will.  If Hubby’s weak spot is tomato plants, mine is beets and carrots.  We still have carrots in the freezer and beets in jars from last year, and four long rows of each await me in the garden.  Anybody want twenty or thirty pounds of nice fresh beets and carrots?
  • Pumpkins have a twisted sense of humour.  Last year I planted four hills of pumpkin seeds and got four pumpkins.  This year I planted two hills and got thirty pumpkins.  WTF?!?
  • “Naturalizing” tulips don’t.  They’re gorgeous the first year, smaller the second year, and they vanish without a trace in year three.  But they’re so beautiful, I just keep planting them.  Some folks never learn.  (Other folks buy botanical tulips, which do naturalize. So I planted some of those, too.  You can’t keep a good addict down.)
  • Wet cabbage leaves are SLIPPERY.  One moment I was strolling over a layer of discarded cabbage leaves; next thing I knew I was on my knees in cold soggy mud, laughing like a lunatic.  Fortunately no cabbages were harmed; and I’ve never been particularly attached to my dignity anyway.
  • No amount of spring bulbs is “enough”.  I planted another couple of hundred crocuses, tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths this fall.  That makes over 2,000 bulbs we’ve planted on our property in the four years we’ve lived here.  (I need more bulbs…)
  • I have zero ability to manage outdoor projects.  They always take three times as long as I think they will, and something “more important” always comes up. This summer I completed projects I didn’t even intend to start; and didn’t finish projects I’d sworn were top priority.  But they all need to be done, so I’m hoping it’ll even out in the end.
  • Superschmelz kohlrabi is da bomb.  I love kohlrabi even though it looks like it was conceived by a green alien with an irresistible attraction to volleyballs.  This year I grew Superschmelz for the first time:
No, this isn’t Photoshopped – that kohlrabi really *is* almost as big as my head.

Any alien veggies in your garden?

Book 17 update: I’ve started plotting, woohoo! Stay tuned for regular progress reports starting in two weeks…

Beware the Dough-Snake!

Sunday evening I was making myself a cup of herbal tea, with my brain completely fried after a grueling weekend spent putting on the conference I mentioned in my last post.  I steeped my tea in the pleasantly dim kitchen, then groped for the compost bucket to dump my tea leaves.

But instead of the expected plastic lid, my hand contacted the soft bulge of something.  A cool, moist, yielding something that moved under my hand like a sleepy snake.

I yelped and recoiled, only to burst out laughing when I discovered that the ‘snake’ was… pizza dough.

We’d made pizza for supper, but as I was pressing the dough into the pan I discovered tiny metal flakes in it.  (Yes, that flour went back to the store ASAP!)  So I remade our pizza crusts from a fresh bag of flour and chucked the contaminated dough into the compost bucket.

But it’s a small bucket.  And yeast rises.  So by the time I zombie-shuffled over there in the late evening, the dough had pushed up the lid of the bucket and escaped, clearly bent on world (or at least garbage-bin) domination.

After patting my thumping heart back into my chest and wiping away my tears of laughter, I dumped the compost bucket out into the recycling green-bin we keep in the garage.  It’s a big bin; but nevertheless, the next morning I opened the door to the garage with caution… just in case the dough-snake had devoured the tasty contents of the bin and grown into a giant man-eating serpent overnight.

Fortunately, it hadn’t; and on Monday the dough-snake went into the collection truck with the rest of the recycling.  So I think we’re safe from compost serpents for now… but I’m still chuckling over my momentary adrenaline burst.

Any surprises in your world this week?

Writing update: I’m (finally!) putting the last of the conference stuff to bed today, and then I’ll start plotting Book 17, woohoo! Soon, soon…

Fall Colour

Hi everyone!

The last couple of weeks have been a bit crazy — we had a death in our family, and the rhododendron society where I volunteer is presenting an international online conference in ten days. As the resident techno-geeks, Hubby and I have been pouring intensive hours into organizing the IT end of the conference, so there’s nothing left in my brain for a blog post this week… unless you really want to learn the sordid details of video compression, PowerPoint shows, and organizing Zoom webinars for time zones all over the world…

(What’s that you say? Sorry, I was temporarily deafened by the chorus of “No, for the love of all that’s holy, please NO!!!”)

Anyhow, if you’re interested in gardening and/or rhododendrons, we’re hosting some amazing international speakers and it’s free (pre-registration required). Click here for the American Rhododendron Society Fall Conference 2021 schedule.

Meanwhile, here are some photos from our garden — its last show of colour before winter closes in. Happy fall!

(Note: If scrolling makes it hard to see the photos, you can click on each photo to get a full-screen view.)

The asters are putting on a show.
The last bloom on the ‘Beverly’ tea rose.
The tiny-but-tough miniature roses are still going strong.
The hydrangeas are fading to pink, but the burning bush is ablaze!
I was lucky to snap photos of the dahlias on Monday, just before the first frost damaged them.
So many fascinating flower forms…
It’s hard to believe these are all dahlias – they’re so different!
And then there are the colours: Bright red…
Hot pink…
Striped…
And streaked…
Bicolours so intense they barely look real…
And understated singles that are beautiful in their simplicity.
The last of the zinnias glossy with rain.
A tiny rudbeckia sheltered by a giant geranium.
The crazy spirals of Cyclamen hederifolium albiflorum.
A dew-spangled moth rests on the flower of a carrot that went to seed.
Even the veggies are putting on a show – bright red peppers with pumpkins in the background. (Oops, I guess I should have weeded before I took this photo!) 🙂

Writing update: As you may have guessed, no fiction writing has taken place in the past couple of weeks. But the screenplay for Book 1, Never Say Spy is being shopped around in hopes of finding a producer; the audiobook for Book 5, How Spy I Am has just been completed and will soon be released; and Book 17 is taking shape in my head. (In all my spare time, ha ha!) Assuming nothing else blows up in my life, I’ll start posting writing progress for Book 17 in early November. Stay tuned…

This Post Doesn’t Suck

Well, I thought I was over it, but apparently my attention-deficit dyslexia is back. When I first started misreading words almost ten years ago, I figured I’d be doomed to unintentionally discover psychological vomit, lap-dancing, kiss-ass guitars, fanfarts, and killer raisins for the rest of my life.

Maybe I got used to my reading glasses, or maybe my brain finally got its shit together; but my “Wait, WHAT?” moments gradually diminished, and it’s been quite a while since I misread anything. Until last week.

I was skimming an ad for e-books when my gaze snagged on a description that began, “In this absorbing sex bot

Wait, WHAT?!?

Some of the sci-fi books I read are a little risqué, and this wasn’t the first time I’d encountered the concept of sex bots. So I eagerly re-read *ahem*… that is to say, I ‘disapprovingly revisited’… the titillating offending text. Much to my disappointment relief, I had mentally transposed the first two letters of the words. In fact, it was a ‘box set’, not a ‘sex bot’. Damn.

(I meant ‘whew’. Honest.)

But since my mind was already in the gutter, it decided to wallow around a bit. I began to wonder: Why don’t we have sex bots?

New technology frequently copies science fiction. After all, flip phones were basically Star Trek communicators; and it wasn’t too long ago that the X-Prize was awarded for a Star Trek medical tricorder. So why not sex bots?

But communicators and tricorders were pretty clearly conceptualized on the show, so maybe the scope of the sex-bot project is too vague. Or maybe the potential consumers of that technology are justifiably skittish after reading about encounters with repurposed appliances like vacuum cleaners, which necessitated awkward explanations in the emergency room.

I don’t know the true reason; but I’ll leave you with a joke that landed in my email this week and made me laugh uproariously. (Thanks, Ethel!)

Hope you all have a week that doesn’t suck… or does; whichever you prefer. I won’t judge…

So, This Happened:

Yes, this really happened. I have no idea why my brain thought it needed to throw out those two particular words this week. I don’t know anyone named Culpepper, and I can’t even remember when I last heard or read the name. I’ve never cooked brisket, or considered cooking brisket; in fact I don’t think I’ve ever eaten brisket.

But I guess if there’s a character named Culpepper in my next book who likes brisket, you’ll know why.

Please tell me I’m not the only one with a brain that wakes me by spewing random words…