Wow, I can’t believe it’s January already! If time continues to speed up as I age, by the time I’m eighty I’ll be planting the garden in January and putting up the Christmas tree in August.
Hey, now I’ve got an excuse if I ever start to lose my marbles: There’s nothing wrong with my mind; I’m just a victim of negative time flow. (That sounded more sane and reassuring in my head. Now that it’s written down, it seems kinda ‘lost-marble-ish’. Should I be worried?)
Anyhow, leaving aside my precarious grasp of reality (and I do; oh, yes, I do)…
I’m looking forward to 2021, but I’m not going to jinx it by saying ‘it has to be better than last year’. That’s just tempting Fate. Instead, I’ll paraphrase a quote I saw on Facebook. I can’t remember the exact words and I don’t know who wrote it, but the gist of it was this:
“At the beginning of 2020 I thought this would be the year I got everything I wanted. Instead, it was the year I was grateful for everything I had.”
A lovely thought. If we got anything good at all out of 2020, I hope it’s that.
So, thanks, 2020, but I’ve had enough self-improvement and character-building now! Here’s hoping that in 2021 we can go back to enjoying (yes, with extra gratitude) all the things we took for granted before COVID.
Happy New Year, everybody!
Book 16 update: My Christmas holidays were taken up by the gargantuan task of hauling my website into the 21st century, making it readable on all devices including phones… I hope. If you encounter any difficulties or weird behaviour (other than mine) on the site, please let me know.
My book progress consisted of editing what I’d already written, but now I’m looking forward to a productive writing week!
I feel a bit weird about writing ‘Happy Holidays’ this year. It’s been such a shitty year for so many people, and I don’t want to toss off a flippant greeting to someone whose days will be anything but happy. I don’t want to make anyone feel worse than they already do.
But yet, I do wish everyone happiness. I know we can’t be happy all the time; that’s why it’s a ‘wish’ and not a ‘command’. And I really don’t want to croak out some gloomy pronouncement that’s supposed to sound positive but actually just drags people down. (Now I’m imagining Marvin, the depressive robot from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, moaning, “I’ll wish you Happy Holidays, but you won’t like it.”)
What can I offer instead? Best wishes for peace of mind and peace of home. Hope for the future. Comfort and strength for those who are struggling. Above all, good health. I want those things for everyone, not just now but all year round.
And you know what? I wish us all ‘Happy Holidays’. Not as a thoughtless rote greeting, but as a sincere hope and a positive intention. May we all find joy where we can, when we can; no matter how large or small the measure.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 28 and Aydan is awash in complications. Now I have to decide whether to help her out or pile on a few more problems just to see what she does. Authors: Part empath, part sadist. 😉
I’ll tackle just about any household renovation, and I’ve sometimes thought that it might be a nice way to make a bit of extra income. After all, what could be more satisfying than building and fixing things? It seems like a good idea, until I actually do a project.
Last week we replaced an exterior door that had leaked since Day One. It didn’t meet the BC Building Code standards in the first place (and the building inspector didn’t catch it, grrr). But even if the door had met code, it was so poorly installed that it would have leaked anyway.
So we bought a new door, and realized why the builder had cheaped out in the first place. Over seven hundred dollars *hyperventilates briefly* for a 36″ wide NAFS-08 door, plus half a day’s work; and the door was caulked, insulated, weatherstripped, dry, and done.
The project went fairly smoothly, other than the fact that we tried four tubes of caulking and two cans of expanding foam before we found ones that actually worked. Yes, the expanding foam was a brand-new can, and yes, we had to make a special trip to town to get another, thank you very much. This illustrates the First Law of Construction: Even when you think you have all your tools ready and assembled, you don’t.
The Second Law of Construction also kicked in: Caulking and expanding foam have an irresistible attraction to any place you DON’T want them. I can’t get within ten feet of caulking without getting it all over myself and my clothes. Fortunately I knew that in advance, so I wore my “construction” clothes and all was well. But despite the overall success of the operation, I felt… unsatisfied.
It’s good to know that the problem is (hopefully) solved. And the new door looks nice. But the old door looked nice, too, until puddles formed under it. After all the time, money, and aggravation we expended, you’d never know we’d changed anything. I’d post a picture, but it’s just… a door. “Wow, look at how well that door was installed!” said nobody, ever.
So I guess I’ll stick with my writing career. Words don’t cost me a penny no matter how many I use, and I can put them together and tear them apart and rearrange them as many times as I want without damaging them.
And, unlike lumber, I’ll never ‘measure twice, cut once’ only to discover that I should have ‘thought twice, measured thrice, cut once’. As our elderly neighbour used to complain with tongue in cheek: “I’ve cut that board twice, and it’s still too short.”
Hope everything has measured up in your world this week!
Book 16 update: After weeks of plotting and untangling complicated story threads, I’m finally writing again. I’m on Chapter 25, and things are getting explosive!
When I sat down to write the draft for this post, I consulted my memory for screwball things that had amused me lately.
The pickings were slim.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m still incredibly grateful to be living where I do and doing what I love. Despite all the crap going on in the world, most of it hasn’t really stunk up my life too much.
Still, I think we’re all feeling a bit frazzled right about now. We’re in the throes of a huge second wave of COVID, and even though Hubby and I have zero social contact and only go out for groceries every two weeks or so, it’s just one… more… worry… added to all the stresses of daily life.
We could all use a little comfort right about now, so let’s share a few of our favourite things, and maybe we can all feel a bit better. I’ll start, but I’ll warn you up front that I’m a bit of a weirdo. My ‘comfort’ stuff is probably someone else’s ‘are you kidding me?!?’
Houseplants: My Christmas cactuses are putting on a show!
Funny escapist reads: Sometimes you need a few snickers with your escapism. Katy Munger’s Casey Jones series does it for me (first book “Legwork”.) I almost never read romance because it’s annoyingly predictable; but if I want a laugh-out-loud read with a warm-and-fuzzy ending, Tawna Fenske’s Ponderosa Ranch series (first book “Studmuffin Santa”) is full of raunchy humour, oddball situations, and quirky characters.
Comfort food: I love food of all kinds; but when my defenses are down, my ultimate comfort food is soft-poached eggs on buttered toast.
Decadent dessert: When only something rich and decadent will soothe my soul, it’s time for Hello Dolly bars: Only five ingredients mixed in the pan (no dirty mixing bowls, hooray), and enough sugar and fat to induce a blissful coma:
Hello Dolly Bars (8″x8″ or 9″x9″ pan)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup shredded coconut
1 can sweetened condensed milk (300ml / 10 oz)
Mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together and press them into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Sprinkle coconut over chocolate chips. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the whole thing. (The other ingredients should be completely covered.) Bake at 350°F until top is bubbly and browned (approximately 30 – 35 minutes). I like it best when it’s room temperature or a bit chilled, but I can never resist a few pieces right after it comes out of the oven!
Comfort music: It’s crazy but true: When I’m feeling fragile, I don’t retreat into meditation soundtracks or classical music. Nope, barbershop harmony is what comforts me the most. It’s not the music of my childhood. It’s not even the music of my parents’ childhood. So maybe I’ve been reincarnated from someone who lived in the late 1800s? Who knows, but here’s a modern sample:
Guaranteed belly laugh: Here are a couple of video clips that always make me laugh helplessly. The first is an ancient one from when BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) was all over the news. I’ve never made it past the 22-second mark without doubling over:
And here’s one that pretty much sums up how I feel about COVID right now:
Whew, I feel better! 🙂
Now it’s your turn! What are your comfort goodies? Make up your own categories, or copy and paste any or all of these into your comment:
Funny / escapist reads:
Guaranteed belly laugh:
Book 16 update: Another good week of plotting and figuring out everybody’s twisty motivations. I’m on Chapter 24, and Lola and her geriatric CRAPS cronies are on the case!
Last week I was swearing over a project when Hubby wandered by. I looked up with a sigh and said, “This is driving me nuts. I bust my ass to get it done, and think, ‘There, it’s finished.’ Then I find out I should have done it differently. So I fix it and think, ‘There, now it’s finished and it’s right.’ Then I find more and better information, so I fix it again…”
By then, Hubby was nodding sympathetically. “Yep, that’s engineering.”
I gaped at him for a moment. Then I smiled. With one simple phrase, he’d made a seemingly futile process feel like a worthwhile endeavor.
I admit it: I’m a wannabe engineer. My tendency to overanalyze and devise solutions usually emerges late at night when I should be sleeping. My half-dozing brain is certain it’s invented something brilliant, until I come to full alertness in the morning and think, “What the ever-loving f…?!?” Worse, I grew up on a farm, so I inherited the ‘farmer fix-it’ mentality: It doesn’t have to look good; it only has to work.
And that’s how I came to be sitting in our mudroom a couple of days ago, keeping an eye on a stream of water from a partially-extended retractable faucet I’d taped to a 10-foot piece of central-vacuum piping, which went out the door to rest on a length of aluminum channel propped on a short segment of wooden I-beam and stabilized by a small rock. A chair held the door mostly closed, while a blanket, old jacket, garden sprayer, and small rug kept the cold air at bay.
Unless you’re an engineer, your eyes probably glazed over just from reading the description; so I won’t launch into how the design evolved. I will, however, answer the question most likely to be asked by any sane person: “For the love of God, WHY?!?”
Well, once a year we have to sanitize our water lines with a dose of bleach, but we’re not supposed to run bleach into our septic system because it kills the good bacteria. (Although it seems to me that ‘good’ is a relative term when referring to anything that results from rotting shit.)
Anyway, the bleach-laden water has to be piped outside. A hose would have been a good solution, but our mudroom faucet won’t accept a hose fitting. Hence the Rube Goldberg contraption.
Somewhat to my surprise, it worked fine and we got most of the bleach out of the lines, although the next morning’s shower smelled a lot like a public swimming pool. (The chlorine scent, not the funky ‘somewhere in this room a wet towel has been rolled in a ball and left in a locker until it grows polka-dots’ odour.)
So our water is safe for another year; and my hair is only a few shades lighter from the mental effort and residual bleach. So far, so good…
Anybody else have an inventive week?
Book 16 update: Just when I think ‘it’s done and it’s right’, I find something else to fix. (Engineering, grrr!) I’m still at the 50% mark, but the early chapters are whipped into shape now. (I think hope.)
All my life I’ve had trouble coming to grips with the difference between what I’d like to believe of myself and what hard evidence proves.
I first discovered my penchant for denial ’way back in the early 1970s. That’s when my parents decided to mail audio cassette tapes back and forth to keep in touch with our grandparents, who spent winters in Texas. I was about eight years old at the time, and the new tape recorder was a fascinating gadget. Fascinating, that is, until I recorded my first message and pressed the playback button. And this weird geeky voice issued from the tape recorder!
What the hell?!? (Or ‘what the heck’, I guess, since I was eight.)
I was certain the tape recorder was malfunctioning. I knew I didn’t sound like that. I could hear my own voice perfectly well in my ears (or, more to the point, in my imagination), and it was completely different. Even though my parents and siblings insisted that the recording sounded just like me, I was sure it was all just a tasteless joke and I refused to believe them.
But I eventually had to accept reality when I listened to their recordings. Their voices on tape sounded just like real life.
Damn. That weird, geeky voice was mine.
That memory came rushing back to me a couple of weeks ago. No thanks to COVID, I’m attending virtual meetings these days; so I got a webcam.
Let me just say that webcams were obviously created by the same sadists who install bright lights in changing rooms.
The first time I turned the camera on, this godawful old hag appeared on my screen. Pasty-skinned, she had deep grooves around her mouth and between her eyebrows, and the puffy bags under her eyes were big enough to accommodate a picnic lunch.
Clearly there had to be something wrong with the webcam, because I don’t look like that. Sure, I’ve got a few wrinkles, but they’re not really noticeable unless I look in the mirror while I’m wearing my glasses. (There’s something wrong with my glasses, too.)
But after attending my first online meeting, I’m chagrined to admit that everybody else looked the same on camera as they do in real life. So unless I somehow managed to buy a special ‘Funhouse Brand’ distorted webcam (and I’m not ruling that possibility out, just sayin’), I probably am the godawful old hag I see on my screen.
That was a severe blow to my powers of denial, but I shall overcome!
I’m pretty sure I only looked so bad because it’s a high-definition webcam and I was looking at it full-screen. It’s like looking at yourself in a magnifying mirror — everything looks much worse than it actually is. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
And if all else fails, I’ve just discovered that my webcam has a soft-focus setting that should blur reality nicely. Now, if only I could find some device to do that in real life…
Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 23 and just finished my usual mid-book editing stage. Everything is tightened up nicely now, and I’m ready to bomb ahead!
This past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada, and I’m feeling grateful for just about everything.
Monday morning left me breathless with sheer wonder. After a few days of rain, the sky had cleared overnight and the temperature dropped to about 4°C. The rooftops sparkled with the kind of frost that is beautiful without doing any damage. The sun rose golden in an intense blue sky, and the air was an intoxicating cocktail of moist cedar and distant ocean.
While I sat wrapped in my warm blanket drinking my tea, I was treated to a symphony of birdsong; not the unrestrained chorus of spring, but the sweet and wistful melodies of fall.
Robins chirped and chuckled in the trees, gorging themselves on the last few berries. A finch sang a clear, note-perfect solo. Dozens of juncoes foraged busily on the ground only a few feet away, their tiny ‘chip’ noises interrupted only by the whir of their wings as they took flight to ride the crystal air like feathered rollercoasters. A Steller’s jay took proud ownership of the last few sunflower heads of the season, iridescent blue plumage glowing and crest saucily cocked.
As the sun rose higher, the rough armourplates of Douglas-fir bark transformed into a stunning study of warm light and deepest shadow. The melting frost trimmed every leaf with diamonds. The creek rushed in the background — not yet winter’s torrent, but singing again after its summer silence. The asters and chrysanthemums and rudbeckia glowed bright in the vivid green of the rhododendron garden.
And I sat in this beautiful place, marvelling; and comforted beyond measure.
These patient trees will stand for many of my lifetimes. These mountains were here millennia before me, and will remain for millennia after I’m gone. Compared to their ancient presence, my life is a tiny speck of existence, forgotten in an eyeblink. Nature endures, not only beyond human endurance, but beyond human comprehension. And for that, I am thankful.
I’m thankful to live in a safe home, in a safe country where I have clean air, clean water, abundant food, and health care.
I’m thankful for my husband. He is my rock, the man I can always count on to listen to me, laugh with me, and love me.
I’m thankful for family and friends who, whether we live provinces away or close together but separated by COVID restrictions, are nonetheless only a phone call away.
I’m thankful to be doing a career I love.
And I’m thankful for you, my wonderful readers — you make all my hours of work worthwhile.
Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 21, nearly halfway done the book! There’s a killer in Silverside, and Blue Eddy has been hiding a murderous past…
Remember the old figure of speech, ‘put a bug in your ear’? It means ‘give you a hint’. So, the other day I was out in the garden and a bug flew up my nose. I’m not sure how to interpret that.
What made the whole episode disturbing (other than, hello, a bug up my nose) was the fact that the bug flew directly up my left nostril with all the precision of a shuttlecraft docking in the Starship Enterprise’s shuttle bay. (Well, maybe a shuttlecraft with a slightly inebriated pilot, because I did feel the bug carom off the inside of my nostril as it rocketed up there.)
Even more worrisome was the fact that the bug didn’t come out. No matter how much I sneezed and blew, no reassuring bug-body appeared.
So as far as I know it’s still up there, tunnelling slowly but steadily through my sinuses on its way to my brain, where it will lay a zillion eggs that will hatch into hungry little carnivorous worms. I’d like to say that’s nothing more than a bizarre fantasy on my part; but I’m afraid it might be actually possible after reading about the woman who had a cockroach living in her ear (and there’s a disturbing twist on ‘a bug in your ear’).
The sad fact is that even if my brain had as many wormholes as swiss cheese, it probably wouldn’t noticeably affect my current behaviour. I’ve been deep in writing again this week (six more chapters, woohoo!) which means I’m perfectly capable of:
Not noticing real-life people and events that are right in front of my nose
Forgetting that my fictional people and events never actually existed
Forgetting to eat, sleep, bathe, and keep important appointments
Muttering incomprehensibly and making weird facial grimaces for no apparent reason
On the upside, it’s possible that my resident brain-worms will have minds of their own, which might lend a certain off-the-wall creativity to my future ideas.
Or who knows? Maybe they’ll just be in single-minded pursuit of their next meal. Food normally occupies a large portion of my waking thoughts, too, so… dang. I guess I’ll never know whether I’m going buggy. But if I start vigorously flapping my arms and searching for dark moist tunnels to inhabit, it’s probably time to call the bug-catchers.
Oh, and maybe give Hollywood a call. It’s been a while since they remade ‘The Fly’.
Anything bugging you this week?
Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 17, and Blue Eddy’s has been taken over by folks wearing tinfoil hats to protect themselves against space aliens. In Aydan’s world, there’s always something…
Last week Hubby and I were sitting outside on a pleasant evening when this conversation happened:
Hubby: “The crickets are sure loud tonight.” Me: “Just a whole bunch of lonely hearts lookin’ for love.” Hubby: “You mean that’s all I had to do twenty years ago?” Me: “Yep, just stand outside and shriek ‘TAKE ME!’ at the top of your lungs. What could possibly go wrong?”
That conversation came to mind a couple of days ago when I started researching cell phone plans (again).
Despite the fact that there are nine cell towers scattered around within a few miles of us, cellphones don’t get a signal at our place. But we still need them when we travel, so we have to pay for cellular service we can almost never use.
Canada has the highest cellular prices in the world, so every now and then I go looking for cheaper plans. That’s when I start feeling like the proverbial cricket.
I surf over to the first site. “PAY1 ONLY2 $203 PER4 MONTH5 FOR UNLIMITED6 SERVICE7!” it trumpets triumphantly.
That’s ten times less than what we’re paying, woohoo!
Then I peruse the details, which are coyly enumerated in microscopic cream-on-white print buried at the bottoms of the webpages; or sometimes behind cleverly-concealed popups:
Only if pre-paid for two years in advance.
Only on contracts longer than two years.
Excluding access fees, service fees, and ‘because-we-can’ fees.
For the first two months. After that, the price doubles.
That’s per month, per device, per person.
As much as you want, up to our arbitrary limit. Over that you pay extra.
If you somehow manage to figure out this deliberately obfuscated process, pay online, and configure your phone all by yourself, we’ll waive the $40 connection fee; but if you contact us even once, you’re on the hook for an extra forty bucks.
Not only does this mean that the final cost works out to about $200 per month for normal usage (which, by an amazing coincidence, is what we’re currently paying), but it also takes an entire day to dig through all the sites and discover that the simplified translation is this:
“You, the customer, are an insignificant insect. Every provider in Canada colludes to fix prices, and we will charge you whatever we damn well please. And when we want more revenue, we’ll pull a new “service fee” out of our asses and charge you that, too. Muwahahaha!!!”
All of which makes me feel like sticking my head out the door and shrieking, “FINE! TAKE ME! JUST TAKE ME!!”
But I don’t dare. One of them might hear, and then I’ll get hit with the Voice-Only Outdoor Pickup Service Fee*.
* Fee is doubled for cranky middle-aged red-haired women.
Book 16 update: A record writing week — eight chapters under my belt! I’m on Chapter 10 now, and wedding bells are ringing. You’ll never guess for whom!
Before COVID, I took a lot for granted. If I needed an item, I’d just run out and buy it. Sometimes I’d even go into several stores in succession without washing my hands in between! (Shocking, I know.) Now, even a quick trip to the grocery store is fraught with complexity:
Do I have my mask and hand sanitizer?
Can I recall the correct order in which to apply the mask and sanitizer?
Will I fail to note the directional arrows on the floor and find myself bashfully backpedalling while other shoppers give me the stink-eye?
Can I remember to maintain a six-foot distance between myself and others while simultaneously calculating whether the extra-large box of cereal at regular price is a better deal than two smaller boxes on sale?
And how can I dodge that group of bare-faced young guys who are laughing and gabbing and breathing their invisible death-cooties everywhere?
Yep, in the past six months, I’ve done a whole lot of things I didn’t think I’d ever do. F’rinstance, I never thought I’d ever:
See people freak out over toilet paper. I thought I was joking when I wrote a blog post titled “Weapons of Ass Destruction” back in 2014, but apparently I was foretelling the future. I can’t tell you how much that scares me. I really, really hope none of my other blog posts are prescient.
Go through a liquor-store checkout wondering if they’ll ID me this time because all my wrinkles are hidden behind my mask. (They didn’t. Guess I have more wrinkles than I realized.)
Worry about who my dryer repairman has been seeing. He’s the only person who’s entered our house in the past six months. Where has he been, and did he catch anything while he was there?!?
Become even more of a hermit than I already was. You know you’ve got a problem when a twice-monthly trip to the grocery store seems like a lot of travelling.
Walk into a bank wearing a mask that conceals most of my face. The first time I did that, the idiot-joker part of my personality begged to shout, “This is a stickup!” Fortunately for my continued freedom, I managed to suppress the idiot, but it was a near thing.
Turn down an ice cream cone. When I turn down ice cream, it’s a sure sign that the world is seriously awry. But I can’t figure out how to hand-sanitize when one of my hands is occupied by the cone. D’you think they’d flip a scoop of ice cream over the counter to me? I’m sure I could snag it out of the air with my teeth…
Hmm, if this pandemic goes on much longer, I foresee the rise of a whole new “No-Touch” fast food serving system. It’ll look a lot like this:
Not very efficient or tidy, but at least the spectators would get some laughs. (And let’s hope this blog post doesn’t turn out to be prescient!)
Book 16 update: We have words on the page, woohoo! I’m halfway through Chapter 2, and Aydan’s getting sent to Leavenworth. But don’t worry, it’ll all work out!