It Fell From The Sky

Several months ago, before there was snow on the ground (yes, we had snow; stop laughing), I looked out the front window one morning and saw a rabbit’s foot. Clearly not a lucky one, since it had been recently detached from the rabbit.

I’ve never been squeamish, but I have to admit that being confronted by a dismembered limb first thing in the morning was a bit… disconcerting. (Although probably not as disconcerting as it was for the victim.)

I grew up on a farm, so this wasn’t the first time I’d discovered evidence of some predator’s successful hunt; but it was unique in that there were no other signs of carnage. No tufts of fur flung wide, no other remains, nothing. That was what weirded me out: The fact that the leg had apparently dropped from the clear blue sky.

A moment’s thought reminded me that we now live in eagle habitat, so after that it wasn’t too hard to guess who ate the rest of the rabbit. Still, it was a bit disturbing.

But life went on (for us; not the rabbit), and a couple of weeks later we poured a concrete pad in front of our house, effectively interring the rabbit remains. All was forgotten.

Until two weeks ago, when I looked out the front window and saw this:

Hubby and I had each taken a walk and followed different paths several yards apart. Neither of us dropped or threw anything. So… what’s that divot in the snow, at least six feet away from the nearest footprints?

I ventured over with some reluctance to check it out, but there were no grisly remains. So either we have a tiny volcanic vent in front of our house, or else the eagle flew over again and dropped something a little more *ahem* liquid in that spot.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that the snow is gone, and spring is on its way. Our crocuses are blooming (at least the ones that managed to escape our hungry squirrels), and we are the proud proprietors of a penis garden. It’s more work than you might think: We have to be vigilant about turning it every day to make sure the sprouting schlongs don’t develop a permanent curvature.

I didn’t want to post anything pornographic, so instead of the original flock of phalluses, here’s the end result:

The amaryllis garden in its (mostly) post-porn phase

What’s popped up in your world this week?

Book 16 progress: I’m on Chapter 42 and Aydan has finally discovered who’s trying to kill her; but now a sniper isn’t the worst of her problems. Things are getting complicated…

Ant-Watching

Last week I acquired a hobby I never wanted, and certainly don’t enjoy: Ant-watching.

It wasn’t my idea. Hubby made me do it.

Ants creep me out, so you can imagine how (not) thrilled I was last year when a platoon of ants infiltrated the second floor of our house. Soon the upstairs was dotted with little corpses where I’d squished them and left the bodies as a warning to others. (It turns out ants are cannibalistic, though; so really I was just leaving welcoming snacks. Yet another reason why ants creep me out.)

Hubby took an entirely different attitude at the time. “Just leave them alone,” he urged. “Watch them and see where they go. That way we can find the nest and get rid of them once and for all.”

There was some logic to that, but it went against every one of my instincts. I argued that we could simply study the distribution of corpses after I squished them, and it would amount to a scatter-graph showing the areas of higher population density.

In the end, I set out some cotton balls soaked in boric acid/honey/water. The ants gorged on the treat and carried it eagerly back to the missus and kids, poisoning the whole nest before succumbing themselves. We haven’t had ants in the house for over a year.

But.

A few days ago, there was another damn ant!

I squished it, of course. When I told Hubby, his response was predictable: “Don’t squish them, watch them!” He even encouraged me to name the next ant, naively hoping that if the invader had a name, I’d become fond enough of him to spare his life. Clearly, Hubby doesn’t realize what a heartless bitch I am.

But I decided to humour him (Hubby, not the ant), at least for a while. So for an hour I watched ‘Antonio’ make brainless circles around the floor. Eventually he found the place where I’d squished his compatriot a couple of days ago. He circled the spot again and again, antennae waving wildly. I had a small pang, wondering if he was grieving for his friend; but then I remembered the whole ‘cannibal’ thing. He was probably just licking up some tasty juices.

Antonio apparently needed a nap after his cannibalistic snack, so he snoozed under the table for forty minutes. I’d had enough, so I called Hubby upstairs to take over. Oddly, he didn’t seem quite so enthusiastic about the chore when he was the one listening to his brain rot while he watched a motionless ant.

Moments after Hubby abandoned ant-watching duty, Antonio got smeared across the floor. Since then I’ve set out my honey saloon and had a few patrons, so I’m hoping this year our ant-ordeal will be shorter. Meanwhile, I’m stopping up every tiny aperture and grimly eyeing a suspicious spot on the east side of the house. As soon as the weather warms up, it’s off with the siding!

But at least ant-watching is off my to-do list. One thing down; three hundred and seventy-six to go…

Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 38, and Aydan has just discovered that she’s rich beyond her wildest dreams. Unfortunately, she has no idea where the money came from…

Exercising My Options

Exercise always seems like such a good idea. Medical professionals say it’s vital to our health; beauty magazines tell us it’s vital for our appearance; mental health experts say it boosts our mood; hell, it’s even supposed to improve our sex lives.

So regular exercise is a no-brainer, right? It’ll make me feel look, look good, etc. (No comment on the sex aspect — when everything from powdered rhino horn to chocolate to kale is supposed to make us friskier, I take claims like that with a grain of salt. And a square of chocolate, ’cause why would I not jump on an excuse to eat chocolate?)

Anyhow.

I’m one of those annoying freaks who actually enjoys exercise, but my aging body isn’t quite as enthusiastic. I don’t see why it shouldn’t run and jump and kick and punch just like it used to, but my joints disagree. (So much so that I’ve been sidelined since September with an ankle injury, grrr.)

But my ankle is better now, so I’m back to my regular workouts. That led to my discovery of one of the great ironies of life: After a good arm workout I really need a drink, but I no longer have the strength to raise the glass.

Then there are the ongoing consequences of working out regularly: If I’m doing it right, some part of my body is always a bit tired and sore. So am I actually winning here, or am I only amortizing the pain?

Think about it: If I lie around like a slug most of the time, nothing will hurt until I have to exert myself. But if I exercise regularly I’ll hurt a bit every day. What if it’s like a mortgage, where I end up paying twice as much because I paid in tiny increments?

I guess it doesn’t matter, because I’m not actually capable of lying around like a slug for long — I can only manage it for a few days before I start to twitch. But maybe, like exercise, I have to work up to it. Perhaps short period of sluggery (sluggage?) daily, with gradual increases to build up my tolerance?

It’s just an idea; and probably not a bright one. So the next time I’m straining to lift a glass to my lips with rubbery arms after a workout, I’ll remind myself that I’m actually strengthening my beer-drinking muscles. That’ll put a smile on my face.

Meanwhile, where did I leave that package of drinking straws…?

Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 34, and Aydan is on the trail of her nemesis… or one of them, anyway.

Sink Slime and Adulthood

The slime is back.

I thought I had vanquished it in July, but no. This week I had to unclog my bathroom sink drain again.

It doesn’t make sense. We lived in our last house for nearly 19 years without a clog. We lived in this house for nearly three years without a clog. Now, I’m dismantling slime-plugged plumbing every six months.

And it’s weird slime. Not particularly stinky or slimy. In fact, it’s more like soft black rubber: Boiling water didn’t budge it; and even though I couldn’t wipe it off, it peeled off cleanly. The internet tells me it’s ‘biofilm’, formed by colonies of bacteria happily gobbling up the various goodies that go down a drain.

Okay, but why now? It has to be something that I (and only I) have recently started doing. I’ve been using the same moisturizer since 1983; and that’s the only difference between what goes down the drain in Hubby’s sink and mine. Except…

Mouthwash.

Hubby doesn’t use mouthwash, but last year I started using it for the first time in my life.

What’s in that stuff?!? And, more to the point, if it can completely clog a drain with rubbery black slime in six short months, do I really want to rinse my mouth with it?

As I was scraping slime into a bucket while sewer gas wafted to my nose from the open pipes, I began to rethink this whole ‘adult’ thing. It seemed like such a good deal when I was a kid: “Adults get to do whatever they want, whenever they want.” I don’t remember any wording in that contract that said, “…whatever they want, whenever they want, right after all the bills are paid and the meals are cooked and the house is cleaned and the work is done and all the gross slimy disgusting jobs are finished, but only if there’s any money left over after all the other stuff.”

Isn’t there a statute of limitations on adulthood? Shouldn’t we be able to get out of it because, as kids, we didn’t have the intellectual capacity to agree to a contract that would last the rest of our lives? Or, failing that, shouldn’t we at least get parole after fifty years of time served?

Oh, well. I had brownies for breakfast the other day so I guess adulthood isn’t all bad. And the drain is fine now, and I’ve switched to an alcohol-based mouthwash so maybe that will discourage the slime-cooties.

Or, with my luck, they’ll get drunk, invite all their little friends over, and party twice as hard. If I wake up some morning to find rubbery black slime oozing out from under the bathroom door, that mouthwash is GONE!

I might turn in my membership card for adulthood, too. Anybody know where I can do that?

Book 16 update: I’m on Chapter 32, and a dead cow is causing problems for Aydan and the gang. Or maybe the dead cow is the beginning of a solution…

Happy New Year

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!

The first bloom of 2021: ‘Kramer’s Red’ heather. (Which isn’t red at all; but I didn’t name the plant, so what do I know?)

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!

Happy Holidays

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!

Yes, we had our first snowfall of the year, just in time for Christmas. Now, if only it’ll go away in time for New Year’s…

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. 😉

Construction Conundrums

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!

Just A Little Comfort

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!

Comfort reads: When I just want to retreat under a (metaphorical) soft fuzzy blanket, I return to the gentler books of my past: James Herriot’s series about a country veterinarian in Yorkshire (first book “If Only They Could Talk”, and Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax series (first book “The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax”) along with her lesser-known novels “The Clairvoyant Countess” and “Thale’s Folly”.

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:

  • Comfort reads:
  • Funny / escapist reads:
  • Comfort food:
  • Decadent dessert:
  • Comfort music:
  • 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!

An ‘Engineering’ Solution

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.)

Denial: Not Just A River In Egypt

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!