10 years later, the real Jack Reacher finally stands up. (A review, of sorts. No spoilers.)

My friends, I want to apologize for my absence this past week. In the ten years I’ve been writing here in TALC, I think I’ve only gone MIA two or three times. I was just as disappointed in myself this time as I was those few other times. I feel like I stood you up. I am sorry.

But let’s now talk Jack Reacher, shall we?

Amazon Prime Video came out with an original show called Reacher, and with its eponymous protagonist being my all-time favorite male fictional character, I have some things to say.

The mythical figure of a lone wanderer passing through town, getting embroiled in whatever shitshow’s going down, and rendering justice before moving on, is a timeless one. With his creation of Jack Reacher, author Lee Child fleshed out such a knight-errant character – one who’s armed with a military background – in whose shadow the evilest of villains cower. There’s more to this shadow than size, though, and the first screen-version of Reacher didn’t have it. Any of it. Tom Cruise was wrong for the role in every conceivable way. Tom Cruise will be right for the role of Reacher the day crunchy, bitter, watery celery can satisfy your intense craving for rich, sweet, dense Black Forest Cake, and that day would be Never, my friends. Never.

And so Reacher’s showrunners got to work on this streaming series under considerable pressure: In addition to the usual challenges for the usual reasons, they had to placate the thousands of Reacher fans, including Yours Truly, who lamented the film’s unfortunate casting choice.

With this challenge built into the project, the team went into the making of Reacher with guns blazing and fists flying. They threw their entire arsenal into it, with Mr. Child closely involved every step of the way. The result? A Jack Reacher show with heart. Sterling, gargantuan heart. As Reacher famously “says nothing,” Child and the production team held back nothing. This time, they were able to freely and relentlessly accentuate Reacher’s physical and behavioral presence, as described in the novels. Because of actor Alan Ritchson’s physique and stature, the writers were able to emphasize how Reacher stands as a massive Goliath of a human. If Child felt that he had to atone for the casting of Tom Cruise – and I believe that he did, from what I’ve seen in interviews – he certainly accomplished that and then some with Reacher v. 2.0.

I’d suspected that the show would exceed my expectations when I discovered who’d been cast to play Reacher, but I couldn’t have known exactly how ideal Alan Ritchson would be. As already asserted, there’s more to Reacher than his size. There’s also attitude and demeanor and body language (including facial expressions) and just general Reacher energy all rolled up into the package, and Ritchson embodies the whole damn thing. The casting team could not have done better.

Alan Ritchson as Jack Reacher.
And that would be him again on the right.

It’s not necessary to have read the books to appreciate this series, but I do know that for we hardcore Reacher fans, this show is a profound treat. By the end of the first episode, all of the boxes had been checked, starting with “Reacher said nothing.”

Reacher said nothing.
Reacher has no middle initial.
Reacher has a minimalist and slightly acerbic and biting sense of humor.
Reacher carries a folding toothbrush and a passport and not much else.
Reacher buys a set of clothes and throws his old threads into the trash.
Reacher sits in a diner and orders coffee and pie.
Reacher loves dogs and has little to zero tolerance for their mistreatment and neglect.
Reacher schools the local authorities on the details of their own investigation, casually and authoritatively up-managing along the way.
Reacher sniffs out the person on the local force who has a military background and recruits him accordingly.

Reacher is structured to follow the story of one novel per season, so each season is a new adventure in a fresh setting. Season 1 follows the story in Killing Floor almost perfectly – so perfectly, it’s like a video version of an audiobook. I found the acting and directing to be impressive, and the fight-scene choreography brings to life Reacher’s signature style of punishment delivery, which was enjoyable to watch (especially the fight scene at the end of episode 6, I believe). The writing is clean and peppered with a few well-timed, well-placed anachronisms, with pop culture references (Harry Potter, Settlers of Catan), and tech culture (smartphones/texting, GPS) to bring the character into today’s world, speaking to the timelessness of Reacher’s fabled existence.

Reacher is a triumph. What a come-back! 10 years later, Jack Reacher rose from the ashes of one screen to spread his wings on another, renewed and resplendent. It was worth the wait.

Feeling salty.

Good day or night, my friends. Today I’ve got some updates of the medical/health variety. (Greetings and gratitude to you who’ve been asking in the after-aftermath of my minor hand surgery!)

It was last week when I went to the VA for a couple of appointments. The first was to Ortho to have my stitches removed. My hand was sprayed with a freezing liquid to numb the area and while that probably helped a lot it still hurt like a mofo when the stitches were removed, but it went superfast. I’m supposed to continue avoiding lifting, pushing, and pulling more than five pounds with that hand for an additional two weeks.

Then I went upstairs to my next appointment – the Endocrinologist – and came out with the best doctor’s orders I ever received, or ever heard of anyone receiving: Eat more salt.

The Endocrinologists are thinking that my hyponatremia (low blood sodium) is due to a combination of Sjögren’s Syndrome-related dry mouth, which can cause excessive thirst, and a possible side effect of one of my psych meds. They’re looking into modifications that can be made to those treatment plans to get my thirst under control. Until then, eat more salt.

So I did what any good patient would do: I immediately went to the Patriot Store on the other end of the hospital, where I picked up a bag of peanuts coated with Tajín Clásico seasoning (chili peppers, sea salt, citric acid, dehydrated lime juice). 360 mgs of sodium in a 1/4 cup serving size. Doctor’s orders!

They can take their time figuring out my new treatment plan, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve always been more of a salt person than a sugar person. The amount of salt I normally consume is already considered to be “too much” by traditional standards, so in order to eat more, I’m counting my sodium intake. Here’s what I’ve eaten today so far:

1,445 mg sodium. I counted.

The sodium is in the multigrain pita chips, sea salt Popchips, Tajín Clásico peanuts, hummus, and pickles. A friend at work suggested the Popchips because they’re ridiculously salty, he said. They’re not bad. They’re not saltier by my normal definition of salty, but they’re pretty good little vehicles for salt, which is all white potatoes are to me, anyway.

Meanwhile, as I wait for the all-clear to work out again, I’m feeling myself melt uncomfortably into a shapeless puddle of wasted energy, consumed calories roaming in my body all dressed up with nowhere to go. For some mysterious reason,* the doctor doesn’t even want me doing Body Combat (cardio kickboxing/fight training) for another two weeks. I’m sitting on my desk chair with that sensation of my ass spreading over it, as one does when sedentary. I remember this feeling from my office-job days. Is this it for me for the rest of my life? Is this going to be my day-to-day until I depart this Earth? At the job I have now I take more than 10K steps every day, Monday-Friday. I am blessed.

End of updates, and this should do it with mundane medical happenings for a while. I’m looking forward to coming back with another home workout post. You who’ve jumped here from my Funk Roberts MMA workout post: I see you. Thank you for being here despite my scant offering of workout posts!

Have a wonderful rest of your day or night, my friends. Until mid-week, then!

[ETA: Just looked out at my front yard and remembered that I have to get out there to pull the roughly 20 million weeds that’ve sprung up out of nowhere. I suppose that’ll be a decent stand-in workout.]


*Okay, maybe not so mysterious. When I told him that the Body Combat workouts include things like push-ups, burpees, sprawls, and mountain-climbers, he said don’t do those things, and I stupidly said that it would be hard to not do them.

From my food dream diaries: Afghani food.

It’s been one of those weeks yet again, my friends, time-wise. Luckily, I have another gem of a YouTube video to share with you. Last week it was Leon the lobster. This week, I’m sharing a video that readily captured my interested in the area of food and cooking.

Sadia is an Afghan-Canadian woman whose parents fled Afghanistan to Canada to start new lives, and Pick Up Limes is her plant-based food-centric YouTube channel. I watched her video about some of the traditional Afghani foods she grew up eating, and my mouth immediately started watering. You know I’m planning to make all of the recipes in this video. The food looks and sounds scrumptious

Without further ado, may I present Sadia preparing some of her favorite traditional dishes from Afghanistan:

From me to you. If your mouths are watering, too, then my work here is done.

Merry weekend to you, my friends!

Equilibrium. (Mental health check-in! Comfort in the dark: Where I go when wounded.)

Three or four days ago marked the low point of the dramatic ups and downs of last week. That was when I wrote the draft of this post. It served as a kind of therapeutic exercise, and I was going to post it in the mid-week moment, but circumstances had changed in the 24 hours that’d passed, so the post wasn’t applicable any longer. You got Leon the lobster instead. (I’d had it in mind to share him with you at some point, anyway, so I was happy to do it then.) And now I’m reflecting back on the week, as I often do in the quiet moments of the weekend where I sit and ponder this space, and I’m thinking that I want to share this with you even though the moment in question is over. Consider this to be one for the mental health files. You don’t have to have depression or PTSD or any other sort of mental illness to be able to relate to content pertaining to The Downs of life. I could have written this exact same post as a person without depression.

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Tonight, I write to you from a private dark place of mine, the place to which I retreat when wounded in any way. It’s not The Abyss. It’s my comfort zone for situational down times, and it’s soothing. Once I’m here, I’m at ease, despite the dull pain of sadness. (If you’re thinking this is sounding emo, let me assure you that I’m not emo. I found the path to this place back in the sixth grade as the groovy 70’s gave way to the neon 80’s.)

Being here isn’t without its hazards. I’m enticed to find the edge, to get as close to it as possible so I can look down in safety. I push back gently against the desire to visit places I deem to be dangerous, and it’s a resistance that feels good regardless of my degree of success. I get dressed into the self I rarely express to the fullest anymore (mostly due to life – I’m looking at you, COVID). The self-destructive streak that I find to be alluring comes into focus while everything else softens and blurs; I enjoy it, but these days, I’m smarter about it. (Here, I have to check myself and admit that I’m either lying or being pretentious or both. The truth is that I’m smarter about it now because I’ve made the same dumb mistakes countless times, and I’ve finally learned. Or have I…? I don’t know, actually. Maybe that’s too much to hope. Maybe I’m just scared.)

My music here is the biggest comfort. I’m currently obsessed with Angelspit, and at the same time, I’ve revisited my passion for country artist Steve Earle. To complete the trinity, I’ve spent just as much time engrossed in the cozy dark sleeve of classical – specifically the temperamental range of Chopin’s waltzes and all three movements of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata, which I play on repeat. Dark electronica (I think of Angelspit as the lovechild of Lords of Acid and KMFDM) and country and classical, my friends. Loving it.

In this dark place I have a vantage point from which I can see irony absolutely everywhere and anywhere. I can cry and laugh (at myself) at the same time and marvel at the brilliant and idiotic fractals that comprise my life. Last night I sustained emotional wounds and went to bed hoping for a diminishing of the pain in my sleep – I don’t know about you, but I would rather wake up from a nightmare than wake up to one. I’d gone to sleep in a strange two-places-at-once, a flashback and a wry look at my life thereafter. This could be translated as self-pity, and I’m not proud of it. I woke up as stunned as I was when I went to bed, cried a little more, and went to work determined to keep the sadness at bay, kicking ass to the fullest extent of my ability – as much as an uncomfortably stitched hand at a hands-on physical job could allow – and I only cried a little bit.

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As mentioned at the beginning, all is well. Within 24 hours of writing the above, I emerged, gathered the pieces on the ground, and put them back together in a new arrangement; equilibrium had been restored. I brought the music out with me, though. That part hasn’t changed.

Thank you for hanging around to read these words, my friends. I hope – I know – that many of you can relate; I appreciate the virtual camaraderie in which we can luxuriate here. Many blessings to you for the new week ahead!

Lobster night.

Friends, circumstances both created and un-created the post I was going to post tonight, if that makes any sense. The last 48 hours have been a whirl.

And so, in lieu of an actual post, I’m going to present to you a YouTube video that I dearly love and have been wanting to share. Circumstances ruined my post, but they created this opportunity! You may have already seen this video, but for those of you haven’t: A guy – Brady Brandwood – purchases a live lobster from the grocery store and makes a wonderful home for him.

This lobster’s name is Leon, and this is the beginning of his story.

As of now, Brady Brandwood has made four videos about Leon the lobster. If you enjoyed this video and want to watch more of Leon’s adventures, do go to Mr. Brandwood’s YouTube channel. I feel like my life is more complete now that I’ve seen and gotten to known this lobster’s personality!

On that note, I’m going to get ready for bed. Merry end of week to you all, my friends.

Fire II. (Fire musing + sharing my Fire altar.)

Hello, my friends. Today is a languid, quiet day, and I’ve spent a good part of it connecting with the fire element. I woke up feeling the call of it. I listen and take action. Fire is about action, after all. Action, transformation, passion, will, courage, among other things. It’s such a gift from Nature to receive the pull toward her elements. Energies unbound in the element are incredible forces.

Fire, to me, is a mysterious and powerful element, the one with which I most resonate. I’m an Earth sign, but my moon is Fire, and your moon sign describes how you express your emotions. Working with Fire energy feels natural.

I love fire scrying in a flame at the end of a long wooden match, then watching it burn itself into nothingness, thin ribbons of smoke unraveling upward through the air, releasing secret messages… a little ritual I do at night when I light the candles on my desk and on the fire altar to the side. Other times, I’ll fixate on an intention burning in my mind while focusing on the flame, and then I imagine it coming to pass as the fire extinguishes, the rising smoke channeling my intention up and dispersing it out into the Universe.

I overdid it with my healing hand yesterday, and today I’m feeling it, so I’m mostly relaxing at my desk. I did, however, remove the items from my Fire altar (next to my desk), clean the shelf, dust each object, and put everything back in a slightly new arrangement. I thought I’d share a pic here for any of you who may be interested in such things. It amounts to most of what I’ve done with this gorgeous day:

Fire altar, current

The colors on this altar are all color correspondences with the element of Fire… yellow, orange, red, gold.

From left: Cast iron cauldron for burning (mostly petitions and woods such as cinnamon sticks); snake plant (one of Fire’s botanical correspondences); yellow and orange votive candle holders – the orange one holds a spool of glittery black twine; tree section coaster holding a red candle and Fire-corresponding minerals of red jasper, Fire opal, carnelian, golden tiger’s eye, and moldavite; a gold bell, and an orange jar holding a wooden wand. The pentagram – which is a representation of nature and her elements, nothing more – holds a yellow metallic votive candle holder, a Fire energy oil blend that I made, a (bowl) bell, a stone/ceramic disc with a depiction of the Sun, the bell’s wooden striking stick, and a glass tube containing paper, herbs, and clear quartz crystals. A brass Sun ornament hangs on the wall next to the snake plant. The Sun is to Fire what the Moon is to Water.

May this find you all healthy and well! Until mid-week, my friends.

Surgery day snafu.

Hi. Not to hype myself up with superlatives or anything, but I’m the worst. I slay myself with my faults and foibles. I have a friend whose face has an imprint of her hand on it because I make her facepalm every day, practically.

Some of my fumbles are mortifying, but others are panic-inducing, like the one that happened the morning of my surgery.

My surgery was scheduled for 7:30am Monday. I had to be there to check in at 6:45am sharp. Between the scheduling and the actual day there were letters and emails and texts and voicemails and in-person reminders, all very strict and adamant about this! I had to arrive no later than 6:45am!

So what did I do? I woke up at 6:50am when the nurse called to ask me where I was. It was five minutes past my arrival time, and I was at home, in bed.

Turned out that my alarm didn’t go off because when I set it, my finger (must have) accidentally touched the “S” for Saturday. My alarm was set to go off in five days.

My friends, it is not possible to quantify the panic that ensued. My check-in was five minutes ago! I’m taking an Uber to the hospital!! I’m going to miss my surgery!!!

Cue the festivities.

Somehow, I reigned in my hyperventilation enough to check my voicemail, because I knew that the nurse had left one. Of course I had 12 new voicemails to get through first! (Why am I like this?!) When I finally dug through the pile and got to the voicemail from the nurse, my hand was shaking and my brain was in a fog of panic and I didn’t have a pen, so naturally I thought, I can memorize the call-back number! No. I couldn’t. At least I’d saved her message, but in order to hear it again, I had to first listen to my two previously saved messages, which are dear to me and so shall remain saved until the end of time. But they are long. When I finally got to her message again, I had a pen, and I was ready to sprint out the door. I’d gone ahead and ordered my Uber, because my plan was to get to the hospital anyway and sit there in hopes of I didn’t even know what, at that point. It was 7:20am. My surgery was supposed to start in 10 minutes. The Uber, which would usually arrive in 2-7 minutes, was going to arrive in 24 minutes because of the 2022 WM Phoenix Open (golf tournament). Sunday was the final day of the tournament, and Monday morning was tournament attendees (aka everyone and their mother) taking Ubers to the airport, of course.

Ten thousand years later, I was able to call the nurse. She was very sweet, calm, and reassuring in the most wonderful motherly way. She said, “It’s alright, don’t panic, everything is fine, just come in as soon as possible.” I was practically in tears. I got to the hospital in jammies with bedhead and unbrushed teeth – fortunately, I was masked – and this, my friends, is me in a nutshell. A veritable mess. If you know me in person and you think I’ve got my shit together, trust me, it’s a facade. Looks are deceiving. Internally, it’s Armageddon, and it is not pretty.

At the hospital at last, forms were signed. There was no wait. The nurses, anesthesiologist, and surgeon were all friendly, relaxed, in good humor. No one was mad at me! It was astonishing, like I’d walked into a Twilight Zone of kindness. I apologized to everyone, and they all good-naturedly brushed it off. I was in shock because when I woke up to the phone ringing, it was like I’d missed a flight, in my mind. I’d missed my flight and the plane was not coming back for me. But the plane was there, the doors were open, and everyone was super nice. They all had a right to be supremely annoyed, but they weren’t… at least, if they were, they didn’t show it.

I’m so grateful every day. The Universe shows me in blunt ways how very grateful I should be, because the more I f*ck up, the more I realize how lucky I am, and I f*ck up a lot.

I’m grateful that the team took me for the surgery, and I’m grateful that it went well. (It was a simple, common procedure for trigger thumb with cyst removal.) I can now look forward to regaining full use of my hand, as the pain in the heel of my hand had cut my capacity by about 50%. I’m grateful for my friend who picked me up from the hospital.

I stayed home from work for the required 48 hours, and I went back in today.

After work, I took a short walk to the Tempe Town Lake bridge that’s behind the Center for the Arts. There was a beautiful ballerina in a single-shoulder pink leotard modeling action shots in a professional photoshoot, leaping and fluttering and displaying impossible feats of flexibility in her pointe shoes on her toes in the middle of the bridge. The bridge trembles slightly when we ordinary people walk across it; when the ballerina leaped and landed, the bridge was still.

I came home and sat down here to take a selfie, because.

End of day hey. [13 Feb 2022]

I hope this finds you doing well, or better, or whatever kind of positive state applies. Until the next time, my friends!

misc. + REACHER on my radar.

You know what I love about my neighborhood? Late at night I can jump into my car and drive two minutes down the street to meet with a friend who needs something, walking through their apartment complex parking lot in my black and red tartan on white oversize sweatpants and pastel lavender, pink, blue, and yellow tie-dye sweatshirt and my faux fur leopard print jacket flung half-on over that – and socks with fake Birkenstocks from Target and my old bent wire “at home” glasses and my hair in more of a tangled mess than usual – and I blend right in. No one cares what anyone’s wearing out in public at 10:30pm. I visit the tiny old tucked-away neighborhood grocery store known only by neighborhood residents, and it feels like home. I give the elderly homeless man out front two bucks and an energy bar and we chat for two minutes like we’re old acquaintances.

Speaking of that whole vibe! About the Reacher series that recently dropped on Amazon Prime, since I’ve noticed a spike in views on my Reacher posts since the show’s release (welcome!): I’m having surgery on my hand tomorrow, and the plan for my 48-hr mandatory at-home convalescence is to binge all of Reacher. I’ve been hoarding the show specifically for the occasion. I have the snacks, my friends. Oh yes. It’s going down.

I’m in between places at the moment, so I’ll explain about the surgery later. Suffice it to say for now that it’s a very minor and very common out-patient procedure, and I’m thrilled to be getting it done, finally!

Blessings to you all, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, my friends. Until mid-week!

Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse, 13

You’re at a party, and someone goes up to a blank wall and writes a thought on one line… a thought, an idea, or a picture lyrically or narratively stated. They walk away, and another person goes to the wall. They read the line of text and follow it up with a line of their own, a response. A third person approaches the wall and reads the last line written, just that one line, and then they write a single line in response to that. Finally, you go to the wall. You read the last line only – the one written by the person who’d just left – and you pen your response in a single line below it. Now you’re the last person; someone else will come along and read what you wrote and respond to it in kind.

When everyone at the party has written their line, when there’s no one left to add a new thought, the collected lines are read as a single, complete poem. It was written by each person in the room, line by line. And that, my friends, is how you play the Surrealists’ Exquisite Corpse party game.

Longtime friends in this space, you’ve now seen as many as 12 Exquisite Corpse poems here, and you know that I harvest the lines from Craigslist’s Missed Connections section. I very rarely find myself socializing with a group of people, so I visit Missed Connections online and take liberties, with gratitude: I borrow the entries’ subject lines that strike me in some kind of way, and I arrange them in a manner that pleases me. Then I post them here for you to read, of course.

And now, having arrived at the point, I’ll share the 13th poem in my Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse series. This is also my first Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse poem of 2022! We’re on the cusp of Valentine’s Day weekend, and this collection of MC subject lines allowed me to create a small lyric somewhat appropriate for the occasion – appropriate, albeit sad.

Enjoy this poem of 15 lines written by 15 complete strangers:

Missed Connections Exquisite Corpse, 13

Missed you at the park,
Train ride about six years ago,
Late Happy Birthday.
I know this is wishful thinking,
Just me,
Just a sad sack…
If you missed me, then I missed you,
Heart inside out.
You looked back twice.
I’m not supposed to miss you, but I do,
Singing in the night.
Meant to keep it casual –
What a strange and interesting way,
Entangled in you.
Distractions.

The End, and also the beginning, my friends… of a weekend that I hope will be positively memorable to you, whether related to St. Valentine or not.

My cat died over six months ago, and I’m not “over it.” (What not to say to someone grieving the loss of a pet.)

Hello, my friends. This is a little on the heavy side, but I said that I would post it, so…

I wanted to come back from Salem’s death six months later with an update on how things have shaken out over time, for anyone who’s wondering or who might be on the same path. The update was going to look something like this: I’ve moved through the stages of grief, and now I’m on the other side. Unfortunately, that is not what this update looks like.

My cat died over six months ago, and I’m not “over it.” I shouldn’t have to feel that this is a confession, as if it’s something that demands justification, but I kind of do. In our society, there seems to be a suggested expiration date for grieving the loss of a pet.

Some remarks made to me within two weeks of Salem’s death (not that they would’ve been okay at any other time):

“She was killed by an owl? That’s just nature.” ~My former lunch-break acquaintance across the street from my workplace.

“Just, you know, get over it.” ~A dear friend I’ve had since the ’90’s.

“She was just a cat.” ~The same former lunch-break acquaintance.

Friend from the 90’s: You should just get another cat.
Me: I have Nenette, my indoor ca –
Friend (cutting me off): Well clearly that one isn’t enough for you if you’re still upset about the other one.
Me (stunned):

To be fair, both of the individuals who counseled me with these remarks are over 25 years my senior. They’re of another generation, and they both had rural upbringings. These factors do inform their thinking, I’m aware. I also know that they were well-intentioned; neither of them meant to be hurtful.

But I don’t understand them, these comments. Timing aside, they got me thinking. Here’s what I concluded:

If you wouldn’t say it to a human parent, don’t say it to a pet parent.

Can you imagine saying to a mother that her daughter’s death was “just nature” if her daughter had been fatally attacked by a bear?

If her infant daughter had been snatched and killed by the same enormous and powerfully taloned raptor that took and killed my Salem,* I wouldn’t tell the grieving mother to “just get over it” because it was “just nature.”

And I certainly wouldn’t tell her to “just have another baby” because “clearly your other daughter isn’t enough for you if you’re still upset about this one.”

By the same token, Salem was my daughter. It’s always been this way with my animal babies. My cat and my tortoise know me and love me as their mother, and I couldn’t be more their mom if they were human. Salem wasn’t “just a cat,” I can’t “just get over” her killing, and I’m not comforted when someone reassures me that her death was “just nature.” Neither would anyone else.

Keying out these well-intentioned statements, it strikes me that the word “just” is in all of them, and I realize that “just” is the four-letter word to avoid when talking to someone grieving the loss of their pet. “Just” belittles and diminishes. It implies that your loss is insignificant, and that therefore your lost loved one was insignificant.

I know that Salem is forever a part of the cosmos, a star in the constellation of Leo, and that I’m there with her. When I registered our twin stars, I hoped that knowing this would make for a quicker and easier grieving process, and it has helped. It’s just taking a while. For one thing, I have to be able to move past the fact that she’d fallen asleep out in the open because of me.

So that’s the update, friends. Grief is a personal journey, different from person to person and from case to case. I have a unique grief journey with every loss. It could be a walk down the street, or it could be a walk to the other side of the country. I’m still navigating this one. I’ll get there eventually.**

~~~~~

*Salem was a feral cat who took up residence in my yard and outdoor laundry room. She loved me and interacted with me and behaved as a trusting housecat, attached to her yard and to me, but she remained just feral enough that she wouldn’t allow me to touch her. That was her one remaining boundary, and because of it, I wasn’t able to bring her into the house.

~~~~~

**I’m not over here moping through life. I laugh and have fun and feel energized taking on challenges, and I look forward to things! I may not feel deep joy, but I do feel contentment that comes from a place of gratitude. Gratitude that accompanies heartbreak is a balm. It keeps me grounded in perspective. Poet Henry David Longfellow wrote that “it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” and I find this to be such a beautifully stated truth.

May this find you all safe and well, my friends. Until next time!

Brain freeze.

We’re having a bit of a cold snap here in Phoenix Metro, my friends, and of course I only realized it when I got to work this morning and it was too late. I swear I have to laugh. If my brain was the cosmos, 60% of it would be black holes.

Temperatures dropped to near-freezing as I slept last night, and I had no idea. I woke up and blithely got ready for work in the same manner as always. The house felt chillier than usual. I noted this and gave it no further thought. My mug of hot matcha-mushroom tea warmed me in its reliable way, and that was what mattered.

When I stripped to change into my work clothes, I again ignored the biting cold for the warning that it was. As I’d done the day before – for reasons I don’t understand – I didn’t put on the usual winter long-sleeve layer… just the usual work tee over the usual sleeveless tee, and then a thin hoodie beneath my larger, heavier one. I wore chunky long winter socks and my winter hiking (?) boots, again as usual.

Then I got to work.

And I wanted to hit rewind on the whole damn morning.

Specifically, I wanted to go back to the part where I was deciding against adding a long-sleeve layer beneath my two jackets, because that right there was the kiss-of-death decision. But I had an emergency furry vest in my locker, which I put over my thin jacket and under my thick one, and an emergency pair of Hothands, which I activated and put in my pockets.

Somehow I survived the morning. At lunch I sat in my car (as I do) and absorbed the blessed heat within. This is Arizona for you: our desert sun is so bright and strong, it warms the inside of your car to almost-hot, even in the bitter cold. And at some point in the afternoon, the cold in my workplace eased up, so the day ended up well… at least much better than how it started.

Let me just state for the record that I’m not mad at the cold at work, and I don’t love my job any less because of it. I work in an old-school warehouse (as opposed to a gargantuan bright shiny automated Amazon warehouse), and as such, there’s no heating. It’s the nature of the place. It’s dusty and old, atmospheric like a dimly lit antique bookstore or curio thrift shop… in other words, in the best of ways. We have old skylights; the brightness in the space fluctuates with the brightness outside. We have a ghost. (The ghost would be mad as hell in an Amazon warehouse, let me tell you.)

So I go to work on winter days fully expecting to be cold to some extent. It’s up to me to prepare for the day, and today, I blew it. And I paid for it. BUT NOT TOMORROW, my friends. Oh no. Tomorrow I’m going to conquer the cold, and I’m looking forward to it! Conditions will be the same tonight and tomorrow: freezing. Bring it.

Now I’m in my office with the electric fireplace on and Nenette sprawled out in front of it, and I’m snug in the bathrobe I’ve got wrapped over my soft at-home layers, and the usual candles are lit on my desk, and I took another selfie, because I remembered.

Candlelight is for people who are too lazy to use filters.

I hope this finds you all keeping comfortable in whatever climate conditions you’ve got going on in your lives, wherever you are in the world. Take good care and stay safe, my friends!

Mr. Sandman, shut off that app.

About a month ago I apparently unplugged my phone from its extension cord, a difficult and unnecessary thing to do, while sleeping. An app was playing, so by morning, the battery had run down. The alarm didn’t go off, and I missed my Saturday morning workout.

This is what I’ve been wanting to talk to you about, my friends: sleep apps, and why I’m going to run the other way if one gets near me.

The night of The Unplugging, I’d fallen asleep to the sound of a bonfire on the beach, my favorite selection on the sleep/meditation/relaxation app I’d been playing nightly. Fading out of consciousness to the sound of a crackling fire and waves crashing faintly in the background had been bliss, but there’d been a few contradictory incidents. Sometimes I woke up in the night as if disturbed by this sound that I found so pleasant.

On at least one occasion, I got out of bed and turned off the app, fully aware as I did it. On at least three other occasions, I woke up to my alarm but found that my bonfire on the beach had somehow been replaced by other soundscapes, ones that I didn’t like.

Now there was this strange new twist: Sometime during the night, the phone had been unplugged from its extension cord. How?

How did this happen?

I must have done it, but I can’t begin to guess why. If I wanted to stop the app, well, there are many ways to go about silencing a phone. I could have done it the way I’d done before, which was to simply get up and turn off the app. If silencing the phone was what I wanted to do, then why didn’t I just do that? I also could have:

Hit pause.
Turned the media volume all the way down.
Turned off the phone.
Unplugged the phone from its charger.
Unplugged the extension cord from its easily accessible outlet in the wall.

But no. Instead, I (presumably) went to the wall and placed my right shoulder against it and twisted my body sideways so I could reach down with my right hand into the narrow space between the shelving unit and the wall to grab for the extension cord, pull it up, and unplug the phone adapter – differentiating between the adapter and the lamp plug that was also connected to the extension cord – in the dark of night, in my sleep, using my disabled left hand (that can’t grasp) to firmly grasp the extension cord while pulling the adapter out with my right hand. I woke up with no recollection of having done any of it. All I had was a dead phone, a missed workout, a friend I’d stood up, and a lot of questions.

A tight adapter connection in a tight squeeze of a place.

The idea of having done such a thing in my sleep – with no memory of having done it – is downright spooky, and not in a good way.

I mean, it doesn’t make any sense. As far as I know, I don’t sleepwalk. I find the notion of engaging in the whole operation of unplugging my phone from its extension cord in my sleep to be so outlandish that it’s easy to doubt that I even did it at all. It had to have been me, though, because if not me, than who?

1). Theory one: Nenette.
The chances of Nenette accidentally unplugging the phone adapter from the extension cord are less than 0. I have a better chance of getting eaten by a shark in Kansas.

2). Theory two: Another human.
Someone broke into the house without waking me up, crept into my bedroom, retrieved the extension cord from behind the shelving, unplugged the phone from the extension cord, and left.

3). Theory three: Aliens.
Because when the question is weird tech-related events in the night, the answer is always aliens.

4). Theory four: An energy, perhaps the same one that caused the post-it note to skitter across my desk last week.

It had to have been me.

Thinking back to the times I’d woken up to sounds other than the one that I chose, I have to wonder what, exactly, I’d been hearing at the time that I unplugged the phone. What was it about the sounds that prompted my sleeping brain to get my body up and active in performing the complex series of steps involved in disconnecting the phone adaptor from the extension cord? It would’ve been painful, too, because of my hand. What subliminal messages might the app have been feeding me?

These thoughts sent my mind out on a whole sleep-app conspiracy theory expedition. I didn’t come to any conclusions, but I haven’t used the app since.

In any event, one way or the other, I ended up getting more sleep, and I didn’t further injure myself, as I might have if I’d done my workout. An intervention had been staged in some sort of way. As good of a thing this may have been, I’m seriously done with sleep apps. I don’t know what exactly I’m hearing at night, nor do I understand how the brain takes and processes messages.

On that note, I’m going to bed. No apps will be playing.

Have a lovely night or day yourselves, friends. Stay safe!

The secret lives of post-its.

A strange thing happened about an hour ago: a small post-it note went skittering sideways across the top of my desk, from right to left. It stopped in front of me just to the left of my laptop.

I wasn’t touching the desk at the time because I was sitting back and reading an online article. The room was silent, as I wasn’t listening to anything. Nenette was curled up on my bed in the other room. There’d been no sudden movement, or any movement. There’d been no gust of air. Everything in the room was still. If there had been a gust of air, the post-it would’ve wafted over. When I say that the note skittered, I mean that it skipped along lightly and quickly, on its edge. It made the creepy skittering sound. The spectacle reminded me of how my childhood cat would sometimes run sideways across the yard.

There is absolutely no logical explanation for this, my friends. None. It doesn’t matter how badly you want there to be one; there simply isn’t one. The laws of physics in this dimension of reality were violated. There’d been nothing in this realm that could have propelled the post-it note in such a manner – I’ve never seen a piece of paper move the way this one did, in any circumstance – and so I decided I’d better pay attention to the words I’d written on it:

Essential oil ingredients for the perfume I’m going to make.

This list was on my desk because I only have one of these three ingredients. The note was a reminder to order the other two, and I hadn’t gotten to it yet. I ordered them immediately, because when the Universe puts something like this in front of your face, it’s chop chop. The oils will arrive tomorrow.

This was not what I’d planned to share with you tonight! I was going to post about another weird thing that’d happened, but I’ll regale you with that particular tale mid-week. Weird shenanegans are afoot, my friends. Weird shenanegans are afoot, but I don’t mean this in a bad way. There may not be logical explanations for how things could have happened, but there’s always a reason for them.

The post-it note skittered sideways across my desk before my eyes as if on its own volition; consequently, I’ll have, by Monday night, a perfume oil with a sandalwood base. In terms of spiritual properties, sandalwood brings one closer to the divine, and it promotes mental clarity. Rose essence is a mood-booster. Sweet orange essence brings spiritual awareness, and it’s also associated with abundance. My spiritual guides want me to get on with making this perfume so that I can wear these essences on my skin sooner rather than later, and so they made sure that I will.

I feel blessed to receive such guidance. I am blessed, and I’m endlessly grateful for it.

I’m also glad to have one less post-it note on my desk!

Good night or morning or day, my friends. Until we meet again.

Late at night and the situation is this. (This space is just a space at this time and place.)

My friends, I hope you’re well. I’m super tired. I’ve got several posts in drafts, and the one that I wanted to post for you tonight was more draft-y than I’d thought – it’s a weird storytime post in which I need to really get across how weird (and creepy) the situation was. Another one covers a sensitive topic and requires a trigger-warning; it needs delicate handling, and I don’t want to rush it. And the third draft could easily be read as a “woe is me” post when it’s definitely not, so that one needs more finessing of phrase and tone, too, as well as fleshing-out.

I love writing. I love writing for you. It means a lot to me that you stick around here to read my posts, and you deserve nothing less than my best efforts. So tonight, I apologize for not having an actual post for you.

What I can leave here, though, is this pic of Nenette in front of her electric fireplace right now:

Kitty darkened by the warm shadows.

End-of-week blessings to you from us both! I look forward to meeting you here over the weekend.

I’m the Queen of Priorities.

Have you ever wondered about the clutter on other people’s desks? Maybe they have unopened mail from a bank about an account they never wanted because that bank took over their former bank and when their original account at the former bank consequently ceased to exist they decided to open an account at an entirely different bank because now their bank has been taken over by another bank one time too many so the new bank that used to be their former bank can just go ahead and keep the 14 cents strategically left behind.

Maybe there’s this year’s planner and also a second one acquired by mistake that’s going to go unused if no one else wants it.

Maybe there’s a small, stitched patch, black with metallic silver embroidery, in the shape of a cat as a constellation in a night sky.

Maybe there’s a broken retractable-blade utility knife that has screws for reasons that aren’t discernable because the knife’s body remains intact and resistant to break-down when the screws are removed so the inside mechanisms can’t be cleaned and now it seems to be terminally bladeless and nothing online can explain it and no one at work can, either, and a replacement knife will be delivered today and it’s okay because the old knife was used daily and relentlessly for over a year and these things aren’t made to last forever if you pay so little for them.

Maybe there are five small neon-orange post-its with a note jotted on each: the name of a future black cat, a reminder of where the earbuds are stashed, a musician from the 70’s whose music will be sought out on Spotify, a reminder to write about the difference between hexes, curses, and jinxes, and the street names of a certain intersection in Berkeley.

Maybe there’s a tiny ceramic plant pot with a miniature cactus that could only be fake because it’s “planted” in a hardened glittery mass of fake soil, but then one day it was noticed that the fake cactus was dead, and the mystery of that is maddening.

Maybe there’s a small photo album holding photos of a desert tortoise with his human-reptile mommy taken by a friend who’s a talented photographer.

Maybe there are two manila folders called “taxes” and “mortgage” and it could be said that they’re on the desk because it’s that time of the year, but that wouldn’t be true because the folders have been there for six months pending investigation of matters whose relevancy has expired.

Maybe there’s a small remote control that turns on an electric fireplace.

Maybe there’s a black ink “confidential” roller stamp designed specifically to obscure sensitive information on papers destined for the recycling bin.

Maybe there’s a fabric-covered button that a cat pulled off of a colorful mandala meditation cushion.

Or a large reference book with spiritual correspondences.

Or a reference book with cosmic data.

Or an assortment of documents that need to be filed, including some that came in the mail and are still sealed in their envelopes because the same information can be seen online so why bother opening them.

Maybe there are sheets of return-address labels sent for free from charity organizations asking for further donations and their fate is unknown because they’re not needed due to a pre-existing collection of free return-address labels that already amount to more than can be used in a lifetime and they’re stickers so they can’t go in the recycling but they have personal information so they can’t go in the trash, either, so destruction by fire is being contemplated.

Maybe there are exactly four small dark-brown clip barrettes.

A rusty old steak knife long since used as a letter opener.

A check that was deposited via mobile app from the time the side-hustle client didn’t have the usual cash.

A spiral-bound notebook used partly as a journal and partly as a scribbled thinking and planning space.

An online shop’s business card sent with an appreciation discount code that’s already been used, and another one from a different online shop that hasn’t yet been used.

More documents that need to be filed.

Two larger post-it notes, neon-yellow, one with a list of names that needed remembering for a specific reason, and another with a list of topics that still need remembering for a different specific reason.

The small orange and large yellow post-it pads, themselves.

A reminder to purchase vegan Goli Ashwghanda gummies on Amazon as soon as credit for a recent return has been added to the account as a gift card.

Two crumpled receipts, one from a recent stop at Sprouts because only Sprouts has the Sprouts brand of pink Himalayan salt and coconut oil popcorn, and the other from Ulta because unlike Sephora, Ulta doesn’t cause claustrophobia-induced panic attacks.

A used sigil wheel.

A print-out of medical information that’s no longer needed because investigation into the condition has been going on for so long that its intrigue has disintegrated into nothingness.

A white marble drink coaster and a black beaded drink coaster adorned with silver moons and stars found on sale at Ross after Halloween because the best time to find deals on spooky things for use during the year is after the spooky holiday itself.

And a lot of dust.

Current desk clutter, not rearranged for the pic, left side only.

Maybe the person recently thoroughly cleaned their entire office EXCEPT for their desk. Perhaps they removed all of their plants and dusted and polished all of the surfaces and cleaned all of the objects, themselves; perhaps they triple-vacuumed the entire room and emptied, cleaned, and reorganized the bookshelves in the desk corner… then got to their desk and stopped.

Today I’m going to continue ignoring this mess because the only thing I want to do is binge the last four episodes of Archive 81 since I got too sleepy to continue it last night, and nothing bad will happen if I don’t deal with my desk today. But now I have shamed myself sufficiently by sharing it with you, and so it will be seen to sooner rather than later.

I hope you’re all having a divine moment, my friends. Blessings to you on the eve of the first full moon of the year! The Wolf moon is in Cancer, and we’re also on the verge of a Venus retrograde.

A wise elder witch – a close blood relation of mine – recently sent me a bracelet with tiny beads spelling out, in Morse code, “Do no harm but take no shit,” a good motto not only in the event of a Venus retrograde following a full moon in Cancer, but for life.

Until next time, then.

Plant Mom follies (or hero, depending.)

Not to brag or anything, but I saved Holder, my plant, the other day. I saved him from… me and my dubious decisions. See? Not bragging.

So I moved half of my office out into the hallway, as I was going to bring in an area rug. There wasn’t too much stuff to move, but it all wound up in the scant hallway space – awkwardly, might I add. Last to be hauled out was my plant Holder, who roosts on a stand, which, for some reason, I decided to keep him on as I removed them both from the room.

I don’t know, friends. Somehow, with the doorway partially blocked by my old German trunk that was halfway-in/halfway-out and everything else in the cramped narrow dark hallway haphazardly pushed out there at sharp angles, I thought it would be a good idea to try to maneuver Holder’s stand with Holder still on it, sitting up there and trusting me completely. All I had to do was get him out of the office and into the hallway. It wasn’t a big deal or any kind of a deal at all until my foot got caught on the edge of the old German trunk (that was blocking the doorway) and I tripped and teetered because I couldn’t use my arms for balance so in my effort to avoid falling I tried to use my legs but ended up ricocheting like a human pinball, bouncing off of one thing to another on my way down before I landed on my ass in the middle of everything. Holder then slid forward serenely off his tilted stand and landed gently in my arms, and that is how I found myself sitting on the floor hugging my plant while saying “I saved you! I saved you!” So the next time you see someone sitting in a narrow hallway crowded with furniture laughing and hugging a plant while taking to him, don’t judge. You don’t know what that person just went through.

Holder on his stand

It was quite the dramatic rescue and I have the battle scars to prove it but I’m not going to show you because no one wants to see my legs. (Trust me!) It’s just two bruises on my right leg and a bruise and a cut on my left, but Holder didn’t lost so much as a speck of soil, and I was giddy with this victory.

So the rug is in, and it does indeed tie the room together.

And now it’s heinously late! Good night or day, wherever you are! Happy weekend eve, my friends.

October-December and CURRENT Favorites! (31 Things.)

Hello, friends! Let’s get into my recent Favorite Things! Some of you have been asking about my next “favorites” list. I got you.

There’s a lot going on in this list because it’s a build-up of favorites ranging from October to now. 31 things, three months, the standard 10-per-month, plus one, as it’s the second week of the fourth month.

Surprisingly, I’ve only got two movies to show for the last three months. There were a few others that I watched, but I didn’t enjoy them enough (or wasn’t impressed enough) to want to share them. Whatever’s on this list is only here because it really knocked me out.

Without further ado, then!

MOVIES (In the order that I saw them)

1). Dune (IMAX theater)

Epic! Especially on IMAX!

2). The Power of the Dog (Netflix)

In my opinion, Benedict Cumberbatch deserves an Oscar for his work in this film. Cumberbatch as the dark and complex protagonist in a Western is one of the most surprising things I’ve seen in film ever, and his adeptness with the material in character is stunning. What a performance! And what a film, in general. I highly recommend this one.

—–

T.V. SERIES/MINISERIES (In the order that I saw them)

3). Midnight Mass (Netflix)

Spooky season in 2021 didn’t disappoint.

4). You, S3 (Netflix)

The finale episode of You, season 3 was without a doubt one of the best season finales I’ve ever seen, and season 3 is by far my favorite season of the series. This does not happen often. You season 3 is fantastic.

5). Maid (Netflix)

This one was difficult to watch, but I made myself sit through the whole thing, just one episode per week. That was all I could handle. I was relieved when it was over, but it was undeniably excellent, and I do recommend it. Trigger warning for domestic violence/abuse.

6). Escape From a House of Horror: A Diane Sawyer Special Event (Hulu)

Do you remember the case of the Turpin family? The group of 13 siblings who spent their lives locked up, abused, and malnourished, discovered by police after one of the daughters escaped? In this special on Hulu, Diane Sawyer interviews that young woman and her sister. It’s heart-breaking, but also inspiring.

7). Arcane (Netflix)

Outstanding animation and a great story!

8). The Witcher (Netflix) – Currently watching

9). Stay Close (Netflix) – Currently watching

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FOOD

10). Lacinato (“dinosaur”) kale with Okinawan sweet potatoes and kimchi.

Okinawan sweet potato, Lacinato kale, and kimchi
Kimchi and the purple potato complement each other so well!

I can’t come up with words to adequately describe Lacinato kale, as it’s unique. It’s delicate, slightly bitter, solid and soft at the same time, and it melts in the mouth (I steam it). I’m hooked!

11). Green leaf lettuce, avocado, and plant-based chick’n salad.

Green leaf lettuce, avocado, plant chick’n

This salad is heavenly. I use an entire (small) bunch of green leaf lettuce, an avocado, and pan-fried Tofurky chick’n pieces, and then I drizzle the salad generously with olive oil, squeeze in half of a lemon, and grind sea salt and black peppercorns over the whole thing. I could eat this salad every day and never get tired of it.

12). Almond-butter-stuffed protein pancakes.

Almond-butter-stuffed protein pancakes

I came up with this creation one Sunday morning – Sunday morning pancakes almost every week! – when I couldn’t decide on almond butter or regular Earth Balance with maple syrup. I wanted both, so I spread almond butter onto one pancake, topped it with the second one (I make two large pancakes with the amount of batter that’s supposed to feed a family of four – serving sizes are ridic, in my opinion), spread Earth Balance on that top pancake, cut the stack into wedges, and poured on the maple syrup. It’s delicious and quite filling. I haven’t had these pancakes any other way since.

My go-to protein pancake mix is Birchbenders Plant Protein Pancake and Waffle Mix.

13). Healthy Banana Cookies.

Healthy banana cookies

This recipe is sorcery. Explain to me how a mere five ingredients go from a chunky slimy wet and sloppy mess in the bowl to these amazing cookies after 15 minutes in the oven…? The five ingredients are bananas, dates, oatmeal, oil, and vanilla extract. There’s no flour, sweetener, or leavening agents. These cookies defy standard baking chemistry rules (of which I’m aware, anyway). The problem is that knowing that they’re basically baked oatmeal in cookie form, I feel justified in eating half a batch in one sitting. I have to ration them in order to make them last. No more than five at a time, I tell myself (before I proceed to eat eight).

14). Sourdough toast.

Sourdough toast with organic Earth Balance.

Hot sourdough toast dripping with butter (Earth Balance, in my case) is one of my favorite comfort foods. I was born in San Francisco and grew up in the SF Bay Area, so I’m super picky about my sourdough bread. For myself, personally, I’ve found that the best sourdough breads this side of San Francisco are any of the options available at Trader Joe’s. They have classic, whole wheat, and multi-grain varieties, and they’re all good.

15). Made in Nature Apricots in the Buff Supersnacks Organic Dried Apricots.

Made in Nature Apricots in the Buff Supersnacks Organic Dried Apricots

Ingredients: Organic pitted apricots.

16). Prana Organic Kilimanjaro Deluxe Chocolate Trail Mix.

Prana Organic Kilimanjaro Deluxe Chocolate Trail Mix

Someone gave to this me as a gift. I wish that they didn’t, because now I know about it.

Ingredients: 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate* (Chocolate liquor*, Cane sugar*, Cocoa butter*, vanilla extract*), Raisins* (raisins*, sunflower oil*), Cashews*, Almonds*, Cranberries* (cranberries*, cane sugar*, sunflower oil*), Walnuts*, Sea salt. *Organic

17). Clif Nut Butter Bar (Chocolate & Peanut Butter).

CLIF Nut Butter Bar (Chocolate & Peanut Butter)

Literally stuffed with creamy peanut butter!

Ingredients: PEANUT BUTTER*, ROLLED OATS*, OAT FLOUR*, BROWN RICE SYRUP*, CANE SYRUP*, DATE PASTE*, PEA PROTEIN*, HIGH OLEIC SUNFLOWER OIL*, RICE STARCH*, TAPIOCA SYRUP*, PALM OIL*, PEANUT FLOUR*, CANE SUGAR*, RICE FLOUR*, VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE*, COCOA*, NATURAL FLAVORS, SEA SALT, ALKALIZED COCOA*, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS (ANTIOXIDANT).

*ORGANIC INGREDIENT

18). Sprouts Organic Popcorn Himalayan Pink Salt and Coconut Oil.

Sprouts Organic Popcorn Himalayan Pink Salt and Coconut Oil

Ingredients: Organic Popcorn, Organic Coconut Oil, Himalayan Pink Salt.

If you don’t have a Sprouts near you, any popcorn with Himalayan pink salt and coconut oil would be fabulous, I’m sure!

19). Rick’s Picks Smokra Pickled Okra with Seasoned Paprika.

Rick’s Picks Smokra

I love ingredients lists that look like this product’s. Everything on this list is whole, and it’s all stuff that I like. This pickled smoked okra is just sour enough, just spicy enough, and more than amazing enough. I’m totally hooked.

Ingredients: cider vinegar, okra, water, garlic, salt, smoked paprika, curry powder, mustard seed, chili flakes, dried chili peppers, cayenne pepper

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Beverages

20). Jade Leaf Organic Japanese Matcha Green Tea Powder.

Jade Leaf Organic Japanese Matcha Green Tea Powder

Ingredients: 100% organic Japanese Matcha green tea powder.

Matcha green tea – an antioxidant bomb with a slow-release caffeine effect that tastes as mellow as some black teas can taste sharp.

21). Kiki Green The Eight Mushrooms.

Kiki Green The Eight Mushrooms

I’ve added medicinal mushrooms back into my daily supplement regimen, and this time, I’ve gone the route of mushroom powder. This blend is excellent with its eight mushrooms: Red Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake, Turkey Tail, Maitake, and Agaricus Blazei Murrill.

Kiki Green’s The Eight Mushrooms powder is a newer product that hasn’t found its way to their website yet. They themselves posted it on their Facebook page with a link to the product on Amazon. Still, I’m linking you to Kiki Green’s site page on mushrooms, where you can read about the mushrooms, how they’re sourced and grown and harvested, the medicinal properties of each, and so on.

This brings me to my new morning indulgence:

22). Matcha-mushroom tea.

Matcha-mushroom tea

Every morning, I ritually create a hot brew of matcha green tea and these eight mushrooms, and I bring the steaming mug into my bedroom and set it on the dresser next to my lit candle and magickal new fluorite skull – thank you, friend! – and drink it as I get ready for the day. Surprisingly, the brew tastes of dark, bitter (unsweetened) chocolate. The flavor of the tea, itself, is mellow, round, and smooth, and somehow, the added mushrooms give it a distinct cocoa flavor, exactly as I’d imagine hot chocolate tasted as consumed by the ancient Maya and Aztecs.

23). Pirq (“Decadent Chocolate”)

Pirq Decadent Chocolate protein drink.

It became less and less possible to get my hands on my years-long favorite plant-protein shake by Vega – I guess they discontinued it – so I had to switch. I landed on this one by Pirq, and I have to say, I can’t be mad about it. It straight-up tastes like chocolate milk.

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PRODUCTS

24). Sprouts Shea Butter and Almond Bar Soap. (Cruelty-free and vegan)

Sprouts Shea Butter & Almond Bar Soap

My beloved Dr. Bronner’s tea tree liquid soap rebelled against me at some point in the fall… it started drying out my skin as the weather turned cooler. I had to go on the hunt for another option for the cold months, and I found a gem in the first one that I tried. It’s this unassuming little bar of soap, Sprouts’ generic brand, ivory in color and devoid of design or fragrance. The bar yields a generous, rich lather, and it leave my skin soft and moisturized. Another keeper!

25). Sea Witch Botanicals Krampus Solid Perfume. (Cruelty-free and vegan)

Sea Witch Botanicals Krampus Solid Perfume

My sister-in-law gave this perfume to me for Christmas. Its label reads: “A Sinister Winter Aroma of Frankincense, Woods, and Holiday Spice.” I guess if any fragrance could be described as “sinister,” it would be this one. It’s gorgeous.

26). Hask Biotin Boost 5-in-1 Leave-In Spray. (Cruelty-free and vegan)

Hask Biotin Boost 5-in-1 Leave-In Spray

I just wasn’t born with “nice” hair, and there are no miracle hair products, so any hair product that I post as a favorite gets onto the list because it works well relative to the ground-zero state of things. This biotin boost spray smells just awful – like a 1970’s beauty salon – and I was going to trash it based on that. Then I woke up the next morning and saw what it did to my hair. I went out immediately and bought another one before it could be discontinued. Enough said.

27). e.l.f. Luminous Putty Primer Universal Glow. (Cruelty-free and vegan)

e.l.f. Luminous Putty Primer Universal Glow

I’ve never had a good experience with primers, but I was happy to try three of e.l.f.’s putty primers when they arrived as free trial-size additions to an order. The original putty primer worked well, to my surprise, and this luminous version worked even better. I bought a full-size one.

28). Too Faced Peach Bloom Color Blossoming Lip & Cheek Tint (in Strawberry Glow). (Cruelty-free)

Too Face Peach Bloom Lip and Cheek Tint

I wanted to try the darkest one there on the right, but it was sold out, so I got the one that wasn’t orangey. It’s a perfect shade of just enough color, and I love its silky formula. Also, it’s long-wearing! Incidentally, I think this is my first lip-color product on a “favorites” list since 2019.

———

MISCELLANEOUS

29). Mrs. Meyers Iowa Pine (seasonal/limited edition) Multi-Surface Everyday Cleaner.

Mrs. Meyers Iowa Pine seasonal cleaner

When Mrs. Meyer’s came out with their Iowa Pine limited edition scent for the holidays, I had a feeling that it would become my new, less-toxic Pine-Sol for my spiritual floor washes… and it did. Its pine scent is softer and lighter and just lovely, and I feel better about using it. I use this as my everyday cleaning spray, and when I go to do my floors, I just pour a little into the mop bucket with warm water. You know I stocked up vigorously. It’s now unavailable until next holiday season, but I’m set for the year.

30). Killstar “Don’t Care” slippers.

These slippers are adorable and that was what drew me to them, but that’s not why they’re on this list. They’re on the list because they keep my feet unbelievably warm and cozy. My house, as you know, is deliberately cold. My feet being warm is crucial. These slippers make all the difference, and their adorableness is a bonus!

On me:

Killstar Don’t Care Slippers

The link is going to break soon, because these slippers are on clearance and selling out!

31). Duraflame Freestanding Infrared Quartz Fireplace Stove with Remote Control.

Duraflame fireplace space heater in my office

As I’d mentioned recently, this electric fireplace was a birthday gift from my parents. I’m blessed. 3D and flickering, the fire looks as real as hell, literally.

That’s it for the next… while, I guess! I’ll check in with another “favorites” list in three-four months, my friends. I do find that covering material over several months (rather than every month) makes sense.

May this find you healthy and safe!

Street clothes workout! (First living-room gym post of 2022!)

Hello there, my friends. I thought I’d start out the new year with a fitness-related post, as I did last year, so today I’ve got a living-room workout post for any of you who are here for it!

Monday’s workout was the first of 2022. At the last minute, I decided to do it without changing my clothes – as in, I came home from work and stayed in my work attire. My daily winter work uniform consists of jeans, three layers on top (tank top, turtleneck, t-shirt), a thick, oversize gray hoodie I found in the men’s section at Ross, long thick socks, and winter hiking boots. (I work in a warehouse, which, like many warehouses, is not heated.)

And as you know if you’re along for this ride, I’ve now somehow (inexplicably) committed to keeping my house cold this winter. I turn on the new electric fireplace in my office only when I’m in here at night. The rest of the time, it’s in the low-60’s throughout the house.

So the house was 62 degrees F when I got home on Monday, and I didn’t want to get undressed to change into gym clothes. Then I thought, but who says I have to? The workout on the agenda was, of course, Les Mills Body Combat. It’s a cardio workout, but the way I’ve always seen it, it’s a fighting-arts training session, an opportunity to practice my technique. It would be good to train in my street clothes, went my thinking. After all, if I were to find myself in a situation, it would be on the street, and I almost certainly wouldn’t be wearing workout gear.

Also, I had to pee, but I didn’t, for the same reason. In a real-life situation, I’m not going to tell my attacker to hold off while I run to the bathroom. And again for that same reason, I didn’t drink water before the workout, even though I was thirsty.

I’ve always been like this. I get random ideas in my head, test the proverbial waters, and then go all-out with the ideas until they’re strange. Challenge: See how long I can wait before turning on the heat. Plot twist: Don’t turn on the heat at all! Challenge: Work out in street clothes rather than in gym clothes. Plot twist: Don’t use the bathroom or drink water beforehand, either!

I love simulations of real-life scenarios as a method of skill-testing. My first memory of such a test comes from the day I graduated from swim lessons, when Hank-the-instructor threw me into the far end of the pool with all of my clothes on, including my shoes, without warning. I found out that swimming the length of an Olympic-size pool wearing clothes and shoes is not the same thing as swimming across in a bathing suit. Clothes and shoes in the water are heavy and restrictive. There was this new, foreign resistance in the water, and it was trying to hold me back. I was totally blindsided when Hank threw me in, but I thought it was hilarious. I was six.

So it was like that on Monday. I jumped into the workout fully dressed in my street clothes, hair down and everything. I was glad that I did it, because yeah, throwing kicks and knee strikes and all other strikes in jeans and multiple layers is not the same thing as throwing them in gym clothes. My jeans were soft and worn and had some stretch to them, but still, they were restrictive compared to workout gear. I’m grateful to the cold house for prompting this new, realistic angle in my fight training.

I did change into my indoor gym shoes, though. I drew the line at messing up my floor with my dirty warehouse boots! I also put on my gel-padded gloves, reason being that I needed to protect my mangled left hand in the event of push-ups, mountain-climbers, or burpees (indeed, I did all of the above in the workout).

[Aside: I don’t believe I’ve spoken of my mangled left hand. I swear, so much in the way of medical crap happened in 2021, it would’ve been boring and repetitive to tell you about all of it. More on this to come, as I’ve got surgery in my near future!]

When I did the same workout again after work on Wednesday, once again in my street clothes, I filmed it so that I could get screenshots for this post.

Without further ado, then!

Let’s go.
Let’s GO.
In it to win it
Call it a fist bump, because I’m not in any kind of a fight stance, so I’m not sure where this was coming from, haha
Duck

Weird angle, but here’s the bottom of my shoe
Punch
Hook
Uppercut
Something.
Making friends…?
TF haha

And that’s a wrap for this gym post, my friends. One of the benefits of home workouts is that you can wear whatever you want, right? Whatever you want, for whatever reason.

Here’s to all of you and to fitness year 2022!

New Year’s post and Happy New Year to you!

HAPPY NEW YEAR, my friends!! [::throws confetti::]

My 2-year retrospective and new year projection in a microscopic nutshell:

2020 was freeing for me while it was disastrous for the world, and I feel kind of guilty about that.

2021 was heinous. 2021 is unforgivable. One of my furbabies was murdered in 2021.

2022, though, is going to be wondrous in the best of ways, because I’m going to make it so. Oh yes, my friends. Oh yes.

This year, I don’t have goals, per se. I don’t have resolutions. Better than goals and resolutions, I have areas of focus. My life is a journey of learning and growing, and so “areas of focus” is more apt.

My areas of focus for 2022, then (as revealed to me by my spirit guides): boundaries, intuition, healing, gathering practical knowledge, embracing imperfection, continuing to provide for/protect stray backyard residents (one cat at a time), prosperity, psychic abilities, and the cultivation of wonder.

Nenette’s area of focus is to be snuggly in the pile of blankets and my white robe that I now leave on the bed for her. My bed is always made, but you’d have a hard time seeing that, as I pile blankets on top of blankets over the whole thing. Nenette loves it.

tonight – January 2, 2022
Not complaining
Not complaining
Nenette on Christmas Day – not complaining.

I hope you’re having a wonderful, marvelous, magnificent start to the new year, however that translates in your life. Maybe you started the new year with an airplane jump. Maybe you started it binge-watching a series. Exhilarating or chill or anywhere in between, I hope it was good. And I hope that 2022 brings you peace.

Blessings to you all.

My birthday happened. I’m still here!

My friends! I turned 53 on Monday, so on paper, I’m a year older now than the last time we met. I’m three years into the second half-century of my life here on Earth, and I love that. I call this my vampiring stage of life.

My birthday falls on the seventh day of Yule, so when I think about the year behind me and the year ahead, I’m actually reflecting on the entire calendar year. I realize now that this within-a-week alignment of my birthday with the New Year is the reason why my New Year’s blog posts feel so redundant.

Going over the usual run-down, nothing has changed: I’m still waiting for my mid-life crisis. Still not wearing granny panties. Still haven’t had anything “done.” Still haven’t yelled at any kids to get off my lawn. Still wondering why AARP isn’t sending me shit (not that I’m interested). Still haven’t “made arrangements” or “gotten my affairs in order”… though I am planning on doing that this year, just so it’s out of the way. I recently had two cancer scares – I’ve only spoken about one of them here – and they got me thinking that I need to have some plans in place, In Case.

At my new age, I don’t feel any less discombobulated, but I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been. I’ve never felt so free or unconcerned about being who I am and living the way I want to live. I love a solitary life. I’m never going back.

Here’s the obligatory birthday selfie, which I actually took the day before my birthday:

I’ve survived for 53 years!

I wore actual makeup on this day, as opposed to doing my everyday relatively light-handed eyes, only. I’m wearing e.l.f.’s luminous putty primer and NYX’s total control drop foundation on my face, and Too Face peach bloom lip and cheek tint on my lips, for those of you who are interested in such intel. And eyeshadow from Kat Von D’s shade and light palette. The rest (concealers, eyeliners, mascara, and brow powder) is my usual everyday assortment. My hair is still beyond hope and now it’s falling out, so perhaps you’ll see me in a wig or a scarf in next year’s birthday post! I got the wolf sweater from Ross almost ten years ago, and it’s one of my favorite articles of clothing.

My current amulet is a chunk of red jasper… Fire energy for strength, courage, creativity, and drive.

There’s nothing more to say about December 27th, really. I went to work, and it was enjoyable, as usual. Work gave me a lovely card signed by all, and a generous Chipotle gift card, and I felt so blessed, because I am. Oh! Presents! I don’t think that I usually talk about my birthday presents, but this year I have to share that my favorite gift was from my parents. It’s one of those space heaters that looks like a fireplace, because they know that I’m still refusing to turn on my heat! I’m now accustomed to the cold in the house, but the electric fireplace here in my office makes everything so cozy. It looks like a real fire, and it’s certainly a powerful representation of one. I’m going to do another office tour post soon, as there have been some significant changes and the whole Updated Office Tour thing has become a tradition, so the electric fireplace will appear in those pics.

Happy New Year, my friends. [::clinks champagne glasses, or sparkling water glasses, in my case::]

Blessings to you all!

ETA: I just hit “publish” and then saw the time on the lower-right corner of my screen. I published this post at 12:27, and my birthday, which is the topic, is on 12/27. Just thought that was a cool little synchronicity.

Joy to the world!

Greetings, my friends!

Nenette and I (and Geronimo, and also Salem) wanted to send a holiday card to each and every one of you, but since that would be impossible, we settled for making our card and posting it here. We hope you’re enjoying a wonderful, incredible, divine celebration of whatever it is you’re celebrating!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Blessed Yule 2021!

Love,
Kristi, Nenette, Geronimo, and Salem

p.s. Nenette said to kindly ask you not laugh to at her handwriting.

Yuletide greetings! (+ Yule altar and The Old Ways.)

Warm winter solstice greetings, my friends! The solstice took place on Tuesday, so we’re two days into the 12 days of Yule!

Some of you know this already, but for those who don’t (and who may be interested), the “12 days of Christmas” of which we sing was first the 12 days of Yule. Yule begins on the solstice because solstice is the year’s shortest day and longest night; the 12 days of Yule celebrate the year’s progression to longer days and a new season of growth. Many neo-pagans look to the Old Ways for inspiration in celebrating Yule.

Alas, I didn’t have a Yule log, but I could set up my main altar for Yule.

I started off with a natural pine essence floor wash to spiritually (as well as physically) cleanse my home for Yule, and then I hung my wreath on the front door. A note about the pine floor wash: I put very little of the (Mrs. Meyers Iowa Pine – a lovely limited edition release for the season!) pine cleaner into my mopping bucket full of water, and I followed up the wash with a plain water mop-up. I made sure to do it while Nenette was sleeping on the bed, so the floor would be dry before she could walk on it. (Pine is toxic to cats and dogs.)

With the house cleansed and the wreath hung, I got right into decorating my altar for Yule, starting with slicing an orange into thin rounds and setting the slices in the oven to dry. I’d received a beautiful little orange among the wonderful things I found in my stocking at work, and as soon as I had it in my hands, I knew that it would be a part of my Yule altar. I’d actually planned to stop to buy an orange after work, but instead, work gifted me with an orange!

Welcome wreath
Orange slices for drying

After some deliberation, I decided to move a small piece of furniture into my office to sit against the north wall, beneath the window, because I really wanted another north-facing altar… not just for Yule, but for general use as my main altar. My main altar had been against the north wall in another room, but for whatever reason, it never felt right.

Now it feels right.

I burned some Frankincense and Myrrh incense to smoke-cleanse my new altar as well as the crystals I chose for Yule, and I made a garland of star anise and the dried orange slices.

Come along on a small tour of my completed Yule altar, if you’re so inclined!

I had representations of evergreens and holly, but none of ivy. Ivy is there in spirit!
Dried orange and star anise garland with a cinnamon stick offering
Hematite, Aventurine, Pyrite, Obsidian, Amethyst
The Sun, as promised by the Solstice
Clear quartz, Citrine, Carnelian
The Triple Goddess and the pentacle

The five elements are represented in the pentacle… just the elements, and nothing more. The pentagram (and pentacle, which is an encircled pentagram) has been appropriated and thereafter feared, misunderstood, and maligned, but the pentagram simply represents Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. It is a representation of nature.

[Next morning edit to add several daytime pics to offer a better idea of the colors! Thank you for the request!]

On the left: Hematite at the top, Aventurine beneath it; Pyrite on the right
Clear quartz on the left, Carnelian at the (top) right, Citrine beneath it
Same shot, but in this one you can see the gold bell above the Carnelian (which I don’t think was visible in the night pic)
The Sun on a silvery tree… Solstice! The little white tree on the right was a stocking stuffer from work
Tree of pinecones and holly, with obsidian and amethyst crystals at its base. The tealight candle on the right is inside a mini cast iron cauldron
Triple Goddess cabinet
Orange slices, star anise, cinnamon stick offering, and pentacle

I’ll leave you with this Winter Solstice prayer, and a song of Loreena McKennitt’s. I don’t know to whom I should attribute the poem, but I thought it was lovely. I snipped this pic from a shop on Etsy.

Blessings of peace and love to you, my friends.

The Cold Moon.

Last night’s Cold Moon was the year’s full moon in Gemini, and I had feelings about it. For one thing, it was the last full moon of the year. For another thing, the Cold Moon is simply a special moon to me. It rises in Gemini, the polarity of Sagittarius (as is the way of the full moons – they rise in the zodiac polarities of the sun), and I feel a unique connection with Gemini. Among other small things I did with respect to the Cold Moon, I set out a vessel of filtered water to charge in the moonlight, and my crystals and gemstones alongside it.

This morning I brought them in just before dawn, before the sun could touch them, and later used the water to make moon water tea.

My favorite swampy Matcha green tea made with moon water

As well, I meditated and took note of the random thoughts that wandered into my mind before I cleared them out:

1). Like it or not, I can always count on this progression: The day will become the night. The night will become the too-late.

2). There are no real answers. Every day, there are more questions.

3). Memories are recycled, in a sense. Everything is a reminder of something.

4). In some cases, grief carries on to infinity.

5). I’m most alive when I have a challenge and a plan in front of me… when I’m taking action.

6). I love the sound of a train in the distance.

Some of this may sound bleak, but it doesn’t feel as much as I approach the contours of my experience on Earth. #5 is one of many ways in which I recognize that the element of fire lights up my core and drives me through life. Fire is about action and will. It’s the opposite of bleak.

Meanwhile, speaking of fire, I’m taking great and perverse pleasure in the challenge of keeping warm in a cold house. It was 62F in here when I woke up this morning, and I delighted in it. By January I may decide to turn on the heater, but for now, keeping the house cold is the business.

We spoiled desert rats love the heat, but desert rats also know that the desert gets cold in the winter, so why should it be a big deal? If we’re acclimated to the heat of the summer, then we should also be acclimated to the cold in the winter. But somehow, it is a big deal. I’ve always struggled with the cold.

The issue might actually have more to do with the desert’s dramatic temperature range in the winter: we’ll have nighttime temps in the 30’s or 40’s while daytime temps rise into the high-60’s or low-70’s. We can experience a 20- to 25-degree difference in temperature within a 24-hour period, and during the day it’ll be chilly while the sun almost always shines bright in a clear blue sky. It’s hard to reconcile our day and night temperatures. I do like a challenge, though.

I hope you’re all enjoying a wonderful day or night, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Until next time, my friends.

Analyze my dream! (+ still avoiding the heater)

[12/13/2021]
Last night I dreamt that the bros next door were involved in a Secret History-esque fraternity murder conspiracy. All of the houses on my street had standing sidewalk mailboxes rather than boxes attached to our house walls, and when I opened mine one day, there were papers inside that had been placed there by accident. They were supposed to have gone into the bro house mailbox.

The papers documented procedural information, minutes, and the actual proceedings for the ceremonial “work” conducted in the “killings” of one of the frat members in the house. My impression was that the killing was of a sacrificial nature, rather than of a punitive one.

Throughout the rest of the dream, I made continuous efforts to bring this to the attention of everyone around me in my house. The only person I remember specifically was Mom. The others were friends, acquaintances, and likely other family members, but they swirled around and in and out of rooms at random. The energy of the dream was hectic and fast-paced, and my efforts to put the papers in front of peoples’ faces were thwarted at every turn.

However, I did also verbalize that there’d been a killing next door, and that it was deliberate and documented, and people did believe me. Even so, it was important to me that they see the papers. I still hadn’t accomplished this when my alarm went off.

—–

Before bed, cheered by the notion of it.

—–

Desert winter has set in, and it’s cold in the house. It’s 65F. I check it every so often, wondering how cold it will have to get before I break and turn on the heater. I find myself questioning my identity for the second time this year. First, I didn’t recognize myself as I willingly shivered in the cold showers I took through mid/late-October. By the time I caved and started using hot water, my showers were capital-C cold, so naturally, I was like, who am I? And now I’m doing the same thing with the heater. It’s in the 30’s outside when I wake up! I had to scrape ice off of my windshield this morning. Ice on the windshield, no heat in the house, and somehow, I’m hanging in there without too much effort. Who am I?

This lunacy, too, shall pass, perhaps soon.

Meanwhile, the human mind-body connection continues to fascinate me. We are all so much more than we think we are.

Have a lovely Friday/Saturday, my friends. Stay safe, and keep dreaming!

Today’s post: A list of 16 down to 5 (favorite things!)

Hello, friends!

Well, I spent this whole morning working on my October/November/Recent Favorites list, and then I stopped and realized that we’re halfway into December, and I KNOW that there’ll be more to put on the list soon. For instance, The Witcher season 2 drops this Friday. Why post a “Favorites” list now when I know I’ll want to add The Witcher within a week? There are a couple of movies I know I’ll see in the theater in the next two weeks, as well, and my Cyber Monday skin care product haul from e.l.f. arrives today. I’ll be trying out those items over the next two weeks, and I imagine I’ll love at least one of them enough to share with you here.

I put the post on hold, figuring that the end of the month will be a better time to share it. I’ll be able to sweep up all of the little goodnesses left to share before the new year gets underway. It’ll be 2021, done and dusted.

Shelving the post I’d planned (and actually finished) meant that I had nothing for you, so I thought I’d share a few splendiferous things from today!

Today’s Favorite Little Things:

1). My cousin and I made a plan to catch a meteor shower together this (late) spring and make a four-day weekend of it!

2). My friend and I made a movie date plan to watch The Matrix Resurrections!

3). The cookies I made yesterday are even more magickal today than they were last night!

4). It feels like a spring day in here! It’s colder here in the house than it is outside, so instead of turning on the heater, I opened the windows.

It’s a stunningly beautiful, balmy 73F outside with clear blue sunny skies and an abundance of birds in my yard, none of this being the slightest bit unusual. Arizona in the winter is special. Arizona at any time of the year is special, but even we AZ natives and long-timers view it all starry-eyed when we think of how things are in other climates.

5). I’m getting my Yuletide deep cleaning and decorating underway!

I’ve got some pics to share from today, as well.

First, I have this one of the small desert cottontail rabbit who lives here. I’m surprised every time I see him because he’s so defenseless, and there are flying predators and stray cats around here, as we well know. Somehow, he keeps on living and living. I named him Bunnicula, because you never know, he might actually be undead.

It’s hard to get a clear pic of him.

Birds gathered on the lines:

Bird party

In this one you can see the edge of Geronimo’s burrow to the left:

the wild

The patio in front of the sliding-glass door.

patio

Magickal Mesquite! The deeply shaded little space beneath this tree is a spiritual haven, and I’m so grateful for it.

Mesquite

I hope you’ll all enjoying a lovely day, as well. Farewell for now, my friends.

p.s. I’m just going to ignore the loud clown horn that someone just started squeezing repeatedly somewhere on my street, haha

Dark-Sky Dreams.

Tonight, I’m sitting here wrapped in loose, knit layers, feeling cozy in my cold (70F) house – no, I haven’t turned my heater on yet, despite the nighttime dropping of desert winter temperatures – and I’m listening to the rain, and I thought I’d share with you my proverbial heart’s desire. Because we’re in the moment. We’re sitting beneath something spectacular.

It’s the Geminids, my friends. The Geminid meteor shower. I’ve been thinking about it all year!

It’s been one of my dreams to visit a dark-sky area to view the Geminids. Of all the (30) annually occurring meteor showers, this is the one I’ve most wanted to see. The winter constellation of Gemini is one of my favorite constellations, and its twin stars, Pollux and Castor, are two of my favorite stars!

It would feel especially magickal to view a meteor shower in the winter, I think. To be outside, in the dark, in the cold, watching for meteors. It’s cold in space.

Could I make this happen? I don’t know. I don’t drive on the freeway (the spot I’ve pinpointed is 32 miles away), and I’d want to settle under the stars at 2am. It’ll be December 13-14, Monday night/Tuesday morning, so… not a viable consideration for most of my friends, as they’ll have to go to work on Tuesday. (Whereas I won’t. I’m taking all of next week off for vacation.)

It wouldn’t be just the Geminids, either. There’ll be a lot to see! From a dark-sky location, I’ll be able to see stars that are obscured by the halo of city lights, constellations in their entirety, maybe, rather than just the alpha stars and other large stars. Even beyond that, there’s the band of our Milky Way galaxy! If I could see that one day, too. And while I’m on the topic of cosmic bucket-list items, I should mention the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

Aside: I like to fantasize that somewhere next door in the Andromeda galaxy, our closest neighboring galaxy at 2.5 million light-years away, there’s at least one planet alive with sentient life forms, including intelligent beings. Beings who, unlike us, have the technology needed to leave their galaxy. That they exist, and that they’ve come to Milky Way and visited Earth.

I watched a video on YouTube that explained how the Andromeda galaxy has a history of devouring other galaxies, and how ours will be next. In roughly 4 billion years, Andromeda will collide with Milky Way, and the Milkomeda galaxy will be born.

To think that Andromeda is just one galaxy. According to current NASA reports, there are around 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe. (“Observable” being the operative word. There are 200 billion galaxies that we know of.)

The vastness of the universe is overwhelming. I’ll say it again and again: I can’t imagine that in the entire Universe, the only sentient life that exists is here on Earth, on this tiny planet in this small galaxy.

There’s us! The third planet from the left of the Sun.

I’ll share this with you, too: Two of my favorite ways to meditate are clearing my mind while gazing into fire, and clearing my mind while gazing at this picture. It’s mesmerizing to me, artistic renderings of the planets lined up in order, for comparison… Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, and then the Giant Planets on the other side of the asteroid belt: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Here’s another pic:

L to R: Mercury; Venus; Earth; Mars; Jupiter; Saturn; Uranus; Neptune, and dwarf planet Pluto.

The sheer size of Jupiter! No wonder we can see him so large and bold in the sky. I’ve admired Jupiter in the bright morning blue sky as well as in the dark of night.

I’m forever in love with the Cosmos, though I’ve still yet to star-gaze from the backyard (since Salem’s death). I’ve tried. I just can’t. Watching the night sky for meteors 32 miles away from here, though, might create a different story. It might be a good way to return to that practice.

We shall see.

I hope this finds you all doing well, dreaming your dreams, and hopefully living them, too.

Roots in the wrong places. (Plumbing party of one!)

In today’s adventures in the little life of Yours Truly, a plumber just left. He’d been here all morning, since before 9am. But let me back up. (No pun intended.)

It started last night with a series of events.

First, an otherworldly, watery bloop bloop bloop sound echoed into the hallway. It sounded gentle and deep and dark. The mysterious sound seemed to be coming from the hallway bathroom. I went in to investigate and saw that the seductive bloop bloop bloop is the sound of large round bubbles rising from the sewer to the surface of the water in the toilet, one after the other. Most odd.

It stopped after a while, and nothing else happened, so I started getting ready for bed. When I turned on the water in my shower, though, I noticed that it wasn’t draining! I got in and washed my face, then turned off the water to see whether it would drain slowly, as it would if the drain was clogged. It didn’t.

It wasn’t behaving like a normal clogged drain, but I don’t know shit from Shinola when it comes to plumbing, so I went with the notion that the other shower would work.

And it was a good thing that I tried, because if I hadn’t, I may not have discovered that water wasn’t draining in that shower, either! I turned the water on for a few seconds and then off again to see what would happen, staring in puzzlement at the water pooled at the bottom of the tub, trying to think… and then, to my alarm, I watched as the drain started to spit black stuff out into the tub.

It was the Amityville Horror up in here, my friends.

I closed the shower door and backed slowly away, returning to my bathroom to use the toilet. It didn’t flush. When the tank stopped filling, I lifted the seat and found that the water had risen all the way up. The toilet paper was floating on top.

Give or take 20 minutes later – I spent the 20 minutes dancing to 90’s trip-hop, because I’ve been feeling that vibe lately, and what better thing to do upon realization that there’s a likely systemic underground sewer malfunction preventing you from showering and using the toilet – I lifted the toilet lid again to see whether the water level had gone down. It had. It’d gone all the way down. The toilet bowl was dry, and so was the one in the hallway bathroom. The water had drained from the showers, too. The black stuff in the hallway bathroom shower was stuck to the floor of the tub near the drain; it appeared to be dirt.

This confirmed my suspicion that the problem was systemic. I wasn’t amused. It wasn’t cool. The only way that an underground sewer malfunction situation could be amusing and cool is if alligators were involved, and they weren’t.

Fortunately, all of my sinks were working!

I was grateful for the sinks, and also for the handy little device I have that allows me to pee standing up, because I have to go a lot, and it would’ve been tedious having to pop a squat in the yard a hundred times before the toilets could get fixed. It wasn’t like I hadn’t already done squats in my workout that day, FFS.

It was midnight 41, but I called the plumber, anyway, because why wait? The person who answered the phone said that the plumber would receive the message immediately and would call me as soon as possible. I said okay and went to bed.

The plumber returned my call at 7:45am, and he arrived an hour later.

From my office window, I see all.

He listened to my suspenseful tale and was so experienced that he didn’t even look at the showers or the toilets. (So I didn’t have to clean them early this morning! But I’m glad that I thought that he would see them, because now they’re clean!) Instead, he went out to the backyard, scoped out the location of the bathrooms from the outside, and went straight up to the roof.

He spent some time up there with some sort of loud equipment, then came down and went to his truck to retrieve a different piece of equipment. Went up to the roof again. Made more noise. Came back down. When I became aware of a drilling sound coming from outside in the front, I looked out to see him drilling something on the sidewalk, metal on metal. Sparks were flying. I saw each individual spark as a dollar sign.

Eventually, he came to the door to ask me whether the patio outlet worked. (It did.) He explained that he had do (something or other) and then go back in with a more heavy-duty snake and camera to see what was going on. He got back up on the roof. More noise, and it still wasn’t sounding like getting-anywhere noise.

The next time he came down, he invited me to accompany him to the backyard to see where the snake with the camera had stopped. He had a gadget that could scan the ground and locate the camera, like a highly specialized metal detector. I tread lightly behind him as we made our way from the edge of the yard, out the back gate and along the fence on the other side, pretending that we were navigating a mine field.

The camera was elusive. I went back inside, and he went back up to the roof. More construction sounds reverberated through the house, and then I rejoined him in the backyard so we could return to our mine-clearing task. This time, the detector was able to find the camera! It was almost exactly beneath the back fence, on the border of my property and city property. Its pitch rose to a thin, high squeal when it found what it was looking for. (I realized in that moment exactly how easily entertained I am.)

The plumber said that I have newer pipes, which is good. They’re good. What he thought had happened was that there’d been a failure in the place where my new pipes met with the old city pipes, like the two parts had slipped and were no longer sealed together. Tree roots had grown into the pipe through the resulting gap. (Yeah, that story. The classic tree-roots-in-the-pipes story.) He said that the snake he’d used earlier in the morning kept pulling out roots, so he knew that roots were at the… (root of the problem, ahem). Now he could see exactly the where and the what and the how.

He’d dropped a video of the camera’s journey into my email while he was still up on the roof. It was pretty grody and cool. You wouldn’t know if you were looking at sewage system inspection footage or at colonoscopy footage. Plumbing is plumbing!

In the end, he was able to verify his assessment and blast out the roots with the hydrojet. Apparently it was difficult because of one large root that had grown in with the little ones; for a moment, he was nervous because it wasn’t going anywhere. He got it eventually, though. Now everything works!

But it’s a temporary fix. It’s a solution more than a fix, a solution for the moment, a way for me to use the plumbing for the next little while. I borrowed myself some time, because what has to happen (soon) is I’ll have to have him come back out to dig five and a half feet down at the back fence in order to remove a two-foot section of my clay sewer pipe (that goes toward the city sewer), replace it with a new section of pipe, and connect them properly this time. He was surprised that someone had taken the time to do an excellent job installing excellent, new pipes, but then messed up the part where the new pipes connect to the city sewer pipes. Like, details, man.

The official diagnosis on the invoice reads as: “Main Sewer Line Transition ABS To Clay Coupling Failed Underneath The Rear Alley Fence”

Kind of has a nice ring to it, I think. And I’m very happy with the service and with the plumber, himself. I would recommend this company to anyone. Local friends, if you need a plumber, hit me up!

I did some cooking and eating after he left, and then I sat down to regale you all with this thriller. Haha! I hope your morning/afternoon/night is going well, my friends.

And blessings upon you all. It’s Yule season now… multi-celebration season (including my own: my birthday is later this month)! We’re almost at the end of the year. Unbelievable!

Until we meet again, as they say.

More about my breasts than you ever wanted to know.

Hello! How was your weekend? I can sum mine up in two words: medical scare.

My breasts started feeling sore at some point early on Friday. The pain felt hormonal, similar to the soreness I’d experience monthly in my pre-surgery years. If you’re new here, now is a good time to catch you up on old news, and also for you to find out that I sometimes overshare (as if this entire post isn’t evidence enough): I underwent a bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with complete hysterectomy in 2008. I had my entire reproductive system removed (for familial prophylactic reasons). I’ve been on Hormone Replacement Therapy since then, meaning that I wear an estrogen patch… so when I experience the occasional hormonal discomfort, it’s due to my forgetting to put on a new patch, or my dosage needing an adjustment.

By Friday early evening, the pain finally had my full attention. It’d gotten worse. It was ignorable up until then. I mean, I didn’t think about it at all while I ploughed through my Salem’s Inn clean-out extravaganza!

I placed a hand on each breast and realized that it was only the left one that hurt. And when I probed that one, gently, as it was very tender, I felt a HUGE HORRIFYING LUMP positioned just below my nipple. A large lump in a small breast feels gargantuan, my friends.

I spent the weekend planning my f*cking funeral.

(I’m a hope-for-the-best-plan-for-the-worst person.)

It was two long days on the Hot Mess Breast Express.

It was a holiday weekend, and it was the worst!

After I found the lump on Friday night, I got on the phone with a V.A. teleheath nurse, who, after a thorough Q&A, advised me to go to the E.R. if things were the same by Sunday. And they were, and so I did.

The doctor who saw me in the E.R. said scary things, like she “wasn’t sure what the lump was, other than a mass.” And she said, “I just can’t say whether the mass is benign or malignant.” She also said, “If you were my sister or my mother, I’d tell you to go to the clinic ASAP.” And “I’m alarmed enough to think that you should go to the women’s clinic as soon as it opens tomorrow.”

She wrote a doctor’s note for my boss, and I was dismayed. It was my first time calling out sick in the whole year and four months that I’d worked there, and it was also the worst day anyone could call out. Not only was it a Monday, our busiest day, but it was a Monday following a long weekend, our very busiest sort of day! I felt awful about it.

But that’s neither here nor there.

At the clinic the next morning, I had a mammogram (which I was due for, anyway. I’d already scheduled a belated appointment for the end of January). I went into it with abject dread. I mean, I had a large painful lump that was about to get compressed between a platform and a metal slab! I’m happy to say that it was fine, though! It didn’t hurt. I’d forgotten that it’s your ribcage that’s pressed against the platform, not your breast, and the metal slab thing that comes down from the top causes the discomfort as it pulls down the skin above your breast.

Shockingly, the mammogram didn’t show anything!

No lumps could be seen. The radiologist blamed it on the density of my breasts. My dense breast tissue is the reason why I need to have an ultrasound examination in addition to the mammogram I get every year. In dense breasts, growths are often indistinguishable from healthy tissue. After my exam every year, I get sent home with a Dense Breast Information Sheet, which explains that dense-breasted people are higher-risk for breast cancer for this reason. Perky and firm can be life-threatening. If you didn’t know, now you know.

I followed the radiologist into the next room to have the ultrasound, and it was the ultrasound that revealed all… all 1.25″ of the CYST! Turns out that the lump is a regular old fluid-filled cyst that can be aspirated (drained) if I so choose. Cysts are common and nonthreatening. They’re not cancerous, and they don’t become cancerous. They just show up to terrify you when you’re doing your breast self-exam. They show up and they laugh at your pain when you find them. They’re benign but sadistic.

The doctor said that if the cyst doesn’t go down on its own after two weeks, I can ask my primary care physician to send in a referral for an aspiration. I’m happy to say that the pain has lessened significantly since then, so I’m doing much better now!

The End.

I would have included an image to go with this post, but I’m pretty sure that a relevant photo wouldn’t be allowable.

But do enjoy this not-gratuitous-at-all pic of my cat being sweet and demure!

02 December 2021

Many blessings to you, my friends. Stay safe, and stay healthy!

Ye Olde Salem Inn.

Something special happened yesterday: Salem communicated with me. She’s done it before, but this time, she told me about something that I ought to do. Key words in her message were “closure” and “completion.” She included the phrase “service to humanity.” Since this was coming from her, I knew that she meant closure and completion regarding her passing, and by “service to humanity,” she meant service to cats in need. Everything is connected; helping animals is helping humans.

In any event, my intuition reflex was lightning fast. Without thinking about what I was going to do, I immediately got up from my desk and headed to the back door. (Trivia: my most pronounced fire energy trait is springing to action.)

I went out to the laundry room. Salem’s room.

Her bed on the ottoman was still exactly as she’d left it. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to touch her bed or her toys, though I’d recently decided to leave the ottoman bed for cats in need. On the threshold of cold desert nights, it’d been on my mind to prepare the room. I just hadn’t gotten up the gumption to do it. Salem gave me the push that I needed to get it done, and so I did.

I shook out her layers of towels, blankets, and pillow cases from last winter and piled them into the washer, crying the whole time. I gathered her toys and put them with the trash to be taken out, along with the two throw rugs that’d been soiled when she threw up on them. I never bothered to clean them. They were cheap, and I had new ones waiting for a purpose.

My aim was to do what Salem wanted. As I went about the task, I wept and admitted to her that I still couldn’t reach a place of closure in my heart… but I could fulfill the “completion” part of her request and close up the laundry room as it’d been when it was her room. It’s still her room, but now in the sense that she’s the proprietor and hostess. The sign that says “Old Salem Inn” still hangs above the dryer, and its meaning has become literal. That is what the room is serving as now. It’s an inn that’s open to cats in distress, with Salem’s guidance, encouragement, and blessing.

So I cleaned the room and re-decorated a lot of it, mostly just rearranging things that were already there. I made up a fresh bed on the ottoman, put in the clean rugs, and finished with a generous misting of Florida water for purification, facing the directions of the elements and thanking the archangels who guard them. The room is cleansed and consecrated, and Salem is pleased.

And of course, I’ve got pics to share!

Come on in!
Salem welcomes you.
Cosmic tapestry with stars
More stars on the opposite wall
Salem’s bed beneath the stars and the triple Goddess with the elements
An artificial plant lends maintenance-free greenery.

Friends, it was hard. I cried while making up the bed because I felt, in my heart, that I was making a place for Salem to sleep. I couldn’t help it. Winters were special, as a part of my evening winter routine was shaking out Salem’s bed and plumping it up into a cozy warm nest for her. After four years, this will be my first winter without her. But I know that if any stray kitty needs a warm place to sleep this winter, they will find it.

Salem and I were together in the ancient past as well as the recent one, I believe. Our journey together hasn’t ended. I’m happy to be able to keep her inn open as a service to others.

Have a wonderful week ahead, all!