Ze plague, ze plague!

First post of 2020! There’s nothing to report here except that I’m down with the upper respiratory plague that Callaghan brought home from work. We’re both sick. He’s at the end of it, and I’m in the thick of it. We cancelled our New Year’s Eve plans. I cancelled other upcoming plans involving people, as well.

We all know this, but I have to say it, anyway: being sick with an airborne virus morally obligates us to stay away from others. It’s so simple! Just stay home. If you must go to work, at least wear a mask and/or stay out of other peoples’ offices, and please cough into the crook of your elbow. (If you’re the person who went to work sick and spent much of the day in my husband’s office, thus getting him sick, thus getting me sick, then yes, I’m looking at you.)

There’s a 50% chance that I’ll miss Body Pump on Saturday.

My spirits are high, though, and I don’t feel all-over lousy. I’m actually feeling okay despite some pretty nasty cold symptoms, as this particular virus doesn’t include fever, body aches, or headaches. I can feel a clear delineation between the half of me that’s sick and the half that isn’t… weirdly energetic from my feet all the way up to my lungs, with everything from there on up being woozy and congested. I want to take my lower body to the gym and leave my upper body at home.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you this evening… basically just an update and a Public Service Reminder. I’m going to go eat something. Stay well, my friends! Wash your hands. Use hand sanitizer. Avoid people you know or suspect to be ill. 

December Favorites post coming Tuesday!

 

 

“Less One Decision on the Eve of a New Year”

I don’t know about you, but it’s New Year’s Eve where I am. 2020! We’ve reached a new decade!

In the spirit of celebration and on this occasion of reflection, I have New Year’s greetings (delivered by Nenette) and an original poem, respectively.

 

 

Less One Decision on the Eve of a New Year

You looked to see if your reflection was chance.

The stillness was there –
you bent to take a drink.
Above the agitated circles of your vision
there was the sleek tube of scales
sliding near and you, the skeptic,

named this for your own doubting mind.
You said, Viper, return us as leaf-shadows
on tin awnings, crisp and certain,
or as the sky in rust, defined as the cracked
blood on the ground. Return us
as rain.

Such precision could cast us back in.
It could revolutionize everything.

~~~~~

May 2020 bring out the best in us all.

 

 

Not aging, but advancing in time. (Birthday Eve post!)

I’ll be 51 tomorrow, on 27 December. Generation X has crept into its 50’s, and our parents are feeling old because of it. I’m not, though.

I take a sort of vampiric pleasure in the notion that I’ve now been alive and roaming the earth for over half a century. It is so f*cking cool. Maybe I shouldn’t be posting this today with such glee, because I won’t actually be 51 until tomorrow, and, you know, knock on wood, but… eh. I’m in the mood to play with superstitious fire. (I’m tempted to throw in some expressions involving water and air to make a cliché set of the elements, but I’ll spare you.)

Wonders accumulate in experiences had by this point in time, if one is so lucky as to have survived this long. Life is funny: if you live long enough, you can “see it all” without having seen anything.

It’s staggering to think of how this planet has so much to offer, including countless commonplace, extraordinary sights I’d love to see, but will never. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to witness a galactic battle of whale vs squid in the dark depths of the ocean? Imagination plays at creator in such instances. I do see some terrestrial explorations in my future reality, though.

So far, the most eventful times of my life were compacted into the four years I spent in the Army, between the ages of 18-22. Those years gave me all the life experience extremes I could need in order to say that I’ve seen a thing or two. When those years were over, I restarted civilian life from age zero. That was how it felt. In some sense, it feels as though I never fully transitioned back.

A civilian rebirth in 1991 makes me 28; since I’m again a late bloomer, even younger than that. I was reborn feeling old, yet I don’t feel “old.” (I make stupid life mistakes like I was born yesterday, so maybe I’m a small child.) I don’t feel that I’ve ever grown up. I’ve stopped expecting that I will. You have to want to do something before you can do it, right? Anyone can grow up if they want to. The desire to grow up has yet to visit me.

I personally think that it’s more important to evolve than to grow up. I’ve felt the process of evolving too keenly at times, but I have no complaints.

I’m still trying to learn from my mistakes, though. I’ve learned a lot from a lot, but “mistakes” has been a bitch of a teacher. (Either that, or I’ve been a bad student, which is probably more the case.)

Forgive me this ruminating. I don’t mean to sound so serious! My birthday being tomorrow means that we’ve arrived at the end of the year, which makes me reflective on an occasion that already asks for reflection. Superficially speaking, I’m just a Gen X-er advancing in time, a Capricorn with an Aries moon walking around in the same not-granny panties, trying to figure out how I want to wear my hair, aspiring to make it to the gym more often than I do, continuing to avoid cosmetic treatments and procedures, and vowing to open the mail every day. 

Here’s my day-before birthday selfie, taken this morning (untouched/unfiltered, as usual… not to brag, but just to say as a birthday pic disclaimer):

 

[26 December 2019, the final day of my 50th year!]

Thank you for reading this far, as always. Until New Year’s Eve, then!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas! (Greetings + cookie recipe)

This may be early, late, or irrelevant to you or to where you are in the world, but for what it’s worth: Happy Christmas Eve!

 

 

(#christmasapp)

I made gingerbread cookies for a gathering on Saturday, and the friend I met for lunch the next day got some, too. Of course I had to post the recipe when it was requested! I forgot to take a pic before the cookies disappeared at my house, but Caroline took one at hers and kindly sent it over. It’s helpful to have a pic to go with a recipe, right?

 

Honey’s Ginger Snaps

 

I’ve been making Honey’s Ginger Snaps for over 30 years. They were a part of a holiday treat spread at someone’s house, and my mom knew the person who brought them, and I asked her to ask for the recipe, AND I modified the recipe over the decades. Originally, the recipe asks for 2 teaspoons each of all the spices (ground cloves, ginger, and cinnamon), and 4 tablespoons of molasses. I cut the cloves and ginger down to 1 teaspoon each, and I use 3 tablespoons of molasses instead of 4. (The original recipe also says that you can use Karo syrup rather than molasses, but I’ve never made them with Karo.) You can adjust the spice levels to your own taste, as I did.

I also modified the recipe to make it unrefined and vegan: I use whole wheat flour rather than white, Earth Balance buttery spread rather than butter (the original recipes asks for either margarine or butter), and a plant-based egg replacer to equal 1 egg rather than an actual egg.

HONEY’S GINGER SNAPS

Sift together:

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or flour of choice)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon

Cream together:

  • 3/4 cup Earth Balance buttery spread, softened (or butter/margarine of choice)*
  • 1 cup sweetener of choice
  • Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer = 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs molasses

Instructions

[Preheat oven to 325F]

–Mix the sifted dry ingredients into the larger bowl of creamed ingredients. Chill dough overnight.

–Use a teaspoon to scoop the dough and form into small round balls; roll in sugar, cake decorations, candy sprinkles, etc.

–Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes**

~~~~~

*If you use butter, go with UNSALTED
**I bake mine for the minimum 10 minutes, so they come out soft. If you want your ginger snaps to be snappy, bake them for longer!

~~~~~

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

 

 

You guys are magic. (Update: Salem is back in her room!)

At least one of you who read my last post sent prayers and blessings to Salem, because that same night, our feral furbaby returned to her laundry room and slept in her bed!

The morning after I wrote about Salem not sleeping here anymore on these cold nights yesterday morning Callaghan saw her emerge through the laundry room cat door before he went out to feed her breakfast. An hour later, I checked Salem’s bed and found her fleecy cream blanket properly packed down into a round cat shape, lined sparsely with black fur, and speckled with bits of leaves and dirt. Salem!

She slept here that night, and she slept here last night, too, and… she’s just back. I don’t know how or why, but she decided to come back the night I wrote about it.

Thank you.

There’s something about this blog space, too, I think. It’s kind of like magic how I’ll lament something here, and then the thing will fix itself… and I mean the silliest things, too. I’m thinking of the time I wrote about how doing dishes grossed me out to where I couldn’t bring myself to do them, and I was happy drying/unloading/putting them away. I’ve been doing dishes ever since! It was as if writing about how I hated it reversed the hating it into not minding it. My anti-dishwashing tongue-in-cheek rant was invalid almost immediately after I posted it.

And Salem came back to sleep in her laundry room/bed immediately after I posted about that.

And I’m so relieved and grateful.

 

[Pic from 11 December 2019]

Happy Friday Eve, all!

 

 

The sad song of Salem. (Feral cat woes/cat mom FAIL.)

There’s a special kind of angst that comes from failing to protect a being who needs protection. I never thought I’d sit here sharing this feeling with you, but it’s been bothering me so much lately that I had little else on my mind when I sat down here to talk to you guys today.

Salem, our feral cat, used to sleep in our laundry room, which is an outdoor room. She would sleep and lounge and stretch and luxuriate in the bed I made for her, a pile of carefully folded towels and layers of cozy blankets beneath a little table set up against a wall, with a huge, snuggly blanket folded in half and wrapped around the whole thing, all plush and warm. She loved it. Callaghan and I would watch her through the security camera mounted on the opposite wall, and we saw how much she loved it.

Then I had to go and make it “better.”

Nighttime temperatures have been dropping into the low 40’s, so I decided to put in a pet heating pad. Instead of making her more comfortable, it scared her away. She hasn’t slept in her laundry room since. It’s been so cold here in the desert; the whole point of this specially-designed-for-dogs-and-cats heating pad (which has very good reviews from dog and cat parents on Amazon) was to keep her bed at body temperature during these colder nights.

The problem? The pet heating pad works well, but it has a very strong industrial/chemical odor. Our outdoor furbaby’s encyclopedia of scents can’t explain that the odor belongs to a weird yet harmless inanimate object. Not to mention, it’s just an unpleasant, offensive scent. She hates it. She’s afraid of it. And I realized it after it was too late.

Before the noxious heating pad, Salem’s biggest laundry room threat was other stray cats. There’s this one male cat in particular who can’t help but be a male cat, spraying and/or urinating on her bedding to mark it as his. We’ve been cycling through this pattern the same way we did last winter: tomcat contaminates Salem’s bed, Salem is duly deterred, I go in with my attuned olfactory sense and my black light, find the source of the odor, and do what needs to be done (e.g. laundry) to restore her perfect sleeping conditions. Salem comes back to sleep in her bed again. She always comes back!

She hasn’t come back since the pet heating pad entered the picture, though. Every morning I go into the laundry room hoping to see signs of Salem on the cream-colored blankets – black fur, bits of leaves and dirt – and nothing.

Adding to the misfortune of it all was the fact that it took me a few days to figure it out. Salem’s blankets were saturated with this awful odor! I quickly bore away the pet heating pad and laundered her bedding and put it back together, but Salem had already decided that the odor belonged to an unidentifiable and dangerous beast. She always won the territory war with the male cat, but she lost the war with the heating pad… and I was the one who brought in the vile foe and lined her bed with it.

I’m so mad at myself. When I found her bed unslept-in yet again this morning, my anger at myself drove me to rage-clean the house.

The nights are getting colder and colder, and Salem isn’t sleeping in her bed, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

She still considers our yard to be her yard, though, and that’s good. She comes and goes during the day, hanging out in her favorite spots, eating her meals and snacks on the patio, and drinking from her “watering hole” near Geronimo’s burrow. Sometimes, in the evening, I sit in the dining room and watch her through the sliding-glass door. We connect and bond with eyeblink-kisses. Then the sun sets, and she goes away.

She seems sad. Maybe it’s just me seeing that through the lens of guilt, but I’m sure that she is sad that she can’t sleep in her cozy bed anymore.

 

Salem through the glass door. [16 December 2019]

Thank you for listening to my tale of woe. I’ll certainly come back here all kinds of elated if she starts sleeping in her laundry room again!

 

 

Where am I in the writing-verse? (Writing updates!)

It’s been months and months and months since I last wrote about my writing life. I’m working on my novel again, so I’m back with an update.* You might remember – or maybe you weren’t aware, if you’re new here – that I completed my first novel in the summer of 2018. Now I’m burrowing back into the manuscript to work on revisions.

I don’t have an agent (yet!**), but an agent is guiding me, in a sense. Two days after I queried her, she asked for the complete manuscript. Three days after I sent it, she’d read the entire thing, and she replied with a gorgeous, long email. She loves the novel, but she doesn’t think it’s quite ready for a publisher. She discussed in detail three specific aspects of the manuscript that could be addressed. She then concluded, “I’d welcome an opportunity to read the manuscript again” (should I decide to revise it).

I took this as an invitation, and I accepted it, which brings me to today’s writing update: I’m revising my manuscript so that I can resubmit it to this agent. Specifically, I’m working on giving more space to supporting characters, adjusting the pacing, and cutting back some of the passages by 20-30%.

Her praise, suggestions, and invitation to resubmit in no way guarantees that she’ll offer me representation after reading my revised manuscript, I know… but there’s no question that I’ll do it! I’m thankful that she’s taken the time that she has with my novel, especially considering literary agents’ overwhelming workloads. To have revision suggestions from such high authority is invaluable. Not only is it encouraging, but it’s an opportunity for growth and experience. I’m taking this on with zero attachment to outcome.

*I can’t say that I’ll be posting regular writing updates throughout this process, though I might. We’ll see!

**If this agent doesn’t take me on, then another one will, perhaps.

 

[12 December 2019]

Photo backstory + apology: I was taking selfies when Callaghan came around the corner and started talking to me. I looked over at him a second before I took this shot. It turned out to be the only pic wherein the framed “roses” painting in the background is even slightly straight, and so this is the one I chose to go here. I’m sorry that I’m not looking at the camera. Also, you’re welcome for picking a selfie that won’t make you seasick, because in all of the others, that picture on the wall behind me made the room look like the inside of a sinking ship.

Happy Friday Eve!