Mini writing update and SEASON’S GREETINGS!

Writing update: simply put, things in the world of writing over here have been phenomenal since I’ve fallen into the unexpected state of euphoria that is the second draft. Yes, the second draft, I’m finding, is like a state of mind. As I think I’ve said before, it’s also a lot of actual re-writing, and it’s more than fun. It’s all I want to do. I’ve yet to crack open any of the books I’ve been waiting to read. If it wasn’t for the gym, I’d never leave the house.

I spent the first few hours of this morning writing, and then I went outside and took a bunch of selfies for my post next Tuesday because our houseguests are arriving on Sunday and today is my last chance to mug for the camera (the whirlwind starts tomorrow with cleaning and baking and such), so I’m later here than I wanted to be.

My plan to do some cardio in the garage today has been derailed on account of the probability that I injured my toe yesterday afternoon. Guess how? Getting into the shower, of course. I stepped over the metal threshold while I was lost in thought, and my left foot didn’t quite clear it. Not to brag, but it was a most epic of toe-stubbings. I actually smacked the front of all my toes against the threshold, but only the second-biggest one looks, literally, bent out of shape and brilliant with several of the wrong colors for a toe. I’m avoiding walking around today due to discomfort, so the only workout I’m getting is in my fingers as I write. PITY. (Not!)

But I digress. Returning to the writing update… I’m not holding myself to a hard deadline for this second draft, I’ve decided. I’ll get through it as quickly as I can while taking the time that I need. Let’s just say that I’m shooting for the end of January, but I won’t be concerned if it takes longer. I’m enjoying this part immensely, and frankly, I think I’ll be a little sad when it ends.

Seasoned novelists: do you experience this second-draft euphoria, too?

 

Nenette and the poinsettia, 2017

 

With love and thanks to all of you for being here! I hope this finds you well as we head into the end-of-year festivities. This is my last post before Christmas, but I’ll see you before New Year’s!

Happy Thanksgiving (week)!

We’re all over the place this week… mostly out of town… so we just wanted to say:

 

!!!!!

 

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving feels extra-special this year. I appreciate Thanksgiving as a holiday to honor family, friends, and loved ones. While I’m grateful for my family every day of the year, I’m happy to have this one day to dedicate to them, to honor our emotional connections, and to reflect on what’s truly important in life: each other.

Thanksgiving, I guess, is a personal holiday, meaningful in the ways that matter the most to us.

We wish you all a happy holiday this week. Thank you, friends.

The general kittystate chez nous. (Kitty updates!)

Several of you request more frequent kitty updates, and I’m sorry I haven’t gotten better at this. I like to oblige when you make requests, so I’ll work on posting about the fur-kids more often! For now, every five-six weeks continues to be the norm.

So what have been the main points of interest around here?

1). We went out of town for Thanksgiving. While we were gone, our kitty-sitters never saw Nenette. Not. Even. Once.

We weren’t surprised. We were satisfied to hear that her food was disappearing between visits, and that her litter box was being used.

While she’s continued to get more comfortable with Callaghan and in the house, in general, poor Nenette still has a crippling fear of men and strangers.

If you remember, it was for this precise reason that our Feline Behaviorist recommended keeping Nenette here and giving someone else a chance to take Nounours home to an only-cat situation. Because of their comfort levels with humans, Nenette was deemed “not as adoptable,” while Nounours was evaluated as “very adoptable.”

(How right she was. Because of his personality, Nounours was indeed Mr. Popular at the shelter, and he was adopted by his ideal cat mom within two months.)

When we adopted Nenette, she was confined to a small see-through container in a window at PetSmart with nowhere to hide, so we couldn’t fathom how afraid she was. At the shelter, where visitors get to wander amongst the many available cats, she wouldn’t have been seen. Or she would’ve been seen cowering in a corner. Either way, people would overlook her. People are naturally drawn to cats who come up to say hello and ask for pets, like Nounours the Snuggle-Monster, who loves all humans indiscriminately.

Nounours is in Nounours Paradise with his doting Mom and no competition, but Nenette is still working on overcoming her severe social anxiety. At least our Thanksgiving kitty-sitters have seen pics of her!

That aside, she’s very happy when it’s just us.

2). On her part, Cita is very happy in the winter cabin we’ve created for her in her laundry room. I lined and padded the spacious, highest shelf and covered it with a soft blanket, and she loves it. She has little pillows up there, and at night, we make a cozy bed with a kitty bed (she likes to sleep against it rather than in it, which works well because of its high sides), her pillows, and her bouillotte (soft hot water bottle covered in cozy fabric). She has a space heater and a cat door and a lamp for lower, warm lighting. I spend the working hours of my days in there with her, as I use the washing machine as a standing work station. As far as she’s concerned, Cita is indoors.

She still goes out and gets beat up now and again, talking trash to other cats in the hood. She cannot tolerate other cats (unlike Nounours, who simply resented competition). Twice, we had prospective families for her, and both times, they fell through. But looking at the situation with clear eyes, we can see that she’s simply happy here, on her property, with us. We do what we can to minimize her chances of getting hurt.

Without further ado, enjoy some pics!

Inside fur-child (evidence that Nenette exists):

 

Nenette's favorite place to sleep: In her kitty bed. On her chair. Next to my side of the bed.

Nenette’s favorite place to sleep: In her kitty bed. On her chair. Next to my side of the bed.

 

It’s chilly now, and kitties are in full-on snuggle mode.

 

Nenette reached out to touch my face just as I was about to take this picture.

Nenette reached out to touch my face just as I was about to take this picture.

 

We put up a Christmas tree in anticipation of family from Europe coming to visit for the holidays. As far as we know, Nenette had never seen a Christmas tree. We haven’t decorated it yet… so far, it just has the lights that came with it.

 

Nenette doesn't know what to do with this fake tree in the house.

Nenette doesn’t know what to do with this fake tree in the house.

 

As for Cita, our outdoor fur-child:

 

Cita reminds me of a cartoon character in this pic. I just can't think of which one.

Cita reminds me of a cartoon character in this pic. I just can’t think of which one.

 

She loves plants more than anything.

 

Plants are Cita's favorite things on earth.

Plants are Cita’s favorite things on earth.

 

And she loves her bed in the laundry room!

 

A sudden sound outside caused Cita to make this face just as I was about to take her picture.

A sudden sound outside caused Cita to make this face just as I was about to take her picture.

 

That’s it for now! I’ll try to post kitty updates more often in 2017. I can’t believe we’re within weeks of the new year. Yikes.

Merry Christmas! (Photos from Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden)

As a part of our Christmas celebration this week, we spent an evening trekking through the Desert Botanical Garden to take in the thousands of luminarias hand-lit along trails, walkways, and ledges.

A luminaria is a paper lantern made by filling the bottom of a small paper bag with sand and setting a candle in it. Like eating tamales on Christmas Eve, decorating your yard with luminarias (often around the perimeter) is a southwestern Christmas tradition, and Las Noches de las Luminarias is a tradition at the Garden. At this year’s display, we enjoyed the music of mariachis, and members of Yellow Bird telling Apache winter stories and playing native flute. We also admired artist Bruce Munro’s breath-taking art installations in the Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at the Desert Botanical Garden exhibit.

We visited the Garden after nightfall. Of course, I took about 500 pics, which I whittled down to 32 after sifting through them.

At times like these, I wish I had a better camera. The one in my cell phone couldn’t adequately capture the beauty beheld in the Garden that night!

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gleefully surprised when my photo album came out vaguely spooky and Halloweenish; the grainy photo quality probably has something to do with this. My first idea was to take you on a festive holiday stroll through the desert, but instead, you’re getting an experience that might resonate more with The Nightmare before Christmas. The desert at night can be haunting with botanical silhouettes, red skies, and ghostly trees. In many places, the luminarias and Bruce Munro’s artistic light installations added to the eerie effect.

Come along…

 

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Bienvenidos! [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas tree in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Over 8000 luminarias were hand-lit at the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Saguaro cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias spied behind an organ pipe cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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For obvious reasons, these luminarias are made with plastic sleeves rather than with real paper bags. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

 

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas lights wrapped around a palo verde tree. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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The desert at night. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Shadow of a dwelling behind the luminarias. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Members of Yellow Bird told Apache winter stories and played native flute on the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas light-studded hill in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Red sky, web on the ground made of strings and beads of lights. (Light art of Bruce Munro.) [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Arteries glowing in the desert darkness – light art of Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Eerily glowing luminous art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias leading the way on the Garden trails. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminaria with more of Bruce Munro’s light art. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Light art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Statue in the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

…and a great BIG “thank you” to Callaghan for patiently waiting as I took hundreds of pics!

Merry Christmas, All. =)

It’s Labor Day! Let’s All Do a Whole Lot… of Nothing.

Today is the first Monday of September, which means that it’s Labor Day here in the States (and in Canada too, I think). The holiday celebrates workers, and its meaning is to rest. It also means that we – Callaghan and I – have no idea whether we should actually expect our huge house-shipping-from-France arrival event to happen today, as the shipping company had given us the awkward holiday weekend delivery window of Saturday through tomorrow.

How does it work with truckers and others whose jobs take them on the road for extended periods of time? Do they look at their little calendars on the dashboard and go, “Okay, it’s time to check into a motel!” and then sit there for 24 hours until it isn’t Labor Day anymore? Or do they just plow through the holiday, disregarding it completely? That wouldn’t seem fair. No one should have to work on Labor Day.

Or, as a former boss of mine used to sort of joke, people should actually work extra hard on Labor Day, a viewpoint shared by this guy:

 

KimJongNumberUnTwitterFeedCaptureLaborDay2013

 

It’s interesting how the way we think about work seems to be a reflection of what we do in life.

For example, yesterday, Callaghan was telling me about his friend who owns a restaurant in France.

“He’s a nice guy, but he’s not the best person for his job,” he said. “He should actually move to Costa Rica.”

“Why Costa Rica?” I asked, intrigued as always.

“Because he’s a sloth. He’s… very relaxed.” He went on to describe the guy’s slowness in bringing water and bread to the tables.

But of course! Only an artist/illustrator/cartoonist could so naturally reach such a conclusion. Leave it to Callaghan to get me forming mental images of sloths working in restaurants, balancing drink trays and platters of food on the ends of their long arms.

Anyway, have a great Labor Day! I don’t know what you’re doing, but we’re planning a Breaking Bad marathon… because we’re addicted. Har har!

 

Oh My Darling Clementine!

We celebrated New Year’s Eve glazed over the Champs-Elysées celebrations on T.V. (and some impressive performances on the France 3 channel, Can-Can dancers and all), and I enjoyed a fresh clementine. Callaghan is not a fan of citrus fruit, so I talked a little bit about the clementine as he watched me peel it.

“See how this clementine’s skin is thin, and it’s tightly wrapped around the fruit?” I asked. He was watching me with keen interest.

“The next time you eat a clementine, give it to me. I will prepare it for you,” he said gravely.

“Okay. You’re so wonderful!”

“Because I want to do something to your clementine.”

I couldn’t resist snatching up my laptop so I could tap out what he’d said. My memory is a joke, plus I was laughing, so there was a good chance I might have forgotten it.

So we had a great New Year’s celebration.

Happy New Year, Everyone! Bonne Année 2013!

 

EDITED TO ADD: Callaghan just peeled a clementine for me, carefully, with a knife – and he made a matching set of clementine candles for me. So that was what he meant!

 

 

A Tale of Two Clowns

It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and with my birthday in between, we don’t differentiate between the celebrations. What’s the point? So we celebrate our way up to January 2nd. Social conditioning is a funny thing, though: Last night, Callaghan announced excitedly, “Tomorrow’s the weekend!” As if we haven’t been lying around doing nothing and going nowhere for five days straight.

The fun began on the 23rd, when we drove down to Nice.

We were on the highway, and I spent the whole time absorbed in Deep Thoughts. The lady in the back seat reminded me of the puppet clown in Saw. She didn’t exactly look like him, but the shape of her face with the position of her round and very pronounced cheekbones gave her enough of a resemblance that I couldn’t resist mentioning it to Callaghan. “Remember the clown in that Rob Zombie movie?” he asked, continuing on the theme, talking about the new generation of clowns. “Completely different from the traditional clowns that were made to look scary.” Our low-toned English couldn’t be heard over the highway noise. The lady and the guy next to her (19-20 years old, long dark hair, goatee) were talking, anyway, totally not paying attention to us. A few minutes later, Callaghan broke into their conversation to ask if they’d ever seen that movie, and lo! The guy unzipped his jacket to reveal a t-shirt featuring that very same obscure Rob Zombie clown! What are the odds? Of all the clowns in the world, I tell you.

France’s organized hitch-hiking system is awesome. You get online and announce where you’re going, and people can set themselves up to catch a ride with you. It’s profitable and fun, and you can end up with the Saw clown and the Rob Zombie clown sitting next to each other in the back seat of your rental car.

 

Saw clown

Saw clown

Rob Zombie clown

Rob Zombie clown

Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas, everyone! We spent the holidays visiting with family and friends scattered around the French Riviera. The weather was gorgeous. We enjoyed two days of great times and merriment and family drama. (What are holidays without family drama? Incomplete!) Everyone is in good health and doing well, and that’s the most important thing. I hope you can say the same thing about your loved ones.

Here’s some traditional French Christmas cake for you:

christmas cake 1

Christmas cake 3

Christmas cake 2

And some flowers:

Christmas flowers 1

Christmas flowers 3

Christmas flowers 2

Enjoy!