Okay, I whined.
But only a little. Several of my faithful support network (thanks RML, mom and KAK!) made helpful suggestions. Never mind that I felt rebellious about it.
I even decided later that maybe what I had written was probably okay and didn’t suck that much. So I sent it to my good writing friend, Allison, so she could reassure me.
She said it sucked.
Not in so many words, of course, because she’s a lovely person. She was honest. Not feeling it. Which was no shock cuz neither was I.
So, yesterday, I followed RoseMarie’s advice and pulled the shade. (This house has no non-spectacular view windows.) I put on my writing music (soundtrack to The Mission — no, I don’t know why it works. I absolutely can’t do music with words. Eerie instrumental soundtracks are best. I also like Master & Commander and Billy Joel’s Fantasies & Delusions). I followed Kristine’s advice and didn’t edit. I just started composing the scene.
And out it flowed.
Allison pronounced it “Way Way Better.” High praise indeed.
Another species crossed off her life list. She’s hit most of the new species around here: the mouse, the rat, several birds, including a humming bird.
She really wants a gopher or a quail, but I can tell she’s a bit boggled on how to go about it.
It’s funny — I know immediately when she’s captured something and brought it into the house. She has a certain bright meow. A trill of triumph, alerting us to her prize. She’s always so proud, submitting her contribution to the household.
She has a gentle mouth, so usually what she brings in is alive and unharmed. This can be both a good and bad thing. I’m always relieved to see the birds fly away again. I’m not so pleased to see the mouse or rat take off across the floor.
This morning, I went dashing in trepidation (this is difficult to do and takes much practice) in response to her trill of triumph. My heart sank to see Isabel digging around in the basket by the fireplace that has my movie-watching blanket in it. Yes, the cozy soft blanket I bought myself from Bath & Bodyworks one Christmas, which was a huge indulgence since that kind of behavior is strictly against Christmas-shopping rules. I just knew there was a rodent in my blanket.
I was already figuring what else I could wash with it on this non-laundry weekend.
David got his rodent-capturing gloves and, following my suggestion, simply carried the whole basket outside, so that we could maybe skip the whole process of sliding around whatever heavy piece of furniture the rodent had dived under. Isabel immediately dived into the corner of the fireplace, where the basket had been.
And there was our lizard. A New Mexico Whiptail. Widespread and abundant. Don’t tell Isabel.
David had predicted she’d catch one, once the weather cooled a bit. You can see this is probably the one she earlier pulled the tail off of — the blobby-looking tissue is his tail growing back.
David caught the lizard and we dutifully documented it. Isabel is happy now, preening on the patio like the queen she is. Terribly pleased with herself.
Coincidentally, I hit my own version of a 10K day: sometime last night I received my 10,000th page load on this blog. Hardly the big time, but I feel good about the accomplishment.
And I didn’t even have to rip anyone’s tail off. Mostly.
When we moved here, many of my friends predicted my writing would take off. That I would be so inspired here, I would become some kind of literary Georgia O’Keefe, exploding with masterworks.
I’ve never had a cat before who curls her toes.
Isabel curls even her back toes, when she’s especially deliciously at rest. If you pet her in this mode, she’ll purr and flex her toes, then curl them tighter.
She makes it look enviable.
I’ve always been a good sleeper. David says that if the house burned down, he’d have to carry me out over his shoulder. Indeed, when I was a girl, the house across the way, outside my bedroom windown, burned down, complete with excited neighbors and screaming fire engines.
I slept through it all.
But in the last few years, I’ve developed this weird sleep thing. I’m actually not sure when it started. At first it felt like a kind of anxiety. I would worry at night about where my rings were. Why my rings, I don’t know. I wouldn’t even wake up, really — just fret in this kind of limbo state about them. And no, they’re not incredibly valuable rings, nor have I ever lost them. I have lost other jewelry, and it bothered me greatly, so I suspect that’s where the fear comes from.
The point is, though, that it doesn’t matter what the object is, it’s the emotion that troubles my sleep.
I put it down to stress, though it doesn’t always seem to happen when I feel most stressed. It waxes and wanes, occurs in little clusters. Over time, the object of my concern has changed. (Possibly because I keep telling myself to quit thinking about the damn rings.) It some ways, it has expanded to involve some incredibly important object that I’ve left in a hotel room drawer (yeah — there’s my business traveler anxiety) and, since last fall, a cat that I’ve contrived to forget about and leave to die somewhere.
I can even see it: a grey, tiger-striped short haired cat. Unlike one I’ve ever owned.
Once I found myself up and out of bed in a hotel room in San Francisco, rummaging through the bedside table drawer, looking for the thing. Which sometimes feels like a puzzle box. Interestingly, when I have the thing about the cat, I connect it back to that hotel room in San Francisco, as if the cat is still there, dying and alone.
Yes, I’m probably crazy.
In fact, I spent time thinking about this. I’m a writer. I tend to be dreamy, to read in omens and signs. Who is this cat? What does the puzzle-box mean? Is it some deep meaning about my inner self? Some part of me neglected, locked away? Am I really a were-cat and I’m going to Fight Clubs at night while I think I’m sleeping?
Hey, crazy, but also imaginative!
It happened again a couple of weeks ago and, for the first time, David was there to witness the whole thing. I had been asleep for about half-an-hour and he was still lying awake. (Recall I’m the girl who’s out the moment her head hits the pillow.) I sat bolt upright, thinking the grey tiger cat was out being chased by coyotes. I’m always deeply confused in these moments, if you hadn’t gotten that already. Not sure where I am, even who I am.
I was struggling to remember how many cats we have and why I thought there was one missing, when David stroked my back and said everything is okay.
“I thought we had a kitty outside,” I tried to explain.
“Both kitties are happily walking around inside,” he told me. And he rubbed my back until I laid back down and, of course, went instantly back to sleep.
In the morning he told me that he’d been listening to my breathing and that I’d been really deeply asleep and then stopped breathing. He was on the verge of waking me up when I sat up.
So, now I’m thinking it’s some kind of sleep apnea. Which means the waking up is a healthy thing and the formless (and formed) anxiety might be related to that.
Now I’m just watching it for that. Fortunately, I’m not one of those several or hundreds of times a night people.
Eh, I’d probably just sleep through it.
Yesterday I saw on Twitter this video.
It’s about a young woman who received life in prison, without possibility of parole, for murdering her pimp. I believe all of that is strictly accurate. If you watch the video, you will know exactly as much as I do about the situation. There might be other things we don’t know here.
But I Re-Tweeted it and several people on Facebook commented on the link. The story takes you back. We talked a bit about the nature of justice and if all situations are the same. Sara was 16 when she committed this murder, which she admits she carefully planned out. We discussed some, in the short comments, whether it makes sense for her to spend the rest of her life in prison. I wonder what that’s accomplishing.
A friend from college chimed in and said “You’ve obviously never had a violent crime happen in your own family; if you did, you would understand why some people believe that spending your life in jail will never come close to paying for the crime of taking someone else’s life. Think about the victim’s families…”
Her father was murdered when she was very young. In an armed robbery as I recall. The details are murky, those that she told me when we first met over twenty years ago. I do remember that I told her my dad had died when I was a girl, too, and she said, “you do realize, don’t you, that there’s a world of difference between death and murder.”
And I thought, that I wasn’t sure what the difference was. Though I didn’t say so to her.
Both of our fathers were equally gone. Both here one moment and gone the next, so the shock was the same. In some ways, she has a focus, someone to blame, whereas we have only the happenstance of accident.
I asked my mother which of her husband’s deaths was more painful: the instantaneous loss of her first husband or the slow, lingering death of her second husband to chronic disease. Without hesitation, she said the second. Which is what I thought she’d pick. I knew how hard it was for her to watch over years as Leo declined in the prime of his life and withered away. With Ted’s death, it happened, it was over and she had to deal.
None of which addresses murder, I know.
“Think about the victim’s families,” my friend says.
I think it gets difficult when we try to parse out whose pain is greater than another’s. But if we administer justice on the basis of pain — which, I know, we absolutely do — then a prison term becomes more about punishment, about revenge than anything else, doesn’t it? If that’s what we want, so be it.
But if we’re operating on the level of emotion, basing our decisions on people’s pain, are we really thinking at all?
I don’t think Sara’s sentence makes any sense, from what I know. The judge told her that she had no moral scruples, which she says she had to look up. Clearly she needed to learn something. Perhaps still does.
My question is: what exactly is she learning?
Why yes, that IS a picture of my new rainfall showerhead.
Sometimes the little things make all the difference.
I remember when I was younger and heavy into my sci fi/fantasy phase — well, the heaviest — I read every book the library had on people being transported to other worlds, or times, or dimensions or what have you. I had my whole list of how I would handle it, should it happen to me. What songs I would sing, what I would reveal or not about my own world, and what I’d miss most.
Which was a hot shower.
This was back in the day when I had to be at school at 7:05 am for 7th grade. Brutally early for non-early bird me. I woke to the alarm in the dark of morning and stumbled into the hot shower. In many ways, that was when I woke up, under the hot water. My stepfather tried to get me to use less water, less hot, but in this I defied him. It helped that he couldn’t really make me, only complain.
It’s funny to me, that, now that I’ve written my own transported-to-another-world novel, that the hot shower doesn’t play in for my character. The difference between 42 and 12, I suppose. It’s noteworthy, however, that a major turning point in the book occurs in the chapter called “In Which It Rains.” Maybe my shower-thing has morphed into a rain-thing.
The rainfall showerhead? Oh yes yes yes.
When we were prepping our old house to sell, we replace some of the inadequate plumbing with shiny new stuff, including buyer-seducing updated rainfall showerheads.
And my life was transformed. I lurved mine with a love that was pure and true.
When I rhapsodized on the subject, several of my colleagues said they hated theirs, because the showerhead couldn’t be used to scrub down the shower.
This is so not my priority. Call me a hedonist. I’m at peace with that.
When we moved, though the new house is wonderful and gorgeous, I sorely missed my rainfall showerhead. The showerhead here spit and drizzled in a most unsatisfying way. But, over the weekend, I bought and installed a new rainfall showerhead. Yes, my own self.
And today I have gorgeous day outside and hot rainfall in.
You know how I feel.
I love how the two cats and the dog seem to enjoy each other’s company, as unnatural as the relationship may be. It’s warming to see them be affectionate with each other.
One of the small things that make daily life a joy.
Sometimes, I wonder if it’s true that life is all about high school. My mom once told me that a counselor-type said that we spend our whole lives living down or living up to what we were in high school.
This has been on my mind lately, because I’ve been back in touch with people from high school. On Facebook mainly. It’s interesting to see how the social positions have blurred and changed — or remained exactly the same — over the years.
One of my old friends started an online literary magazine. She doesn’t exactly count as a high school friend, because our friendship blew up just before 7th grade. And it was about popularity. She wanted it and was determined to have it. I wanted it, but was sure it couldn’t be mine. In her indominitable way, she seized our new school by the throat and became the cool girl. I kept my nose in a book.
We’ve since repaired those fences. I wrote about our adolescent angst in Wyo Trucks without her permission. She since read it and gave me her blessing, which meant a great deal. And she asked me to submit to her magazine. Which I did. And she’s holding onto a couple of pieces for future issues. She asked another friend of ours from school to contribute her photos.
When the first issue came out, there was much excitement in our little group. Photographer gal wrote a nice thing about it on her blog.
I felt left out of the party.
To make it worse, another boy from high school had several pieces in there. And yes, he was way more cool than me (part of the “Best Couple”) and, in all truth, still is. He’s got a new book out and is in a cool band. My book is five years old and no one has read my novel yet, which is (gasp!) genre anyway.
And it’s stupid, but I’m feeling all those things I felt in the hallowed halls of our school. All the ways in which I was not A-list. I was not the “Most” or “Best” anything.
In some ways, everything does continue to be about popularity. Marketing your work as an artist is about drawing attention and having people like you. Some try to pretend that it doesn’t matter, that your work stands for itself, but does it really? If you want to make any money on it, people have to pay money to have it — and that’s all about them wanting it, which in a very direct way is about wanting you.
What’s funny is, the other half of the “Best Couple” wrote in my yearbook that she admired the way I’d stayed true to myself all through school, that I hadn’t changed to be popular. And here, I just thought I was stubborn. Perhaps something of a coward.
So, am I living up to what I was, or living it down? Would I go back and change my choices?
And all I come up with is, I wouldn’t change who or where I am today. I might feel my nose is pressed to the glass while the party goes on inside, but I think we all do, depending on what party we feel left out of.
Really, I never liked parties that much. I’d rather be reading a book.
Our curved-bill thrasher says good morning.
And yeah, he always has that annoyed look. He lands on the feeder and launches into an ear-splitting song, then proceeds to whip his bill back and forth through the seeds, scattering them hither and yon. Every once in a while, he pecks at the glass sides. He eats a few seeds, also.
I’m not sure what is driving the behavior. Maybe birds do weirdly obsessive things, too.
Jeri Smith-Ready (@jsmithready, a wonderful author and terrific gal — if you haven’t checked out her series about all-night vampire DJs, it’s worth doing) tweeted yesterday that “Checked e-mail so many times today, fingers permanently frozen in Ctrl-Shift-T position. Will bang head on wall instead.”
Which made me laugh.
I have my Outlook set so that send/recieve occurs every five minutes. On both laptops. When my IT guy was autopiloting my work laptop (have you done this? it’s kind of freaky: I relinquish control and watch while he runs through my computer settings from the other side of the country. it’s kind of Poltergeist-ish), when he saw this, he somewhat primily informed me that HE has HIS set to every 30 minutes.
What? Like he’s more patient or something?
I didn’t tell him I also hit my send/receive button all the time, too. Anyway.
Which is how all this came up, because my work laptop Outlook started being weird. It’s connected to our Exchange server in Arlington, and so is kind of a real-time “live” connection. This is apparently why I shouldn’t need to hit send/receive ever. Or why 30 minutes is plenty long enough, because it’s always synching. But it’s a habit, okay? Only now, when I hit send/receive, it sends Outlook into some kind of loop from computer hell and it helplessly cycles until it crashes.
IT guy doesn’t know why. His solution: don’t hit send/receive. This is logical, because I don’t have to.
But I can’t seem to stop.
I know. I know. It’s stupid. It’s ridiculous. I tell myself not to touch it. I know I can’t. And then I’ll be working away, click over to my Outlook and reflexively hit send/receive. Scattering those seeds willy-nilly with an angry orange eye.
At least I have company.