“And Grown-Ups, when they are very good, when they are very lucky, and very brave, and their wishes are sharp as scissors, when they are in the fullness of their strength, use their hearts to start their story over again.”
Catherynne M. Valente

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

only bummer is no one gives you an I VOTED sticker
Wed 2020-10-14 23:07:10 (single post)

So here's a thing we did this past weekend: We voted.

John and I have had the pleasure of living in two different states that conduct their elections primarily by mail: Oregon, and now Colorado. The way it works is, if you're a registered voter, you get one. You don't have to ask. You don't have to sign up for it. You don't have to jump through any hoops. Be registered to vote when October rolls around, and a ballot shows up in your mailbox about three weeks before election day.

In the Before Times, when people fearlessly gathered in public knowing they risked no more than catching a cold, we had a tradition. We'd take our ballots out to BeauJo's for delicious Colorado Style Pizza. (After the Boulder location closed, we went to the one in Longmont, or found a different restaurant closer to home. As long as it had wifi and electrical outlets, it was golden.) We'd arrive, place our food orders, then break out the laptops. Once we'd filled out our ballots to our satisfaction and sealed them in their envelopes according to the instructions, we high-fived and then settled down to a celebratory video game marathon. Eventually we'd roll out of there, full and happy and tired and proud of ourselves, and head home--making one quick stop at the Boulder County Clerk & Recorder Office to deposit our ballots in the drop-box. And that's how Chez LeBoeuf-Little votes in Colorado, give or take a pandemic.

The routine was pretty much the same this election, with two important differences:

  • We didn't let the ballots sit around for a week before voting them. We turned those suckers around overnight.
  • And we voted them at the kitchen table over delivery from Curry 'n' Kebob.

That's it. That's the story. We voted, and you should too. The end.

Gemma and John cuddling on the couch, Sept. 13 2020
my heart has joined the thousand
Tue 2020-09-22 23:05:43 (single post)

I've been putting off writing this post. Partly that's because I didn't want my first post in two weeks to be a total downer. But mostly because I know I'm going to cry while writing it, and I'm tired of crying.

Gemma passed away last week, and it hurts.

The course of oral meds and sub-q fluids slowed but did not reverse her trend of losing weight. Or maybe it wasn't the treatment that slowed her rate of weight loss but rather the fact that she just didn't have that much left to lose. She was positively skeletal when she went in Wednesday morning for a cecal transplant. (That's basically an enema made out of healthy cecotropes from a donor rabbit.) Gemma tolerated the process really well. Everything that went in stayed in. We entertained hopes that she would benefit from the healthy bacterial culture and the nutritional content of the donor cecotropes, and that with subsequent transplants over the next week or more we might turn things around. But I guess it was just too late.

I hung out with her all the rest of the day in the living room, watching her eat hay and amble around, cheerful and curious as always. But then, around 4:45 PM, she began subsiding, as though falling asleep sitting up. She'd sink a little ways, then take a step to recover her stance, then sink some more. I took her temperature: it was low.

I put her on a towel-covered electric heating pad, where she sprawled in an awkward froggie posture, back legs splayed, unable even to hold her head up. Then I called the vet. They said to keep her warm through the night, continue with her medication and fluids as scheduled, and they'd see her first thing in the morning. In case she needed care more urgently, they made sure I had the number of the nearest emergency vet hospital that (very importantly) knew their way around rabbits. That would be the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at CSU, up in Fort Collins, an hour's drive away.

Not being an emergency clinic themselves, there was nothing more they could do. Even if they had been able to see her after hours, she wouldn't have made it there in time. It would have taken us half an hour to get there. We realized she was dead not a mile into the drive to CSU; she may have already been dead by the time we got in the car at all.

We made the decision to keep going and bring her body to CSU. I'm glad we did. They were able to perform a necropsy that confirmed her regular vet's diagnosis to be correct and her treatment to have been appropriate. The death of a pet brings so much guilt and regret, so much self-recrimination, so much painful second-guessing. It was consoling to learn that yes, we were doing all the things we should have done for the condition she was in, and we gave her the best chance of recovery she could possibly have had.

I am immensely grateful to the Colorado House Rabbit Society's post-adoption "bunny tune-up" class, and would recommend it to any prospective rabbit household. A rabbit's health is too potentially volatile to rely solely on annual check-ups, so the idea is to check them out thoroughly at home once every two months in order to establish a baseline and to stand a better chance recognizing crises while it's early enough to act on them. Some items on the checklist are easy, like checking if their poop looks healthy. Some are more daunting, like taking their temperature. There's also some maintenance they taught us how to perform: clipping claws, cleaning out their scent folds, etc. And all of this after like an hour of nothing but "Here's how you pick up a bunny when they are facing you. Here is how you pick up a bunny when they are facing away from you. Now you try. Do it again. You MUST get comfortable doing this, even if they don't like it." It was absolutely thanks to their instruction that we were keeping tabs on Gemma's weight and other symptoms, and therefore knew to get the vet involved as early as we did. I will probably never stop regretting that we didn't get the vet involved earlier, but I do know that we did a lot better than we might have done, had we not had such good training.

She was the absolute sweetest of bunns. Possibly because she had required vet intervention frequently over the course of her nineteen months of life, she was extremely amenable to being held and handled. She enjoyed sitting on my lap while I watched TV. On her very last night, as I was stalking Holland for donor cecotropes, she started coming over to me from across the room, "weeping angels" style. (For those of you not familiar with that particular Doctor Who monster, that means I'd look away, then look back and see that she was slightly closer to me than last time I looked.) I called to her, "Come here, Gemma," and made kissy noises and patted the floor, and she bounded over. It was a very low-energy bounding, but she gave it all the bound she had to give. I gave her a treat, let her "high-five" my palm with her nose, and then she cuddled up next to my leg.

I had expected to enjoy such closeness with her for at least a couple more years. I feel cheated.

Holland, by the way, never did produce cecotropes for me. After sitting by his habitat until nearly three in the morning, darting in to interrupt him the moment his nose dipped toward his belly, I came to the conclusion that he produces only the one kind of dropping, to all appearances a normal fecal dropping, some of which he will eat. And it's not like he sorts through them as though some were edible and some weren't. More than once, after shooing him off the latest batch of pellets and examining them to my satisfaction, I'd offer them back to him one by one, in whatever order, and he would eat them. "Holland apparently hasn't read the script," the vet said. "Some rabbits don't." The donor cecotropes used in Gemma's transplant were provided by the Colorado House Rabbit Society, courtesy of their medical staff and residents of their Bunny Barn.

Holland is obviously affected by Gemma's loss. He spent the first few days after her death being a little bit quieter, a tad more more nervous around sudden noises or changes in his environment (I ran the blender Sunday night, I am a monster), a touch more reluctant to leave his habitat and somewhat slower to rev up to his usual zooming and binking routine. He was always casually intimate with Gemma, grooming her frequently, nosing up under her chin to flop comfortably at her side. On Gemma's last day, after a night and a morning separated from her, he demonstrated how happy he was to have her back by binking around her in tight, light-speed circles, at times propelling himself off the actual wall. (Gemma more or less ignored him and ate her hay.) Most bunnies benefit from being pair-bonded, and Holland is clearly no exception. So yes, eventually we will adopt a new roommate for him. But pair-bonding bunnies is non-trivial, and we're just not ready to start the process. All I can say for sure is, it'll be "eventually soonish."

That's all. That's plenty, actually. There's writing news, but it can wait for tomorrow. For now, I just want to give Gemma a little memorial space. She was loved. She was a good bunn. She'll be missed.

Bunny yoga.
the new normal includes anxiety but also bunnies
Mon 2020-06-15 22:01:27 (single post)

All right. We did it. We made the decision, and no one will be surprised: John and I are adopting the bunnies. Maybe it would have been different if the pandemic had not occurred and our lives had remained busy and full of travel for derby and gaming and whatever, maybe then we would have said, "It's been nice having them, but it's nicer still to bring them back to the Bunny Barn and not be tied down anymore." Maybe. As a wise lion once said, "No one is told would would have happened." What we know is, right now, right here, in this timeline that is actually happening, the joy that Holland and Gemma have brought into this household is worth the responsibility leash.

So they get a forever home, and we get furry hooligans running around the sofa indefinitely. (And also licking it, because it has a flavor.)

Pictured here: Bunny yoga. Holland is doing a low plank. I'm amazed I caught that moment on camera; it's a very transitory thing. He just happened to decided he needed to stretch right as the camera went off. Meanwhile, in the background, I guess Gemma is thinking about child's pose?

It's been more than a week since they got their RHDV2 vaccinations, so they're officially as immune as they'll ever be. That means we no longer have to be so fastidious about separating outdoors from indoors. But after six weeks of slipping on shoes even to water the plants, wandering the neighborhood barefoot feels like a monstrously irresponsible and dangerous thing to do. The emotional habit of caution is a strong one. I suppose it'll take a little while before that feeling downgrades to one of simply breaking a taboo or getting away with something, and then finally fades away to nothing at all.

When I extrapolate that to the pandemic, it's alarming. We have been, and will be, following social distancing protocols for much longer than that. It didn't take but a couple weeks into Colorado's stay-at-home order for me to begin having social distance anxiety dreams, dreams where my main conscious thought was NO! WRONG! THAT IS NOT EVEN CLOSE TO SIX FEET! AND YOU'RE NOT WEARING A MASK! I'm still having them. And yesterday I went out to a Longmont restaurant to see a friend who was in from out of town, and it was nice, but all the consciousness of does my mask fit OK? and are we six feet apart? how about the restaurant server passing behind me to the next-but-one table, are they six feet away? what about those people walking down the sidewalk so damn close to the patio seating? They're not wearing masks! It just shoved my stress levels through the roof. I didn't stay long, and when I came home, I pretty much went right to bed and stayed there for hours, exhausted. Like, that's enough restaurant-going for the month of June, thanks muchly. Next time, let's bring take-out to a park and sit on our separate socially distanced picnic blankets, all right?

(I'm hearing that a local roller rink is open again. I'm also hearing that risk for contagion is highest indoors among groups who are shouting, singing, and/or breathing heavily. I'm also hearing that the roller rink isn't requiring skaters to mask up. I'm thinking trail- and street-skating still sounds like the option that's most compatible with keeping Colorado's COVID-19 case rate on the decline.)

Assuming, as I optimistically do, that one day we will not need masks and social distancing: how long will it take my brain to calm down and be OK with peopling in public again? Will it ever reach the levels of OK it used to have--which were never all that great to begin with--or has my social introversion leveled up permanently?

Which is another compelling argument for adopting these bunnies. Watching them go about their daily bunn business is soothing. And I kinda need all the soothing I can get.

One book, two bunnies.
bunny population increases by two and book population by one
Mon 2020-05-04 17:21:52 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

Guess what today is? It's BOOK RELEASE day! Community of Magic Pens is out, and I have copies of my very own. See? I mean, yes, of course, I already had the ebook edition downloaded, and that was lovely, but there's nothing quite like the reality of a physical paperback, holding it in my hand, flipping to page 209 to see my story in print! Right there! On paper! That has that new book smell and everything!

It is a gorgeous object, this book. It's just perfect for reading. And it would look very nice on your bookshelf. You should totally go order yourself a copy. (Maybe two or three. They make excellent gifts.)

Now, you might notice that there's a bunny posing alongside that book in the photo. Two bunnies, actually, but Holland will insist on hiding behind Gemma and making himself hard to see. He's still a little wary of me since I had to give them both medicine over the weekend. Gemma, on the other hand, will come right up to the crate bars just in case I've got a treat for her. All is forgiven, so long as I bring her a treat.

These two came home with us last week from the Colorado House Rabbit Society. We are "overnighting" them. I put scare-quotes around the word because it's not going to be just a few nights, or even a few weeks. We don't know how long it's going to be. In light of the current RHDV2 outbreak in the southwest US, COHRS is taking active measures to protect their herd of 130 rabbits waiting for adoption. They are dispersing them among their volunteers, so that should any of their bunnies tragically contract the disease, only one other bunny, rather than 129, will be at risk of catching it from them.

So we have furry house-guests until a vaccine becomes available (which it might never--one exists, but getting hold of it involves a lot of money and bureaucracy and at least one confirmed case in a domestic rabbit in the state), or until the risk of infection has passed (no sooner than three months after the last confirmed case in the area, I guess? The virus can survive a long time without a host), or until Gemma and Holland get adopted permanently (which can't happen during the COVID-19 pandemic), or... well, I don't know. We have furry house-guests for the foreseeable future. That's all we know for sure.

On the one hand, there's a certain amount of work involved. You know how it is with pets. Care and feeding and cleaning and love and attention and so forth. On the other hand, there's a lot of joy involved too. Also laughter. Bunnies are hilarious. I just watched Holland pick up his jingle toy, fling it across the crate, then go pick it up and fling it back, repeatedly, for about five minutes. His other favorite game is "Get the stupid oversized apes to chase me." He will play that game around and around the sofa for as long as the stupid oversized apes are willing to play along. Gemma is quieter but more trusting. She's getting very good at practicing "pick up!" with me. Then I'll set her down in my lap, and she will consent to sit there for a few minutes and even tolerate my combing her a little. This, when she hasn't even been here a week yet! It is magical.

It's amazing how much they relieve the solitude of shelter-in-place. I know John is smiling and laughing a lot more since they came home. And while I still seem to thrive more than not in this pandemic-induced isolation, I'm finding it unexpectedly delightful to have additional beings in my face-to-face physical space to interact with.

Between the bunnies coming home last week, the water falling from the ceiling, the domino effect of no sleep one night leading to no work the next day leading to no sleep as I try to catch on the work the next night, and of course some new issues to troubleshoot on my computer because of course there had to be (its replaced hardware is working fine, but now the speakers and microphone have developed a lot of snap-crackle-pop static and the webcam flickers badly)... last week was more or less a loss. I'm still trying to finish the Friday Fictionette for May 1. I made good progress on it this morning, though, so I feel confident saying it'll go up on Patreon either tonight or tomorrow. After that, I'll release the April 2020 Fictionette Freebie and tell you all about it.

Until then! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go give the bunnies their afternoon salad. And also another treat.

on the fourteenth day of quarentine my true love gave to me
Mon 2020-03-30 18:20:36 (single post)

It's been two weeks since I came home from the Berthoud Inn and John bid his last Conlorado out-of-town guest farewell. Accordingly, our isolation-from-each-other ends today. From here on out, we isolate from the world as a household unit. We celebrated this landmark date with a very big, much-needed, long-ovedue hug. Several hugs. ALL the hugs.

Tonight I get to sleep in the bedroom again, with my husband, in the Actual Real Bed, instead of in the office alone on the futon. Hooray! The bedroom is also better insulated from neighborhood noise, so you know that won't suck. That one time that snow removal activities woke me up around six a.m. was memorable.

In other pandemic news, for my most recent obligatory excursions out of the house, I followed this tutorial to turn one of my fun colorful bandanas into a better-than-nothing face mask. The tutorial is very easy to follow. It also has an Epic Stirring Soundtrack. But it turns out that I don't have the right sort of ears to hold a face mask on. They just sort of fold over under the tension, two wimpy flaps of skin and cartilage, until the bands just slip the hell off. Not really a surprise; I can't stow a pencil behind my ear, either, left or right, and I have trouble keeping sunglasses on when I tilt my head downward. Just another way in which I'm a damn mutant. Only a small problem, though, easily solved by threading a length of ribbon through the bands so I could tie it behind my head. Et voila! Fashion statement, gesture of community solidarity and rudimentary protection measure, all using items I already had around the house.

Everything else has been more or less "same old, same old." Writing a lot every day, getting my exercise either by skating outdoors or working out with my derby group online, cooking tasty things... and, by those means, mostly keeping my mind off the thought of the world burning down around our ears.

All for now. Tomorrow I'll have the end-of-month Friday Fictionette round-up. Til then!

sometimes it's ok just to not
Thu 2020-03-26 21:43:01 (single post)

As expected, I produced and uploaded both of tomorrow's Friday Fictionette posts today, scheduling them for an automated release of 8:00 AM. Then I was so pleased with myself over this that I barely did anything else afterward.

Well, that's not quite true. I finally sat down and Did The Books, which consists of comparing the checkbook with our online banking account and making sure that everything adds up, then, confident I know how much we have in the bank, using that account to pay all the bills currently due. Or overdue, as the case may be. Which was tiring but satisfying. But then I also needed to gather up all the documents related to our household tax return and organize them in a fashion that makes sense? Except maybe I don't have to do that today, since Tax Day 2020 got pushed back to July 15 because of how everything's been disrupted by COVID-19? So I just said "Screw it," had a late lunch/early dinner, wrote and uploaded the Monday Muse post (scheduled for an 8:00 AM release on the 30th), and called it a day.

Except for this blog post, of course. Even though I got all sweaty and tired with my derby friends during our online workout, I've still got a little energy left to say hi. Hi!

The Atthis Arts AMA was fun! You can read it here. It is possible that there was more participation from Atthis Arts authors, with a heavy emphasis on authors of the stories in Community of Magic Pens, than there was participation from anyone else; but if that was the case (I honestly am not sure, and I'm not going to comb over the thread with a spreadsheet and checklist in order to become sure) it diminished my enjoyment of the event not one whit. It felt like finally for the first time gathering a significant portion of the authors in a single room and letting them get to know each other. It felt like putting us all on a convention panel and having us interview each other for the delight of an audience spread forward across time. That includes you. Go read it; you'll see what I mean.

So now I am doing the thing with the hot bath and the wireless mouse and keyboard and a sandwich and a beer. It is very nice. But it could be even nicer. I am thinking longingly of the self-care package someone on Cat Rambo's Discord server shared the link to. Put together by a trio of small women-owned businesses uniting forces to survive the crisis, the package contains two scented candles, two tea blends, and a random surprise book with vintage bookmark. Doesn't that sound great? I could see those really enhancing my post-derby soaking time. If you are also tempted, let's give in to temptation together. Temptation is this-a-way.

All for now. Good night!

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain images. Full attributions in the ebook.
Day 2: In which we complete the day's final requirements in an environment that is hardly compatible with work an' stuff
Sat 2018-11-03 01:02:05 (single post)
  • 3,453 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,315 words (if poetry, lines) long

Ahoy. This blog post comes to you live from Loaded Joe's in Avon, where Friday Nights mean Karaoke with Sandman. I brought the tail end of my work day here--ok, well, I admit it, I brought most of my work day here. At least half. Which means typing and singing along at the same time even more than usual. Which means that, now and again, I'll end up typing the lyrics of whatever song is being performed, and I'll have to go back and figure out where I really left off. MULTITASKING! Yes.

[Author's turn to sing! Author couldn't decide, so she went with that old standby, "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes. The crowd is very supportive tonight. It always is, though. Love this place.]

I've been in Avon, Colorado since Sunday afternoon, on my annual "aaaauuugh finally it's off-season I'M RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME" week. I've spent it mostly quietly, walking around town, hanging out in the library, watching the Saints game at Loaded Joe's, dropping in with the 10th Mountain Roller Dolls for a practice, writing, avoiding writing, excoriating myself for avoiding writing, finally getting back to the writing... kind of the same as at home, really, only ALL BY MYSELF and not in my own house where I can suddenly discover the need to do the dishes and the laundry.

OK, well, there are dishes and laundry in a resort-style hotel, yes. BUT NOT AS MANY.

I'm done with moths, by the way! Did I say? Yeah. I put forth a heroic effort on the night before I drove out of town, emptying the closet to the bare walls, cycling batches of clothes through a 170-degree oven for 50 minutes at a time, wiping things down with diluted vinegar--you know the drill--and I didn't get to sleep until three. BUT NOW I AM DONE. The last stronghold of the months has been CLEANED OUT. OK, well, it's possible that there a few hanging on in the office and some desultory preventative cleaning may be advised. But the confirmed active infestations are done.

[Author pauses while a duet gets up to sing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and the entire establishment joins in, anthem-style.]

That's the sense of accomplishment and completion I drove away from Boulder with. And here I am. And now it's time for the Day 2 of the NaNoWriMo Rebel Report.

Morning Pages: More or less on time. A much better morning--one hundred percent percent less headache, for one thing--but took it slow. I am on vacation, dammit! Most of the first of the three pages was just writing down what I dreamt. I have trouble sleeping through the night these days, so it's always a good sign when I wake up with a bunch of dreams to write down. Foremost among the dream imagery was a bull nosing up to the front door of a suburban house, and me thinking, "That's weird, usually it's deer."

[Author pauses to appreciate the host and his partner in crime dueting on "Home" by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. With customized lyrics.]

Freewriting: Got that just now here at Loaded Joe's. Came up with an idea for a whole damn novel. That happens a lot, actually. It doesn't exactly make me happy. I always get this sense of despair like, I will never live long enough to make novels out of all these ideas. I suppose that's the wrong attitude. I should be thinking, "I will never run out of ideas as long as I live." But what I'm really thinking is, I will never run out of homework. Well, that's what you sign up for when you decide to be a writer, Niki. Deal with it.

The prompt was from the weekly Reedsy newsletter. I wholeheartedly recommend this newsletter. They give you five prompts every Friday and challenge you to submit a story based on one of those prompts to their weekly contest. Deadline is always midnight Eastern of the following Friday.

The Friday Fictionettes Project: Woo-cha! Got it in one. One DAY. I would like not to have to do that again, but: the Friday Fictionette for November 2 is up, and it's called "The Chance of a Lifetime." It's about the drawbacks of immortality and what might be done about 'em. Patrons pledging $1/month may download the ebook, and Patrons pledging $3/month may additionally access the audiobook. Everyone else, just wait up and the freebie for the month will be released when November's over.

Real Fiction Stuff for Real Money (I Hope): So, last night, I brushed the dust off a short-short I'd written for a Codex contest early this year and gave it a read-through. Wound up making like a hundred words or so of notes on the sucker and getting excited about it all over again. I'll hit it again for about five minutes before bed tonight.

Submission Procedures: Soon as I'm done with this blog post I'm going to figure out where to send "Survival, After" next. I may have mentioned this before, but it, too, started as a flash piece for that same contest. What am I thinking--of course I mentioned it before. I remember whining endlessly in this here blog about how the revision kept getting longer and longer and OH MY GODS WILL THIS NEVER BE FINISHED? Well. It did, and it's heading out again tonight. Or at least I'll figure out tonight where to send it, and send it on Monday. Look, it's late, OK? I'm three beers in.

Blogging: Et voila.

[Author's runs away to sing "Here I Go Again" in front of a very drunk and supportive crowd. Love y'all bunches!]

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from Max Pixel
but the universe nevertheless reminds you are loved, and that you have work to do
Tue 2018-09-25 17:13:33 (single post)
  • 1,310 words (if poetry, lines) long

Oh hi there. So. Life has been a lot lately; hence the radio silence. Roller derby has been a lot of that lot. There was the North America West Continental Cup, as you know. Then there was our annual B-52 B-team tournament, officially branded this year as part of #ThinAirThrowdown and co-hosted with Denver Roller Derby. And then, when there should have been a week of rest and healing, roller derby suddenly became a painful place full of emotional turmoil. Things are not yet resolved, but I know that this too shall pass. In any case, I'm going to my first practice of the off-season tonight. Life's too short not to do what I love, and I love skating. And I love the people I get to skate with--that is unlikely to change.

But, all in all, roller derby has made it hard to buckle down to the writing day. So I have got a lot of writing to catch up on.

I am so very much behind on the Friday Fictionettes project. I only just pushed the September 14th offering last night ("The Poisoned Chalice," ebook, audiobook). And still I'm as much behind on the Fictionette Artifacts as I ever was. So. This week I have set myself the 100% Unreasonable Goal of releasing the fictionettes for September 21 and 28, pushing the August Fictionette Freebie to Wattpad and 4theWords, and getting caught up on the Artifacts, all by the end of the month.

My More Or Less Realistic Goal is exactly the same, just minus the Artifacts.

It's not so bad. I'm off to a good start already. This morning I went from blank page to full-length first draft on the fictionette for September 21. I might manage to get it out the door tomorrow. Then, if I can just do that two-day process all over again Thursday and Friday, the September 28 fictionette will go out on time. Follow it up with a weekend full of typing to see all overdue Artifacts in the mail Monday morning. It can be done!

If nothing else, a good percentage of it will get done, and I'll start October in a better place.

Back on the subject of roller derby... like I said, last week was rough. But on Sunday I got a couple reminders that, in the wider world, there is community and support and goodwill, and that there's still room for joy in the part of my brain where the skates are kept.

One of those reminders came as a more or less expected part of our afternoon plans. John and I took our laptops over to Vapor Distillery for a few hours of cocktails and writing (he's got his own heap of overdue writing project to contend with), and that's always a good time. Vapor Distillery makes very fine liquor. They mix an exceedingly tasty cocktail. And they're one of BCB's sponsors, so they are very generous to league members. Their generosity doesn't come in the form of a particular percentage discount. It's more sort of down to whatever the bartender feels like that day. Sometimes it's a couple bucks off the tab, or one of the afternoon's drinks free, or "hey, want to try our specialty shot? I'll do you one on the house, see how you like it." Sometimes it's more. On one memorable occasion, it was "put that back in your wallet, we've got you tonight. Yes, all of it. We're your sponsor and we love you and we're heartbroken that your practice space burned down."

Sunday's session, if I may be vague, fell somewhere in between the extremes. We were there some five hours and we drank rather a lot. We ordered Chinese food delivery so we could stay and work and drink some more. Meanwhile, the staff kibitzed with us about the football games they were watching and invited us to share their chips and dip. It was cozy. It felt like a form of self-care.

The other positive derby-related thing was completely out of the blue. That morning we went out to brunch, me and John and a friend. When the food arrived, the server said, "Your bill is taken care of, by the way, compliments of a fan of Fleur de Beast." My jaw dropped. "Seriously? Um... do I get to meet this fan and tell them thank you? Or are they a secret fan?" The server said he'd find out. As it happened, the mystery fan was shy and declined closer interaction, but they reiterated their compliments. I could only ask the server to pass along my gratitude.

And that was the occurrence that inspired this tweet, in case you saw it and were wondering.

things return to normal, for fairly decent values of normal
Tue 2018-07-24 12:47:39 (single post)
  • 3,541 words (if poetry, lines) long

Yesterday I got to everything but the blogging, so today I'm starting with the blogging. This my occasional strategy for making sure I do all of the writing things--start with whatever didn't happen yesterday, to make sure it happens today. I am very clever that way. *pats self on head*

Among the things I did do yesterday was a solid editing pass on "Survival, After." It came back from Shimmer with rejection in hand; I'm getting it ready for its next outing. Mainly I just need it to be about 350 words shorter, so I'm going over the manuscript with a Scalpel of -10% (two-handed weapon, imbued with curse: Perfectionist). But yesterday's pass also uncovered a lot of typos, cut-and-paste artifacts, and gerunds that ought to have been changed to simple present tense when the sentence got restructured. And vice versa. All of which were there on the story's last outing. So Much Embarrassment. This is the sort of thing that happens when it's a rush job to squeak it in under deadline. Go forth and do not likewise.

Anyway, I hope to finish this edit today so I can resubmit the story.

I'm back in Boulder now, back to the normal weekly schedule of writing and roller derby. There's still a touch of travel journaling for me to wrap up. Here it goes:


Thursday, July 19, 2018: I get out of town. My timing sucks.

Travel anxiety got me out of bed early, which meant plenty of time for a shower, laundry, packing, and last-minute printouts. I'd gotten as far as the shower and was starting on the laundry when Dad got up from the computer and shared the bad news: One of his oldest friends--the one whose garden had produced the tomatoes we had in yesterday's sauce piquante and also the cucumbers and squash we used in the kimchi, had just died that morning. He'd been less than two weeks out from receiving an artificial heart, but his all-natural original just wasn't able to wait that long despite all the day-to-day medical support he was receiving. Dad had volunteered to email mutual friends, seeing as how his friend's widow was obviously not in a space where she could handle that right now. I'm not sure really how able Dad was to handle it, but he muddled through.

So that was deeply sad. And it seemed like adding insult to injury that it happened the same morning I was leaving town, so that I was abandoning Dad right when he'd suffered an unexpected additional blow. But we made space in that morning's itinerary for extra hugs and a few stories about Dad's friend.

I headed out about two hours in advance of my train, leaving myself time to top up the rental car's fuel tank, return the rental car, and walk from the Hertz office to the train station. I could have had them shuttle me over, but if I had, I couldn't have stopped at Cochon Butcher for a sandwich and beer to go. Now, the smart plan would have been to ask Hertz to hold my luggage, walked down to Cochon for to-go, walk back to Hertz, then let them shuttle me down. Because after Cochon there were about six very long blocks to walk, and six blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot. Because I was not as smart as I could be, I arrived at the train station a lot sweatier and dehydrated than I might have. But my beer was refreshing and the sandwich was worth waiting for.

There was wifi on the City of New Orleans. I made a good-faith effort to get the Friday Fictionette done while I was still able to upload it; nevertheless, it would not go up until Saturday evening. It was "Mardel's Salamander" (ebook, audiobook), an irreverent romp through a fantasy future in which computer programming is magic and magic has consequences. I also got my Saturday morning AINC reading done later that night. Audacity's noise reduction filter worked astonishingly well; you could hardly tell from the finished MP3s that I was on a train. Given how well I could hear my next-door neighbor's phone call, though, I was probably not my next-door neighbor's favorite neighbor. I tried to keep my volume down, but you never know.

I could not possibly have been my next-door neighbor's least favorite neighbor. That prize had to go to the room across the aisle from me in which two pre-teen boys were roundly enjoying their mobile sleepover. They boarded the train at, I think, Jackson, Mississippi, and the shrieking, squealing, shouting, and roughhousing began almost immediately. Their parental units were just down the hall and sometimes poked heads in to adjudicate some point of sibling rivalry (not sure they actually were brothers, but you see what I mean), but never, so far as I could tell, to tell them KEEP YOUR VOICES DOWN AND STOP USING THE HALLWAY AND SLEEPER DOOR AS YOUR PERSONAL PLAYGROUND. Thankfully they fell asleep early and didn't rise until late. And I actually slept pretty well that night.


Friday, July 20, 2018: A little work, a little play, and once again we're on our way.

We got into Chicago Union Station more or less on time. I made my way to the sleeper lounge and staked out a spot at the workstation counter downstairs. Here I could sit at an actual desk with my computer and work or play comfortably. Also I did not have to listen to the ubiquitous televisions because here they were silent; if you wanted to listen, you connected your smart phone to a particular "Hearing Hotspot" wifi network and downloaded an app. That was useful intel. The official Amtrak Wifi network wouldn't let me connect to game servers, but the Hearing Hotspot did. So after I uploaded that day's blog post I got to play Spiral Knights until it was time to board my train.

The rest of the ride was much like the previous leg of the journey, only minus the disruptive pre-teen boy sleepover element. And no wifi, of course. I continued work on the fictionette, cleaned out my email spam folder, solved jigsaw sudoku, and read ebooks. I also even got a small amount of physical conditioning to make up for spending the whole day on my butt and Saturday's crossfit (which I would because tired). See, there are these vertical bars in the bathrooms for you to hold onto when the ride gets bumpy, and it's possible to use them for a sort of assisted squat/pull-up exercise, and then do a set of ten each time one is obliged to visit the facilities.

So things were productive and peaceful. And on Saturday morning I woke up in Colorado.

The end.


Food talley for the remainder of the trip:

  • 2018-07-19, 12:00 - Pork belly sandwich with mint and cucumber on white bread (Cochon Butcher)
  • A bunch of Amtrak meals that were adequate or even tasty but not particularly worth reporting
in which real derby hits happen and kimchi gets assembled
Thu 2018-07-19 14:16:49 (single post)

Departure day dawns. It has been a morning of laundry and leftovers and last-minute printing out of things. My right hand is dyed orange from having packed up a sampling of Monday's kimchi to take home (insert "caught red-handed" jokes HERE). I've gotten my exercise walking from the Hertz rental office along Andrew Higgins Boulevard/Howard Avenue to the train station, and I've had a fantastic lunch thanks to one more visit to Cochon Butcher.

And now I'm relaxing aboard the train that'll leave New Orleans in about 20 minutes. Guess it's as good a time as any to continue the travel journal.


Sunday, July 15, 2018: When we tire of hitting pedestrians with fat-bats, we hit each other for reals

Woke up, as planned, at stupid o'clock. Got all the stuffs packed and ready. Walked out the door in search of the nearest Blue Bike hub, which I found without any trouble at St. Claude and Elysian Fields. Checked out a bike by means of the computerized interface in back, and off I went.

I hope that I will never not get that surge of delight as I pedal up the street of "WHEEEEEEE I'M BIKING! YAY!" Skates are my wings, but bikes mean freedom. They open up all of the immediate environs the way a car, with its bigness and its need for gas and to follow one-way signs and find parking, does not. On a bike, I feel like I could go anywhere.

Where I went was Daisy Dukes, a 24-hour diner on Chartres just off Canal. I had the fried oyster half-size po-boy with a cup of the gumbo. Also a coffee and an orange juice. They were hopping-busy, but they quickly found me a high-top for one right in the back.

Once I was fed and rested, I re-rented the bike and pedaled over to Hertz for my rental car. It was a black Chevy Sonic and it did what it was supposed to. It got me back to the airBnB to pick up my stuff and then it got me down into to New Orleans East and the Big Easy Rollergirls warehouse in time for the post-ROTB Hangover Mashup.

It was a good game. The score stayed fairly close right up through to halftime, after which the gap began to widen as patterns established in the first half replicated themselves in the second. Far as I could tell, a good time was had by all, and I hope I'm not just saying that because my team, the Matadors, won.

Last time I got to participate in a post-ROTB Mashup, three years ago, I was decidedly a beginner. An advanced beginner, sure, and if you saw me playing with BCB's Bombshells you might even call me an intermediate-level skater; but in a group of people I'd never skated with before, all of them from other leagues and many of them outranking me in years and skill, I was a bit of a mess. I hoped to acquit myself somewhat better this year, and I think I did. I had some good hits and some great stops, I called a lot of plays, I braced when the wall rotated, and, in the second half, I performed some decently effective dedicated offense for my jammers right off the line that I do believe helped widen our score differential.

I love feeling like I know what I'm doing. It's still kind of a new feeling for me.

To be clear, the skill level across both rosters seemed to skew high. Even the gals who said things like, "I'm sorry, I don't really know what I'm doing" right before the whistle, they did just fine. Everything felt friendly; I'm told that some years you get a certain amount of revenge hits between people from rival leagues, but there was none of that going on that I could see.

Dad came to watch, and I was super proud that he got to see how far I've come. He came to my last post-ROTB Mashup three years ago, and his main comment was an amused "You sure took a beating!" This year he sounded a little more taken aback: "There were some vicious hits out there!" I was all like, "I know. I gave some of 'em!"

(HAY HAY BCB YOU GUYZ I DID THE FOREWARD-FACING HIT THING IT WAS AWESOME. I missed a crossstep check though. My timing on that one's still kinda iffy.)

Dad's other comment was, "I don't know how you can do all that in this heat." He had a point--it was very hot in that warehouse. No surprise; it was very hot in New Orleans my whole trip. As I knelt by Dad's lawn chair to talk to him at halftime, sweat rolled down my face and torso in free-flowing rivulets. I went through a can and a half of coconut water, a couple cans of La Croix, and a whole lot of water from the Igloo cooler kindly situated between the two team benches. By the time we were done, we were all ready to throw ourselves in the pool.

The pool was at Pontchartrain Landing, the traditional site of the post-ROTB Mashup afterparty. Pontchartrain Landing is a marina and RV campground with a restaurant and bar. The pool is for residents only, but they have a running agreement with the Mashup hosts to let us use it. So we did.

For lunch, I had a "frozen alligator" daiquiri (mint and kahlua and chocolate chips) and the Salty Pig (pulled pork and fried oysters on top of toasted french bread rounds).

Eventually I got sun-dried enough to change clothes (I hadn't realized I'd need my own towel) and head home--home home, this time, the house in Metairie where I'd grown up. I let myself in and collapsed on the sofa. Dad vee-jayed his favorite live concert DVDs for us. That was about all I had enough energy left to do: be an appreciative audience. Also to eat. Dad had made chicken and andouille gumbo ("it has never come out so good!") and a neighbor brought us a bunch of boiled blue crabs (so, yes, I did get my boiled crabs fix after all).

It was a great start to my half-week at home.


Monday, July 16, 2018: The kimchi is now a tradition

My Mom lives at The Atrium, in the memory care unit. Every Monday and Wednesday, Dad picks her up and takes her for a ride in the truck. It doesn't much matter where. Just being in an automobile is enough to make her giggle. And that's about all she does anymore. She giggles, she taps her forehead slowly against the armrest, she repeats "One, two, three, four, five" (all she can remember or at least access of the rhyme that continues "Once I caught a fish alive") in a gruff and teeth-clenched voice, and she giggles some more. That was about 99.9% of her activity that I witnessed when I went along for the ride today.

I've done my mourning already. This is what is, and I'm resigned to it. But every time I visit, I'm a little shaken by how much farther the dementia has progressed. At least last visit she was able to respond to direct questions and would spontaneously say things to Dad like "I just want to be with you" and "You're so good to me."

It's strange and backwards and sad when the daughter moves into the role of comforting her father. Parents are mythically big and invulnerable and all-powerful. Even when we're all grown up, some of us sometimes still seek out their approval and appreciation. It's always a shock to see them helpless with illness or grief. It was a shock when I was eleven and newly diagnosed with leukemia and the two of them broke down crying in front of me, and it's a shock now to see Dad having to bear this burden of care and grief. Mostly he doesn't let it show. Sometimes, though, cracks appear.

Sometimes all I can do is just give him a big hug. At least I was there to give it.

On a lighter note, while we were out driving Mom around, we stopped at the Korean grocery on Transcontinental at Vets Blvd, and I went in for kimchi ingredients. I am simply not going to get away without making kimchi during a visit home. It's inevitable. It has become tradition. I'm not fighting it anymore. And I admit it's a kind of fun role reversal to be the one directing kitchen traffic and giving Dad food prep instructions.

We did this kimchi recipe (minus the oysters, which we did not have on hand) and also that one (but with yellow squash in addition to the cucumbers). We also had some sliced, seasoned squid that I'd picked up on a whim; it was a salty, spicy treat on fresh sliced tomatoes.

Every time I make kimchi with Dad, I am surprised all over again at how easy it is, and why don't I make some more the moment I get back to Boulder? And then I never do. It probably has to do with how far I have to drive to be sure of finding Asian chives. Like that's even necessary! They have a great flavor, but so do scallions and even leeks. So! No excuses this time.

Oh and hey--lunch was at Mr. Ed's. Not the one on Live Oak I used to bike to for muffulettas back in high school. They have multiple locations these days. This was their fish house and oyster bar on 21st Street, couple blocks over from Andrea's (which I did not have occasion to visit, more's the pity). They still serve that amazing turtle soup, but I didn't order it this time. I was distracted by oysters and other delicious things. That's kind of how most of this trip went, really: "Something blah-blah yadda-yadda OH HEY OYSTERS!"


Food Talley for Sunday and Monday:

  • 2018-07-15, 07:15 - fried oyster half po-boy, gumbo (Daisy Dukes French Quarter)
  • 2018-07-15, 14:00 - Salty Pig: fried oyster and pulled pork on french bread (Pontchartrain Landing)
  • 2018-07-15, 17:30 - chicken and andouille sausage gumbo with boiled blue crab appetizer (home: Dad's gumbo, a neighbor's seafood acquisition)
  • 2018-07-16, 12:15 - oysters rockefeller and bienville, softshell crab almondine with Meunière sauce (Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House)
  • 2018-07-16, 18:00 - fresh sliced tomatoes dressed with Korean seasoned squid (home: tomatoes from Dad's friend's garden, squid from Oriental Market)

What? No. The kimchi has not been eaten yet at this time. We're letting it ferment overnight. And the squash and cucumber are busy mingling with the seasonings in the fridge. Don't worry, we'll be tasting it tomorrow.

email