“Beginning to write, you discover what you have to write about.”
Kit Reed

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from Pixabay.com.
this fictionette is on time, unreasonably optimistic, and also obsessed with neckwear (and i am 41)
Sat 2017-04-29 00:44:07 (single post)
  • 1,122 wds. long

Real quick: The Friday Fictionette for April 28 is out; it's called "The Ties that Bind (ebook, audiobook)." The title is a pun. It could as well have been "The (Neck)ties that Bind." Geddit? Geddit? HA ha ha ha ha... Ok then.

Work on next week's offering starts bright and early tomorrow because I'll have to get it done by Thursday morning. Thursday afternoon I board a plane for Eugene, Oregon, and on Friday I skate. So next week I'll have to do a much better job of incorporating the New! More productive! Routine! than I did this week.

This week... hrm. Well, Tuesday was awesome, as you know. Wednesday was less awesome because it required several errands around which I was less able to assemble my working day than I had expected. Also Wednesday night John and I went out for a belated celebration of my birthday. This involved fantastically delicious Japanese food and spirits at Izakaya Amu. Also a trip to the bookstore. Also ice cream. AND MORE.

And then I don't know what happened to Thursday. THURSDAY DIDN'T EXIST. Well, I thought it would be safe to just read one chapter of Yoon Ha Lee's Ninefox Gambit, a finalist for this year's Hugo award for best novel. The first few chapters were a lot to digest. I had to read them slowly, sometimes out loud, to make sure I was keeping up with all the eye-popping paradigm shifting concepts being thrown at me by an author who clearly trusted his readers to Keep Up. So I figured it would be easy to stop at one chapter Thursday morning. Except--surprise!--I had reached the tipping point beyond which the book became IMPOSSIBLE TO PUT DOWN. So. That's where Thursday went.

And then, Gods help me, I started rereading it this morning. (It's a book that seriously rewards a reread. There's so much just on the first five pages where you'll go "Ohhhh, now I see what you did there...")

Can you believe I still haven't even gotten around to the short story revision and re-submission? That I was so excited about?!

Well. Next week is a new week. A short week, what with the Big O Tournament, like I said, but, a new week nevertheless. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

The Friday Fictionette for March 10 is ''Containment Breach'' and I hope it will be the last late Fictionette for a while. But you have heard that before.
service to resume following lengthy explanations
Tue 2017-03-14 23:52:52 (single post)
  • 1,244 wds. long

OK, so, here's the deal. I am one day into Operation Make Writing Daily Again, and I expect Day Two will actually be Thursday, not tomorrow. Which is not exactly daily, but it's a start.

Mild though it was, the knee sprain really jacked up my weekly round. It inserted a bunch of extra appointments into my life and subtracted a lot of energy. When it healed enough that I could return to roller derby at full strength, even more energy went down the drain because "full strength" is a misnomer. I mean, yeah, I get to do all the derby things, I'm not sitting out of any practice activities anymore and I'm fully participating in scrimmage, I'm going to be in a bout on March 25 and another on April 8--but the energy I'm used to having at my disposal simply isn't there yet.

There's a lot of factors. The injury happened very early in the season, so I missed out on the portion of our season-long schedule that was specifically devoted to building skates back up to competition levels of intensity. Then of course six weeks out of the game means a lot of strength and endurance still needs to be rebuilt. And then there's just the bare fact that roller derby is a contact sport, and it requires a high tolerance for blunt force trauma, both when you take it and then in the following days when you heal up from it. I seem to have temporarily misplaced the knack of bouncing back from a rough, bruising scrimmage and getting up in time for work the next morning.

Then there's the embarrassing fact that I took a rather big bruise near the tailbone about a week and a half ago (don't fall over backwards, kids, I do not recommend it). Now there's this knobbly lump of painful tissue where I'm used to having built-in seat cushions. Worse still, I keep falling on it or bouncing it off of other skaters (or having other skaters bounce off of it, depending on who initiated contact) at every. Single. practice. So that might be something that's sapping my ability to rebound.

(It was fairly OK tonight! I only fell on it once and I didn't even yell. I maybe said "Ow" when I tried to stop a jammer with that part of my butt, but I didn't start bellowing in short pain-management bursts like I did at last week's scrimmage.)

OK, so, excuses excuses wah. But here's the nasty follow-on effect: Because of this energy deficit and the attendant sleep-cycle irregularities, I am now behind in all the things. Seriously, it's been two months since I managed to release a Fictionette on the Friday it's due, I've still got both January's and February's Fictionette Artifacts to type up and mail, as of this morning I was just barely keeping up with the bills and other financial accounting simply from inability to find time to sit down to the task, and I still need to gather and organize materials for taxes, federal and state, the filing of.

So that's why I can't just say, "Today I begin Writing Responsibly for a Full Workday Every Day!" Because I still have to catch up on all the things.

Here's how it goes:

  • Yesterday I published the patron-only editions of the Friday Fictionette for March 10 (ebook, audiobook).

  • Today I published the free excerpts of same (on Patreon, on Wattpad) as part of a solid morning shift including freewriting, work towards March 17's fictionette, and one typewritten page of an overdue Fictionette Artifact. I did not get an afternoon shift of writing; it seemed more important to Do The Books - tally bank accounts, file away credit card receipts and statements, empty my inbox down to the bottom and pay all the bills piled up therein, especially as all this is prerequisite for dealing with taxes (most of the tax forms were buried in the inbox). But that I got a solid morning shift in, with solid strides towards catching up on overdue stuff, is worth celebrating.

  • Tomorrow I may not get to the writing at all, because I will be putting my tax organizer together and also getting ready to check into a bed & breakfast in Longmont.

OK, that last one's unusual. Here's the deal. A whole bunch of people will arrive by plane starting tomorrow. Some will stay here in our house, some will stay nearby. All of them will be playing games at all lodging locations all weekend long. It's sort of a small, private reenactment of Gen Con between a close-knit group of long-distance-friends. I love them all, but in order to preserve my sleep, my schedule, and my sanity, I will need to vacate the premises. My original plan was to visit my parents for the weekend. But after the hit my athletic abilities took due to injury recovery, and given the big games coming up so soon, I couldn't bring myself to miss practice.

So instead I'll be staying at the Thompson House Inn for four nights. It's a bit of a splurge, but not as much as I feared--the rate they gave me is cheaper, despite the breakfasts being no doubt better, than most name-brand hotels we've used for derby travel over the past few years, even considering that those involved an event-discounted group rate. It'll be quiet, since it sounds like they're pretty empty this weekend (certainly a factor in the discounted rate they offered me). It'll be right in downtown Longmont, so no worse a commute to practice than usual. I have the option of popping home and being social for a bit. Also I think afternoon tea on Friday or Saturday will be a lovely reward for getting my writing done.

I'm very excited about this! I've wanted to stay at, or at least investigate staying, at the Thompson House Inn since the first time that me and John and a good friend of ours dressed up to have tea there some ten years ago or more. Now I get to do it. I hadn't even thought about the possibility, honestly. But yesterday I parked the Volt to charge its battery at the St. Vrain Community Hub, and the B&B was right across the street. What the hell, I thought. Might as well walk on over and ask after rates and availability. They're probably booked and too expensive, but it's worth a try.

I told the proprietor I was a writer, and that getting up early for breakfast each morning would ensure I got right to work. She said, "Great! We'll make sure to put you in a room with a desk."

So. Awesome. But before 3:30 tomorrow I need to do laundry, pack, organize my tax documents, do the Wednesday volunteer reading, and attempt some pre-guest housework. This is why I anticipate Day Two of the New Daily Writing Initiative won't be until Thursday.

And now you know.

“Spiders Web in hedge” by Micolo J is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Click through to fictionette excerpt to find link to original photo.
good news to report from the actually writing front
Mon 2017-02-27 23:58:34 (single post)

It was a good weekend.

For one thing, I got the Friday Fictionette out only one day late. (That seems to be about as good as it gets, these past months.) "The Witch's Stories" (ebook, audiobook) is sort of a roundabout way of saying wherever you go, there you are, while reiterating that you still can go wherever. Really wherever. I drafted some of it at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, whose hospitality (and tea) is unparalleled.

(I began drafting this post at Conor O'Neill's, which ditto, only for "tea" substitute "beer and hearty pub grub". On a slow Monday night, it's nice to tuck myself into the table on the stage behind the stage-right big screen TV, and no one knows you're there. MAH WRITING NOOK, I HAS IT. Bonus if I get one of the EV charging spots behind the Boulder Country Commissioners office, which is available to all EV drivers outside of regular business hours.)

For another (writing) thing, I met with my brand new writing group. Which is, in a way, a freshly revived writing group, as it's currently all made up of people I met at NaNoWriMo write-ins, back in the day. We had dinner, shared works in progress, and enjoyed some designated writing time, all in the space of two hours. A+ would meet again. And will, if all goes well--we set a date for March.

I have sorely missed being in a face-to-face writing group. Oh, there's Codex, of course, but the face-to-face thing is important. I've missed having real-time conversations about writing. I've missed exchanging manuscript critiques with a group who have similar writing interests, similar writing goals, and similar writing skills to mine. I've missed having a writer's social life.

Heck, I've missed having a social life outside of roller derby. My derby peeps are awesome, but they are a large and vibrant league who not only skate together but also hang out together, host and attend events together, and fill up each other's Facebook timelines. And of course my husband coaches in the league, so derby concerns easily creep into family life as well. (The post-scrimmage discussions with Papa Whiskey can go right up to two in the morning.) So it's very easy for roller derby to consume all my available hours and social capital if I don't make deliberate efforts toward other endeavors.

One of my unstated New Year's Resolutions was to make a deliberate effort toward the writing part of my social life--to reach out to writing friends and see if we can't come together to talk shop or more. So I finally got around to emailing one of my old NaNoWriMo friends (sorry it took so long, Julie!) and, meanwhile, a couple other old NaNoWriMo friends who happen to have become derby friends in the meantime moseyed over and said "Hey, remember that writing thing...?"

I am feeling so energized about it. Also there is now pressure to dive back into my short story revision queue, or to start drafting the novel-in-planning, so that I'll have something I can share with the group. (I have already shared out copies of "Stand By for Your Assignment", but I need to work on another thing while I wait for feedback on that. Also I need to write up my thoughts on the stuff they shared with me. WHICH WAS SO GOOD, Y'ALL, why isn't MORE of those stories finished so I can read them SOONEST?!)

Meanwhile, there was today. Today I got a heroic amount of stuff done, which included hotel reservations and messages left with certain offices and dishes done, and which culminated with crashing my Homeowners' Association's board meeting since it was conveniently scheduled for a Monday. (The board was very inviting and receptive to my suggestions, but I may have just bought myself a new role on a soon-to-be-instigated committee to investigate the installation of a community EV charging station.) Also my daily writting gotta-dos. I was so good, y'all! So I rewarded myself with dinner anna beer an' YPP at Conor O'Neill's (hence the partial drafting of this post there--but only partially, because the EV charging station I was parked at had a posted limit of 4 hours).

In the course of the evening I was reminded that I also have a social life centered around Puzzle Pirates; my crew and flag on the Cerulean Ocean are very active, and they're always glad to see me when I log on. Which they notice I don't do nearly as frequently as I might. I believe the exact words were, "We're just happy to to see ye when ye can make it." Awwww. I suppose I should make it more often, then.

The fruits of my non-writing labors
Cover art features original photography by author, who can't bear to throw away those tokens despite the video arcade that issued them closing down more than a decade ago.
when writing time turns into time invested toward making the future work better
Tue 2017-02-14 23:52:15 (single post)
  • 1,035 wds. long

Ahoy the actually writing blog! This will be a blog post that is actually about writing. Ok, and about other stuff too, but--writing! Yayyyy.

Friday Fictionettes: So the one for February 10 finally went up late Monday night, and I'm really, really hoping it's going to be the last late edition for a while. It's called "The Gold Drug" (ebook, audiobook), and it's about dragons and dragon-slaying knights and also how you should Just Say No. Cue the voices of Macgruff the Crime Dog, Nancy Reagan, and that voice-over that, while the camera zooms in on an egg frying in oil, intones, "Any questions?" But the wyrmlets never do listen until it's too late. It's enough to break a mama dragon's heart.

I didn't get much writing done today, but what little I did was a solid session on the February 17 release. It will be about... well, take Warehouse 13 but make it a pawn shop. There you go.

Here's the thing: It has been impossible to even hope for a full five-hour writing workday since I sprained my knee. Like I said, I'm still going to all my roller derby practices and Cafe of Life appointments; I'm also now going to twice weekly phsyical therapy appointments too. And the occasional orthopedist/sports medicine follow-up (my four-week check-in is tomorrow). And then there's roller derby events like the triple-header this past weekend and the New Recruit Nights this week. And unexpected naps because I still seem to have only a portion of the energy I count on having in a day. (It's getting better, though!) The only entirely unscheduled day is sometimes Friday, which falls apart under the pressure of "Ooh, an unscheduled day! Do ALL the writing OR ELSE YOU SUCK." (I'm sure I've mentioned before what a jerk my brain is, right? Well.)

So instead I'm just focusing on whatever needs to get done with the most urgency, and taking it from there. Today, that meant a short but solid session toward not being late with the fictionette this Friday.

I honestly thought I'd get more done. I had the time. I even had a sudden surge of energy! Which went toward... improving my living space and fixing things which were broken. Which, honestly, isn't time spent; it's time invested. It's so much easier to get work done when things are less cluttered, more pleasant to look at, and fully functioning. Even when the improvement is to something I don't necessarily interact with every day, but have merely been frustrated with now and again, knowing that it's been improved makes my brain a more pleasant place to be. So I went into the "distraction" with my eyes open. Sure, I thought, I might not get the writing done that I meant to, but I'm going to feel happier and healthier going forward.

Here's a short, non-exhausted list of things that got fixed or uncluttered or otherwise improved:

  • Restored my laptop's ability to send sound to the TV via HDMI, such that I can once again VJ Steven Universe marathons. Or whatever I want. This required rolling back the Intel HD Graphics 5500 driver on my laptop. The "Windows 10 Anniversary Edition" version that installed itself on Jan. 25 can take a flying leap from the nearest high-dive into a sewer, by the way.

  • Unpacked all my vinyl LPs and 45s (and accompanying concert program books, because apparently these go together) onto a freshly cleared shelf below the CDs. Recycled the now-empty boxes.

  • Unpacked the Ion USB turntable onto the top shelf above my desk so it can easily be plugged into my laptop. Stowed the box in the storage closet, along with a few other random objects I've been meaning to shlep down there for a while.

  • Digitized one of my 45s just to celebrate. (The Tubes, "She's a Beauty," 1983, in case you're wondering.)

  • Rearranged my CDs into four columns on a single double-tall shelf space. Placed a cardboard sheet under each column so I can slide an individual stack forward for ease of access. I am a genius.

  • Hung up five things that have been waiting to go back on the walls since we moved into this place back in April 2015. This represents a solid baby step toward emptying the box of wall-hangings that's been sitting in our bedroom since that time.

Now my office and the living room are both less cluttered, and I have the ability to play records in the office. Also it's easier to get to all my CDs now. Also there are pretty things on the walls! So. A sacrifice of potential writing time, but well worth it, I think.

Also, I'm still not on skates yet, but today at roller derby practice I did every single off-skates thing along with my team. Pre-practice warm-ups. Strength training hell. Post-practice yoga. Because it's exciting to be that physically capable again, and because I need to get those muscles back ASAP thank you. This is part of fixing what's broke and creating a happier, healthier future!

My roller derby team is totally my Valentine, y'all. <3 <3 <3

Cover art incorporates public domain photography sourced from PublicDomainPictures.net
but there really should have been room in my schedule for this sort of thing in general
Tue 2017-01-24 00:53:40 (single post)
  • 955 wds. long

OK so hi again after two weeks of radio silence. Let's skip the part where I whine about being embarrassed and ashamed and not knowing where to put my face. Let's just take that as read. Instead, let's skip ahead to the moral of the story, just put that right in the lede for a change: Do the shit you gotta do today because you never know when you'll be unable to do the shit tomorrow.

It's not entirely fair, as morals go--sometimes you can't do the shit because you have to do other shit, right? Like, catching up on a very belated task. Or catching up on your sleep so you can function. So maybe it's not a moral. Maybe it's more of a strategy, OK, a strategy that doesn't judge you and doesn't say anything about your worth and worthiness and virtue, sure, but a strategy, nevertheless, that takes into consideration how the world works. And I should know by now how the world works.

So. For instance. Let's say I take an entire Tuesday off work--just decided writing will not get done that day--because I have a chance to spend some much-needed, now-or-never time with a dear friend. Well, the smart thing to do would have been to do the writing on Monday because of that. Right? I knew that Tuesday was coming. I'd planned on that Tuesday for the better part of the previous week. I had ample warning time is what I'm saying.

(And it was a fantastic Tuesday. Me and one of my very bestest derby friends went derby shopping, and we had a long talkative lunch over excellent pizza, and we wound the afternoon up with an hour or two of a Steven Universe marathon. I am not complaining about Tuesday. Tuesday was the good part of last week. Please, let us have more Tuesdays like that soonest.)

Then there's the stuff that gives no warning other than this is how the world works, haven't you been paying attention? Like, after my awesome Tuesday-with-friend, I went to what should have been an awesome Tuesday evening travel team practice featuring a renowned guest skater teaching us All The Things. Looking forward to it all day, right? Could not have planned on wiping out during warm-ups and spraining my Gods-damned MCL. I mean, yes, I am cognizant of the phrase "able-bodied" having a "temporary" attached because we are frail mortal beings and time is passing, and also we play a contact sport; this concept actually came up during our long conversation over pizza, OK, but proving the concept was nevertheless not specifically on my schedule.

So I'm not skating right now. I won't be skating for, at a guess, some four weeks from the date of the injury. I definitely won't be skating in our February triple-header. (Which isn't to say I won't be there in some capacity, nor that you shouldn't come out and watch it. You should totally come out and watch it. Depending on what support role I do play at the event, I might be able to be your derby buddy. If not, we will find you a derby buddy.)

This has not exactly freed up extra time in my week. I'm still attending derby practice. I don't have to be skating to absorb skills coaching and strategy, and some of the off-skates conditioning I can participate in. I can be a non-skating official at scrimmage. On top of that, I now have physical therapy twice a week, physical therapy homework, a follow-up orthopedic appointment, and a new twice-weekly upper-body workout to keep from falling too much behind my team in metabolics conditioning.

And that's before we get into how very exhausted I am all the time. It's like my body is shorting my usual energy allotment in order to channel more energy toward healing. That's probably exactly what it's doing. And although I can walk and drive and otherwise get around enough to do regular day-to-day stuff, it takes so much more out of me than I realize until I'm back home and drooping with fatigue.

I know. I'm whining a lot for someone whose injury is pretty damn minor. I mean, nothing's torn (that we can tell so far), no one has even recommended an MRI, surgery definitely isn't on the menu. I'm staying exceptionally active, independent, and productive (aside from the writing). "When are you going to start acting injured?" John asked me a few days ago. I said, "I am acting injured. I'm not skating, am I?" as I proceeded to take out the recyclables.

But that's the thing. It is a minor injury. I would not have thought it would impact my energy levels this much. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I'm surprised, and I feel flat-out betrayed by my body. And all I did was an effin' plow-stop! It should not have wrecked me!

Anyway.

I finally got the January 13 Friday Fictionette out today. About time. It's called "The Sandpit Oracle" (ebook, audiobook), and, like other fictionettes featuring an oracle, it is told in the second person. I am not apologizing for this.

I hope to get the one for January 20 (a bar-story retelling of Monday and Tuesday) done in the next couple days so I can scramble back onto a proper schedule in time to release the one for January 27 (I have no idea what it'll be about, that's how far behind I am) on January 27, for a wonder.

Also I have people I still need to mail fruitcake too. Good thing brandy is such a good preservative.

new construction and reconstruction, neither being hardly done yet
Tue 2016-12-27 23:54:35 (single post)

I would like to be able to report a full day of working on all my writing tasks, including the novel-still-in-planning, but alas, today was almost entirely taken up by household chores and administrative duties. And, as usual, nothing constructive (except for this blog post) is getting done post-derby. Doesn't matter that "derby" right now means construction labor rather than skating; it's still physical work that turns my brain to mush.

The floor is coming along nicely, though. It's very exciting. A few small sections of the final floor are done, maybe an eighth of the total surface. I got to walk on it. I got to help haul pieces of plywood flooring into the work area so they would be in reach of the work crew nailing them down. I also got to pound nails into joists, which was immensely satisfying (except when the nails bent, the bastids). Spent time washing slabs of sport-court, too--well, I wasn't actually wielding the power washer, but I was part of the assembly line. I was schlepping slabs of sport-court to and from the wash stall, turning slabs of sport-court around, and picking bits of shredded plastic ground cover canvas out of the bottom of the sport-court tiles. In any case, we closed down the washing station when we emptied off the current pallet of sport court; and we washed the pallet, too. I am so excited for our new floor, you have no idea. (Unless you're one of my league-mates reading this now. In which case you have every idea.)

We're hoping to skate on it next week, but not expecting to be able to. It depends entirely upon the work crews we can muster between now and then. Tonight's work crew seemed huge. Hopefully that will continue.

Tomorrow doesn't bode well for writing, either. I get to take the Volt all over town on errands. The first of those is getting the car registered and license-plated. Also I'm to put gas in and charge the battery. And then there's chiro and groceries and who knows what else I'll remember I have to do. Then maybe I'll go skating at the Wagon Wheel, if the Wednesday night session is on. I miss skating. No floor means no practice means no skating. If I do not go to the Wagon Wheel, I'll probably just go outside, since the weather's supposed to stay sunny and clear and moderately above freezing. MUST SKATE.

Maybe I'll get in a little time on the novel while the car charges, who knows.

As for last night...

Woah-kay, emotionally charged blogging starts here. After last night's post, you knew it was coming. Stop reading now, or continue with a full understanding of what you're in for.

Anyway. Last night, after I published that blog post, I got bowled over by Manhattan-sized APPREHENSION and DREAD. I couldn't quite parse it. I didn't even want to look at it head-on, let alone try to understand it. I told myself, hey, what are you afraid of? Pretty much none of your immediate family are online beyond that necessary to forward urban myths and tasteless jokes to everyone else in the family. The only people reading this blog tend to be either school friends or writing friends or derby friends. Or some combination of the above. Or John's sister, or his mother, both of whom are A-plus phenomenal people. What I'm saying is, this blog's audience is made up of at least 99.8% people sympathetic to its author. It is safe to tell stories here about Why Niki Grew Up Dreading Family Gatherings.

But the APPREHENSION and DREAD weren't susceptible to this logic. And they were very specifically the APPREHENSION and DREAD that accompany GUILT. Put them in words, they go like this: "I done wrong. I gonna get punished. I been bad."

When I finally figured it out, I nearly laughed out loud, it was so damn classic. it was because I'd actually used the "a" word--abuse--to describe a long-running family interaction, and I'd done it in a publicly viewable space. I had outed a family dynamic as abusive. What a betrayal! What disloyalty! What an absolutely stereotypic taboo to defy. That's the common rule most abused children learn: this stays in the family. You don't tell people. You don't shatter the illusion that we are a healthy, happy family. That's the rule, and I have finally, unambiguously, broken it. Of course I was a mess of GUILT and APPREHENSION and DREAD.

(To be clear, in many ways, we were a healthy, happy family. But in many ways, we were not. I don't identify with the phrase "abused child," partially because it seems too absolute, too much one thing without allowance for anything else, and partially because--though I know this shouldn't be a factor--so many people had it so much worse, I don't want to dilute the term. Still and all, I absolutely identify some of how I was treated as emotional abuse. I can even understand where some of it came from! I can just about work out the rationale. It doesn't excuse the abuse, but it contextualizes it. It helps me square the circle of "loving, supporting family" with "abuse and abuse enablers." People are complex. They are capable of heartbreaking kindness and jaw-dropping cruelty. They are capable of carrying both off simultaneously.)

Weirdly, when I woke up this morning, most of that roil of emotion was gone. I felt pretty good, actually. Abusive Asshole Uncle has not been in my head at all today. If anything, the memories involving him are hanging out in the middle distance, easy to spot if I look for them, easy to ignore if I don't. That's restful.

I'm very likely not done blogging about it. Not only is it dramatically, demonstrably freeing to be able to concretely describe it all in words, and words that people other than me can see (when I break a taboo, I mean to break it hard), but also it's probably kind of important for me as a writer. Authors draw on their experiences when they write; I need to be clear what my experiences are. I need to be able to own my experiences and put them into words. I need to be able to put them into my words, look at them through my own lens, rather than continuing to tell myself the same stories the rest of the family told me and told themselves. I gotta know my own story if I'm gonna write new stories.

So don't be surprised if more stories about Abusive Asshole Uncle And His Team of Enablers show up here in the coming days. 'Cause they will. Where possible I'll try to put it after the writing-related stuff, make it easy for y'all to skip if you'd rather. But it's not always gonna be easily separable, because writing. Hope you'll understand. Anyway, you've been warned.

Cover art incorporates public domain images from Pixabay.com.
Cover art incorporates tarot image via Wikipedia.org (public domain, U.S.)
my brain is a jerk: christmas reminiscing
Mon 2016-12-26 23:45:23 (single post)
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  • 1,054 wds. long

All right. Hi! New week. So: Friday Fictionettes for the past two Fridays were "Kill or Cure," which is about a symptomatic tree, and "The Miraculous Hide," which is sort of about Good King Wenceslas before he got to be all saint-like. I got 'em out both on time, more or less, but I never got around to announcing them here, so. There you go.

And now we are approaching the fifth Friday in a month, which means--woo-hoo!--I get a week off. Except I don't, because I still have to put together the Fictionette Artifacts for November and then do all the end-of-month stuff for December. And even if that were done, goodness knows I've got all the legacy catch-up work to do: backfilling the Wattpad excerpts, recording audiobook editions for the archives that don't have them yet, producing epub and mobi editions ditto. But it's cool. I don't have to do that and put together the next brand-new story-like object all at the same time, so things are vastly more doable than they could be.

So yesterday was Christmas. John and I did nothing special for it. We're more Winter Solstice types than Christmas types, which is to say, Pagan not Christian. Also our families are all multiple states away. So we did with Christmas the same thing we did with Thanksgiving: a whole lotta glorious nothing. We played on our computers and we cooked for each other.

Which right there puts it miles and miles beyond last Christmas in terms of enjoyability, i.e. I did not get into a shouting match with my bigoted, bullying, emotionally abusive uncle, and spend the rest of the evening sobbing myself sick. Yay?

Except I kept thinking about it. All my brain's idle cycles pointed right at it. I spent a self-indulgently huge number of hours just playing Puzzle Pirates all day long, which should have been uncomplicatedly fun, only it wasn't, because while my eyes and hands were busy with the mini-games, my brain kept re-running that shouting match and rewriting it and re-running the rewritten version and then revising that.

To be clear: My brain was not fixated on just one argument with my uncle. That shouting match catalyzed an epiphany about a lifetime of bullying at the hands of that uncle.

Wait. Wait up. Go fix yourself some coffee or something. Apparently I'm going to unload here.

Ready? Cool. Here we go.

Here's the thing. I think the reason he got so enraged when I called him on his hateful bullshit that Christmas afternoon is that no one else ever did. Everyone else in the family may grumble about him, but to his face they smile and reward him and tell him he's funny. Meanwhile, all my life, every Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter that he ruined for me, everyone told me I lacked a sense of humor. That's why I didn't find his bullying of me funny. And they told me it was my fault, the bullying; he wouldn't do it if I didn't give him such entertaining reactions. No one told him that there was anything wrong with a grown-ass man getting his jollies by verbally tormenting a little girl until she fucking lost it, and then laughing at her while her parents punished her for her unacceptable behavior. Everything he said, every word that came out of his mouth, was by definition golden, because it was coming out of his mouth.

Of course he hasn't changed a bit--why should he? He gets perfectly fine results as things stand; why should he do anything differently? And why wouldn't he be flabbergasted to the point of near-speechlessness that someone finally told him he was being a shit-head? If anyone ever tried to say it to him before, they sure as hell didn't make it stick.

I'm surprised it took me this long to come to that realization. I suppose I had some idea that, now that I was an adult myself, and not a powerless child, interactions would be better. And, well, to some extent, they are better. At age forty (well, thirty-nine at the time, but still) I'm not getting sent to my room or told to sit on the floor in the hallway and stare at the wall and think about what I've done. There is a different protocol for dealing with other adults than there is for dealing with children. And, being an adult, I'm a lot more capable now of putting my thoughts into words even while I'm furious, and of resisting my uncle's attempts to put me back in my place, the place he was comfortable with me inhabiting, the place that's entirely under his power, the place where I have to dance for his entertainment while the rest of the family laughs at his wit and my immaturity.

All of which added up to me being able to sit there and say, "That's some hateful, dehumanizing, transmisogynist bullshit you're spouting, not gonna pretend otherwise, I mean, you should be ashamed of yourself, and also you should grow the hell up, and, by the way, transwomen aren't existing at you just to spite you, and if you're tired of watching news stories about Caitlyn Jenner you can damn well pull up your big-boy paints, grab your big-boy TV remote, and change the fucking channel." And the worst he could do to me in response was sputter a bit and finally proclaim, "Don't get so fucking offended," like it was the last word on the matter (but it wasn't, because I could damn well spit back at him, "Then don't say such fucking offensive things, asshole," and walk out the room).

That's the worst he can do. But I can do so much worse to myself every day for the following year. I can relive that entire argument on a near-daily basis. I can also relive all the times he bullied me as a child, and I cried, and he laughed at me while I cried, and my parents told me I was defective for not enjoying it and/or morally weak for letting it get to me. That last shouting match doesn't exist on its own--it reconfigured my understanding of our interactions over my entire life.

I don't want to talk to him ever again. I don't want to see him ever again. But at the same time, I want to stand up in front of him and tell him, hey, you remember how you treated me while I was growing up? That wasn't even bullying. Bullying is between people of at least nominally equal standing. When a grown-ass man does it to a little girl, someone he has power over, and when he does it every time he sees her, from the time she's five to the time she's fifteen, that's straight up child abuse.

Wow. OK. So, that got real heavy real fast. Long story short: It's not that I fixate on 15 Minutes of Awful. It's that those 15 Minutes of Awful sort of recontextualized about 15 to 20 Years of Constant, Unremitting Awful. And that I'm liable to fixate on.

My fucking brain. My brain is a fucking jerk.

There's this fantastic Steven Universe episode, "Mindful Education," that kinda-sorta addresses the whole "I can't stop thinking about it, and it hurts, and I'm sick of hurting" thing. Rewatching it was soothing balm, but in a few hours the balm wears off. That's because the strategy of looking at the pain, understanding why it hurts, and being OK with the fact that it hurts, only goes so far. It's fantastic for surviving the painful thoughts, but it doesn't make them stop. And I can't spend another year going "Yes, I see that thought. Yes, it hurts. It's OK. I'm OK" on infinite repeat. I need to get my brain to stop running that damn program.

So here's what I did: I decided to actively fill my brain's idle cycles up with Other Narratives. I pulled up a blog I enjoy reading (one of several Steven Universe livebloggers, speaking of Steven Universe) and positioned it so I could read it while playing Puzzle Pirates. Then I pulled up some Mark Reads Discworld audio and listened to that while playing Puzzle Pirates.

The idea is, the longer I just sit there trying to play a particular video game while my brain keeps pushing the rewind-and-replay button on Worst Experiences Ever, the stronger grows the mental association between the two. It begins to feed itself: Playing the video game starts to cause the painful mental replay. But if I can associate the game strongly enough with something else, then playing the game will make me think of that something else--like, for instance, a gaggle of wizards arguing on a desert island, or the character development arcs of the Crystal Gems.

It's terrifying how easily programmable my brain is. The good news is, I can program it too. I just have to take, and keep taking, conscious action counter to the unwanted programming, until the unwanted programming has been thoroughly replaced my the preferred programming. That's all.

And in the meantime, well, I'm here.

Bike. Jog. Skate. OK.
well maybe more of a workout vacation
Tue 2016-10-04 23:22:30 (single post)

I've come to the last night of what has been an exceedingly active visit to the New Orleans area. It has not in any way been a working vacation, which, OK, I shouldn't have expected. But it has been an active one. Darn near athletic.

I've spent a lot of time with Dad, mostly to do with cooking, sometimes to do with housecleaning, often just watching TV and chatting. We went to the Tremé Fall Festival, then out for a beer at Dad's favorite bar. (Between beers while out and mixed drinks while home, I accuse Dad of trying to get me drunk. Which isn't to say he should stop, mind you.) We went grocery shopping several times. I've visited a couple times with my brother, once at the bar and once here at the house. Visited also with various people who dropped by. I've been up early every morning and asleep early every night, because that's what Mom and Dad do and I have an easily influenced sleep schedule.

But I've also been dropping off early every night because I am exhausted. And this is probably because I've been skating. And by skating, I mean a lot. I came here with the intention to skate all the trails, and by all the Gods, I have skated on the trails. Not all of them, but a healthy selection thereof. And every single full day of my stay.

It goes like this:

Saturday, October 2: Home to Bonnabel Boat Launch via streets and Lakefront Trail (0.8 miles)

Mom goes to mass every morning. Her routine these days has contracted to a small handful of set rituals, and that's one of them. She can't drive anymore (at least, not and reliably get where she's going), so Dad and their network of friends have arranged for a transport rota.

On Saturday AM, a friend of the family drove her there, and with that particular friend there is also a ritual: After mass, they drive over to the Bonnabel Boat Lanch to look at the waves and the sea gulls. Dad and I met them there, him by car and me by skates.

The Bonnabel Canal is a big landmark of my childhood. It flows right behind my neighborhood and into the lake; the Bonnabel Pumping Station sits where the one meets the other. If you cross the canal on any of the little bridges and head north on Bonnabel Boulevard you wind up at the boat launch. Since my childhood, and since Hurricane Katrina, there has been a lot of development on all of the above-named structures. The pumping station has a concrete storm shelter on concrete pillar stilts, three stories above the ground, so that never again will the pumping station lie inactive during a storm because of the engineers having been evacuated out of reach. The boat launch is cleaned up and green and built out, with lots of parking spaces for vehicles and a park with a children's playground and a fenced dog yard and a pier that's strong and new and surfaced with concrete. The bike path crosses the canal on a flat bridge behind the pumping station, so there's no need for pedestrians, bicyclists or skaters to detour through the neighborhoods as I used to have to do.

And the little cross street that I take from my house to the bike path access spur has been repaved since last time I was in town. That was a nice surprise. It was smooth and pleasant on my way up to the levee, and safe to descend to from the levee at speed. So I got to the boat launch about the same time as Dad's car arrived and only just a few minutes behind Mom and the family friend who was driving her, and got home before any of them did.

It was a nice easy start, sort of an appetizer. Other trips would be longer. Not heroic, not epic marathons, but certainly longer.

Sunday, October 3: Home to Lakeshore Drive, Picnic Shelter No. 1 via streets and Lakefront Trail (5.6 miles)

That bike path I was on Saturday, labeled by Google Maps as "Lakefront Trail" but referred to on other websites as "Linear Park," traces the entire length of Jefferson Parish along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain, never leaving sight of the water. As of 2014, its 10-mile length is entirely uninterrupted, to say nothing of the much shorter distance between the Bonnabel Canal and Old Hammond Highway. So it was without much difficulty that I rolled in at the door of Captain Sid's Seafood at 9:50 AM and asked for a dozen boiled blue crabs.

"They won't be ready until about 10:45," I was told. "Can you take another few laps around?"

So I continued on into Orleans Parish and over down Lakeshore Drive to watch the sailboats for a while. This was somewhat bumpier, as the streets aren't uniformly in as good condition as the trail, and the sidewalks along Lakeshore Drive are paved with red brick, but it was pleasant. Things smoothed out like a skating rink when I reached the park along the water. I remember being taken out to this park, which the grown-ups simply called "The Lakefront," to sit on the sea steps and drop crab nets in the water. Skating alongside those steps now, I reflected that, in case of a fall, roller derby gear will protect one from impact but not necessarily from a wetting (nor the undertow, which a friend's parents informed me would, should I fall in, promptly suck me under the stone steps to drown--that's hot spicy nightmare fuel if ever an 8-year-old heard some), and proceeded with caution in the area.

At 10:45 the crabs were ready for pick-up. The folks at Captain Sid's put them in a brown paper bag, I put that in a plastic kitchen garbage sack, and the whole thing went carefully upright in my Riedell gear pack. Dad and I ate the whole dozen practically in a single sitting. They were that good.

Monday, October 4: Covington to Abita Springs via the Tammany Trace (6.92 miles)

Plans could not have been more perfect, I thought. Lunch with a high school friend in Covington, skating the Trace into Abita Springs, then a beer at the Abita Brew Pub. The weather was good and the trailheads were each pretty much on the doorstep of what I wanted to do in their respective towns.

Only problem: A fair number of restaurants are closed on Monday. Including the ones I had planned my day around. I thought I'd done my homework, but apparently I missed some little details.

It wasn't a day-wrecker. It was just a disappointment. Dad had been talking up DiCristina's and I really wanted to try it. And not only have I wanted to visit the Abita Brew Pub since I first realized it existed, but I was holding that visit out to myself as a reward for all that good exercise on the trail. "I did it! I got here! Yay! ...Oh." I'll have to do it again next trip, and not on a Monday. Meanwhile, lunch wound up being at a deli that was even closer to the Covington trailhead, and the beers I enjoyed at Rosie's Tavern across the street from Abita were in fact Abita seasonals I'd never tried before. So that was fine.

The trail was just gorgeous. Skating it was its own reward. Just the portion that crosses Bogue Falaya I would happily skate back and forth on for hours. And the whole way the trail traveled on land, it was bordered by those same lush ribbons of varied plant life, narrow strips of something like swamp forest, that I've always loved staring at out the window of my parents' car on the way to visit northshore family. Dragonflies everywhere. Birds and bugs and things. And shade. Shade is important. Also there was a snoball stand where the Trace continues on after crossing Highway 190. There is nothing like skating along a scenic trail with a purple king cake flavored snoball in my hand. Unless it's skating along with a snoball of a different flavor, of course. (Purple is my least favorite color of king cake. It tastes like numerical red food dye. Should have had the wedding cake flavor, or the coffee-and-cream.)

I had my only real fall of my whole 5-day stay. It was on my way back to Covington, after--ironically--the bartender at Rosie's had said having my wheels on in the house was fine as long as I didn't fall. Well. I didn't fall there. Anyway, during much of the ride there and back I'd been practicing my transitions at speed, which is to say turning around to skate backwards then turning around to skate forwards without affecting my rate or vector of travel. That had been fine. But for some reason when I transitioned just one more time to get a better look at some asphalt splotches that seemed to form letters across the track, I went down backwards on my ass. Thankfully, nothing took damage, neither the laptop in my gearpack (snug against my back and cushioned away from the point of impact by my hoodie stuffed into the large compartment where my protective gear usually goes) nor the camera hanging off my wrist nor my phone tucked into the strap of my left elbow pad. I did not even rip my brand new Saints leggings. (I have brand new Saints leggings! I got them here.).

And then I drove back across the lake to the southshore, listening to podcasts the whole way.

Tuesday, October 5: Audubon Park to Oschner Hospital via the Mississippi River Trail (5.6 miles)

The Mississippi River Trail aspires to continue along the river all the way from Louisiana to Minnesota. This has not yet been accomplished, but some hefty segments are done and ready for travel. Among them is the 60-mile stretch along the east bank from New Orleans to Reserve, Louisiana. I skated the first half hour of that today--which is to say, a half hour out and a half hour back. That amount of time took me from my car in the Audubon Zoo parking lot (Google tells me I was where Aquarium Drive meets West Drive, where the River Drive one-way begins) onto the trail and back the way I'd come as far as Oschner Hospital on River Road.

For the first ten minutes, I seriously considered giving up, turning around, and just skating a lap around the golf course in the park. That trail has been recently paved and is said to be smooth as silk as it circles under the shade of the old oak trees. By contrast, the Mississippi River Trail is in full sun and starts out punishingly rough with no view whatsoever to speak of. But then it finally ascends to the top of the levee on smoother pavement. The view of the river is fantastic. Looking over the city, you get the feeling of being at the top of the world.

Unfortunately, the sun is very much a factor. Despite the trip being shorter than the day's before, and despite the two bottles of water consumed over the hour of travel, I was starting to get slighlty short of breath in that particularly asthmatic way that I associate with impending sunstroke by the time I returned to the car.

If I do that trail again, I'll skip the zoo parking lot and come in by way of one of the access spurs I spotted in Jefferson Parish, one at The River Center and one at Oschner. Just skip that awful bit of trail that's sandwiched between a chain link fence and a parade of what appeared to be industrial government facilities. And I won't forget my sunscreen next time.

So that leaves Wednesday. Wednesday I get on the train to start the two-day trip back to Colorado. I have my usual volunteer reading to do and parents who'll want to maximize our visiting time before I go, so I doubt I'm going to get a chance to skate more tomorrow. Besides, four days of trail skating in a row is plenty; I think my body needs a slight break. But I won't swear not to do any skating in Chicago on Thursday.

Cover art features original photography by the artist. The building is in Burlington, Iowa; the hand belongs to a random person in a crowd.
this fictionette fulfilled almost all expectations
Sat 2016-10-01 13:03:52 (single post)

The Friday Fictionette nominally for September 23, 2016 but functionally for September 30 has gone up. I put it up last night, but then I pretty much collapsed, so you get the blog post today. It's "Living It Up," and, as mentioned before, it's mostly a shameless hate-fic in reaction to one of my least favorite stories of recent years. (Because of the Puppying of the Hugos, I feel I should specify that nothing makes it onto my "least favorite stories" list if it didn't stand a chance of not being on that list in the first place. Otherwise the list would be unmanageably long.) But as I wrote it and had to give examples of the main character's boyfriend being a jerk, I wound up coloring him in with the broad brush I obtained as a small child being bullied by my older cousins and one particular uncle. The rest of the family had various enabling spins on the bullying; one of them was that I clearly had no sense of humor or else I'd find the bullying funny. So... that kind of informed the development of the antagonist of this fictionette.

Look, I never promised you subtlety in this exercise. You get an ebook and an audiobook version depending on your subscription tier, you get them four times a month, you get sentences and paragraphs that more or less make sense and add up to a story-like object, and you get a glimpse into my writing process whether you want it or not. You don't necessarily get literature.

I had a nice long day in Metairie after my nice long day on the train: rental car adventures, traffic on I-10 West, the last 15 minutes of game play (which is to say, the better part of an hour) of my high school's homecoming game--which they won by a comfortable margin and with several showy interceptions too--and then dinner courtesy of My Father the Cook. (Venison and green onion sausage with a side of garden-fresh okra? Yes please thank you any time!) Stayed up late talking with Dad and exchanging stand-up comedian recommendations--not the best of ideas, as it turns out; he didn't get Maria Bamford, and I'll be happy not to hear any more of Anthony Jeselnik pretty much ever. But we both partake of the geek/nerd/fan nature and want so much to share with each other the things we enjoy! In any case, we didn't part ways for the night until well past 9:00 PM. Generally I consider that downright early, but after all the day's activity and travel I was ready to drop.

Oh, right, predictions for Thursday. They were good! Everything happened as hope--including skating in Chicago! There was no rain falling when I got there, though it clearly had fallen (and was still falling in Naperville). I did indeed skate the Lakefront Trail to Navy Pier. The trail's paving is not the best for skates--it's very bumpy--but it goes all the way there. Then a very diligent security guard made me de-wheel myself on the pier itself. I met my friend for dinner at Giordanos by the Children's Museum and we had a far too short visit before he had to drive me back to the train station.

Once I got settled on the train, I spent some time trying to prepare "Stand By For Your Assignment" for submission. That story is giving me such trouble. I can't seem to make the words do what I want them to do. The story goes clunk, clunk, clunk. I think I need to stand back and give it more of an eagle's eye once-over, ask myself what I'm trying to do with the story overall, and only once I have the larger structure pointing in that direction will I be able to get any joy on a line-by-line level.

I'm terribly afraid I'm stuck in the perfection trap, though. The one where you never finish and you never move on because you can't seem to get it perfect. I keep telling myself, just let the story stand as a record of where your craft is now, so you can move on to where your craft is trying to go. But the story needs to be at least publishable before I let it go, right? In theory?

Anyway, that was Thursday night. Friday morning, instead of doing more work on "Stand By...," I played around with a new story idea inspired by an anecdote I overheard, told by one of the train staff (assistant conductor, maybe?) in the sightseer lounge. I'm not going to get this right, and I have no idea how true it is, but it began, "This town we're passing through here, Stanton, Iowa..." Seems there was a woman who traveled from France to the U.S., took a job as a nanny for some family somewhere, but turned out to be unsuited for the job, possibly due to mental illness, also possibly due to not having the proper immigration documents, and she just... ran away? Disappeared into the midwest, I guess, and wound up in Stanton, Iowa. And that's where the immigration officials finally caught up with her, months later. Or at least found out what became of her? I'm not sure; I just remember that the last thing the storyteller said, which seemed like a complete non sequitor, not to mention at right angles to reality, was, "I guess the feral cats got to her."

*Blink. Blink.* Feral cats? Did I mishear? I don't know, but that day's freewriting exercise had the writing prompt "The feral cats of Stanton, Iowa." (It may also have been influenced by having recently read "If You Were a Tiger, I'd Have to Wear White" by Maria Dahvana Headley.) It seems likely to turn into a real story, too. And that's good, because I need to stockpile submission-ready short stories this month--but that's another story which I shall tell at another time.

being the tragic comedy and comic tragedy of the death and resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2
Tue 2016-07-12 23:29:25 (single post)

Oh, my goodness, it's been a normal day at last. A normal day, with normal workday expectations, with the normal workday rituals, and with the normal battle between me and the short story currently under revision. (There are things I want said in the first scene, and there seems to be no good way to say them.) A normal Tuesday also with its normally scheduled roller derby beat-down because what doesn't kill us makes us strong. A normal day. Bliss.

So. Now that things have returned to normal, I will very briefly (Ha!) recount for you the tale of woe known as The Death and Resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2.

Here's the thing about a 20-year-old car: We knew quite well it needed replacing. We'd been talking about it all year. The problem is, we hadn't managed to find time to go car shopping, or even to think about what we might want in a new car. "After Boise," we kept saying to each other, referring to the last roller derby bout in a series of bouts each placed uncomfortably soon after the previous. "We'll have a little room to breathe after Boise."

We also knew quite well that, the car being 20 years old, it should get a check-up before we entrusted it with our trip to Salt Lake City. So on Thursday morning, June 23, I took it to the shop. The shop recommended some work be done. We did that work. The car was then proclaimed fit for the drive.

I am telling you this so that you will know that we did our due diligence.

On June 24, six hours into the eight-hour drive, 90 miles short of our destination, our transmission went out. Just died. By flooring the gas pedal, we managed to limp into the Pilot Travel Center in Evanston, Wyoming, exit 6 on I-80 west, at about 25 miles per hour and with our hazard lights blinking. We pulled into a parking space in a cloud of steam and a waterfall of bubbling-over coolant fluid. Things looked grim.

Thanks to the magic of Triple A Plus and the miracle of having made it just close enough, we were towed at no charge the whole rest of the way to our hotel. So at least we were there, more or less on time, and ready to participate in the Wasatch Roller Derby Great Salt Skate as planned. We'd be relying on our teammates' good graces and the remaining empty spaces in their cars to ferry us between the hotel and the venue, but our ability to skate or coach (depending on who you're talking about) at the event remained unimpaired.

The next day, the mechanic around the corner from the hotel (recommended to us glowingly by the Triple A agent) gave us the bad news. Why did the transmission go out? Because all the transmission fluid had leaked away. Why was there a leak in the transmission? Because the transmission was one of the few things remaining in that car that was actually still 20 years and 285,000 miles old. (The chassis is one of the few other things. The engine is not.) There was no sign of impact. It wasn't an accident. It was simple wear and tear--and nothing we could have expected our usual mechanic to have discovered, because it hadn't developed that leak until midway through our drive. It was just rotten luck and terrible, terrible timing. And our transmission, due no doubt to having been driven without fluid, fried its little self to a crisp. The only way that Saturn was riding again was with a new transmission--which the mechanic wasn't 100% certain he could source, it being for a car that not only was 20 years old but also whose manufacturer was no longer around to make parts for a Saturn SW2.

I got this news during half time of our first bout of the weekend. Imagine me geared up, phone at ear, rolling back and forth behind the short bank of spectator bleachers. Pacing. On roller skates. "Fleur? Is your head in the game?" Yes. Well. It will be.

John, that is to say Papa Whiskey, was in full-on coach mode, having just given the half-time pep talk when I got off the phone and told him what I'd learned. He put his arm around me and he said, "Whatever happens, we will figure this out, and we will handle it together." It was just what I needed to hear, and, weirdly, just the way I needed to hear it. A reminder that I wasn't alone. And that we weren't there alone. It wasn't just the Niki-and-John team, which is a pretty valiant team in its own right. The two of us had the rest of the BCB All Stars team with us, and we were part of that team, and just knowing that, I think, made both of us feel more capable. Indomitable. Up to whatever challenge life threw at us. Strong, Smart, Together. You hate for crisis to hit, but if it must, let it hit while you've got your roller derby team surrounding you.

We pause while the author composes herself. *ahem.*

So we had several decisions to make, some more urgent than others. The big one was, if the mechanic can source a replacement transmission, do we have them put it in? Into--I repeat--a 20-year-old car? The urgent decision was, how are we getting back to Boulder so that people can go to work on Monday? The answers transpiring on Saturday the 25th were "Maybe? Depending on the price?" and "Probably Niki will stay in SLC with her friend, and the rest of the carpool will find room in other carpools. We hope? And then maybe Niki will wish she had just gone home if it turns out the mechanic can't source a new transmission and/or we decide to abandon the vehicle? But at least she'll get a nice visit with her friend out of it?"

Then on Sunday morning we remembered that rental cars existed. The original carpool could go home Sunday afternoon/evening as planned, just in a 2016 Dodge rather than in a 1997 Saturn. Don't think we didn't notice the difference in the ride. (We were, in the course of things, reminded how expensive one-way out-of-state rentals can be, especially if you pick the car up at an airport but do not return it to an airport. What price peace of mind, right?) And I'd return to SLC alone if need be. So. We finished out the tournament, checked out of the hotel, and drove back to Boulder without incident.

That's Part 1 of the story.

Now, before I get to Part 2, I need to tell you this: I've retold this story several times, and very, very often, well-meaning friends will hear the bit about the transmission being fried and reflexively burst out, "No! A new transmission? No way. And it would cost how much? No. Not worth it. Get a new car. Stupid to put that kind of money into such an old car." And then they hear Part 2, and realize that they pretty much just called us, their friends, stupid. So it goes. Friends do that. They say unfortunate things to each other, they forgive each other, they move on. But, see, I really want to say this:

Everyone's got a right to make the best decision for themselves regarding the use of their particular resources, and, well, respect that, yeah?

Also, unfortunately, I kinda have Daddy Issues in this department. My Dad has many good qualities, don't get me wrong, but no parent is perfect, and, well, he authored a few of my most notable neuroses. Right now what I'm thinking of is the approach he took to Teaching Good Judgment. It goes like this: Any time young Niki had a decision to make, it was a test. Will Niki excercise good judgment? It was an easy test to evaluate. Either young Niki made exactly the decision her Dad would have made, in which case she had exercised good judgment, or she would make ANY OTHER DECISION which was by definition WRONG and STUPID and proof that she did not have good judgment and could not be trusted with responsibilities or privileges.

(Friends who know me well may also see the seeds of my own tendency to just assume that any plan I come up with is Obviously THE Most Logical Way to Do Things. I'm working on it. Sorry, friends.)

So you can see where I struggled with the decision. I knew very well what The Right Decision was. The Right Decision was to abandon the car and redirect the money that would have gone into the new transmission into the down payment on a new car. To do anything else would be WRONG and STUPID and proof that Niki Cannot Be Trusted With Money Or A Car.

The problem was... abandoning the car would leave John and I with no car. We can get by with no car, but not comfortably, and not for long. (For instance: During the week we had no car, there was a day I could not secure a ride to roller derby practice, so I biked it. It's possible! It also takes 45 minutes to an hour each way, there is no street lighting for almost the entire way, and a bike ride of that length requires an expenditure of physical energy that I'd rather save for roller derby practice.) And, remember, we had made no start on new-car-shopping yet, and new-car-decisions need to be made by people who can walk away from the table, not by people who are under the We Have No Car We Need A Car We Must Buy A Car NOW pressure. So we were really deciding between two different "wastes of money"--prolonging the life of the existing car so we could have time to make the right decision for ourselves on a new car later in the year (and enjoy having two cars for a little while), or pressuring ourselves into making a quite possibly poor decision on a replacement car NEXT WEEK.

(That's the logical stuff. There was emotional stuff at play, too, like I'm not ready to let it goooooooo! I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. But it was the logical stuff that won the day.)

The mechanic in Salt Lake called Monday and quoted us a price on a remanufactured transmission with a 100,000-mile/3-year warranty attached. We discussed it, determined that we could afford it, and--after much more discussion, because this was the hard part--decided that it was worth it to us. We told the mechanic to go ahead. Then I reserved train fare for the following weekend.

(I dithered over whether I should ever admit to Dad that this is, in fact, happened. We'd been talking about the car situation on and off for some time; besides, it was roller derby adjacent, and I tell him all my best roller derby stories. In the end, I did tell him the whole Salt Lake City saga. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid. And, as it turned out, he did not say anything about poor judgment. I guess he really has adapted to the idea that his little girl is a grown-up now. Like I said, my Dad has many good qualities.)

Intermission over. We now proceed to Part 2. Part 2 is me returning to SLC to recover the car.

That, by the way, is my first attempt to Storify something. It doesn't tell the whole story, but it gives a good outline. You can see, by the way, why it took me so long to find time to blog about it. I'm not even sure I really had time tonight. But we all make the decisions that seem the best for us with the resources that we do have, and I'm blogging it tonight anyway.

So from the Storify you've got the basics: Sunday, July 3rd, at 5:00 AM, I biked down to Boulder Downtown Station to get on the 6:00 AM bus to Denver Union Station, arriving at 7:00 AM or so. I boarded the Amtrak train to Salt Lake City at 7:45 and began that 15-hour journey at 8:05. Amtrak, you see, was much cheaper than another car rental, since I have a goodly stash of Amtrak Guest Reward points stashed away for just such occasions. Well, mainly I have them stashed away to spend on single-zone one-way sleeper accommodations, but they are also useful for this sort of situation. Amtrak was much cheaper in terms of stress, too; I'd already have to make one 8-hour drive alone, so why make two if I could help it?

It was a super relaxing ride. It was gorgeous. The whole drive up to Salt Lake the first time--well, as far as John and I were driving--I kept exclaiming about the geology, the erosion-sculpted rocks, the colors of the strata, the way the mesas looked like giant children's play-dough sculptures plopped atop a table draped in a flowing tablecloth with crumbs spilling down the folds. "Fleur, you missed your calling," my teammate joked. Don't we all have multiple alternate lives we could have lived, and maybe are living now in some alternate universe somewhere? Anyway, I got to really feast my eyes on it this time through. I also was able to get some writing done, and some reading too. And playing, of course. Computer full of little clicky games, why not?

AND I GOT TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP. If you've been reading along, you know how important that was.

July 4 was a small respite from all the comings and goings. Not only did I get to skate around downtown Salt Lake City for a bit and then relax in my hotel room like someone with nothing better to do (bliss! having nothing better to do!), but there was time also for a long, unhurried evening having dinner with my very dear friend and her family. Even if I didn't already have Sound Logical Reasons for going to all this expense and effort to get our car back, even if those Reasons weren't in and of themselves perfectly sufficient, there was knowing also that if I went back to Salt Lake City, I'd get to see my friend again, and with any luck for more than that very hurried hour in the hotel lobby that was all we got during the first trip. It was worth that whole second trip, Monday the 4th was.

OK, wow, I've been at this blog post for two hours. Two hours after roller derby practice. And this post has exceeded 2,000 words, sez Scrivener. So, um... more later? There will be more later. The Storify has the short version, but I'm not really good at non-verbose. You may have noticed.

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