“If they weren't solidly real dragons... it wouldn't have been worth doing.”
Jo Walton

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

The pretend business card features public domain images by openclipart.com and the phone is a 15-year-old radio shack model.
this fictionette needs a check-up and also some quiet time
Fri 2015-03-06 23:42:09 (single post)

Please welcome the latest Friday Fictionette to the family, "Please To Confirm Your Appointment With BRIGHT SMILES!," an excerpt of which you may read here. It was a lot of fun to write. I should warn you, though, it ends on a cliff-hanger. I have several ideas for what happens next, any of which could supply the material for a full-length short story. Deciding between them, now, that's the trick.

Conlorado weekend continues; the whole gang's in town now and they're over at a friend's house playing games. I'm at home because after trips to the airport and the liquor store I was kind of tired, and I'm also rather enjoying the empty house. For a little while, the whole gang was over here in our tiny living room/dining room area, and I was hiding in the bedroom with a book. I like to hear a house full of happy people, but I get overwhelmed by the bustle and crowd very easily. Most of the afternoon they were playing a game of Paperback, which looks like a lot of fun--it even has a writer theme to it!--but I couldn't see my way to squeezing into the group who were already sitting shoulder-to-shoulder around the table. So I just listened in and enjoyed things vicariously.

Yes, in fact, I proudly and cheerfully accept the label "introvert." I suggest printing it in bold-face capitals, possibly ones constructed from bright flashing neon tubes. But not where I can see them, because argh, blinking lights.

We had some delightful surprises at the liquor store. Hazel's is a great place for delightful surprises, because they have everything. They had Abita's Grapefruit Harvest IPA, which I didn't know ever made it out of Louisiana. It's one of the few IPAs I will willingly drink. They also had in their soft drink section four different handmade flavors from the Rocky Mountain Soda Company. We brought home the "Evergreen Elderberry" and the "Breckenridge Blackberry."

"We brought you local sodas!" John crowed to our friend who'd asked for interesting caffeine-free soft drinks. "It's the Boulder Way!"

And now I had better hurry up and do my PT before I go to bed--

About that. Alas, the therapist did not clear me to skate yesterday. I came in complaining of cripplingly tight calf-muscles and stabbing pains in the quads of the affected leg. ("I have this terrible pain in the diodes down my left side...") He determined these were normal reactions from the muscles surrounding an injured ligament as regular work is once more required from them and they're grumpy about it. So I have another week of strengthening things up, plus daily foam roller sessions on quads, calves, and IT bands to work the kinks out.

Thus, Foam Roller Hell, here I come!

you still get the day AFTER tomorrow
Mon 2015-02-02 23:20:25 (single post)

Despite appearances, I am not dead. Thursday I got home dead tired, Friday I may have wished I was dead, but I did not in fact die. Hello!

The thing about Friday was this: I woke up with two or three headaches going on, all at once. They tag-teamed me all day long, laughing derisively at every dose of ibuprofen. I spent the day trying to stay unconscious and reading whenever I couldn't. John helped me out with the loan of a heating pad and also with the most marvelous massage, both of which helped mightily to loosen up the muscles of my back, shoulder, and neck. But it wasn't until eleven o' clock at night that I woke up from another nap to discover myself pain-free. And at eleven o'clock at night, what do you do with your sudden sense of well-being?

Stay up until three aye em, what else?

I've never had much use for the advice to "live each day as though it were your last." If I knew I was on my last day, I wouldn't just "type a little faster"; I'd resign myself to leaving projects left unfinished, because who needs the stress of FINISH ALL THE THINGS on their last day on Earth? No, I'd spend the day saying goodbye to my loved ones, putting my affairs in order, and having as much fun as I could in what little time remained. (Robin McKinley got this one absolutely right in Sunshine.)

But you know what saying I could really get behind? "Work each day as though you were going to be too sick to work tomorrow." That's how I wish I'd worked Thursday.

Thankfully, Friday was a fifth Friday, so no Friday Fictionette release was planned. (Friday Fictionettes are not weekly occurrences. They happen every first-through-fourth Friday.) And I was feeling a lot better Saturday, so I had no trouble releasing January's Fictionette Freebie to the unsubscribed masses. You can download it by following that link and clicking on the Adobe PDF icon that you see just beneath the cover photo. (Patreon makes that slightly unintuitive). You can figure out from there whether you like that sort of thing enough to subscribe.

What else? I could whine about my knee some more and about how exhausting PT is and how I wish I could have skated in the first team practice of the season Sunday, but who really wants to hear that? I don't, and I've been listening to myself whine for three weeks now. So how about I quit while I'm ahead?

Less whining tomorrow. More writing. Until then--!

that nasty habit of unnecessary limping
Wed 2015-01-28 23:30:23 (single post)
  • 4,820 wds. long

All right, it wasn't a full five hours today, but all the tasks got done. The next brick in the story-wall got mortared into place, exactly as I said it would. And I suppose I could stay up and put in some more time--but I am freakin' done with this up-til-four-aye-emm business. Especially considering I didn't sleep well between then and when I got up at ten thirty this morning. I'm exhausted, y'all. Time to shift my work days back to diurnal standard time.

I'm actually quite pleased. Getting to all my usual writing tasks, and my usual Wednesday tasks, and my unusual Wednesday-the-28th tasks (well, one task and one social outing), is kind of a feat. Go me.

Speaking of which: My first physical therapy appointment went well. For one thing, I have been commanded to stop limping, dammit. It's the two weeks of hobbling around and not using the knee's full range of motion that's got things all tight and grumpy around the patella. So I don't have to be quite so protective of the joint. I'm not to run, jump, or make lateral movements ("cuts"), but I've been encouraged, nay, urged to walk normally. And I've been reassured that it's perfectly safe to straighten out the leg, and have indeed been assigned to do so in the context of several exercises. The knee brace has been downgraded from "as much as possible" to "only for extra protection in uncontrolled environments"--crowds, walking on icy sidewalks, anywhere where I might unexpectedly slip or stumble.

I'm to apply compression so as to help the fluid work its way out of the joint. To that end, I'm wearing one of my 187 Killer Pads gaskets--the neoprene sleeves I wear under my knee pads when I skate--until I've got time to pick up an Ace bandage. It feels weirdly comforting to be wearing a piece of roller derby gear during my enforced off-skates recovery.

I've got loads of PT homework. Going off what I remember of each exercise's hold time, repetitions and sets, I estimate that I've been assigned somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour of exercise every day. I'll start on it tomorrow. Today was already full up. Plus the physical therapist worked my knee a good deal already. I'm exhausted. It's amazing how tired a body can get just lying down and being worked on; see also dental visits and MRI appointments.

Back to the writing for a moment. I've got further thoughts on Anti-BIC Week, flavors of writing advice, and possibilities for blending work with play, but, again, I'm exhausted. I'm doing all the item's on today's list (except, alas, for the one about five hours of writing), but at this point I'm taking as little time on each as possible.

So it's only a brief(ish) status report today. I'll make up for it tomorrow with a long-ass post full of philosophizing and woo. Whether that's a warning or a promise is up to you.

Today I learned how to use the GIMP's Fog filter. Also, click to view original empty office photo (license: CC BY-SA 2.0)
this fictionette is not safe for work. no, I mean dangerous
Fri 2015-01-23 23:12:55 (single post)

It's Friday, so I have done my duty. Again, it is ridiculously late in the day. It almost isn't Friday at all. But the Fictionette is up, and you can see its stats at left and its cover image at right. Excerpt is here, downloadable PDF available to Patrons pledging $1/month is over here. It's horror again, but more of a lighthearted piece of horror than last week's Fictionette. Of course horror can be lighthearted. Think Good Omens and that gut-churning scene with the telemarketers. Well, I was thinking about it. It probably shows.

Yesterday I expressed a hope that my energy level would continue at yesterday's highly productive rate; it did not. Not that I was entirely unproductive, mind you. John and I met the realtor at a nearby property viewing--not because we seriously thought we might jump on something now, but to give the realtor more of an idea of what we liked and what we didn't and what we'd settle for and what were dealbreakers. It was pleasantly close to our current neighborhood, it was huge, it came with a lower H.O.A. fee that neveretheless covered more features, and it had a wood fireplace. These are pluses. On the minus side, it was expensive (as you might imagine, given the size), it was oriented for east/west light rather than north/south, and it had a rather claustrophobic if well furnished kitchen.

Then we went to McGuckin for the polyurethane I need to put a sealant coat on the newly stained kitchen cabinets and panels. Then I went downtown to pick up the remainder of our MMLocal share. Then we came home and I put the final coat of paint on one of the office closet door bifolds.

So I guess it's OK that I fell over for a three-hour nap at that point.

I may have mentioned that I've purchased a destuckification product from The Fluent Self recently? Right. Well, the physical item has yet to come in the mail - it sounds like Havi had post office bureaucracy nightmares which I wouldn't wish on anyone - but I have received the ebook component. The ebook is her Book of Rally Keys (BORK) and I spent about an hour or two reading it last night when I should have gone to sleep already. It is getting into my brain in healthy ways.

One of the healthy ideas that BORK has put in my brain is the idea that naps aren't something to be ashamed of. They can be expressions of terrified avoidance, or they can be expressions of the need for replenishment; in either case, they're entirely natural and they indicate a need. I expect after yesterday and this afternoon my need was very great. So I'm practicing being gentle with myself and accepting my need to nap.

There was another BORK/Fluent Self idea I wanted to mention, but it escapes me at the moment. So I'll let it run free for now, trusting that it will come home again and let me turn it into a blog post sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I have just finished eating the entire jar of Pears With Rosemary, and, now that we're all going to bed and will therefore be unlikely to absentmindedly lean against various kitchen surfaces, I am going to paint polyurethane on various kitchen surfaces.

Not pictured here: The hinges, because they are filthy.
when cliched platitudes are startlingly spot on
Thu 2015-01-22 23:14:20 (single post)
  • 5,653 wds. long

I'm happy to report that I met today's small goal. I made a copy of the scene-to-be-rearranged, and I moved paragraphs around like Lego. Or, actually, more like wooden blocks; the bits aren't "snapped" together like Lego are. They're like a stack of bricks with no mortar. But that's OK. That stack of bricks was what I wanted to accomplish today.

Tomorrow's small goal is as follows: Take that first brick in the stack and turn it into a plausible story opening.

Meanwhile, today saw an upswing in the rate of home improvement projects. I realized all at once this morning that there's no reason not to run the various projects on parallel tracks. While waiting for stain or polycrylic to dry, why not get to work painting the office closet doors or re-staining and finishing the weathered kitchen cabinets?

Why not, indeed. The usual "why not" is an extremely limited energy budget. If I can manage to do one coat of stain on a closet door in a day that contains writing, roller derby, and volunteer reading, not to mention household chores and trips to the grocery, I'm doing good.

Then it occurred to me: I can't skate roller derby for at least a month, and my first physical therapy appointment isn't for a week. My schedule is miraculously clear right now. And for all I complain about the stairs, I'm reasonably able-bodied for an injured athlete. I can move around unassisted. I can sit, stand, kneel, or sit on the floor. I can paint and stain and sand and whatever. And now I have the time to do it in.

It's not just a platitude. This injury really was the Universe's way of telling me to slow down. The silver lining, it has been spotted.

The other thing holding me back was a mental block. I kept looking at the kitchen and all I could see was a fractally complex job involving bits and detail and impossibility. But today I gave it a shot. I removed one of the under-sink cabinet doors, the one with the worst staining and the most deteriorated finish, and I washed it off, and I sanded it some, and--with several prayers to any Gods that might be listening--applied Minwax wood stain.

This was nerve-wracking. For one thing, I knew that I hadn't removed all of the surviving finishing coat from the wood. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to try. That level of comprehensive detail work would put the project way outside my ability, patience, and time frame. And if you don't get rid of all the previous paint and stain and finish, maybe the new stain doesn't sink in so good. Still, I reasoned that any place where finishing coat survived probably didn't need new stain anyway.

Secondly, matching stain colors is an iffy process. Even having brought one of the cabinet doors that was in like-new condition to the store with us, we weren't very confident that the tin of Minwax "Lt Pine" we'd chosen was going to be the right stain.

Turns out we'd chosen just the right stain. How do you know you've chosen the right stain? When you brush it on, you think, "Is there any color in this liquid, or did I get scammed into buying a tin of water?" Seriously, it just looked like I'd gotten the cabinet door wet.

In my excitement at how easy this turned out to be, I did the second under-sink cabinet door and the entire panel surrounding them. Pretty much the whole area bounded by the dishwasher, the sink, and the oven. It's the most important area, being fairly central, thus right where your eye first falls upon entering the kitchen.

The realtor came to visit today to help us get back on track for a mid-February listing. He looked at the cabinet work and pronounced it likely to "pop." That's realtor speak for "will give a potential buyer a great impression." He said that the refurbished and newly stained/finished living room closet doors also "pop." I'm pleased to hear it.

Between today's progress on the living room closet doors, the kitchen cabinets, and the office closet doors--not to mention today's work on the short story revision--I'm feeling pretty darn accomplished tonight. I just hope I can keep up this level of accomplishment for the next couple of weeks, is all.

I want wherever we move to have a garage. It started snowing on me before I was finished sanding this panel. I took it personally.
the low cost of entry for staircase resentment
Mon 2015-01-19 23:38:37 (single post)

Took me long enough, but today I finally got back to the Living Room Closet Door project.

John, to give credit where credit is due, has already gotten back to work on his portion of the home improvement projects, which is to say, repainting whatever still needs repainting. He's more or less finished the bathroom as of last week and plans to do the bathroom door tomorrow. But I didn't manage to bestir myself upon those closet doors until today.

When we left for New Orleans, I was working on the third of the four bi-folds. I'd finished stripping the paint off both panels, but I'd only half-sanded the one. This was disappointing; I'd wanted to get it done and reinstalled before we left. This became unfeasible, so I consoled myself with the intention to jump right back into it the moment we returned to Boulder.

Which didn't happen. Pretty much every day up to January 10 was filled up with preparations for Epic Derby Weekend. And pretty much everything since has been filled up with the aftermath of the left knee sprain/strain. Again, it could so easily have been worse--I'm grateful there were no broken bones nor surgery involved (knock on wood, spit three times)--as injuries go, this is peanuts--but even so, things have been exhausting. Making appointments, going to appointments, acquiring this borrowed brace and deciding when to wear it, getting used to wearing it, staying aware of the injury so I don't reinjure it--no wonder I've been sleeping late and napping heavily.

As anyone who's sustained an injury (or is otherwise disabled) knows, you have to develop strategies just for moving around your world. My mobility was noticeably limited on the day after the injury. At brunch, getting from our table to the bathroom was sort of serious business. Getting down the stairs to the car so we could go to brunch was kind of awful. Just putting on my shoes was demoralizing. I was able to do it myself--just--but there was a brief spell of tears and despair on my way there.

It's been a lot better since, to the point that I'm wearing the brace primarily to remind myself that I'm injured and need to take care. Nevertheless, certain maneuvers, such as stepping over the bi-fold panel propped up on its buckets, or sitting down on the floor to smear wood putty into the panel's munched-up corner, requires conscious planning on a limb-by-joint level.

In any case, that panel is sanded to my satisfaction now, and the wood putty is drying. Tomorrow I'll stain it, and over the next couple of days I'll coat it with polycrylic. If I can also sand the other panel tomorrow and get my writing done, that would be fantastic. I like to do the sanding outside in order to minimize the need to vacuum inside. But that requires good weather outside, and there's a chance of snow on Wednesday.

I'm really tired of being in this prolonged limbo between having put most of our belongings in storage in order to stage the condo unit for listing, but not having finished the home improvement projects needed before we can list. I want to get these closet doors done, all the doors repainted, the kitchen repainted, and everything else that needs doing done so we can sell the place already.

And this third-floor business is for the birds. I totally saw this coming, y'all. I was telling people last summer that one of my personal reasons for wanting us to move was "I skate roller derby. I risk injury on a weekly basis. I need to live somewhere accessible." And now I am injured. Again, it could be worse. Thank goodness I'm not on crutches or in a wheelchair. So many people have it so much worse than I! But it doesn't take that much of an injury to come to resent deeply those 28 steps I have to climb or descend just to leave or come home.

the last pelican kaffeeklatsch
Wed 2014-12-24 22:17:26 (single post)

Today was sunny and breezy rather than overcast and rainy, so John and I took a walk down to the Bonnabel Boat Launch. It was an even more fantastic day for it than we'd realized--when we got past the kids' playground and down into the parking lot on our way over to the water, a pelican suddenly seemed to fly right at us. We ran the rest of the way and saw about eight of them just hanging out on the pier, a kaffeeklatsch of pelicans standing around with their beaks hanging down to their feet. Seagulls jostled around them like seagulls do, playing their eternal game of "I want your perch," but the pelicans just stood there, unflapping and unflappable.

We watched them for about ten minutes. Couldn't get enough of just looking at them. Brown pelicans are the goofiest-looking birds in the Gulf South when they're standing still. When they're flying, they're graceful and huge in a way that I never quite get used to. But when they perch, or when they spot a fish and take a dive, they look like clowns.

On our way back to the house, as we crossed the low, flat pedestrian bridge over Bonnabel Canal behind the pumping station, a pelican actually flew under the bridge, skimming the surface of the water for about twenty feet before pulling up and soaring away again. Two cormorants followed it, swimming a similar distance completely under the water before resurfacing in the pelican's wake.

"We should tell Mom about the pelicans," I said. "She'd be delighted."

John looked pained. "You know what she'll say, though, right?"

And I remembered.

Ten, fifteen years ago, Mom would tell me about the pelicans. She'd tell me how they were coming back to Lake Pontchartrain in huge numbers. She'd tell me how she'd count them as she crossed the Causeway Bridge on her way to see her mother and sister in Covington. Her mother was needing increasingly more care, such that first she needed to move into my aunt's house to have family close at hand, then to an assisted living home, then finally to a memory care center. Mom would drive over two, three times a week to spend time with her, take turns with her siblings taking her out for lunch or keeping her company or giving her day-to-day care. So Mom got a lot of opportunities to count pelicans on her way to and from the northshore. It was a good day if she got to see one diving for fish. The sudden cannonball splash made her laugh. She'd tell me that pelicans are proof positive that God has a sense of humor. She was the one who decided "kaffeeklatsch" was the appropriate collective noun.

But now her mother has passed away, and she herself is beginning to follow in her mental footsteps: losing her memory, as she always feared she would. With sufficient encouragement, she'll do crosswords in a book rated "fun" and "easy" to try to keep erosion at bay. She needs help remembering how common sayings go, what concur means, or how to spell kneel. And with the memory loss comes personality loss, the sharp wit and the sarcasm I remember gone (which, admittedly, is sometimes a relief; her sarcasm could have a nasty bite) from conversations now uniformly shallow, repetitive, delivered with a childlike smile. She still goes to work, she still drives, she still handles day-to-day obligations, but she doesn't discuss, converse, argue, or analyze.

When we came home on the train Saturday and I told her about all the pelicans we saw perched atop dock posts in Manchac, she just smiled absently and said, "Remember the rhyme Grandpapa used to say about the pelican?" Which she then repeated, because once it came to mind she must say it, inexorably, no use trying to stop her: the limerick I always misattributed to Ogden Nash but that Wikipedia tells me is by Dixon Lanier Merritt. Trigger, response. No conversational branches. Just push the button marked "pelican" and out comes the rhyme. Then comes the next part of the ritual. "And did I ever tell you the rhyme I made up about our basketball team? 'What a favored team are the Pelicans / We hope they'll score more than their opponents can...'" Yes, Mom. Yes, you have.

And the weird thing is, she's been like that a long time. At least as long as I've lived in Boulder and called home every week. Trigger, response. Push button, get familiar anecdote. Is that because the mental changes that have seemed so sudden have been growing on her for a longer time than I realized? Or is it because the mental changes have simply crystallized around habits she's always had, eroded away everything around them to leave them stark and bare?

I don't think I'll ever know the answer.

I've come to realize over the past couple years that we will probably never have a meaningful conversation again. The late night discussions we used to share at the kitchen table, when she'd just brought me home from the airport and neither of us wanted to go to bed yet, and we talked about religion and politics and philosophy and our worries and our fears and our hopes--those will never come again. The person I used to have them with is, for all intents and purposes, gone.

I just didn't realize until today that the person who counted pelicans and laughed at God's jokes is gone too.

never too old to need you
Mon 2014-12-22 23:41:05 (single post)

Sometimes interactions with my family make me feel as though my adulthood has been confirmed. Anything to do with alcohol, for instance. Sharing a bottle of Abita's "Bourbon Street" Imperial Stout with my dad. Sitting down at Hurricane's as my brother, the bartender, sets a napkin in front of me and makes beer recommendations. (Last night the recommendation was the stout from Arabi-based 40 Arpent, which was tasty all the way down the pint.)

Other interactions make me feel like a child again--some in a frustrating "will they never take me seriously?" way, but others with that "everything will be OK, Mom and Dad will take care of me" feeling that some people were fortunate enough to experience through their childhood. My parents weren't perfect--who is?--and once in a while they screwed up, or indulged in pettiness, or found me hard to like--it doesn't take an outright abusive or dysfunctional family history to look back and see moments like those--but on the whole I was a fortunate child who experienced that cared-for feeling more often than not.

Anyway, John and I went to my dad's pediatrics office and got our flu shots today.

Having a parent be my primary health care provider from shortly after I was born until the day I left home for college was, certainly, in some ways, a little weird. There came a time when it became unthinkable to ask Dad to diagnose certain ailments (mumblemumblepinwormsmumbleblush), and I resolved to make do with a hand-mirror and hard-won experience. I'm sure that time came as a relief to him, too; he never questioned my self-diagnosis, but just poured me a dose of the despised but effective medication.

Mostly, though, having Dad be my doctor was convenient. Too convenient, really. As a college student away from home for the first time and finding herself with a fever of 102.5 F on Friday night of a three-day weekend, I had to develop the skill of finding a doctor and making an appointment from scratch and in adverse conditions. And I still called home to wheedle a prescription out of Dad. "Yep, sounds like strep. Where do you want me to call it in?"

But again, I did get well trained in the art of self-diagnosis. If I told Dad, "I think I'm coming down with something. I should stay home from school tomorrow," he would not only quiz me about my symptoms but also test and verify. He didn't even get up from the living room chair. It was just, "OK, bring me my coat." The trepidation, the urge to plead and beg for mercy, the crawling dread of the inevitable that some children learned to feel upon hearing the words "Bring me my belt" or "You go out to the back yard and you bring me back a switch, and no wimpy one either," my brother and I learned to feel upon hearing the words, "Bring me my coat." In various pockets of that coat were the stethoscope, the otoscope, the tongue depressors, and the dreaded throat swabs. O the gagging! The ordeal! I learned early to recognize the symptoms of strep throat, and also to never, ever cry wolf.

The staff at Dad's office includes several nurses who remember me well as the patient who pitched terrible fits about impending needles well into my early teens. A year and a half of treatments and exams to do with childhood leukemia taught me nothing about accepting a shot without making a fuss. If anything, it made the tendency to scream worse. (Do not get me started on the increasingly traumatic experiences with installing an IV needle. Suffice to say that the last few times they simply had to gas me first.) But finally there came one afternoon during the summer that I worked a part-time data entry job at the old office, the one on Robert E. Lee Boulevard that Katrina totaled, when it was discovered that I was due an MMR booster.

I stood against the wall telling myself, You're too old to have a tantrum about this. I kept myself as still and calm as possible, breathing deeply and evenly, attempting to mentally remove all conscious awareness from the arm about to get stabbed. Those years marked the height of my interest in lucid dreams and out-of-body travel; I tried my damnedest to astrally project out of my left arm.

I was so proud of myself! I didn't let out a peep. My first time taking an injection like a grown-up, ever! And I continued being proud of myself as I slid down the wall into yet one more first time experience, that of falling down in a partial faint. (The nurse who'd administered the shot caught me as I sagged, and she made unkind remarks about how "the poor little baby needs her mommy." I remember hearing every word, and feeling her jeers unjust; hadn't I just taken that shot without begging or crying or attempting to flee for the first time in my goddamned life? Anyway, that's how I know it wasn't a complete faint: I remember every word.)

These days I try to get my flu shots regularly, not just to protect myself from the coming season's edition of influenza misery, not just to do my part for herd immunity, but also to continue proving to myself that I can take it like a grown-up. I may always need to prove this to myself. And though it may sound ridiculous at the age of 38 years and 8 months, it felt good today to also prove it to the nurses who knew me back when I couldn't take it at all.

Having proven my grown-up credentials beyond a shadow of a doubt in this manner, I suppose it wasn't too childish of me to have asked my Dad to set up our flu shots in the first place.

"It's OK. Mom and Dad will take care of me."

I suspect there's some joy in that for my parents, too: "It's OK. Our little girl still needs us."

She always will, you know.

Love y'all, Mom and Dad.

a day with fruitcake in it is a good day
Tue 2014-12-09 23:41:56 (single post)

Dear world: There is a new fruitcake in you! I have baked it just now today.

It snuck up on me. Usually I bake it partway through November, but I honestly forgot all about it until a few days ago. Once I remembered, though, I didn't waste time. Off to the grocery for fruit and nuts! Hurry up and slice things and soak them in booze! Then today that sucker got baked.

Here, as per tradition, is this year's list of fruitcake ingredients:

  • diced candied papaya
  • cubes of candied ginger, sliced into wedges
  • green raisins
  • dried strawberries, sliced into thin wedges
  • dried red tart cherries, sliced in halves
  • dried blueberries
  • pitted deglet noor dates, sliced lengthwise in quarters
  • slivered almonds

Slicing dried or candied fruit is a pain. Anything that requires me to slice it has earned its place in the lineup, trust me.

The recipe, as always, was the McCall's "Best of All" Fruitcake recipe which an online friend shared with me years and years ago. This appears to be someone's adaptation of it, and it has at last resolved for me the mystery of the missing .5 cup flour. I think my friend forgot to transcribe step 5. Maybe next year I'll include it. Not that my fruitcakes have suffered for only having 1.5 cups flour in them, mind you. Nor do they suffer for my not bothering with the frosting.

As you've no doubt surmised, I ad lib extremely freely with the dried/candied fruit. Fruit and nuts came from Whole Foods on Pearl Street; Whole Foods bulk products typically don't have artificial colors or flavors added. This is kind of a big deal. Just for a change, I once went to Sunflower (next door to McGuckin's; it's now a Sprouts). I was unpleasantly surprised by the bitter taste of numeric food coloring in the papaya. Not doing that ever again.

The booze the fruit soaked in overnight was brandy, but as I am now out of brandy, I may soak the wrapping cheesecloth in rum. Or possibly the Balvenie Caribbean Cask, which would be fairly interesting.

Given the lateness of the fruitcake construction and the upcoming vacation schedule, it will not be unveiled at our annual winter solstice party and yule log vigil. Said party will not be happening this year, due, again, to our vacation plans. Instead, I expect the fruitcake unveiling will be at the family Christmas party. My family really likes this fruitcake. It will be quite the challenge to reserve enough to mail to the usual long-distance recipients.

I got to it later in the day than I meant to. Today began with a dental cleaning at 8:00 AM, which you'd think would ensure an early start to the day. But when I got home around 9:30, I was exhausted. Apparently dental cleanings wear me out. They aren't particularly painful; the crew at Dr. Adler's office are fantastic and solicitous and caring and responsive. Last time, I let the hygienist know that the gum exam was kind of jabby; this time she made sure to use the blunt plastic probe instead of the sharp metal one. I warned her today about an ulcer on my gums, right up front and center, and she zapped it with the dental laser and spread it full of topical anaesthetic gel. Also, if you want to hear fascinating things, make sure to ask Dr. Adler about his peregrine falcon.

No, everything was fine. But I stress. I tense up. I start wringing my hands--well, really, my hands start wringing themselves--and my feet start twitching. My jaw tries to close up. So I spend the whole time telling myself "Relax, relax, breathe, pretend you're yawning, you don't need to do that with your hands, just relax..." And apparently the whole circus just wears me out.

Which is why I came home and went back to bed until two in the afternoon.

Which is why I had to leave for roller derby practice before the fruitcake was done with its 3.25 hours at 275 deg F. I put it on the timed cook cycle, so it would turn itself off after 3 hours and 15 minutes, but John still needed to babysit it because once the fool thing shuts itself off it sings out a 6-note tune to let you know. Repeatedly. "I turned off your oven. I turned off your oven..." (I've made up words to most of its jingles. I can't help it. The tune for when pre-heating is complete is a full four-line verse.) So John was still going to need to tell the oven "Yes, I hear you" by pressing the CLEAR/OFF button.

As I said to the head coach, "What a day! It both started and ended with pain!" She was alarmed at first--"Are you OK? Did you get hurt?"--but no, it was just the discomfort that goes with the territory. I'm sure I have new bruises (though I'm told I gave as good as I got), and I don't even want to think about squat jumps. It was a good practice. It was the sort of practice that wants everything you have. So you give it. So, when you get home, you fall over.

When I got home, and the house was full of friends and the smell of fruitcake. Not too shabby for a day that I mostly slept through, right? And now, I think I shall fall over. Good night!

See Patreon activity feed or Wattpad excerpt for cover art credits.
I can't even begin to tell you how happy this makes me. Well, I can begin. But I can't finish.
this fictionette has a faerie in the family
Fri 2014-11-28 23:13:08 (single post)

And it's up at last, on Friday by the skin of its teeth (and some judicial database tweaking): "The Importance of Faerie Godmothers." It's about Thanksgiving, and families both functional and dys-, and about generational differences in how to handle unexpected magic. Patrons pledging $1/month or more can read the whole thing right now this second--everyone else must make do with the first 400 some-odd words which appear here, and on Patreon, and at Wattpad.

Remember that on Sunday, November 30, one of this month's four fictionettes will be released in its entirely to be read for free by the vast internet hordes. I haven't yet decided which of the four it'll be, but I'm leaning heavily towards this one, because out of the four right now it makes me happiest. I don't typically blog here on Sundays, but if you watch my Twitter feed you should see some notice about it sometime on that day.

This one gave me trouble. In its original form, it didn't really have an ending. On the search for one, I wound up inventing at least as much again as was already on the page, word-count wise. (The animal crackers, for instance.)

It's beginning to dawn on me that my original intent to just publish a slice of my writing process each week isn't going to reliably cut it. Sometimes the story isn't all there. Sometimes what is there is littered with endless permutations of "I'm going to babble until I figure out what to write." And there's only so raw that I want Friday Fictionettes to be. I want them to have beginnings, middles, and ends. I want them to imply whole worlds and lives. I want them to be viable pieces of flash fiction.

And that's why today's fictionette took so long. I hope you like it!

In other news, the second pair of folding closet doors is DONE. It looks amazing. Or maybe that's just two weeks of hard work talking? I look at it and I feel such a mixture of accomplishment and relief. All that hard work went somewhere, darn it. It went somewhere attractive, too.

That door--of the two stained bi-folds, it's the one on the left--used to stick something awful. Friends found it impossible to close after hanging up their coats. I'd apologize, saying "There's a trick to it" as I gave it a tug at its happy spot. But now? Now that we've reinstalled it? There is no happy spot, because there is no getting stuck. It opens and closes beautifully. I think it's because, when we took it down, we accidentally shifted the position of the bottom bracket, and apparently we're magically good at repositioning brackets.

I can only hope a similar transformation occurs with the remaining two bi-folds, because their action really suffers by comparison.