inasmuch as it concerns Support Structures:
For friends and family, those we gush about on "Dedication and Acknowledgements" pages and gripe about on the phone to Mom, Great Gods and Goddesses we thank ye.
anniversary number what the heck my how time flies
Today was the summer solstice and also our wedding anniversary, John's and mine. The two do not always coincide, what with the solstice's wandering each year between the 20th and the 22nd, but it fell on the 20th back in 1998 when we chose to hold our handfasting on that spoke in the wheel of the year, and it fell on the 20th this year too.
It also happens to be my parents' anniversary. My mom, bless her, no longer remembers the words for a lot of things, and she's lost an appalling amount of names and faces and memories, but she remembers the significance of June 20th. "We've been married 47 years," she said to me on the phone yesterday. "That's fantastic," I said. "We've been married 18. It's not as impressive as 47, but we think it's a good start."
Some years we reserve a table somewhere fancy or fun, like the Melting Pot in Louisville or, when it was still around, John's Restaurant (no relation) on Pearl Street. This year we opted to stay in. He hit the grocery on the way home, I biked to the farm for our CSA pick-up, and together we made home style mac 'n cheese, a big salad, and some garlic bread.
I will share with you the garlic bread recipe, because it's the first time I got it right. Previous times, I melted butter, stirred in minced garlic, then spread it on bread which I cooked under the broiler. It was good, but it was weirdly one-note. The butter flavor was "thin," if that makes sense. Even sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on top only did so much. But today I went looking around online, found this recipe, and realized that the key was using garlic powder rather than minced garlic. Garlic powder mixes the flavor through the butter much better. It also seems to thicken the spread somewhat.
- Hack the end of last week's Artisan Sourdough Bread into thick slices.
- Melt 1/4 C butter in the microwave.
- Add to the butter 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tbl minced fresh parsley, about 1/4 C shredded or grated parmesan. (Recipe calls for salt and pepper. I forgot to add it.) Stir, stir, stir.
- Spread butter mixture on each slice of bread.
- Stack bread and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator until dinner time.
- While the macaroni water is trying to boil, preheat oven to 350 F. When oven goes ding, put bread in for about 8 or 10 minutes. Then turn oven up to broil and let it go another couple minutes until edges are as crispy as you like. (Do not overdo this unless you like your crust to be as hard as a rock.)
John proclaimed the crunchy crispy garlic bread to be the perfect textural contrast to the soft mac 'n cheese, and his sweet tea to be the perfect taste contrast to the tart pomegranate-chocolate vinaigrette on the salad. (It's our last bottle of Ravenous Chocolate. I have no idea if the company is still around. They used to come sell their salad dressings at the Boulder Farmer's Market.)
After dinner, we settled into the couch for the reading of Chapter 19 of Ancillary Sword. Just that one chapter, mind you, however much we want to devour the rest of the book in a sitting. We hope to finish up before we leave town Friday morning; then we will only need to bring one book with us (Ancillary Mercy, of course) rather than two. ("Are there really only three books?" John asked mournfully the day we read Chapter 17. "Well, so far, yes. And a handful of short stories." He thought that was Sad.)
Eighteen years. Nowhere near done yet. But definitely a good start. Let's keep it up.
starting to look like a solid trend
- 2,158 wds. long
- 1,039 wds. long
Two good days in a row! Progress on all the things. Prepared one of the Fictionette Artifacts to be mailed on Friday (with very clever illustrations on page 2, if I do say so myself) and did another solid revision session on "Stand By for Your Assignment."
Here's the thing about a good day: It takes doing. There are things I have to do to make sure they happen. Thing is, between John and myself, it's pretty much understood that I've got some form of mild (undiagnosed) depression weaseling around in my brain, whence comes (among other things) the occasional inability to get out of bed until external forces intervene. So I've got certain self-care strategies to deal with that:
- John gets to poke and prod and harass me until I am up, feet on the floor, and productively puttering about the house. (External forces!)
- By the time he leaves for work, that 20 minutes or so of upright-and-puttering helps ensure I'm fully awake and not tempted to go back to bed.
- I may not feel like writing. But I know that doing that first task will make me feel accomplished and proud, which emotional lift will carry me into the rest of the morning shift. So get to that first writing task!
- After my first task, I take a walk or otherwise small bit of exercise outside. Exercise and sunlight are known things that help ward off the funks.
But the problem with that last bullet point is, too much exercise in the sun leaves me feeling like I got walloped in the can-do. So today almost bottomed out when my bike ride up to The Diaz Farm for eggs and tasty sourdough took out all my get-up-and-go. But! I've got the evening off from roller derby--the Bombshells got a much-needed rest after all our efforts at the tournament--so enough time remained to restart the day in the afternoon and damn well get stuff done.
OK, yes, in order to convince myself to work on the short story revision, I had to do the hot-bath-and-glass-of-wine trick. But hey! I got work done on the revision, and I got a relaxing soak in the tub with a glass of wine. Win-win!
Tomorrow:A good, full writing day and Thursday scrimmage! Can it be done? YES IT CAN, my friends. Yes, it can.
but the desk has to stay against the wall
I had really good plans for today, but I managed to scuttle them via the usual reasons, i.e. sleeping late and not starting the morning shift until afternoon shift time. And here's the thing I found out: Even if I have the mental capacity to work four hours straight through--and today I might well have!--I nevertheless cannot because there are other things besides writing that I have to do with my day. Like, making several trips down to the storage closet. Catching up on the 2016 accounting (now that the 2015 taxes are out of the way). Getting up to date with league communications. Clearing out the dishes backlog in the kitchen, for heaven's sake. And etc.
This is probably related to Stephen King's anecdote, told in On Writing, about the huge oak desk in the center of the office. There's an adequate retelling of it here, but really you should read On Writing because it's just that good. Part memoir, part writer's how-to, it's earned a permanent slot in my reference library within easy reach of my own not-so-huge oak desk that's pushed up against the wall of the office that sometimes doubles as a guest room. But this is the money quote: "Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."
Now that I revisit the story, actually, I find it resonates with me even more. The bit where he replaces the monster desk in the middle of the room with a smaller desk against the wall, and this makes room for his kids to come in and share the space with him--it made me think of last night. I was up late in the evening getting some things done at my desk. Or the desk, because I want it to be available to both John and me, except really I'm the only one who uses it except when he needs to print out a bunch of stuff. Really, for the most part, "the" office is for all practical purposes my office. But last night John came in and snuggled under the blankets on the futon-couch with his laptop and some programming work, and suddenly it was our office again, and that felt unexpectedly good.
But to put this in context of today: If I've only left myself some 5 hours of the day to work with, and I owe myself 5 hours of writing, I will still not get 5 hours of writing done, because writing is only one of my responsibilities.
However, the two hours of writing I did get done today were very good. I'm not all that displeased.
But I did put off starting this blog post. The blog post is the last writing task of the night. I have this sense that once I do my blog post, the writing day is over, and my failure to log all five hours has been cemented. Which is silly, because if I had started on it as soon as practice was over tonight, I might have had time for a little short story revision afterward. But I didn't, so I don't. So once this goes up I'm pretty much going to bed.
As always, tomorrow is a new day--another chance to get it right. Hopefully, despite its being a Wednesday, I'll manage it. If not, well, Thursday is a new day too.
notes toward next visit
Today's report from My Christmas Vacation will be brief and numerical.
1. The Crab Cake Pontchartrain is delicious. It is even more delicious enjoyed in exceedingly good company.
2. I should visit downtown Covington more often. (Afternoon tea!)
3. Also Abita Springs. (Birthplace of Abita Beer!)
5. Driving alone across the Causeway Bridge is a wonderful opportunity for audiobooks.
4. I should also visit my Aunt June more often.
5. Aunt June may well be the Boulder County Bombers' newest superfan.
outdoor activity, the automotive edition
Today, the last day of fine weather I'll enjoy during my visit home, I succeeding in getting outside via driving across the lake and back. Since that's a 24-mile one-way trip just from shore to shore, nevermind the remainder of the journey to my relatives' house, I think this counts as significant time outdoors.
There was very little wind and very little traffic, and the bird-watching from the bridge was fantastic. Pelicans soared close over the bridge and right along the rail, probably taking advantage of the updraft off the warm cement and hot car engines. Mallards and cormorants stuck closer to the water's surface, flying low or just resting in duck-at-aquatic-repose position.
Every one of them Mom spotted, she said, "Look, there's another one, isn't that wonderful." I'm afraid she's lost the distinction between pelican and seagull and duck these days; they're all just "birds" to her now. She still remembers the rhyme about the queer old bird that's the pelican, and her own version of the rhyme that celebrates New Orleans's basketball team, but she no longer can pick out a pelican from a lineup.
The whole way across the bridge, too, she reads the tenth-mile markers aloud. 14.8, 14.9, 15. Exercising her grasp of numbers. Practicing, maybe, or maybe just reassuring herself that she can still do numbers even if she can't entirely do words or faces anymore.
We were visiting my cousin and her family. Turns out her 18-month-old son was fighting off a cold and not up for all-day adventures in New Orleans. We wound up just visiting at the house and ordering lunch from the Covington location of New Orleans Food & Spirits. I had the grilled stuffed catfish, which was delicious and so very filling that instead of going for one last skate along Linear Park when I got home, I put myself to bed for a nap with a couple of new-to-me Bunnicula books.
Now I'm doing my daily writing tasks--the ones I'm actually holding myself to, being on vacation and all--from one of my parents' comfy armchairs, having watched LSU handily win their bowl game against Texas Tech. I don't usually watch college football, but it's bowl game after bowl game during the holiday season, the best of the best playing on TV nearly constantly every day, so I might as well watch my Dad's alma mater show off their current roster's stuff. And their stuff was seriously amazing, I gotta say. Some of those catches were unbelievable.
Tomorrow sees some more visiting on both sides of the lake, and maybe a trip to the post office to get some fruitcake in the mail. The tradition continues!
this fictionette is going to town
- 1,101 wds. long
Again, apologies for the belated Christmas Fictionette. Well, it's not really anything to do with Christmas. It's set more in the fall, I think, round about harvest time, though I've just realized there's a tiny, insignificant, yet unsightly plot hole concerning this detail. There is an impending birth, and I suppose it's technically a virgin birth, but that's just a coincidence of species. In any case, no midwinter festivals were harmed in the making of this fictionette, which is called "Premature Labor."
This brings my first full year of Friday Fictionettes to a close. New Year's Day will be the first Friday in 2016, and I intend to begin another full year of 'em at that time. (That fictionette probably won't have anything intentional to do with its holiday, either.) It's not that I find the sheer number of Patrons a compelling case for continuing the Patreon campaign. But I do continue to find value in the weekly routine. It's good for my work ethic. It's good exercise for my writing muscles. And it's just plain good fun. So! Roll on 2016, with another 52 fictionettes in store.
The visit home continues at a leisurely, unpressured pace. I thought I might head into the city over the weekend, but in fact I never quite crossed the parish line until today, when I took my freewriting and my fictionette work over to Rue de la Course. This was followed by lunch at Pho Bistreaux (shrimp spring rolls and Vinh's special) and a little window-shopping up and down Oak Street.
That doesn't mean I didn't get out of the house all weekend. Did some biking Saturday (and had the Pasta Carmella at Bistro Orleans). Skated over to Bucktown on Sunday (and wound up watching part of that very enjoyable Saints game at Melius Bar over a couple of Abitas and a chili cheese hot-dog).
Tomorrow all depends. If my cousin and her family wind up doing fun things in town, I may wind up tagging along. If not, I'll probably end up combining the skating thing with the writing at a public establishment thing, as it's the last day of my trip that's forecast to be at all dry and sunny, or at least dry and overcast. In any case, it would be a shame to waste it indoors.
service to resume on the morrow
I have had a mixed-blessing sort of day. Well, I've had a mixed-blessing sort of visit thus far, though I don't do a lot of the complaining here that I do in more private spaces because, well, family is family. But today being Christmas, everything got turned up to eleven. As a result I've been kind of nonfunctional since returning home this afternoon.
Which is why the Friday Fictionette will be a weekend thing again, which is why I am bothering telling you so.
I did go for a brief outdoor skate at dusk between the Bonnabel Canal and the Suburban Canal. That was nice. Skates make everything better. They don't fix everything, but while they're on my feet, they make the things they can't fix feel much more distant.
I'm having a little bowl of yesterday's kimchi with a boiled egg. Comfort food is comforting. I'm not sure when kimchi became one of my comfort foods--goodness knows I didn't grow up eating it. But it indubitably has. How I know is, when I opened the container, the smell of it reached down into my chest and kind of loosened things up a little and made me smile.
Good night, everyone. See you tomorrow.
oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.
Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.
At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.
("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)
So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.
And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.
well stuff my face and take a picture
So I made it into the New Orleans area Monday night. My flight was pleasant, comfortable, and uneventful. Even my pre-trip packing and last-minute chores parade wasn't so bad. Got everything done early and had time for dinner (and the first half of the Saints game) at the airport Rock Bottom in terminal C.
Turns out that Riedell's bottom-loading "gear pack" does indeed function as carry-on luggage. Fits right into the overhead bin. However, once you get your gear in there, forget about all those enticing home-office style pockets that make it look like you can pack your laptop and accessories and pens and pencils and stuff too. I mean, I did manage to get that in there, because that's me--determined, like--but it was a tight squeeze. Getting any single thing out again was a bit of a process.
The helmet does not fit in the gear pack. The helmet went clipped to an outside loop. I was prepared to offer to put the helmet on my head if they gave me any trouble taking it onto the plane. But they didn't, so I just unclipped it and shoved it under the seat in front of me.
That I had my roller derby gear as carry-on luggage made it very, very tempting to put my skates on at my arrival gate--it was a bit of a walk from there to baggage claim, and the aisle was uncarpeted and linoleumish the whole way. But I didn't. I didn't want to alarm any airport security, and, more to the point, I didn't want to go to the trouble of actually sitting down and changing my footwear when I could just keep walking.
I shoulda done, though. It's not like I've been able to skate at all since I've been here. STOP RAINING ALREADY JEEZ.
My first few days in town have been laid back. They have been divided up into vaguely scheduled chunks governed by "do I have access to Mom's car or not" and "am I hungry and what wonderful tasty thing will I put into my mouth." For example, Monday night/Tuesday morning (we got home from the airport around midnight) was all about Question 2 and the venison stew Dad had been cooking all day in the crock pot. Tuesday afternoon was all about Question 1 and driving myself to a coffee shop for a few hours of writing far away from my parents' Fox News habit. (Also for a bowl of the coffee house's corn-and-crab bisque.) Today the answer to Question 1 was "yes, but I want to take the bike to the shop" and the answer to Question 2 was "Mandarin House with Mom for lunch, then beignets at Morning Call while I wait for the bike shop to call." Also there have been random raw oysters, because Dad's friend picked up a sack and brought them over. And crawfish sushi because I was at the grocery Tuesday and it looked good. And more of the venison stew, and also the corn and sausage soup, and random Popeye's leftovers, because they were in the fridge and I was feeling snacky at late-o-clock at night.
I've begun assembling a photo album over on Facebook - I think it's totally public and you don't have to be logged in to see it - because I have this new camera, as you may remember. Here's a close-up of one of the photos. Apparently they have yellow caution signs for everything.
they aspire to be secondary characters and get serious pagetime
- 35,218 wds. long
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone out there! I hope you're staying warm. Here in Boulder, temperatures "struggled to get out of the teens," to quote a winter weather advisory I read yesterday (and I thought, "Ah, struggling to get out of the teens. Sounds like most of my college career"). I woke up, saw the snow coming down, and promptly went back to sleep.
One of the things I am thankful for, speaking of Giving Thanks, is the opportunity to sleep in and do whatever I want all Thanksgiving Day long. I love my family and miss them, and I miss their traditional epic potlucks (oh, Gods, the shrimp-and-mirliton casserole), but I don't miss how the High Holy Days of Familial Obligation loomed over me and squashed me flat. It's so, so good to have a day off from everything.
Well, almost everything. Cat-sitting continues while our semi-next-door friends are out of town. Their cat is a beautiful, friendly, funny, and terribly needy kitty who will happily spend hours cuddling and nuzzling and dabbing a paw at your face if the quality of your petting is deemed inadequate. Learning how to get my writing done while making the kitty feel sufficiently loved has been an amusing challenge. He wants very much to drape himself over my forearms, and I am using those. But we manage.
Speaking of writing, that's another thing I don't get a day off from. Which is fine. Enjoyable, even. Which is sort of why I do this writing thing for an attempted living. A day with nothing to do but write? Heaven.
I'm about three-fourths the way through today's NaNoWriMo session, which I'll be returning to just as soon as I get done with this post. Today's session has been fueled by Plot Expansion Strategy #15: Promote a throwaway character to a secondary character. In other words, enlarge their role within the story.
The sometime-throwaway character I'm playing with is Perihelion Peculiar, of Perrie Peculiar's Private Peepers. Her original role, buried safely in the backstory, was in unearthing the main character's dad's cheating ways. Now the main character has contacted her again for help in figuring out what's up with the Director of the sleep research lab. He's scary, he's up to something, and he has begun showing up everywhere the main character goes. She's understandably freaked out about it.
I'm also making use of this strategy to flesh out the Director's own backstory. Apparently he's got an extensive criminal record, mostly white collar to be sure but with the occasional bloodstain. He's bad news. Stupid bad news. He's going to be bad news for everyone involved in this novel. If only I could figure out what, precisely, he wants.
Well, back to it for at least another 700 words.