“I don't take much notice of critics, except when they praise me extravagantly.”
Philip Pullman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a long road to nowhere but with some interesting stops along the way
Tue 2020-05-12 23:45:53 (single post)
  • 22 words (if poetry, lines) long

Item the first: I want to make sure I've linked y'all to the correct version of the Dreams and Nightmares website, which is here: https://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/. That's kind of important, since the place I linked you before is out of date; I hadn't realized that where it said the May issue had just been released, it was referring to May 2011. Whoops. Sometimes I am not a very careful reader.

It's early days yet. The issue featuring my poem "The Ascent of Inanna" won't be out until September. But why not get a head-start on bookmarking the webpage and maybe subscribing? (I will point out again that for $90, the same price as a three years' subscription outside the US, you can get yourself subscribed for life.) Meanwhile, the editor is posting a new poem every day on the magazine's blog (the page you'll land on when you click the link above), so you might as well make a habit of checking back every day, maybe over your lunch break. Doesn't lunch go down better with poetry? I certainly think it does.

Item the second: The Laptop Saga appears to have arrived at a satisfying conclusion, if by a long and twisty route. No, Thursday's replacement replacement motherboard did not resolve matters. But it got the ball rolling in the right direction.

Also, the onsite technician who visited on Thursday? He was a lot more pleasant than Tuesday's guy.

Tuesday's guy--I won’t sugarcoat this--he was a tool. Rather a jerk, is what I'm saying. He was the kind of guy who shows up during a pandemic under Colorado's "Safer at Home" phase of restrictions with no mask and no gloves (which I was cautiously OK with) and a snide attitude about how "everyone's getting paranoid these days" (which made me less OK about the no mask or gloves thing). The kind of guy who asks you what's going on with your computer, and when you try to answer, he talks over you. The kind of guy who says "I've been doing this thirty years, trust me, I know what I'm talking about" multiple times in a conversation. The kind of guy who, when the planned hardware replacement results in unplanned problems (the aforementioned failure to load Windows), calls up Dell Dispatch and straight-up abuses the dispatch tech. "Do you even know what you're doing? Look, I've been doing this 30 years, I am telling you, this motherboard is glitchy! It needs to be replaced!" The kind of guy who then, after hanging up the phone, starts explaining to you, his captive audience, why it was justified for him to yell at the dispatch tech like that, that dispatch tech doesn't know what he's doing, dealing with people like that dispatch tech is so hard. Also, the onsite tech was white and the dispatch tech was not, but that couldn't possibly have factored into the situation, could it? (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

So Tuesday's onsite tech made everything extremely uncomfortable. But a different technician showed up Thursday to install the replacement motherboard, and the difference was like night and day.

Thursday's tech was not a tool. Thursday's tech was entirely pleasant. Thursday's tech I would quite happily go out for beers with, or coffee, once we're allowed to go out to bars and cafes again, and talk tech and play board games.

To start with, he had no snide attitude about the pandemic; on the contrary, he arrived in facemask and gloves, and he opted to do the repair out on the front patio, "to minimize contact." So I, too, donned a facemask and helped him get set up on the folding table and chair out there. I pried open the screen on the office window so we could pass the laptop's charger cable through. Then I hung out at my desk in the office so we could easily communicate through the window while practicing responsible social distancing.

When he asked me questions about the computer, he listened when I answered. When I had questions, he took them seriously.

When he found the screws that the previous tech had stripped, he replaced them. (Seriously. Tuesday's awful toolish, jerkish tech stripped the screws. I suppose that, when he said, for the tenth or twentieth time, "I've been doing this 30 years," I should have asked, "Doing what?")

And then, after Thursday's entirely pleasant and professionally cautious tech put my computer together again, and it booted up successfully, he said, "I've got a couple other appointments in the area; when I'm done with those, I'll give you a call to see how it's doing and whether you need me to come back." That's how awesome Thursday's tech was.

And indeed, when we spoke again, the computer was not doing so great. Again, on the second or maybe third reboot, right after I installed all the drivers Dell's SupportAssist app told me to install, it choked. Black screen, Dell logo, infinitely revolving wheel of dots forever. Alas.

So the tech set me up another dispatch, one where they ship me a box for me to ship the computer back to the Repair Depot, and that was that.

Only, over the weekend, I got to thinking--am I really helpless here? Does my laptop have to be a paperweight? Must I limp along on the backup ASUS, afraid of running two programs at the same time for fear of bringing the whole machine to a grinding halt? So I booted up the Dell, tapped F8 until the advanced startup options menu appeared, and I invoked Windows Startup Repair.

And it worked. Dang thing rolled back the driver installs and booted up like a charm.

After that, I installed the recommended drivers one by one until I hit the one that caused Windows to fail to load. Turned out to be one of the optional drivers. Easy enough to just refrain from reinstalling it. Meanwhile, replacing the motherboard did seem to have resolved my webcam flicker issue. Sound out the speakers was worse than ever, but after some hours spent juggling Realtek drivers I apparently hit a winning combination; the stutter-lag-static is more or less gone now. I was able join in yesterday’s co-writing session over Zoom and my writing group’s critique session today over Discord without any problems.

The only real issue of note is that the power button will only power the computer on; any attempts to perform a hard shut-down by depressing the power button fail. Which is weird, but hardly worth shipping my computer away for a week. If the computer stops responding and I need a hard shut-down option, I know how to detach the battery.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the computer's fine now.

The box for shipping the computer to Dell arrived yesterday. I emailed the Repair Center to let them know I won't be using it. And they're cool with that.

a day in the life under the new normal
Mon 2020-03-23 18:42:44 (single post)
  • 2,600 words (if poetry, lines) long

When it's been more than a month since my last blog post, writing a new one seems daunting. I feel irrationally obligated to include Every Single Thing That's Happened Since Then, and because that's obviously not feasible nor even possible, the tendency is to just not. And then another day goes by, a day full of More Things to Blog, and the endless spiral descends further.

So today I'm just going to say Hi! and more or less report on the doings of the day.

Today I woke up in the office, which has become my bedroom since coming home from the Berthoud Inn on March 16. That weekend, I'd gone out to a couple bars (in Berthoud), and John had hosted his annual gaming miniconvention (which was why I was holed up in Berthoud), so we've been sorta quasi-isolating ourselves from each other since then to keep what social exposure we'd had as much to ourselves as possible. We joke that the boundary between his space and my space runs right down the center of the kitchen table, where we sit on opposite sides in the evenings to play Spiral Knights. But of course we both use the kitchen. We even cook together sometimes; we made pad thai together Saturday night, for example. So there's only so much we can do. But we're doing it.

First thing I did upon waking up was call to cancel today's appointment at Cafe of Life and tomorrow's at North Boulder Physical Therapy. I guess I'd been kidding myself until recently, or just not thinking about it, but I thought about it over the weekend and realized that these, too, were non-essential as far as medical appointments go. I have my homework, I have my exercises, I can keep myself from losing ground on what both professionals constantly remind me are marathons rather than sprints. It's fine. We'll reconnect after the curve flattens out somewhat.

So then I made myself tea and got to work. Work looked a lot like work on any weekday. Morning Pages followed by breakfast, tooth-brushing, pill-taking, and catching up on news of the day. Freewriting to a prompt. Work on this week's Friday Fictionette offering (have I mentioned my release schedule is back to normal? Yeah! I done caught up). Work on the next very belated Fictionette Artifact for my exceedingly patient $5/month subscribers (obviously still catching up on that). Break for lunch and some admin duties. Then a solid session of Submission Procedures, because it's Monday. Logged the rejection letters my poetry and fiction got over the past week. Resubmitted my latest flash fiction piece. Did a final proofread on my story in the Community of Magic Pens anthology (which I will talk about a whole bunch tomorrow, so stay tuned).

It is a bit unsettling how very little my work and social routine have changed under pandemic lock-down. Under normal circumstances, I can quite easily go days without seeing anyone but my husband and my roller derby teammates. I'm seeing more of John since he's working from home every day rather than some days; I'm seeing my derby friends online for virtual workouts rather than in person for practice. That's pretty much all that's different; otherwise, it's life as usual for this hermit. And, well, wow. I already identified as an introvert, but I guess I didn't realize how much of an introvert I was until I realized how little this sort of social isolation bothers me--and how much social isolation I was already performing by choice before it became the medically necessary and socially responsible thing to do. I feel like maybe I should be a little bothered by that. But I'm not, not really.

Both John and myself continue symptom-free. But of course I get paranoid every time I blow my nose first thing in the morning or have a small wet coughing fit shortly after a meal. Which I've done, and had, every morning and after every meal for years. Is it still hypochondria when the microbes really are out to get you?

I'm powering through the main storyline quests on 4thewords.com, the system that turns writing goals into RPG-style battles. I'm currently in the Gansu Watering Hole chapter. Before I began writing this blog post, I fired up a battle against the Red Witch: 4,000 words in 1,000 minutes. Woo! With my attack and defense stats, it's actually 3,254 words in 1,200 minutes. I have until tomorrow at 1:30 PM to make the required word count. Sounds entirely plausible; by then I should have done tomorrow's freewriting and Fictionette work. Not to mention I'll have finished this blog post.

The sun's out, it's vaguely warm, and the sidewalks have dried off since the most recent blizzard, so I went skating. I did about two miles going "around the block", which is to say, all the way to the dead end of my street, then onto the path that follows the southbound highway, turn the corner to follow the westbound highway, then hit the creek path that cuts through the neighborhood and puts me back onto my street. There was also an early detour to a neighborhood park for footwork/individual skate skill practice on the cement basketball court.

Lunch was leftover peanut stew with bacon and okra, a variation on the recipe discussed here. I'd gone to the grocery Friday--that and Boulder Food Rescue combined are the one weekly out-of-the-house errand I'm still running; food delivery to those in need is more important now than ever, and while I'm at the donor grocery, I might as well get my own groceries too--and acquired ingredients for the peanut stew, the aforementioned pad thai, and an attempt at Dragon & Phoenix. In the absence of occasional meals at restaurants, I'm cooking my favorite restaurant meals at home. I got the okra, oyster sauce, stir-fry noodles, and various happy-making snacks for me at the Asian Seafood Market on my way home; they are still open too, and they are wonderful. Neither they nor Sprouts had fresh garlic, but I've got a small supply in addition to a bunch of minced roasted garlic in a jar in the fridge. We'll get by.

And now I'm back in the office writing this blog post. John's at the kitchen table finishing up his own day's work. We'll meet up soon for another dive into the Clockworks (I just made myself Mercurial Mail and I can't wait to level it up!). And that, more or less, is the status report for Monday, March 23, 2020.

Please stay safe and healthy, everyone, and treat yourself well.

rejections += 1 (yay) and so do submissions
Fri 2019-04-26 23:57:37 (single post)
  • 2,850 words (if poetry, lines) long
  • 1,285 words (if poetry, lines) long

I got a rejection letter today! That makes four of the one hundred I want to acquire in 2019, and the first in response to the avalanche of daily manuscript submissions I began sending out mid-April. It's working, it's working!

Meanwhile, Hi. I'm in a hotel room in Eagle, Colorado. Tomorrow I skate with the Boulder County Bombers "All Stars" in the Melee in the Mountains tournament. Our first game, against the Chicago Outfit, will be at noon. And I am super tired and ready for bed.

It doesn't help that I just walked down to the Park 'n Ride to retrieve my car from where I left it charging at the free public charging station, only to discover when I got there that I'd left my car keys in the hotel room. So I decided the car can just stay there until tomorrow morning. I'm not unhappy that I went for the extra walk, though. Walks are nice.

But now I'm really tired. Therefore the rest of today's writing update will be super fast and super brief.

Ahem.

  • Still way behind on the Friday Fictionettes, but I got a decent nibble in just now on the one for April 19.
  • I kept up my daily submitting streak. Over lunch, I sent "First Breath," with its Colorado ski-town setting, to a Denver-centric anthology that might reprint it.
  • Over meatloaf at the Eagle Diner, I managed a brief talk-to-myself session on the current short story revision.
  • Also at the diner, I did some similarly brief freewriting, resulting in what looks like a solid "zero draft" for a brand new short story.

To be painfully honest, I have to admit to overestimating my submission streak the other day. At the time, Habitica reported a 9-day streak on that particular daily task, but it's very generous in preserving my streak so long as I use my Rogue powers of stealth to avoid damage from uncompleted dailies. Looking at the Submission Grinder, I see that today's submission brings me up to seven days of daily manuscript submissions, one each weekday from April 18-26 inclusive. Also I did one April 16. So it's not like the ongoing achievement loses any impressiveness after the correction. I'm still pretty damn pleased.

So. Today I did a Boulder Food Rescue shift, packed for a weekend trip, and drove three hours from Boulder to Eagle, and I still managed to do all my weekday writing things. That's pretty darn cool. Here's hoping I can do the same Monday despite Saturday's tournament, Sunday's drive home, and Monday's much-needed recovery activities.

more story submissions than you can shake a reject-o-stick at
Wed 2019-04-24 22:56:55 (single post)

This, for once, is not a whiny post! This is a post where I say, Yay! I did a thing! I'm perpetually behind on the Friday Fictionette project, I've hardly blogged at all this year, and I'm still working on the same infuriating short story revision about which I was complaining early this month, but I did a thing. Here is the thing I done did:

Each day for nine sequential weekdays running, I have submitted a story for paid publication. That's more story submissions in April 2019 than in the entire twelve month period preceding April 2019. Go me!

It's not like I hit any particular landmark that ignited a fire under my butt about getting published. I've been frustrated with myself for doing so little on that front for quite some time; that hasn't changed. But a few metaphorical pebbles got knocked loose recently that may have contributed to an optimistic avalanche. To wit:

  • I joined a Habitica guild challenge to acquire 100 rejections in 2019. I joined the challenge specifically in response to the frustration outlined above: that day after day went by without my ever hitting the "Submission Procedures" item on my to-do list. And then week after week went by much the same as before. Frustrations increased but somehow I couldn't seem to do anything about it because I was busy with derby, busy catching up on the Friday Fictionettes, busy keeping up with household tasks, busy submitting our tax returns, busy just doing my best to get out of bed and get upright and get functional.
  • I saw birthday number 43 approaching (it was yesterday) and caught myself thinking, "Another birthday. And still no novels on submission and very few short story publications since the pro sales I celebrated in... what, 2012? 2013? What the hell have I been doing with my life?" This is not my favorite way to celebrate birthdays. (I had a pretty good roller derby practice yesterday though. I think roller derby is an auspicious thing to do on one's birthday.)
  • And then I just got fed up.

"Fed Up" is kind of magical. Like a city in Fairyland, it doesn't exist in one reliable place on a map, but rather follows the needs of the narrative. You arrive there when it's time, when circumstances are both right and wrong, when you're ready, when you just can't go anywhere else anymore. I arrived in the glowering metropolis of Fed Up (without benefit of toy car, magical tollbooth, or time-keeping dog) and I damn well did a thing:

I reversed my daily checklist.

I swapped the so-called Morning Shift and Afternoon Shift. Now, instead of beginning my day with a timed freewriting session followed by some work on the current Friday Fictionette, I'm jumping right into Submission Procedures first thing. Followed by short story revisions, another task I'd been accomplishing far too infrequently.

I've done this before, but I gave up on it when I started failing to get to the freewriting and Fictionette work. And, well, that's kind of been happening again. But I can sort of see what's causing the problem, and I feel hopeful that the steps I'm taking behind the scenes will address that. (In short: my sleep schedule's been all effed up, which has effed up my ability to function in the mornings, not to mention my overall energy level, which in turn effs up my chances of putting in a full work day. I'm working on the sleep schedule thing.)

So. Submitting stories! Every day! It's a revelation. It's led to several Thoughts and Observations, which I will lay out in future blog posts because this one's quite long enough now.

what does not kill me yadda yadda yadda
Wed 2019-04-03 23:57:20 (single post)

This is not an actually writing blog post. It's more of a not actually writing post. Or at least writing very little. I'm getting to my daily freewriting, at least, but what's the point of that if I'm not converting the resulting story ideas into, y'know, stories? The point appears to be to point at it and say, "At least I got my damn freewriting done."

Why is so little writing actually happening?

Well, yesterday the problem was a failure to get up on time, followed by intense panic over how little time remained in the day before roller derby practice.

Today, as it turns out, the problem was getting up on time and then utterly crashing in the early afternoon because apparently I'd used up my daily ration of oomph.

Some weeks you just can't win for losing.

It is possible that today's early afternoon crash owes less to an embarrassing innate inability to last through a full day, and more to a reasonable inability to do a full day in a week that contains nearly double the usual number of roller derby practices. In which case there's hope. Though initially exhausting, this double-practice schedule should be making me stronger in the long run, thus more able to stay upright all day long. Theoretically. If not, I can at least look forward to returning to my regular practice schedule after Tax Day.

Speaking of which, I've got my annual appointment with the tax accountant tomorrow. And, as usual, I still have to gather all my documents and line up all my sums. Every year I tell myself I'll do it early, I'll open up the tax organizer the moment the accountant mails it to me and get right to work filling everything out, and every year I completely fail to live up to those good intentions. So tomorrow's going to feature the traditional mad scramble to get everything together before noon. Yay.

Maybe I'll manage to do some writing after my appointment. Maybe. If I can manage to avoid the early afternoon crash.

"Thank you for tuning in to another episode of This Week In Whining. If you have enjoyed tonight's installment, stay tuned, 'cause the week ain't over yet..."

even if the author has nothing much to blog about
Mon 2019-04-01 23:28:36 (single post)

Hello from the drained-brain part of the evening! Which is to say, the post-derby portion of the night. I don't have a lot to report, writing-wise, and I'm sore and exhausted and not doing the words thing too good right now, but what the hell. It's Monday. I'm supposed to blog Monday through Friday. And I have a working website to blog on again. Let's do this.

Here is what I have to report derby-wise: A hell of a lot of roller derby. I've got a double-header to skate in on Saturday the 13th (if you're local to the Denver-Boulder-Longmont area, you should definitely come watch!) and then a sanctioned tournament on the 27th (ditto, only for that one "local" means Eagle). These two events are with two different, if overlapping, BCB teams, so I'm going to more practices than usual to get time skating with both my line-ups. Thus tonight's scrimmage. Thus the sore and exhausted. Happy, though. Getting back to roller derby practice after almost two weeks away is really nice! Getting to do so much of it in a week is exciting! Although I'm sure that by mid-month I'll be happy enough to go back to only three days per week.

Here is what I have to report writing-wise: A post-vacation back-to-normal writing schedule! Mostly starting tomorrow, though, because today got away from me a little. Nevertheless, today's Monday Muse is up (on a Monday! shock!) and happy to share a batch of writing prompts with you.

That's about all I've got tonight. More actually writing stuff tomorrow, along with some What I Did On My Spring Break show-and-tell. Til then!

bam, just like that
Sat 2019-03-30 20:36:09 (single post)

And now everything's working again. No more broken bits. Bam.

I'm not even sure the actual code had anything to do with it. I only changed one "mysql_connect" to "mysqli_connect", and I think I actually changed it back. Which isn't to say I shouldn't move all the code over to the new standard, mind you--deprecated code won't be supported forever--but I seriously don't think that was the problem.

I think the problem had to do with a change in how passwords were handled, and also with my database user account somehow losing privileges on the Writing database (but not on the Journal database? weird). After going into the control panel and changing the password and re-granting the privileges, EVERYTHING WORKED.

Three months this blog was broken because I couldn't even and THAT'S all it took to fix everthing? WELL THEN.

You may expect regular blogging to resume Monday. Probably there will be a recap of my trip to New Orleans, I dunno. I haven't blogged regularly in three months, I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Day Whatever: anyway I'm back
Tue 2018-12-11 23:53:41 (single post)

So hey, I'm back. Why so long? Well. Remember how I said I got sick? And remember how I said, "at least I'm on the mend"? Yeah, no. Possibly I was fooled by that brief feeling of well-being that comes with a really effective dose of pseudoephedrine. In actuality, I wasn't just sick but SICK. Like, the kind of sick that consists of maybe two, three days of pitched battle between the viral infection and the immune system... and two to three weeks of healing the damage this did to the respiratory system and sinuses. I'm now in my third week of having returned to a normal level of physical activity and I still come home from roller derby practice with my throat raw from all the unreasonable requirements I'm putting on it. You know, that air goes out and air comes in at a moderately accelerated rate? Yeah.

And before you ask, yes I got my flu shot. Back in October. I believe in herd immunity! For all I know, this actually was the reduced-severity version of the flu one might get after a vaccine. Or maybe it was just a really, really nasty cold. I don't know. It was awful, is what it was, and I pretty much ditched any pretense at attempting to continue my NaNo Rebel Self-Challenge.

And you know what happens when, after two weeks of effort fomenting new work-a-day habits, you suddenly just stop? It's like those two weeks never happened. Supposedly I'm all better now, but I'm having the hardest damn time getting more than minimal work in every day. I suck.

But this is a new week and I am blogging again so some good things are possible! Also my excuse for not getting much work done today is this: I COOKED A LOT. Am cooking. I am cooking a lot, and also, depending on your point of view, adventurously.

It started like this: While I was in New Orleans, Dad's lady-friend brought us some head cheese, or "brawn" as they call it on the east side of the big puddle, from a favorite butcher on the road from Baton Rouge somewhere. (I didn't get the details.) And, wow, hot damn, had I forgotten how much I liked head cheese. I was introduced to it as a youngster, and already my tastes were proving to be preternaturally Cajun, in the sense of the Justin Wilson "They'll eat anything" punchline. I adored it. I adored it this time around, too. We devoured cold slices on crackers. It was amazing.

So a few days later I arrived back in Boulder, too sick to think about anything other than how awful being sick was. Took a while for my appetite to return. Once it did, I spent a few days just cycling through my habitual sickbed comfort foods. But once I was done with that, wow was I craving cold slices of head cheese on crackers. But I didn't know where to find it. It's a bit outside the usual run of deli meats, and presumably less popular in the Rocky Mountain Region than in the Cajun South.

So after some hesitant inquiries at the Pearl Street Whole Foods, where the question was met with blank stares and "what's that?" I did some research online and came up with a short list of places in Boulder County to rule out before making the trek down to some definite sources in Denver.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped in at the first on my list, Blackbelly Market. They were the closest to home. Also their website mentions utilizing the whole animal, a hopeful sign if one is looking for an offal product. And, as it turns out, they do make head cheese! Just not right now. But they invited me to call after the new year and ask them to set some aside for me. Mission accomplished!

Still, now I was curious about the second location on my list: "Longmont Packing #1," a butcher shop fairly convenient to an appointment I had that evening. I resolved to visit. Turns out, it's the carnicería right next door to Guacamole's (where I satisfied a craving for menudo that sad Saturday morning when I discovered that the Sancho's location in the north Boulder DMV mall had closed). Head cheese not being a particularly Latino offal meat product, I didn't think I'd find any there. (Note: Apparently I'm wrong about it that; Wikipedia says it's very popular in Latin America.) But I might as well go in and see what else I might find, right?

But here's the thing. It's stupid. I'm embarrassed about this. But when it comes to those places that primarily serve the area's Latino community, I'm, well, shy. I get self-conscious. I know I look like someone who couldn't possibly know her way around the aisles, someone who might ask stupid questions or say stupid things, someone who will almost certainly necessitate an English-speaking staff member at every transaction. And, OK, yes I'm semi-fluent in Spanish, but--and this is the really stupid thing--I'm generally too embarrassed to even try. I get anxious about screwing up in laughable or even offensive ways, or just coming across as a self-congratulatory show-off.

Look, I told you it was stupid. Nevertheless, there it is.

So I went in! Yay! And then spent a couple minutes wandering the aisles just psyching myself up to interact with anyone. I stared with great concentration at the various canned chilis as though seriously considering the comparative merits of various brand names. I might have kept this foolishness up for quite some time had I not worked my way over to the produce aisle and discovered that they had mirlitons! OK, chayotes. Same thing. Right there and then, visions of The Holiday Casserole of My People gave me the drive to get over myself already and head over to the meat counter in search of shrimp and actually ask, in Spanish, about the available varieties. Did they have the really tiny ones? No? Just the ones on display here? OK. No, no thank you. But one lengua de res, por favor. Because I saw those on display just a few feet to the left of los camarones, and it got me remembering fondly a beef tongue stew I wanted to try making again.

Anyway, I'm kind of proud of myself now. Not for successfully posing as bilingual for whole five minutes--it is not a particularly unique skill and I'm only so-so at it--but, I mean, for shoving my self-consciousness and anxiety to the side and managing to function in spite of them.

Long story short, that is how I came to have a soupy version of this Basque-style beef tongue stew waiting for me in the slow cooker after roller derby practice. And it was amazing. As amazing as Cajun head cheese on crackers? Unclear. I'll have to get back to you after side-by-side comparison.

And what of the mirlitons? That will be a story for tomorrow.

Cover art incorporates and modifies photo by Pat Loika (CC BY 2.0)
Day 15-17: and then this happened
Sat 2018-11-17 12:46:43 (single post)
  • 1,077 words (if poetry, lines) long

So hey guess what happened on my ride home from Chicago? I GOT SICK. Fully symptomatic by the time I woke up in Denver.

Guess what didn't happen Thursday? WRITING. Friday was also impacted.

Alas.

I go back and forth on whether to force myself to write when I'm sick. Sometimes, the sense of accomplishment makes me feel better: "Heck yeah! I am awesome! You can't keep me down, you stupid cold!" But sometimes I'm feeling bad enough to begin with that expecting anything productive out of me borders on cruel. Thursday was more in the latter camp, especially once the fever-chills set in. About all I was capable of doing was curling up under the blankets and waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in.

So here's the report:

Thursday the 15th: Nada, zip, zilch. Sniffle. Whimper. Moan.

Friday the 16th: Got off to a decent start. Had to be upright and functional because the Eco Handyman crew was coming over to remedy our under-insulated bedroom and to hook up our overhead range fan to the vent like it should be. I can't say I worked straight through the nine-to-five period when they were there, but I got my Morning Pages scribbled, my freewriting written, and my Friday Fictionette finished. Later that evening I was able to release the fictionette (although recording the audiobook edition was painful)... and that's about where I fizzled out. So no short story revision or submission procedures yesterday. Nor, as you are aware, was there blogging.

The Friday Fictionette for November 16, 2018 is "What Dreams May Come." Content note for suicide bombing, violence against a child. (This is the first Friday Fictionette I've appended a content note to. It is probably not the first that I should have appended one to. For my past lapses in that department, I apologize.) It's about how the moral calculus vis-a-vis "ends justifying means" changes if it turns out one might actually survive to suffer the consequences. Also in there: me taking my loathing for the "it was all a dream" trope as a challenge to use that trope in a way I don't wind up hating. I think I succeeded. But I still prefer the inverse trope, where what appears to be a dream turns out to be all to real.

Patrons may download "What Dreams May Come" as an ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi) and, starting at the $3/month tier, the audiobook too. Read by me. With a very sore throat and stuffed nose. You're welcome.

Saturday the 17th: That's today! I think I should be able to manage a short freewriting session and a little nibble at the Friday Fictionette for November 23. I managed more than that yesterday. And here I am blogging, even though it's not a weekday. Yeah, I think I can just about manage a Saturday's work requirements. Say that I do, that puts me at 14.5 days out of 17 so far. Not terrible. But I would really prefer not to miss any more days. Can I not be sick anymore? Pretty please?

I'm on the mend, at least. Well, that might be putting it too optimistically. My body appears to be reacting better to the usual over-the-counter medications and household remedies. My appetite has returned, even if my willingness to do anything about it remains at an all-time low. I am not entirely miserable while conscious. That's an improvement!

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