“Times of great failure or times of great success, the problem is the same (how do you keep going?) and the solution is the same: You write the next thing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates and modifies dollhouse image by Tomasz Mikołajczyk (Pixabay)
in praise of those arsonists who light fires under my butt
Tue 2019-07-02 23:58:50 (single post)

So my roller derby league does this thing where on Mondays they post a member profile to their public Facebook page, and this week the member being profiled is me. And that feels weird. Like, one, Anxiety Brain is sure that this makes me look like the biggest ego on the planet, despite how patently ridiculous that conviction is. I mean, it's not like I thought that about anybody else; why should anyone think that about me? ("But it's true!" says Anxiety Brain. "Doubly so now that you're boosting the signal on that post. You must want everyone to think you're a total narcissist." You know what? Anxiety Brain can take a hike.) And secondly, Perfectionist Brain is all, "Why'd you give them your Patreon link? Now everyone is going to look and see just how woefully behind schedule you are!"

Well. I'm a lot less behind schedule than I was. The Friday Fictionette for June 21 went up yesterday: "Thinking Outside the Dollhouse." It's kind of what happens when you cross Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" with Cat Steven's "Wild World" and then you miniaturize the result. (Patron-locked post: ebook here, audiobook here.) And today I got a metric shit-ton done on the Friday Fictionette for June 28; I hope to produce that one tomorrow night, then have the rest of the week to get July 5 done on time. Which means the only thing I'm really, really behind on are the Fictionette Artifacts for my $5 Patrons, who have been immensely understanding.

That aside, I am getting a lot done on the writing front. My week-daily submission streak continues with only one missed day since April 18. That missed day did not send me into a spiral of avoidance and despair; I got right back on the horse the next day and haven't fallen off since. So I guess we can cautiously pronounce that new work habit solidly implanted. This month I'm working on a new streak to carry simultaneously: at least 25 minutes of commercial fiction revision every weekday. It's not like that wasn't already in my list of Habitica Dailies for Monday through Friday, but it's officially no longer in my mental category of "eh, nice to have, but if I can't, that's cool--I'll just use my Stealth skill to avoid damage." Two days in: so far, so good!

Credit where credit is due: The support structure for both these endeavors comes from Guild Challenges hosted by the Habitica Guild "Ink Slingers". I won't bother linking it because you have to be logged in to see it, and if you're logged in, you can just search for that Guild by name. But, briefly, "Ink Slingers" is a Guild headed up by the fabulous, hard-working, and much-decorated writer Mary Robinette Kowal. In addition to writing top-notch science fiction and fantasy, she teaches writing classes and hosts monthly online writer dates via her Patreon. She's logged a number of years on the board of SFWA and has taken the reins as President as of yesterday. She's part of the team behind the podcast Writing Excuses. She's also an award-winning puppeteer. Somehow she still finds time to be active in various online writing communities, one of which is the aforementioned Habitica Guild.

Guilds serve as small communities within Habitica. And because those communities tend to share overall goals (like, say, "be a writer"), Guilds can create and host Challenges for their members. The Ink Slingers Guild hosts a lot of challenges, some created by MRK herself and others by enthusiastic community members. My recent successes at improving my work week can be attributed almost entirely to two Ink Slingers Guild Challenges in particular: the Rejection to Acceptance 2019 Challenge, in which participants strive to receive 100 manuscript rejections in a year, and, just now, the July Wednesday Writers Challenge, in which participants set a big goal for the month and then break it down into smaller weekly goals that will help them achieve the big goal.

The Rejection Challenge you already know about, because I've been yammering about it here for the last three months. But this is the first month I joined the Wednesday Writers' Club, despite having seen guild members reporting in and cheering each other on ever since I joined the Guild. So I set myself a goal for July of adding two stories to my stable of submission-ready manuscripts; and the weekly goal of sitting down to a 25-minute minimum story revision session every Monday through Friday. Tomorrow being Wednesday, I get to report on my progress so far, which, assuming I'm as diligent tomorrow as I have been today and yesterday, should be all smiles and thumbs up.

I've encountered people who will haughtily assert that real writers don't need tricks or brain hacks or special challenges or communities in order to write. They just write! Because they can't not! And anyone who relies on the aforementioned list of crutches shouldn't dare arrogate to themselves the lofty titles Writer or Author. Well, I can say without hesitation or exception that every encounter with such a person has been an encounter I regretted having. Such people should own the claims they are making and absent themselves from any sort of community forthwith, is what I think, because who needs that kind of attitude? Look, brain hacks can be necessary. Community can be life-saving. And I am here to tell you that a friendly peer challenge can be a game-changer.

Hence today this post expressing gratitude for one those communities whose challenges have changed my game. Thanks, y'all!

i distract you with poetry and sanctioned violence
Fri 2019-06-21 22:23:54 (single post)
  • 45 wds. long

So have I posted the Friday Fictionettes that were due last week and today? No. No, I have not. They will not be appearing tonight. Fridays suck, this week has sucked, I suck. It's true. But hey! Let me distract you with the Summer Solstice 2019 issue of Eternal Haunted Summer! I think if you read the table of contents you will see a familiar name.

If you're local to the Boulder, Colorado area, I could also distract you with roller derby. We're playing the teams from Fort Collins and from Cincinnati tomorrow in a round robin tournament of full sanctioned games. $15 gets you in all day. Come check it out, it'll be a fun time! Also we owe our Cincinnati visitors just as much love as they showed us when we visited them last year. That means we need a great big noisy crowd. Don't you want to be part of a great big noisy crowd? I think you do.

If you're there, make sure to say hi--I'll be the one with the long braid, the upside-down fleur-de-lis on my leggings, and the tall hand-knit green and purple stockings that make everyone say, "Aren't you hot in those things?" (Friend, I'm hot in everything. It's a gift.) Also the great big 504 on my back and arm-bands, which might be the more significant giveaway.

My intentions at this point are to do my Saturday AINC reading tonight and be in bed by midnight. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day, what with skating in two games in the evening, helping to set up the track in the morning, and trying my darnedest to get some writing in--including on the overdue Fictionettes--in between. So I'll sign off here and get to it.

See you tomorrow or just as soon as possible thereafter!

Cover art incorporates and modifies image by Pun Kaset on Pixabay
the struggle is real (more real on some days than others)
Mon 2019-06-10 23:59:09 (single post)
  • 1,011 wds. long

OK so I didn't Do All The Things on Friday. And that was disappointing. Having found a strategy that worked for three days running, it was discouraging to just fail on the fourth day. And it was a day when, supposedly, I had all the time in the world... but not, as it turns out, all the energy.

Fridays are when I bike my Boulder Food Rescue shift, and of late the bike ride's been long and the food donation on the trailer has been plentiful. By the time I get home, I'm generally on the verge of falling over. This is why the very reasonable plan I'd drawn up that morning while fresh out of bed and sipping my first mug of tea became absolutely untenable by lunchtime. So it became a matter of prioritization. I submitted a story, because I am not breaking that streak, and I produced the Friday Fictionette due on that day, because I'm going to release those on schedule from here on out no matter what. Having gotten those things done, I just forgave myself the rest of my to-do list.

(Speaking of which, the Friday Fictionette for June 7 is "Lord Alchemist's Harvest," in which magpies are both a blessing and a curse. Patrons at the $1 level can download the ebook in their preferred format (pdf, epub, mobi, and/or html); Patrons at the $3 level and above also have access to the audiobook. Non-Patrons are invited to follow the feed in order to be alerted when the monthly Fictionette Freebie is released and when the Monday Muse posts go up. The Monday Muse is where I share the writing prompt associated with that week's Fictionette so y'all can play along at home, should you feel moved to do so.)

I'm still evaluating whether Doing All The Things On A Friday is simply an advanced goal toward which I am making baby steps by at least accomplishing the do-or-die goals described above, or whether I need to just give in and accept that Fridays need a shorter to-do list.

Whatever the answer, I need to give myself space to figure that out rather than constantly excoriating myself for not doing enough. It's like what I and the other trainers were saying to our brand new Phase 2 skaters tonight, "You're learning new things, and you'll make mistakes. That hasn't changed. But now, since you're entering the full contact stage of your derby training, you're going to make those mistakes while deliberately crashing into each other. It may be awkward. It will definitely be painful. Please resolve to forgive each other for that, and also to forgive yourself."

Good advice! But it's always easier to give advice than to take it, though. I'm going to have to give myself space to screw up at that, too. At taking my own advice, I mean. To forgive myself for screwing up, is the advice I'm talking about.

Real quick before I sign off, here's the running submissions and rejections totals.

Submissions: in May, 23; in June, 7; in 2019, 43.
Rejections: in May: 13, in June: 5, in 2019, 22.

78 more rejections to make 100 in 2019! Also I Did All The Things today. So there.

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

a recipe for spur-of-the-moment dirty rice, presented in second person POV because that's what it sounds like in my head when i talk to myself
Wed 2019-01-02 22:00:00 (single post)

Defrost and begin browning a pound of sausage. You've still got a few pounds left in the freezer. You always bought it five or ten pounds at a time, and you're glad of that now, because you're not likely to get the opportunity to buy any again, not this sausage. The pig farmer, who was also your teammate, had to sell the farm and move out of state, herself with all her animals. You miss her. Maybe one day you'll see her on the track again, probably as her opponent at some away game in Kansas. One day you'll get to hear it again, her mutter of "Damn it, Fleur--" that means your attempts to play offense on her are working, at least a little.

Chop up a small white onion and add it to the sausage. Then three ribs of celery. You'd like to use all the celery, it's getting old and that takes some doing with celery, but three ribs really is plenty. What's left will keep for next time. Not so the parsley, which you bought three weeks back for those culinary adventures involving mirliton and seafood on the one hand and beef tongue on the other. Chop up and add to the pot as much as looks right, about a quarter cup or so. The rest can go in the compost. Add garlic. Two cloves? Better make it three. Three big cloves. Smash them lightly under the flat of the blade to loosen their skins, then mince them fine. Throw 'em in.

Stir. Break up the sausage. Add spices: black pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes. A shake or two of Cajun Land seasoning, if that isn't redundant. Keep mashing at the sausage with your wooden spoon to crumble it further. Add a cup of long grain white rice and stir it around, getting it nicely coated in the grease.

Defrost a quart of seafood stock, also leftover from that adventurous cooking weekend. You made this stock with veggies, spices, and the shells of almost three pounds of crawfish. When you upend it into the pot, the smell of crawfish is unmistakable and strong. Better turn on the fan over the stove. The stock is still mostly a thick core of ice because you got impatient and because the rice started sticking to the bottom of the pot. So it'll take longer to come to a boil and the rice will take longer to cook. Oh well.

Wonder for a moment whether there's too much broth and not enough rice. Will it wind up more like soup? That will be fine, as long as it's delicious. It smells like it's going to be delicious. Cover and leave to simmer.

Adjust the timer several times. With eight minutes left, the rice is still uncooked. Put it back up to fifteen. Ten minutes later, reset it to ten. Is it done yet? You're hungry!

When the rice looks cooked enough, take the pot off the fire. Ladle up a serving into a bowl. Put the lid back on securely. If it isn't quite there yet, it'll steam the rest of the way. It isn't, but it does, and you have another serving. The rice has absorbed most of the broth, so it's not soupy after all.

Exercise a little self-restraint. After your second bowl, put the rest away in the refrigerator for leftovers.

Contemplate the sink full of dirty dishes and cooking implements. Groan a little. Resolve to do it, but later tonight. It can wait an hour or so. Grab a book and succumb to food coma on the couch. Everything--the dirty dishes, the writing tasks not yet done, the still-broken web code on your blog, all the rest--will still be there waiting for you when you get up again.

a thing i did, a thing i did not
Thu 2018-12-13 23:49:25 (single post)

A thing I did not do today: Bake the fruitcake. I will have to bake it tomorrow afternoon.

Which is to say: there will not be an all-night Winter Solstice open house and vigil at Chez LeBoeuf-Little this year, because reasons, but there will be a fruitcake. And I was going to bake it today. This afternoon! Only by the time I really got going this morning it was too late to start, what with having to leave for scrimmage by 5:30 PM and all.

Then I thought, "OK, fine, I'll do it when I come home from scrimmage." Then I went to scrimmage. Then I came home, thoroughly exhausted and covered in bruises and scrapes, and I said, "You know what? Never mind. I'm heading for the tub and then to bed." (No one should be surprised by this. I honestly don't know why I keep getting surprised by this. Things planned for after derby don't happen, it's a reliable fact, and yet I'm still in denial about it.)

Look, this is a cake that takes three and a half hours to bake, and then a half hour after it comes out the oven I have to be on hand to take it out of its pan. Also the preparing of the tube pan and the mixing of the batter takes a good half hour at least. Really, I should have started the moment I woke up, just to be on the safe side.

But I didn't start the fruitcake first thing when I woke up. Instead...

A thing I did do today: WRITE. Damn straight. Not a lot, not as much as I would like, certainly not as much as I should given that I've got a Fictionette release due tomorrow, but more than I've done in a day since I got sick. With an earlier start to the day, too. Yeah, I'm happy about that. Damn straight.

Also my sore throat is gone. Was it the pork rinds, or was it coincidence? We'll find out next time I yield to temptation and buy pork rinds again. Which I will, because I have no self-control.

PS. I am married to the sweetest human being. I walked in the door and he said, "Dinner's on the counter for you. Nothing big, I just reordered what you got from Golden Sun last time." That is quite possibly the nicest thing anyone has said to me on my arrival home from roller derby activity.

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 carnicerķa 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.

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