lists


I’ve started several blogs over the past weeks, even got quite far on some of them, but then I’ll get interrupted, or the tone is somehow off and I need to think some more, or yet another Life Thing comes up and I don’t get them posted.  So instead I’m posting a list of titles.  Heighth of laziness, yes I know, yadda yadda.  Some of these may get finished some day, but the wackyosity that is my life these days doesn’t allow me to predict when.

 

  • When is an instinct an instinct and when is it a kangaroo?
  • The League of Anti-Whining Enforcement
  • Journey around my room – The Ice Blue Madonna
  • Momentary angels
  • For Zilznia in her big, comfy chair
  • No-Code me, please
  • Love, and other fragile-enduring things
  • Poll: How do you eat your muffins? (no sexual pun intended)
  • Book review: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union
  • Oh right, this is a novel not a novella
  • Jung and the active imagination

7. And this is a weird one. Early this morning, about 12:30, I heard this great clattering noise coming from my bathroom, which is on the other side of my bedroom closet wall. I realized that some critter had gotten into the crawl space underneath my bathtub. Ever since the guy did the remodel, I’ve periodically heard critters in there banging up against the underside of the built-in bathtub. He apparently left some opening they get into. Rats or squirrels maybe. Something small. Usually, all I have to do is turn on the water or bang the tub and they scurry off in a hurry. Not so last night.

I could tell from the particular type of hissing and barking coming from my tub’s underbelly that the critter lodged in there this time was a ‘possum. Much larger than a rat or squirrel and apparently stuck and in a panic. Those hisses and barks are usually reserved for panic, when confronted with a predator/enemy or otherwise trapped. I banged on the tub and ran the water and that only increased its panic. I heard it clanging hard against the pipes in the wall and at one point it was scratching hard against the underside of the tub, desperate to get out. I really felt sorry for the poor thing, but there wasn’t anything I could do. I also couldn’t sleep with that racket and contemplated calling the exterminators for (hopefully) a trap and release.

Finally, sometime between 1-1:30 I remembered that there was an access way to the house’s nether regions on the side of the house right under my bathroom window. I wondered if the plumber, when he inspected the pipe the previous day, had somehow locked this critter in. So I went out with my flashlight and pulled the screen and the covering board off and came back inside. ‘Possums aren’t the brightest bulbs in the animal kingdom so it took another hour for it to realize it had a way out, but about 2:30 I heard its barking slowly diminishing in volume along the side of the house. Peace and quiet reigned and I could finally get back to sleep. 5:45 a.m. came painfully early this morning.

I asked the plumber when he showed up this morning if he could take a look at those bathroom pipes because I had a horrible fear that critter might have damaged them. Everything worked okay this morning, but I wanted to be good and sure.

The ‘possum adventures continue…

8. “The good news is,” said the plumber this morning, “this pipe I’m fixing today is the last of the big pipes. You’ve replaced all the other ones and any problems you have from this point on should be a lot less expensive.” Mom and I did a rough tote of plumbing expenses we’ve incurred since my parents bought this house in 1987. Spread out over the years we estimate we’ve spent close to $30,000 for various plumbing adventures. I sure as s**t hope this is the last of the big pipes. This is the part of the American Dream of Home Ownership no one ever tells you about, children…

1. Under the heading of “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” I was asked to do a favor for someone I don’t work for. I agreed and set about the proofreading, formatting, etc., of a long document. I spent five hours at this task and sent it back to the author only to discover that I had been given the wrong version. I was unhappy, but not so unhappy as the author who had to do a compare/contrast of my changes/his changes over the weekend. Then I got it back to finish cleaning up.

2. I got a robo-call last week to remind me that I had an appointment at UCLA Med for Monday, October 31. I knew I did—it was my semi-annual thyroid check up. Yet somehow, between now and then, I dropped off the computer. They had no record of my appointment and the doctor was booked solid with other people. I’m glad I took a half vacation day to go to this appointment and that I made special arrangements for a friend to take my mom to dialysis so I didn’t have to reschedule and wait and additional 2-3 months for a new appointment. I’ll be seeing the doctor in mid-December. At least I got to go home for a couple of hours and put my sore knee up with a heating pad (crone!) before picking Mom up at dialysis.

3. Since we usually get home from dialysis between 7-7:30 p.m. (sometimes later), I knew that I would miss most of the cute little trick or treaters that I love giving out candy to. Plus, after a dialysis day, we’re usually trashed and I was so not in the mood this year. So I left the porch light out when I drove to pick up Mom. They had a Haunted House at Westchester Park, about a block from our house, right where Georgetown deadends. As I made the turn from Manchester to Georgetown, I saw hordes and hordes and hordes of older thugs pouring out of the Haunted House, and more parents driving onto our street and disgorging their vans and cars of screaming invaders. I knew we were in trouble. So Mom and I sneaked like felons into our house to avoid the hordes. Even so, as we were letting ourselves into our darkened front door some particularly ambitious candy extortionists followed us up the driveway. “We don’t have any candy here!” I yelled. “Sorry!” and quickly slammed the door. Later, as I was making dinner I was forced to turn on the kitchen light (though the porch light was still out) and as soon as I did kids streamed to our front door yelling, “Trick or treat!” I quickly turned the light out, ignored them, and they departed. Thankfully, it was a school night and everyone had pretty much departed the neighborhood by 10 p.m. Or so I think. I fell asleep in my chair by 8:30. When I woke at 9 they were still traipsing about, and when I awoke again around 10 things had quieted considerably. So I went to bed.

4. This morning while I was showering I noticed the water lapping around my ankles. Sure enough, it was refusing to go down the drain. Simultaneous to this, my mother’s toilet refused to flush and threatened to o’er top its containment vessel. I thought fleetingly, “This must be the trick for refusing to give the treats.” Eventually they both drained, but it took close to a half hour and there was much gurgling and scary sewer sounds. You may remember that we had the entire sewer pipe replaced about a year ago? The plumber who came out today (a different plumber) said that pipe was just fine…but there was this other pipe underneath the house…He’s coming tomorrow morning to replace it. The good news is, we must be getting close to having all new plumbing for this old place. It’s gotten so absurd at this point I just have to laugh. What the hell else am I going to do?

5. Mom seems to be doing better and we have no new doctor’s appointments until Thursday the 10th. I’m hoping we continue in this undramatic fashion for awhile.

6. One more than five! I continue to poke at research for The Numberless Stars, and even did some creative thinking about the plot. There still remains little to no time for actual writing, but you can’t have everything. Some day, however, I may write the Great Crone Epic. I’m wondering if anyone in this youth-obsessed market will even want to read about kick-ass crones?

1. When I heard that WFC would be in San Diego in 2011 I thought, “Oh hell, for sure I can go, even if it’s just to drive down for a day.” Life had other plans, unfortunately. And, truth told, I might not have gone, despite my optimism. Every year I plan to go to Loscon, which takes place about 10 miles from my house on Thanksgiving weekend, aaaaaaaand…I don’t go. I should never underestimate the power of my own sloth.

2. Mom had some scary issues this week, but the doctors think they were due to water retention (always a hazard with dialysis). Since they’ve up the Lasix, the problems have improved.

3. I have injured my knee. My good knee. I pulled a muscle along the side of the knee, which has happened before, but now the joint is stiff and swollen as well. The bad knee, ironically, is doing much, much better. *sigh*

4. I’ve been studying Native American gender identity issues for some time now, but my interest has revived over the last couple of weeks as I’ve worked on the research for The Numberless Stars. I’ve been poking at the cultural mores of different tribes regarding attitudes towards the third sex, the berdache, as anthropologists have labeled them. In the kind of synchronicity that often occurs when I start seriously poking at some research, this popped up on LJ’s little_details. Very helpful indeed. I’ve already ordered the Williams book and one other. Both cheap used copies, of course.

5. TGIF. Putting a hundred extra miles (or more) on the car per week is rather draining, but today all that is required of me is to be at work. Tomorrow I actually get three hours to myself while Mom is at dialysis, and Sunday, the blessed day, I don’t have to go anywhere at all. Chores, sure, but I don’t have to drive anywhere. I try to keep that sacrosanct about Sundays.

1. There has not been much to report except the same old same old so I haven’t reported.

2. I continue to poke at The Numberless Stars, my Old California fantasy. Not really writing. I’m poking online research, specifically about the El Camino Real and the Los Angeles River and stuff. I’m obsessed with learning as much as I can. Considering that the bulk of the novel has nothing to do with these things, it seems a bit excessive, BUT I maintain that knowing that stuff, whether I use it or not, enriches the story.

3. I’m the girl who once read three books and countless partials on Robert Clive’s India for what wound up being one paragraph in my novel, Blood Geek. BUT, I do think all that informed the character of Jeremy Jones, the hero, so it wasn’t a waste.

4. I did a trip count Monday on the miles I drive on Monday and Wednesday when I come to work, go home at lunch, pick up Mom, take her to dialysis, come back to work, finish my shift, go home to feed the cat, go to pick Mom up at dialysis and thence back home. 52.4 miles on these days. I knew it had to be significant because I really notice the difference in my gas tank. Thank the gods it’s only twice a week.

5. I really must stop waking up at 4 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep. I’m usually a champion sleeper, but things have been screwy this week.

1. “Stupid is not to be underestimated,” I told my friend J. “Stupid things can save your sanity when life is out of your control.” And it’s true. An hour or two of doing something silly and mundane and all yours is a precious thing. My most fervent hope for this evening is that I get to spend an hour alone in my sitting room watching a new episode of Ghost Hunters. If that happens, I will not think the day a total loss. If it doesn’t happen, then I will watch the tape during some other precious hour, and having DVR’d it, the day will not be a total loss. One has to stay flexible.

2. And speaking of flexible, I’ve lost roughly 30 pounds in the last month. (My God, has it only been a month? Feels like several weeks more than that.) I say roughly 30 pounds because I made a decision some time back to live without a scale, so that’s based on the last time I stepped on a doctor’s scale. I may have lost a bit of that before the current month, but I’ve definitely dropped a lot of weight since September 14. What do you know? Eating less and running around a lot do help you lose weight. Fewer aches and pains, too. I haven’t got time for them, so they’ve been banished to the aethyr.

3. I poked at my novel, The Numberless Stars yesterday. I don’t know if I have the energy/time to write new prose again, though. I thought of revising something already written, but I didn’t have the stomach for that. Sustained focus is difficult these days.

4. My mother decided to make mini cheese cakes because a friend is coming to dinner tomorrow. Mom has always been someone who loved feeding people—and overfeeding people. I encourage her to do things like this because it makes her feel better about herself, and stronger. I thought she’d make her usual dozen, but when I got home from work last night, she’d made three dozen and was in the process of making another two. “What??” I asked. “I decided to make some for the girls at the dialysis center, and some to send home with L. and some to send with you to work.” We didn’t finish up until about 9:30 last night. I’m glad she’s feeling better. It was not how I’d planned my evening, however. Flexible!

5. J. and I were just discussing the strange culture of tipping. I am usually a 20% straight across the board tipper. Service is hard work and I want people who do work for me/serve me to know that I appreciate that. (Plus, 20% is so much easier to calculate than, say, 18%.) I realize not everyone feels this way and some are scandalized at tipping over 15%, but these days that seems a little on the low side to me. I say this even though I am feeling something of an economic pinch these days myself. If I can’t afford the tip, I should not expect the service.

J. was saying how the first time he went to his barber it was Thanksgiving, so he gave him a larger tip than he otherwise would. The second time was Christmas, so again he gave a larger tip. Now he feels like he’s always got to give that same tip or risk insulting/hurting the man’s feelings. “If you’ve got a barber you like,” I said, “best not to make him mad.” J. concurred.

1. I finally got around to watching the taped season finale of Castle and the fourth season premiere. This is what I hate about episodic TV and why I stopped watching it: every season, no matter how dramatic or world-changing the finale, by the end of the premiere episode everything has been reset to square one. There’s no regard for character growth, the hard left turns in the script give you whiplash, but everything goes back to the way things have always been. Even on Castle, which is a better written show than most episodic TV. Yeah, there are hints that things will continue in a slightly altered vein, but the premiere really had to do some unlikely contortions to achieve their reset.

2. We’ve got summer weather this October, as often happens in L.A. in October. I wore short sleeves today, forgetting the fall/stress rash on my forearm which is now on display for all to see. Oh well. It had mostly simmered down so it isn’t too humiliating. Driving back from taking Mom to the clinic, everything was sunny and bright until I got to Santa Monica. Then the fog seeped down the highway and I wished that I’d brought my sweater.

3. Driving to the clinic, my mother and I discussed the weird perception of waking up and not knowing where you are, thinking maybe you’re in some place you lived in two or three moves ago, or whatever. These days that sensation has gone a step further for Mom: she wakes up and although she knows where everything is and everything looks the same, the neighborhood is familiar, she feels as if the house isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Somehow it’s moved, she knows not where. I said, “Maybe we’ve slipped into an alternate reality and you’re the only one who realizes it.” She laughed. “Maybe so.”

4. I sometimes have moments of hope these days—and that scares me. So much is beyond my control. I can concentrate only on the here and now. I have to let go of the rest. Whenever I get caught up in anger or frustration or trying to will my will in situations where my will has no effect, I tell myself, “You haven’t got time for this. Let it go. Save your energy for fights you can win.” This is a very difficult lesson to learn, not just for me, but it’s one the Universe has been trying to teach me for many long years: live this moment, and this moment, and this moment, and this . . .

5. My creative life is stretching taut over my bones, but it’s swimming in my blood. I thought it was dead for a time, but it isn’t dead. It is not dead.

1. They are selling Halloween cookies in the cafeteria. I got a black cat one but felt somewhat like a cannibal when I ate it last night.

2. As if Min agreed it was an abominable thing to do, at about four this morning she started having a loud game on the hardwood floors in my bedroom. I threw the covers over my head, but it sounded like she was batting something around or chasing something. I assumed it was one of her catnip toys and she was telling me, “Eat a black cat, will ya? I’ll show you!”

3. This morning when the alarm went off and I swung my legs over the side of the bed, I heard Min give her little, “I’m here!” meow. I turned on the light and saw her tail sticking out from under the bed. “What are you doing under there?” I asked and reached under to give her a pet. She disappeared all the way under the bed. I shrugged and went about my business, but when she still hadn’t come out for breakfast, I knew something was seriously strange.

4. I peaked under the bed as best I could, but with my bad knees there was no way I was kneeling on the floor. Min had moved to the other side of the bed by then. I got the broom and gently swept the handle under the bed. Min came out and started a dodge and weave game at the end of the bed as if chasing something that had been dislodged along with her. I still got no visual on the Whatever, but by then I had strong suspicions that Min had brought me a present during the night and turned it loose under the bed. I’m afraid I grabbed her and went into the other room for about ten minutes to give the Whatever time to escape.

5. Min was not pleased. When I released her she went right back in there, but came sauntering out a short time later as if the Whatever was no longer there to fascinate and compel. Either it did escape or it’s dead and will start stinking shortly. The exterminators will be coming out soon.

And now, two more day poems:

Min

warm purrs, silky fur, shining eyes
head rubs on bare feet:
you are my joy.

bleeding trophies, hawked up hair,
loud games at four a.m.:
you’re still my joy.

***

Driving

along
shadow-dappled roads,
Lauridsen’s rose songs in the air:
the world unwinds, sighs release chains
binding my head, the sun shines
once more.

***

Crone

I thought I understood
but it was yet another posture
something not truly comprehended
until your skin ripples on your bones,
and your toes curl walking the walk.

1. I accidentally locked Min out of the house last night. For two hours! And after dark! She was scared and pretty glad to get back inside. I felt terrible. She probably thought she’d been abandoned/lost again. I’ll be extra careful from now on.

2. I finally finished Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris. I liked it okay, but you can sure tell the series is winding down. And this one seemed to peeter out just like the last one. I love Ms. Harris dearly but she can’t write action scenes worth beans. I’ve had a pathetic reading year this year. I think I’ve only managed to finished 17 books.

3. We’ve started calling the hummingbirds who frequent our yard “Nazi Buzz Bombs.” They are quite insistent when you’ve let their feeders go dry. They buzz around in the kitchen window giving out malevolent stares until they’re filled, and buzz your head when you go outside.

4. I still love reading Post Secrets, even when it makes me cry.

5. I actually find myself liking Pan Am. It’s not the T&A show I feared it would be. It’s actually about the nascent “New Woman” of the early sixties who rejected the idea that marriage and 2.5 kids were the only options for a woman’s life. There were painfully few career options for women back then: nurse, teacher, homemaker, dental hygienist, secretary/clerk, stewardess. The stewardesses were always considered the more adventurous women.

1. All writing lists are highly subjective. Including this one.

They tell you more about what the writer of the list has found useful than about what will be effective in your own process. This is true even of professionals with a long track record. There are exceptions to this as in all things, and humor is always an exception, but many top ten lists are about speaking forcefully and eschewing all counter-argument. The absolute and incontrovertible fact is, there is no right way to do the process of writing, there is only what is effective for the individual; i.e., that which helps you put words on paper/screen on a regular and ongoing basis.

2. Many people can teach you to be a better writer.

Proper use of grammar, the basics of classic story structure, putting of sentences together in a fashion which is less clunky can even be taught by some top ten lists. Some, in fact, are brilliant. However, only you can hone your craft, and no one can teach you how to find your own individual style. Once you have received the basics from others, you’re going to have to do most of the heavy lifting yourself, and that means writing and purging and purging and writing and writing and purging…

3. Top ten lists are a quick and easy way to fill up a blog post or otherwise make a deadline.

Sometimes they mean no more than that.

4. Even people with little to no publishing record, or a sketchy one at best, feel no compunction about taking off into the countryside with top ten lists.

The Top Ten Things Every Writer Should Know, The Top Ten Writing Myths, The Top Ten Things I’ve Learned About Top Ten Writing Advice Lists. I rest my case.

5. Many outliners—those who outline all stories before writing them—will tell you it’s the only way to be an effective and successful writer.

Pantsers—those who make their stories up as they go—will point to a long list of successful writers who are pantsers. Some outliners will say those successful writers who call themselves pantsers are lying. Believe whichever side pleases you. It doesn’t matter as long as your method helps you put words on paper/screen on a regular and ongoing basis.

6. Pantsers will sometimes tell you that the only way to be a true artiste is to be an organic writer; i.e., make your stories up as you go along.

Outliners will point to a long list of successful writers who are outliners. Don’t believe either side. Or, rather, believe both. Artistry is in the eye of the beholder, and more importantly, in the heart of the writer.

7. Writing a top ten list is a great way of procrastinating in other areas.

It’s about this point in every list that the compilers begin to realize that coming up with one of these things is not quite as easy as they thought. They begin padding the content and reaching hard for bullet points. Sometimes they list the entries in opposite order, with the top and strongest reason being last, in hopes of hiding the padding from the reader.

8. Some list makers like to speak in self-congratulatory absolutes.

But no one, no one does absolutism better than me. Never forget that. And never begin sentences with But or And.

9. Top ten lists like to bandy the word “pro” around quite a bit.

The implication being that if you can’t see the absolute wisdom being promulgated by the list it’s because you’re a rank amateur.

10. As a writing instructor of mine once said, “Avoid clichés like the plague.”

Top ten lists are a blogging and workshop cliché. They’ve been so overused that each new one adds to the overall ineffectiveness of the whole species. The best of them don’t try to overreach and may actually do some good. The worst spread more confusion in new writers as they are often contradictory and dismissive of Anything Not Me. You know that grain of salt people are always talking about? Take it whenever you see a top ten list on the horizon.

If I was giving serious advice here, I’d say something like, “Make a sincere and concerted effort to learn the basics of story structure and grammar, get yourself some good critiquing partners or join a writers group, listen to and selectively take the advice they give you, and keep writing. That’s the only list you really need to know.”

Of course, that’s a self-serving and absolutist statement, too, so…