Exciting News: TAKE TWO

Subtlety is a dying art form. Or it is if I’m in charge of it. Apparently.

There’s an expression in journalism — “burying the lede” — which means, according to Wikipedia: “To begin a story with details of secondary importance to the reader while postponing more essential points or facts.”

Well, in my last post, I buried the important news so deep, only a couple people even figured it out. I thought I was being clever, posting the clearly-not-an-orchid pic of my daughter’s dog with a sonogram propped up against her leg. And a caption that said, “May 2018.”

And tagging the post with, “yes that’s a sonogram.”

It’s a good thing I don’t write mysteries, since apparently I’m less than competent at this whole “leaving clues” thing. Or maybe it was my failure to even point out that there was a mystery to be solved.

Sigh.

So let’s try this again, sans subtlety:

I am excited and happy to announce that my daughter is pregnant!

The baby is due in May 2018, which I hope will give me enough time to get used to the idea of my baby having a baby of her own. And also to the concept of being a grandma. Yikes!

 

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A time and a place for gratitude

Thanksgiving. A time to reflect and be grateful. It should be easy in this land of plenty, right? Except this past year it hasn’t been all that easy. We tend not to be truly appreciative of things we take for granted, and we take a lot for granted, until someone tries to take them away and then we’re all, “Oh, hell no.”

It’s been an “Oh, hell no” kind of year.

. . . and then I wrote several hundred words about things that have transpired this past year to make it difficult to feel thankful . . . until I (gently) slapped myself upside the head and said to myself, “What the hell is wrong with you? No one wants to hear that.”

DELETE DELETE DELETE

So, instead, here are a few things that have succeeded in making me immensely grateful and appreciative in the past twelve months.

I have siblings. No matter how difficult certain losses and situations have been or inevitably will become, my sisters are there to share them. I am so grateful I’m not an only child.

I have writer friends. As much as I love and treasure my non-writer friends, there is a special camaraderie among writers, an understanding that doesn’t need to be explained about the struggles and triumphs of being a writer. I am immensely grateful to have found the community of smart and funny writers over in the comment section at agent Janet Reid’s blog. This is not the only place where my writer friends congregate, but it’s by far the most plentiful and diverse sampling, which has value all on its own. I appreciate that Janet tolerates our neurotic brand of crazy creativity even as she attempts to educate us about an agent’s perspective of publishing.

Speaking of that blog, Janet occasionally hosts flash fiction contests, which I occasionally enter. [WARNING: shameless self-promotion ahead] [someone has to do it] [apparently] The competition is FIERCE and I never expect to win or even be a finalist. It’s great practice, but this is not my forte. I mean, please, I can barely say hello in 100 words, let alone tell a complete story incorporating five ungainly prompt words. Except, this past weekend, my entry DID manage to be a finalist.

These were the prompt words, first names of the authors whose books were the prize:

Tony
Peter
Mick
Nick
Bill

This was my entry, exactly 100 words:

* * *

My brother’s joint was the kind they’d slip you a mickey sooner than start an honest fistfight.

The regulars played billiards in the back, the snick of balls an accent to rough voices. Couldn’t compete with the tony clubs on the north side, but the table felt was immaculate. Priorities.

Conversation petered out as I stepped up to the bar.

“We don’t serve cops.”

“Good thing I ain’t planning to order one.”

We traded hard stares, harder memories.

“Cut bait while you still can, Frank.”

He sneered.

Priorities.

Goddammit.

I held the door for the Feds on my way out.

* * *

These were Janet’s comments (she generously tells us what she liked about each finalist and/or why she chose it, which is remarkably educational):

“That first line is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. The importance of a good first line can not be overstated. And the ending is sublime. This is a perfect story.”

SQUEEEE. And yet, even with it being a “perfect story,” someone else won. THAT’S how tough these contests are (if you want to see the other finalists and winner, they’re here). But I was just thrilled, to put it mildly. A few words of praise from someone with her experience go a very long way. And for that I am deeply thankful.

Let’s see, what else.

Oh, I know! Some of you might remember that last December my Bossy Older Sister gave me a birthday gift of a year of flowers, specifically orchids. I received the twelfth delivery yesterday and I think they’re the most beautiful of all. Of course, I’ve said that about each month’s delivery. This pic makes them look rather pink, but they’re actually a deep rich cranberry colour.

November 2017

Here’s a shot from above, the colour is a bit better:

I’m grateful for her generosity and creative gift-giving skills. I posted pics of a few of the early months’ orchids last spring but sort of got distracted and forgot to post the rest of them. So here they are, April through October (slideshow):

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Aren’t they gorgeous? What’s that, you say? One of the pics is not like the others? Well, imagine that.

IMAGINE THAT.

Yes, that is yet another thing for which I am grateful and thankful and OMG SO EXCITED ABOUT and very much looking forward to in the coming year.

What have you found to be thankful for in this “Oh, hell no” year?

 

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From chaos to quiet, a family story

It’s been a quiet week in my hometown . . .

Okay, fine, it’s been way more than a week. It also hasn’t been particularly quiet.

Where did we leave off? Looks like mid-August. Well, since then, my daughter and her husband found a house they loved, made a successful bid for it and bought it. No one was allowed to talk about it until it was a done deal, for fear of jinxing it. That’s how fraught that competitive process had become. They accomplished a relatively fast closing and moved out of my house and into their new one in mid-September.

Sometime in there, my daughter got a new job and her husband settled in to his shifts at the hospital (I’m happy to report that being an attending physician is far less time-intensive, averaged over a month, than being a resident). Along the way, they cooked in my kitchen. And cooked. And cooked. Both of them. The results were delicious. And of course, they cleaned up after themselves. Mostly.

We all jockeyed for stove time as well as space in my fridge and pantry, and gave my dishwasher epic daily workouts, while trying to respect conflicting sleep schedules.

Just for the record, and I don’t care how quiet you are about it, no one can sleep through the aroma of frying bacon. Or sautéed garlic and onions.

I wouldn’t describe them as loud, exactly. But my daughter and her husband are intense. Full of non-stop energy and motion. It was exhausting just watching them. Several mornings, as I was finally drifting off to sleep around 6 AM (I am not kidding when I say I’m nocturnal), they were up and dressed and out the door for a 2-3 mile run around the lake. No caffeine, no food, just get up and GO. Insanity.

Apart from the running, there was a lot of coming and going. Much of it move-related. I think they slightly underestimated the amount of belongings they’d managed to accumulate in my house when they decided not to rent the moving truck for an extra day after they cleared out the storage unit.

“We’ll just move the rest by car, Mom. It’ll be fine, stop worrying.”

Uh-huh. Like I’ve never moved before. Suffice to say, many many car trips were involved.

Oddly enough, there were no reports of domestic disturbances or related trips to the ER. Just a few incidences of slightly sore tongue, due to judicious application of teeth to same. On the whole, we did all right.

The White Ninja was in charge of inspecting the unusual influx of cardboard boxes. She was unimpressed that these did not appear to be cat-sized, but mostly took the commotion in stride.

 

The dog was another matter. Poor Jenny. She is so sweet and so well behaved. But she’s been so confused. She stayed here with me for a while until the kids got major stuff unpacked and somewhat settled. Then, finally over at the new place, she freaked out about uncertain footing on the hardwood floors. And then, just when she was getting comfortable there, she came back here for two weeks because of conflicting work schedules and trips out of town.

Of course, there were still the usual ridiculous text message conversations, even while my daughter was out of town:

Kids. Never wanting their parents to have any fun.

But Jenny went back home last Thursday and is reportedly thrilled to be there. The White Ninja misses everyone — so do I, honestly — but life here has gotten quiet again and I’m settling back into my own schedule. Uninterrupted sleep and long quiet stretches of time to concentrate on writing. Bliss.

Speaking of breathing a sigh of relief, fall is by far my favourite season and the weather is finally cooperating. Summer extended its stay this year and temps haven’t really been cool enough yet for many leaves to change colour, but all in good time.

You know where it does look like fall right now? Minnesota. My youngest sister took these pics a couple days ago and gave me permission to share them here. Isn’t my home state gorgeous? Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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That time I wasn’t excited about the eclipse . . . until I was

Are you tired of hearing about the eclipse? If so, this post is not for you. Or maybe it is. Yeah, I was heartily sick of hearing about it too, days ago. I vaguely remember the one from 1979 and it wasn’t all that special. Sure, there was eerie spooky light, like dusk but with light and shadows at all the wrong angles. But mostly it was an excuse to stand outside doing nothing for a while.

I tried not to roll my eyes when my daughter and her husband bought the special glasses and planned to drive to South Carolina where it would be 100% totality, versus the 93% projected for this area. I mean, good for them. Sincerely. I applaud their enthusiasm.

But as for me? I didn’t really care. I know, I’m horribly jaded. Until I looked out at my deck about a half hour before total eclipse and saw this:

 

I’d heard people talk about this online, about how sunlight dappled through the trees would let you “see” the eclipse. And I thought, “Yeah, right. Sure it will.”

Okay, here’s where I admit I’ve never paid much attention to dappled sunlight. Never really noticed, or cared, that it presents itself as little circles. LIKE THE SUN. I don’t know, maybe I just assumed the spaces between leaves were all perfect circles. Or something.

Suddenly, here was something VERY COOL. And just as suddenly, I was all excited about the eclipse.

So I took a ton and a half of pictures of the little sunlight crescents and their progression on my deck. Why, yes, I am going to subject you to them. But I’ll put them in a slideshow, so as not to completely overwhelm my blog (and people’s RSS feeds).

If you can’t see it in your feed, it’s here:

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slideshow

Isn’t that cool? I even made a short video, because I realized that when there was a light breeze, the little crescents moved around, winking in and out, and looked a bit like a kaleidoscope effect. You have to watch closely to see it, as the wind was very light today (we just won’t even talk about my less-than-steady video skills). Here:

video

Good grief. Short of creating a YouTube account, I had to first post the video to facebook and then insert the URL here. *sigh* Sure hope I didn’t break anything.

There aren’t many “after” photos, as the sunlight shifted and was hitting the maple tree at an angle that no longer allowed for the dappled effect. But did you notice how the crescents moved from the upper right to the top and then to the upper left?

I’m writing this at roughly 8:30 PM and my daughter and her husband are still slowly making their way home through horrendous traffic. Current ETA 9:15. (Update: After a six-hour drive, roughly twice as long as it took to get there, they’re home!)

I pleased that my eclipse watching experience didn’t include that sort of nonsense. And I’m really glad I watched.

Were you able to see it in your area? Did you watch? More important, did you pay attention to the dappled sunlight? I’ll never again look at it in quite the same way.

 

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Ain’t no cure for the summertime flu

My daughter texted me the other day to confirm that they’ll be back in town on the 24th — which is this coming Monday! — and I was confused and surprised to realize they’ve been gone two and a half weeks already. Because I’ve been sick the entire time.

I’m just starting to emerge from the menthol-cough-drop-scented haze of near-death to realize . . . I’ve lost a couple weeks.

This malaise, whatever it is, started out as a mere sore throat. Worst sore throat ever, but still, that was the only symptom. For a short time, maybe three hours, I thought perhaps it was simply a bad cold. But no, it was just gathering strength.

If you took all the worst symptoms of an awful cold and all the worst symptoms of a horrible flu, and combined them, that’s what I’ve had. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this sick and this completely wiped out. Absolutely worthless.

The only thing I’ve accomplished in the past couple weeks is to not let the cat and dog die of thirst or starvation. It was a near thing.

I lost my voice during the first week and have been whispering to them ever since:

“Jenny, are you hungry?” Like it’s some big secret.

“Do you want to go outside? No, kitty, you stay here.” This mission, should you choose to accept it, is highly classified.

“Are you ready to come in? Good girl.” Quick, don’t let the neighbours see you.

My head has produced so much green slime, I could supply several seasons of Nickelodeon and the next three Ghostbusters movies. Seriously, I’ve gone through FOUR LARGE BOXES of kleenex. So far.

And I’m telling you, somewhere underneath this middle-aged sprawl, I’ve got one hell of an eight-pack of coughing muscles going on. Of course, I’m now wearing my lungs on the outside and my diaphragm is up around my neck, but my coughing muscles are mighty impressive.

I am so sore.

Yes, I know. This is disgusting and I shouldn’t be talking about it. I’m totally going for the pity factor, here.

While I’ve been suffering, my daughter and her husband have been enjoying a lovely and relaxing vacation in the wilds of far eastern Canada. She reports they only saw one BEAR, while they were in Maine, and it was quite small and afraid of them. Right. I’m sure its mother, no doubt lurking protectively in some nearby bushes, was terrified of them as well.

Not that I was worried.

Here’s a picture of their version of a “simple” meal while roughing it. I can’t wait for them to get back so they can cook for meeeee. Her caption read: “Eating PEI mussels in a white wine cream broth, cooked campside on PEI, while looking at Nova Scotia across the strait.”

Yes, PEI is Prince Edward Island. I can tell you that’s where they were, since they’re no longer there. Here’s another shot from the same place, which she captioned: “Room with a view.”

I hope they won’t be too disappointed when they arrive chez moi in a few days to discover that, between bouts of coughing and sleeping 14 hours a day, I haven’t managed to finish clearing off space in the pantry for them. Or in the fridge. Maybe they can set up their tent and a cooler in the back yard until I get things sorted.

Oh well. As I said, at least the pets are still alive, even if they do think they’re now undercover spies. My current status is somewhat more iffy.*

 

 

*OK, seriously, I am MUCH improved. My voice is back, although an octave lower, and I’m even eating real food again. I just have that annoyingly persistent cough you get with the flu, the one that will apparently last *coughcough* the rest of my life. *cough*

 

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