Winding up the year

So, the Catholic year begins with Advent, which is fast approaching.

I’m not ready for it. I’m not ready for anything. I’ve spent the past month just trying to stay alive, pretty much literally. I’ve been fighting off so many infections that I’m just barely hanging in there most days. My anemia is still pretty bad. So, all the wondrous things I had planned for the year are still just dreams and wishes instead of accomplished facts.

I guess staying alive is more important than staying up with your weight loss goals or your Goodreads goals or your blogging or NanoWriMo or your exercises or your home decor. It’s just that, when the surviving bit is over with, you’re still stuck with all the unrealized hopes and dreams. I’m 27 books from making my Goodreads goal, for example, and with only 6 weeks left in the year, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that I’m not going to finish it in time. Bummer.

But, hey, I’m still upright! This is a good thing. If I manage to send Christmas cards or catch up on my voicemail or finally return that last library book that’s a month overdue, I’ll be doing quite well.

Ohhhh what a month

So, yeah, no posts so far this month. I can tell you why in one word: chaos.

I’ve been sick– over and over– basically since my Viking went to band camp in August. This week, I’ve really got it bad– a new respiratory virus on top of a chronic cough left over from the last one. Soooo . .. my lungs are full of gunk and my sinuses are plugged with gunk and there’s entirely too much gunk to go around.

Add to that the Quest to Get Miss Autism’s Teeth Fixed and you have a recipe for disaster. In order to have her teeth fixed, she had to have a power of attorney given to me and my husband. The surgery center didn’t want to proceed without one. In order to get a power of attorney, you have to get a notary to sign off on it. In order to get a notary to sign something in Texas, you have to have an official state id card or a driver’s license. In order to have one of those, you have to have a bunch of paperwork to prove who you are, then go to the driver’s license bureau that’s on the north end of town.

So, after the initial trip to the dentist, I had to find all those papers (which meant I had to gut our entire filing system and go through months of old paperwork.) Then I had to take Miss Autism out of school and to the DMV. Except we were missing proof of residency papers. Oops. Didn’t mention THOSE on the webpage where it listed the papers you needed. So, another day (since that day wore me out as it was), then another trip to take her out of school and down to the DMV and waiting for that. Then we had to take her to the doctor for a physical to make sure she was healthy enough for the anesthesia while waiting for the DMV to send her new id card.

Finally, they sent that, so I had to take her and all the little boys to the notary, which was a long process in itself. Then after that was done and the papers in hand, I had to force her through the “no eating or drinking after midnight” thing, then take her to the surgery center, then get through the whole mountain of paperwork for that, then endure the waiting and the recovery process. Miss Autism was terribly nervous and didn’t want to cooperate, but she did go along with it despite her misgivings. She was REALLY good for the IV placement and once that was in, we were gold.

Recovery was rough– she ate 3 popsicles and drank 2 12oz cans of Dr Pepper– mostly because she was VERY VERY upset about how many of her teeth had to be capped with stainless steel crowns. Since she is a tooth-grinder with a long history of eating wood and metal and hard plastic, she’s done a number on her teeth. But, after a couple bad days of acting out, she’s settled down and seems to have gotten over the initial shock. It has to help that her teeth are fixed and won’t be giving her any more pain.

But, after all that, this cold has just set me back badly. We struggled along with school last week in a lame way– not much got done by the Ninja, but he did manage his math and religion, and nothing got done by the Tank since he was sick all darn week. This week has been a total wash so far. I may have been able to get something done but the school sent Miss Autism home with “pinkeye” that absolutely is fiction. Once we had to go pick her up and then deal with her frustrated “I want to be at school” behaviors all day, homeschooling was not going to happen. I’m hoping to be actually less sick tomorrow so we can at least do the important stuff– math, phonics, religion, maybe a little history. Maybe I won’t be hacking up a lung for hours on end, who knows.

The weather hasn’t broken yet– these are supposed to be our big rain months but it’s dry as a bone and still in the mid-90s during the day. I just want this crap to be OVER with. I want to be well and I want the weather to be cooler and I want to be able to do the things I want to do with the boys– hiking and picnics and zoo trips and nature study.

I’ve managed to get a few things done despite everything– the Bear’s bedroom renovation is essentially done, all I need to do is sort her little knicknacks and move the storage boxes out of her corner, maybe find a cute picture to hang on her wall in one or two blank spots. Other than that, though, it’s finished– the closet painted and decorated, the linens all changed out, new rugs put in, all the junk sorted. The house is mostly decorated for Halloween. A lot of our books have been packed away, so the house looks less cluttered. It’s getting better. I’m just not where I want to be yet . . . Christmas is so close and the house is still icky. I need to paint a lot of stuff and clean a lot more. So much work . . ..

Well, I’m going to concentrate on getting well. Once I do that, the sky is the limit.

What I’m Doing Besides Slowly Dying

Well, we’re all dying, aren’t we?

Rather melodramatic, I know. It has been that kind of week. The kind of week where death seems to loom over everything and peers over your shoulder to remind you that, hey, by the way, you’re going to die. Any day now. Well, sometime, anyway, and it is inevitable and, how about lunch?

And people wonder why I’m gloomy.

So anyway, I’ve been watching a good series on Netflix, “The Detectives”, which is a documentary about the Manchester police unit that investigates sex crimes. It’s a 3 part series and was, I thought, quite good. You’ll definitely want to give the main “villian” of the piece a good smack upside the head, at the least, but the cops are very sympathetic and seem to take their jobs very seriously. I enjoyed it, although “rape investigations and trials” doesn’t seem like a very enjoyable topic, now that I think about it. But the series is good. I love documentaries . . . it’s just SO hard to find good ones.

I tried to read several books this week. When I was at the library last, I picked up some random Big Fat Fantasy books that had all the markings of good possibilities– expensive-looking covers, nice paper, lots of cheerful blurbs on the back cover. In reality, the books were pretty awful. As much as I hate to demean the work of another writer, seriously, they were bad. And I opened up my email this evening and what do I see but . . . advertisements for those books in big animated gifs on the side of my writing-industry newsletters. If you love great fantasy, you may want to skip “The Grace of Kings” and “A Crown for Cold Silver.” The first one is better than the second– “A Crown for Cold Silver” was, in a word, crap. The Ken Liu book just committed every sin known to Big Fat Fantasy and speculative fiction in general. Ken, if you’re listening anywhere, you DO NOT have to give us the entire backstory of each character when they’re introduced. A little slow reveal of their character through, you know, actions, conversations, actual characterization . . . that’s perfectly fine, really. Infodumps are not fun, even if you’re trying to sell us on how amazing your main characters are.

Anyway, they were both better than the Debbie Macomber book I tried, ill-advisedly, to read. SO SO bad. Not even bad in a good way, but just bad. It read like an outline that someone forgot to flesh out.

All of which reminds me that I need to start writing soon. I know, I know, it’s a lazy thing to say “soon”– writers write and I should have my butt in a chair, right? I’m still trying to figure out this whole “homeschool two hyperactive boys while chasing around a precocious 16 month old who has discovered how to climb EVERYTHING” gig. When you add all the other responsibilities, I just start to fall apart. At the end of the day, all I have left is enough energy to sink into a hot bath with a book or curl up on a chair and try to watch some Netflix.

I think the changes I’ve been making will make things easier, though. I bought a skein of para-cord and we’ve roped it around the dining room table and chairs to keep the Amazing Climbing Baby from climbing up and dancing on the table (literally.) The new baby gate for the bottom of the stairs is due to arrive today. I’m moving down a selection of baby toys and adding more pillows in the hopes that he’ll be more comfortable and happy and maybe give us more peace and quiet while we try to get through the work. But it all comes down to time management. I need to re-fix my sleep schedule again. It’s almost 1am here and I am still awake . . . obviously, something is amiss again.

I’m supposed to be doing a 100 days to better health challenge. Mostly it just makes me feel guilty as I swig down another Coke. But eating well requires time, too– planning and shopping and cooking. I went to the Evil Empire of Walmart yesterday and bought exactly enough food to make tacos and spaghetti and called it good. The day before, we had Dominos pizza. So eating well hasn’t exactly been happening.

I’m trying. I’ve been renovating my oldest daughter’s bedroom, which has taken up tons of energy and time, too. But every renovation project moves us closer to living in a nice place and in a nice way. We moved the computer downstairs and that’s helped, too– got the kids out of the game room, anyway, and stopped the competition for who could play the sound louder, the tv or the computer. It feels a lot cozier downstairs because people are actually staying down there now instead of running upstairs immediately. It’s nice.

Somewhere in there, I have to find time to write. But I dunno when. Miss Autism has dental surgery next week and a doctor’s appointment this week, I need to go to Austin for a shopping trip, I need to do a million different things. Sometime, I need to do something for ME . . . but us mommies aren’t too good at that, you know. Occupational hazard, I think.

Wish me luck, yeah?

Game night is back

Ohh, boy, that was a lot of work.

My eyes probably look like this after squinting at miniatures all week.

My eyes probably look like this after squinting at miniatures all week.

I had to delay the start of game nights due to this horrible cold that has had me coughing for three weeks now, but we finally had our inaugural game night of Season 2: Only The Good Die Young.

To get there required hours upon hours of prep work on my part. First I had to find a suitable storyline and get that modified to work with 5e. Then I had to do remodels and paint jobs on the miniatures– a LOT of work went into that. The minis didn’t come out too badly considering it was my first time painting minis, ever, but hours. Hours and hours. Layers and layers of paint. Correcting mistakes. Trying to mix paints. yeowch

Anyway, after that was done, I had to make up character sheets. My printer died, however, so I ended up writing out character sheets on 4×6 index cards, in multicolored Sharpie. Ten character sheets, by hand? A real pain in the arm. Most of the info came with the auto-calculations that the page made (thanks to Dungeon Master Assistance for the great sheets. Wish my printer had just allowed me to print them!) Some of the stuff, though, had to be added in by hand, with me poring over the Player’s Guide for the stats on weapons and weights and weird little things like that. So that took a few hours.

Then there was all the map drawing. We’re adventuring into the Undermountain, and even the entry level is huge. Couldn’t draw it precisely to scale, since my map is only 32×46, but I got it pretty close. The Adorable Baby wanted to help and screamed bloody murder whenever we forced him to stop drawing all over my map in purple, but after another hour or two of baby-wrangling, the map was finally done.

And after all that, there was the music to select (thanks to Tabletop Audio for the atmospheric music and backgrounds.) The house to straighten up. My daughter decorated a cookie cake for us with a lovely beholder. Okay, it was scary looking, but cool. That’s it, up above.

And, last but CERTAINLY not least, I had to get into suitable clothes and makeup for dungeonmastering. I can’t cheerfully kill people without my eyeliner and mascara and perfume. It just gets me in the mood.

And the game went pretty well. A few disruptions from the Tank, who really didn’t want to play this season but DID require more snacks than were provided. The storyline included the characters being “roofied” and kidnapped, so there was some grumbling, in character and out, about the hijacking. They did well, though. They played in character much better than last season, anyway, even if they didn’t notice my nice little touches (like the goblin that escaped them later ending up as a snack for a daunting otyugh. Luckily, they were smart enough to turn around and run when they saw the otyugh.

I’m encouraged. But super tired. It’s a lot of prep work to run a good campaign and the players basically never see it. Which isn’t the point– you want them to have fun, not feel guilty. But, boy, sometimes I wish I could have gotten them into an easier hobby! But nothing’s quite as fun as improv theater at home with random dice to make things interesting.

Everybody wants a water buffalo

Some are fast and some are slow.

Yeah, my brain is not functional today. Call it a couple hours spent in the dentist’s office with Miss Autism and the Adorable Baby. I didn’t have anyone to help me tag-team them, so they tag-teamed me instead.

Something about books, hmm.

Did I mention that the baby likes “Pat the Bunny”?

Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction.

I’m starting to wonder why I waste my time reading solid 2 and 3 star books when there are so many 5 star books out there that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

This is an important question.

What I’m Watching, early September

Okay, going to be totally honest here. So far, in September, I have watched several episodes of “Octonauts”, “Sophia the First”, and “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West.”

Yeahhhh, that wasn’t what I planned on watching, either.

I began watching an interesting documentary about the fashion industry and the evils it’s guilty of (which are numerous) but one of the main people they were interviewing was TERRIBLE in front of a camera. I’m sure it wasn’t her fault, bless her, but it was horribly distracting to watch her blink and grimace and look away from the camera and twitch. So I only made it about halfway through– but it’s worth the watch, just for the knowledge of how “fast fashion” is ruining our economies and our environment. It’s called “The True Cost.”

Other than that, I have watched nothing. It’s pretty depressing.

But, I have hope. I really want to finish watching the Top 100 movies and this is MY YEAR to do it, darn it. I just have to rope someone into watching them with me. Netflix only has a couple of them on, but I am resourceful. I’m sure I can find them all with a little luck and some Youtube.

I’ll find the list of the ones I still need to see . . . hmm . . . hold on . . .

Here it is, the top 100 movies from the AFI that I have not yet seen (or saw so long ago that they don’t count. Like when I was 6 or something.)

On the Waterfront

It’s a Wonderful Life

2001: A Space Oddessy

The Maltese Falcon

Raging Bull

Dr. Strangelove

Bonnie & Clyde

Mr. Smith goes to Washington

Annie Hall

Midnight Cowboy

Doctor Zhivago-

King Kong (1933)

The Birth of a Nation

A Clockwork Orange

Taxi Driver

The Philadelphia Story

All Quiet on the Western Front



The Manchurian Candidate

An American in Paris


The French Connection

Wuthering Heights (1939)

The Gold Rush


Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)


A Place in the sun


Sullivan’s Travels

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

All the President’s Men

A Night at the Opera

12 Angry Men

Swing Time

Sophie’s Choice

Blade Runner

Lots of stuff there that’s supposed to be really good. So I need to get cracking. :)

So, life.

The thing about social media that really keeps me from “succeeding” at it (besides my naturally dour temperament) is that I am generally only interested in blogging and Facebook and Twitter and such when I am NOT writing or creating any unique fiction in my head.

So, when my brain finally kicks into creative mode and story ideas start seeping out of my dreams and onto a page, my blogging gets shot all to hell. I unfriend or block a lot of people on Facebook. And Twitter, hah, that useless orgy of “pay attention to me! I am clever! Look, I can make a saucy tweet!” . . . I just drop that like a hot potato.

Which is good news for my creative mind– it frees me from worrying about creating new content for my blog, from keeping up with whatever memes are making the rounds, and from wasting time trying to “keep up” with social media, something I highly doubt is possible without a cadre of personal assistants, anyway. The creative mind really doesn’t function on a social level– it’s as one-track-mind as a coonhound on a scent. All it can think about is chasing the trail of the tale, so to speak.

I’ve been reading a book this week about how the mind functions (it’s called “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload”) and I’ve taken a few hints out of it– I’ve started organizing my thoughts on index cards, started making an effort to put things in the exact same place every time (like my perpetually lost keys), and generally have been trying to be more mindful of what I ask of my poor overloaded brain cells. I’ve decided NOT to give up on blogging, mostly because I hate having yet another failed blog drifting around on the archived vaults of some huge server somewhere. And also because I like to have a sort of record around, documenting how things were going at a certain point in time.

Connecting, socializing, the neverending tail-chasing of trying to get more likes and friends and followers and schmoozing and getting other authors to link to you to create “synergy” and “buzz” . .  well, not so much. Not at all, really. I have given up on that aspect of my writing life. If I write something and it sells to a publisher and I absolutely must do those things, I will force myself to. In the meantime, I’ll link to what I like and to whom I please, without worrying about the possibility that it may or may not increase my “buzz.”

Okay, so what does this all mean? It means I’ll be organizing my posts by days– Mondays will be “What I’m watching”, Wednesdays will be “What I’m reading”, and Fridays will be “Adventures in Homeschooling and Gaming.” That makes it simpler on me and also keeps up with the general “goal” of the blog.

I can tell you right now that this week’s adventures in homeschooling will be a big fat nothing, as I have a dreadful cold and can barely breathe. Our D&D game was supposed to start this week but a dungeonmaster SHOULD be able to speak and I can barely croak out a word or two right now, so that’s going to have to be cancelled. The kids are basically running around like little savages, playing Minecraft and drinking soda pop because I am way too breathless and exhausted to chase them.

But, life goes on. Maybe now it will go on with a little more organization. Which should free me to do what I really want to be doing, which is working on the short story that’s cluttering my imagination and then moving on to the novel that is waiting to be unfurled. . . . I love it when my mind actually WORKS for once and doesn’t just leave me adrift without ideas. Have to make hay while the sun shines, as they say.

Back from Vacation

Well, I’d update y’all on our vacation down to San Antonio and the Gulf Coast and the truly wonderful Mission Trail and the inspiring churches that we visited, but my husband accidentally left my camera’s memory card plugged into his laptop, so it’s at work with him. So I don’t have any cool nifty photos of the blustery beach (where it poured rain, despite being August in Texas) or of the gorgeous interiors of the 300 year old chapels.

Once I have my photos back, naturally, I’ll compose a nice long blog post to fill everyone in. It was a pretty rough trip– Miss Autism was a handful, and the Tank had a total meltdown when he was away from home– but the places were iconic and we actually managed to have some fun when we weren’t fighting like cats and dogs.

And, hey, bonus!!! Miss Autism woke us up every morning at 7am by chanting “Get Up. Get Up. Get Up.” in a droning monotone until we all finally clambered out of bed in a daze of exhaustion. And now my night-owl ways have been mended. Because you can’t wake up at 7am for a week straight and still have the energy to stay awake until 2am. Not without drugs, anyway, and I’m stone cold sober. (Not that I didn’t long for some stimulants every day around noon. Coca Cola only gets you so far when you’re walking several miles in sandals.)

So, vacation was accomplished, the bank account was depleted, and the older kids are back in public school. The little kids and I are taking the week off because we need it. We’ll do the homeschool gig starting next week. Even so, they’re playing with Duplo blocks and spent a while painting watercolors today, so it’s not all video games and YouTube videos. I was starting to think that I’d have nightmares about Stampycat and The Diamond Minecart if they listened to them any more.

Oooh, and I have the new Robin Hobb book in hand. Life is good.


It’s the last week of band camp and the Adorable Baby is, for once, healthy. So of course I’ve picked up a nasty stomach bug somewhere and I’ve spent the past 36 hours miserably sick.

But, hey, I did catch up on some reading.

Some of it, I had to do simply to keep me from losing my mind. Miss Autism decided to spend part of the afternoon destroying the walls again, so her dad was pretty upset when he got home and found his hard work wrecked. So I had to ground her to her bedroom at bedtime. All of her sleep medicine was to no avail, so I had to park the chaise in front of her little hallway that leads from her bedroom to her bathroom and refuse to let her come out into the main part of the house.

She was pissed, to say the least. She spent at least an hour obsessing over a wall socket that she wanted to take off. I eventually let her, simply because I was sick of hearing her say “socket” over and over again. So I ended up spending 3 1/2 hours sitting in front of her hall, telling her repeatedly that she couldn’t come break any more lightbulbs (her new fun activity) on the floor or shred the covers off my books (another new hobby. One I loathe.) Or tear the corners out of the drywall, which is making our house look like something from Fallujah.

Speaking of destroyed Iraqi cities, I did spend the time in reading Dexter Filkins’ book about that conflict, “The Forever War.” I found it pretty depressing, although interesting. There’s only so much inhumanity that you can read about before you start wondering if we’re just too bad to be saved. While I must believe that we are (it’s kind of the point of Christianity), it’s a hard thing at times when you’re reading about insurgents using drills and knives and whatever-else they could get their hands on to torture people who disagreed with them. Still it’s a valuable piece of reporting, just to keep that horrible mess in mind (and the price we’ve paid in blood to try to solve it.)

I also finally forced myself to go back and read through “The House of Mirth” from the beginning. While I admire Edith Wharton’s writing ability, the characters just were never freed to actually be “real” (inasmuch as fictitious characters ever can be, of course.) I didn’t particularly enjoy “The Age of Innocence“, either, though– once again, she had a very dismal sort of sense of what was possible between two people who were separated by social strictures.

One wonders if Mrs. Wharton actually liked men much at all– her male characters all seem to either be grasping fat greedy middleaged wrecks or ball-less young men who think they’re intellectual but lack all courage of their convictions. This is, I admit, on the basis of only two books, but I am somewhat discouraged by this trend. It makes me hesitant to pick up another of her novels– life’s plenty depressing in reality (hello, Fallujah) without adding to my misery with another unsuccessful love affair doomed because the main characters are too weak to “go for it” against the mores of their social group.

But, then, I never was one to give the very least damn what people thought. Maybe other people worry about it a lot more than I do. There’s a price, either way.

Anyway, busy as can be lately. Got the older kids registered for school yesterday, shuttled them around to work and band camp, and spent a lot of time trying not to throw up. Hoping that today is better. Tired of someone being sick every single day!

What you want, what you need

In the late 1980’s, I was painfully, horribly, and terribly enamoured of a rock star. Okay, of several rock stars. My parents gave me a cassette tape player for my tenth birthday, which began my now 30+ year obsession with music and the lovely men that make it. (Women, I listen to with enjoyment but, face it, I am all about the dudes.) By 1987, when INXS really made it big with their album, Kick, I was totally hooked on their lead singer, Michael Hutchence.

What was not to like? Scruffy, magnetic, and seductive. Basically my thirteen-year-old’s heart’s desire . . . and knowing, now, the tragic ending that he would have, I can see that some of that brokenness in his lyrics was guaranteed to appeal to lonely teenaged girls. The Byronic air that he gave off was irresistible.

One of INXS’s previous hits was the song “What you Need.” It wasn’t my favorite song– in late 1987 and early ’88, my fav was definitely “Need You Tonight“– but it both definitely held a promise of things that, at 13, I hadn’t even seen secondhand: passion, romance, true love, desire, and really good hair.

And now I’m 41, four years older than poor Michael ever lived to be, and it’s not my turn anymore to be yearning after those things. I get to watch my children live through it now, and it’s even more painful to watch them longing and floundering through those first attempts at love than it ever was to be that awkward teen.

But what do *I* need now? I’m not dead yet, and I possibly have another couple decades of life ahead of me. What do I really want to do with those years? I’ve accomplished some of the things I always dreamed of– I’ve had the children I wanted (plus a couple extras), I’ve owned horses (bad ones), I’ve written a book or two (unpublished, sure, but written), I made it through college and got a nursing license, and I’ve burned through lots of money along the way, pursuing the various tangible rewards life offers.

But what next?

My family likes to ponder what I’d be doing if I hadn’t had the surprise (blessed and lucky beyond belief) of having the Adorable Baby last year. I know that my emotional life would be very different– the Adorable Baby has been, without reservation, the best thing that’s happened to me in the past five years. My physical life would be different, too– I was scheduled for a thyroidectomy the week after I found out I was pregnant. I cancelled that and, bad woman that I am, haven’t rescheduled it. My lumps are, apparently, not growing very quickly, so I’m not in a hurry to get my neck sliced open anytime soon.

I looked it up this week and airfare to Spain for the pilgrimage I want to make would cost $7000 roundtrip just for me, hubs, and the three smallest boys. Seven grand, sheesh.

Guess it’s time for me to get my career back on track so I can afford to do the things I really want to do with my life.