Random Autumn Thoughts 10/13/2020

Squirrel!

Tis my season to do nesting things. When the nights get longer and the days turn cold, I develop a specific kind of energy & focus. I move furniture, change light bulbs, finish assorted small repair projects I’ve ignored for months, get my flu shot & yearly physical, order clothes, do all the seasonal cleaning other people call “spring” cleaning, and basically Get Ready To Do Nothing At Home For Months.

My social batteries drain to zero between November and March. I do leave the house–for work, for emotional health, for fun–but it’s hard. It’s a physical strain. Knowing I am equipped to hide in the house if I just can’t cope with people– it keeps the stress below redline. Mostly.

Squirrel shopping is a major component of the prep. I pick up a little extra here and one more than I need there all autumn long, until my cabinets & closets are full.

(do not speak to me of “but restaurants deliver.” Ordering food is stressful. Drive-throughs are stressful. MENUS are stressful. A pantry stash requires zero interaction & minimizes decision paralysis.)

Stocking up always felt silly because it’s not like I can avoid shopping all winter like a hermit or a sleeping squirrel just by having extra boxed rice dinners or frozen green beans on hand. It’s not like I’m out in the wilderness where I might get snowed in for a month. FFS, there are six grocery stores minutes away from my home.

But the squirrel stashing feeds that emotional need for refuge-building, so I learned to indulge it. Coping mechanisms. They’re real.

Still, every year I wondered if it was an unhealthy emotional crutch and/or if I was allowing fears inspired by my post-apocalyptic fiction writing to affect my real life.

Until this spring.

I never worked down the pantry overstock the way I usually do in late winter. Pandemic news had me on edge by mid-January, and allowing the quirky desire to be Ready For Any Disaster free rein gave me a little relief from stress meltdowns.

By mid-March and the “stay home stay safe” phase of this dumpster fire year, my pantry was at peak November levels and more, since I’d impulsively grabbed extra cleaning supplies & personal care items on my February shopping expedition.

“Weird personal quirk” has turned into “reliable source of tiny indulgences that make involuntary isolation and fearful uncertainty more bearable.”

It stayed winter all summer long, as far as my nerves are concerned. I now catalog and inventory before shopping. (it IS possible to have too much boxed rice when the store keeps putting them on sale at 10 for $10.)

And now we’re heading into another winter, with who knows what kind of stresses and disasters await us all. My burrow is as ready as it can be, though, and that’s something.

A few things I learned this summer.

Milk gallons freeze just fine as long as you make sure the bottle has enough headspace; celery & carrots keep well and satisfy my greens cravings; commercial bread loaves and English muffins also freeze well; a watermelon keeps for a week on the counter if you don’t cut it open– and keeps for another week in the fridge if you rind & quarter it. Apples only freeze well if you peel & core them first & plan to use them for sauce or baking.

A things I hate but can’t help thinking about

We got a lucky break with COVID-19. Yes, I am aware how horrible and gross and coldhearted it is to say “lucky” when millions are dead and millions more are suffering and we aren’t anywhere close to being done with it. It’s AWFUL. I’m awful for typing it. I’m a sick monster.

What’s more awful is that it’s true.

SARS-CoV-2, the new-to-humans virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, is deadly, but some viruses are 20 or 30 times more lethal. We’re lucky they don’t spread easily. Others spread more easily than SARS-CoV-2 but aren’t nearly as lethal and/or we can vaccinate against them. (There are also some truly terrifying viruses that haven’t jumped from animals to humans yet. Looking at you, hantavirus)

We would be thoroughly FUCKED right now if the first novel virus we faced had been like measles, and everyone who got it infected 8-10 others instead of 2-ish. Or if it was like hantavirus and killed 30% of its victims, not 1% like SARS-CoV-2. What if it was like measles and hantavirus at the same time?

Infectious disease scientists don’t have to imagine that. They can model it. As the global population grows, the arrival and global spread of unique new diseases is an inevitable development. One of them is bound to be a monster.

And in February 2020, none of those experts could be sure SARS-CoV-2 WASN’T a Big One. They were pretty sure they had a handle on the basics of it–and they knew it was BAD–but it was still too new and the data was still too raw to be sure it wasn’t even WORSE.

Cautious, careful governments locked down to prevent its spread (real lockdowns, not our nation’s sorta-kinda-half-assed-half-hearted version of a lockdown, but real shutdowns) because quarantining is the one tried & true way to shut down viral spread, no matter what it is.

We now know SARS-CoV-2 wasn’t the Big One. It’s horrific, it’s historic, it’s phenomenally deadly and permanently damaging…but it’s treatable and its spread can be defeated by simple, low-tech, public health measures.

We caught the lucky break. The first modern global pandemic is a disease that is ONLY 10 times more deadly than influenza, and one that ONLY spreads at a moderate rate.

The world is a cage fight tournament, humanity vs viruses ( sponsored by Climate Change!) and we drew a pussycat opponent in the first round. This was a lucky chance to fine-tune our fight strategies, build up public health muscle and improve our scientific skills, because as sure as rain falls, we’re going to catch a lion in one of our next match-ups.

Too bad we blew it big time here in the USA. We are fucking up our gimmee game beyond all recognition. I wish I thought that we’d learned our lesson, that we’ll do better when the curtain inevitably goes up on the Big One.

But I don’t think that.

I see to many people spouting bullshit like “There’s no point in making kids wear masks–the labels say they aren’t medical, so they’re useless!” Which is so staggeringly wrong it’s hard to know where to start. And an empathy-fail trophy goes to those who insist that the virus isn’ dangerous because no one they know has died of it. Runners-up in the ignorance sweepstakes are “It’s all a government hoax,” and “If we didn’t test so much, it wouldn’t be as bad.”

Oof. When the big one does come (or when we fail to contain this pussycat and it goes rabid) when there aren’t enough healthy people left to keep the lights on or the water running, no one to make or transport supplies, or to staff hospitals and stores and laboratories…well.

Hi. I write post-apocalyptic fiction for so very many reasons.

And a few bright personal threads

I am fully 2/3 of the way through Sharp Edge revisions and ready to send off the next section to my alpha readers for feedback. That’s very exciting.

I have a Bookshop.org presence now, where you can buy my paperback books AND ALSO support your local independent bookseller:

Thanks to the completed exterior house renovations, my office now has modern windows, so the blinds don’t sway whenever the wind kicks up. This makes me unreasonably happy.

I have put my ebooks up on Ingram for distribution, so brick & mortar store that sell ebooks should be able to order you mine now. I admit I haven’t figured out how that part works, exactly, but the channel is open.

AND! AND! I’m working up my courage to approach a professional narrator and get more of my books on audio. If you read audios and have a favorite narrator you would like to nominate, please, PLEASE share the name.

You have reached the end of this post!

That’s all the all I have until later. Thanks for reading.

Photo by Valeriia Miller on Pexels.com

Have a nice picture of autumn beverages to go on with.

Random Thoughts 6 October, 2020

I thing I saw that I wanted to share.

This was in a blog by an author I follow. I think it’s a useful set of reminders to contemplate when re-visiting many fictions I loved as a young adult.

Here are the things I once thought were funny.
Here are the things I once thought were acceptable.
Here are the things I didn’t realize were rooted in cruelty. 
Here are the things I once believed without question.

Sarah Gailey

I like it, but…but the last one made me sit down with myself for a bit. The fit was uncomfortable. So I wondered, why?

Then I realized. It’s because I can’t think of a single thing I believe without question.

Questioning things is kinda what I AM. If I know I believe a thing, I immediately, regularly, and deeply question it. A story I probably share too often is one about being nicknamed Socrates by the first out-group of peers I joined as a young adult. I got saddled with that moniker because I answered questions with questions as a knee-jerk level reflex (and also because I was willing to die on the hill of principle over any principle you could name, but that came down to challenging/questioning norms, so…same-same?)

Identifying my own beliefs is the trickier part for me. I have blind spots. HUGE ones. Don’t we all? (Yes. If you said no, that’s a huge fucking blind spot you should have someone help you examine. But I digress.) So my version of the above would go something like this:

These things were never funny
These things were never acceptable
These things were always rooted in cruelty
These things did not change. I did.
I know better.
I will keep learning.
I must.


Suburban wildlife count for the week

1 fox, 2 hawks, many woodpeckers, countless sparrows, owls heard but not seen, 1 raccoon, 1 skunk, and 3 nuthatches.

The last nuthatch was a feisty little thing who had zero fucks to give. When I came to fill the feeders, she sat on the fence upside down and glared at me until I finished, then scolded me for being in her way the whole time I was I changing out the birdbath water.

And today I learned that the sparrows absolutely recognize individual people and understand what we’re doing when we’re outside. The yard has been full of workers for 10 day now. The birds go about their business, unconcerned. I come outside to take pictures. They do not care. They lurk in the spruces, they hang in the bushes, they dust themselves in the lawn, they mutter birdy gossip to one another from their various hidey spots/

Unless I walk into the garage where the birdseed lives, that is.

OUTBURSTS OF CHEEPING!!!

FLUTTERING FLIGHTS OF EXCITEMENT!!!

ALL THE BIRDS APPEAR & LINE UP ON THE WIRES AND THE FENCE!!!

Followed shortly by every squirrel in the neighborhood.

It’s entertaining, that’s all I’m saying.

Sundry updates

1 Sharp Edge of Yesterday revisions and additions are complete through Book 3, which is about 2/3 of the total expected length. I’ll be contacting my wonderful alpha readers to give the latest bits a read through soon, to see if it’s all still working or if I should burn it all with fire.

2. I added ebook distribution to my Ingramspark account, so now you should be able to buy Rough Passages and all the Restoration series books in paperback or ebook, whichever you like, from any retailer who orders from Ingram Distribution. Support your trusty local independent bookstore AND get my wonderful stories in the format you prefer. Win-win.

3. I have achieved an unplanned Author Goal! I attracted a review troll. Someone one-starred both Controlled Descent and Flight Plan (so far) on Goodreads, but a check on the account indicates the individual ONLY one-stars books and doesn’t leave reviews, only ratings. No idea why or how they decided my books needed attention, but there it is. Achievement unlocked!

And here is a random cat from the internet, with attribution, because cats.

Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on Pexels.com

Random Thought Update 22.9.2020

It’s the equinox

Autumn is official here in the northern hemisphere, & I could not be happier. Crisp nights have already arrived, plant lights come out of storage (the better to ward off winter blahs later) potted herbs have retreated indoors to keep my office fragrant & humid, and new spooky decorations are on order.

Dream caught

A descriptive phrase has popped into my head independently several times now, always around the time of day it describes. I like it, but I don’t know where it came from, and it feels too specific to be a thing I thought up myself.

“the heavy stillness of a clear summer sunset”

Do you know the type of sunset I’m thinking about? It’s a late-season phenomenon, this brief, hushed pause between day and night, when the hot afternoon breezes disappear into shadow, the noisy, hustling cicadas go silent, and the black leaves on the trees hang motionless against the crystal sky, waiting for the earnest, randy crickets to begin their nightly serenade.

The twilight of a stormy evening is something else again, and in the early weeks of the season, darkness drops hard, windy and cold more often than not. It’s only in the heated tween-times cusp between summer and fall that I notice this particular kind of dusk.

Anyway. That was a thing going on in my head lately.

BRAIN WHY EVEN ARE YOU?

This is the way my brain works:

I’m sitting on the couch watching TV. Thought: ow, my back is achy. Must’ve pulled a muscle or something at work. I stop tuning out physical signals (the default setting is “ignore body”) and realize Trouble Hip is acting up. That creates pain issues from neck to feet. Whee, what fun.


I shift position to ease the strain on that joint. (carefully, right wrist is squishy lately, and it isn’t taped for support today) Result: hip pain is worse, not better. I definitely pulled or strained a thing. How? WHO KNOWS? Life. It’s a contact sport, and sometimes I get tackled on the blindside.


Shift again. (Careful of left elbow, the tendon is nearing overuse limits) Slight improvement in the hip/spine, but feet start to ache and Trouble Shoulder objects.


Two more position changes put me on the floor. Everything below the “safe to ignore” threshold, even Cranky Wrist. It’s a temporary solution, something’s sure to fall asleep from the hard-surface pressure, but I get to enjoy the rest of the show. (Fortitude. I’m 4 eps in, and I’m pretty sure it’s horror masquerading as murder mystery. I definitely want most of the morally bankrupt characters to die horribly.)

ANYway. Credits roll, and I turn off the TV.

Aaaaaand I finally recall the existence of painkillers. Were you wondering why I didn’t take some up at the start? Yeah. It’s a mystery to me, too. The pills work like fucking magic once I remember to take them, but the idea of taking ibuprofen or naproxen never pops into mind right off the line. Every single time, I’ll muddle along for hours just…ignoring…as hard as I can before “hey, take a pill!” occurs to me.

I learned a thing or three!

I’ma fan of words that carry sound, feel, and meaning in pleasant, useful & satisfying ways. Here are some new-to-me ones I ran across this week with links to definitions:

  1. tikkun olam
  2. omakase
  3. maft
  4. octothorpe
  5. manicule

Imma leave any further research to you, dear readers. I don’t want you to miss out on the joy of discovery I got to enjoy.

That’s all until later!