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Writing Life

My “How Did It Get To Be mid-July” update

I’ve been quiet online the last couple of weeks for Reasons.

Happy reason: multiple visitations.

A wonderful good friend & fellow writer stopped by with her husband for an afternoon as they passed through the area on a Vacation Road Trip. Much fun was had, touring the house, watching kittehs play, noshing on cheese & veggies, and talking about life, the universe, TTRPGs, writing, and gardening. It was all so very normal it was surreal.

Right after that through today, there’s been family in town. My brother in law & sister in law made time at the end of a longer trip to stay with us, oh, happy days! Our guest room has had its first post-pandemic occupants, (I still can’t get over the luxury of having A Guest Room, btw) and the kittens have been successfully introduced to overnight newcomers as well as short-term visitors. They are taking in all in stride, of course. More hands to pet them, more people to appreciate their cuteness.

We were mostly homebodies & enjoyed quiet low-key hangout time, but that’s still away-from-desk time for me. Our stroll around the Botanic Garden was a complete delight, plus Spouseman and I got to have dinner with my niece who lives in Chicago proper, so this has been an EXTRA-bonus good time.

And there’s one less-happy reason for my generally distracted absence: Meriadoc the Mellow could use good vibes if you have them to spare. His health isn’t improving. Small upside, it isn’t exactly deteriorating either? He has an okay appetite & drinks water, he tussles with his brother and plays with toys, but, um. BUT.

I’ve handled and owned enough kittens over the decades to know something is off. He’s oddly humpbacked, increasingly splay-legged, has massively cloggy intestines and struggles chewing hard kibble, plus he still sounds congested and acts like his ears bother him despite full runs of antibiotics for infections. In the six weeks he’s been with us, he’s had about six total days of feeling tip-top, and those didn’t come in a row.

This isn’t the best video of his odd way of moving, but it’s the one I have available to upload. He’s on hard floor here, but I assure you, the frogwalking looks just as whacky on carpet, if not more so.

In summary, Merry is clearly a kitty who deserves a serious checkup from a Cat Specialist. And that is what he’s going to get. We talk to a consultant Wednesday to get him scheduled for a full workup. And he goes to his regular everyday vet on Thursday for sure to deal with his uncooperative intestines. (Assuming he continues to avoid Total Digestive Shutdown which would lead to a kitty ER visit even sooner.)

Fingers & toes crossed, everyone!

I would feel that I am talking far too much about my furbabies digestive adventures but I know many new parents of tiny new humans, and I’ve heard and read my share of baby digestion tales. It’s just the way it is.

BTW, if you ever wondered why Baby Pooping and Baby Eating seems to be all new parents ever talk about, there’s a valid reason. Closely monitoring what goes in and what comes out is one of the only ways to accurately track the health of a tiny creature who cannot tell you if anythign is wrong. And when dealing with tiny living beings whose metabolisms are designed to burn fuel like a wildfire eats up a parched prairie, well. A missed meal or two, or a few extra hours without drinking can have disproportionate impacts.

OH LOOK, I DIGRESS. Having a not-thriving baby in the house means I’ve spent far more time than I probably should watching over him while he does totally nothing noteworthy because I’m scared Ill miss some sign that he’s going from Having Problems to Having A Health Emergency.

IT HAS BEEN A LITTLE BIT STRESSFUL I GOTTA SAY.

Spouseman is my rock and my sounding board and has been good about urging me to trust my experience and instincts & not second-guess my concerns–and even reminded me not to downplay issues or badmouth myself as Nervous Cat Mom when I’m talking to the veterinarians. Even if I do feel that way. Which I do, of course.

Anyway. This has been a lot of words to say that I haven’t done diddly on the writing front, but here we are. Ghost Town is still stalled with two pivotal scenes sitting half-done and the final action still to write. Monthly-ish newsletter still lacks a catchy title and still hasn’t been drafted. Meanwhile I surf, doomscroll through cat health information sites and spoil my babies by sitting with them for extra playtimes and making their food enticing and so on.

Anxiety avoidance is exhausting. Better than a full-on meltdown, but definitely not optimal.

That’s all for now. Until later. (except for a pic. Lookit this cutie pie. How can I not worry?)

So fluff. Such cattitude.

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3. Other Things Furbabies Writing Life

Life update & neighborhood trivia

June flew right by in a haze of reality-grounded action. The garden finally got rain (oh SO MUCH RAIN) the house is dry, and both the kittens are doing well, despite sneezles, poopiness, vet visits, and so on. I’m volunteering at the Botanic Garden again this summer, and it feels weirdly normal and wonderful to be there for half a day each week. Words are getting written in my WIP Ghost Town on the regular, not fast, but steady, and that’s great. In the not-so-great column, there’s my wrists, knuckles, both feet and one hip, which are being exhaustingly grumpy about the up-and-down weather.

All the goings-on have left me consistently low on spoons & creative energy. I haven’t posted here, and I have um, today to write a June subscriber newsletter.

SO. The blog is getting the “throw something on the page, already-past-deadline” treatment, and the newsletter’s gonna be a June/July double feature.

BRIEF ADVERTISING PAUSE: You want all the best cat pictures? I saving those for the free email newsletter. Sign up here if you haven’t already: https://mailchi.mp/afe76c32cbce/freestory2021 )

Since I should put SOMETHING here on the website, I’ll drop a few words about Various Things I see on my regular neighborhood walks with Spouseman. Why? Because I feel the need to share something, and I’ve been wanting to mention these things for a while.

Thing the first: someone a few blocks over decorates their lawn with a line of rubber ducks, all different sizes, lined up in decreasing size order like a mama duck and a line of ever-younger ducklings. The family changes course whenever someone does the mowing. I think there are more ducks this year than last.

Thing the second: another house we pass on our walks has a different flag hanging outside every month. There’s a QR code on a post at the edge of the property, and if you scan it, there’s a little online page explaining why that flag was chosen. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious, like this month, it’s rainbow Pride Flag, March was Ireland, etc. But it’s cool that they provide the information for anyone who wants to know.

Thing the third: the city has planted a lot of linden trees (aka American Basswoods) in our little block of blocks. They smell heavenly this time of year. I was ridiculously happy when I realized we have TWO basswoods on our block. We also have a larch, which is unreasonably amusing to anyone who’s ever watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Thing the last: the names of several dogs Spouseman and I had already nicknamed as we passed their yards or briefly chatted with their owners.

Daisy The Long Dog (she’s a Basset)
Wilson Leash-Biter
Fierce-Defender George
Malley Stay
Leo the Bear

Someday we’ll learn the proper names of Big Bernese, Trailer Dog, Pretty Brindle Girl, and The Proudest Poodle, but so far, we have only seen them from afar. They are all very good dogs.

House and yard pics will happen here eventually, also writer-reading updates. But not this time. Here’s a single teaser kitty pic, because they are too adorable to not share.

Until later!

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3. Other Things Whimsy Writing Life

Ants. What I do when it’s ants.

Here’s proof this blog is about anything and everything. Tonight I’m writing about tiny ant season. Tiny ant season came early this year. I griped about having to perform an Unscehduled Ant Eviction on Facebook, that led to a conversation about how I get rid of tiny ants, and I promised I would write it out for some people.

And here we are.

I apply a four-step strategy to ant warfare: kill it with fire, salt the earth, raise high the walls, and poison the well.

Step 1. Kill it with fire

This is the most labor intensive phase. Everything comes off the kitchen counters. E V E R Y T H I N G. The counters all get washed w/soap & water, the floors get vacuumed & wiped down. (I confess I do not mop because I do not mop anything. Ever. Scrub on hands & knees, yes. Mop? No. ANYway.) If you suspect ants got into drawers, the drawers get opened, anything with crumbs or possible food smells on it gets tossed & the drawers get washed with soap & water.

It’s a royal PITA. And avoiding having to do it more than once a year is why I’m big on the salt the earth & raise high the walls prevention elements.

Step 2. Salt the earth.

Diatomaceous earth, to be precise, or DE for short. You have to block ants from returning once you’ve cleaned away the ant scouts & their scent trails. DE is my first choice for barrier protection. It’s non-toxic, safe for pets, and a generally fabulous insect death- dealer. You’ll want to wear a dust mask while working with it, because tiny dust particles are bad for your lungs in general and awful for triggering allergies, but hey! Everyone has masks lying around these days, right? How convenient! A little line along the baseboards does the trick if your only choice for barrier protection is indoors, and you can dust generously along the foundation of a house outside as well. Yes, it’ll wash away in rain, but it’s cheap & you can re-apply.

ALTERNATIVE: you can combine steps 1 & 2 and engage in chemical warfare. The windows get opened, the fans go on, and I spray permethrin-based ant death spray along every baseboard and at the bottom of the tile backsplash, also the wall behind the stove, and around any plumbing pipe accesses under the sink. (pick your own brand. I recommend ones that use no fragrances. But only permethrin ones. None of that heavy organophosphate bullshit.) It’s death and barrier all in one.

But if you want to go pesticide-free, you can skip the spray. Wash everything, then lay down DE.

And shouldn’t have to write this, but…yeah. NO POISON NEAR FOOD SURFACES EVER.

And let’s pause for a quick commercial.

Step 3, Raise high the walls.

Eliminating the temptation of food is THE essential aspect of long-term victory over ants. I was raised in an area where bugs & mice were impossible to keep out, so I know all open food has to be kept in sealed containers & all dishes have to be washed or inside the dishwasher before bedtime. But I don’t live in a pine flat converted to a subdivision anymore. So every winter Spouseman & I get slack about defenses…until one of us discovers a gleeful parade of ants partying on the countertops or lurking inside a kitchen drawer. So. Once the house has been reclaimed and the defenses are built, everything gets sealed in glass or plastic. Period. The cat’s food (when we have cats) goes on a tray with just a teensy bit of water in the bottom. (It kills the ants dead. So delightfully simple.

Pro tip: If it’s REALLY bad, upturned lids filled w/water or oil under table legs keep ants off the dining room table. Or other furniture.

Step 4: Poison the well.

Put out ant baits near any potential entry point. Ant baits do work, but they work really slowly and not universally, so they’re basically a long-term maintenance element in the defense effort. Thus, they come last. And they’re the simplest. I mean, there isn’t much to them other than, “unwrap & place where the cat can’t sniff them out & decide to play with them.” Oh, wait. Ant bait granules outside around the foundation too. Outside the line of DE, if you’re using that. Two layers of protection are better than one!

And there’s no need to feel quilt about laying out something that might be bad for other insects. It isn’t. Baits aren’t pesticide. It’s borax, like for laundry. Chemistry!

That’s it. That’s the post. How I get rid of ants. I know, in my last post I said I would write about the books I’ve read this spring, but this was overdue. Also I’m a little mush-brained from dealing with…life stuff.

NEXT-next time I’ll list off the books, most of which I’ve already recommended online here or there. Pinky swears.

Until later!

Look. I don’t know why this image came up on a search for “cute ant” photos, but how could I resist?
credit: ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com
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3. Other Things Detours Whimsy Writing Life

Achievement unlocked: house to home

Tl;dr version: if you just want pictures, scroll down.

Today was THE day. The magic water box. (a Zojirushi hot water dispenser) came to rest in its new kitchen home and sang us its happy little “water is hot & ready” song. This makes our move-in officially complete.

Bringing over the tea maker and our everyday clothes was the culmination of the long and hectic week. It started with the movers hauling over all the Big Things & Many Boxes on Monday and that wasn’t enough, so we arranged to have MOAR THINGS arrive on Wednesday. 33 new things, in fact.

Now it’s Sunday night, the old house is empty of all but the non-essential flotsam & jetsam of daily life, all the moving boxes have been unboxed  (or stored, as appropriate) our new mattress has done its unfoldy-expandy-floofy thing, and food is in the fridge.

The move-out won’t be done until the old house gets sold & the remaining “staging” furniture comes over, but this space is now ready for all our Home Things to happen.

Things like making a morning cup of tea after snoozing all night at home in bed

At home.

This is our home now.

I feel like that idea should take longer to sink in, and I’m sure it will in some practical ways. But at the same time…it’s a done deal.

There’s a strange kind of magic in the moving of one’s life from one location to another. The process is messy and complicated and a lot like camping in bad weather — much more fun  to reminisce about than to live through.

Things get lost. Lost things return from limbo. Discoveries are made. Mysteries arise. Old issues re-surface, and new problems pop up at every turn. Surprises of the pleasant and unpleasant variety appear at predictably unpredictable intervals.

I’ve moved a lot in my life, enough times I would have o think hard to count them all. The first one happened when I was younger than 5. Every time, somewhere in the middle of all the upheaval, something simply changed. Home stopped being one place, and became another. 

This time, for me, it was hearing the tea maker beep.

Have more random phone photography.

 

and a bonus pic from earlier in the day, just because it’s pretty:

And that’s all the all there is for now.

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Detours Media Consumption Whimsy Writing Life

More house doings, in list format

This was the latest in a month’s worth of 14-hour workdays.

Today’s results:

Forgot to take enough pictures of progress (oops)
Built 4 bookcases & a table
Squished loads of plastic wrap into one l’il bag
Remembered follow-up appointment with locksmith
Cut tons of cardboard into recycle-bin-sized pieces
Filled the recycle can past capacity
Hung artwork on the walls where nails were left by previous owners
Showed friends around the new place
Put felt footies on a bunch of bookcases oil & new
Place d& leveled various furniture pieces
Donated another ton of cardboard to a friend’s recycle bin
Emptied book boxes & generated MORE cardboard. (Keeping these boxes, tho)

At the old house:

Packed, moved, & stored much of the Fancy Dishware I’ve inherited over the years
Trimmed back weeds  & fed birds
got the trash, recycles & garden waste bins out, and returned them when empty.

Somewhere in there I worked on my list of native perennials I like so I can share it with a landscaper who will help me with designing & digging in my new yard gardens…it’s getting to be a long list.

And I watched The Incredibles 2. Because we have internet & TV now, and it made great background noise for furniture assembly.

Today’s firsts: first use of microwave (it’s fancy!) and first drink spill. (iced tea, on old carpet that has successfully weathered many a previous spill at the old house.)

Progress pics:

old carpet, new couches.

entryway rug

nesting intensifies

Bonus pic of our moving crew from Monday at the end of their successful campaign. I wholeheartedly recommend Brom’s. Lynn let us know exactly what we needed and provided plenty of excellent prep advice, and on Moving Day, Dennis, Brian, and Kevin did a fantastic job managing a complicated relocation.

And that’s all until later.