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I’ve been married to the man for close to forty years now.  Someday, I’ll sit down and figure out how many of those years we’ve actually spent in the same house.  Not that it would change anything. 

For a lot of those years, he didn’t even have a chest of drawers in the bedroom. Just a place to toss down his sea-bag.  He’d come home, put his razor and tooth brush in the bathroom.  About the third time I ran all his clothing through the washer and hung them on the line to dry, they’d lose some of that diesel-and-boat smell.  I’d get to see the latest addition to the scar collection.  Hear the latest ultra gross jokes.  Hear which boats had caught their limit, who was losing his boat, who was buying a bigger boat, which old friends weren’t ever coming home from sea again.  Usually he left again just before spring to go north and fish herring, stayed for salmon, and came home in late September or early October. 

The toughest year was the one our younger son was one.  The man was home for just under a month that year.

He went from fishing boats to tenders to ocean going tugs.  Then to a NOAA ship in 2007.  He was gone for almost all of that year, but we got a few breaks together when he came home for a week or two.   And such a novelty: Email!  And sometimes, his cell phone worked.  Not if he was down in the engine room, but some nights, if he went out on the deck, he’d have enough bars to call home.  He managed to get home for a couple of weeks at the end of August and we went to the World SF Convention in Japan.

2008.  The man stayed home for amost a whole year.  Saw summer with us.  Celebrated our daughter’s birthday in June, one of the rare years that he has ever been home for that.  Got to know his grandson.  Had to help mow a lawn!  Went out on a couple small jobs, but nothing over a couple of weeks. Then he was home again.

And, I suspect, got just a bit bored. 

So, on Wednesday, he headed out the door.  Loaded up the duffle bag with all the usual gear.  Checked to make sure he had his licenses packed.  Put him on a plane for Freeport, Texas.  Not sure how long he’ll be gone. The Sea Trader needs to be rejuvenated, and it may take a bit of doing.

Irony department: Since Robin Hobb was so late finishing the book and had to work so many hours on it, we didn’t have much free time together after September.  Well, now the book is finished and the man is off to sea again.

The house will be quieter.  The bathroom will stay clean.  The house will look as if only women live here, as will indeed be the case.  The menu will change.  There will not be any sockets or screwdrivers going through the washer or dryer.  The weekly laundry will be done in three loads or less.  The cat will walk on the table with impunity.  The dog will sulk.  The coffee cups will stay in the house, not wander out to the garage or vacation in the cab of his red pickup truck.  I will not have to share the remote control. The newspaper will stay where I put it. 

Guess it’s time to start writing another book.  It’ll go a lot faster without a sailor underfoot.

Cat Sitting the Black Panther

That would be, of course, Bagheera.  She of the silky black coat, immense yellow eyes and even more immense appetite.

Bagheera belongs to Robin Hobb’s assistant.  Said assistant has recently decamped to Texas for a week or so, leaving her neglected, starving cat in my care.

Bagheera is obviously an underprivileged cat.  Last night she informed me that she had not been fed in days, possibly weeks.  And that she had never, in her neglected life, enjoyed canned cat food.  She put away a whole can of Fancy Feast by herself.  Then she showed me the folded towel on the floor by the furnace .  The assistant apparently thought was an adequate cat bed for the poor thing.  She had been forced to take refuge on top of the hot water heater in an effort to warm her aging kitty bones.

Although the Pi owns the rocking chair by the gas fireplace in the basement office, there is another cushioned chair available.  I pushed it up to the fireplace and showed it to Bagheera.  This met with her feline approval.  She and Pi are old friends.  Well, not friends, really.  But over the last 16 years or so, they have perfected the art of ignoring each other and co-existing in what passes for peace in this household. 

I wonder what the assistant will do when she returns and realizes her cat has not missed her.  No, not at all.  🙂

Throwing the World Away


Most of us are accustomed to the idea of recycling now, but I remember well the very first time my Dad was at my house and saw me sorting out the trash into glass, cans, paper and garbage. Then I began to rinse out the cans. He asked me what I was doing and when I explained it, he was incensed. 

“Washing your garbage before you throw it away! That’s just crazy. I don’t know why you put up with the government making you do a thing like that!”

I explained to him that it was a voluntary thing that I wanted to do, but he just didn’t get it. To him, garbage was garbage. You threw it away and that was that. He had grown up in a world of endless resources and still believed in it. 

That was a long time ago.

Now most of us, I think, recycle at home, work and school. I have two big brown bins for lawn clippings, yard waste and organic kitchen waste (non meat). I have two very big blue containers for paper and plastic and neatly bagged batteries. And a smaller container for glass.

And I have a garbage can. 

I’ve purposely kept the inside-the-house garbage can small, so I have to dump it daily. Into it goes all the things that I turn into garbage every day. Those things are not garbage when they come into my house. I make them into garbage.  Strange to think that I am a one-woman garbage manufacturer.  “Food-contaminated paper” is one category I make. Non-recyclable plastics. Bottle caps. Old ball point pens. Used tissues. Used paper towels. Laundry lint and floor sweepings. Handfuls of dog hair. Broken toys. Dead light bulbs.  Well, I won’t list any more. You can look in your own garbage can and inventory for yourself how much good stuff youturned into garbage today.

Some of it, of course, will decompose. Dirty paper towels and used tissues and handfuls of dog hair and floor sweepings will, in time, turn back into dirt.

But what about the stuff that won’t? Plastic toys from McDonalds that only lasted half an hour. Broken hair clips.  Pretty foil wrapping paper. The used up ball point pens. And again, I bet you have a supply in your own garbage can that you can inventory. 

Lately, whenever I throw that stuff away, I realize that I’m taking the very ‘stuff’ of which the world is made and discarding it in a locked up form, just as if I were burying it in a big sealed casket. All the un-recyclable plastic was made from stuff that came from the earth. Ditto for the lightbulbs and the cheap mechanical pencils. But it’s not going to get back to being a useful part of the earth any time soon. It’s just going to sit there in a dump for a long, long time, being an empty ball point pen. Or a broken flash-light. Nothing can eat it, nothing can grow from it, nothing can break it down, at least not in the foreseeable future. The cracked CD cases. The extension cord with a short in it. The Barbie doll with no head. A hundred years from now, I think those are still going to be recognizable artifacts if anyone cares to dig them up.

So, I think about how much of that stuff my family makes. Despite my best efforts at being green, every week a truck dumps a 40 gallon container of my garbage somewhere. It’s not always full, and a good part of it is biodegradable. But there’s a good amount of ‘stuff’ in there that is not. So, every week my family and I are removing that much of the earth’s ‘stuff’ from circulation. Every week, by virtue of how we live, we lock up a certain amount of the earth’s resources that will not, in the foreseeable future, ever be used by another living creature.

You know, there has to be a tipping point. There has to be a point at which we will have locked up so much of the earth’s ‘stuff’ into non-biodegradable, non-recyclable,  stuff that there just won’t be enough stuff left for the earth’s natural cycle to continue. When I close my eyes and think about this, I visualize a plow turning up a furrow laden with broken ball point pens and old cd’s.   I don’t know how much stuff has to be taken out of natural circulation before the whole cycle grinds to a halt, but given that, big as it is, the earth’s resources are finite, that tipping point must exist. 

I wonder, sometimes, how far away it is.

No, I’m not saying the sky is falling. I’m not saying it’s going to happen in my life time, or by the time my great grand kids are grandparents themselves. I am saying that, from time to time, it’s good to look around and see how we live and think about that tipping point. To perhaps use a handkerchief instead of a box of tissue, or to put cloth napkins on my table every day. Maybe I should write with a pen I can refill.   Maybe I should use a dust mop with a head that can be washed instead of a ‘disposable’ head that is discarded with every use. I want to do the small, simple things that reduce the bucket of garbage that is hauled away from my alley every week. Not because some awful disaster is just lurking over the horizon, but because it’s what I should be doing.

I think we’ve had far too many disaster warnings. I was a freshman in college when the first Earth Day was declared. I remember that we were told we’d run out of oil by, well, it was sometime in the 1900’s. My roommate came home and threw her big box of Tide laundry detergent down the garbage shaft because Tide was polluting the ocean. It was my first real experience of people telling me, in a convincing way, that the earth was going to hell in a hand-basket if we didn’t change.

Trouble was, most of us didn’t change and the predicted disasters didn’t happen. Every year, I still hear about how many species are going extinct this year, how many acres of rainforest are going to disappear in the next fifteen minutes, how many years away we are from no more oil. It’s the stick that has been brandished far too often. Too many people don’t believe in it any more. So.  The End Is Near is not my message. My message is, “Clean up the bathroom after you’ve used it. And stop locking up resources that the next guy might need.”

That’s all.


That sort of a day

Still trying to make up for lost time from the computer virus that ate my life. I want to whine here. Oh, how I long to whine and whinge and roll on the floor while pouring dust on my head.

But that sort of thing makes for really boring reading, doesn’t it?  So I’m going to refrain from it.  Actually, I’m going to try to refrain from whining for all of 2009.

Instead, I am counting my blessings.

1. The book is safe.
2. The computer is functional again.
3. I have great local tech help in Bryce and JD.
4. I continued to write on the kids’ beater computer while mine was side-lined.
5. I’m very impressed with the new Panda antivirus.  So far, no invasions.

And those are just in the writing area of my life. So, really, all is well.

Read a science article tonight.  It talks about the links between sleep deprivation and a craving for sugar and starches. 
Which also explains the link between sleep deprivation and obesity.  And diabetes. 

So maybe I’ll try a bold new experiment.  What if I slept for 8 hours a night for, hm, a week straight?

Snow Day

I was pretty certain last night that there would be no school today.  I got up at 6 anyway to check the school websites. By 6:30 it was clear; no school.  That means grandchildren here all day.  Not the best conditions for getting the writing done.

So, it was time to turn the house into a cookie factory.  We do this every Christmas.  Gingerbread, spritz, peanut butter cookies.  Joe Froggers, snickerdoodles, meringues and divinity.  Sugar cookies, stained glass cookies, marzipan.  Peanut clusters, mincemeat bars.

I have my mom’s old Betty Crocker cookie book.  She liked to write in her cookbooks.  So I can tell you that in 1969, she made peanut butter cookies at Christmas.  And that my brother Steve liked Joe Froggers.  All the little notations in her handwriting are there, sometimes just the year, other times little notes about cookies that didn’t turn out as nice as expected.  I’ve carried on her tradition.  This year, when my granddaughter asked for Snickerdoodles on her 8th birthday, we opened the book and found out that her Auntie Ruth had Snickerdoodles on her 8th birthday.  So we’re almost starting a tradition with that. Turn 8, get a Snickerdoodle.

We were and are a big family.  It calls for prodigious amounts of cookies.  I remember one year that my mom bought a brand new galvanized garbage can. Probably about a 25 gallon size.  And she filled it with cookies, layer upon layer upon layer of different kinds of cookies. 

And we ate them all, over the course of Christmas and the twelve days of Christmas. Some were sent off to Viet Nam that year. We had friends serving.  We also made them Christmas candles.  These consisted of taking the little individual serving sizes of liquor bottles, tying a bit of string to be the wick, and dipping them in wax until they looked like lumpy home made candles, and sending them off to Joey and Howie.

I won’t make a garbage can full of cookies.  We all know far too much these days about saturated fats and white sugar and cholesterol.  So I’ll only make about half a garbage can full.  That should do.

It’s supposed to snow again tonight, a heavier layer.  I suspect they’ll cancel school again.  No problem.

There’s a big double batch of gingerbread dough chilling in the refrigerator. It has about 3 times as much ginger as the recipe called for.  Tomorrow, we will roll them out and cut them out and put all sorts of sprinkles and decorations on them before we bake them.  And maybe we’ll do sugar cookies as well, and paint them with egg-yolk paint and hang some on the tree. 

Last night, I emptied the last of the rum over the fruit cakes and wrapped them up again.  They were made last Christmas.  After Christmas, I’ll make next  year’s fruit cakes and start mellowing them with — what?  How about Drambuie? That made really nice fruit cakes one year.  Or maybe I’ll use apricot brandy again.

And so this is Christmas
And what have you done?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve made a ton of cookies with my grandchildren.  And I’m loving Christmas just as much as I ever did.


It goes through Hell. 

But only on the deep dips.

On the high parts, it arcs over mountains, past fountains of stars. 

Wind in your face. 

It takes you places that ordinary people can’t get to.

Now, here’s the choice.

You are buckled in.  You can’t get off the roller coaster.

But you can flatten it out.

Would you give up the fountains of stars if I could promise you that you’d never dip down through Hell again?

That, my friend, is the real Deal With The Devil.

Vera Nazarian needs a hand!

You may or may not have heard of Vera Nazarian.  She is the founder of Norilana books, a little publishing house that has given many new writers a hand up.  It would be worth helping Vera if the only thing we wanted to do was keep Norilana books afloat.  However, there is a lot more to the story.

That links takes you to a detailed retelling of all she has been through, and all she has accomplished despite those obstacles.  Here’s the basic summary from that site: 

 "Vera Nazarian of Norilana books is facing foreclosure due to a series of truly unfortunate events (a fradulent lawsuit, mother’s illness, father’s death and sub-prime mortgage.) We hope to raise $11,229.72 to help Vera save her house."

Now, you can just send a couple bucks straight there and that would help. But there are other easy ways to help, too.

Go to Norilana Books  and do some Christmas shopping. Or Winter shopping or any other holiday you celebrate. Just buy one for yourself!  You deseve a good book, don’t you?

But if nothing there seems quite right for the preschool child on your list, use the Amazon portal there to do your Amazon shopping.  Most of you probably know that Amazon’s gives a small fee back to the websites  that serve as entry portals. Costs you nothing, but helps Vera a bit.

Many hands make light work.  Help save a home, please.

Robin Hobb

From the desk of Megan Lindholm….

I am the office assistant.
I’m an expeditor.
 I’m not perfect.

I am also not Robin Hobb or Megan Lindholm.

I am the OfficeKat, that’s my official title.

In the interest of full disclosure I wanted to let you know that the comments and friending notifications come to my email, the office email.  We have a small but fully functioning office and a very small staff.  Megan often travels and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to check her personal correspondence and when she travels she cannot attend to her livejournal or myspace or … all of those because, well, she’s traveling.

Megan does read, answer, and run this blog. But there are more of us here- someone commented recently that they saw someone from our area checked their blog and did not friend back.  That can happen.  Why?  Because sometimes I start one project and something immediate, like the fax exploding and messing up the payroll faxes – and as much as I love you all as part of the human race I am horribly flawed and selfishly put my paycheck before all things because I’m I am so attached to this funny little habit of eating.  I know Megan checks this as much as she can- but she’s under deadline.  

We have a lot of interruptions, er, not to mention three to four kids under the age of ten just upstairs who cannot seem to resist the office.  Back when the ferret was still alive – they let him out all the time and I was constantly unplugging the shredder as he wanted to nest in it. But I digress.

Suffice to say, we’re nothing but just as crazy as the rest of you.  Not perfect.  You see someone checking out your journal?  It is me. I’ve been on my own here with stacks of paperwork and I check things out but I’m not authorized to friend.  I’m just reporting in.  Half the office is torn apart, we can’t use two of the doors because they’re being regrouted, payroll was messed up and  in the time I’ve started writing this I’ve had six interruptions. 

And if you don’t know- there are teenagers in this house, who have livejournals, who check their mother’s friends list because, wow, mom has a livejournal how WEIRD, I hope she doesn’t find MINE (Okay but if you are using the office computer, guys, I’m going to find it) and go look at who has friended her.  

Don’t be so quick to judge, that’s all.  You never know what is happening behind a screen.  Megan dreams of a room of her own.  I mean hell someday I bet she’ll buy an island and disappear but for now?  It is all chaos, all the time.  

Now I have to go assemble some effing Ikea chairs. You wish you were me.  I know you do.  🙂  

*Megan maintains that Sam has not urinated in the printer since he was a baby.  Clearly, another cat is breaking into the house at night and using the printer as a toilet.  Not her cat.  Clearly.  


The slough

I miss my swamp.

I love the useless lands, the lands too wet to plow.
The lands that only bear what they feel like bearing, no potatoes or corn or lumpy squash.
They grew berries and birds’ nests and tussocks of grasses. Hard packed mud in the summer heat, a smooth field of snow in the cold of winter.
And in the seasons between, a sheet of water.

I want to run in the night, the big dogs beside me, two strung out in front of me and one trailing.
I want to get wet to the knees in the tall grass and miss the trail in the dark and get one sneaker soaking wet in the cold water and run on.
I want the Alaskan stars above me and the danger of a moose snorting in his wallowy bed when I race by and disturb him from his rest.
I want autumn leaves and bits of twigs stuck in my messy braids, and torn denim at my knees. 
I want to emerge suddenly from the dark tree-and-night sheltered trail onto the open bank  of the big slough with the moon pointing down at me with silver fingers.
I want to see the wide flat water before me, barely moving, stuck as full of reeds as a porcupine’s back is full of quills. 
And out there, one open patch of water, mirroring the moon.
My dogs go out there, wading belly deep, getting stinking wet, lapping the water and breaking its smoothness.
They’ll come back to me and shake on me and I won’t care, my old gray sweatshirt soaking up the secondhand spray. 

I wasn’t responsible or useful or sensible.
I would stay out late in a place where clocks didn’t dare to go.
I did my Latin homework at three in the morning and my mother didn’t care because she always knew what was really important.
She never even asked, ‘where have you been?’
I left my wet jeans and soaked sneakers and splats of socks to dry dirty and stiff on my bedroom floor. 

For the next night’s running.


My lawn is covered in leaves.  Copper beech tree leaves, to be specific.  I have filled both of my giant recycling container, and there are still leaves all over the lawn. And the sidewalk. And the street gutters.

Personally, I don’t care much about leaves on my lawn, as long as they don’t get so thick that they kill my lawn.  I just wish I could teach the tree to drop them only on MY lawn.  Or train the leaves to stay directly under the tree until I can get round to them.  But they don’t. The wind blows and they go skittering and flipping over onto my neighbor’s lawn.

My neighbor has a perfect lawn.  No clover in it (I love clover).  No fairy ring mushrooms. (I have several circles of those.)  He has this very fine bladed grass, all the same, even the same color.  It is always all the same height.  My lawn is an interesting patchwork of greens because I often reseed bald spots with whatever grass seed is on sale or still in the garage. 

For all its faults, I do like my lawn.  I also like my huge copper beech tree that drops leaves everywhere.  I like the roots that hummock up a bit and make spots that are hard to mow. I like the pigeons that nest in the tree and make hoos all summer long.  I like the psycho squirrel that likes to bait my cat.

But sad to say, some of my neighbors do not share my opinion.  My one neighbor rakes his lawn every single day to exactly the property line, so that everyone can see where his perfection leaves off (ha! a pun!) and my mess begins.  And because I am sometimes very puerile about these things, it makes me not want to rake my lawn.  I make huge piles of leaves, and I think he peers out his window and becomes hopeful that I will actually confine them. And instead my grandchildren race and roll and throw handfuls of them up into the air. And beg me not to make the leaves go away, not just yet. 

But, really, it is time to tidy them away and get ready for the next season.

Ah, well.  I need to let Robin get another 1000 words today, and then I’ll take the hands and go out and wrap them around a rake and clean up at least part of the lawn.  Maybe I can fit a few more leaves into my recycling containers. Or maybe I’ll use icky big plastic bags.

You know what I really miss?  I miss making huge piles of leaves and then setting them on fire.  We used to do that when I was a kid. Burn big piles of autumn leaves.  Everyone did. The smoke combined with the fall fogs and it smelled restless and dangerous and magical. I liked to make my fires at the very edge of evening right before night.  My dogs would come and help me. They would have been running through the tall grass and they’d come to me in the darkness with their fur beaded all with tiny silver droplets of water.  Sometimes my brothers and I would wrap potatoes in tinfoil and throw them in the fire.  And later, we’d rake out the blackened tinfoil packets and open them with cautious fingers.  Inside would be the leaf baked potatoes, and we’d eat them out of the foil, burning our fingers and mouths. Potatoes and smoke and columns of sparks flying up whenever we tossed more fuel on the fire.

I miss that.

Life traded me a neighbor who doesn’t allow fallen beech leaves on his lawn for dogs wearing jeweled coats and potatoes eaten from blackened foil.

What kind of a deal is that?