Finding Bunny

It’s Friday, and that means a Friday Photo post! Before we get there, though, I know many of you are aware of yesterday’s JERRY WATCH 2021 SITUATION. The original thread is here; this morning’s semi-update here.

…I cannot believe this is my life.



Anyway. I thought this was going to be the weirdest thing happening this week. BOY WAS I WRONG, but this is what I got a good picture of, so it’s what we’re doing, I guess.

This is from Tuesday? I think? (Time is blurring together like it did during lockdown.) In the foreground you will see Boxnoggin, so alert he is quivering (you can tell by the faint blur around his ears) and positively straining against his fancy-dancy escape-proof (we hope) harness. I am, of course, holding the camera and my breath, because the harness leash wraps around my waist and he’s sixty-plus pounds of Very Interested Doge.

Miss B, for the curious, is in her usual place to my right and slightly behind me, snoot-down in a fir tree hanging over the kerb which contains one of her usual daily walkies sniffing-spots.

And may all the gods help us if we do not stop in her usual spots. Habit and ritual are Very Important to Elderly Statesdogs.

Now, if you follow Boxnoggin’s ardent gaze (and imagine him making a soft, throaty, whining little ohplease ohplease ohpleeeeease noise), you will no doubt see ONE tiny brown feral bunny. And at first I thought that was all we had to deal with so I greeted said hippity-hop cheerfully with a bright, “Bonjour, Monsieur Lapin.”

I don’t know why, but I always address rabbits in French. I think it’s the ears.

What I did not realize was that Boxnoggin was also quivering because he was presented with a good old-fashioned dilemma. There are, in fact, two rabbits; I didn’t see the second one at first.

Guess that camouflage thing really works.

Boxnoggin might’ve attempted liftoff, dragging me after him, but he could not…quite…figure…out which rabbit to aim for. So, he was vapor-locked. I began to drag him away, sensing that soon the stasis would break, and Street Bunny (the clearly visible one) decided it was time to (ahem) hightail it.

Poor Box lost his ever-loving mind, but one of the beauties of the harness is that I can drop my center of gravity and he is brought to a halt. It’s just like the old days of running with B. Now, of course, I have a harness and waist leash expressly designed for the maneuver instead of just a jury-rigged collection of stuff.

Modernity is wonderful.

Anyway, I did catch this photo before the eerie calm was shattered, so here’s the Friday game: See if you can find Bunny #2.

Good luck!

Admin Games

Yesterday was the Prince’s very last day of high school, ever. That’s right, both my kids are officially done with basic edumacation.

Seniors traditionally get out of school a week or so early, so graduation can be arranged before the end of the technical “school year”.1 Which means I’ve spent a couple weeks in a constant round of emails, literally forcing school administrators to do their jobs so the process will go as smoothly as possible for my youngest child.

The teachers have been wonderful all through this. But administration is another kettle of fish entirely. I am forced to the conclusion that in education, as in many other industries, a vast proportion of petty Napoleons habitually rise to the level of their incompetence and do their level best to keep their jobs by inflicting needless torment and paperwork upon the rest of us.

Don’t try to convince me otherwise. I am stubbornly convinced by now.

The Prince started the day by getting up early, going over the list we’d made the night before of all necessary items, then tucking a mask in his pocket and shouldering his backpack to walk down to the school. It’s not a long ramble; it’s even enjoyable in good weather. He could have biked, walked, or rode the bus in any normal school year; the pandemic, of course, meant “remote learning”.

I will say the school district’s relatively long-ago decision to invest in cheap but robust laptops for all high school students was a good decision–one of the few. We’re privileged enough to have the hardware for him to do the remote learning without that help, but it was nice to have the school-issued gear and frankly, I would not have sent him into the petri dish during lockdown like the superintendent was making noises about insisting on. I’d’ve pulled him out and just let him take the GED test when things calmed down.

I did not spend millions of calories raising this child to have the malignant neglect of an administrator infect and literally kill him. No, indeed.

Anyway, yesterday was Seniors’ Last Day, which meant turning the laptops and all paperwork in. Of course none of it could be done early, partly because of lockdown and partly because they want to squeeze every last ounce of control over the kids to the max.

And it was, as anticipated, an utter shitshow from an organizational point of view.

Admin: “This is all the paperwork you need to graduate.”
Me: “This is ALL the paperwork? In toto? This is EVERY PIECE of paperwork? There are no hidden pieces?”
Admin: “Why would you ask that? This is everything.”
Me: “This is absolutely everything? You are prepared to swear in writing this is everything necessary?”
Admin: “Why don’t you phone us so we can chat?”
Me: “Because I want a record of everything said. You swear in writing this is everything necessary, every piece of paperwork necessary for graduation?”
Admin: “Yes. We swear.”
The Prince: *walks to school* *turns in everything on the list* “Now, this is everything, right?”
Admin: “Well, there’s one more piece. And it requires running all over the school.”
The Prince: “You mean the school where kids below the vaccination-age are attending classes? You mean a senior who might not have been able to get vaccinated yet2 has to run around the ENTIRE school filling this out?”
Admin: “Of course.” *pause* “Oh, and it needs a parental and counselor signature too.”
The Prince: *texting me* “Um, Mum? They did it…”

Of course we knew they were going to pull some bullshit. But that wasn’t even the final touch. The “senior counselor”3–whose signature was necessary on this piece of paperwork they were dropping on kids at the last minute–had decided yesterday was a marvelous time to take a half-day off.

So the Prince brought the piece of paper home. I signed it, put on my heels4, and drove him back to the damn school after the “senior counselor’s” expected arrival. Then I waited in the parking lot, engine running, and by the gods if I had to turn the car off and go into that complex of buildings, there were going to be fireworks.

Some time later, the Prince strode out, head high, and I knew from his body language that all had been a success. He got in the car, tossed his backpack into the back seat, tore his mask off, and heaved a sigh. “It was,” he said, “a circus in there.”5

I contented myself with two words. “All done?”

If the answer had been no I would have slapped on a mask and gone forth to do battle. But thankfully, my youngest child grinned at me and announced, “All done. I’m free.”

On the bright side, learning how to work an unwieldy bureaucracy, leveraging any inch of privilege one has, is a highly useful life skill. And, as I told him, sadly this sort of thing is the rule rather than the exception in adult life. It’s good to get the lesson and attendant practice out of the way early; they’ve seen me problem-solve this sort of thing all their lives.

I must mention the one piece of school bureaucracy which had its shit together6 was the library crew, who where stellar and which surprises me not at all.

We returned home in victory, had celebratory pho–his favorite meal, one we haven’t had since lockdown started because he kind of prefers the restaurant experience–delivered for lunch, and the Princess came home early from work. Upon hearing the tale she grinned with relief. “Yeah, *senior counselor*’s always been useless. I’d’ve been in the office at 6am to prep for the seniors’ last day.”

Which made the Prince and I laugh like hyenas, because it was exactly what I’d said in the car.

All vastly improved from there, with the Prince retreating to his room for video games, the Princess baking a special celebratory Oreo cake, and a quiet afternoon while the dogs calmed down because omg the humans had left them aloooooone in the hoooooouse for a half-hoooooooour.7

I couldn’t settle, so I was extremely online the rest of the day. And after dinner, we lit a candle and sang the family anthem, and that was wonderful. I was misty-eyed.

But the administration wasn’t done. There had to be a final fuck-you from them to surpass their usual practice for both kids’ school careers and crown the further mess of the damn pandemic year.

Yes, my beloveds, I got an automated call that evening from the school, informing me that my student “had been absent unexcused for one or more class periods today.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’ve been engaged in sort of a running skirmish with the attendance office all damn year-plus-long lockdown, because they have not bothered to get their ducks in a row and put some goddamn protocols and procedures in place for the kids (at first ALL the students, then later just a SIGNIFICANT PROPORTION) doing remote learning. It appears completely beyond them, though there are at least three adults in that single office alone whose entire job remit is “attendance.”

So I had to email them one last time, politely pointing out that there was no way my senior could have attended classes since it was the last day and the damn laptop used for sign-in had been turned in as the school had requested, and they would reply with verification that they had fixed the problem and furthermore would not do this again for the rest of the school year or I would be in touch. Because I wouldn’t put it past them to hold his diploma or transcripts hostage if every last i wasn’t dotted and t wasn’t crossed.

I will, gods willing, never have to force those people to do their jobs ever again. The Princess, of course, fixed me with a mischievous look when I muttered as much at the dinner table.

“Just watch,” she said. “You’re going to foster some kid, and they’re going to go to school, and the school’s gonna try something. And then they’ll see your name pop up in their email notifications and the earth will tremble.”

It’s not that I like being adversarial, I swear. It’s just that when you’re dealing with a child I have taken responsibility for, by every god that ever was, you will behave properly or I will make you, and if you still refuse to behave properly, I will end you. It’s that simple. I don’t ask for special treatment, I am content with you doing your goddamn stated job.

*sigh*

I’m sure I sound bitchy and rude, but when it comes to protecting one’s spawn, well, I’ll be as bitchy as I have to be. And again, the teachers have been stellar8, it’s just the petty, bullying faux-Napoleons who have turned in (far, far) less-than-satisfactory performance.

Same as it ever was, I’m sure. Petty bureaucratic bullshit will be with us lo unto the crack of doom. Otherwise things just might be too easy, and we can’t have that.

But it’s all done now. I’ve gotten both children through high school. I suppose a wee bit of pride is justified, though all I feel is the weary exhaustion and decompression of a major life goal reached. It was an Experience right down to the wire, as they say.

And…well, my children are hilarious, beautiful, kind, crackerjack-brilliant human beings. I can’t wait to see what they do next, and I’m utterly grateful both of them want me in their lives to witness it.

All’s well that ends well, and all that. I’ve got to get back to work…

…but that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Refuge in the Work

I did not wish to leave bed today. I want to stay snuggled, wringing the last few drops of happiness from my solitary road trip this weekend. Alas, there’s work to be done–not only the daily work of living, but also Cold North is possessing me and I really do have to get some other stuff shoehorned in around the book filling my brain or I’ll fall behind.

And that cannot be borne. There’s a mortgage to pay, after all.

There is a silver lining, though. It’s been a long while since I finished a piece of writing and was so excited I had to send it to the Selkie1 with the urgent request to “OMG LOOK HOW PRETTY THIS IS TELL ME I’M PRETTY”. Yesterday, there was a scene involving elves, massive reindeer, a snowstorm, and Viking werewolves, and I knew while writing that I had something special.

It made me realize just how long it’s been since I’ve been deeply excited at work, enough to blurt out in all-caps to said writing partner. It was very nice when she replied with the requested squee and a bonus “this is my favorite part”–incidentally, a bit I knew was good as soon as it left my fingers. It’s like a well done iaido strike, you just know before your hand even twitches for the hilt that it’s already happened, and it’s beautiful.

Even with the solo road trip, all the socializing lately has cut deeply into my energy level. Getting some precious alone time means I realize how hard I’ve been running my engine in the red, and for how long.

Of course, I take refuge from everything in work. Heartbreak? I write. Irritation? I write. Depression? I write. Worry? I write. Everything gets poured into stories. It might not be the best coping mechanism, but it’s mine–and it even pays the bills most of the time.

Of course, publishing being what it is, I also have to spend a nontrivial amount of energy nagging to get things done, but I suppose that happens in any industry. I often find myself staring at my inbox muttering “All you have to do is your damn job,” and not even at publishers–at anyone, frankly. I’m sure I can be just as frustrating. Irritation seems to make the business world go ’round.

But I’ve the rest of today for dog-walkies, running, and getting some Viking werewolves into a pitched battle with some high-powered Nazgul, as well as getting that damn combat scene done. It’s not that the scene is unfinished inside my head or needs more marinating, it’s that my after-dinner working time has been eaten by recovery and social engagements. Due to the boom of video meetings during lockdown, I’ve been more social in the past two years than I ever have in my entire life, and I need to prune some of that back even if the caretaker in me screams “but people neeeeeeeed you!”

Yesterday the music queue served up a chunk of Pink Floyd, which was fine since it’s after the summer solstice. I absolutely cannot listen to the Floyd in the dark half of the year; it does bad things to me. Consequently The Wall or Dark Side of the Moon are inextricably linked to summer inside my head, and it was super pleasant to realize not only did I have enough light to listen, but I also had enough emotional bandwidth.

The big thing will be not re-injuring myself because I feel temporarily good. It doesn’t help that I have to keep producing or the entire house might sink into the sea. Writers tend to die with their boots on, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to retire. On my good days I think that’s fine, because the stories are lined up around the block and there’s no way I’ll get to them all in my allotted span.

Of course, that could be my own particular attempt to bargain with mortality–you can’t take me, I have deadlines to meet and stories to write. Death won’t listen, but ’tis human to make the effort, so to speak.

And with that borderline-morbid thought, my friends, I bid you a civil adieu and get out the door for walkies. Both dogs are increasingly antsy, for they can tell I’ve finished my coffee and next comes the ritual Tying of the Shoes With Canine Assistance That Is, In Fact, No Assistance At All.

See you ’round.

Saturday’s Solitude

I drove west on Saturday, then back east again loaded with seedlings and starts. The plants were only an excuse, though collecting them was pleasant in the extreme (thank you, MZ, a thousand blessings upon your household). The real reason for the trip was two hours spent completely alone in the car each direction.

I love, crave, and need my solitude. Oddly, though, I’ve never been able to afford living alone. There’s always been roommates, and then there were the kids. With them in school, or one in school and one working, I could get a few hours of blessed alone-time fairly regularly.

Then lockdown happened. And while I have doors to shut and morning runs to perform, it’s not exactly the same.

So it was absolutely healing to get in the car and spend hours with just myself, the engine, and my thoughts. I feel like a new woman. It also helps that the drive over the coast range is spectacularly beautiful. Living here is lovely; there’s the sea within a few hours’ drive1, the mountains in either direction, and dry sage land should I want it accessible within a few hours as well. All in a place with enough rain to suit me2 and a distinct lack of bite-y, venomous things. It’s pretty perfect.

So, things I saw on the drive:

  • A marsh, still mirror-ponds populated by the begging fingers of dead trees, with long-legged birds casually munching amid the stilts;
  • Veils of rainy cloud on thickly wooded mountainsides;
  • A green hippie bus with “WE STOP FOR YOU” painted on the side and a group of brightly clad people stretching their legs during a short halt;
  • A smooshed porcupine, with a few crows dancing excitedly at such a feast (be careful, my friends, those quills are nasty business);
  • A shed or shipping container (not quite sure) with the evocative legend “SLEEPING PREACHER” spray-painted on its front and sides, so traffic both directions could read and wonder;
  • The faroff distant smear of the sea, singing its lonely song;
  • Moss hanging in great veils in a pocket temperate rainforest;
  • Tiny towns with strange names and chainsaw art in the front yard of many a proud home;
  • A hawk diving for lunch on a sunny field;
  • Many, many grazing animals, including cows, alpacas, and I think I even glimpsed a llama.

In short, a good time was had by all, and I get to spend my lunch hour today getting some starts into the ground. There wasn’t time Saturday after I got home–the Princess had spent the day prepping for a pierogi feast, and of course that took up the remainder of the evening. Sunday was spent on household chores and stretching out, since it’s been a long, long while since I’ve had a car ride of that duration.

I feel ever so much better. And I also took a few social media apps off my phone. My blood pressure doesn’t need them; I just can’t even anymore. It will mean greater productivity and less desire to just crawl under my bed and hide. It’s the latter I’m aiming for.

I hope your weekend held many likewise pleasant things, my friends. Now I get to have a bit of toast and look over the day’s work–I think we’ll have a reindeer ride accompanied by giant wolves on the way to a hidden city, and the rest of the combat scene I didn’t finish after all last week, as well as the planting and the watering. We also had some rain, which was glorious though uncharacteristic for June.

Of course the dogs are very interested in the prospect of toast crusts followed by walkies. And there’s probably some more coffee in my future, too. All in all, despite the fact of Monday, things seem somewhat reasonable chez Saintcrow right now.

I can only hope it lasts.

An Almost-Bunny Brekkie

“I ALMOST CAUGHT IT, TOO.”

This is the face of a dog who happened across a feral rabbit in our backyard this morning.

I knew it was only a matter of time before the rabbits got up the hill. Their range has been spreading, and we had a comparatively mild winter. They started out on the other side of a major concrete artery, then somehow got across downhill near a watercourse, and it’s been fascinating to see them creep up the hill when I take the dogs on morning walkies. Nonscientific and completely anecdotal field work, you see.

Anyway, uncaffeinated and with my shoes untied, I let the dogs out for their morning evacuations and prancing. It was early enough I didn’t think squirrels were a real risk.

Imagine my surprise when Boxnoggin let out a yelp of excited, pained disbelief and tore across the yard. Imagine my further surprise when I saw Monsieur Lapin (for some reason I always address rabbits in French) hightailing it (literally) across said yard from north to south (south being downhill and, of course, the direction he’d more than likely come from).

You can further imagine my despair when I saw Boxnoggin tearing after him at a speed that seemed unlikely to catch but perfectly likely to overshoot a mark or two and consequently paste him onto the fence. While I could tell there was no danger of a bunny breakfast, Boxnoggin seemed very likely indeed to either hit the fence or attempt to leap the gate.

Upon both those paths lies danger.

I’m not too worried ol’ Boxnoggin will clear the fence, mind you. He has gained a reasonable amount of heft and dignity (such as it is) with the fullness of time and, alas, cannot catch the kind of air he used to. But doing himself some injury by applying himself to said fence at high velocity is entirely possible, and lo I let out a, “WHAT THE FUCK STOP FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU IDIOT,” that shattered the morning quiet.

Of course, he paid no attention. Every fuse inside his doggy skull was blown. The terrier part of his genetic inheritance had burst from confinement like a werewolf’s hunting frenzy, and the tiny cottontail bobbing before him was the sum of all desires.

Fortunately (for Monsieur Lapin) or unfortunately (for poor Boxnoggin), the rabbit had obeyed the number-one rule of reconnaissance: Always know your escape route. (Insert obligatory Princess Bride reference here.) Monsieur was vanishée, and Boxnoggin was désolée. (I had a whole disparue joke here, but it didn’t quite have the ring.)

Ol’ Box did a full circuit of the yard, nose down, while I pressed my hand over my pounding heart and discovered I did not need caffeine to wake up, terror works just fine. Finally, when he had verified that no further rodent snacks were lingering in the ferns, under the redbud tree, among the roses, in the vegetable garden, behind the shed, under the deck, in the shed, under the red wagon, or in any other place belonging to the yard, he consented to come inside and eat his (non-bunny) brekkie.

Miss B watched all this go down with mild interest, being occupied with peeing the whole time. In her younger days she would have added to the circus, but she had a full bladder and contented herself with a single burp-bark of supervision. “YOU’RE NOT GONNA CATCH IT, DUMBASS. MUM, WHERE’S MY KIBBLE?”

So, my Friday started with a dose of exhilarating fear. I hope yours began in a more tranquil fashion. Now that the rabbits have found my yard, of course, no vegetable is safe, and Boxnoggin is going to be searching for more carrot-chewing maniacs as a matter of course every time he’s let outside.

This…will not end well, I’m sure. But it’ll be hilarious.

Have a good weekend!

Ridiculous Heat

The heat put paid to any real work yesterday, despite my best efforts and the air conditioning. Of course, I’ve been going without any real rest for a while, so the Muse just threw up her hands and brought everything to a screeching halt. On the bright side, now I know the next handhold to swing to in Cold North, and the next combat scene in Hell’s Acre is just about settled in my head. The only thing I have to get down is the entrance to the battlefield and the first few moves. The rest of the fight depends on the attacker getting to a certain point in the room, and the most efficient way of doing that will break his cover, which he needs until the very last moment. So he might have to amble, or let the opponents get a few shots in while they’re dragging him to meet their boss–which is precisely where he wants to be.

…they take only short time to read, but combat scenes often take a ruddy long time to write. Everything has to be just so.

On the bright side I can go down to the punching bag and work off some angst blocking out the close-quarters part of the fight. I have quite a few Tuckerizations courtesy of my lovely subscribers–sometimes I put out a call for character names, and mostly those walk-ons die in terribly gruesome ways.

So, yesterday was suboptimal but the heat seems to have broken, which means I can walk the dogs and get a nice reasonable run in, as well as leave my office window open a bit to cool it down–unless, of course, the weird alarm in the neighbor over the back fence’s yard keeps going off. I think he meant it as a squirrel deterrent, but it goes off at the least breath of wind and the thing is annoying.

I did finish that book on Rome and the Silk Road; I’ve moved on to a WWII memoir. I’m saving a scholarly Viking book for when a certain question involving Cold North is settled. At least I got some reading in during the heat, between lying on the floor as a puddle and making questionable food choices. (I regret nothing, though my digestion is a bit unhappy. NOTHING, I TELL YOU.)

I knew things were getting ridiculous yesterday when I realized it was 2pm already and I hadn’t even gotten a hundred words. That set off a death spiral where I was convinced, convinced my career was over and I’d never write again. It was a sign I needed some kind of break, so I carried said book to the floor and settled into reading and internal grousing, while the dogs did not pile onto me–it was too warm–but were extremely proximal, attempting to soothe.

They were paid for their care in French fries, and considered that quite acceptable indeed.

So, today I finish an elementalist and a shieldmaid having a heart-to-heart, then get an elf stabbed with a poisoned blade. And for good measure, I get a certain Hellion to the precise spot in a pub’s private room where he can commit maximum mayhem. Pretty sure he’s going to defenestrate someone–by request, actually, a soon-to-be-Tuckerized subscriber really wanted death by window ejection and I have no objection.

For I love my darling Readers and beloved subscribers, and if a little thing like tossing a character through a window will make them happy, who am I to deny it?

My mood has lifted considerably now that I’ve talked my way into defenestration. I suppose that’s the Thursday mood.

Over and out.

Tuesday Tuckerizations

They’re saying 95F today. I’ve already closed the house and turned the AC on. The ceiling fan in the stairwell is going too. Such as it is, we’ve got some remedy against the heat.

In plenty of the country, it wouldn’t be considered bad weather. But here, we are pale temperate mushrooms, and this dries us out. Even the moss in our crevices is cracking. (Hyperbole? Yes, but only a little.)

Of course it means I’ll be able to crouch in my darkened office and work today, since the holiday weekend is over. I managed double wordcount on Cold North yesterday, but only a pittance on Hell’s Acre. Which isn’t bad (just a reminder, you can read the first few chapters of the serial for free) and today I get to write a chapter where I Tuckerize some of my beloved subscribers. It will probably end in their eponymous characters’ gruesome deaths (Avery has a temper, and quite a bit of training in mayhem). I was kind of unprepared for how many people wanted to, erm, risk a violent end in the serial.

Sometimes the deaths are pretty neat–a certain character in Roadtrip Z got to be an end-of-movie hero, bit by a zombie and saving one last bullet in the chamber for himself. (Hullo, MM!) And since I’m writing a combat scene today I have a list of names to use now, and I think at least one is going to switch allegiances mid-fight.

In other news, I got a very nice letter from Reader B. L., who liked Steelflower very much and entreated me to continue the series. I do go back and look at The Highlands War from time to time. If I can open the file without stress nausea burning a hole in my gut I’ll put it on the writing docket.

Unfortunately, it remains one of my most-pirated series. The level of theft means I literally can’t afford to work on it, and the emotional cost is super high too.

But again, if I can get to the point where I can open the Highlands file without the stress nausea, I’ll consider it, because I really do need that arc finished. Originally it was to be a trilogy–the first book where everyone meets, the Skaialan book, and then Kaia and Darik’s return to G’maihallan–incidentally, that last book was to explain D’ri’s scar, and tie a bunch of other narrative threads pretty neatly.

Best-laid plans and all.

In any case, I’ve got to get the dogs walked and my own corpse through a run before the heat mounts to an unlivable degree, so I’m out the door as soon as the last bit of coffee is swilled. Happy Pride Month, everyone, and I hope your Tuesday goes smooth as silk.

If it doesn’t, we can get out the machetes and the RPGs, and teach it not to mess with us.

Over and out…