Mileage and Cheese

A lovely cool grey morning, though without a single spatter of rain, has me feeling almost myself again. Almost, just not exactly quite. I managed to get out the door for the morning dog walkies a few minutes early, which meant less traffic on the sidewalks; the day’s run was accomplished at a slightly lower speed than usual since I’m bulking mileage. Come Friday or so I’ll do some intervals, then after a few days’ worth of rest my speed should start to creep up while my distance remains steady.

Or at least, that’s the plan.

I did not get a heroine involved in a stabbing yesterday, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. I think the stabbing has to come today, in the hero’s POV. Serves him right if he gets a puncture; he’s been getting a bit arrogant lately and needs someone to take him down a peg or two. This being Hell’s Acre, of course, he’ll get it in the most mannerly way possible from our dear heroine.

I mean, she’ll stab, but she won’t be rude.

Other than that, the day is set aside for revisions on Sons of Ymre. There’s a lot more horror than romance in that book, and the Lovecraft and King in Yellow references fall fast and thick. My poor editor. *evil chuckle*

I’ve queued up a lot of Miles Davis for the afternoon’s work, and am attempting to use another jolt of coffee to clear the mud out of my head. I’d forgotten how absentminded upping my running mileage makes me for the first couple days. On the plus side, I’ll sleep well tonight, which is a blessing all its own.

The minus is that my usual work pace has dropped to what feels like a snail-crawl. I know it’s not, I know I’m in a good spot and can afford a few days’ worth of not-quite-top-speed, but still. It irks me to be operating at less than full capacity.

Some of my slowness could be the absence of lunch, a problem easily rectified even if the dogs are going to be underfoot as soon as I twitch to rise from my office chair. Since I’m contemplating midday bruschetta, their cheese-sense is no doubt tingling. I swear, the instant any human in the house even thinks about thickened milk product, both dogs perk up and scuttle forth to beg for treats with single-minded intensity.

…I just glanced at the office door. Miss B is sitting, ears up and eyes bright, waiting. Every inch of her is expectant.

I suppose I can’t disappoint the poor elderly dog–and Boxnoggin is coming down the hall, his nails clicking on hardwood. Time to wade through canine excitement in the direction of the kitchen and hope the kids left me some fresh mozzarella.

Garden Amelioration, and Glitter

It’s a quiet, cool Monday morning–a lot nicer than the last Monday I suffered, and that right out the gate as well. Even the coffee tastes better today for some reason.

It could be the long run I took on Saturday, a sign that I can carefully start upping my mileage. I was quite pleased to find that out, except for the fact that it means I’m going to have to do interval training as well. If there’s anything I hate, it’s the bloody intervals, but they help with a lot of things and cut down on injuries so I suppose I must.

Today is for retrenchment, scheduling, and decision-making. I might even get the kitchen mopped if I’m extraordinarily ambitious. But mostly it’ll be revisions on Sons of Ymre, as well as a rooftop battle in Hell’s Acre. The latter’s gone about as long as it can without someone getting knifed atop a crumbling alt-Victorian tenement.

My joys are tiny and petty, but they are entirely mine own.

The sprinklers are finally working again. (I will say the solution was hysterically simple, and made me laugh like a hyena for HOURS.) Which means that some of the garden damage will be ameliorated soon. The ferns are already luxuriating in the change, and the honeysuckle’s very glad indeed. It’s a good thing plenty of bushes were already well-established or that heat dome would have put paid to them all. As it is, I think we’ve lost at least two rhododendrons. The poor things just couldn’t take it.

Plenty of the evergreens in the neighborhood are showing crispy needle-ends. Even some of the lavender is looking scraggly, and once established that plant likes a great deal of benign neglect. At least I saved the tomatoes and most of the peppers.

I suppose I should quit nattering about the garden and get the dogs walked. I’m going to need to lace my shoes loosely today, but not so loose they slip free when I hit warp speed. It’s all a balance.

The big event of the weekend (so to speak) was walking up to the craft store to get round magnets. One session with a glue gun later, and I have more fridge magnets made out of bottle caps. The cackling of joy when I realized yes, I am capable of wielding a glue gun was probably disconcerting as all get-out, too. You know they have glitter sticks for those things?

The mind boggles.

In any case, I’d best take advantage of the quiet while it’s still here. As soon as I shift to tie my shoes I’ll have Canine Halp, and that doesn’t even cover the entire brushing-my-teeth situation. I suppose I should be thankful the dogs are seeking to be helpful, because it they set out to be actively obstructionist I’m afraid the house might be reduced to splinters ere long.

I’m cautiously hopeful Monday’s going to cooperate. It would be a nice change.

Solved By Machete

I’m in a positively dreadful mood this morning–indeed, I’ve been tetchy all week, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the heat, though it breaks at night to allow for sleep; maybe it’s work, though I’m always happiest with a surfeit of that; maybe it’s the state of the world. The Princess concurs, for she’s been in somewhat of a mood too; she thinks perhaps it’s processing a bit of last year’s (and ongoing) trauma.

The body remembers, no matter what the rest of one would like.

Consequently I’m trying very hard to be kind, especially in small invisible ways. There is nothing better than performing a few acts of kindness to lift one’s mood. Of course it’s selfish–one should be decent simply because it’s the right thing to do–but it’s at least enlightened selfishness, and it will do. Or so I tell myself, and hope like hell it’s true.

The damage from the heat dome is still rippling through plants in the neighborhood, and I’m sure through the animals as well. Some of the laurel volunteers I put along the back fence have crispy-crittered, and since the sprinklers are Having A Moment (someone will hopefully come by to diagnose them today) much of the yard is too. The tomatoes and other seedlings, watered by hand, are holding on; the pennyroyal that wasn’t grubbed up by squirrels (WHY, for godsake?) is actually thriving. So there’s a win or two lurking in the greenery.

Including the Zombie Rhubarb, which used to be near the lilac volunteers but was moved to a sunnier spot because it frankly refused to die even after the late, lamented Odd Trundles did his best to nest in it. I don’t know what that dog had against rhubarb–maybe he simply knew it’s not my favorite?

Still, I admire the plant’s absolute refusal to lie down and die. That kind of stubbornness is near and dear to my heart, so I’m even watering the damn thing. It’s flourishing like the hellebores now. I’ve told it flat out, “We don’t have to like each other for me to do my best by you. Uh, sorry about the dog…”

I think it’s forgiven me, despite Boxnoggin’s desperate desire to water it on his own. What is it with dogs and rhubarb? I have no clue.

Anyway, the day is jam-packed. There’s subscription stuff to get out the door, groceries to grab, dog walkies and a run to squeeze in, and damn it but I want these revisions done. Time to make a list on an index card, or I’ll get absolutely nothing accomplished. It’s a shame none of these problems can be solved by a machete, for I’m in just the mood to take a few swings. (Related: I really do need to get a wooden baseball bat…)

I suppose I should also get some breakfast, too. But before all that, it’s coffee to soothe my nerves somewhat, and Josh Groban on the play queue to do likewise. Something about the vibrato is entirely calming.

I’m hoping Thursday will decide not to be overly difficult. But if it is, I’ll get out the machete.

Marshmallow, Sun Storm, Tuesday

It’s a grey Tuesday morning and there is not enough coffee in the world. A solar storm is expected to hit the earth today, and frankly I’m not bloody surprised, the way things have been going.

At least the cicadas are quiet, since the temperature drops overnight. They’re probably waking up the same as I am, lethargic and blinking, staggering towards their version of coffee, preparing for an entire afternoon of screaming in the treetops.

Lucky bastards.

Even the dogs are a bit beside themselves this morning. They won’t eat their breakfast and Boxnoggin is in a fractious-toddler mood. I’d say “you need a nap, dog,” but we literally just rolled out of bed. It could be he’s sensing my crankiness.

There are bright prospects, though. The other day I made an offhand comment about using Cocoa Pebbles and Rice Krispies to make treats–you know, butter, marshmallow creme, all that. The Princess got That Look, and when she came home yesterday she was loaded with Cocoa Krispies, tiny chocolate chips, marshmallows, and a plan.

I pointed out there were Cocoa Krispies but no Cocoa Pebbles (her very favorite cereal) in her supplies and my eldest child fixed me with an arch look of amusement. “The recipe I found was for Krispies, so I’m doing it that way first before I alter it.”

I could only nod sagely and mumble, “That means more marshmallow treats for us all, so I can’t complain.”

To which my child replied, just as her mother would, “Damn right.”

She even divided the pan into quarters. One was plain, one was studded with sea salt flakes, the third had tiny chocolate chips, and the last was drenched with homemade salted caramel sauce. Needless to say, that last bit was my favorite, though everyone else in the house is split between the plain and salted quarters.

So, there’s a crispy-crunchy experiment at some time in my future, possibly with caramel. That’s not a bad prospect; it’ll get me through a day of internal wires sparking through worn-off insulation, a both-hands deathgrip on my temper, and my fingertips aching from keeping my claws sheathed.

In any case, I should probably get some breakfast to balance out the caffeine once my stomach settles, the it’ll be time to walk the furry brats. I’m sure there will be hijinks; Carl the Crow has taken to accompanying us on walks around the block. She flits from tree to tree, eyeing me sideways and occasionally letting out raucous yells. I’m not sure if she’s adopted us or is waiting for me to look away so she can torment Boxnoggin–I believe she has not forgiven him for the Jerry Incident.

Speaking of Jerry the Crow, his tail feathers appear to be healing, and he’s having a lot more luck with flying. He’s still apparently only capable of short hops, and he tends to hang around our yard all day because I’m leaving sunflower seeds and the like in easy-to-reach places for him. Sandra and Carl are okay with this too; they keep bringing peanuts and cracking them in the birdbath, filling the damn thing with peanut shells. I think someone in the neighborhood thinks they’re feeding squirrels, though why anyone would do such a thing is beyond me.

We also have a ring-tailed squirrel (christened Einstein) who is up to No Good and seems positively bent on tormenting my daughter. Maybe it’s a family inheritance thing.

I do have a Backyard Tale to tell you concerning Norbert (long-time Readers will remember Norbert the Shattered Gargoyle) but I need more time and energy to write it than I possess today, so it’ll have to wait.

And with that, my beloveds, I shall bid you a fond adieu. Getting out the door before the marine layer breaks and the temperature rises is the name of the game, and since I’ve finished my coffee, breakfast is next. I can only dread what sort of hijinks will occur once I strap the dogs into their harnesses and leave the house.

Wish me luck…

Whyfor, Carl?

Normally I do the Morning Walk Report on my Masto instance…but today’s was just a little weirder than usual.

It wasn’t the weather, though yesterday’s heat was only a prelude. They’re saying over 100F sometime this weekend; I’m sure that will be fun. But this morning there was a little coolth, and Sandra came by the birdbath as usual so I knew Carl and Jerry were okay.

Anyway, I strapped the dogs in and got us all out the door, thank heaven.

It wasn’t until we were halfway down the block, a bee crawling on my shoulder and Miss B very interested in some lithadora, that I realized Boxnoggin wasn’t prancing just because he was happy to be out of the house. No, he was dancing in place for an entirely different reason.

If it wasn’t Carl it was his evil twin, standing in a driveway and eyeing us sidelong. I caught a wicked gleam in his corvid eye while Boxnoggin strained at his harness, just longing to get across the street and Make A New Friend.

Given that Box’s idea of “friendship” with smaller creatures is “shake it like a Polaroid until the neck snaps, then look mournfully at the corpse wondering where your friend went”, I felt it was unwise (to say the least) to let him seek a closer acquaintance with Carl.

Besides, Carl fights dirty. I should know.

I don’t know if it’s normal behavior for a crow to follow a wild-haired writer and her two canine companions around the block for walkies. But every time I looked up, Carl–or his evil twin, I am certainly not ruling that out–was perched nearby, taking off with a snap-flutter as the dogs finished their sniff stops and moved on. I’m not sure if he was herding us, just curious, or doing recon for a sudden attack.

What I do know is that Boxnoggin was very aware we were being watched, and seeing him alternate between fierce “it’s on the ground, let me go SHAKE IT” and coy “ohai, you are watching me from above, let me display coquettish prancing to entice you closer” was not the most amusing thing I’ve ever seen–but it was close.

That was how I came to be standing on the sidewalk audibly scolding a crow for taunting my poor dog. “He’s not bright, Carl,” I informed a bird slightly bigger than Boxnoggin’s head. “This is beneath you, frankly, and I’m disappointed in your behavior.”

Carl cawed a couple times in reply, clearly unwilling to give up the game.

Once we got to the backyard and I let the dogs out of their harnesses, Carl settled in the cedars, watching while I herded them back into air-conditioned calm. He was gone when I came back out, hair braided and the rest of me slathered with yet more sunscreen for the morning run.

I don’t even know.

As for the run, I sweated sunscreen into my eyes so that was fun. Also, the bees are getting to be a nuisance. I love them, I truly do, but trying to crawl into my nose is not the thing. I suspect the only reason they didn’t go for my ears was the fact those are always blocked with music-delivery pods, and my eyes were left alone because I was blinking furiously trying to get away from the stinging.

They’re leaving my mouth alone, at least for now. Small mercies. I was also afraid I’d crush one settling in my elbow as I ran, but I guess it just wanted a drink? I’m happy to help but dear gods, the little pollinating bastards seem to lack all sense of self-preservation.

I’m hoping Carl’s accompaniment was merely curiosity. If he’s planning hijinks, I may have to stroll the dogs while armed. I’m sure the neighbors won’t wonder at me walking along, two dogs strapped to my waist, a golf club over my shoulders.

It might even add something to the morning…

The Jerry Situation

So this, my friends, was the Asshole Crow Condo that Jerry didn’t bother using. We left it out all night and I finally broke it down the next afternoon. In the rain. Cursing Jerry all the while, even though I was super glad (for my daughter’s sake) the raccoons hadn’t found and trashed it.

For the curious, the Original Jerry Watch 2021 Situation Thread is here, the update is here, and the finale–such as it is–here. It took a week for Jerry to show back up; I’m pretty convinced either his tailfeathers or some version of corvid drunkenness (there are compost heaps with no shortage of fermented stuff everywhere in the neighborhood) was to blame for the entire incident. He could have been a fledgeling, true, but he was pretty big–as one can see by the size of the box we chose for his (supposed) recovery.

Poor Jerry. I won’t deny I was bloody well relieved to see him again. He does seem to be having some trouble with flying still, but Carl and Sandra are looking after him and there’s plenty of food in the backyard.

He seems to have learned his lesson about taunting Boxnoggin, too. And I perform a Jerry Check upon the yard before letting the dogs out. Miss B doesn’t really care–the most she’ll do is eye the smear she can only indistinctly see but can smell just fine and wonder if she should be herding it but it doesn’t smell like a sheep, so maybe she shouldn’t? But Box is very committed to Backyard Safety, by which he means yelling his fool head off at everything that moves before taking off at top speed to catch it.

Me? I’m just here to witness the hijinks, apparently.

Have a good weekend, my beloveds.

Laundry Games

So there I was, sweating and shaking next to my bed in the middle of the night, prepared to do battle in the dark.

…maybe I should back up.

I washed my sheets yesterday, in between starting revisions on The Bloody Throne, thumping school administrators once again (it’s turned into a saga, my gods, why can’t these people just do their jobs?), and various other chores.

Now, to understand the rest of this, one must understand that we try to be eco-conscious here at the Chez. We recycle, we compost, we do our bit even though the filthy corporations outweigh our meager efforts by several orders of pollutive magnitude. This extends to laundry.

Anyway, I was distracted while making my bed. For one thing, the dogs wanted to “help” and getting them out of the room so I could get the job done in a reasonable length of time was impossible, since they would simply snuffle and make sad noises under said door, leaving me feeling like the absolute worst monster in history. And when I open the door, there’s usually a mad scramble to plunge into the room, convinced it has somehow changed and needs to be circled twice at high speed in order to settle into its usual contours.

I don’t even know. Dogs, man.

Alternately, they leap on each other in a stunning display of gymnastic though completely playful aggression, making so much noise I’m surprised everyone in the house doesn’t have hearing damage. Said yipping, yowling, growling, and snapping echoes down the hall, which has a hardwood floor perfect for bouncing soundwaves.

Besides, there’s the problem of getting them outside the damn door. One of them follows my urging while the other slips back into my bedroom, and Miss B is sometimes fond of hiding in the master loo in such cases, and it’s just a three-ring circus all the damn time. Often, I just work around them, on the principle that it’s more efficient to deal with canines underfoot than spend precious minutes ushering them out or listening to the sad snuffles or mock-combat.

Look, I was just grateful to get the damn sheets on, and the coverlet as well. The day went on, as days tend to do, and I was exhausted by the end. Revisions take a lot out of one; dealing with administrators who just won’t stop being nasty ill-tempered petty Napoleons does too.

Anyway, I settled in bed, stared at a book on the Battle of the Bulge for a short while, then turned off the light and passed out.

But Monday wasn’t done with me yet. Oh no. At some point last night I rolled over, and I felt something that shouldn’t be there.

It wasn’t a dog. It wasn’t Khan the Teddy Bear. It wasn’t even a toddler–though both kids are well into adulthood, sometimes I half-wake in the middle of the night expecting a tiny child having night troubles to climb over me, elbows and knees sinking into every internal organ I possess, to get comfortable taking up three-quarters of my bed despite their (seemingly) small size during waking hours.

I even had a half-moment of thinking it was poor Odd Trundles, back from the grave and happy to see me. But it was not, alas, the ghost of my poor dear deceased bulldog.

Now, it’s faintly heartening that my reflexes are still good. The chain went something like this:

  1. Blissfully sleeping, dead to the world
  2. Rolling over, sensing something not quite right
  3. Lunging out of bed, my hand flashing for…
  4. …a weapon, in its handy spot I have trained myself to reach towards
  5. Ending up on my feet, sweating, shaking, and COMPLETELY AWAKE…
  6. …while both dogs snore.

The house was dead silent. It’s been a long time since I had a panic attack in the middle of the night, and this didn’t quite qualify. For one thing, I wasn’t having trouble breathing; for another, I was unnerved but not, well, panicked.

My room was its usual nighttime self. Miss B slowly raised her head, licking her lips. Boxnoggin was dead to the world. Absolutely nothing was out of place.

I was about to mutter what the hell but that might wake the dogs up further and give them the impression that Mum was Doing Something Fun, and that aforesaid Something Fun might Need Canine Supervision. So I simply made a circuit of my room, armed and ready, and even stood at the closed door, listening intently in case something in the house had triggered my alarums.

But the dogs, who would have been up and at ’em, as the saying goes, had there been an intruder or any other kind of distress, were peacefully snoozing. Either they were Falling Down On the Job, or I was simply Being An Idiot. Evidence was heavily stacked in favor of the latter.

As usual, I might add.

Consequently I got a drink of water, put the weapon back in its place, and snuggled back down into bed, half certain I’d never get back to sleep.

And then I felt it. Something nubbly and solid, where nothing but mattress and pillow should be.

I damn near levitated, making the bed squeak and waking both dogs up for realsies this time. And then I realized what it was.

You see, being eco-conscious here at the Chez, we have dryer balls. (I snicker every time I refer to them, too, because I am twelve inside.) Most of them are hard plastic with nubbins, though I’ve made others out of leftover wool yarn.

Somehow, in making my bed, I hadn’t noticed a plastic dryer ball in one of the pillowcases. I’d just jammed my pillow in, shaken it once, tossed it onto the bed, and continued merrily. In my defense, I was also dodging two very interested canines and thinking about revisions at the same time, as well as muttering baneful imprecations at school administrators.

My bandwidth, as they say, was fully utilized.

Furthermore, I hadn’t even noticed the damn thing while reading in bed, since it had migrated to a pillow-corner. I’d turned over onto it in the middle of the night and, in a fine display of paranoia, scared myself half to death, not to mention leapt from my bedding ready to do battle.

With a dryer ball.

The dogs weren’t quite sure why I was twitching or why I was laughing. I fished the offending article out, set it on my nightstand, managed to convince Miss B that no, it was not a toy or a snack or anything else deserving of her attention, convinced a sleepy Boxnoggin that he did NOT need to stamp all over me while denning back down again, then I lay in the dark almost vibrating with adrenaline for a good hour or so before sleep decided I was safe enough to visit.

At least the whole episode didn’t mean an entire night of insomnia. That’s what’s called progress.

Currently the dryer ball is on my nightstand. I’m probably going to forget it’s there, since carrying the damn thing downstairs requires a whole-ass trip I don’t want to make. I could put it in my office next to my bag so that the next time I have to leave the house (whenever that is) I see it and take it down.

I am damnably sure, though, that wherever I put it, I’ll have a moment of staring while wondering what the hell is that doing there at some point in the future, because that’s just How I Roll. I am also dreadfully sure I will be weirded out by its sudden appearance, and for at least half a moment I will suspect either that it’s become sentient and is attempting escape or that I’m losing my damn mind and leaving little articles all over the house at random.

Either, frankly, would not be much of a stretch around here.

And that is how I scared the stuffing out of myself with a dryer ball, and ended up standing in the dark next to my bed fully armed, hyperventilating, and sweating.

Never a dull moment, my friends. Tuesday promises to be just as fun as its predecessor. At least my instincts are still working. That’s something, I suppose.

Over and out.