Not Further Behind

It’s Monday, I have coffee, and there’s a trip to the grocer’s in my immediate future. We need milk. I dread leaving the house if it’s not for walking the dogs–at least outside I can cross the street to get away from selfish jerks without masks, and the open air means very little viral load.

At least a Monday visit isn’t as bad as a weekend visit. I’m sure the church crowd yesterday was a Petri dish. And speaking of selfish jackasses, someone is still setting off fireworks between midnight and 1am somewhere in the neighborhood. The Princess hopes they run out of them soon and that all their bacon burns–a quite elegant curse, but I have spent some time cogitating on far less gentle wishes.

It’s a good thing I’m not telekinetic. Especially nowadays.

I didn’t peek at social media this weekend, unless one counts livetweeting Netflix’s The Old Guard on Saturday evening–which I enjoyed roundly, by the way. I like watching Charlize Theron in combat. Plus there was Matthias Schoenaerts, whose performance in a different movie I once wrote a whole-ass romance novel around, and KiKi Layne, who is incredible. I liked the movie very much, if you can’t tell. It was directed by a woman and very refreshing to see female pain not being sexualized by and for a male gaze; I had the same feeling while watching Birds of Prey.

I also got some reading in, and it was pleasant to settle on the couch and fall into a book, even if that book was history and as such, a cavalcade of blunders and nastiness. I’m finding very little to be amused about in the human condition nowadays.

I didn’t get half of what I wanted to done during the weekend. I’m feeling a bit under the weather, and the stress of wondering whether it’s the plague, or whether we had the plague back in March, or whether we haven’t had the plague and should dread its advent… it wears on one. But the dogs must be walked, my own tired carcass must be exercised, and the business of living goes on, and on, and on.

On the one hand, it’s not a bad thing. On the other, it’s exhausting.

There’s also a great deal of work to get done today. I have thrown up my hands and decided “catching up” is a chimera; I will instead endeavor not to fall further behind. And to that end I bid thee a civil adieu, my beloveds; it’s time to get the dogs walked before the sunlight pulls other people out onto the street and drives them insane. Honestly, it’s like the big yellow eye in the sky showers most people with cray-juice or something; they start acting like drunken wasps. No wonder I long for rain most of the year.

All right, Monday. I’m not ready, but I am prepared. Let’s see what you’ve got.

Triage Endurance

I’m enjoying the morning Latin lessons more than I thought I would. Something about wrestling with lingua Latina before caffeine soaks in makes my brain feel sharper. Of course, the rest of me feels slow (stultae, even) before the caffeine soaks in, and I make far more errors than I like.

Latin for breakfast, French for lunch, Turkish before bed so sleep can hopefully help me retain verbs and grammar. I was doing German after dinner and Turkish before bed, but that was Too Much. I’d still like to study German some day, maybe when I’ve brushed up my French enough to read some Voltaire in the original.

Goals. I have them. Loads of them. Whether they’re achievable or not is an open question.

Instead of German, though, I think I want to go back to piano after dinner. I never thought I’d miss wrestling with Bach post cena, but here we are.

Mostly I’m trying to keep my brain busy so I don’t brood on current world events. I’m doing literally everything I can–social distancing, wearing a mask if I absolutely have to go to the store, washing hands, reaching out to friends, caring for my neighbors. It just doesn’t feel like enough, and I’m hitting empathy exhaustion on a daily basis.

I’d rather that than not caring at all, but still. If I tire myself out with work and study, the anxiety dreams are a little less fraught. At least there’s a delicate balance being held and I can sleep.

How are you doing out there, dear Reader? I meant to tell you the story of Big Barda, Boxnoggin, and the Birdfeeder, but Squirrelterror tales take a little more work than one might think. Maybe next week, because there’s more than one part. Knocking over the heavy iron pole and breaking a glass hummingbird feeder was only the beginning, and Barda’s got quite a mouth. Poor Boxnoggin literally could not believe some of the stuff she yelled at him.

Anyway… I do have something to say today. I was talking with a friend about the looming, constant empathy exhaustion yesterday, spurred by this Vice article, and she commented on the advice often given.

Exercise. Eat well. Sleep. Well, for one thing, the distribution chains are creaking under the load, fresh produce and “healthy” foods are more expensive than junk–by corporate design, I might add. And if you start nattering on about “bulk buying” and “just make your meals ahead of time” I swear I will start tossing things and screaming, because that takes energy too and a lot of people live in food deserts even before the distribution systems took the first giant hit of lockdown. Not to mention some of us don’t have the equipment to exercise in postage-stamp living spaces, and if your only time to get some sweat-effort in is the evening and you’re female, going out to walk or jog when men who might have mayhem on their minds and nowhere else to congregate can be hazardous to your health.

And sleep? Don’t even get me started.

I know the science says this is what helps, but it’s just not feasible for a lot of people. I agreed that while veggies and exercise might be the best, they can also be out of reach for the non-privileged, and a bit of wine and pizza on the couch might be all one can achieve.

And you know, that’s okay.

If you, dear Reader, need permission to do things science says might not be helpful but you know are helpful for you and within your means, consider said permission given. We’re in an endurance round of triage, and whatever gets you through is A-OK.

For me it’s it’s legal weed on Fridays before D&D with a group of close friends, and setting aside Sunday to eat whatever the fuck I want in whatever quantity I desire. (Last Sunday was the Great Molasses Cake experiment, and I think I put away half a two-layer cake just by my lonesome.) It’s also mumbling Latin in the mornings and watching weird YouTube fanvids because I don’t have the energy or brain-cycles for binging new shows. (Although I did make it through The Umbrella Academy recently, which is less misogynist on the screen than in its original format–not by much, but I’ll take what I can get.)

Whatever it takes to get you through this in one piece and of reasonable sanity is A-OK. Feel free to tell me about your coping mechanisms below–you might even find a couple fellow Readers saying “hey, that’s a good one, I’m gonna try it.”

I’ve finished absorbing some coffee and my head is full of Latin phrases, if not declensions. (Mostly involving a drunk parrot, thanks, Duolingo!) Time to take the dogs for a walk and let the night’s dreams settle into their proper places under the floorboards of consciousness. Yesterday was difficult, today promises to be only slightly less so.

It’s okay. We’ll get through it together.

Over and out.

King Boxnoggin Abed

I was brushing my teeth and had taken the decorative pillows off the bed–they were left over from the reign of King Trundles, who needed to be propped up so he could breathe and also so he wouldn’t smear schmutz on my personal pillows. I heard my daughter pass the bedroom door, then she began to laugh.

I looked out of the loo and was greeted by the sight of a very tired Sir Boxnoggin, gazing at me like “…whut? It’s bedtime.”

I looked at the Princess, and so did he, with the same air of patent weary astonishment he’d deployed in my direction, and that did it. Both humans cracked up, laughing like loons.

Boxnoggin, of course, had no idea why we were amused. I managed to snap a picture of him looking at my daughter in the door with that regal, puzzled expression.

“Is he… is he making a move to rise in the hierarchy?” the Princess asked, when we could both breathe again.

“Maybe?” I hazarded. “But it won’t do him any good. I’m still the alpha bitch.”

That broke us up again for a good two minutes or so. If sadness and stress takes years off your life, the sheer hilarity of our canine overlords must add them.

I hope your weekend is calm and refreshing, chickadees. The world is nuts, but at least we have dogs.

Be Gentle, Chickadees

I woke up this morning with my heart pounding so hard I thought it would explode, my throat a pinhole, my lungs seemingly paralyzed.

It was a panic attack, and it felt familiar. I used to have half a dozen or more a day before and during my second divorce; they were part of what drove me into therapy and medication.

I will never forget the pride I felt when I told Frau Doktor “I’m only having one or two a day!” And the amazement when she replied, “We can get that to zero. It’s very possible.”

I was in such crisis, functioning through so much crippling anxiety, that a day free of panic attacks seemed a distant fantasy, much like a lifetime supply of donuts or any financial stability.

But Frau Doktor was right. I have had years without panic attacks. They have been glorious. For part of this morning I’ve been spinning, fearing a return to the bad old days. But, as my support network has reminded me, it is absolutely reasonable, natural, and normal to be wigged-out right now. This is an Extraordinary Situation (made a thousand percent worse by the lack of functioning adults in the White House, let it be known) and anxious trepidation is a rational response.

That being said, panic attacks are not pleasant. Having one’s amygdala screaming in fearful pain isn’t pleasant either. Your poor body doesn’t understand there’s nothing to be done but endure right now; it thinks that enough adrenaline, enough fight or flight, will solve the problem.

Be gentle with yourself, with your body, and with your brain. We’re all dealing with A Lot right now.

I’ve been reading true crime a lot lately, probably because the narrative of bad people being caught and investigative machinery actually working gives me some sense of control over the universe at large and my fate in specific. I know it’s a false sense, but it helps, and I’ll take it.

Just last night I finished the 2012 revised and expanded version of The Only Living Witness. It was chilling to read, especially in bed with the dogs snuggled warm and safe. Michaud’s many jabs at Ann Rule detracted from the book, I must say–I felt like saying dude, I can see you don’t like a woman writing true crime was successful, envy is a bad look on you, cut it out. It’s strange and deadly that the misogyny of killers finds its match in the misogyny of the mostly male law enforcement system, but I guess hating women is so endemic in our society nobody can escape.

I think that was my last true crime read for a while. I’ve been meaning to get my Franz Bardon on; his Initiation into Hermetics looks juicy. It’s nice to have reading to look forward to.

I suppose that’s all the news that’s fit for print today. I had planned to take this week off of subscription drops, but the world is afire and stories are what I have to offer. Consequently, all subscribers, on Patreon or Gumroad, will get a little goodie in their inboxes around 2pm PST today. And Haggard Feathers subscribers get an open thread, too–lucky seven open thread, as a matter of fact!

As Mr Rogers said, look for the helpers. I’m doing my best to be one of them.

Delicate Skin

Nabokov has a passage in Lolita about the skin atop real hot chocolate, and every time the cream in my coffee cools in this particular fashion, I think of it. I also put off stirring for as long as possible, studying the thin wall as it ripples and responds to heat. It never fails to fascinate me.

Such a delicate thing, skin… and yet it’s the largest organ, our first line of defense.

I know hand washing is a big thing now (justifiably! it should always be!) so our own skin might be feeling a little dry and cracked. Lotion up to keep that barrier strong, my friends. Hydrate, and take as much care as you can.

We can’t afford to lose you. Yes, you, the person reading this, whoever you are. Treat your skin–and your self–as gently as you can, please.

Staying Calm, Carrying On

I dropped the Princess off at work this morning (of course, since she works for a large service corporation, sick leave isn’t an option, GO ‘MURICA) and decided to do the usual weekly grocery shopping. It wasn’t until I actually got to the store that I realized…

…well, I’m beginning to think we’re doomed. At least, a certain slice of America is.

I did my best to stay six feet away from everyone else. The store was doing its best by allowing people through the door in five-person groups. Unfortunately the herd was fear-crazed and rampaging. Elderly white people were doing their level best to run me over and breathe in my face. The younger people I saw were all attempting, like me, to allow everyone space and wait turns.

Every single person who cut in line, attempted to breathe on me, hip-checked and barged past me, or who was being nasty to a grocery worker was white and over 60. I am absolutely not joking. It was horrifying to see, and I hope I never witness anything like it ever again.

Unfortunately, I suspect that hope is vain indeed. It was like those videos of young people determined to Spring Break on Florida beaches yesterday, a display of selfishness almost unequalled in my experience.


I did my best to slow everything around me down, and moved at a snail’s pace. And of course the writer in me was taking notes; all things serve the work. I’m shaking now that I’m safely home, but I wonder how many of the people absolutely determined to be assholes this morning were already carrying COVID-19 and spreading it with abandon in order to get their aloe vera juice and complain at top, spittle-laced volume about the store being out of flour.

Normally we’re pretty well stocked here at the Chez, so I might have skipped the regular weekly trip to the grocers if I’d known it was going to be like this. But once I was there, I figured going through was better than leaving, and since my online groups and IRL neighbors have all been so amazing I trusted naively that everyone involved would be a reasonable adult.

I’ve been wrong before in my life, though seldom to this degree. May the gods have mercy upon us, because white Americans (of any age) seemingly won’t.

Now I’ve got to take the dogs for a walk and do my best to avoid other people during that, too. I knocked off 200 pages’ worth of revisions yesterday; there’s another 280 left in this epic fantasy. Either I’m going down, or this book is.

At least I can work at home. Silver linings, and all that.

Please be kind to each other out there, folks. I’m sorry this is happening; hopefully we can all work together to at least not make it worse.

Welcome to Chez Quarantine

Well. This all seems… rather difficult, doesn’t it.

Chez Saintcrow is in quarantine, at least as far as we can be with one of us working retail. The Princess’s job is pretty important in the current situation–after all, people have to eat. And plenty of big corporations aren’t doing the right thing by their workers because it might impact profits, forsooth. Certain governmental parties beholden to corporations instead of constituents are allowing–nay, even encouraging–such behavior.

Simply put, it’s a mess.

The entire household was stricken by an unusual illness over the past week. I can’t tell if it’s a very bad spring cold (sort of unusual for us), a type of flu the vaccine and earlier flu this season didn’t give immunity for (extremely unusual), or the current plague (the timeline fits, but the symptoms are slightly different in each of us).

Sure would be nice to have some tests available to know for sure, wouldn’t it.

In the meantime we’re quarantining as much as possible. The worst thing about it isn’t being immured in the house–that part’s damn near a vacation–but the idea that we might be carriers so I can’t be of service elsewhere. A lot of people are scared and I long to help, but I can’t take the risk of infecting anyone, no matter what this bug is.

On the bright side, the Princess has a day or so off. Fluids, rest, and yet more rest are called for. We’re lucky none of us have developed deeper symptoms; a single trip to the ER would wipe us out.

Small mercies.

I spent a restless night, but none of the nightmares were of the type I could turn into books or even short stories. For some reason, that felt like the final insult. I can’t even make a damn story out of it; I don’t like it. Not one bit.

Anyway, I’m considering what in my Gumroad store I could make free or pay-what-you-want to give people something to read during all this, and though I intended to take next week off (since Season Two of HOOD is a wrap and the book is up for preorder) I’ll be dropping fiction for all my subscribers anyway.

I can’t do much, but at least I can tell stories and try to spread a little joy.

The dogs need walking, and maybe if I get out the door early enough nobody will attempt to stop us and chat me up. Some people in the neighborhood (there’s always a few) don’t care that one visibly wants to be left alone or that we need to flatten the curve.

All my social media and other feeds are full of people offering support, checking in on the vulnerable, making arrangements, and pulling together. It’s a glorious thing; I just wish the situation didn’t have to be so dire before we all, well, did it. But I’ll take where I can get. As Mr Rogers always said, look for the helpers.

Time to get the dogs buckled in. It’s sunny, so the bees will be out. They don’t care about all this; they’ll probably try to crawl into my hair and nose just as usual.

It’s nice to know some things will stay the same.

It’s Tuesday, which means a new paid-subscriber Haggard Feathers post! This month is Marketing March, and today’s post is on newsletters–deceptively simple, but not easy. It’ll drop at 11am PST, so be ready!