Birdfeeders, Gangster Squirrels, and Metamucil

I felt okay until about noon yesterday, when WHOMP! This damn virus descended on me. I’m producing all sorts of phlegm in varied rainbow colors. I’m sure I’m spreading the contagion over everything in my vicinity. I was tired and waspish yesterday, as my writing partner found out. (Sorry about that, kiddo.)

Anyway, there’s very little to report. I sent off a short story and am editing Something Sekrit. I do have Very Good News, but I can’t announce it until everything’s all wrapped. Plus, I still have to write about the squirrels, the gulls, and the CornPops war. I have to wait until I can breathe, because just thinking about it makes me laugh.

I did manage to get out and purchase a “squirrel-proof” birdfeeder. It has a sort of wire cage around the tube holding the seed, and when a squirrel gets on it the cage slides down, barring it from getting any noms. (Almost like this guy, but more decorative.) We’ll see how this works out. If all else fails, it should at least be hysterically funny. I kind of dread one of the little rodents getting a paw caught in it or something, though. Because let’s face it, these squirrels would be the ones to do so. Especially Neo. He’s having some bad luck lately.

ANYWAY, while I was purchasing this wondrous object, I also picked up twenty pounds of birdseed. (What? I like to be prepared. It was on SALE.) Then I turned around…and saw it.

SQUIRREL FOOD.

Can you believe that? I’ll say it again.

SQUIRREL FOOD.

People pay money for this.

I stood there in the Fred Meyer aisle for at least twenty long-ticking seconds, dumbstruck and staring. Three shelves of squirrel food. I cannot believe people feed these fuzzy little cat-kicking ninjas. There was a wide array, from corncobs to corncob-shaped hanging loaves of seeds and nuts, to sawdust-looking cornmeal things that are probably the Metamucil of the squirrel world. There was tons of it.

“No way,” I finally breathed.

At this point, I have to admit, I did think about buying some of the pressed seed loaves and hanging them up in the plum tree. Why? Aw, just for the lulz, maybe.

No, not for giggles. I’ll be honest. Jesus, don’t look at me like that.

AS A BRIBE, OKAY? As a kickback to the little fuzzy commandos so they won’t break my windows with peanuts or anything. But then I thought, you know, you start paying the squirrel mafia off and sooner or later they’ll start squeezing you for more.

“Oh hell no,” I muttered. Well, maybe not muttered. Maybe sort of said out loud. “No way. I’m not being held hostage by a bunch of rodents.”

I should mention that there was a lady in a red jacket at the other end of the aisle, looking at hummingbird feeders. She gave me a startled look and trundled her cart away maybe a little more quickly than was necessary.

I left the squirrel food where it was, shaking my head. All the way through the store I kept having one recurring vision–of nattily-dressed squirrel mobsters doing James Cagney sneers. “Eh, here, you see. We don’t like dat boid feedah. We like the ones that are real easy-like. But if ya wanna keep that one, sport, all you gotta do is hang up some Metamucil. We likes it, see?”

…yeah, I amuse myself all the time like this. It’s what makes me unfit for a great deal of normal life, I guess.

So. The new feeder is hanging up. The cats are agog, especially sweet dumb Tuxedo!Kitty, who crouches inside on the windowsill and keeps warbling his throaty little “ohpleaseohplease” song as the birds discover new munchables. No squirrel has attempted it yet. But I’m waiting. And as I sit here, looking out my window onto my front yard, I can see a couple bushy-tailed ninjas frolicking. They stop jumping around every once in a while to shoot me filthy looks through the window.

I have the sandal of DOOM right next to me. Let the games begin.

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Why Yes, I Am Always This Driven

I was fine until about 10:30 last night, when my stomach decided it’d had enough of hosting dinner and muscled everything out like an irritated bouncer. I’d call it food poisoning, but nobody else shows any symptoms; I’d call it a bug but I have no other symptoms; I’d call it stress but I’m remarkably unstressed for once, having had all the locks replaced and deadbolts put in. Maybe it was the release of stress, and finally feeling completely safe again?

I don’t know. I’ve officially thrown up my hands (when they’re not crossed protectively over my aching middle) and decided to just treat my stomach gently, and devil take the rest.

This didn’t stop me from my first five-mile run this morning. I got on the treadmill determined to only run as long as it felt OK, and to stop at the first twinge of not-really-all-right. Five miles later, I forced myself to stop, but my stomach kept running, revolving like a bus wheel. It just felt so good to burn everything off and keep moving, really. The only problem was when I stopped. And I do seem to have largely sweated out whatever-it-was.

I’m sure you all wanted to hear about the state of my belly. So I’ll just tell you that I’m working (between naps) on proofs for TAKEN today, as well as getting an amnesiac heroine in another lead-spraying fight, and shuffle off stage left, muttering. I had big dreams of walking down to the corner grocery for pesto today, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. It’s eleven AM and I’m beat.

See you around.

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Reaching Higher

PW says paranormal isn’t dead yet. I am, of course, happy to hear this.

Here’s something that resonated strongly with me: Issendai on sick systems. Been there and done that, in retail and in relationships. I think I’ve achieved enough in the way of age and self-knowledge that I’m a little less likely to buy into it anymore. Of course, saying that is just an invitation for the Universe to whomp one upside the head. *braces self, eyes the sky suspiciously* But seriously…knowing it and naming it is a prerequisite for not falling for it. I’ve had enough of being exhausted and living with crazymaking people. I’d rather strike out on my own.

The first day of summer vacation is proceeding apace, with videogames, bicycle riding, and much relaxation for the wee ones. I remember those first few glorious days of freedom, when the entire summer stretched out in front of you, terra incognita and delicious. It does me good to see them enjoying themselves while I’m tapping at the keyboard. I don’t wish for a comparable vacation–I’d write all through it anyway. But I can live vicariously.

Climbing this morning was awesome. I tried a 5.8 I’d never tried before, and I’m starting to think with my body on the rock wall. I can’t explain it any better than that–it’s the point where your body learns what’s going on and suddenly starts moving without thought, a sort of trained instinct. It’s damn beautiful to feel. I love the solitary nature of rock climbing–even with a belayer, it’s just you and the rock face. You can’t measure yourself by anything other than yourself. For someone who hates team sports, this is as close as I’ll get to them. It helps that my regular climbing partner is incredibly supportive, and we’ve worked together enough by now that I know without a doubt exactly what she’s thinking when she’s on the wall, and vice versa. There’s something to be said for feeling the belay line tighten and knowing that your belayer has seen you’re getting tired and needing a reminder that the rope will catch you. There’s also something really nice about reaching the top of a difficult climb and hearing everyone around you cheering you on and appreciating the nature of what you’ve accomplished.

Like I said, I’m not much into team sports. But I’ll take it.

I’ve reached the last difficult point in Dru 5. It’s the point of the book where nothing seems to be working right, you’re running out of room, and the entire thing feels like crap. The only cure for it is pushing through and trusting the work to catch you, like that belay rope. Leaning back a little, looking at the holds in front of you, and knowing that it may not look like it, but you can reach the next one. You just have to go for it. If there’s one thing writing has taught me, one lesson I keep learning over and over, it’s that I can reach higher than I ever thought I could. Just going for it works out an amazing amount of the time. I suspect the Universe is built that way.

Over and out.

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On Physical Effort

The Dame Smackdown is still ongoing! Remember, if I, ahem, “win”, I will be posting an excerpt of Jealousy or Heaven’s Spite. *tempty tempty*

This is going to be a post tangentially about my weight…so if you’re tired of hearing me talk about that, you’re probably better off stopping now. On the other hand, I will be tying it into writing, so it’s up to you.

I’ve (drumroll please) achieved the weight goal I set for myself lo these many months ago. (All the way back on Labor Day of 2008, I believe it was. Slow and steady…) I’ve lost between 70-80 pounds and overshot my goal of a size 14 by, let’s see, three or four sizes. Some of that was stress-related, yes. It’s been a stressful year or two. But most of it was acquiring healthier habits– watching what I ate and making exercise more of a priority. I found out halfway through that when I wasn’t miserable over crazymaking people, I didn’t want to eat to dull the misery. That revelation was accompanied by the fact that the steady work I’d been doing before then making exercise a priority actually started to pay off. Once I started seeing results, the whole world opened up, so to speak.

I’m choosing to be very proud of myself. It’s been a long, long road, but I’m glad I started, and I’m glad for everyone who supported me along the way, from my writing partner to my kids to my hairdresser friend C.

I’ve always been a big advocate of taking a brisk walk or blocking out a fight scene to shake things loose inside a story. Physical movement works very, very well for me when it comes to my creative process. The trouble was, for a very long time I hated working out–long, long story having to do with my aversion to anything resembling a team sport. I like to work alone, thank you. Now that I’ve arranged my life so that I can run on the treadmill every weekday morning, ALONE (I’m up to just over three miles again, every day), that time is some of the most productive I’ve ever had.

I’m not saying you have to run three miles or lose a good third of your bodyweight (ha ha) to have a sustainable creative career. I am saying that when you’re stuck working on a story, getting up and moving around for ten or fifteen minutes often unsticks the damn thing and gets the Muse off her couch and away from those damn bonbons. (Not so incidentally, this is another use for your trusty kitchen timer. Set it and move, and when you’re done, voila!)

We live a lot in our heads, we writers, and we tend to forget there’s a whole body carrying said head around. Getting up and getting the blood moving gives the Muse a fresh start on things. Never underestimate the power of ten jumping jacks, ten minutes shaking your booty to loud music, or a brisk ten-minute walk when characters aren’t behaving and the cursor starts blinking at you like Sauron’s Eye.

Just this morning I was brooding over a plot point, and fifteen minutes into my run–at about the first mile-mark–all of sudden the next third of the book opened up, complete with scenes and settings. It’s magic when it happens, and I spent the other two miles playing with it inside my head, fine-tuning. It was awesome. Of course, the cardio benefits aren’t bad either.

You don’t have to run flat-out. Another particular favorite of mine is putting on some music and dancing, awkwardly I’m sure, in my living room. Usually it’s a song from the “soundtrack” of the current book in progress, and it reliably shakes everything loose. I wouldn’t dance like a dork if it didn’t actually work 90% of the time.

Well, yeah, maybe I would. I’m funny that way. But I’m glad it works.

Over and out.

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My Excitement, It Is…Not So Exciting

Today is an overcoming-dragons type of day.

I hate driving in Portland. It’s really not Portland’s fault, even though I swear to God the streets change, especially at night. No, most of my stress comes from the fact that I rarely have access to a reliable car, so on top of the navigational stress (which I handle with the GPS that came with my cell phone, thank you God) there’s also the will-my-vehicle-blow-up-on-me stress.

Today, however, I had a reliable car (thanks to Subaru Shawn, who rocks) and the GPS, and plenty of time. So I made it out to the Cedar Hills Crossing Powell’s–remember, I’m going to be there on May 25th, signing with Ilona Andrews and Devon Monk–and, to put whipped cream and a cherry on the whole day, I navigated successfully to Deek & Bryan’s Next Adventure for climbing gear.

It was worth trying to find parking around Grand Avenue in the middle of the day, because the staff are so helpful and nice. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone having a bad experience there. Once I found the climbing section and actually opened my mouth to ask questions (sports supply stores always make me feel lazy and underachieving and shy) I got the help of a very nice young man who took me patiently through buying my first pair of climbing shoes and my very first harness. (My one moment of caviling? “No flowers on the harness, please. Just…no flowers. I’m not a flower type of girl. Unless it’s a flesh-eating monster flower…oh my God, did I just say that out loud?”) I didn’t catch the young man’s name, but his mother must be very proud of him.

Now I’m home and I’ve bolted lunch and I have to get dear, sweet, stubborn Dru in more trouble. I feel refreshed and renewed, instead of wrung-out and panicked. Which is a big change. A reliable vehicle does indeed make all the difference. I know, it sounds boring and pedestrian. But little by little I’m doing things I’ve never done before, and my life is getting so much better. The process of breaking out of the chrysalis proceeds apace, and it’s nice out here. It’s like all the work of the past year, and especially all the very intense work of the last six months, has suddenly started to pay off. Where before it was just a slog, now I’m seeing actual results.

I like that. I’ll keep it.

And now for chaos, panic, and vampire attacks. Catch you later, gator.

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Harumph.

I feel like a cranky old granny today. “All you kids get off my lawn!” As I rattle my cane and glare balefully.

The weekend was busy. Fortunately, a huge personal disappointment isn’t throwing me into the slough of despond; I think I’ve reached the point where I’m actively expecting to be treated well. And when that doesn’t happen, I’m cutting my losses sooner. I used to think that if you just loved someone hard enough, everything else would work out. Now I’m slowly learning that loving someone does not have to mean sacrificing every last bit of myself only to have them disdain me in the end for being too easy.

So. This weekend there was much glee, because the couch arrived. I didn’t get a couch before now because, well, there was a lot of cleaning-up I had to do after people and seriously, I did not have time to even THINK of cleaning a couch. Now that the living space has calmed down immensely and I’m picking up after just two reasonable children instead of several over-18 children (oh, don’t even get me started on man-boys!) I felt like I could have something nice. So…I got something nice. And I spent a half-hour with a ratchet putting the sofa arms on.

It was the first time in my life I had actually used a ratchet. I felt quite, quite manly.

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, but I didn’t mow the lawn. I probably should have, but it was my friend Monk’s birthday. So there was a new recipe tried for dinner, much laughing and talking, and a generally great time was had by all. Plus, Monk got to crash on the new sofa instead of the laundry pile or the air mattress I used to drag out for him to sleep on.

Sometimes it is just the little things.

The most helpful part of the weekend was reading Jennifer Crusie’s most awesome essay on protecting the work. I realized that I’ve let a lot of Life Stuff impinge on my working in the last six months. Granted, they’re the sort of life stressors, both positive and negative, that can really throw anyone for a loop. But now it’s time to buckle down and really remind myself that people who don’t value me are people I can do without, and people I don’t need to drain myself to take care of.

This is a huge realization for me. I’ve spent a lot of my life taking care of people, and it’s liberating to narrow the field to the people who I WANT to take care of instead of anyone in perceived pain I wander across. Healthier? Yes. Sometimes exhausting because I feel the pull of old bad habits? Oh, hell yes.

Which is why I think I might print out Ms. Crusie’s excellent essay and read it every day for a while. If I have to be a cranky old woman to protect my work…

…well then, I guess I’ll have to buy a cane.

See you tomorrow, dear Readers.

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Oh, Monday.

Oh, Monday. Just when I thought my week couldn’t get any better, you come along.

Thankfully I don’t have to visit the dentist for a while now. I mean, they’re nice people, and the nitrous is okay, but the less time I spend there the better.

I had an extraordinarily productive weekend, between tax filing, mowing the lawn (always my favorite chore, NOT) and cleaning gutters. You’d think gutters would be right up my alley. Alas, no. I loathe cleaning them. Except I put together plot architecture, mumbling under my breath while I scooped out sludge and freed up stagnant water. If that book turns out soggy, I know who to blame.

So now it’s working on that short story and waiting for my mouth to feel like it belongs to me again, while I listen to Brahms and long for a cup of coffee.

Oh, Monday. In a few hours you’ll be gone, and we’ll both be happier that way.

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