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.

Second Dose

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On Saturday the Prince and I headed out to a local mass-vaccination site, having appointments for our second dose of Pfizer. It went extremely smoothly–we were on time, had all our paperwork, and wore easy-access sleeves. I was absolutely beside myself at the thought that the prior administration’s malignant incompetence would somehow reach out a skeletal hand and snatch the opportunity to get a vaccine from either or both of us, and I didn’t relax even fractionally until we were in the observation area and a quarter-hour had passed without incident.

I was surprised by a great burst of altruistic feeling for everyone else in the observation area. Not a single car bolted for the exit prematurely; everyone came out of the vaccine-administration area and parked with plenty of space left between individual cars to wait. A man two spaces away from us was playing a DS; when the breeze shifted and brought us faint sounds the Prince recognized not only the game he was playing but the dungeon he was in.

Before the plague he might have called between the cars; as it was, he was just pleased to see an adult doing something cool. “I have that game too,” he confided at least twice, bursting with pride.

I did cry, but only after we got home and I could lock myself in the loo for a bit. And I was useless the rest of the day. We celebrated with burgers, so that part was nice.

The Princess got her second dose well before ours, and is very relieved at us catching up. The Prince and I are in the home stretch before full immunity. All three of us had mild fatigue and arm soreness with dose two; I got an extra helping of fatigue and a very mild fever. Still, my body likes to cook itself at the slightest provocation, your mileage may vary and all that.

So I’m taking today off–if I owe you an email, I am very sorry, but it’s not gonna happen. I might get out in the yard and move some laurel volunteers since that takes only a hand shovel and can be done at infinitely slow speed. That’s why the image for today’s post is the zombie rhubarb–I feel pretty much like that poor plant. If it’s going to cling to life so hard, I might as well water it.

I did get a cheap grow light for starting seedlings and giving the African violets a bit more illumination. One of these days I’ll have a whole grow table for the violets, but that’s another story; I’m trying to keep my plant habit contained. I tend to rehab terribly neglected plants from the discount rack, then give them away when they’re recovered.

I might even write some werewolves today, or something just for my own delectation. It will be nice to go back to work without the specter of plague hanging over my head. I’m looking forward to my usual productivity, or something close to it.

Still struggling with the fact that I never honestly expected to survive 2020, though. Now I’m staring at the latter half of 2021 going, “I can’t die, I have deadlines, what is all this bullshit?” It’s not quite a letdown to find I’ve made it through one more gauntlet, but the survivor’s guilt is waiting in the wings. It’s going to be intense, I can already tell.

So today is for everything I like on the music queue, nothing I don’t, maybe moving some volunteers in the yard, possibly getting the leeks in the ground…and walking the dogs, because they don’t care about plague, coup, or anything else. Their breakfasts, walkies, and dinners always come at the same accepted times, so they’re content consigning every other worry to Yours Truly. It’s nice to see them so unburdened. Almost makes my own heart lighten.

The relief–that neither the kids nor I will need to visit the ER with the plague, not only risking being ignored while drowning in our own sputum but saddling any survivors with medical debt to the tune of absolute bankruptcy–is immense. World-shattering. I don’t deny my knees are a bit mushy at the moment just thinking about it. I’m still not sure what portion of the fatigue or other side effects springs solely from that consolation.

We’ll still be masking up and always, ALWAYS washing hands. They’re good habits, and the pandemic is still going on. Vaccinated doesn’t mean, “We’ve got ours so fuck you,” it means, “We’re still doing our best to take care of everyone around us, and this makes it incrementally easier.”

The coffee has cooled and the dogs inform me they are ready to go, for God’s sake. Before vaccine, laundry and walk dogs; after vaccine, laundry and walk dogs, albeit with a little lighter heart.

It’s about damn time; that fucker’s been heavy as a teaspoon of black hole for a while now. Over and out.

Hellebores and Chorin’

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So far Monday hasn’t been its usual sweet self, but then again, neither have I. At least the hellebores are still blooming.

Half the weekend was spent working despite my best efforts; I meant to take it completely off and get a bunch of chores done but 4k of Cold North fell out of my head. One of the elves brought the heroine a gift with teeth, and I just had to see how that worked out.

Sometimes, when a story heats up, one’s required to put everything else aside and get it out of one’s aching head. Come Sunday, though, I had to get some damn chores out of the way.

So I did, and read a lot of manga. I finished Amu Meguro’s Honey So Sweet series, which was a lovely palate cleanser; then I started on the kids’ Rurouni Kenshin collection. For years, I used to take the kids to Borders (now closed, sadly) and they got one or two manga every time; as a result, they’ve quite the mountain of right-to-left reading. Years of the kids excitedly telling me everything about the stories at the dinner table mean it’s like meeting old friends. They can talk for hours about plot points, ins and outs, and character motivations; I love listening.

I like manga a bit more than anime; I’ve always liked reading more than just about anything else. The kids are fond of Yu Yu Hakusho in anime form, and if I ever got around to watching it I’m sure I’d recognize everyone just from the descriptions I’ve gotten during dinner.

As a result of dipping my toe into the manga waters again, the Princess is reading Hellsing once more, and the Prince is watching a new anime he’s going to give us all a rundown of at the dinner table. I’m sure the kids will argue about the difference between Hellsing‘s manga and anime form, and I will once again mutter about Vampire Hunter D.

Goodness, that takes me back. Wow.

In any case, I also got a chunk of chorin’ done, including sweeping the garage and taking a swipe at the car upholstery. Miss B got a bath once the Princess got home–she was furious, of course. The funniest thing about bath days is about an hour after the washing is done, when Miss B is still damp but doesn’t remember quite why, she only suspects something dreadful happened and is determined to express her displeasure through interpretive dance around my feet.

She gets many a pet, pat, and treat to make up for the horror of being bathed, poor thing. And of course Boxnoggin needs a brushing (his skin gets irritated with too much bathing; he is a very slick-coated fellow) and many a pet, pat, and treat as well. He loves bath days–unless it’s time for him to get in the tub.

That was the weekend; now it’s Monday again, and neither the day nor I are quite ready for it. I’ll be all right once I have a run under my belt and a few moments to fall into a story. Not quite sure what’s going to happen in Cold North today, but I know precisely what Hell’s Acre needs next, and that’s a very tired heroine learning the rooftops of an alt-historical Victorian London.

She might even make a few friends, or at the very least, engage in combat with a very surprised hero.

And of course when I get to bed tonight there’s a nice big omnibus of Rurouni Kenshin to make my way through. It’s something to look forward to; I’ve just got to survive Monday’s attempts to shake me from its back. And I should water those hellebores.

I think today’s run will sink my teeth firmly into the day’s ruff, and once that happens I’m impossible to get rid of.

Off I go, then. Wish me luck.

Pokey Side-Effects

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The Princess had her second dose of Pfizer on Friday; the Prince and I visited the mass vaccination site on Saturday and got our first. It took about twenty minutes from the gate to the observation area, and the only reason I didn’t cry was because I had a mask on and that gets messy.

So far the only side effects are slight arm stiffness and fatigue, but the latter could very well simply be the relief of finally, finally having some real hope. Even one jab guards against the biggest fear, which was going to the bloody hospital.

In America, one doesn’t ever want to do that. I know other countries’ healthcare systems are indeed in the business of healthcare, but that’s not quite the case here.

I spent yesterday–usually a day full of household chores–trying to stay still enough to recover. I could have gone back to bed (after sleeping seventeen hours Saturday night) and easily slept until this morning. It could have been side effects or just plain relief.

“It’s like I’ve dropped an anvil I didn’t know I was carrying,” the Princess said. While this illuminates the depth of the relief, it also points out just how much Looney Tunes the kids watched growing up.

I regret nothing.

The Prince and I have our second jab all scheduled, too, which is another giant relief. I know we’re not done yet. We’re still masking up to protect everyone around us. We were washing our hands regularly before, but now the kids have actually thanked old stick-in-the-mud Mum for making it a habit since childhood. We’re still in quasi-lockdown–half-vaccinated does not mean going hog-wild and endangering other people.

But I’m breathing a lot easier today, and while I’m sure most of it is psychological there’s the bit I wonder about. We’ll never know if we had the plague or not, because there wasn’t any real way to get tested. *sigh*

I was struck, at the mass vaccination site on Saturday, by a deep feeling of gratitude for everyone in the big drafty country-fairground barn. From the National Guard soldiers to the shot-givers, from the people doing paperwork to the ones collecting the containers of used sharps for disposal, and especially for the other people who waited in line, listened to the directions, and got their damn shots. I have very little faith in humanity let after the last few years, but that was nice to see.

And it’s even raining, which pleases me to no end. Miss B will be happy enough with this turn of events, but Boxnoggin will prance on his delicate paws and give me many a reproachful glance.

Before vaccination, walk dogs and do laundry. After vaccination…well, it’s dog-walking and laundry again, my friends. I may also have had homemade chocolate chip cookies for breakfast to celebrate the anvil’s drop. Or, if not the drop, the fact that no toes were under the damn thing when it hit.

Silver linings everywhere, even in the rain. I’m even eager to get back to work…but not quite yet.

Today, in celebration, I’ll only write what pleases me.

Parenting and Toes

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I’m glad to have coffee. It’s almost ridiculous how glad I am to have coffee.

Last night’s dinner was spicy rice noodles, and of course the conversation was several different flavors of hilarity. I often do threads of Things Said At Dinner, and last night’s was particularly amusing. That’s one thing parenting manuals don’t mention–kids are hysterically funny, especially if you extend the courtesy of treating them like human beings.

It’s amazing (and maddening) how many adults won’t. I used to think a steel wall descended once people reached eighteen or twenty-one, and they forgot what it was like to be a kid. Of course, I say “my kids” as if they aren’t legally adults now.

My gods, where does the time go?

In any case, the big question under discussion last night was, “How many toes are too many?” and that, my friends, is the kind of question that needs more details in order to properly answer. My answer, of course, was dependent on whether we were talking human toes, whether the toes were upon a human foot, whether said human washed said foot regularly, and the answer arrived at (assuming all the previous answers were yes) was that as long as they were washed at least daily (give or take) I didn’t care how many toes there were. There could, I asserted, be a damn infinity of toes as long as the aforesaid conditions were satisfied. The Princess concurred, with the codicil that she didn’t want to know how many toes anyone had, seeing as how that’s Personal Information.

The Prince blurted, “Eighty-two”, and was immediately challenged.

“That’s just random,” was the objection. “You aren’t really thinking about it at all.”

Whereupon he inquired if he should write a paper upon the subject, and through helpless laughter I told him to certainly do so, and furthermore, that he should post it on the internet since it was a question clearly deserving a serious and specific answer.

“Oh, hell no,” was his utterly serious response. “I’ll send you the PDF and you can post it on the internet.”

I think it exceedingly unlikely that he will ever write said paper, being far too occupied with real schoolwork. But the idea is extremely amusing, and should he produce an extra-credit effort in the toe field I will let you guys know.

A great many parents view their children as ego extensions rather than human beings. Likewise, a great many teachers view their students as objects to exercise petty power upon–please note that most teachers are extremely dedicated individuals, so that isn’t a blanket indictment. I’ve just dealt with so many of the bullying type, both while in school and while shepherding my kids through; it leaves rather a bad taste.

So many problems are solved by simply treating others like human beings. There’s always a few bad apples, and of course they spoil whole barrels. But on the whole, being reasonable is its own reward.

Not to mention it also gives one a great many chuckles along the way. Toes, my gods. There was a slight detour into the subject of tapir toes, another on whether or not centipede/millipede legs counted as toes, and at one point the terms “human” and “centipede” were placed in close proximity and all involved beat a hasty retreat from that particular conversational line.

There are some things even we don’t mention at dinner.

Anyway, I have to think about what I’m making for dinner tonight. And brace myself for what on earth the kids will bring to the table next.

I can’t wait.

Quiet, Silver Linings

The house is quiet. The dogs know I haven’t finished my coffee yet, though when I do they’ll prance down the hall, attempting to herd me out for walkies. Sometimes it’s vexing, but then I think of how baffling plenty of things must seem to them. Ritual and habit are comforting when one hasn’t much control. Even a canine can feel upset at a lack of agency.

So I call upon patience, of which my stock is slender indeed lately. The exhaustion makes everything twice as difficult as it should be, especially bureaucratic paperwork–which I attempted yesterday, and am about at the point where I’d love to burn everything down and walk into the forest, never to be seen again.

…I’m only half joking.

I suppose I should be heartened that I’m (evidently) processing some of the last year and a half. It means I’m safe enough and have enough bandwidth to deal with it, which is supposed to be a good thing. Unfortunately I don’t want to deal with it. I want to just continue coping and not have to feel this, because frankly? It sucks.

It doesn’t help that I’m furious at the abdication of responsibility by government last year, either. We’re personally lucky, here at Chez Saintcrow, to have survived in the shape we did, but it’s still touch and go, and no help is coming because, well, I’m a freelancer. I’m sure someone will bleat “Well, you shouldn’t have chosen this career”, but a single mother with two toddlers had to make what shift she could, and now I suppose I’m unfit for an office job because my tolerance for petty bullshit is close to nil.

Not that it was ever very high, indeed.

So I’m waiting for the moment the absurdity of all this will provoke me into screechy laughter, and meanwhile searching for silver linings. Like said dogs, like the fact that both kids are healthy and one has had the first vaccine dose, like the fact that the words are still showing up reliably, like the lilacs greening at their branch-tips.

My twenty minutes of coherence is all but up. So I have to bolt the rest of the coffee, brush my teeth, and collapse for a short while to gather enough strength for walkies. The dogs, of course, will take stomping on my kidneys for a short while in lieu of getting the leashes and harnesses on.

But at least I have kidneys to stomp on, and dogs to do the stomping, and both kids are tucked safe in their beds. The Prince is on spring break and the Princess has a couple days off work, so they’ll be up to housebound hijinks later today, I’m sure. I’m just glad the Prince’s cough has fled.

See? Silver linings. One must relentlessly pursue them, especially if the alternative is too grim to be contemplated.

And with that cheerful thought, I wish you a lovely Tuesday, my beloveds, and bid you a pleasant adieu.

Luck to Get Through

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I’m pretty sure it’s not the plague.

Of course when I start watching a series of lectures on the Black Plague1 and reading John Kelly’s The Great Mortality2, the Prince develops a deep cough and I’m afflicted with postnasal drip and a fatigue so deep I feel like I’m under a mile or two of clear water. Of course, I don’t know why I expected anything different. We’re both coughing in spates, though we can both smell so it’s probably not the current plague.

Though it would be ironic, don’t you think? So close to vaccines being at least theoretically available. (The appointments to get them jammed into your arm are somewhat less than available; there’s always a catch. Always.)

Work proceeds apace. Sending off the revision for Book 1 of Black God’s Heart means now I can really get started on Book 2, swinging from one handhold to the next. The other spot in my working day is taken up with Hell’s Acre, which is beginning to move into my skull and make itself very comfortable indeed. And I just saw cover drafts for it, which are going to be amazing.

While I’m juggling those two, Cold North will be a refuge, and a way to make them both behave. Either you tell me what happens next or I go to the Tolkien Viking werewolves is a helluva threat.3 It might even make the steampunk sit up and take notice.

Regardless of how exhausted I am, work needs to get done and dogs need to be walked. I’m only hoping for the luck to get through this, whatever it is, and have it not be plague. I’m hoping it’s just the result of a pretty intense pollen season; anecdotal evidence has the cherry blossoms and forsythia filling the air with a vengeance this year. I’m somewhat at a loss to figure out how the illness found us in lockdown, but even with masks and the Prince’s distance learning we still have some points of interaction with others, like the Princess’s job and my own venturing out for things that can’t be delivered.

All the same, we haven’t had nearly the cold/flu season we’re wonted to in this area, for which I can only thank the masks and hope they stay.

I can still smell coffee, and the Prince says he feels much better this morning. (Since he actually went to bed at a decent hour, but that’s another story.) So maybe it’s not quite as bad as I feared yesterday, but I’m still so tired. My eyelid isn’t twitching, but even my hair feels exhausted at this point.

Here’s to hope. I hate feeling it, since the last year and a half have been full of hope rising only to be kicked in the teeth. It just keeps coming back, whether I will or no.

And with that cheerful note, I’m off to let the dogs drag me around the block. Fortunately they know exactly where to go, and habit will keep them mostly behaving. Habit will also pull me through another day’s work.

Suppose I’d best get started.