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Six Things I Learned From My Writing Vacation

I'd planned to write this at the end of my writing vacation but didn't want to spend precious writing time writing about writing. Doing it during my usual writing lunch break at work seemed less a waste, as it's not always easy to bang out anything worthwhile for the WIP in twenty minutes. Today was one of those days, so here goes. The six things I learned during my writing vacation:
Abby Geiger laptop selfie1) Sitting in a chair all day to write is HARD. And I don't just mean the chair. Aside from the discomfort, my brain started to turn to mush even though I was doing the one thing I wanted to do most. Maybe being normally limited to short, much-looked-forward-to writing moments has trained my ADHD muse, but even when I knew in my mind and my outline what I needed to happen in the story, translating that onto a page wasn't always as easy as I'd imagined. On the other hand….
2) I discovered that the more I write, the more I can write. Each day saw a rise in word-count, even though the time spent in the chair remained the same and actually felt like less. The first time this happened was on day five when I ran the all-important numbers and was shocked to discover they were over two-hundred words more than the previous day. The next day saw the same thing happen again, despite it being a day of appointments, shopping, and band practice. Wowee!
3) The next time I take a writing vacation, I will install doors on the kitchen, padlock them, and force-feed my husband the key. Seriously, I don't know how professional writers who work at home, nevermind those-of-us-who-occasionally-touch-the-dream, manage to weigh in less at than an average Hereford heifer. Which leads me to….
4) I finally get the CHOCOLATE thing!
5) I'd say I also finally understand the joys of the underwear writing thing, but I tend to do that on weekends anyway. The only difference is that I tend to be doing it in my basement office, not standing in front of the kitchen window while pouring coffee as the mailman passes by outside. Hey, at least everything matched, so it *could've* been a bikini. (He didn't see me anyway. I still went and put on a nightshirt.)
Doodle in his writing spot.6) I discovered what I'm dubbing The Dolly Zoom Effect. Definition: the closer you get to the end, the further away it seems. It did, and I kept envisioning the 'endless hallway' scene in Poltergeist. So I finally looked it up, researched how they did it, and learned something new that had no bearing on anything I was writing. So there. (I couldn't find a Jaws-free version, but hey, who doesn't love that scene too?) I'll just assume that when I finally reach my goal of finishing this soul-eating beast of a WIP that I'll be flailing about in my nightshirt and panties as well, terrified about the re-writes that must begin. Heh.
There were other things for sure, like the fact that saw how my cats really do sleep 99% of the day, and the only reason I never get cabin fever is because I'm never home, but guess what…that's quickly cured in about five days. Unfortunately, there's no danger of contracting that for a while. My next writing vacation won't happen for another whole year. But at that time, I'll be prepared.
With chocolate!

Best. Vacation. Ever.

It's finally here. Summer vacation. The nine days off I've looked forward to for the past two months. Where am I going to spend it? On the beach? Nope. In the mountains? Nadda. Out west visiting my family? Try again. These are pretty much the answers I've been giving to the people who think the best way to spend their break from rushing to work is to now rush off to somewhere else. And while that's nice, it's not for me. Not this time, anyway. This time I'm spending my vacation at home. This time, I'm taking a writing vacation.

Not a vacation from writing, of course. That's enforced often enough by the typical work-a-days and various other projects that scream for my complete attention from time-to-time. No, I mean a vacation where the goal isn't to sit at the pool with an umbrella drink (although I'll get out there for a few dips) or escape the city and enjoy some fresh air (although I'll try to do that before it's over), but is instead to get out of my crazy-busy routine and sit at the keyboard for as many hours as it takes to FINISH THIS DRAFT OF FATE'S APOLOGY.

There. I said it.

This should be do-able. I'm in the third act, coming up on the climax soon. And while I know I still have to re-jig the beginning to start less 'in media res', I'm going to leave that as a bonus. Something I will do if I can, but if not, I'll fix it fairly quickly in my re-writes. Because right now, I just want to bask in that glorious light I can see at the end of the tunnel. That light that's shaped like the words "The End".

So enjoy your beaches, your mountains, your camping grounds and your globe-trotting. I'm going someplace much farther away and coming back with more than just a suntan. I'm going to the Korl Sector of my Imaginationland galaxy and returning with a story that has a beginning, a middle AND an end.

See you in nine days!

Kitties, coffee, laptop.

From Fanfic to Funfic

One of my favorite memories of grade school was being read to in class. I first went to Helen Minard Elementary, a tiny school that had no library, but it did have Miss Bourdette. She was my third grade teacher, and she used to read to us the Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren. I loved those stories. With super-strength, independence, a stash of gold pieces, a monkey and a horse for companions as well as two good friends to boot, what eight-year-old girl wouldn't? I always imagined her living in my aunt Bernetta's house and wished sometimes that she really did. I loved Pippi and decided that if I couldn't be her and couldn't actually know her, then…maybe I could write about her!
Pippi Longstocking book coverSometime between the beginning and end of my experience with writing Florsoy the Wild Mare, I decided to try writing about Pippi Longstocking. I didn't have a plot, but I did have a title, which lent itself to a premise. My book was going to be called "Pippi and the Seasons", and for each season of the year, Pippi was going to have an adventure. I still remember the opening line. It went something like this:
Pippi was sitting on the porch counting her gold pieces on a sunny autumn day when Tommy and Annika came to visit.
I think I had written maybe a page, with no illustrations but plenty of ideas. One night, while riding in the car with my parents, I was jabbering away about Pippi Longstocking and how I was going to write the awesomest Pippi book ever when at one point, my parents said that it was really great that I was going to write a book, but that I couldn't write one about Pippi. I was confused. Why not? Well, they explained, because someone else already owned that character and it was illegal to use her in my own stories.
What?? I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
Pippi Longstocking South SeasMy mom tried to console me by saying that maybe I could write a story about some other little girl. Maybe an Indian girl, that way she can have braids too. I sulked. No. I don't want to write about some other girl just because she has braids. I want to write about Pippi because she's awesome. But at the same time I don't want to get into trouble, so… I just stopped. I didn't even save the story. I decided writing wasn't for me, and that was that.
Now, a few things. First, I've gotten over my parents discouraging my Pippi story while educating me about copyright infringement. The fact that they even remotely believed that I'd finish it , much less try to publish it, speaks volumes about their confidence in my talent and abilities. Wow.
Second, I wonder: did fan-fiction even exist in 1972? I don't know, and I had no idea that's what I was writing and neither did my parents. But I do know that I would never advise anyone, no matter their age or experience, against writing it. I once wrote some M*A*S*H fanfic at age twelve just for my own enjoyment, and really wish I still had those stories, especially since one of the characters I injected into them was myself. Hanging out in print, on paper, with Hawkeye, BJ, and Hotlips? What fun!
Nala in Fate's Apology.Third, my own WIP, Fate's Apology, started out taking place in the Star Wars universe. I used no established characters beyond Yoda, but the already-created worlds, technologies, and cultures lent ease toward flexing my writing muscles and developing original characters with which to populate that famous sci-fi universe. I don't regret leaving it behind, but I do know that had I not started there, I likely never would've finally discovered my writing feet and gone off on the journey I'm currently enjoying.
And now, after all these years, I'm doing exactly what my mom said I should do. It took me a while to see it, but when I realized it, I was thunderstruck. I'm writing a story in which my protagonist, Nala, is a strong female character like Pippi, who comes from a historically oppressed and primitive people and…she has braids. See? How did I do that?? I can only imagine it was subconscious.
"Write a story about some other little girl. Maybe an Indian girl, that way she can have braids too."
I am, Mom. I am!

Alexander Maxwell Stearns

November 6th, 2013 was a pretty normal day. I worked, I worked out, then I rushed off to choir rehearsal. Afterwards, I hurried home, tired and hungry. Then I walked in the door and the normalcy ended, as I was told and old friend had called and that I should call him back. "Why, what's up?" I asked. This friend doesn't often call just to chat. The answer I got stopped me in my tracks.
"Alex is dead."
I don't remember my initial thoughts. Hell, it was five months ago already. But I do know I grabbed the phone and punched in the number, and within moments the statement was confirmed. Names hadn't yet been released, but police had responded to a "shots fired" call around 4pm Sunday, November 3rd, and arrived to find a married couple dead in the yard. The police article showed only a front view of the house; the house the friend recognized because he'd lived there as a guest for several months. We didn't need the names. We knew.
Alex Stearns and Abby Geiger, May 21, 1994
I won't go into the gory details. Suffice to say this was an unplanned murder/suicide, as nothing in the investigation yielded a shred of evidence pointing to anything other than it likely being an altercation that got fatally out of hand. But my first thought was "That could've been me". My second thought was "What a goddamn shame".**
Alexander Maxwell Stearns was my first husband, married to in 1994 and divorced from in 1998. A "practice marriage" as I've heard it called, it yielded no kids, no house, and no regrets. To say it was a rocky relationship is putting it so mildly it's beyond cliché; it was more like a thundering avalanche of flaming granite interspersed with naval mines and broken glass. How do two people who produce that much fire and friction find attraction and enjoyment?
They play in a band together, duh.

Ravenwolf pre-wedding gig, May 20, 1994Alex was the singer/songwriter/lyricist for his hard rock band called Ravenwolf. Together with his friend Bruce Irvan, he crafted many memorable and poignant songs that covered topics from corporate corruption to endangered falcons, with odes to hit men, wizards, social estrangement in between. (I've no idea why the song titles are so odd—I think it's something he did shortly before he died.) For the second time in my life, a man I loved took me not only into his heart but also into his band, and allowed me to be a part of the family that serious, struggling musicians become. And in doing so, he forced me to stretch my talent beyond what I'd never been capable of doing: writing music. Or, at least writing original bass lines to go with original music, something I'd never done before. Even when playing original songs in bands (as opposed to 'cover tunes'), I was provided with tapes of the previous bassist's work. A note change here, a little sense of flair there, and I made it my own. But that's a far cry from sitting with talented guitarists and writing an accompanying bass line that suits the song. To be honest, I don't think the things I came up with were that great. But Alex and Bruce loved my work, and that's all that mattered. Especially when we got up on stage and played songs written from the heart to people who hadn't a clue how much blood, sweat, and beers that takes.
Mike Koenig, Bruce Irvan, Alex Stearns, Abby GeigerQuitting the band when the marriage dissolved (he even wrote a song about the breakup) was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do as a musician, but I knew it was for the best. Alex proved me right by continuing to write, record, and perform. Doubt would occasionally set in, and he'd call for a pep talk, which I always gave. I never wanted to see Alex's dream turn to failure, even if I couldn't be part of it. He was an extremely talented musician.
But we all have our demons, and I know his loomed larger than most. There is no help for that. There's only understanding. So I do. But it's a bitch to now have to put him on the list of amazing musicians I've had the opportunity to work with over the years, who are no longer here to appreciate the accolades I should have much-sooner rained down upon them. And it's even more of a bitch to know that as I progress with my own re-discovered musicianship, there's no one to share it with who knows more than anyone how much I also struggle the self-doubt that accompanies such a challenge.
In short, I think what I will miss most is something I should have appreciated more of when it was there, something that too much life and too many demons got in the way of: the company of a musician who put his heart, guts, and life into music. He may have been my husband, but he was more so a kindred, spontaneous spirit that I didn't want to recognize in myself, terrified that if we both went off the rails toward fame, we'd achieve neither that, nor lunch for that matter. I've learned to avoid the "what if" question whenever I listen to our music. But I'll continue to appreciate it as a gift from a man who had a no-holds-barred attitude towards songwriting, something I wish the rest of the world would have had a chance to recognize.
Rest in peace, Alex. I'm sorry you weren't able to rise above the pettiness of life, or the stranglehold of your personal demons, in order to fly like the free bird you were meant to be. You brought me joy, despair, frustration, and euphoria. And now you bring me tears. So, in the tradition of your Sioux heritage, I say: I hope it was a good day to die.
** With regards to the sensitivities of the family of Sherri Gessendorf, I say I am deeply sorry for your loss. We had only met once, and I wish geography had allowed me to know her better.

The Valentine Box

I saw the other day that someone tweeted about their child making a 'Valentine box' for school. I was rather surprised, thinking this tradition of giving Valentines to classmates had gone the way of the Dodo bird, but apparently the practice persists. I have no problem with that. I loved Valentine's Day when I was a kid. From taking home that yummy-smelling ditto-sheet of names with which to match up the drugstore-bought packet of little cards to gobbling cupcakes and candy hearts...well, what grade-school kid wouldn't dig this holiday? But for me, one of the best thing about exchanging Valentines at school was knowing that I had the most awesome Valentine box ever in the whole history of Valentine boxes.

 Valentine box

I don't even recall trying to make my own box for that February 14th in Mrs. Cron's grade two at Helen Minard Elementary school. I just knew I had to have one, and when the day came, there is was. Where did it come from? My Dad.
Nothing says "be mine" like a bulb in a bowtie.My Dad is an artistic creator. He worked for over thirty years as a draftsman at Ingersoll Rand, and when it comes to making something, he doesn't know the word "halfway". He drew and painted wonderful pictures, designed tools, rebuilt old player pianos and pipe organs, and built houses that stand solid to this day and will continue to do so for decades to come. And he made me this beautiful Valentine box. I don't know what it originally held, but it's covered over with white contact paper, with velvet hearts glued on it and hand-printed slogans and designs covering the rest. "Attention to detail" is putting it mildly. It shone like a jewel on my little school desk, and I used it every year up until grade seven, when high school, puberty, peer pressure and other grown-up things took over school life and all the fun of cupcakes, candy hearts, and Valentine boxes became mere memories.
Why yes, I wood. Wooden shoe?The box was put away in my mom's cedar chest, to be re-discovered every few years when I went digging around in places I probably shouldn't have been. It holds many mementos now, including a batch of Valentine cards from my grade two classmates. I still remember each and every one of them, from the terribly punned "Wooden shoe be mine" card given to me by David Birdsall, to the freaky anthropomorphic light bulb card from Susan DeKay. I wonder if anyone else saved their cards, or at least their boxes? Would I have been so careful to do so if it had just been a crummy old shoebox with a slit cut in it? Probably not.
I don't even celebrate Valentine's Day any more. I know that sounds awful, but when my husband and I got married, we made a decision that we would let this Hallmark-hyped holiday pass by and focus on other celebrations, such as our soon-following wedding anniversary. But seeing my pretty little Valentine box again, maybe it's time to break out the hearts-n-flowers and bad puns and…well, we'll leave anthropomorphic lighting fixtures for bad dreams. But this February 14th, I think I'll leave the Valentine box out on my desk. We'll see what treasures it soon holds.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Florsoy the Wild Mare: Published!

Recently, I posted a blog about the first story I ever wrote when I was a mere seven years old. Now, as promised, may I present to you an original tale of love, danger, and intrigue; the story of "Florsoy, the Wild Mare". Enjoy!

Chapter one: Florsoy in the Mountins

All that's missing is the little hearts popping over their heads!Way down in the Mountins there was a horse named Florsoy. She was light brown with a black mane and tail. She was the last of the wild mares. Most of the horses there were Stalyons.
Florsoy lived where there were mountins. So there were many mountin lions.
One time Florsoy met a black horse named Thunderbolt. Once thay saw eachother thay didn't take their eyes' of eachother.
Everywhere Florsoy went so did Thunderbolt. But one time Florsoy was all alone. She went to the mountins. She didn't know that she was being watched by a mountin lion. When she walked by, the mountin lion jumped out at her. Just befour the mountin lion got her Thunderbolt came and bucked the mountin lion of the cliff. But then two mountin lions came. Thay had Thunderbolt and Florsoy up against the mountin. But just then a golden stallion came and safed both of them.
Florsoy and Thunderbolt came down from the mountain to go along with the golden stalyon.
Uh-oh, who's this meddling golden-boy hero?The stalyons name was Streak. Streak was a stalyon which broke out of a ranch fence and now romes on the wild plains. As they went on they saw a farm. It had pigs, cows, ponys, chickens and horses. One of the horses looked like Streak! The horse that looked like Streak had a saddle, bridle and rains on him and someone was ready to get on his back. The person was a lady geting ready to ride her horse.
As she got on her horse, she looked where Thunderbolt, Florsoy and streak were standing. "John John!" she said. "Tell Jerry there are three wild horses out here. Tell him to bring the ropes before they run away!" John John was her brother. He ran in the house to get Jerry.
Jerry was their brother. He came out with the ropes. He threw on in the air. And it got Streak. He threw another one, it got Thunderbolt. He threw another ant it got Florsoy.
All three of them were roped. The lady on the horse got off and ran to help her brother. She took the rope that was on Florsoy and Jerry took the ropes that were on Thunderbolt and Streak.
Thay led the in a barn where there were many stalls. Florsoy, Thunerbolt and Streak were put in seperet stalls beside each other.


The little artist in me agreed not every page needs an illustration.Oh my, where to go from here? Streak broke out of a fence once, could he bust down the barn? But then what would they do? Go back to the mountains and buck more big cats over cliffs while forming some kind of horsey love-triangle? I think I realized that I'd written a story that would have to include people doing things with the horses at least for a little while, especially if I wanted to have any dialog, because, well, horses don't talk. But if Jerry, John John and the nameless lady (who was rightly so, as there was no opportunity yet to introduce her in the narrative—smart!) started trying to train or ride the horses, it would no longer be the story of "a wild mare, a beautyful horse which gets in all sorts of danger", and I didn't want to tell Jerry's, John John's and the lady's story. I wanted to tell Florsoy's. I don't recall consciously deciding never to work on the story again, it just kind of happened. And I recall being rather sad about that.
Now for some interesting observations. First, this story wasn't written in one sprint-like chunk. It's obvious to me I stopped after page three, then started again sometime later on, probably at age eight after I'd moved to the country and actually been around horses for some time. Also, upon re-reading this about a dozen times, I find and recall that the story was proof-read and edited as I went (although pesky typos and missing words still made it through). For instance, there was initially no coma in the sentence "When she walked by, the mountin lion jumped out at her." I vaguely recall realizing that without the coma, even I got confused reading it, and so I added one. I also see I was not a fan of the Oxford coma. We were likely taught in school at the time that it wasn't necessary, and several times I eschewed it. I'd never do that now.
Run John John, run!Another edit I can clearly tell was erased and changed is that originally it was 'father' John John was running to get. I don't remember why I changed it, but I will admit a story about three siblings and three horses is much more balanced and interesting than one with two siblings and an authority figure. Probably at some point I wanted each sib to get a horse, but then that 'people story and not horse story' thing reared its ugly head.
Lastly—and I do recall this—the line about the horses escaping before they could be roped read: "Tell him to bring the ropes before they walk away!" Ahem. 'Walk' away? Even my childhood writer mind realized that 'walk' is not an action-packed verb. What wild horse just ambles away from someone trying to capture it? My own horse used to scoot pretty quickly when she didn't want to be ridden!
As for the artwork, I'm hugely impressed with my little self. As crude as the drawings are, there's a lot of detail and knowledge there. I normally drew (and still draw) horses facing to the right. Drawing Thunderbolt facing to the left to stare at Florsoy in the 'Florsoy and Thunderbolt sitting in a tree' illustration was a difficult, talent-stretching endeavor. Additionally, the tiny tree behind Florsoy is meant to lend perspective, something I had just learned.
But...but then what happened???Same with tiny John John running to the house. Clearly (well, to me anyway), the horse and rider are in the foreground, and John John is more distant. Details such as the swishing tail, the light—complete with pull-string—in the upstairs window, and the fact that the lady is holding split reins 'romel style' are all indicative of a young girl who knows her world and her horseback riding. And let's not overlook the huge leap in lifelike drawing demonstrated by the fact that the lady is looking away from you, while her horse is looking at you. This was a ground-breaking illustration for me; to draw it exactly as I saw it in my head, against my strict 'horse and people always facing to right' side view method. I remember more than anything being quite proud of this drawing. I still am.
I should finish this story one day, but first I have to review my protagonists' options. Will the siblings tame the trio and lead them to international horse show or rodeo championship fame and fortune? Or will Streak save the day once more, organize a jailbreak to impress and woo the lovely Florsoy away from Thunderbolt, then lead them and the other horses, as well as the pigs, cows, and ponies out into the wild mountainside yonder to fight the ravaging mountain lions?
I don't know, but I'm kind of liking that second idea. So many more possibilities! I mean, who knows what may await my beautyful Florsoy? The danger! The love! The excitement! Well hey; anything's better than being trapped in suspended animation in a barn stall separated from her two handsome suiters, right? Right!

Florsoy, the Wild Mare

I always tell people that Fate's Apology is my first attempt at writing a book. Technically it's true, insofar as I'm actually doing it. But it's not really my first. It's my fifth.
Florsoy, the Wild Mare coverI still remember the first time I decided I was going to be an author. I was seven years old. With several sheets of standard typing paper in hand, I was determined to write a book about my favorite subject: horses. Or at least a story about one horse. A horse named Florsoy. Yeah, I know—this invented name leaves a lot to be desired. I don't recall any others that were rejected, as I think I just stuck with the first thing that popped into my little head. To be fair, you don't know what names I'd originally chosen for some of my Fate's Apology characters either. Let's just say they weren't much better, and I think my naming ability has improved a great deal. Thank goodness!
So what was this horsey story about? I'm glad you asked, as I even wrote a logline on my title page. It's about "A beautyful horse which gets in all sorts of danger". Typos and bad grammar aside, I can't even come up yet with an acceptable logline for Fate's Apology, so yay little seven-year-old me for being ahead of the game on that one. And the story delivers too. On the second page, Florsoy is trapped on a mountain by a mountain lion. Wow, nothing like jumping right into it hoof-first!



Florsoy, the Wild Mare title pageAll told, I wrote 393 words of Florsoy, the Wild Mare, complete with illustrations. There was danger, a love interest, and a third 'sidekick' horse. Within two pages, the three were off on their merry little adventurous way when...I discovered I'd written myself into a predicament with no idea where to turn. This story-writing thing was a lot harder than I'd expected, and with my imagination as trapped in a corner as poor Florsoy and her friends were, I gave up. I tucked the papers away with my pile of horse drawings, never to be worked on again.

Fortunately, being a pack rat with my childhood belongings, I still have them. Every single numbered page. I'd obviously studied books and emulated them as closely as I could. The book cover and the title page (both shown here) have no writing on the back, and the first page of chapter one is designed to be on the right-hand side of the book. Page seven, the last page, is completely blank. Such a sad commentary on my self-dampened enthusiasm.
But while it may have been the end of Florsoy's adventures, it wasn't the end of my writing career. Only one year later, I tried again. This time it was a story about people, not horses. I didn't save that one, but what happened with it is a story unto itself. One that resonates to this day.
I'm going to publish Florsoy, the Wild Mare, such as it is, in my next blog. I think my inner seven-year-old will be thrilled. In the meantime I'm curious: do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Do you still have it? What was it about and was it any good? I'd love to hear your stories about your first-ever stories!

Ready to Rumble

It's that dizzying time of the year again. Look back, look ahead, look around, another year older and what have you done… Well, I'm happy to say I did pretty well, actually. Let's review my 2013 resolutions. I only made four, so it shouldn't take long.

1) Finish part two of Fate's Apology. I did! And it was right down to the finish line too, with a large chunk of it written just in the past month. I'm totally huzzah-ing over that.
2) Continuing to play my bass despite the obstacles. I am! And we had some terrific gigs this year. We went out of town to Shawinigan, Quebec and played at a two-day cultural festival, where we got to stay in quirky little trailers and hotel rooms just like real working musicians, and we also had a successful show at the Bistro Mousse-Café in Montreal, which proved that with the right songs and enough rehearsal, Hélène and I can rock a show as a duo.
3) Blog every other week and post one short snippet per month. Well, I managed fifteen out of a projected twenty-four blogs, and six out of a projected twelve short snippets. I find that life is often either too busy or too boring, and when I have time to spare I tend to spend it working on Fate's Apology, which right now is more important to me than blogging.
4) Lose ten pounds. HAHAHAHA! Well, I didn’t gain ten more, so my fight with fat ends in a stalemate.
So what's up for 2014? Like last year, I'm going with four resolutions.
1) Finish Fate's Apology and find beta readers. If necessary, this goal will trump all others that follow. I want to write "The End" so badly I can taste it.
2) Write new piano compositions. My piano has been neglected for far too long, and one way I've already made sure I'll have more time to get back to it is by taking a sabbatical from the choir. When schlepping into town every Wednesday and Saturday for rehearsals and performances became something to dread almost as much as going to work, it was time to re-evaluate how I was spending my musical free time. So, so long singing, hellooooo piano!
3) Review books I've read. I'm terrible at this, and knowing how much writers crave feedback about their work, I really need to stop shirking this responsibility. This might entail re-reading some stories so they're fresh in my mind again, but for sure it should start with anything I'm enjoying (or not) from here on out.
3) Get a web site up on my domain. I've had the domain since May and only just recently tried to figure out what to do with it. I want it to be a place to celebrate the life of my beloved cat Rascalbear, as well as my new kitties, Doodle and Jitterbug. I also want it to have information about red-point Siamese cats, maybe a resource for adoption info, as well as a place for people to post their own pictures and stories about their red-points. That's a lot of stuff to think about and organize.
And that's it. Of course, I need to blog, stay in shape, and continue the band. This week already has band practice, write a blog or two to post in the future, and exercise written all over it. But it also has noodle-time on the piano, and some brainstorming for Rascalbear's Red-Point Siamese Roundup, and starting a review for the current book I'm reading. So hey, 2014, get your butt over here. I'm ready to rumble!

Siamese, Squared.

Kitten. It's been a long time since I've uttered that word in my house. It's been even longer since I've uttered the plural. I gave you a tease in my post about the patio. Let me now tell you about my home life these past few months.

All of my cats throughout my life came to me as kittens, but my first experience with two at a time was not planned, having purposely taken a kitten from my aunt's cat's latest litter (Brutus) then having a stray dumpster kitten brought home to me (Barney). Life was rather a circus back in those days. I was eighteen years old, living away from home with a boyfriend, with kittens. Woo-hoo, what fun!

I wish now sometimes I was still eighteen. I could use the energy.

On August 13th, Tuna Tuesday Week Thirteen*, after much searching and several inquiries into adult cats that had either already found homes or were otherwise unavailable or unsuitable, I brought home two flame-point Siamese kittens, procured from a groomer, who'd gotten them from a breeder, and was keeping them in the back room of her shop. Being the last two of the litter, I didn't get the pick. Or did I? Just look at these little faces!

Siamese twins

I named them on the ride home: Doodle and Jitterbug. Male and female, they are night and day, demon and angel (well, usually), and the new critter-witter-loves-of-my-life that Rascalbear has now made room for in my heart. They are nothing like him, but sometimes I see a reflection. They are beautiful and annoying. They are sweet and destructive. They're everything I wasn't sure I was looking for, but they're everything I need. And they're here to stay.

DoodleNot strays or shelter rescues, I felt a twinge of guilt handing over money for them** but that was quickly alleviated by the fact that they soon displayed a host of hidden medical problems that required immediate attention (an issue, I'm sure, that was due to their housing with uninspected/unvaccinated strays). They had feline viral rhinotracheitis as well as conjunctivitis, which has finally taken a hiatus. Diarrhea ping-ponged between them, as well as a serious virus that mimicked panleukopenia, a deadly illness that, without major treatment, nearly always kills afflicted kittens. Calling home from the vet with the news that Doodle might be beyond hope (and Jitterbug almost certainly also infected) was a heart-wrenching endeavor despite the fact that I'd only had them for one week. Fortunately, the test for panleukopenia proved negative, but with high fever and dehydration, he was still plenty sick. With pills in hand, I went home practically screaming with frustration. Why was I being punished for my many months of nursing Rascalbear, losing him, and finally being ready to take on new charges?

JitterbugThen I realized this wasn't my punishment. This was my reward. Who else but me would be prepared to spend the time and dollars doctoring a duo of two-month-old kittens who happened to be in need of far more medical care than expected? I shudder to think where they'd be if someone with less experience or means had taken them, and as stressful as it's been, I'm thankful we've seen it through. I loved my Rascalbear to bits, and nursing him in his final days truly bonded him to me in a way I'd not previously had, and which made his passing something I'll never really get over. With Doodle and Jitterbug, that bonding has taken place at the beginning of their lives, and I see it every day in the way they follow me, talk to me, play with me, and even sleep with me—something Rascalbear rarely did until he got sick.

The kittens are six months old now, growing and healthy, and blooming into their distinct personalities. Doodle has already earned the nickname "Doodlemonster". Smart, stubborn, noisy, and fearless, he's as Siamese as they come. Jitterbug, my little Bugga-Boo, is a little more mellow, but has no problem following her brother into trouble when she chooses to. Sometimes I wonder what I've gotten myself into when, for the umpteenth time, I have to chase them off the kitchen counter while making supper. Then, they do something to make me laugh, and give me cuddles and snoogles, and I know I've done the right thing. I'm a Cat Mama. It's what I do. And now I'm a Cat Mama for two.

*A new tradition begun in honor of Rascalbear. Every Tuesday, on the weekly anniversary of his passing, we remember him by making a supper dish utilizing tuna. The more unusual dishes we've come up with are: tuna burritos, tuna ravioli, and Fishigans. Like Michigans, only with tuna topping. Yum!

**To be fair, it was half of what most breeders were asking, and less than what adoption agencies wanted. Granted the spay/neuter wasn't included like it usually is with adoptions, but those costs were never a consideration in my search.

Blog About Not Blogging

Last night I was grousing to myself that here I spent all day at my computer and not only wrote no blog, but also spent no time doing stuff like playing with my cats, fixing supper, or organizing things in my house that desperately need it . Then I had an idea about how that would make a really good blog post. I was about to run to the computer to write it.

Then I realized that in order to do that, I'd have to get back on the computer, stop playing with the cats, stop fixing supper, and basically do exactly what the blog was about.

So I didn't. Because sometimes you have to do exactly the opposite of what seems like a good idea in order to do what is actually just plain good.

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