OK, technically I suppose I could have just gently squashed that spider or shown it the door instead of brutally pummeling it into sometime next week, thus risking a rift in the space-time continuum.

On the other hand, you can never be too careful with spiders.

Resolved 2017

It’s a little late for New Year’s Resolutions, but c’mon, is the chaos of Christmas season and its aftermath really the best time to think about goals? I usually need a break and some reflection, and this year has been no exception.

But here are my resolutions in a nutshell:

Pare down, use up, put away.

I feel like I spent a lot of the last decade acquiring. I have stacks of empty notebooks. I have odd ingredients I bought for a recipe but then forgot about, which I really should use before they expire. I have pens and pencils and ink. I have clothing I bought (from Goodwill generally, but still) and put in a drawer, forgotten.

I declare 2017 the year of living inexpensively. There will always be cool new limited edition notebooks and pens and boots and that. I have more than I can use anytime soon.

I also want to clear out the things I don’t use or need–a surprising amount made the cut in spite of my move, and while there’s not necessarily anything wrong with a few sentimental objects, I can proooobably at least let go of that old bluetooth headset I haven’t used in six years and which doesn’t charge. It’s a bit daunting to go through every drawer and closet, but exhilarating as well.

I’m also realizing one of the reasons I’m so challenged by order is that I keep treating symptoms rather than disease. The reason I end up with jackets strewn all over creation just might be because there’s no coat rack. If I brought the hamper in from the garage and used it without the stoopid flippy lid I hate so much, maybe there wouldn’t be dirty clothes on the bathroom and bedroom floor. If I put away the winter clothes in the spring and vice versa (after all, I have an attic now!), maybe I’d have enough room to keep all my clothes and blankets and sheets in the dresser where they belong.

It’s all going to take some effort. Building some habits. Establishing new routines. Maybe avoiding certain temptations. But just thinking about it makes me feel freer.

So off we go.

A Classical Soundtrack for Your Halloween

Punkin 2

It’s Halloween! Need some music to get you through to the evening, or to play while the little darlin’s raid your candy stash? Here are some options!

Mussorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain.

Hector Berlioz’s Dream of a Witches’ Sabbath, from his Symphonie Fantastique

Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor

“Mars, the Bringer of War” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets.”

Danse Macabre, by Camille Camille Saint-Saëns

And, of course, the grandaddy of them all, spooky power wise: Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Here’s a playlist of all of them, for your listening pleasure.

Do you have any additional favorites? I would love to hear them!

Thanks, Buddy!


Proof that Orientals are kind of half dog / half cat: last night I got caught up in reminiscing about the last few years, and I was *so* caught up that when Timo bounded into the room and did that little chirrup greeting cats do, for a split second, I thought he was my dear, departed Tam.

And then I cried. And then Timo came over, put his paws around my neck, and gave me a big ol’ cheek-to-cheek hug. Aw.

And then he tried to steal my glasses. Because cats are jerks.

Cinders and the Saddest Toy Cat

An early drawing of Cinders.

Once upon a time, many years ago, a newly 10 year old me got a kitten for my birthday and named him Cinders. I’d actually been visiting him for several weeks–his mother belonged to neighbors–and the whole period was thrilling. Overwhelming. So I did what I always do when overwhelmed and overexcited: I blogged about it.

OK, no. This was in premordial soup days, long before blogs. Instead, I did what people did back then, and what I still do much of the time nowadays: I wrote it down on paper. Mom gave me a notebook and I started a logbook about Cinders, recording dates and times and his weight and length and my impressions of everything all along the way.


Neutering and death dates, too? OK, kid, you’re weird.
A sample page.

Transcription of the above: Oct 16, 1986  When kittens are little (10 days to 6 weeks) their eyes are a milky blue color. Then they turn to the color they will be when they are an adult. Cinders is 6 weeks old. His eyes are yellow. Tomorrow he is coming to live at my house. I have everything ready. I bought him a brush, I bought him food and food and water bowls, I made him a bed, and I got him used to me. Everything is ready…

There weren’t cell phone cameras to upload pictures to Facebook and Instagram, so I drew him over and over again, memorizing every spot and splotch of his little black and white tailless self. (His mother also had no more than a powder puff of a tail, and the same went for many of his siblings. I don’t know if there was a Manx in his background or just an off genetic mutation, but there are still a handful of true-breeding near-tailless cats in the region where I grew up, along with polydactyl cats.)

He was an interesting guy. Followed me like a dog. Slept on my bed at night. And, as Mom wrote in this guest post…er, note, he had a pretty definite schedule.


Transcription: Guest Notes 1/12/87  Cinders spend several hours last night playing with a tangle of pipecleaners. He seems to have developed a regular routine of sleep and play. In midmorning he always wrestles a stuffed gray cat with blue eyes. It’s quite a sight.   Mom

He thoroughly enjoyed beating the crap out of this little guy.


This was, in a way, my first cat, from when I was really little. When Cinders came along, he decided it was his buddy. When I eventually moved away from home, he–now rahther the worse for wear–came along. I’d all but forgotten about him, but when I got the current kittens, one of them found the sad little grey fluff in the back of a drawer and gleefully yanked him out. They’ve been dragging him all around the house ever since. I’ll find him on the bed, or by the couch, or abandoned as they dash for the door to greet me.

He’s deeeeefinitely seen better days, to say the least. Not only has he been clobbered by at least three unkind kittens over a nearly thirty year period, he’s been washed and dried none too gently. His whiskers are…erratic. But in velveteen rabbit terms, he’s approaching reality. He has been loved hard. And I can’t help feeling like Mom is watching these new kittens and smiling. Who knows, maybe Cinders is, too.


Kitten Pictures + Goodwill Adventuring

At some point I should probably do a longer post on the subject, for for now, suffice it to say that after my late, great, Best Cat in the Universe Siamese passed away in March, I about went crazy, not having an involved-in-everything companion. And, to make a long story short, I now have two 17 week old Oriental kittens. They are littermates, but Cassia is a cinnamon shorthair and Timo a cinnamon silver mackerel tabby longhair (because cat genetics). They are very intelligent, very adorable, and very naughty.

Smartphones being the ever ready things they are, I end up with rather a lot of photos of the little guys, but I’ve been trying to take some photos of them together every weekend, to sort of track them. These typically end up being nap time photos, because it’s the only time they stand still!

Timo is a very sweet, mellow, cuddly guy, Cassia tends to be hyperactive and inquisitive. Note how her expression in all of these is basically, “What? For why?” Timo just goes with the flow, dude.

I spent part of today assembling their cat tower. I bought this as an Amazon Daily Deal weeks ago, but I’ve been too intimidated to unbox it.

Turned out to be not terribly difficult, though I will say assembling a cat tower with cats in the vicinity makes for a challenging enterprise.

Also today, I went to Goodwill for the first time since…gosh, before Christmas? The few months before Tam died, it seems like his needs were all consuming, and then I didn’t feel much like going anywhere, and then there were kittens! But this was good. I’d forgotten how relaxing it can be to just browse, not looking for anything in particular. And I done pretty good. Came home with two pairs of decent (and recent) jeans, a few serviceable if not terribly exciting tops, a new-with-tags Pendleton sweater, a stack of books (John Scalzi’s Locked In, Rex Stout’s Five of a Kind, Diana Wynne Jones’ The Merlin Conspiracy), and a couple of good CDs (Verdi’s La Traviata with Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland, plus Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Pinchas Zukerman).

Oh, and a grater, to replace James the Grater (another Goodwill find, years ago), whose rustiness can no longer be ignored or condoned, no matter how cheerful he may be.

Now I’m making Carolina style pulled pork ((vinegar sauce RULES!) in the Instant Pot using this recipe, except that I’m cooking it on the pressure cooker setting for about two hours. May be too much, may be too little. Either way, pretty sure it will be pretty edible.

For dessert, in theory there will be fresh pineapple. In practice…well. Here I am, just a summer and a bit short of 40 years old, and a long time lover of fresh pineapple…yet, to my knowledge, I have never actually purchased and sliced one myself. Feelin’ a bit nervous and shy, folks. But I have a sharp knife and a YouTube video, and I’mma gonna give it a whirl.

August 21, 2015

If you start out with the assumption that someone is a self-serving and horrible person, everything they do or don’t do–no matter how innocent–will appear to be self-serving and horrible. If they, for instance, go out to a movie or to a concert, it’s because they’re frivolous and selfish. If they fail to share that one article on Facebook, it’s because they’re a cowardly hypocrite. If they donate time or money to a good cause, it’s because they’re angling for something.

Even the most charitable acts can start to seem monstrous. This is how you get people who think Mother Teresa did everything she did out of some perverse desire for recognition.

I’m not saying any of us are Mother Teresas, and I’m absolutely not saying that objectively wrong acts can be forgiven because the doer had good intentions. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t hurt to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s better to err on the side of thinking people are better than they are than to spend your whole life despising everyone for the ulterior motives you’ve assigned them in your head, which may be miles from the truth.

I am not Aristotle

Dunce (7885704332)Just to start this off right, here’s a rodent in a dunce’s cap.

OK, I’m just going to get this off my chest, because frankly, it’s cramping my style.

For a variety of reasons, I did not have quite the same opportunities for education as many of my younger siblings did. (A lot of this had to do with a pathetically strong desire for approval and a perceived familial disapproval of some of what I’d hoped to do, but that’s beside the point.) And honestly, if I’d had the chance to be absolutely anything at all, I’d likely be a lab rat rather than a theology professor.

I just can’t seem to make my brain go certain places. Unlike certain other family members, I don’t read books on economics or politics for fun. I struggle with getting through books on philosophy or spirituality. I make myself read some of the writings of the saints, for example, because it’s good stuff…but I’m much more likely to navigate through Francis de Sales than Thomas Aquinas.

Given my druthers, I tend to read fiction, and not necessarily of the “literary” variety. If and when I read non-fiction, I’m mostly fascinated by stories of disease and disaster and adventure.

I guess my point is that I’m just not the hyper intellectual scholar many family members and friends seem to be. And this can’t help but be reflected in my writing. I’m not comfortable with attempting opinions on politics. I’m never going to be a major apologist. I’m never going to be one of those bloggers.

Any fictional stories I write are likely to be pretty straightforward. They are unlikely to have deep philosophical layers. They’re likely to have some nerdy elements, because I like such things. They’re likely to explore feelings and humor. But when I try to force deeper themes into them, I sound like a clumsy child, and I know it, and it makes me want to give up writing entirely. Which is kind of where I’ve been these past few months.

At the same time, I feel like I’m not supposed to be anything aside from deep. Not that anyone has said so in as many words, but I feel shallow, ridiculous, and out of my league even in my own family and the social circle that surrounds them. It’s like…they’re debating the pros and cons of various minimum wage options, and I’m over here talking about my favorite tea and fairytales.

Is that so wrong? I don’t know. Some days I really feel like it is.

Other days, I make another pot of tea and write (guiltily) about talking dogs and space ships. And wish I didn’t think so much.