Monday, December 30, 2013

Review of 2013: The Speediest Year Yet

Tomorrow is the last day of 2013. Looking back at my blog, I realized that with this post, that makes four blog posts for the entire year.

I think this year zoomed by a lot faster than previous years. Like I've heard it said, once you're over the hill, you begin to pick up speed. ;)

All in all, it was a fairly mediocre year, but still a vast improvement over last year. The worst part is missing my fur babies, Dusty and Asuka. They've been gone a year now, and I'm still struggling with feelings of sadness and guilt, though I know we did everything we could. I occasionally make donations to some of the local cat rescues in their memory to help me deal. At least I can speak of good memories without automatically bursting into sobs now.

The highest point would be our adoption of Dexter (now full grown and goofier than ever), and his sweet and loving relationships with us and his best kitty pal Daisy. Other high points include more recent events, such as some achievements of my husband in his job, my performances with Cantora Arctica, and getting asked to sing in next month's production of "The Dixie Swim Club." I had a story accepted a few weeks ago, one that has been hanging in submission purgatory for a very long time. It will be my first reprint; it was the first story I ever had published.

My writing has been very poor, not really any better than last year. Again I only wrote about 1500 words for Nanowrimo (bad story idea that went absolutely nowhere and I didn't have the time or energy to try and rescue it, or start again.) I've hardly written anything for the last six months. I'm not sure why I struggle with it so much, but I have a hard time balancing the things I want to do with the things I have to do (and a lot of those things happen to be time and energy vampires, like practicing routines).

I have no resolutions, because they are always the same, which means it makes no difference if I start tomorrow or next month or next year. So if I really want to change certain things, I have to want it more than I do.

Some things to look forward to next year: we're trying the Mud Factor 5k obstacle run in June. Also we'll be purchasing a truck and camper from my parents, which will make vacationing much more fun and avoiding airport security possible. I'll be trying out for The Marvelous Wonderettes, but if I don't make it in the show, I'll join the Cantora Arctica choir again for their spring semester.

In the meantime, I'll be writing, playing guitar, maybe starting craft projects again. And spending less time wasting my brain on iPad games like Candy Crush Saga. (Why, oh, why did I ever start playing that time vampire of a game?!)

Wait, that almost sounded like New Year's resolutions after all ...

Happy New Year! Many blessings to you and yours!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Whole Lotta Stuff

It has been four months since my last post. So much has been going on.

Our last winter snow occurred on May 17th this year, either tying or breaking a record for late season snow. The weather after that for two months was perfect and beautiful, even downright hot for a long time. Almost no rain at all. Even so, we only managed to get out in it a couple of times. We got a canoe and paddled the entire length of Eklutna Lake, a feat my arms will not soon forget. Carrying the canoe back up the hill to the car afterwards was a form of torture no creature ever deserves.

And then on August 1st, the rain started. It has rained most days this month. A couple of nights ago we had a big storm roll through with hail, thunder, and lightning. Dexter actually got a little freaked out by it.

Speaking of Dexter, he and Daisy are so close and cute together, the adorableness simply floods the house. They are often cuddled up and cleaning each other. They stopped sleeping with us when the weather got hot, but every once in while they like to sit next to us or curl up in our laps. Dexter is sleek and still fairly small, a face full of character and goofiness. He likes to eat dog fur fluffies and carpet fuzz from the kitty tree. He even threw up one of my hair ties. He adores his felt mousy toys. His tongue sticks out almost all the time.

It has been something of a trial with his bathroom habits. He seems to have decided that he doesn't like the self-cleaning litter boxes (a serious disappointment for me; I loved them, and they were expensive.) AND he doesn't like "World's Best Cat Litter," which truly is the best. So he has developed a habit of crapping on the floor near the boxes. I have to keep them clean by scooping several times a day, because he won't use one that has anything in it. It's a pain, but I'm figuring him out.

Recently I admitted to myself why I have avoided writing for the last four or five months: I'm still sort of depressed and definitely exhausted.

At night I still sometimes get sad and cry over the loss of my furbabies, Dusty and Asuka. And I still always question what happened. I've lost my faith and my confidence in many things that used to be part of my coping and support system, and have nothing to replace them. I've been spending all my spare time playing video games that I have played before. For a while I started making teddy bears again, but quit halfway through one.

I've gotten sick/injured a couple of times recently and I think it's because I'm teaching a lot and there's no one to substitute for me. So the exhaustion and depression combined to the point where I'm occasionally cleaning the house, but not really accomplishing anything.

I had my heart and hopes pinned on the theatre's production of "Brigadoon" getting me out of this cycle. They did not get nearly as many people as they needed at the auditions, and still I did not get the lead or the supporting female part. Even with the one actor that I counted on showing up to auditions, it didn't happen. He got cast as the father of the lead female role. I guess I've passed my prime age window for lead roles.

I know that I would have gotten in the show if I was willing to accept any role. I'm not willing. Especially for a show that's rehearsing all summer long. I was shocked to find one of my friends with a gorgeous voice was cast in the chorus as well. Everyone is always telling me what a wonderful voice I have, so if we can't get decent roles on account of our talent, I start to wonder why I try anymore.

So now I'm a little apprehensive of auditioning for the musical that is just four female roles. The problem is that they have to play an age range of eighteen to twenty-eight. The first act is senior year in high school, the second act is the ten year reunion. This can go one of two ways: the cast will be women all around my age who look young enough to pass as a group (thirties who still have a uniform youthful look), or the cast will be women who are actually in that age range. It can't be a mix, or the women who are older will look much older beside the younger ones.

The theatre situation has got me questioning if I really have any talent at all, if maybe I'm an old hag that everyone is trying to placate and humor. A lot of things I used to be sure about are questionable at best now.

Now I'm left battling my own desire to hide away and do nothing of worth. I tell myself I don't want to start a project because something is going to interrupt it (husband getting home, needing to practice routines, cleaning house, etc). I'm even reading books I've read before so I don't have to pay attention to them. I feel overwhelmed every time I start something, thinking about everything that needs to be done.

I'm floundering a bit, trying to find direction again. I went and sang at a karaoke contest where the finalists compete at the Alaska State Fair. I got second place and a finalist spot for the show this Friday, and I'm nervous. I have deep issues with contests like this, stemming from childhood school trauma. (I can hear you asking, "So why did you do it?" Simple answer: I love to sing.)

I'm even second guessing this entire post as I write it, reread it, write some more, delete stuff, yadda yadda. Argh, make it stop.

If anyone has any extra inspiration or confidence lying about, I'd be glad to take it off your hands. :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Whoa, Wait ... It's April Already?!

What happened to February and March? I feel like I went to sleep the day after my last blog post and just woke up.

That's a real nice April Fool's joke on me.

Well, I guess I just didn't notice the rapid passage of time because of how busy I've been. I got called on to join a show already in rehearsal when someone dropped out. At the time I wasn't even considering auditioning for the last couple of shows of the season at VPA, but when my phone started blowing up with messages like, "Heather, come join the fun!" - well, how can anyone resist that?

I almost resisted. Having just gotten a regular schedule in teaching and coming off from a subbing stint that made me appreciate the time I had to myself, I almost said no. But when I saw who all was also in the show (and more friends have joined since I arrived), I had to change no to yes. Besides, hubby was actually encouraging me for once, since he's been taking martial arts classes in the evenings.

So with rehearsals, a heavier teaching schedule, new routines to practice, trying to keep up with Write 1 Sub 1, and much more, time got away from me. In March, I actually stopped writing again. (What is it with the month of March? I go strong for two months and then conk out at the same time every year.)

I promised myself that I would pick up the writing again in April, since our show opens this first weekend in April. I still need time to practice new exercise routines, which is hard since each routine is an hour and I have four to learn. But as each one releases this month, that load will get less and less. And this is the last week of evening rehearsals during the week. Now I'll just be busy with the show on weekends.

I found out the musicals next season are Brigadoon (the first show) and The Marvelous Wonderettes (next year.) I am very interested to see what happens at the Brigadoon auditions. For one thing, it's a big musical, so lots of people needed. For another thing, it's the first show of the season, which means rehearsals will run through the summer. In Alaska, it's hard to get people to commit to a show during the summer because everyone wants to get outside while they can. And one other thing, it will need a lot of guys. One of them at least has to be a good singer and dancer.

So, as is always my burden to bear, what part I get will rest squarely on the shoulders of what men show up to auditions. This season I was screwed out of both shows I auditioned for because the guys were too young for me to match up with. I shudder to think this may happen again. But next season is more girl-heavy, as opposed to this current season, which was more guy-heavy. So guys got spread pretty thin this year.

Alas, nothing for a poor girl to do but wait and see. And stew.

All right, back to the writing thing now. I've got three flash stories I need to write this week for a submission call. That'll help make up for the stories I missed this last month. I know that's not technically in the spirit of Write 1 Sub 1, but this year I'll settle for having fifty-two stories at the end of the year, even if they weren't written one a week. That'll still be a bigger accomplishment than the previous years.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Loss of a Publisher, and the New Addition

This month seems to hold a lot of activity. Not only am I writing regularly again, but I've been practicing routines like crazy (and waiting for my schedule to become "normal" again), and now there is a new family member in our Little House in the Big Woods!

First, a moment of silence for the passing of Pill Hill Press. This publisher was the first to take a chance on my work. They took on my story, "The Oni," and published it in their anthology "Leather, Denim, and Silver: Legends of the Monster Hunter." They also took my third and my fourth stories. (Wicked East Press, one closely associated with Pill Hill Press, took the second one, if I remember the order correctly.) Last August I had submitted a story to their Psycho Cinema anthology.

The answer I got back was not the one I was expecting. Pill Hill Press had decided to close down. By the time I read the email announcement, the website and the forum were already removed. Wicked East just sent an email that while the closing has affected much of their working, they intend to continue after things are straightened out, so that's good to know.

I'm not sure how this will effect the anthologies for sale on Amazon, etc. Maybe someday, when I'm a world famous writer, they will become precious collector items. ;) (I dream big, though my true intentions usually aren't that grand.)

But the writing continues. Today, the writing continues with a lapful of purring kitten.


Please welcome Dexter, male tortie extraordinaire!

I didn't realize male tortoiseshells were so rare, though I knew male calicoes were. Something about the color pattern only passing through the female XX chromosomes, but sometimes a male is born with XXY.

We'd been looking at many cats lately, through the Facebook pages of Clear Creek Cat Rescue (where we got Daisy) and Alaska Cat Adoptions Team (ACAT, who often bring cats to Petzoo for adoption days too). We were wanting a boy who was laid back, liked dogs, liked to play, and preferably young.

I saw this picture on ACAT's Facebook, and the description included liking dogs and playing. When I saw that sweet face, I yelled, "That's my boy!"

I immediately posted that we wanted to adopt him. When the foster mom got back to me, she said someone had laid claim first, but declined the price. Because male torties are 1 in 3,000, they were looking to get a premium adoption fee to help  keep the volunteer rescue group afloat during the thin times. I said we had no problem with the fee. She had to keep him for about a week until he made weight before we could bring him home.

We got to visit him at the foster mom's house. He mostly ignored us, since he was with his siblings and they were just brought to a part of the house they weren't familiar with. I thought he would mostly ignore me when he first got to our place as well.

Boy, was I wrong.

I took him to the bathroom since Daisy was hissing. Within fifteen minutes, he'd explored the whole room and then curled up in my lap, purring away. He stayed there a long time. Throughout the day, he spent a lot of time in my lap. All last night, he slept on my chest. He is in my lap right now as I write this.

The fact that Daisy won't let him get close does not even perturb him in the slightest. The dogs do not bother him one bit. The only thing that scares him is loud noises, but he's already mellowing out over that. He does keep advancing on Daisy, clearly wanting a mama to cuddle him, but Daisy isn't ready for that yet.

However, they spent about a half an hour with Daisy on my lap and Dexter smashed in against her butt on my stomach. She kept hissing at him, occasionally batting his head, but he didn't care. She wasn't using claws.

I am amazed at how quickly he made himself at home here. It's like he knew right away that this was home. That he would be loved and treasured here.

Anyway, so that's the latest in Our Little Cabin in the Woods. The hole has diminished somewhat, though it will never go away. Dusty and Asuka are greatly missed, and I found myself leaking a few tears over them yesterday. But I plan on giving these two, Daisy and Dexter, the best life I can, just like I did for Dusty and Asuka.

And now back to writing, before I bust out crying again. :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How Much Can One Day Suck?

Quite a bit, apparently.

Yesterday was rather entertaining, when looking back on it the next day. One of those days I almost (almost, mind you) think about moving back to the lower forty-eight.

I taught three classes yesterday, one of my heavy load days, increased by the arrangement of two practice sessions with a couple of other instructors. We have new routines being released, so we get together to practice them and get paid for the practice sessions.

The fun began right at the end of my Centergy class, a class that's a fusion of yoga, pilates, and tai chi. The last track is for resting, recovery, and generally behavior usually attributed to meditation. I was just starting the speech that brings everyone back to the present moment in a gentle fashion:

"Take a slow, deep breath. As you release it, begin waking up the body by wiggling fingers and -"

EEEEEEEEEHHHHHHNNNNNN!

The loudest, most obnoxious noise I've ever encountered rips through the entire building.

Someone had set off the fire alarm.

I stood there with my mouth hanging open. Then I said, "Well, you're all awake, so have a good day!" Everyone cracked up.

My next class started late because the noise continued until the fire department could arrive and turn it off. It was a false alarm, reportedly set off by a bouncing basketball. Whoopsie-daisy! At least it's good to know that the alarm is so loud, it'll drive everyone out of the building, emergency or not.

And now a few words about the weather.

Most of the time, it snows here through December, January, February and March. Snow in November, October, and even September is not unheard of, and it often snows in April, and sometimes as late as May.

In other words, snow is expected, and in many ways, appreciated. Fills potholes in the road, stuff like that. Last year we got more than we needed, but it still wasn't a huge problem. I'll take too much snow over the really huge winds we get any day.

There was one year that put something ahead of my dislike for great winds: freezing rain, aka ice storms. That was the year my Yaris got stuck sideways after sliding on the ice at the top of the driveway.

This season, we've only had one decent dumping of snow. This was followed by strong winds displacing the snow and packing it down hard in some places. And then the temperature shot up for a couple of weeks, melting the tops of everything just enough to form ice.

Even that's not always too bad. The melting was minimal, and the fact that the wind displaced the snow helped keep a lot of roads pretty clear of ice.

But yesterday, the rain started. The kind of rain that is almost slush, and therefore freezes to the top of already slick areas and makes them virtually impassible with the expectation of keeping your car on the road.

I was on my way after a very long day of exercise, and the rain had been going all day. When I stopped in Walmart, I was going to park in a close spot to minimize the possibility of slipping and falling. I was driving extremely slow, and trying to give everything around me lots of room.

I STILL almost slid into a parked car as I turned into a spot. Changed my mind and parked far away from other cars. All my balance training in my classes helps me stay on my feet as it is.

When I turned off the main road to the one that goes to my subdivision, I knew that things were going to get really bad. It's mostly downhill, with an S-curve at the bottom, a place where moose like to hang out. So I stayed in second gear most of the way. When I was approaching the dreaded curve, I slowed down and put it in first gear until I was creeping along at about two or three miles per hour.

I intended to go through the middle of the curve and minimize any turning as much as possible. There were no edges where I could get better traction, only deep ditches into the properties lining the roads. It didn't matter what gear I was in, how slow I was going, or how carefully I approached the area; this curve had it in for me. My car just slid right off the road and over into the ditch sideways.

I almost thought the car was going to roll, but it didn't. I cringed at the sound of the thorny brush scraping the sides and the undercarriage. I tried driving it forward, because it looked like I could get out by the driveway a little ways ahead. But it got stuck and died a couple of times.

A nice neighbor and his teenage kids stopped and offered to give me a ride home, which was right neighborly of them. Later that night, my hubby and I managed to get the car out ourselves without towing.

The most amazing part: there doesn't seem to be any damage to the car at all.

I love my car.

So though the day was about the worst it can get in Alaska weather-wise, it still manage to end all right. And still not nearly as bad as the entirety of last year was. I've written and submitted two stories this year. I've already caught up to last year's count.

This rain is about to drive me batty, though. Spring weather in the middle of January, when we're supposed to be having sub zero temps and lots of snow. And the wind started blowing today, too.

In the arena of healthy eating, we've been gradually going over to a more primal based diet: veggies, meats, fruits, that kind of thing. Essentially, no grains or farm- and agriculture-related foods. We're not strict. We still have brown rice. We still have dairy. Paleo is even more strict from what I've heard, even down to no fruit because of the sugar. I doubt we'll ever get that far, thanks to my relentless sweet tooth.

I was kind of missing pancakes, and I found a recipe for almond pancakes on a blog called "Girl Gone Primal." Tried them out today. If you're expecting them to be anything like the traditional wheat pancakes, you'll be disappointed. They are different. Not necessarily bad, but it's hard to describe. Drier and almost crumbly if you let them sit awhile. But decent with maple syrup. I couldn't eat very much, though. They are heavier and more filling than wheat pancakes.

I plan on trying her "Oopsie Pizza" recipe next. :)

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review

Looking back at blog entries and Facebook posts, I came to a grim realization:

2012 sucked big time.

There were a couple of high points, only one of which was really big. The big one was my husband's promotion, so much earlier than we expected it to be. The other high points: visiting my family in April (slightly marred by the TSA abuse), and selling one of my stories to the Ravaged anthology.

But sitting here, I remember exactly a year ago we brought Asuka home from the vet after her leg amputation. I am still grateful for the year we got to have with her following that event, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't color the rest of the year. Everything just went downhill from there.

I still ache when I think of my precious fur babies in heaven. I still have dreams about them, still go through pictures of them, still cry every once in a while. I think my strong emotions have drawn Daisy closer to me, as she seems to feel the need to protect me. She often curls up under the covers with me or stretches out along my back. I had a strange dream last night where she turned into a bird, but I didn't know it was her. She'd land on my fingers or my shoulder. Then Asuka pounced, and she turned back into a cat and hissed. Dusty sat nearby and just watched, licking his chops. I can usually interpret dreams pretty well, but I'm not sure what to think of this one.

Anyway, 2013 needs to kick 2012's ass. So I am restarting Write 1 Sub 1 with every intention of surpassing my achievements in 2011. I'll be teaching a lot of classes, which will keep me busy and tired. I think 2013 will definitely go down as a year to remember, and in a much better way.

The world may not have ended this month, but I think the world will change in big ways.

And I want to enjoy the ride.

Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you the granting of many wishes, the realization of many dreams, and the wit and presence to notice. ;) I'm going to look up some story ideas now.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Hole Engulfs the House

Three weeks to the day after losing Dusty, last Friday Asuka followed him to the light. Her breathing had been getting heavier, and early Friday morning she had a fit where she was fighting to breathe and panicking a bit. At first we thought she was still doing okay, because she demanded breakfast, but she had another fit a couple of hours later.

I told Logan how she hadn't gone upstairs on her own in several days, she was wobbly when she walked or when I set her down on her feet, and seemed to be going downhill faster. She could barely even purr anymore. We found out later that she weighed only about three pounds, so she'd lost weight she didn't have to lose. The vet would be closed until Monday, and I was scared she would have more, and worse, fits over the weekend. It seemed the line between living comfortably and suffering had been crossed. When Logan saw her having the second fit, we agreed that it was time to take her in.

Both of us were looking for reasons not to, of course. After making the call, I spent the rest of the day with Asuka sleeping in my lap. My mind shrieked at me the whole time, telling me it was too soon, that maybe she would get better, that maybe a miracle was lying it wait.

But I knew it wasn't. She had cancer, and it was in her lungs. Just like my grandmother, who came home to die after learning that.

The visit was much like what happened with Dusty, except that the office was very busy. We sat on the exit side in two isolated chairs away from everyone else. A lady showed us into a small room we'd never been in before, and put the table down. I kept Asuka in my lap as she gave her the sedative shot. I petted her and repeated how much we loved her.

The vet assistant returned with another lady. If I weren't so upset, I would have found the pair amusing, like the Two Stooges, dropping cotton balls and whatnot.

I lifted Asuka up on the table and cried as she was given the final shot. We were told she might convulse, but that she wouldn't feel anything. Nothing like that happened. She merely stopped breathing. And then she was gone.

They left us alone with her to say our goodbyes. I asked her to please give our love to Dusty when she saw him. We petted her, I kissed the top of her head on her little orange spot, and we hugged each other and cried. We wrapped her up in the blanket they'd given us, and quietly left.

When we receive her ashes, we'll set the box up next to Dusty's on the shelf above the window. In the summer, we'll decide where we want to sprinkle them, so that they will always be together.

I don't think I've ever been this seriously depressed. I am having an extreme crisis of faith. I prayed for them both, every single day of their entire lives. These two cats were the first ones I'd ever had as indoor cats, and I was always impressed how much longer indoor cats lived, even into their twenties. So why was it not to be with these two? We did everything we could to keep them healthy and happy. I feel like I failed them somehow, like I didn't try hard enough, I didn't do the right things.

My conscious mind tells me how ridiculous that is, that we did more for them than most people do for their pets, that we gave them peaceful deaths with dignity. And I am grateful that we were able to give Asuka a year that she wouldn't have had with us otherwise. But I can't seem to convince myself. I feel like I will collapse under the weight of guilt.

Daisy seems to be at a loss. I swear she roams around upstairs expecting the other two to pop out at her.  Every once in a while, I hear her meow up there, like she's calling for them. She follows me around a lot more now. She's lying on the table next to the computer as I type this.

I keep thinking I see them sitting on the stairs, or on the futon, or on the bed.

I have cried every single night before going to sleep.

We've decided not to adopt any other animals for now. But we are seriously considering fostering homeless animals that are rescued from shelters before they can be euthanized. One such group has adoption clinics at Petzoo every once in a while, and I asked about it. We had adopted Daisy from another such rescue group almost two years ago. That way I can help as many animals as possible without becoming the local Crazy Cat Lady.

In the meantime, I'll grieve and grapple with the guilt and the pain. I have many friends doing their best to comfort me, and I am extremely grateful to them for their kind words and love.

Asuka had found us in June of 2003, perching herself on the porch railing of my in-law's house and waiting patiently for us to come out and welcome her. Dusty found us a few months later the same year, announcing his arrival on the deck during feeding time with a mighty thump. They gave us nine years of love, friendship, and much purring. I suppose that they both left us in the same year is fitting, but it should have been years from now.

Please hug your loved ones tonight, and tell them how much you love them.

"You know, someone has said that we should live each day as if it were the last day of our lives."

"Augh! This is the last day! This is it! I only have twenty-four hours left! Help me, help me! This is the last day! Auuuuuuuugh!"

" ... Clearly, some philosophies aren't for all people."

Got that right, Sally. Maybe I need a new philosophy too.