Annie Love

She needs some attention, too.

With a new kitten in the house, and with how much I’ve been talking about Merlin here on the blog, I know Annie’s feeling a little left out. Don’t worry – she’s getting plenty of treats and cuddles. But I know it’s an adjustment for her. And she’s handled Merlin so well. They’re not friends yet, but they keep getting closer and closer to each other, and Merlin occasionally makes a move to play with her. Maybe one day, she’ll actually respond!

Annie’s going to be thirteen this spring, and we’ve had her since she was a tiny puppy.

She’s so sweet, and much slower than she used to be, but she’ll always be our puppy girl. Dogs love us in a totally different way from cats, and Annie is the first dog I’ve ever had. I’m so glad I get to be her person, though she’d tell you, if she could talk, that Graham is actually her person and I’m the other one. Doesn’t matter.

She’s a good dog. And if I’m even a small part of making her happy, then I’m happy.

Winter Daydream (A Poem)

Over the race
and into the woods,
just down the forest path –
there we’ll go.
In search of adventure,
in search of snow,
we’ll step and turn
and twirl and dance.
We’ll take this chance.
And if, along the way,
we find
a journey or a day,
we’ll know –
we were meant to be here
in this winter wonderland.
Will you join us?
Then take my hand.

A Little Monday Merlin

As most cats do, Merlin has found the laundry basket. And claimed it.

Cats, y’all…

But seriously, this little kitten – who won’t be little for long, judging by how fast he’s growing – has brought us so much joy since we brought him home. I’m grateful. I firmly believe that cats, if we listen, can teach us the value of slowing down, of being quiet and still, of observing.

And of a very good nap. (Yes, even on a busy Monday.)

Found Friday #45: The Mystery Pipe

Work on the house continues! After finishing up (mostly) on the exterior, we’ve moved inside, and started in the basement. Our workers have relocated our washer and dryer up to our main level, which clears space for us to expand our basement bathroom.

We’ve wanted to do this for a while, as it’s our main guest bathroom and it was just really shabby and dark. And, well, they do say things look worse before they look better.

I’m not worried about that. What I am mildly concerned about is the mystery pipe they uncovered when they took down one of the walls.

We have no idea why it’s there. And it definitely means some extra work. Figuring out what it’s doing, and then figuring out if it’s needed, and then, if it’s needed, finding a better place for it, if that’s even possible.

We knew the plumbing in this house was…let’s just say, confusing. I’ve written about it before. So, we’re not surprised, and we know our crew can handle this little wrinkle. These things happen, and I’m confident that when all is said and done, we’ll have a lovely guest bathroom that I’m no longer embarrassed for our guests to actually use. (And yes, of course I’ll post pictures. 😊)

So, onward!

Winter Whining (A Silly Poem)

I’m not that fond of summer.
I’m quite okay with spring.
Fall is a time for magic,
and winter is my scene.
But as I sit here waiting,
as far as winters go,
I think this one’s been boring
because we’ve had NO SNOW!

Okay, but seriously, it’s looking like we’ll see no snow at all this winter. I can’t lie – I’m really disappointed. We’ve had some very cold weather, and then some relatively warm weather, winter-wise, and we’ve had some rain, and some fog, oddly enough, but absolutely zero snow. I know this happens some years. It’s fine. Maybe it means next year’s winter will be extra beautiful.

In the meantime, at least there’s tea. And books. And fuzzy blankets. And various other cozy winter things.

Sigh.

We write on.

Meet Merlin!

He’s new here.

No cat could ever, ever replace my sweet Gatsby, and I know I’ll always have a Gatsby-shaped hole in my heart. But we’re so happy and excited to bring Merlin into our little family, and I know that there is always space in the heart for more love.

He’s about four months old, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a big kitty. He’s silly, playful, affectionate, curious, and obsessed with feathers. He’s settling in well, and Annie has been…well, not friendly, but tolerant. I think they’ll get along fine. Eventually.

I’m just so grateful that we get to be his humans. Welcome home, Magic Cat.

Reflections on a Year of Reading

I read a lot. I love reading and books, and stories. This has always been the case.

But in 2022, I decided that I wanted to branch out, try new things, and read different books than I would normally pick for myself. So, I decided to read at least two books per week – one fiction and one nonfiction. Y’all, I had fun. And I read 126 books total, which is more than usual, and I learned a lot about myself as a reader, and about some pretty cool stuff.

A lot of people I talk to have asked me questions about why I decided to read this way, and how I made it happen, so I thought I’d answer some of those questions here.

Why two books a week?

Because I figured that would force me to choose things I wouldn’t normally choose, and get outside of my comfort zone. And I knew I could do it. It might be hard to find time some weeks, but I read fast, so two books is pretty doable for me if I plan well and make time.

How did you make the time?

There’s no easy answer to this question, and there’s no easy formula for making time you don’t have. Wouldn’t that be great, though? The simple answer to this question is, I just did. If I had a free minute during the day, I spent it reading. If Graham and I didn’t have plans during the weekend, I set aside some time to read. If we took a long road trip, while Graham drove, I read. Time is a limited resource, I know, but to do anything you really want to do, you have to just choose to do it.

What do you normally read?

A little of everything. I love children’s and young adult fiction, I love mysteries, I love true crime, I love memoirs. I also really enjoy a good romance, or fantasy, or science fiction. But left to my own devices, I will read primarily fiction with some magic and romance sprinkled in. And I’m a big fan of quieter storytelling. I can’t think of a better way to describe it, but it’s this feeling I get like the story is speaking for itself without much work or embellishment from the writer. Think Kazuo Ishiguro in Never Let Me Go. The one thing I don’t always pick up readily is history, which is funny, because I love history and I’m fascinated by it.

Did you read anything this year that you didn’t like?

I respect any writer brave and bold enough to put their work out into the world. But, sure, I read a few things this year that I probably wouldn’t have finished, if not for this little project of mine. I’m not going to tell you what they are, because everyone should read what they enjoy and I don’t want to devalue any author’s hard work. But I can tell you that they were usually nonfiction books that I just didn’t find were very well-researched or compellingly written. I’m a stickler for research. Do the work, then write the book, you know?

Did you read anything you really loved?

Yes! I really enjoyed the Kamusari books by Shion Miura, which surprised me, because they’re translated, and sometimes things like colloquialisms and cultural nuance and humor don’t always translate well. But in this case, I really enjoyed them. I reread Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Patterson, and it hit differently now in my thirties than it did when I read it as a teenager. I read both Star Mother and Star Father by Charlie N. Holmberg and loved them both. Very folklore-based, which was on theme for my own writing in 2022. Ask a Historian by Greg Jenner was super fun, and Starry Messenger by Neil DeGrasse Tyson made me feel both small and infinite. And I’m glad I spent some time with Cassandra Peterson, a.k.a. Elvira, by reading her memoir, Yours Cruelly, Elvira. There are so many more I really enjoyed. It’s hard to pick favorites.

Did you learn anything really interesting?

Of course I did! Anytime you’re reading, I think you’re learning. But for the sake of specificity, if you haven’t already read them, I think you should check out The Hidden Life of Trees and The Inner Life of Animals by Peter Wohlleben. Even though I’m mostly an indoor kind of girl (that’s where the tea and comfy reading chairs are), I do love nature, and these books helped me look at things in a new way.

Aren’t you kind of bragging? I mean, no one has time to read that many books.

Someone did, in fact, ask me this, and it’s not an unfair question. I don’t mean to brag. Some people read a lot less, and some people, I know, read more. I like to read, and I like to learn, and I like to talk about what I’ve read and learned. I don’t think people who spend a lot of time working on their health and make significant progress and then excitedly share that progress are bragging. How I choose to spend my time and talk about it is just that – a choice. And setting a goal is a good way to accomplish something.

Would you do it again?

Absolutely! But not this year. It actually was quite a challenge to make the time to really read and focus on so many books. I don’t regret it at all, and I’d love to do it again, but I’ve got some other projects I want to work on this year. I am going to try to read at least one book every week, so while I’m slowing down, I’m not going to just stop reading. I don’t even think I could. I get grumpy when I don’t read. Just ask Graham.

I don’t know when I might get another chance to read so intentionally and so much, and so I’m grateful I did it in 2022. I feel like it was well worth my time, and made my life better. We’ll see what 2023 has in store, but the stories I read last year will stay with me forever. And that’s pretty damn cool, isn’t it?

Even If (A Poem)

Today, I want the world
to know:
that the sadness won’t beat me,
that the heartbreak won’t stop me,
and the fear of bad things happening
might slow me down,
but I will
keep going.
Even if I have to crawl.
That’s all.

Announcing: My 2023 Short Story Theme!

For the last couple of years, I’ve challenged myself to write one short story every month around a central theme. Other writers have joined, and it’s just been a lot of fun. So, onward with the tradition!

Last year’s theme was: Folklore. And while I didn’t write a story every month – December ended on a sad note, and I just couldn’t bring myself to write a story while grieving my sweet Gatsby-cat – it was interesting to look at aspects of folklore, how things become folklore, what folklore is and what it can do… Anyway, it was a good year for stories, December notwithstanding, and I’m excited to continue writing them. On that note –  

This year’s theme is:

Wild.

There are all sorts of ways to be wild. There are all kinds of things that grow wild, become wild, live wild. But not us. Not humans. At least, not usually. I want to explore what it means to be wild. And if you want to join me, too, you should!

The rules are simple: twelve months, twelve stories, posted whenever you’d like in any given month. (Normally, I post towards the end.) You can link to this post, if you’d like, so we can read each other’s stories. 🙂

I hope 2023 is a better year just generally. And I really hope it’s a great year for stories.