Category Archives: Life

One Year Out

Or rather, “The vacation I took to to celebrate being about a year out from the car accident and concussion that pretty much reset my life.”

A core lesson from the accident: I needed to carry decent health insurance, and “decent” tended to fall outside of “what I can afford as a freelancer.”  Truly, at the scene of the accident, I should have been taken to the hospital right away.  I feared the cost more than I feared the health consequences of my brain rattling around in my skull, and I didn’t want to head into my 50s with that same fear of, say, heart palpitations or weird lumps or menopause symptoms or…  You get the idea.

That lesson led to a fulltime job.  Darlings, I do indeed love my job, but going from a freelancer and martial arts instructor to an employee working always on someone else’s preset schedule has been an adjustment.  Especially since the job requires this not-a-morning-person to be onsite at about 6:30 in the morn.  But heck, I’m helping to make whiskey, so I can’t complain!  And the job comes with paid vacation time—something I haven’t had since I was my son’s age—and that led to the celebration.

Last year’s concussion caused lingering problems, from sleep difficulties to sporadic balance issues to minor aphasia to blank-outs.  (Not blackout. Blankout—the sensation of suddenly not knowing a thing that you know you should know, and not being able to articulate anything more than, “Um…  Hold on…  Um…”)  I certainly didn’t trust myself to camp on my own.  NO WAY.  What if I forgot to pack up my food at the end of the night, and attracted a bear?  What if I stumbled into the campfire?  What if I couldn’t remember which direction I was supposed to go on the trail?

For the first time, I was afraid—truly and deeply afraid—to head out on my own.

So I decided to use a bunch of vacation days, packed up my Tucson, and took off for six days in Wyoming.  Yellowstone and Grand Tetons.  I hiked extensively my first couple days up there, and stayed in an extremely Wyoming hotel for the first two nights.

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Why the hotel?  Because I was scared to death I wouldn’t be able to figure out a campground.  I’m glad I let myself transition that way, but I needn’t have worried.  I ended up in Grand Tetons (which I preferred to Yellowstone because it had far fewer people and far more solitude) the following evening.

Yes, I had bear spray.  And thankfully lost my fear of accidentally spraying myself in the face with it.

Then I drove mostly two-lane highways through the Wyoming countryside down to Laramie, Medicine Bow, and Vendauwoo.  I climbed boulders.  I walked through the pines.  I watched the Milky Way come into being.  I played with chipmunks.  I read two novels.  I watched cows wander through my campsite.

I ran kata, and bo and nunchaku, and practiced some knife work.  I’m rusty on all of them, but I least I could remember all my empty-hand katas, hit myself in the jaw only a couple times with the nunchaku, and gave myself only one nasty cut with the kukri.  I remembered where the first aid kit was and how to use it.

I stared out the horizon.  I let my mind wander.  I planned what I would do when I returned home, what I would do when I turned 50, and where I’d like to be when I turn 60.

I rested.

I proved to myself I was okay, and okay was pretty damned wonderful.

And since I was okay, I spent the first morning after my return rappelling down thirty-eight stories in downtown Denver to raise funds for the Cancer League of Colorado, in memory of my late husband (liver cancer), my best friend who was also my son’s godmother (breast cancer), and in honor of my martial arts instructor who beat throat cancer last year.  (Donations are still being accepted at the link, if you’re so inclined to give to a group that donates every penny to cancer research and patient support services.)

The highest I’d ever rappelled before was about, maybe, forty feet or so.  When the moment came to step onto the ledge and lean back over the edge, I will tell you honestly I almost backed out.  Then the voice in my head, “Bitch, sit your ass down in that harness and get it done.”  And so I did.

I will not lie.  It was terrifying.  I screamed at least once.  I wanted to quit halfway down.  When I reached the bottom, people had to hold me up for a minute because my legs wouldn’t work.  My son hugged me while I was still shaking, as did my friends Katy, Don and Rob.  (Rob had gone over the edge before me.)

I never wanted to do it again.  Now I kinda do.

So really, what I did on my summer vacation was prove to myself that, even if I’m fragile, I’m fixable.  That I can step off the sidewalk (or the ledge) and still be all right.  That even though I’ve different limitations than I had ten years ago, five years ago, or even one year ago, the way to deal with those limits is not to dial back my ambitions but to rethink my tactics and strategy.

I’m back, my Darlings–ass in the harness, whiskey in hand, stepping over the edge.  Let’s do this.

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#SFWApro

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Collision, Concussion, Consequence

carcrash3.1If you follow me on different platforms–okay, primarily Twitter, truth told–you’ll know I was in a car accident about a week ago.  At first, I considered myself unhurt, applying the rather incomplete and stupid standard of, “No bleeding, no broken bones, able to walk–I’m good.”  Then I spent the night with an increasing painful headache, dropping off to sleep whether I wanted to or not, and awakening over and over with room-spinning nausea.  Word mix-ups, wonky scent and taste perception, and time distortions came next.

Yep.  Concussion.

So I’ve been under all sorts of restrictions, including time spent on any sort of screen.  Much more than thirty minutes in, and I have to quit for at least a couple of hours because the headache and blurry vision start closing in.

Writing by hand is a tad easier, simply because–unlike computer work–the vision starts to blur before the headache comes along.  Believe me, as much as I’d rather speed along on the computer, I’ll take the blurry-vision warning over the headache any day.  But it does mean I pretty much can’t work right now.

Putting together a blog post over the course of two days is one thing, but copyediting ad and marketing copy is quite another.  And keeping the plot straight while revising a multi-POV novel.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

So while I’m waiting for my smooshed brain to recover, I’ll just remind y’all my Patreon is still plugging along with original articles on self-defense, fight scenes, whiskey, and puppers.  A dollar a month gets you first-eyes access.  In the next four weeks, there will be a new fight scene analysis, too, so it’s a good time to jump in if you haven’t already!

And I’m having a Post-Collision Concussion Sale on all the novels!  Sand of Bone, Breath of Stone, and the stand-alone Sword and Chant are all only $2.99 until the doctors clear me to resume working.  If you’ve been waiting for the price-drop, this is your chance!  If you liked any of them, please pass along the links!  If you didn’t like them at all… well, thank you for sticking with me anyway!  🙂

Next week, brain willing, I’ll also be talking about the upcoming Sirens Conference, timing for new releases, and the cookbook that I swear I haven’t forgotten.

So in the meantime… Stay safe, my Darlings, and enjoy this season of transition.

#SFWApro

 

Even the Deer Are Different

I could go on and on and on about the differences between Colorado living and Indiana living.  The landscape, the diversity, the climate, the opportunities…

But I’m going to tell you about the deer.

Indiana has white-tailed deer.  Colorado has mule deer.  I could go on about differences in their mass and height, but the real difference is in attitude.

White-tailed deer are anxiety ridden things, truly.

If they’re browsing at the side of the road and a car comes by, they panic and bolt.  They often bolt in front of the car.

If they’re browsing in a large field and see or hear something disturbing, they panic and bolt.  They often bolt toward a road.  Where cars are.

And if they’re just moving from one field to another, they leap onto roads.  When cars are passing.

If the deer is calmly crossing the road, and a car comes close, the deer will sometimes stand in place, or stutter-step back and forth before bounding off.  But—and here’s the crazy part—that deer will often trot out of the car’s path… then change its mind and dash the opposite direction just in time to get hit by the car whose driver thought the deer was (reasonably) going to stay ten feet away.

I lived just outside the edge of town.  I saw this a great deal.

Once upon a time, my late husband was driving on 465, the major highway that encircles Indianapolis.  He didn’t hit a deer.  The deer hit him.  Slammed right into the side of the car, buckling the rear door and shattering the window.

White-tailed deer are skittish and unpredictable.

Mule deer, on the other hand, don’t give a fuck.

Mule deer browse on the side of the road.  And when I say “side of the road,” I mean they’re right there.  Two feet from the pavement.  They really don’t care about the traffic.  They might look up now and then, but it’s passing curiosity and nothing more.

If they cross the road, they usually do it as a mosey, and they’ll make eye contact as they do it.  “Go ahead, hit me,” the even stare says.  “Just wait until you see what I can do to your car.”

(I should mention mule deer look a damn sight more solid than white-tailed deer, too.)

And before they cross the road, I swear they look both ways.

I’ve come upon mule deer while driving, and they don’t spook like white-tailed deer do.  They just give me The Look, and keep on with their mosey.

My oddest mule deer moment came when I was driving home from Tai Chi, on a well-used road with development on one side and open hills on the other.  I rolled up to a stop sign, and glanced both directions before moving forward.

And caught my breath.

Out the passenger window of my little Hyundai sedan, I could just see the chest and chin of a huge mule deer.  I had to lean over to see his antlers.  He was massive.  And he was just standing there, close enough I could have touched his muzzle were I in the passenger seat (and dared to roll down the window), waiting for me to get the hell out of his way.  Sure enough, as I rolled forward, he strolled across the road behind me as if he had all the time in the world.  And he looked at my tail lights as if thinking, “Yeah, you better move along.”

But the most unsettling mule deer moment came last fall, when I’d run away to a local campground for a couple nights.  My little Tanner-pup spotted a collection of mule deer, ran to the end of her lead, and barked like crazy.  The mule deer looked up from their browsing and advanced.  Even Tanner decided it was best to shut up and back down.

White-tailed deer were annoying and dangerous.

Mule deer…  I don’t want to mess with them at all.

 

Wolf Kisses

I wept.

My son and I spent an afternoon at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center located near Divide, Colorado.  Their work and their goals are both simple and incredible and difficult: restore native wolves to their necessary role as a keystone species in the wild.

If you’d like a primer on why this is important, check out the remarkable changes–mostly unexpected benefits–that resulted from re-introducing wolves to Yellowstone.

Part of our visit included a tour of the facility to “meet” the members of their pack.  Mexican grey wolves, grey wolves, coyotes, red and swift fox…  We had the opportunity to greet them all.  While some creatures were of course more shy than others, it was obvious from the animals’ confident posture and, frankly, their willingness to walk away that they felt neither fearful of their human companions nor needful or dominating them.

Then Dev and I had the opportunity to meet some wolves up close and personal.  We entered a two-acre enclosure with a pair of guides, took a seat among the trees, and waited to see if the wolves were interested in us.

Two of the three were.  The third, I swear, snorted and rolled her eyes before trotting off to ignore us from a distant.  She’s not all that interested in humans.

But her packmates, Kekoa and Keyni, are.

Wolves are big–not silly “big bad wolf” big, but big enough to make their wishes and presence known.  They most certainly are not dogs in wild clothing; they are distinctly different in temperament and behavior.  Sure, the wolf was happy to have a backscratch… but don’t try to ruffle the ears or snuggle closely.  And when a domesticated pupper might come when called even if she doesn’t want to, a wolf is so extremely not interested in such human-centric niceties.

Kekoa gave me a few wolf kisses…  p1290157

but it was Keyni who nudged him aside to straddle my lap and nuzzle closer any moment I paused in my petting and scratching.

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Kekoa did indeed love my son, and did not want to wander far from him.

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And Keyni was more than happy to pose for final pictures once he scented the hunk of raw beef in my hand. 🙂

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In the middle of all of it, we humans made an attempt at howling.  The wolves obliged us with a response, with the coyotes joining in, and the calls and answers went on for minutes, echoing through the trees, and I stood there and wept knowing that I, for just a few moments, was part of it.

 

Just A Little Preparation

FoodStorageEvery now and then, for reasons I can’t always suss out, folks in my social sphere bring up disaster preparedness independently of each other. This time, it seems it’s come about as part of general insecurities and concerns triggered by election talk… which we ARE NOT going to discuss in specifics here, please, darlings! Suffice it to say I’ve had three conversations with politically diverse folks who share some of the same anxieties.

But there’s one conversation in particular that struck me as needing to be addressed, so here ya go:

For at least two years, this friend of mine has been mentioning her desire to start storing extra food. For two years, she hasn’t started. And she hasn’t started because, once she starts looking up “food storage” on the internet, she gets overwhelmed with talk about grinding her own healthy grains, storing a gazillion gallons of water, how to sprout seeds at any time of year, making jerky in her oven, dehydrating a year’s harvest, constructing a canned-goods rotation system, making her own all-natural herbal tinctures, stockpiling veterinary antibiotics… You get the idea.

She hasn’t started because anything she could think of as a starting place seemed inadequate. Almost useless, even.

I took a little Google-toodle around and… Yes, the overwhelm is strong on this topic. My favorite was the three-month list that included adequate supplies for one person to bake bread.

Sorry–my family ain’t getting freshly baked bread in an emergency. We can do just fine without bread in a short-term emergency, and if it’s a long-term crisis, I just don’t see myself expending all that energy–and cooking fuel–to bake bread. YMMV.

Besides, most folks who want to store food don’t know how to bake bread anyway.

So here’s the list I gave my friend as a starting place:
5 lbs quick cooking oats
2 lbs sugar
10 lbs white rice (Yes, brown rice is nutrient-rich. It also takes a long time to cook.)
5 lbs. dried fruit
12 cans of beans (chili, baked, plain, etc.)
24 cans of fruit
24 cans of veggies
12 cans of meat (chicken, tuna, beef, etc.)
12 cans of soup/stew/ravioli type stuff
1 big bottle of olive oil
1 big jar of peanut butter
1 big bag hard candy and/or mini-chocolates
1 big container of Tang or Tang-ish drink mix
1-2 big box(es) of crackers
Assorted teas and/or instant coffee
Powdered milk
Multivitamin/calcium
20 gallons of water

If she had a pet, I’d add a month’s worth of pet food and water, too.

It’ll last one person about one month, or four people about a week.

A quick-n-dirty off-the-top-of-my-head calculation puts the cost at between $200 and $250, depending on brands and price differences–way too much for her to purchase all at once. So we broke the list down into eight segments, and prioritized the items according to her needs. We added a little Sterno cookstove and fuel, too.

Questions she asked:
What the heck am I going to do with two whole pounds of sugar?
Sweeten your tea/coffee and oatmeal. Mix it with some of the oats and peanut butter (heck, nutella, if you’d rather) for quick and filling no-bake “cookies.” You probably won’t use all the sugar, but sugar is cheap.

But those canned meal things are full of fat and salt!
And food. They are full of food.

What’s all that candy for?
When you’re stressed, and when the kids are cranky, treats are good. Very, very good.

That’s a lot of water!
Water is cheap, and water is priceless. Twenty gallons gives you a bit less than a gallon a day–well within average use, but not ideal. That’s why you’ll drink the juice from your canned fruits and use the liquid from canned veggies to supplement cooking rice. Water is also a pain in the rear to store, especially with limited space, so we do what we can.

***

My friend was thinking of food storage from the perspective of a more natural disaster–a bad snow storm that made roads impassible for days, floods or wildfires that limit supermarket restocking, that sort of thing.

To that, I’ll add the reason food storage is important to me: inflation and income insecurity. Not too many years ago, my food storage sometimes became my grocery store. What we ate that week came from what was stored under my bed. Sure, these days I can put a little cash aside, but what $20 will buy today is more than it’ll buy after six months of economic hardship. Storing the food makes more sense to me than storing the cash.

So there it is: a quick starting place that has nothing to do with suddenly living off the grid after a solar flare destroys the grid, causing global collapse that results in a landscape of crumbling infrastructure run by gun-toting looters riding mutant bison past zombie herds. It has everything to do with making sure you’re not hungry on the third day of a fixable power outage, and mega-everything to do with ensuring emergency response personnel can focus on those who can’t prepare for disasters.

And, yeah, it’s knowing you can still feed your kids if the next paycheck suddenly vaporizes.

 

Originally posted at These Certain Musings.  Comment here or there!

 

#SFWApro

Comfort and Joy

My favorite Christmas song is Good King Wenceslas — not because I believe the king’s footsteps were warmed by saintly goodness, but by the simple and achievable act of self-sacrifice and willingness to lead.

My second favorite is God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. — not because it so eloquently tells the tale of Christmas (which it does), but because comfort and joy are the two most marvelous things we can wish for one another.

As most of you know, Dev’s father passed away in the late spring of 2011. That first Christmas after was… difficult, but not so difficult as I’d feared. But it wasn’t fun or enjoyable, either. In retrospect, we were both still numb, going through the motions, and just hoping to put that first holiday behind us.

2012 was harder, actually. The determination to get through the holidays was replaced with the hope all would feel better, and really, it didn’t work out that way. His father’s absence was more acutely felt.

Then 2013 came along — the Christmas after my dearest friend and Dev’s godmother had died, and the first Christmas we wouldn’t share with our extended family who had all moved to Denver. That wasn’t fun. We did our best, and managed some happiness, but for the most part treated Christmas as Just Another Day.

But this year… We’re settled. Contented. We talked about his father, but it was with… I don’t know what to call it. It wasn’t painful grief or regret or longing. It was, I suppose, acceptance. And love. Sharing memories was no longer about sharing pain, but about the happiness of past caring and certainty. We both seem to understand the past will never stop hurting when remembered, but the hurt is to be treasured because it was born from love.

We opened presents. We laughed and we were thankful. We played with our new throwing knives, and spent time with each other just being quietly happy the other person was near.

And we took care of preparations for my parents and nephews. Parents arrive tomorrow; nephews arrive Monday. If we’re fortunate, we’ll have my sis and her partner on Tuesday. Eight people in my little house is a squeeze, but one I’ll gladly make.

So I wish you all the best of the holiday season — comfort, joy, contentment, understanding. In today’s world, I wonder if comfort is actually the most precious gift of all.

Pictures Because I Have Little Brain To Spare For Words

I’m revising. And teaching karate and overseeing Dev’s school and scheduling another visit from my folks and coordinating meetings and getting the rest of the garden in and battling ants that seem immune to anything and everything I’ve used to be rid of them before.  And it’s less than ten days to Wiscon!

Hence, pictures!

Gambit and Ty in front of my lovely lilac bush.

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Gambit wondering why Ty ran away when Mommy was saying, “Staaaaaaaaaay!” (Hint: rhymes with “funny.”)

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And the view from my front yard this morning.   The mustard bloomed suddenly on the riverside field. I’m guessing it’ll be mostly under water by late tomorrow, of forecasts are correct.

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