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Monday, May 3, 2021

Kermit Flail-- May!!!!!!!


Wow, did May get here quickly--and my dance card is sort of full! My oldest son is graduating from college (yay!) and my third child may graduate from high school. (Quarantine was rough on some of our students--if he can graduate we'll be super excited, but it might not happen until August.) I've got a couple of classes lined up to teach, and a couple of releases coming up, including the sequel to the Mastermind, all of which are happening in June!

But that's me--what YOU need are some stellar reads, and to that end, I've hit up some STELLAR writers--Andrew Grey, Dirk Grayson,  Kate McMurray, R.L. Merrill, and Andy Gallo all have new releases this month, and that deserves some celebration! Sizzling romance help us anticipate the hot summer months--what could be better, right?

So, folks, let's flail!

Let's start with Andy Gallo, who started out writing fantasy under Andrew Q Gordon but who is now writing contemporary--and doing a grand job of it! 

Better to Believe

by Andy Gallo 

Fall for your best friend’s brother, just don’t break his heart.

Coury Henderson has wanted to play professional baseball since he threw his first pitch. If he’s drafted, he’s off to Tiny Town, USA to earn his ticket to the majors. But a freak injury threatens to derail his dream. If that weren’t enough, his graduation is in jeopardy. Physical therapy might solve the first hurdle, but he’ll need a tutor who is aces in science to solve the second.

A tutor like Liam, his best friend’s little brother.

But when did Liam grow up to be such a hottie?

Liam Wright has crushed on his brother’s best friend since he was twelve. He jumps at the chance to tutor Coury and spend time alone together.

Not that anything could happen between them . . . as nice as Coury is to him, jocks don’t go for nerds.

So why does everything they do feel like a date?

"Better to Believe" is a best friend’s brother-to-lovers, nerd-jock, slow-burn M/M romance with a guaranteed HEA. This new adult, college age novel can be read as a standalone. The Harrison Campus series can be read in any order.

Buy Here

Next, we've got the FABULOUS Kate McMurray with a romance based on one of my favorite tropes--cats and dogs!

Like Cats and Dogs

by Kate McMurray

Can you fight like cats and dogs, and still be perfect for each other?

Things are getting ruff in this Brooklyn neighborhood when new veterinarian Caleb Fitch moves in next door to the Whitman Street Cat Cafe and gets on the wrong side of cafe owner Lauren Harlow. Lauren has a few things to teach the new vet on the block, and rescuing kittens is only the start…

Lauren can’t ignore the fact that she is instantly attracted to Caleb, but he gets her even more riled up when he argues with her about how best to treat the cats in her care. Determined to smooth things over, Caleb comes to the rescue when a new litter of abandoned kittens is left on Lauren’s doorstep, and they confront the fiery attraction that’s been building between them from the start. But saving the baby kittens is only the first challenge Lauren and Caleb have to face, and when a real estate developer comes sniffing around their block, they’ll have to work together, or risk losing everything…

Buy Here

Woohoo!  And next, we have Andrew Grey and his dashing alter-ego, Dirk Greyson, who each have a recent release!

Fate's Attraction

by Dirk Greyson

Even a wolf shifter can’t defeat fate.

Vladimir Corelia is the second son of the pack alpha. He’s happy with his role in the pack, but it seems the fates have other ideas. When the man he finds living in a cave, caring for a shifter baby and a litter of wolf pups, turns out to be his mate, it begins a chain of events that puts the whole pack in jeopardy.

Frankie Bowers can’t remember anything except a powerful sense of danger. He only knows he can’t go home. With no way to defend himself, he has to rely on Vladimir, a perfect stranger who happens to be his mate, to protect him and the young he’s looking after.

While Vladimir and Frankie’s attraction as mates grows stronger every day, so does the threat to their relationship—and to the pack. As Frankie regains his memory, the threat grows more and more ominous. Vladimir and Frankie must rise to the challenge if they hope to have any chance at the future the fates might have in store.

Heavy Lifting

by Andrew Grey

Would-be journalist Reg Applewhite is a slight, geeky guy who knows from high school experience that he’s the perfect size to be shoved into a locker. He writes for his sister’s fashion and gossip blogs and is very understandably reluctant when assigned to cover a local bodybuilding competition for material.

Jack Ponte is a physical god, with a perfect body, poise, and intense eyes. But it’s his grace that captures Reg’s attention, and when Reg asks for an interview, Jack agrees. After all, he’s looking for a life after bodybuilding, and Reg’s blogs offer a chance at something less fleeting.

During the interview, they discover mutual interests in fashion and video games that lead to friendship and deeper feelings neither expects. Reg finds it hard to believe that a god-man like Jack would see anything in him, and Jack is just as shocked when Reg seems to see beyond his looks to the person inside. But there is a price to pay for everything, and Jack draws the kind of unwanted attention that could threaten to pull them apart… or worse. Together they need to figure out a way to lift each other up and push through the challenges.


And last--but CERTAINLY not least is our lovely Ro, R.L. Merrill, who has a Sherif meets tree-trimmer story that has, as is her trademark, the heart of rock and roll.

You Fell First

R. L. Merrill

Things get dirty when a deputy saves a tree trimmer, and sweet when she turns out to be exactly what he needs.

A deputy sheriff and a tree trimmer meet during storm cleanup on a treacherous road and literally fall for each other in the line of duty. Calvin wants to explore their connection and Flor is game. Then things get sticky when his hard-earned sobriety is threatened and her pride is bruised. Their chemistry can’t be ignored, but can they get past their personal obstacles? It’ll take some getting dirty to get to the sweet in this story of broken hearts and fresh starts.

And finally...

Every May, I participate in a fundraiser during which I donate a portion of my proceeds--usually from specific books-- to the Keith Milano Memorial Fund for suicide prevention and the promotion of mental health. This cause means a great deal to me, and I usually donate money from books that at least touch on the theme of mental health awareness. 

This year is no different, and because Dane--a character who is introduced in Winter Ball but who gets his own story in  Fall Through Spring--is struggling with bipolar disorder, I thought it would be appropriate to donate a part of my proceeds from any book int his series sold in May. If you've read it, thank you--I know Dane's story wasn't easy. But if you haven't, you may want to check it out. The guys in this series are a mix of working and middle class, and, in the words of one of the people who got me my start in this business, feature guys working shit out. 

I've always found that the most charming part of falling in love.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Sick Day

 "Mom, I'm sick."

"Are you sure it's not allergies?"

"My throat hurts."

"Mine gets scratchy in the morning."

"Feel my head."

"I'm sorry, honey, but you feel normal."

"But my body hurts."

"Is this because you have to go to school?"

"No! I feel sick!"

"Okay--take some ibuprofen and try to get some sleep."

The Next Day:

"Do I need to go get them?"

"No, they were sick. I let them sleep."

"Okay--well, if they passed YOUR sick test, they MUST be sick."

"Don't look at me! I just didn't want to yell!"

"Sure, Mate. Fine. Whatever. They're not sick. It's fine."

... Can you all guess what's coming? I bet you can.

We were not sure Squish was sick or not--I admit to some skepticism on my part, but if Mate gave in, he must have felt something was wrong, so, well, yeah. We let them stay home.

And last night, I felt sort of icky.

This morning, I did not even bother to get dressed. I put on a bra--because underboob sweat is the worst when you feel like crap--but yeah. Pajamas and slouchy clothes and lots and lots of knitting, and feeling punky and like I could sleep all day and I didn't even care.

Squish really was sick. And then they brought it home to me. And I have been masquerading as furniture all day, the ruse made even more effective by my fashionable fabric printed paisley pajama bottoms.

And when I got to sleep, I can vouch for no contributions to the world on this day other than converting oxygen to C02. 

Somewhere out there, a plant is really super happy my meat sack was still functioning today. Otherwise, Mate is a little miffed that on a day none of us were moving, the cupboard was full of his favorite cookies, purchased yesterday when I dragged my sorry carcass to the grocery story on the pretense it was an ordinary weekend and I needed to get my chores done.

Today, I barely cooked dinner. And the cupboard WAS full of cookies--notice how WAS--past tense--is the operative word there?

Tomorrow I hope for more movement--the dogs really did miss their walk, although they certainly enjoyed all their time camping out on the obliging furniture.

The furniture was just fine with that. It was the only function it could manage. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Human Stories

 So, as I've mentioned, my mother (not to be confused with my stepmom, who I am usually praising on my blog) lives in an adult care home for the mentally ill. With the onset of the pandemic, I wasn't really able to visit her--but I've always been pretty good at sending her things. She's read every book I've put out, actually--although her grasp of them is a little thin. ("Oh honey--that book about the boys who just wanted to play was so funny! Why didn't they just let them play! That was so weird!" for the records, she was reading the Locker Room.)

Anyway-- I've been sending her letters this last year--sometimes one a week, sometimes one a month--and usually a little gift of some sort. Most lately it was some Bath & Bodywork samples and a little pencil case from Michael's, with a guinea pig-acorn on the front. 

Today, however, I was determined to see her. Mate and I had our shots--I was pretty sure her group home would have been one of the first ones vaccinated, given that the residents would NOT be okay with a face covering and many of them are elderly (and heavy smokers!) and it was time to go see her face to face.

First thing, I went to her room (she has a roommate--this is always tricky, because severely schizophrenic people with roommates seem to blame everything on their roommate. Everything. She's blamed her roommate--not always the same person--on everything from COVID to stray cats to God. God is bad--he doesn't let her watch the FOX News. I think that's proof that God is GOOD, but don't get me started there.) 

So I walk in, and I'm wearing a mask, because... *flails* We've been wearing a mask out in public for a YEAR and even if I'm vaccinated now, it protects other people and, well, it shows them that I respect their health. It's a whole thing. It's taken over Twitter and FB several times now. WEAR A MASK. But as I enter, she doesn't give me a second glance. 

"Uh, whatcha doin', Lex?" 

"Fixing my bed," she tells me. She is, in fact, making the bed from the ground up, so I stand back and watch her for a few moments. 

"Good to see you," I say.

She gives me a suspicious look and narrows her eyes--there is no recognition. ZERO recognition. Da nada. I am a stranger in her room, with a mask and a coffee drink, because I always bring her a coffee drink--it's not something she can get to easily from a walking distance. 

"Hi," I say, tentatively, and then I gave it up. I took off the mask. My liberalness was not going to mean a damn thing to her--but she did want to see my face.

Her entire face lit up. It's been over a year, although I made solid attempts to see her for her birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. (Their phone system is the SUCK--there is no way I can get hold of people before I stop by. I brought her an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a little carry out bag, and they told me she'd get to eat it.)

So we tried again. I gave her the coffee drink--and she LOVED it. ("This is DELICIOUS!" she said after wiping it out in one gulp. I told her next time I'd get a large.) And we looked at the letters.

All over--the wall was papered with the letters I'd sent her over the last year. The letters had pictures of the kids, pictures of us--and pictures of the animals. Like most of us, telling animal stories was my happy place. The kids weren't doing okay, Mate and I were trying not to spiral, but by golly, the animals were hilarious, and they made it into the letter.

So I took her outside to finish the rest of the coffee drink and we sat for a little while. I pulled out my phone and showed her more pictures--and this time, she lit up again and broke my heart. 

"Aw," she said, looking at the phone. "Nebula."

"Yes!" I told her the face eating story--it hadn't made it into the letter yet. Then I showed her another picture.

"Geoffie!" she said, like this was her dog. "The cutest dog in the world!"

"Yes!" I pulled out my knitting as I showed her other pictures.

"Dewey--you shaved him. He's not happy. ZoomBoy! Look how tall!"

And so on. And then she looked at me and said, "Look at what you're knitting!" (Crocheting, actually, but at this point I don't quibble. It's all yarn.)

"Yeah. Just a granny-triangle shawl. Simple knitting."

"I got the one you sent me. Did you see it in my room? I put it on my table! That one's prettier."

And so on. It was a short visit--she's usually only really happy for about ten minutes anyway. But it was a good ten minutes.

And after a year of sending letters into the void and getting--well, science fiction back, because what else would you classify, "God won't let us watch FOX News," and "Good to see you last weekend at that house party with the elephants!" (Not. Kidding.) it was nice to know that some part of being human, of living the same human story, had connected.

My bio-mom has always loved cats--even the big no-necked jungle escapee that used to haunt the gardens outside her group home and eat chickens. "Yeah, honey--he's a real motherfucker." I haven't lived with her since I was six years old, and it's not always easy to keep up a relationship with someone who writes you letters about weekends with your father when they've been divorced for 47 years and haven't seen each other since your wedding.  But I love cats too, and small dogs, and having animals in my home has never, ever been in question. And I get that from her (and my dad and stepmom too!) but cats, especially, from bio-mom. And it's good to know that we still have a language for human communication.

Even if it's not human at all. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

And Back in Bed...

 This morning, Nebula was eating my face.

You heard that right.

Every morning, about seven--which is an hour before I get up--the cat bounds in with wet paws. Could be dew from his morning excursion, or it could be water from the dog bowl--we'll never know. He purrs, he sticks his head under my hand, and he drools.

On my face.

I am mostly asleep at this point--maybe ninety percent.

So he licks the drool off. And licks and licks and licks. And I can sense the hunger stirring within... so delicious. Good human. Much salt. Wonderful human. I loves it... I loves it... I want to--

"No," I mumble, moving my head. "No bitting."

So he starts licking again. Good human. So tasty. Wonderful human. Mmmm... I loves it... I want to... I want to...


I want to... I want to... I want to...

"Knock it off."

Please let me... please... oh, it tastes so good... so very good...

And today, my husband whispers, threatening as a troll. "Stop. Eating. People."

No! You taste delicious!

And then he bit my nose.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Saddest Dog in the World

 Last night at 2:00 a.m., in a suburban neighborhood northeast of Sacramento, California, the following happened.

A woman--large, squishy, middle-age-ish, climbs into the king-sized bed she shares with her spouse of 34 years, and immediately realizes something is missing.

"Mate," she says hesitantly, "Where's the fuckin' dogs?"

"Wha?" he replies.

"Why are there no dogs in this bed?"

"I dunno. Geoffie! Get up here!"

There is excited wagging, scrabbling, and some whining at the base of the bed, and then, in a desperately brave leap, the 10 lb potato with fur scrabbles for safe purchase on a veritable sea of cotton bedspread. 

"That's my baby," the woman croons, and the potato proceeds to lick her face in the dark before disappearing under the covers. "Where's the other one?" the woman asks her spouse.

"I don't know," he responds, sounding puzzled. "Johnnie? Johnnie?"

From under the bed, there is heard a pathetic whine.

"Johnnie? Come here, boy. Come on!" the woman cries, desperate to get to sleep.

The dog is heard whining below the bed, playing a terrible game of "the floor is lava" as he attempts to gain access to the mattress by no pathway that makes sense.

"What's he doing?" the woman asks.

"He's not coming up any of the ways there's something to step on," her husband replies. "It's like..." He gets out his phone and shines some light on the situation. "OH."


"There is a cat."


They sit in silence for a moment, contemplating the dilemma. And then the woman--an insensitive broad by all accounts, starts calling, "Here, Johnnie--c'mon, grow a sac and get the hell up here!"

And the man, easily led, joins her in her terrible dare. "Johnnie, come on! Come on, Johnnie! You can make it! She won't get you!"

Together the beg, plead, and desperately urge the poor animal into a colossal act of bravery. With a whine and a scurry, he scrabbles his way to the top of the mattress, to be greeted like the hero he is.

"Good boy, Johnnie--good boy! You didn't let that terrible cat get you, right? You're such a good boy! We love you baby! Come on, get under the covers! Good dog! Such a good dog!"

The dog slinks into his place of nighttime repose, at the feet of the people who asked him to risk almost certain death at the claws of the Terrible Cat.

He was, indeed, the Saddest Dog in all the World.

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Modest Little Flail--April!


So I've said this before--I'm not the most responsible of flailers. I do not, as it were, go out and flog for my flails--usually people just sort of ask me as the month progresses, and by Sunday night when I'm putting together my Kermit Flail, BOOM! There it is. But this month has been busy and event filled for a lot of people, so I only have a couple of books to flail--and I'll admit it, one of them I'm just flailing because I'm personally excited about it and not because somebody asked me to flail. A sort of kidnap-flail, I guess you could say.

But that doesn't mean it's not fantastic. 

So let's start with one of my favorite flailers of all time, the lovely and adorable (and multi-award nominated!) Ms. E.J. Russell, who has a brand new story for us to enjoy. As usual it's a quirky romp of magic, sweetness, and love.

Purgatory Playhouse

A Magic Emporium novel

By E.J. Russell

Staging a musical in Purgatory can be absolute hell.

Lonnie Coleridge last saw the sun in 1968. Since then, he’s been consigned to Limbo, still wearing the same tie-dyed T-shirt and bell-bottomed jeans he had on when he left his life behind. He and others like him have one chance each year at redemption: produce a show for the Greek pantheon. Whoever pleases this very specific—and temperamental—fan group could earn the right to move on.

But after a literal act of god (*cough* Hermes *cough*) destroys their sets, lights, and costumes, the company needs emergency help to rebuild. Without it, all of them could poof out of existence forever.

Out-of-work theater technician TD Baylor has precisely three things on his cosmic wish list: a job, a place to stay, and a boyfriend who isn’t a total tool. He thinks he’s got the first two nailed when he gets a line on a two-week gig that includes room and board. So what if the job tip came from a guy who was leaning way too hard into the LOTR cosplay at a sketchy Halloween pop-up? At this point, TD doesn’t have anything more to lose, so he figures…what the hell.

He didn’t realize hell was the operative word.

When Lonnie greets him at the theater door, though...whoa. TD fantasizes that item number three could be within his reach. But then Lonnie gives him the bad news: This is Purgatory Playhouse, aka Theater of the Darned. In two weeks—if they’re lucky and can successfully mount a musical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—the company will return to Limbo after the curtain falls. If they’re not lucky?

Remember that part about hell?

Purgatory Playhouse is part of the multi-author Magic Emporium Series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone’s in dire need. This book contains a theater techie who’s one couch surf away from homeless, a production assistant who’s sort of, um, not alive, Greek gods behaving very badly indeed, and a guaranteed HEA.

Amazon/Kindle Unlimited

This next one I'm featuring simply because I'm so thrilled to read it. Nobody needs an introduction to Mary Calmes--she's the defining voice of this genre, and a new book from her is cause for celebration. So here we have not just a Mary story, but a Mary werewolf story, and it looks so delicious I could eat it like steak. Come check out Muscle and Bone by Mary Calmes.

Muscle and Bone

by Mary Calmes

You belong to me and I know it down deep, in muscle and bone, where my wolf lives.
Avery Rhine isn’t an average homicide detective with the Chicago PD. In fact, Avery isn’t an average anything. Sure, as an omega he knows he’s at the bottom of the food chain, but that’s never slowed him down. He’s got a great life, complete with a loving family and a best friend who’d take a bullet for him, so what more could he possibly want or need? Except, maybe, for the world to change. And to find someone to spend more than one night with, but that isn’t high on his list of priorities. He’s never been one to believe in destiny or whatever else the fantasies sell about there being someone special out there meant just for him.

Then a chance encounter at a party changes everything.

Graeme Davenport has no delusions about finding his true mate. The consensus is that if an alpha doesn’t find their other half by the time they’re thirty, the chances of it ever happening go from slim to none. He’s not a mere alpha, though; Graeme is a cyne who sits at the pinnacle of lupine hierarchy, so he’s obligated by tradition and duty to choose an omega now, sign a contract, and bond with him. Love is not part of the equation.

When Graeme and Avery meet, their fierce attraction to each other flies in the face of reason and logic. Avery’s intense physical reaction to the alpha is something he’s never experienced before, while Graeme, who has always been the soul of discretion, loses all his inhibitions to desire for the man he wants to possess. They are two very different men trying to navigate expectations, separate reason from innate primal drive, and do it while working together to solve a murder.

It will take everything they are to find a middle ground, and to learn to trust in a fated kind of love.

And this last one is my own book to flail, and yes. I'm super excited about it. I mean, I say that a lot--probably because the books live inside my own head a lot--but this book is going out in mass market paperback, along with the entire rest of the series of seven, three of which I've finished. I love this series and this concept--it's high class Robin Hood, it's Leverage and Ocean's 11 with fabulous gay heroes. It's escapism and exciting escapades and true love and a family of thieves, conmen, and mercenaries who will hopefully melt your heart. 

It's the first book of the Long Con series, and you guys, I hope you LOVE it!

The Mastermind

Book 1: The Long Con

by Amy Lane 

Once upon a time in Rome, Felix Salinger got caught picking his first pocket and Danny Mitchell saved his bacon. The two of them were inseparable… until they weren’t.

Twenty years after that first meeting, Danny returns to Chicago, the city he shared with Felix and their perfect, secret family, to save him again. Felix’s news network—the business that broke them apart—is under fire from an unscrupulous employee pointing the finger at Felix. An official investigation could topple their house of cards. The only way to prove Felix is innocent is to pull off their biggest con yet.

But though Felix still has the gift of grift, his reunion with Danny is bittersweet. Their ten-year separation left holes in their hearts that no amount of stolen property can fill. A green crew of young thieves looks to them for guidance as they negotiate old jewels and new threats to pull off the perfect heist—but the hardest job is proving that love is the only thing of value they’ve ever had.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

All the Pretty Changes

I've made no secret about my children having a rough year. My pictures from last year at this time--Easter, Squish's birthday--mark a year in captivity, as it were, imprisoned by pandemic fear, depressed by a scary world. And while some things have gotten better, some things are getting better, and--you've all probably noticed--I've chosen to let my children do the most painful parts of their growing up this year unobserved. 

They are old enough to have a say in their privacy.

ZoomBoy still likes being on the blog and on FB--he's still enamored with making people laugh. Squish is much more private, and they have come out in various ways this year, and doing that without strangers observing is an unalienable right. 

But that doesn't mean I'm not going to celebrate their birthday.

Because my child got up early (for a weekend!) to bake a cake with their father, and that was part of their birthday celebration and that says so many good things about their character. They appreciated all their gifts--including the dorky ones mom gave--and we sat and watched My Little Pony and the Muppets and ate takeout and this beautiful homemade cake.

So while some things are private and should remain so, I think I'm safe to tell the world that I still love my dessert baby. They are still the sweetest, and they still fill me with deep delight.

Thank you, honey, for letting us share your special day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021


 Not too much going on lately--it's been quiet in a good way. But I do have a few conversations for you:


Often, after I drive to the park, walk the dogs around the park and surrounding neighborhoods, and start the drive home, I will see Mate, who walks the extra three miles to and from the park. This spawned the following moments:

Me to Squish: Keep an eye out for your father as we drive by.

Squish: Why? So we can wave?

Me: No.

Squish: So we can taunt him? Neener-neener-neener, we're driving and you're not?

Me: Even worse.

Squish: What's worse?'

Me: We can offer him a ride home and he can face the dilemma--keep walking when he really hates exercise as much as I do, or accept the ride home and walk the rest of his steps around the house during television tonight. He hates that.

Squish: Woohoo! Where's dad! 


Me: Hello, stranger.

Mate: Hey--I just started out, so no ride home.

Me: Too bad. 

Mate: You're running late today--I thought you'd be home before I left.

Me: Well, the soccer field was empty so I took the dogs off lead and let them wander around and roll around. 

Mate: Nice.

Me: Not so much--apparently Geoffie thought it was a buffet.

Mate: *takes a step back from Geoffie who has been licking his nose through the open window* So...

Me: So yeah--it could be a leftover sandwich or it could be dog poop--what's her breath smell like.

Mate: Nice.

Me: Sorry.

And don't forget the arrival home. Usually my routine is to start the coffee, set up the ice, start the oatmeal, feed the dogs  wet food, and then run to take a shower. Today, I stopped by my desk to take off my shoes when ZoomBoy wanders in.

ZB: How long does it take to microwave leftover mac and cheese?

Me: How much?

ZB: *holds up a bowl*

Me: A minute and a half.

ZB: Oh! Here's your oatmeal. *walks into the living room and hands me a bowl*

Me: Thanks. *mimes licking the oatmeal out of the bowl*

ZB: What?

Me: *mimes some more*

ZB: What are you doing?

Me: *shows him the full bowl again and then does my dog impression again*

ZB: Wait... do you need a spoon?

Me: *nods*

I finally make it to shower and when I get out, Mate's here. 

Mate: You're only getting your coffee now?

Me: Well, ZB wanted to serve me breakfast at my desk, but he couldn't remember the important stuff.

Mate: You don't eat until after you shower?

Me: A spoon. Are you kidding? He wanted to have a meal with me--I would have eaten in a towel if that had been a requirement.

Mate: As long as you had a spoon.

Me: *nods*

So there we go-- the family at slightly normal function. Let's hear it for sunshine and school.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Just in Time for Spring Break

 So Mate and I both got our first shots--ftr (because everybody asks?) I got Pfizer, he got Moderna, and he's been sleepy, bitchy, and achy for the last two days. I on the other hand have been just fine. Not that I'm not grateful--I mean, I had menopause during a pandemic, so I got to be some of the seven dwarves too, but it is a little disconcerting. 

Now what?

Well, first of all, the kids are going back to school part time. For a week. Then, after a week's worth of vacation to recover, they're going back for the rest of the year.

This is bringing about mixed emotions. 

OTOH--Yay! People!

OTOH--EWW! People!

OTOH--Yay! We have something to do today!

OTOH--We have to wake up WHEN?

OTOH--My children are going to school!

OTOH--So... CAN ZB graduate, or, uhm, is he going to be a super-senior next year, because right now, he is several units shy.

OTOH--So... uhm, Squish has undergone some changes this year. How is that going to mesh with her classmates? What about both kids' psych appointments? Will Prozac work like Concerta for ZB? WILL THE ENTIRE FAMILY REMEMBER HOW TO HUMAN?

Also... I, uhm, suppose I should stop putting off getting my Real ID if I'm going to travel in 2022, right?

And there's always, "Oh God--did I forget the dog's appointments AGAIN????"

And now add, "Okay--the Magnificent Floof is going to need a hygiene shave."

And somewhere in there is, "I'm getting close to averaging 5,500 steps a day. Am I going be be able to push it to 6,000 before the heat hits?"

And there's always, "Does my uniform change?"

Oh--and, "Hey--is one of my adult children really moving back into the spare room that's filled to the gills with crap right now? Shit. Is that happening in MAY?"

*breathe* *breathe* *breathe* 

Well, in my last blog I talked about how I was finally getting to the place where I was coming up from air. And now, apparently real life has crashed above our little personal lake and is showering debris on us as we tread water.

It's okay though--we're a lot closer to being able to swim to shore. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

We're All Gonna Remember It Anyway

 I didn't want to talk about this because we can all finally see daylight--but somehow I have to.

As a country, we probably have to.

In January of last year, Mate went back east to see his father before his father passed. He came home and about a week later, I got sick. It felt like a normal bout of the flu, except for the coughing. Not productive, just incessant. I would wake up after coughing for two hours trying to get what felt like the last corner of phlegm from my lungs. I would finally go sleep sitting up in a chair, taking ibuprofen to soothe the ravages in my throat from trying to cough. 

I was tired--tired enough that cancelling my trip to Florida in February felt like the right move. Our finances were healing and I was still barely waddling around the block. 

And Mate started talking about the virus. He followed the news much more than I did a year ago--he was concerned. And I... I did what much of the rest of the country did. 

I thought to myself, "Well, if it was really bad, someone would do something. I mean I know THAT asshole is too stupid or self-involved, but there's safeguards, right?"

The Wednesday night before California went into lockdown, Mate and I were at a Fitz and the Tantrums concert. It was a smallish venue--Ace of Spades--and the concert was great. As we were there, in line (and thinking about being in line, without a mask, in a crowd, when our breath was puffing out in big clouds of white is horrifying right now) we got news that the King's Arena had cleared out while it was being seated for a basketball game. Two players from the other team had tested positive, and Sacramento was not playing.

I was scheduled to go on a trip on March 17th--and I wasn't sure if it was going to be canceled or not. To prep, I went and got my hair cut and my toes done, and then I went to eat at one of those sushi places where the sushi is carried around on conveyor belts. I was there, and Mate texted me, "Where are you?"

I told him, and he texted, "Shit--gotta make a U-ee."  He was passing where I was. He'd been sent home from work, and we both picked up the kids who'd been told that they wouldn't be going to school for the next couple of weeks.

And that was it.

Our world stopped.

Suddenly it was us, on the internet, with the people in our lives, going, "What do we do now?"

And our Federal government was doing... nothing.


And it was starting to drive me insane.

I found a website that reported COVID statistics and I checked it compulsively. I'm down to hitting refresh twice a day, but for a while I was checking it on the hour. It wasn't that I wanted people to be sick, or dying. It was that OUR WORLD HAD STOPPED, and nobody in power seemed to care. I wanted proof that I was not insane for wearing a mask to the store. Proof that we had pulled our children out of school for a reason. Proof that the thing the politicians (except for our governor and a couple of others) was real. 

We've all seen the Twitter posts after that, the memes, the articles on mental health. Watching my teenagers spiral into depression is something I don't... I can't talk about. Not now. And part of that is that it took place in our bubble, our house, a place none of us could escape from. And part of it was that they pulled me with them, and while I was able to claw myself out for air now and then, I was so worried, for so long, I'm still not okay. 

I will forever remember this last August and September as a time we wondered, everyday, if we would be able to breathe.

But I remember other moments, when my, "I'm Mom, I've got this," slipped completely. Mate and I usually take turns losing our shit on each other, and we did this year in ways I'd forgotten we'd learned when the kids were in diapers. But these were times when I couldn't pick myself up. Couldn't function until I remembered to breathe, and he had to remind me of what was real.

*  We drove to a park to walk the dogs and the parking lot was barred shut. This was early on in the pandemic, before it was widely known (and may Trump's nose fall off from syphilis for this) that it was airborne.Walking the dogs was--is--my touchstone. It's my meditation. In the past year it's become my passage back to reading, because I'm listening to audiobooks and have RIPPED through some of my favorite authors. It's my music time, when I need to let my mind wander. I've even listened to podcasts, and I never thought I'd be the type. But before that happened, we drove by the park and found it locked, and I pulled to the side of the road and sobbed.

And then we drove to another park that was tucked behind a neighborhood, so parking was on the street and you just walked right in, and we kept walking. 

But first, I saw this simple thing taken away from me, and I just fucking couldn't.

* Christmas, and we were ordering everybody's presents and some people were saying fuck it and going out shopping anyway and I was looking at COVID statistics and we were DYING BY THE THOUSANDS. Three-thousand people a day. That was a 9/11 a day. Sometimes more. Rarely less. And I couldn't find pajamas for my kids because EVERYBODY WAS WEARING PAJAMAS and...

Mate found me crocheting one of those fucking octopus hats for my children and sobbing because I couldn't find pajamas on my phone and had to calm me down. I'm not proud of that--but I don't see how I could have avoided it either. The kids were so depressed--ZoomBoy had lost so much weight, Squish was practically not speaking to us they were so catatonic with dread--and I was trying to hold it all together and NOTHING WAS HOLDING. Nothing was holding together. Nothing. 

Not even Christmas, when Mate and I were supposed to be Santa Claus and we were barely his drunk nephew, Barry Claus. 

Christmas came, and the hats were finished, and the kids were okay and everybody got pajamas--but that terrible, panicky realization that I couldn't fix it--I hadn't been able to fix it for much of a year--is going to natter at my peace for much of the rest of my life.

* February. February is such a shitty time for me anyway. I don't remember it being bad when I was a kid but as an adult, I remember entire Februaries where between the kids being sick and Mate and I being sick and teacher's meetings--I may as well have just bailed on teaching entirely. More recently it's been the end of the lonely sad time when I haven't spoken to my friends cross country in too long a period, and I am feeling adrift and lost in the world, because there's maybe three people besides Mate who speak fluent Amy and they're all busy until March. 

This February the country was recovering--recovering from the fascist government, from the insurrection, from our rage-and-twitter addiction. And then Chicken's cat died. And the cat started seizing when I was driving them to the vet so Chicken could have her put down. 

And Chicken didn't take it well, and I was Mom. I was the best Mom I could be. I was strong and compassionate, and I ran interference for her as she came unglued on pretty much everyone and I comforted her the best I could.

And then--AMA (Against Motherly Advice) she adopted a cat a week later and returned him two days after that because it was too goddamned soon.

And Mate said, "Yeah, I've got to take her to the SPCA to return this cat, dammit," and I... went to bed and cried. He saw my eyes welling, and I was like, "I can't. I...I can't. I just can't."

To my shame, there were other times I said this--talks with shrinks, moments with the kids--but this was the time I felt my entire body shutting down. I fled, in tears. 

I just couldn't.

Which is the familiar thread in all these stories. The painful nugget I gleaned. I never deluded myself that I could do it all. I never even deluded myself that I was a great mother. But I always thought trying counted for something and my entire life, I'd never quit trying anything. I'd done it. Maybe not pretty and maybe not perfect, but by fuck, I'd gotten it done, right?

But this year I discovered that fighting sadness is insidious when the entire world is fighting it too. I discovered that there were times I was as vulnerable as my children and I really could be left without reserves to fix myself and fix them too. 

I felt a stuttering in my try, and at my age, it was a terrifying thing to discover I could blow that gasket, and leak out all my fuel into the void.

Spring has returned--it's rained, and I feel cold blue-sky hope right now. Hopefully we all do. We no longer feel abandoned by our government (although people still piss us off) and I'm mildly cheered to see that the people I loved and respected at the beginning of this are still the people I love and respect now. 

And my HMO wants me to come get my shot (because apparently I'm a giant comorbidity, go figure) and I'm okay with that--hopeful even. My children might be able to see their friends before summer. 

But I'm not going to forget. None of us should. There was a time when our government let us down and we were all alone, and sometimes all we had were the things that kept us going in our home.

And when those things broke, we were broken too.

We need to remember this because we need to forgive other people when it happens to them. We need to remember how fragile we all are. We need to remember our world relies on the human ties we use to prop it up, and when those are strained, our houses threaten to topple. 

We need to help other people keep their houses strong so ours can be strong too.

We're all going to remember this last year anyway. We need to remember the times our hearts failed us--so we know it can happen. More happiness fuel can help--but so can a quieter engine. Smaller expectations. Bigger celebrations of the small things. 

My youngest child's birthday is coming on the third of April. We celebrated their birthday in quarantine last year, and they still might not be in school this year. 

We need to bake a cake and celebrate anyway. 

I know I am thrilled I have this person in my life to celebrate. If that is the only reason for takeout and cake, then that is good enough for me.