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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Mate's Hat

 This is Mate. He is wearing the new hat I made him.

The new hat is a wee bit too small, and made of alpaca, so it's not very stretchy. I got the hat wet and put it on Mate's head so it could stretch just big enough to fit Mate's head.

Mate does not like wet hats.

Watch with me, as Mate performs the dance I have entitled, "Death Throes of the Velociraptor" to express his displeasure of wearing a wet hat.

This has been our presentation of "Death Throes of the Velociraptor". Remember, knitters, stranded knitting makes things smaller. Much, much, smaller. 

Thank you, and good night.

Pet Language

 I think when my family looks back on the pandemic, we will remember our pets the most.

We float around the house, afraid of too much contact. If we make too much contact we'll rub each other the wrong way, and we MUST NOT DO THAT because we're STUCK here in the same place, without access to face to face with anybody else on a regular basis.

We love each other. We don't want to hurt each other.

So when we talk, we don't talk about our FEELINGS or our WORRIES or even politics. Mate and I talk politics-- we know that if we have a disagreement we can explain to the other one and we're generally of the same of thinking, so we know we can be candid. But my children were born in cancel culture--and Mate and I are afraid of being cancelled. Not now, when everyone's so fragile. Not now when they might really need us in spite of our dunderheaded slowness in adjusting to social media progressive values. So we don't talk politics to the teenagers unless they talk about it first. We don't tell the teenagers when something they do or say hurts our feelings, cuts us to the bone. 

We don't get feelings in a pandemic. We don't get to go find a friend and pour our hearts out over the phone--what if the teenagers can hear us?

We must be accessible at all times. 

And Goddess--everything else is so forbidden.

We have to find something to talk about.

We study our pets like bibles. 

"Your cat was such a freak!"

"Well, Mom, if you didn't want him to be a freak you shouldn't have spoiled him rotten!"

And unspoken in that is the reply, "I have nothing to offer you, my child. Your cat gets the best white trash soft food money can buy."

"How does it feel, Mom, to know the dogs worship your?"

"Well, I am a goddess!"

And the unspoken part is still there. "I can't disappoint them. Food, naps, walks--I know the key to their behavior. I'll do that forever, because the dogs I can make happy, but for you, my baby, I am at a loss."

And our glimmer of hope is that, now that everybody knows the pet language, when our children achieve adulthood, it is still there. Our crutch, our touchstone, our way to be a family when the things in our hearts are at their hardest.

"Mom, I can't help it. I'm looking up French Bulldogs on the internet."

"They're hugely expensive!"

"I know."

"And your apartment may be able to take another cat, but it can't take another dog."

"I know."

And I think, "Maybe, my darling, it's too soon. Maybe your heart can't take another cat, and you're looking at Frenchies for hope, but not for real."

And my grown child says, "It's too soon for me to get another cat. I think this is just taking up all my worry energy now that the other one has passed."

And I cry in relief because in the middle of all the pet language, we have taught each other to say something real. 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Kissing Your Mirror

 I think people need mirrors.

Not the glass things that show us our wrinkles, but people we love and respect and would do anything for who give us a vision of the person we are becoming.

But you have to pick your mirror carefully. It has to be someone who is fundamentally decent, and someone you respect for all their good qualities, and understand where the not so desirable qualities come from so you can work with them.

I have known people who have lived alone for too long a time and whose blind spots about themselves (and yes, we all have them) are made worse by not having a mirror to look into. I had one friend who got married for the first time very late in life, and watching her become more tolerant of other people's foibles and failings was a genuinely heartwarming thing. In return, her beloved became more aware that his actions had consequences for the people around him--together, these two people brought out the best of each other. 

That's what a good mirror--be it roommate, lover, sibling, best friend--can do for you. 

Make you better.

So, 34 years ago today I had a fever and called in sick for work. I had just started dating this REALLY awesome guy--bright blue eyes, deep voice, 5'10 and 120 soaking wet. I was crazy about him. I was so crazy about him that in spite of feeling like hell, I made his favorite cookie--shortbread--and drove from Sacramento to Auburn (which isn't a short distance with a fever of 103) to give him his cookies at work. I almost got fired--but it was worth it.

The next day he broke up with me because when you're nineteen years old that kind of wild eyed fanatacism is TERRIFYING. 

Eventually I learned to tone down the wilding emotional wellspring that was my obnoxiousness, and he learned that showing your feelings wasn't bad. We got back together, we moved in together, we got married, we had kids, and this morning we were talking about random things, like we do.

I told him that a colleague had given me a stunning compliment--she'd said that my sense of humor was sideways, sly, it snuck into the most painful scenes in my stories and caught the reader unaware.

I was so pleased--I love this sense of humor. I think my Mate is really good at it.

He gave me a sort of odd look. "So, did, uhm, you get that from me?" He sounded doubtful.

"No," I said, thinking about it. "I think I've always had that sense of humor. But I think my humor has gotten more humane because of you. When I was much younger, I had a mean Scottish sense of humor--an Ed and Peg Bundy sense of humor. It's... not kind, and I don't think I would have liked the person with that eye for laughter if I hadn't met you."

He said, "I wouldn't have found nearly so many things funny if I hadn't met you."

And I realized that this 34 experiment in finding my mirror--the person who brought out the best in me, who helped me control my temper and my wilding (sometimes) and who reminded me how to look at the world with kindness--has been somewhat successful.

I know that Valentine's Day can seem like a made up holiday, a hokey reminder that sometimes our emotions are expected to be performance art and we can be judged harshly if our performance is hindered by things like human failings, or awkwardness, or fevers.

But this year it reminded me that the person I married is one of the best people I know, and I should kiss him way more often.

Happy eat chocolate if you want to and indulge in your favorite book day. 

May we all be fortunate enough to be able to kiss our best mirror, at least once in our lives. Being our best selves--bringing that out in someone else--is well worth the work of self-polishing that goes into it. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

That's What You Get When You Fall in Love

 For anyone who knows this song, they know this is going to be a bummer of a post.

I have a friend--a good one, I think, although most of our friendship is via text--who is dearly in love with an aging Goddess of a cat. I have at various times begged him wherein the time comes for this animal to move on to the cat dimension wherein she conquers small worlds, that he should inform me before he posts it on InstaGram or FB.

I have become attached to this animal, and I'll need a moment to compose myself. 

We all know this--even when we know it's coming, it's going to hurt.

My older daughter's cat is one of these relationships.

This cat was older when Chicken adopted her--five years? Six years? Ten? -- and hugely fat. At her peak, Peanut Butter (originally Mrs. Poopy Butthole) weighed in at 28 pounds. Chicken, being a good cat mom, got the cat down to 22, and for the last year has been mortgaging her soul to keep the cat on diabetes medication. 

This cat is definitely eleven years old now, if not older, and in the last two weeks she's stopped eating.

Chicken brought her to the vets, thinking, "I've done this with pets before. I had to say goodbye to Gordie because Mom brought him in on death's door. I had to say goodbye to Chiquita. I know how to do this."

Oh baby. Nobody knows how to do this.

Her kidneys have stopped working, and the vet is going to give her subcutaneous fluid to see if they can jump start that, and at least make her more comfortable, but Chicken has a budget, and the amount of money it would take to bring this cat back from the brink of death would buy her a better car than she has now. 

She's seen me make these decisions. 

She watched me pick Disneyland over a $3000 operation that may (or may not!) have helped one cat lived an extra three years. He died two years after Disneyland, and we were pretty sure we'd done the right thing. 

She was there when I picked her and her brother up and took them both to say goodbye to another cat after I found him half-dead in my bathroom because he hated me so much he wanted to make sure I suffered. 

What I did not tell her then--but she figured out on her own--was that even though I knew that cat was not going to live, even though it would have been much more cost effective to let the poor thing just close his eyes and depart without the trip to the vets and the long goodbye, was that I brought him to the vets for her and her siblings.

I wanted them to have a chance to say goodbye.

We both know how this is going to end. She's going to run herself ragged taking the cat back and forth to the vets for a shot of subcutaneous fluid to help her feel better and to jumpstart her kidneys even though they are currently in no  condition to function.

And then, when it's all over, she is going to say goodbye.

So today sucked. I was going to try to get a haircut today, going to dye my hair. Hell, I was going to eat breakfast and take a shower. 

But my day exploded and my kid's life exploded and we spent the whole morning/afternoon trying to help her deal with what we know is coming.

In the middle of the day, though, I got a picture from my stepmom. My folks recently (as in, October? November?) lost their dog, Max--and he was such a part of the family that whenever I visited my parents, my dogs would run and look for Max, long after he was gone. We all miss Max.

But that picture my stepmom sent me was of a golden lab/pibble (possibly) mix, with the goofiest expression on his face.

The caption was, "His name is Goose."

And the picture made our day better. It wasn't going to take away the heartbreak, really, but it was definitely going to remind us of the joy. Pet ownership is all the things. It's a willingness to risk that beating organ in your chest for something smaller and more vulnerable than yourself, and to pin your happiness on this creature even though you know that someday, through no fault of its own, it will probably break your heart.

But in the meantime, it will also lick your feet or knead your hair, or wake you up in the middle of the night because you are absolutely, RIGHT NOW, needed to give it scritches on the ass. It will stick it's tongue so far up your nose you're pretty sure it tasted your eyeball, and make you taste whatever it had for breakfast. It will roll in deer poop, barf in your shoes, or delicately claw your foot for no other reason than you walked by.

And this furry creature, this vulnerable little soul, will love you when you're pretty sure not another soul in the world ever could. It will lick your tears and still think you are the best person, the very best person, and there's not another person in the world who could replace you. 

It will make you more welcome in your own home than you thought you could ever be, even in your own heart.

And that's why we take weeks like this one.

That's what you get when you fall in love. 

Kermit Flail--February! (The Month of Love?)


Okay-- it feels like February is proof that we made it--not just to 2021 but to the year beyond. I mean, nobody imagined it was going to get better immediately and the fog would be lifted and we'd be all in unicorns and rainbows, right? 

But it does seem to be incrementally better, so let's celebrate the increments here! It's February, and Valentines Day is coming, and it's a good time to read romance!

Well, every day is a good time to read romance, but February is also a good time to read romance, order your favorite takeout with your favorite person (even if it's your cat) and indulge in some good old fashioned emotional optimism--and do I have some books for you!

Kaje Harper, Andrew Grey, and RL Merrill have all sent in contributions this month, and I cannot think of better authors with which to celebrate Valentines Day! Also, the second book of the Hedge Witches Lonely Hearts Club is out this month, and while it's a few days after V-Day, it's also deliciously sweet and adorable--and that is some reading we can all get behind!

Half a Cowboy

by Andrew Grey

Ever since his discharge from the military, injured veteran Ashton Covert has been running his family ranch—and running himself into the ground to prove he still can.

Ben Malton knows about running too. When he takes refuge in Ashton’s barn after an accident in a Wyoming blizzard, he’s thinking only of survival and escaping his abusive criminal ex, Dallas.

Ashton has never met a responsibility he wouldn’t try to shoulder. When he finds Ben half-frozen, he takes it upon himself to help. But deadly trouble follows Ben wherever he goes. He needs to continue on, except it may already be too late.

Working together brings Ben and Ashton close, kindling fires not even the Wyoming winter can douse. Something about Ben makes Ashton feel whole again. But before they can ride into the sunset together, they need to put an end to Dallas’s threats. Ben can make a stand, with Ashton’s help—only it turns out the real danger could be much closer to home.

Buy Here

A More Perfect Union

by Various Artists (RL Merrill and Kilby Blades among others!)

A More Perfect Union is a charity anthology written to celebrate our voices--in choosing our government and in choosing who we love. A number of bite-sized stories are gathered together, the proceeds of which go to benefit A Fair Fight, which is an organization dedicated to fight voter suppression! Come check it out!

Buy Here

Unacceptable Risk 

by Kaje Harper

For a hidden shifter, falling in love with a man may be the death of them both.

Simon Conley knows about being an outcast. Born into a secret werewolf pack, he’s the lone gay wolf, an outsider even among his packmates. The top wolves consider him a perversion, a failure, and a security risk. To survive in the human world, werewolves rely on absolute secrecy, and any breaches of their code are dealt with swiftly— and violently.

So when Simon falls in love with Paul, a human man, even his Alpha's grudging tolerance won't protect him. He must keep Paul from discovering the truth about him and the secrets the pack jealously guards, or it’s not just their love that’ll end up dead.

(rereleased 2021 with light editing and the 1.1 short story included

Portals and Puppy Dogs

by Amy Lane

Hedge Witches Lonely Hearts Club: Book Two

Sometimes love is flashier than magic.

On the surface, Alex Kennedy is unremarkable: average looks, boring accounting job, predictable crush on his handsome playboy boss, Simon Reddick.

But he’s also a witch.

Business powerhouse Simon goes for flash and glamour… most of the time. But something about Alex makes Simon wonder what’s underneath that sweet, gentle exterior.

Alex could probably dance around their attraction forever… if not for the spell gone wrong tearing apart his haunted cul-de-sac. When a portal through time and space swallows the dog he’s petsitting, only for the pampered pooch to appear in the next instant on Simon’s doorstep, Alex and Simon must confront not only the rogue magic trying to take over Alex’s coven, but the long-buried passion they’ve been harboring for each other.