Monday, March 28, 2011

Writer's Block

I think I've got writer's block.

I'm not sure, because as far as I remember I haven't, at least, not a full-blown-can't-write-squat.  That isn't to say I haven't had writer's block before.  I just don't remember.  My mind is like a sponge that way.  When it gets full of water stuff drips out the bottom.

The best cure for writer's block is, of course, to write.  So I'm going to be taking down notes today at work and really try to put myself into that opening that I want.  And then, tonight, I'm going to write.  Even if it's crappy.  Even if I'm sure it'll never see the light of day.  And I'll keep going.

I know I've got something going on because the last few things I've tried to write were short stories and I didn't finish them.  The idea of working on novels ... I put them off.  I make excuses.  But I know intellectually that I've written more words into novels than anything and it's novels that keep me writing, so novels should get me writing again.

In the meantime I'll try to write some articles and maybe have another go at short stories or whatever.  Whatever keeps me occupied when I put my butt in the chair.  The only rule is that if I start a short story or an article, I have to finish it.  All the way to the end.

The End

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tis the Season of the Goaty Worms

Recuperating from a long week.

The goats were looking kinda wan, so I decided to worm them even though the weather hasn't warmed up much.  

Springtime is worm season, and we've gone through worm overload problems before.  Anemia, bottle jaw, hypo-proteination ... yeah, I've learned it all the hard way.  But do I remember worming itself accurately?

Hell no.

I bought the wormer goop in an appealing-sounding flavor.  Apple cinnamon.  Sounds great, right?  And I head out to the barn.  Here goaty goaty goaties!  I waved the no-needle syringe in the air.  The goats come running.  Oh yeah, way easy.  I squeeze out a little and wave it in front of Scooter's nose.  His nose wiggles, then wrinkles.  Aw, come on!  You know you like it ...

Five minutes later I'm winded and astride Scooter, prying his mouth open with one hand while trying to push the syringe in his mouth with the other while squeezing the stopper.  White goo, scented pleasantly of apple-cinnamon, drips onto the ground and foams in his mouth.  I get most of it in and let him go.  

And he was the easy one.

The white goat won't even let me get near her.  I lure them into the barn with grain, and then the rodeo begins.  She's good with her horns ...

A couple of minutes later I walk out and they follow me, bleating for more attention.  I've got goop on my pants, on my hands, on the grain bucket, and I've stepped in some.  Fortunately I got close enough to a full dose in each of them that they should be safe.

Next month, maybe it'll be as easy as I remember it being.  You know, as easy as trimming hooves.  The way I recall it, hoof trimming isn't so bad.  

I have no idea why I keep putting it off.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Farewell, Dakota

On St. Patrick's Day, we had to put Dakota to sleep.  This morning, like yesterday, my first thought was to get up to let her out.  Every time I hear something like a dog panting, I assume it's her needing attention.  And I still try to step over the barrier to the staircase that's no longer there.

We adopted Dakota as an (approximately) eleven year old geriatric Irish wolfhound/lab mix.  For many years she lived with a homeless man, but the man died and she ended up at a shelter. Another family adopted her, but discovered that their daughter was highly allergic to Dakota.  They tried everything else first--meds for the daughter, ripping out all their carpet, keeping Dakota out of the daughter's room--but to no avail.  The little girl's allergies got worse.  The last thing they wanted to do was take Dakota back to the shelter, but they asked everyone they knew and found no one willing to adopt a geriatric dog.

A friend of ours heard about Dakota's plight and knew we were looking for a dog for our girl.  I was envisioning a small dog that the girl could have sleep on her bed in the room.  The first time I saw Dakota, though, my first thought wasn't 'too big.'  She was funny-looking, to put it politely, but her extremely calm demeanor won me over.  More importantly, she stole the girl's heart.  We took her home.

Dakota had some serious allergy problems from the get-go, but once she settled and her stress-level dropped, those allergy problems eased and she led a normal, if sleepy, happy doggy life.  It took her a long time to accept us as family.  Her deep sense of loyalty had been wounded by the loss of her first master, and then being adopted for only a short time by a second family, only to be let go ... I wasn't surprised that it took her a while to get used to us.  But she did learn to trust us, maybe even love us.

At first we tried taking her on walks with the other dogs, but we learned that although she loved the walks it was too hard on her joints.  So instead she walked herself around outside in the garden on sunny days, and in the dog yard whenever I had delicate seedlings in the veggie garden.  She was able to make her way up and down the carpet-covered stairs inside and even made it with ease up and down the deck stairs.  We trusted her not to wander, and she never went too near the road when she went on her walks.

Whenever we came home after being away for a few hours, we could see her in the front window, smiling, and often she'd let out a little, girly 'woof!' of delight.  After months of stress-panting and anxiety-related allergies, it made me so happy to see her experience joy when we came home to her.  She always came to see me when I came home from work, and I often took her with me when I worked in the garden in summertime.  She sat in the shade and made sure I wasn't attacked by evil squirrels.

Those joyful years passed too quickly.  

About six months ago she started having accidents in the house.  I also had to bar the way on the stairs because she took a couple of bad falls while going down them.  We tried different medications to keep her hips flexible.  Some of them worked for a while, and she'd have several great weeks, and then she'd be worse again.  Mostly, though, she was just stiff and not in any serious pain.  Every so often she'd get stuck in a hole that one of the puppies had dug, but we'd get her out and she'd hobble into the house on her own legs and sleep it off.

Then a little over a week ago she could hardly get up, and she couldn't bend one of her hind legs very much anymore.  She started pissing herself in her bed.  I had to give her daily baths just to keep her relatively clean, which dried out her skin and made her hips sore from the stress.  We took her to the vet, changed meds one more time, but she rapidly got worse instead of better and started to vomit and have serious bouts of diarrhea.  When she stopped eating for two days we made another appointment.  It was to be her final one.

We'd hoped there would be one more possible route to go, but the vet, a vet I trust, gave us the 'maybe it's time to let her go' talk.  We could have given her maybe another 24 hours with a steroid shot, but that shot could have also given her more complications and caused her more pain, not less.  And it was clear to the vet that Dakota's atrophied hind legs were not numb like they are in many cases, but causing her a lot of pain.  Despite our care and washing and everything else, she was getting bed sores on them, and the joints were very inflamed.  One joint was completely frozen.  She would never walk again.

The vet warned us that Dakota might hang on for a while, but Dakota let go surprisingly fast.  We held her and stroked her and told her what a good dog she was.  And she really was a great dog--loyal, gentle, protective ... so much more than I can describe.  

Maybe she'd seen her old owner and had run to him.  I know she felt safe and happy with us, and she had some really beautiful days with her new pack, but I'm sure to her last breath that she missed the man who'd raised her from a puppy, who'd taken care of her and died with her by his side.  I hope that if that was her heart's desire that she's found him and is with him again, living a gypsy life on the Long Road.

It still doesn't feel like time to put away her dog food bowl.   I know I should.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Other Side of the Hill

Just so you all know ...

Dakota, our Irish wolfhound/lab mix (a 'mini' wolfhound at 75 pounds) is very ill.  Mainly, it's old age.  Arthritis is kicking her butt, and her incontinence is getting worse.  Also, something is messing up her digestive system.  She's gotten sick a few times (even before we switched meds to try to help her) and things are not good at the other end either.  

For now we're waiting and hoping that the new medication will help her.  If not ... her quality of life has plummeted.  She can still walk on level surfaces, but she needs big time help on the stairs, often wets herself in bed, and needs a hose-down bath every day, which she hates, because she can't squat even when she makes it outside.  She just sits in the muck and ... yeah.  If that was all, I'd just deal for an indefinite period of time, but she's having more and more trouble getting comfortable.  She gets up and wanders and tries to lay down and gets up again, stress-panting.  Unfortunately it's impossible to ask her what her pain level is like.  Fortunately, once she does settle she seems to sleep very deeply and peacefully, so I'm guessing/hoping that it's low enough still that she can get good rest and isn't in continuous pain.  From what I can gather, it's very bad after she's gone outside, and then eases up enough after about a half hour to an hour that she can settle and relax.  As long as she can get good rest for the majority of the day and isn't actively complaining with whining or crying (though I wonder if she ever will) or reeling with severe pain, I'd rather wait than act too soon.

It's so hard to judge these things.

The girl adopted Dakota when Dakota was already eleven years old.  Adopting a geriatric dog has been a wonderful experience so far, and I would highly recommend it.  From the very beginning, Dakota has been loyal, sweet, obedient, and very well-heeled.  We never had to go through the chewy, messy, rowdy, destructive (although cute and yes, I love puppy breath too) puppy stage with her.  I hope Dakota will be with us a while longer, but at this point it's not looking very good.  We still have some good times of the day, but those are getting shorter.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Where do I get my ideas? Customers return them to me.

I got a new story idea joking around with my coworkers today, and another (partial) chapter idea for the Financial Guide from the Retail Side from customers being weird.

If I ever have to give up my day job, I'll miss these sorts of days.  Sure, there are lots of ideas that come to us through dreams, conversations with friends, travel, walking through downtown, etc. but they're not quite the same as the ideas that come from work stuff.  Whether work means sweating under a hot sun or shivering under the blast of a cranked-up air conditioner, you're in a very different (but still creative) headspace than when you're doodling.  

Although they suffer from being overdone, some of our richest stories are about writers because the people who write those stories are writers laboring with their fingers and hunched spines in seats that become increasingly less comfortable over the course of a long work day.  

That state of working as a physical body is a source of real richness that complements and enhances their stories.  

When a story is all pure imagination without that inclusion/acknowledgement of the sweatiness of things, there's something missing.  I can't always pinpoint stories that are lacking in that element.  They feel flat, but there are lots of reasons why a story can read flat.  Lack of life experience is another big one.  Anyway, writers that write about someone who is a writer can sometimes tap that physically-engaged labor monster within them even if they haven't had work experience beyond writing for a long time.  It's neat when that happens.  The writer's work feels more real to me.  I like that sense of realness whether I'm reading about early fifteenth century soldiers, waitresses solving murders or unicorns rampaging through moth villages.

I think that when both kinds of states of being--the doodle, and the labor monster--are employed in story creation, the story is much better than stories that are spun entirely from one side or the other.  

Naturally there also exist stories that are entirely labor-induced and have very little doodling in them.  A classic situation is where a doctor or lawyer or somesuch writes fiction as a thinly-disguised vent about the day job.  But I don't see as many stories that lack doodling as I do stories that lack that element of work in them.  Maybe that's because work is something we do to survive, connecting us to our flesh and bone and blood, and there are more writers who neglect that physical connection to the world than there are writers who embrace and even incorporate it into their writing.  Maybe they consider that aspect of existence lowly or unimportant, or maybe they just don't give it enough importance in their lives.  Isn't working an eight hour day at the diner, after all, getting in the way of their writing?  Well yes, but ...

Doodling is dreaming, and that connects us to our souls.  Souls are cool and all, but I like sensory detail, and danger, and victory.  For a story to really connect to me, flesh and bone and blood have to be a part of them.  Like a building, I need both the concept and the materials to come together before I can step inside and marvel and what human beings have engineered.  I won't just congratulate the architect, either.  That building wouldn't exist without the people who poured the foundation, pounded the nails and joined and wired and plumbed the thing.  The architect may be the artist, but the workers are the heroes that make hopes into reality.  The best writers are both artists and artisans, and their stories shine because of it.

If I leave the day job (and I won't be doing that on purpose any time soon!) I'll run the risk of losing that meat-and-bones force in my life (again.)  I'll have to find it in other ways, like putting in extra time with the garden and livestock, or start losing it gradually over time as my work experience fades into increasingly pastel memory.  In the meantime, I'll enjoy playing with my new ideas.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Other Kind of Painting. In the Office. With Stencils.

I'm back to working on the office.  For a while it housed a very special house guest, and so the office got moved into the family room.  This turned the family room into a bit of a mess.  As accustomed as I am to messes, I don't like them to hang around forever.  Spiders (eeee!) like to make nasty little spidery nests in undisturbed, messy areas.  The ick is icky and creepy--a bad combination.

First, I have to finish painting.  I could have opted for plain walls and a plain ceiling--the condition in which it existed as a guest room--but nooOOOoo, I had to start looking through books.  Of course I found a great paint scheme which involved stencils.  I have a laser to help me mark straight lines, so putting stripes on the walls was only somewhat arduous.  

Stripes and stencils?  

It gets better.

Because of course stenciled leaves (I had to pick something with delicate details, naturally) within broad, widely-spaced stripes wouldn't look as nice without some sort of border highlighting the closet and window.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  For now I'm just going to go into that darned office so I can start stenciling the stripes I've got on the wall so far.  I've got about half (maybe more) of the stripes filled with their background so I can put some of the furniture in its proper place.  I only want to do that so that I have room to set up the laser so that I can stripe the rest of the walls, but getting the office furnished even that little bit more will be an added bonus.  I might even go a little crazy and put some books on the shelves.

Clearly, life is one big adventure.  Now, to have at, with paint brushes, sponges, and latex.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

One step forward, unknown # of steps back

@ McMenamins w/the girl and DH. Love.

I worked out really hard today, so naturally I had to have a big piece of cake after my salad lunch (I was all puffed up with virtue until I ate the cake) and then I had a pint of hard apple cider.

Getting in shape balance ... I figure I'm about even, but only because I sweated extra hard.

Actually, my waist measurement has improved, even if my weight hasn't budged.

That's enough whining for now, I guess. I'll try being good again tomorrow, maybe by eating another salad for lunch. This time I won't have cake.


Thursday, March 03, 2011

The milestones, they are ganging up on me

We had the boy overnight for the first time since he moved out to the big metro area (to look for work.) So of course he gets his first call for an interview ...

First real interview.  How kewl.  Wish him luck!  If he gets this job it'll be a great entry-level one that will teach him a lot about working and wages and all that good stuff.  It's a huge step, even bigger than living someplace other than home.  There's so much stuff about working for someone that I take for granted that he's going to have to learn for himself.  

Assuming he gets the job, of course.  I'm really proud he even got an interview, considering how the economy is these days.  I don't know how many places I applied for and got nada, even though I have quite a bit of retail experience.

Another milestone.  They're coming in faster these days.  And soon now, the girl will be graduating.  Eeeeeeee!