family


Title brought to you by one of my favorite Nine Inch Nails songs from the album The Fragile. I listened to this song on repeat after Mom died. Well, the whole album, really.

My little sister had her first kickboxing match on Saturday. I’m so proud of her, and holy shit does she have a strong right hook. Even if the other girl plays a little dirty about a minute into this first round. Way to go, Krista! (She’s in the pink and black shorts.)

Story idea of the day? Singularity. When it’s not explained. I’ve had that on the brain for a few weeks now after reading this very clever story that danced around the idea without tapping too much into the science of it, and I loved it. Maybe something will come of that in my own writing.

Story to read for the day? “Substitution,” by my terrific friend Brooke Wonders, possibly one of the most ridiculously brainy people I’ve ever met. (The ONLY thing I can possibly out-knowledge her in is short story markets and maybe classical music, if I’m lucky.) This gorgeous tale came out in Daily Science Fiction this month, and is mixed with equal parts lyricism, intelligence, and that uncomfortable emotive note at the end that left me still thinking about it two weeks after my first read. I cannot wait for the day when I can get my hands on Brooke’s first short story collection; the creepy and surreal resonance of her writing is exactly the sort of thing I look for.

I finally finished the beast of a revision of “North like a Star,” my first-week story at Clarion. Cleaned up the drama, but it still needs a good hack and slash, says my first non-Clarion reader, of which I agree. Too many conflicts have overtaken the main inciting incident, so if I can narrow out 3 or so of those and figure out a new reason for why Bellis gets to the factory, the problem might be solved. And, keep the draft under 5k – right now its pushing 6,500 words. The downside is that I despise the story (after two months of trying to get through this revision), so maybe if I put it away for awhile, some of that will take care of itself? Which means its time to pull out Harvester the novel (again – it seems to fluctuate) or write something new; I think I’ve burnt out my revision momentum for awhile.

What I’d really like is to write a flash. Something brief and sweet or sharp, and clever. A palette-wetting read. A palette-wetting write, so I’m up to tackle longer things again, instead if feeling burnt out.

Article of the day? I avoid politics on Facebook and Twitter as much as I can, simply because while I believe as strongly as the next person, there’s no way to convince anyone to change their point of view in a medium like that, especially when I grew up in a state like South Dakota and now live in Oklahoma – I am the minority amidst my peers in both states. But here’s a link to the article more than worth reading; not to pit one political party above another (which the author gets a little dramatic about – I think his point is made without needing to be so excessive?) but because of the truth in it, not the least being our troops are out of Iraq, health care reform has begun (I haven’t yet met one person opposing this who has been personally affected by it or lack of it – of which now John and I can relate), gay rights in the military, and a push to fix the economy, all done against opposition and hate, despite proclaiming to have the same religious beliefs (which honestly baffles me). Anyway, I found the article very encouraging, and lately, I’ve felt hopeful about the state of our country.

What I’d really like for Christmas is a Caribbean vacation. Instead, we’re staying home, and John’s family is coming over for mimosas and brunch. Then, we’ll likely join the rest of the city at the movie theater? We’ll see – happy Holidays to all!

My father’s dog Oscar, who helped him get through the two years and two months so far without Mom, was hit by a car last night. My initial thought is that I should be sad but still okay, because Osky had a good life if too short. At least Dad was able to say goodbye to him, and the little guy went as peacefully as he probably could have, for the kind of trauma something like this could cause. But in reality, I’m broken up about it. Perhaps it’s because I loved Osky. Not only was he an all-around fantastic dog, but he was there for Dad in a way I could not be, right after Mom died. Or maybe it’s because now that we have our own furry children, I’m not sure what I’ll do if and when we lose one of them. Or maybe it’s just the bizarre timing of the whole thing.

My brother gave Oscar to my parents about six months before Mom died. They didn’t want another dog, but Josh and Denae surprised them anyway with a happy golden retriever/lab mix, only this puppy had a bit of a boxer snout, and he was a puppy. The sweetest little guy you’d ever seen. And while neither Dad or Mom were initially thrilled about a 8-month old puppy to take care of, Osky turned into the greatest gift in the world when Mom died, with his joy and bouncing and furry face, and just the sweetest personality. He went everywhere with Dad, sleeping under his desk in the clinic office on the weekends, waiting patiently in the car after driving together into town to visit the bookstore and the bank and the hardware store, sleeping all stretched out across the back seat when he wasn’t allowed to come inside. Most of Dad’s regular patients had met Osky at least once, if not a dozen times, and Osky loved to kiss all the nurses at the office.

And now, a month before Dad gets married again, Osky’s gone. He was so clearly meant to help my dad through his grief, through the last two years and two months without Mom.

I really believe Osky saved Dad from losing his mind those first few months, and somehow managed to bring him crazy joy through the grieving process. And I see every day how happy Buddy and Nellie are when John and I come home, how they live their furry little doggy lives in anticipation of the garage door opening, bouncing like deer up and down the hallway, the way Osky did through the fields at home.

Osky, you were one of the best, and you will be dearly, dearly missed.

I’ve been trying to do one thing at a time lately, since there’s been so much unpacking, the organizing of books being the largest chore – all my scores and music books, literary fiction, non-fiction, and then my SFF books (including 57 Tanith Lee books – I finally decided to count them – although I need at least 15 more or so to own them all …) and far too many anthologies.  I think I came home from Clarion with maybe fifteen books as well, although most of them are in my to-be-read pile.

We saw the movie “Crazy, Stupid Love” on Saturday, which was very cute. Sure, a few cliché moments (I laughed far more than John – it’s definitely a chick flick), but I was impressed with some of the more serious  moments, and how the movie managed to steer away from ridiculous writing unlike nearly every romantic comedy out there. Although it could have just been perfect timing for me – John and I coming up on our anniversary, and my thinking of Mom and Dad and how long they had been married and what it would be like to be without your spouse after so many years, etc.

When we came home, I tackled the books and John built me a beautiful new desk, which I love. And then I went over the rewrite of “Mimesis,” my third-week Clarion story and sent it off to my first non-Clarion reader (minus John, who liked it a lot).

So, a successful weekend, despite the grief involved – yesterday marked two years since Mom’s passing. And today marks 2 years since I married an amazing man, and every day I’m more happy to be with him.

It occurred to me this morning I may be ready to pick up on The Harvester book, again, and continue writing it. An exciting thought. I do need something new, given the 7 short story revisions/rewrites I’m looking at.

Next blog post – a normal Clarion day. With pictures.

>I went, like usual, to the coffee shop over lunch to read, where to my great relief I finally finished Eating Animals (and started something which proves to be dramatically different – Amanda Downum’s The Bone Palace), as there’s not much more I can handle of reading about the sheer for-profitness of factory farms. It’s pretty obvious there’s a problem when the animals available to us for consumption are so genetically altered that they can’t reproduce – and this is the case with a lot of organic and “no drugs-added” meat, too, whatever “happier” means. Still altered, still neutered (and not just in a castrated way, but in a pumped full of shit way; if not that animal, then its parents) in a very wrong way. The book is a must read, at least for education purposes. The author makes an argument that we’re not ignorant, we’re choosing this – the facts are right in front of us. But I don’t think that’s completely true; I’ve never read a lot of this before, even though factory farms aren’t anything new; they go back a lot further than ten years, and they just keep getting worse.

Anyway. Although it wasn’t my intention, I’m well on my way to being vegan, too. I’m just not interested in participating in the madness. Shocking stuff.

Plus, I had almond milk for the first time this morning, with some gluten-free cocoa plus goodies granola, and it was ASTOUNDINGLY good. So now I just need to figure out a way around ice-cream (since I’m not quite up for indulging in soy non-stop.) Maybe sorbet.

***

There was an elderly woman with her daughter (who was maybe 45-50 years old) at the coffee shop over lunch today. The elderly woman was maybe 75 or so, with lots of white hair permed high on her head, and very pale skin, and unfashionable glasses. Not really one of the adorable grandmother types, but then she brought herself over a large mocha with frothy whip cream (that looked and smelled so good over my drip coffee), and I got up so she and her daughter could sit together, to which they were really, really grateful. I made some sort of pleasant-sounding excuse, and then quickly left because of the sudden wrenching grief that I would never go to a stupid coffee shop with Mom again. And how I should have 25 more years of her in my life. But instead, I got thirty-one, which isn’t even close to enough, not when twenty-four or so of those were spent with me trying to figure out both myself and life, and not really understanding anything about it, or about her, or about the precious precocity of a mother-daughter relationship, especially a mother-middle-daughter relationship.

Earlier today I got an email from Dad about how the grief occasionally lessens, but never really goes away. I understand that completely – I can’t compare my experience to his of losing the woman you’ve been married to for 40 years and 2.5 months, although mine feels similar, in a different way. Mom should have seen John and I get married, for so many reasons, and maybe because I was the last unmarried kid I feel really strongly about that. And she should have gotten to hold her grandbabies (if any of the four of us ever end up having kids…doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, so even Dad dotes everything on his dog because of that), and see where we live, and read my writing. She never got to read my published writing. She doesn’t know about Lightspeed, which happened after she died. She doesn’t know Becky and Neal have beautiful baby Karsten (Becky and Neal were the only married friends of mine whose names she could remember, because of Alaska), or about our little Nellie, or that I got a promotion at work a few months ago. And occasionally, the flash of grief is so strong that I’m breathless, like I was just kicked in the gut really, really hard.

***

Some terrific food in the last two days. Unfortunately, the pictures aren’t very appealing, but I’m posting them anyway.

What you can’t see clearly in the above is the amazing Bhutanese rice, from the Appetite for Reduction cookbook (naturally), with cilantro on top. I used Moroccan red rice as the base, and added all the ingredients to that, which included coconut milk and fresh pineapple (I had a Harry & David pineapple perfectly ripened!), as well as red curry paste and onion and garlic and I can’t remember what else. Then I marinated some portabello mushrooms, which were even more tender and juicy than steak, and some cabbage.

And the above was the OMG onion rings – which were !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UNREAL. Yes, they were. I will never have any other onion rings again. I made the hottie black-eyed greens with kale, but they weren’t quite as good as the first round, which I had made with collards. I adore kale, but the flavors didn’t sit as well this time, which I thought at lunch again when I had the leftovers. So collards in the future, with this recipe. (And veggie hot dogs in the background – which taste JUST like real hot dogs! Especially when grilled. And you actually know what they’re made of.)

Off to bill more tax returns! Less than two months of this left. I’m so relieved it’s Friday.

>While it’s far from original to talk about what I accomplished and what I didn’t this last year, I’ve decided that doesn’t matter, since I want to up my consistency on this blog. I’m foregoing half of my morning pages in order to write this; I was going to put it down on paper, so I might as well put it here. Maybe this will make it just a little more real, giving it a sort of clairvoyance that is typically never apparent to anyone but me when it’s only my morning pages notebook.

After 2009, which held so many new things that I could hardly function – culture shock in moving to OKC from Chicago, leaving my dearest friends behind, new job, Mom getting sick and dying, marrying John the day after, Grandma Lil having a stroke on Thanksgiving and dying, snowed in and unable to be with family on Christmas (sounds overly dramatic, but I really needed my family that first holiday without Mom) – there was 2010, which found me in a stupor most of the time. I finally had about 3 months of grief counseling in the spring, which both helped and didn’t (which is why it only last 3 months), and learned quite a bit about myself in the meantime. The last two years really go together, as two years ago to the day was when I’d left Chicago, and life changed so drastically.

Accomplishments: I did do a lot last year, despite that numbness. Less involvement in OWW because I threw myself into Lightspeed Magazine. Lots and lots of crits for the Self-Forging Fragments. I read voraciously (I’m going to start keeping track of what I’m reading, I think; I’ve been slack on that), especially the first 2/3rds of the year, as the last third I mostly read both online and print SFF magazines, which really took up quite a bit of time. I miss novels, so more of those this year.

But not only did I complete a hasty revision of Stone Lake, (for a trusted peer to peruse and point out its flaws), I finally finished “Round Robin” and “Child of Fortune, Child of Labor,” the latter taking up nearly the first third of the year, having starting back in September 2009, likely both because it was the first serious story after Mom died, and its length of 15k and hard SF content.

New stories: “Stars through the Window,” “Parasite,” “Lisse,” and “The Harvester,” which just received an Editor’s Choice review on OWW, and a lovely, lovely review from Karen Meisner of Strange Horizons. Harvester the novel has about 40k words on it, also written in the first part of 2010, but I’ve temporarily shelved it. Funny, the first book that I’ve outlined nearly all the way through, but I have no desire to work on it anymore. I’m not sure why; I wish it weren’t the case.

There were also revisions on “Bringing Moon,” “Braeberry Street,” and “Skinned,” and October saw “Becoming Normal” published in Flash Fiction Online. I even revised “The Voicing” for Daily Science Fiction – a new venue which continues to be an inconsistent mystery – and have put “Fish out of Water” aside, until I can figure out how to fix it. There are also a handful of started shorts with no titles, some a page long to one that may be the next completed one, as it already has 4k words, “The Escalarian Bead.”

This year, I’d like to double the number of new stories. I think its possible, given that I’m not so stooped over in grief, unless, of course, I find some new SF idea that I want to tackle, which ends up taking me months to figure out. And ideally, I’d like to work on/finish a book – but that seems to be out of my hands.

Also, I’m working on trying to be content with where I am, both in writing, and literally so – in this state, with this job, and with all the blessings I have. I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.

However, this year has dealt a number on us. John’s grandpa, who’s been like a father to him, was just diagnosed with prostate cancer yesterday. And I found out this morning that my great-aunt Norma, my sweet grandma Lil’s sister, died suddenly of a stroke. Norma was always such a sweet woman – I got to see her this last summer at the family reunion…she looked so much like Grandma Lil. Although I may not have been that close to her, it’s the consistency with which I keep losing my family that’s the hardest to handle. Mom, Grandma, Auntie Norma…I guess I was protected from death growing up, despite my grandparents dying. I’m starting to understand that death is a normal, consistent thing, although that doesn’t help when someone who has always been in your life is suddenly not there anymore.

The dogs are curled up in the sun next to me. I wish I had my camera. The tornado sirens are going off (as always, Saturdays at noon). Soon, Buddy will hopefully howl. He’s inconsistent with it, and his howl is hilarious, because its a little awkward-sounding, as if he’s uncomfortable while doing it.

Today, we’re finally going to see the movie Black Swan. And I need to start drawing more. I bought John a sketch pad for Christmas, and myself a cheap little one yesterday. I need broader horizons. And I must figure out what to put in the beautiful slow cooker for dinner. Mom’s one-pot stew might be in order.

>Krista and I were talking about grief the other day, and Mom, and how not much seems to have changed since last year (awful first year holidays) except the actual pain. While I may not actively feel numb and cold and wondering how I can get through this, I still react to anything and everything much the same way. Whether its learned and/or habitual, or like Krista thought, residual traces of grief that needs to be felt, it’s fairly inconvenient, and exhausting, honestly.

It sounds silly, too, but I’m dreading the flip to 2011 – because then Mom didn’t just die last year anymore. And it’s still so terribly new to not be able to call her, or talk to her, or see her. Terribly awful.

I found these pictures on my lovely sister-in-law’s facebook page; I’m not sure why I hadn’t seen them before, but I swiped them immediately, since Mom looks so pretty and healthy and happy, as does Dad.

Denae had made her a quilt, with squares that we had all contributed on. Mom’s birthday, 2007.

***

Writing has been hard, lately. I think it’s because I want results, even a finished draft, and what I’m working on now isn’t something that just churns itself out quickly. Third-person-other-world stories are really hard for me. Give me first person, a teenager, and/or a quirky idea and I can write it quickly, and it can be good. But the worldbuilding takes time for me (potentially more than it does others?), as does the science, real or made-up, and I rant and rail at myself all along the way and think that perhaps this is all a big joke, or I’m the big joke. And I conveniently forget how long “Child of Fortune” took, as well as “Light Stones” – I struggled with that story like nothing else, and it was the first one of mine to find a home.

So, yes.

Back to the practice idea that I blogged about weeks ago – real practice means working on something I suck at. Which means I must be on the right path.

>It’s finally fall here, mostly. Right now, it’s 55 degrees outside, and I’ve thrown most of the windows open, and even the back screen door, although there’s a gaping hole about 2 inches wide between the door and the frame – Buddy got excited one night last year and didn’t see the screen, causing the door to bend nearly in half (and he didn’t even get outside). But we haven’t been able to bend the door completely back, nor does it seem to be easy to get a new door. I’m not complaining today, though. A few bugs are worth it.

Then it will get hot, by 11 am, maybe noon – 85 degrees in the sun. Still better than 105, but it doesn’t quite make for a nice stroll.

Either way, I’m suddenly in the fall mood. I made a curried pumpkin soup last night, and chocolate chip banana bread – the soup turned out quite well, and the bread burst over the tins, but oh, it’s so good. And I also bought some pumpkin beer – which tasted like ass. Terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. So, a Leinenkugel fall sampler pack it is. I wished I lived somewhere with a lovely local brewery, but this will certainly do. And today, maybe some kind of bread, and another soup.

But this post isn’t about food, it’s about video games.

I love them. I always have, far more than seems possible given the fact that we didn’t have a television growing up. But I remember playing Mario Brothers at my friends’ houses, and sitting for hours in my older sister’s dorm room playing some quest of something or another on her roommate’s computer – an ancient game. That was in, what, 1993 or something? It had to be in MS-Dos.

And then my brother bought an Xbox after I went to college – by then, we had a computer /monitor/television screen (that had no channels) at home, so I was introduced to the James Bond games – which I loved, and Halo. I loved Halo, too (aliens! spaceships! strange planets!), but I was so terrible at it, and the popping heads-bobble-alien thingies would always explode and kill me when I least expected it.

See? Look at him! Terrifying. And then right when you get up close, BAM!pop-pop-pop-pop-pop! He explodes all over you. Tiny creepy crawling thingies.

Yet I still twisted Josh’s arm to play every time I went home, and then I’d just run along behind him as he killed all the aliens.

Then after college, I was introduced to Diablo 2, when I nannied for four amazing children of the most amazing woman. (Her husband was the Diablo player). And that was a fun game. Was it all the treasure chests? I don’t even know. Maybe it was the catacombs, the skeleton armies, the random beasts you’d meet underground.

But it was so much fun that I’m nearly as eager as John for Diablo 3.

And skip to present day, with the Xbox 360 downstairs, and the dozen games we have. There’s only a few I like, and I really, really, really like them. I’ve tried to figure out what it is that appeals to me about them – part of it is the story, the adventure of it. I like both the Left for Dead games (zombies! What’s not to like?), but there’s no real story in Borderlands, the 2k game that came out some time ago, and I adore it – the post-apocalyptic setting, the great music, the crazy mutants and rabid dogs, the bandit-like natives, the constant flux of stuff to find. It’s a huge treasure hunt. And then add in zombies, one of their expansion packs, giant War-of-the-Worlds-like spider-thingies, and ninjas. I could be a spokesman for the game. (There’s another expansion I might get today – sooooo excited).

But story – the real story award goes to Bioshock, both 1 & 2. I love the story, there. Dystopia galore – a new world set under the sea, with genetic enhancements and modifications? It’s like a dream. Besides the story, you get to find shit (Bioshock is made by 2k – I sense a theme…) Weapons, plasmids, ammo, fun things, oh, it’s wonderful. And, there’s a new one coming out – I’m so excited. (I’ve hooked my sister on playing, too – it’s that fun).

And there’s Halo. People talk about the story, but meh – both Halo ODST and even the new Reach have meh stories, especially Reach. I still think Halo 3 campaign trumped ODST and Reach put together, but I’ve finally accepted the lure of player versus player, pvp. Not so much the addictive quality, but the endless opportunities to play better. And it’s just so much damn fun when you succeed.

(Ghost Town, one of my favorite pvp maps)

The best part about it is that we can play with my brother Josh in North Dakota, his wife’s brother Jordan in Wyoming, John’s friend DJ in South Carolina, and his sister (across the street), and anyone else who’s got an Xbox360. It’s a community event.

Oh, that’s where I was going with this – with an Xbox360, we can drink fall beers together, in opposite states, and shoot aliens. That’s real friendship.

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