Bitten Again

I was bitten by two ticks yesterday. They were so small that I only knew they were there because they had caused two itchy red spots on the back of my knee. I only guessed that they weren’t blemishes because there were two (one I could believe, but two in that area seemed highly unlikely). I had to take pictures using the macro feature of my camera to verify that they were ticks. Even after they were removed, they looked like nothing more than bits of dirt. I’m pretty sure they were larval ticks, not only because of the size, but because they appeared to have only six legs, not eight. That means they probably didn’t infect me with anything.

But I still haven’t learned my lesson about ticks, have I? Walking around outside at this time of year is dangerous. If I’m going to do it, I should wear the proper clothes and take a shower afterward. And we ought to tick-check ourselves and the kids every day if we’ve been outside. How many tick bites must we get before I finally get this through my head?

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Reading, Writing, and Real World Stuff

I finished Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” and I am now reading “The Trouble With Goats and Sheep” by Joanna Cannon.

Last night I spent some time working on my novel. Today, too. Now the word count is over 45,000. A couple of thousand new words over the course of two months is nothing to brag about. But, considering that I had recently lost all interest in writing and had decided that my story was the dumbest, lamest thing anyone had ever thought of, getting myself to work on it has to be looked upon as nothing less than a miracle.

Today I created a character for the purpose of killing her to make another character even more unhappy than she already was. Sometimes I think I must not be a very nice person. But, you know, if there was anything to be learned from that hot mess that was the Star Wars prequel trilogy, it’s that you have to show a character’s descent into madness before you can set them to doing mad things.

Now I must stop messing around on my computer and go do some real world stuff, like laundry and dinner.

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Three Firsts

Here are the first paragraphs of the three books that I’m thinking about reading.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman:

It was only a duck pond, out at the back of the farm. It wasn’t very big.

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore:

(Selected from the Great Big Book of Death: First Edition) 1. Congratulations, you have been chosen to act as Death, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. It is your duty to retrieve soul vessels from the dead and dying and see them on to their next body. If you fail, Darkness will cover the world and Chaos will reign.

Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen:

Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife. This woman casually closed the door behind her. In an oversized pale blue purse–Rema’s purse–she was carrying a russet puppy. I did not know the puppy. And the real Rema, she doesn’t greet dogs on the sidewalk, she doesn’t like dogs at all. The hayfeverishly fresh scent of Rema’s shampoo was filling the air and through that brashness I squinted at this woman, and at that small dog, acknowledging to myself only that something was extraordinarily wrong.

Which one sounds the most interesting and ought to be the first one that I read?

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Cold Showers

Many of us are procrastinators because we have a negative, knee-jerk reaction to discomfort. We know that something will “hurt” (force us to face our fears, cause minor/temporary physical or mental strain, take a lot of our time, etc.), so we shy away from it. We put off certain tasks, whatever they may be, until they can no longer be avoided or they cease to be relevant.

The cure is to train our brains not to instinctively flinch away from these minor discomforts. Some people say that we should start taking cold showers to beef up our willpower. This is said to work because we know that the cold water will be shocking, even painful at first, but we also know it won’t kill us. Regularly facing and overcoming our reluctance this way will supposedly toughen us up.

And what I say to that is “Hell no!” It’s a great idea in principle, but my reluctance to do a thing almost never stems from fear of physical discomfort, so why would I deliberately torture myself that way? If it ever becomes necessary due to other circumstances, sure. Until then, no thanks.

But I do see reason to force myself to do the things that I ought to do, no matter how much I don’t want to. That’s why I’m writing this post. This is my “cold shower.” I feel naked and uncomfortable, and I don’t want to do this right now. I also don’t want to work on a story, clean my house, or prep for tomorrow, but I’m going to do all of those things today. I am learning in my own time and my own way to do better, without physical pain. Imagine that.

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This week nearly wrecked me. It was the first week of summer camp. Summer camp is worse than school. I have to get up just as early to feed the kids breakfast, then I also have to pack lunches for them and coat them in sunscreen before they leave. Then I have to unpack and wash all the lunch containers when they get home. I have to plan their lunches in advance and shop for them, and do extra things, like find T-shirts for tie-dye day. The kids make more laundry, because they have to shower and change when they get home. It’s hard to keep up with it all. I know I’ll get into the swing of things in a couple of weeks. For now, though, I am so glad that it’s finally Friday and that this first week is behind us.

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Marshall lost a tooth earlier this month. It was probably his last baby tooth. The Tooth Fairy is sad.

It’s utterly ridiculous that “sanguine” means “optimistic” and also “bloody/bloodthirsty.” If, for example, your coworker said he was feeling sanguine about an upcoming meeting, would that mean he was feeling good about it or planning a massacre? You’d like to be certain about something like that, right?

I’m irritated to find that my given name has become a slang term for a disagreeable woman. I mean, I am a disagreeable woman, but not in the way the word suggests.

Joe Hill recently tweeted, “I learned from crosswords that the maddening blanks in one’s life can be filled in. It requires patience, humor, a willingness to consider skewed possibilities . . . and the humility to ask for help if you need it. Often that’s all you need to puzzle things out: on & off the page.” I liked the sentiment, so I didn’t point out that it’s somebody’s job to make sure that the puzzles are solvable.

I was relieved to read online recently that it’s perfectly normal to read a book and then completely forget it. In fact, the article said that unless you deliberately read a text multiple times, odds are that it will disappear almost entirely from your head. I would tell you more about it, except I’ve already forgotten the rest, of course.

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Pandora Redux

I finished a book last night. It was my 20th book of 2019. I am still behind on my reading goal for the year, but I think I’ve gained some ground. If I keep up my current pace of reading, I might be able to catch up by the end of the year.

The Pandora Box by Christopher Golden; Grade: B-

An archaeological team on an underground dig discovers a hidden room containing an ancient jar. Inscriptions in and around the room suggest that the jar is the origin of the Pandora myth. Believing that the jar could contain a disease (or worse, some sort of paranormal malice), a special team is dispatched to deal with the threat (i.e., make sure the jar ends up in their hands and not the “wrong” hands). As the wrong hands (jihadis armed to the teeth) try to take the prize from the outside, something horrific is happening on the inside, and there is no way out.

I wanted to like this book, and I did initially. It had a bold start. The author created a tense, dark atmosphere and some interesting, likeable characters, and that was enough for the story to coast on for a time. But it wasn’t quite enough to see it to the end. The story got bogged down in violence and grossness, and with nowhere for its characters to go, deus ex machina was called upon to bring it to a close.

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That’s a Lot of Bubbles!

Our kids don’t take baths often, because the drain of the bathtub is messed up and we’re holding off fixing it until we redo that entire bathroom. So the kids usually take showers, which are quicker and easier for everyone involved. But, every once in a while, they need a good soak, so their dad prepares a bath. I’m in favor of this, even though I know it will go wrong somehow, usually in the form of something getting damaged by the gallons of water that inevitably end up getting propelled out of the tub.

Yesterday, Livia got her long-awaited and much-needed soak. Her father had turned it into a bubble bath by adding some soap to the water, and she was delighted. I was in my office working, but my door was open, and I could hear the whole exciting event. There was a lot of splashing and talking, including some yelling when her father discovered how much water was already on the floor.

After a while, I heard Livia call to her brother. “Look how many bubbles I have, Marshall!”

“Whoa!” responded Marshall, after viewing the soapy marvel.

In my office, I was thinking to myself, “This can’t be good.”

A few minutes later, their dad returned the bathroom. “Oh my God! How did you get so many bubbles? What did you do? Did you add more soap? HOW MUCH SOAP DID YOU ADD?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Take a guess. One squirt? Ten squirts?”

“Um, fifteen?” she answered

I did not see how many bubbles were in the bathtub, because I was too busy laughing in my office. Bath time was soon over after that, and the tub drained. But, a little while later, my husband came into my office and said, “I don’t want you to be alarmed when you go downstairs . . .” So of course I went downstairs so that I could be alarmed, and I brought my camera so that I could take pictures, which I will not share, because you do not want to see pictures of the inside of the toilet.

Yes, the alarming thing was the toilet, which was filled with soap bubbles–a mountainous island of bubbles floating in the toilet sea. Apparently there were so many bubbles in the waste pipe that they had backed up into the toilet. Because, like I said, baths always goes wrong somehow.

At least this time it was amusing!

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The most exciting potential prize of the recent limerick contest (aside from the free trip to England) was a full set of the Dictionary of American Regional English. I was hoping to get one. Alas, I did not.

But my husband surprised me with a consolation prize.

Wow! It’s the first volume of the DARE! My husband was disappointed by the condition of the book (it had more external wear and tear than the online book seller had disclosed), but it was in good shape inside. We decided to keep it.

Just to give you a taste of what’s in there, here are three of the entries (definitions slightly paraphrased by me).

Amish preaching soup: a bean soup that the Amish eat after or between religious services (from Amish areas, such as OH, PA, etc.)

Burnt-tail jinny: will-o’-the-wisp, “the feminine mate or counterpart of Jack-o’-Lantern” (from South Carolina)

cootie: 1. body louse, 2. bedbug, 3. game similar to hangman, 4. “drunk as a cootie.” (these four usages are from various areas). And there’s also cootie cage (a bed in crowded quarters) and cootie garage (human hair, especially arranged in a puffy hairdo).

I’m a big fan of soup, so perhaps I will look up a recipe for the Amish preaching soup someday. I’m also happy to add another will-o’-the-wisp term (“burnt-tail jinny”) to my vocabulary. Regarding cooties, I had always thought that they were invisible germs. This is not only my personal experience with the word, but I distinctly remember reading an article recently about cooties as an invisible disease that children accuse each other of having. But this is apparently not how most people use the word. My Random House Webster’s College Dictionary defines it as an informal term for a body louse. My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary similarly refers me to “body louse,” but also gives a potential derivation for the word (from a Malay word kutu).

All I can say is that you learn something (and sometimes three things) new every day.

Thanks to my hubby for this wonderful gift of words!

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SITY: Beetle Views

We found a beetle on the driveway.
It had an interesting face.
It did not like us, and it ran away. I can’t say I blame it.

We looked this beetle up in my Audubon book. Thanks to its distinct markings, it was easy to identify. It was an American carrion beetle.

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