Tuesday, February 13, 2024

I posted this on Facebook on March 29, 2019, that most hateful month of the most hateful year.

 On March 19, I was eating breakfast at the table with Mom when Dad came in. He had been up for hours, and had breakfast with his cronies at Cancun's, as he often did. For some reason, I asked him about the time he shot a buck over on the next mountain. Dad was an eagle-eyed man who could distinguish details from a great distance at times when someone with typical vision would see nothing. He was also a crack shot. In characteristic fashion, he said twice that it was a lucky shot. Even all those decades later, his instinct was humility, and not to brag or boast-- can you imagine doing something extraordinary like that but insisting it was only a lucky shot? My uncle Billy (Dad's sister Jeanie Smith Wilson's husband) walked down the mountain and up the next one to the buck. Dad said when Billy got to the buck, he turned toward Dad and held up his hat, waving it back and forth in the air. Dad had seen the buck in profile, and the round just pierced the sternum, lodging in the heart of the beast. Luck?! I said "come on, Dad! That was extraordinary-- from a mountain away!" Again he said "it was a lucky shot." At the time, the local paper published a story on the incident, calling it a record shot for the county. I imagine that his father Jim had told folks in town about it, and word got around. I also imagine that although people in town marveled at the achievement, they were probably not terribly surprised that he had done it-- it's easy to feel delight over the accomplishments of a really nice guy. He probably called it luck every single time that story came up, and he probably never told his buddies at Cancun's about the feat.

Sometime after her funeral, he told me it like to have killed him to leave his mother in that cemetery. I now know what you meant, Dad, but I sure wish I didn't. I will tell you what luck is, though: luck is to have been a daughter to outstanding people like you and Mom. Your wonderfulness is fixed in my heart, and ever will be.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

To tell or not to tell...

 I have been low-key about this, but decided to post, now that things are in some state of resolution.

I noticed something was amiss when I was on a trip in June, and got with my doctor as soon as I was back in town. Turned out, I had breast cancer, but more than half the summer was an exercise in suspense as I awaited biopsy results, had the surgery, then the findings of the pathology of the tumor itself. I learned biopsy results the first Friday in August, then had the tumor removed August 8. About two weeks later, I learned that it was contained and had not spread, much to my relief, and was only stage I. 

I'm mentioning this here to stick a pin in dates for myself, and also give rationale for my long silence in the summer. Friday 13 was my final round in a course of 20 radiation treatments. I'm tired, and I did fairly well, only canceling classes on my final two days of treatment. Other than the fatigue and the sunburn effect, it has felt pretty easy. Okay, I've been exhausted, but I count myself lucky to have relatively little to deal with. I'm feeling a little better every day. 

I'm so thankful for the love and support of my inner circle. I'm thankful this was me and not someone else - I know this was especially painful for my Mom to see, and it would have been torment for me to see a loved one go through this. However, I've been in good spirits, generally, and have reasonable expectation for no recurrence, based on the treatments I had and the maintenance meds I'll be on for awhile. 

It's surreal to hear those words in a doctor's office, and wonder what will unfold because of the reason for those words. This kind of thing derails one's life in ways one would never imagine.  I'm ready to move on and do more writing. I'm feeling inspired, but first, I think a nap is in order. 

Sunday, August 27, 2023

School days, school daze.

 School starts tomorrow. 

This summer had many great aspects, but I had a massive health challenge through which I'm working my way. Treatments and medication continue, but hopefully the main problem is fully resolved. Put most succinctly, that aspect of the summer was less than ideal, but I count myself quite lucky.

This semester will be great, and I expect to learn as much as I teach. I'm excited about teaching BritLit again, which is one of my favorites. I'm already practically hopping with excitement about teaching Samuel Pepys, who was a remarkable character, despite his shallow vanity. Also, I love the way his name is pronounced: peeps! 

The heat broke overnight. I'm in the hottest place in Texas, and the past couple of months have had more days over 110 F than below 100. Today is only 95, which sounds hot, until you compare it with 115. I will be taking a fan with me all over campus for my classes. Hopefully it won't be too brutal. In any case, fall semester is here, Summer heat will hopefully be winding up within a month, and I'm ready for some cold weather. 

Onwards and upwards. 

Out with some of the old...

 I finally replaced my phone that had woefully small (32G) storage. Found a great buy on a Samsung xcover, and it seems to be a superior phone, already. However, to upload all my old stuff to the new phone, all data and records could be transferred to the new phone except for the billions of text messages I have stored therein. Most of them I am happy to jettison. However, there are several text threads that happened with friends and family (group texts) around the time of Dad's death. I don't know why it hurts so bad to not have those in living in my phone forever. I don't know if this is mentally unhealthy. We can't keep every receipt and every little thing, can we? Also, I know that conversations about Dad are not the same as conversations WITH Dad. Just the same, it feels painful. I don't know. Possibly I wouldn't be ready to jettison them even when I'm getting ready to pop my clogs. 

This is all just a by-product of grief, and the feeling that I could never happily let go of Dad. Maybe reliving the days immediately after his death doesn't help the healing, but it's still what my heart wants.  All the physical objects are just things, replaceable or not, and however I want to view them as significant for the record they bear of a time, they don't change anything. More than anything, I'm happy and blessed to have such an excellent father, and I guess in the end, that is all that matters.

Friday, August 04, 2023

Moggies in Space! Part I

 Late last year, I composed a short story about a warrior princess cat who does vermin duty on a large spacefaring cargo ship. Sarah Clithero said "you know, cats in space would be a great topic for an anthology." 

Sarah was right, and Raconteur Press picked up the ball and ran with it. 

"Moggies in Space" is now live on Amazon. I think it's super cute, and I'm proud of the stories we compiled for that publication. 

Hee haw!

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

It's so hot. How hot is it? Hot.

 So, silly me. It's still hot. Not off the hook with this. I'm hoping for maybe a 90 degree average by my birthday in early October. J/K. I'm hoping for a blizzard for my birthday.

It turns out, since my two bouts with the 'rona, I'm extremely heat fragile. I be-bop along in the heat, and suddenly, I hit a wall and feel sick and faint. Possibly this is a combination of factors, including having a mild heat-stroke in marching band all those decades ago. Go figure. 

That's a thing, but it's not every thing. I've made progress on many fronts this summer, so I'm happy with the progress since I posted here on June 30. 

July was busy with trips to conventions in Chattanooga and Louisville. I had a grand time with friends at both conventions. We stayed with dear friends in Louisville, and it was so good just to hang out with them and get to know them better. The last weekend of July, I drove down to the Alpine area to visit my sister. After those 16/17 hour drives earlier in the month, the 7 hour drive to her house was a cakewalk.  

Tomorrow I'm heading for the Ozarks to see family and go with Mom to her 60th school reunion. It will be nice to see friends and family again. Also, this is another relatively short drive, so 9 hours will feel like nothing compared to the long hauls to Tennessee and Kentucky. Also, I'll be driving to a place that is presumably cooler, albeit with higher humidity.

I've been getting after it with my flowerbeds and making progress on that front. My best specimens are bearing up, with more watering this year than I've ever done. When it's looking less shabby, I'll try to post some photos for you.

School starts on August 28, so I have a few more weeks. However, I plan to get into my office next week and get as much of my syllabi and schedules completed as possible, so that I don't feel like I'm scrambling around just before school starts. As ever, I do love many aspects of the job and I look forward to seeing the shiny faces of my students then. I hope that I have a good effect on them. I try to be as positive as possible, and I try to demystify things like the composition of research papers. I hope they come to recognize that this type of writing is somewhat formulaic, and that they can crack the code and then only have to dread their own procrastination. The procrastination thing is the hardest to overcome. I'll let you know if I ever get there. 

Speaking of writing, I'm tucking back in to write a novel that I started a handful of years ago. It's funny and goofy, and I hope people will get a giggle out of it. I'm also working on another Mabel Murkwood story to submit for a Raconteur Press anthology that is coming up soon. This will be fun. 

In the most pressing news, on Friday our Raconteur anthology on cats in space will go live. I can't wait to see what people think of it. I love the variety of stories, and I hope you will, too. The deadline for Moggies II is the end of August, and we have some great stories to go there, too, but we've room for more. Moggies III will burst on the scene early next year. Good times at the scratchin' post! :) I'll try to get in here on Friday and post a live link to the book on Amazon. 

It's busy and hot, but this feels like progress. Onwards and upwards! <3

Friday, June 30, 2023

I know it's not profound or remarkable, but...

 ...this heat is overwhelming. When I go outside, I quickly feel like a chicken-fried zombie. It's stupefying. Hopefully this is the worst of the summer heat, and hopefully it breaks soon. I thought El Nino was supposed to be milder/cooler here for us? Perhaps I have that backwards. 

I don't generally agree with Scott Adams on many things, but one thing he said that I have come to recognize as wisdom is that it's more important to have a system than to have a plan. I had a plan to produce a great deal of writing this summer, but I've worked very little on my fiction. This needs to change. The weird part is finding the new normal and establishing a routine now that I'm no longer a student. The great thing about being a student is that the way is somewhat mapped out for a person. Just lock onto the rails and ride them to the terminus. Now, especially in the summer while school is not in session, it's more difficult to hold myself to certain objectives, if that makes sense. The enervating feeling of the oppressive heat is somehow compounded by the feeling that I should be doing something, but that without a hard and fast deadline, I start feeling like one foot is nailed to the floor and I'm just spinning around in a circle. 

Don't mind me: it's the heatwave talking. 

I'm getting sadly close to the mid-point of the summer. I'll be sad when it's over, but so far, it's a good one in spite of the heat. 

Late last year I wrote a short story about a cat who lives on a cargo ship in space. The lovely Raconteur Press folks took this on as a topic for an anthology, and tonight is the deadline for story submissions. The stories I've read thus far are fantastic, and I'll let you know when the publication goes live on Amazon. I hope it will a fun read for everyone at the end of August. :)

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Tuesday, June 27, 2023


 I returned last night from a long weekend in Chattanooga at Libertycon. It was great to see so many friends, old and new, and to have a few days of discussions on storytelling and writing with other people, fans and writers alike. 

It's interesting how every convention or conference has its own atmosphere. As they go, Libertycon is a modestly sized convention, and on the scale of around 1000 attendees, it has a sort of family feeling to it. My room was on the 14th floor of the Marriott, and from my bed I could see Lookout Mountain. The matter of Tennessee is rather loaded with emotion because I kept thinking of trips in my childhood to Nashville and Chattanooga with Mom and Dad and my siblings. We lived in the mid-south, around Memphis TN/West Memphis AR most of my childhood. It was bittersweet to drive those roads I'd previously only ridden when Dad was driving. It was more sweet than bitter, but it still hurts. The summer of 1976, Dad drove us to Nashville for Opryland, and then to Chattanooga to go to Lookout Mountain and Ruby Falls. Those towns in my memory are the domain of that particular trip. Life was exciting and interesting, and the future seemed a vast, amazing world of possibilities.

This weekend I stopped in West Memphis to see the dear lady who was next door for all the time we lived in that house in town. It was wonderful to see her, and talk about Mom and Dad and also her kids and her husband. She said Mom and Dad are the best people she ever knew, and that the time we lived next door was the happiest of her life. Later on the phone, Mom said that was the happiest time of her life, too. <3 It felt so good to reconnect with dear sweet Reba.

I was tickled to see our old house which is not very different, but is still well-kept. The park across the street is still there. I took a photo of the pavilion where people picnic at the park with its benches and tables. The tables have changed, as the ones from my childhood were heavy wooden planks, and were carved up with the usual graffiti of the 1970s. 

One summer, a group took to hanging around the pavilion at night, smoking. We soon noticed a strange, exotic quality to the smoke that drifted across the street to our front door: they were smoking pot. The group seemed comprised of hippie teenagers, probably some twenty-somethings, and one older man, possibly in his 50s. When they sparked up the funny tobacco, Dad went over and told them to clear out, and not to come back. They took off that night. Some days later, they all came back to the pavilion, and Dad was ready. He had a hand sprayer attachment on his garden hose. I don't know the particulars, whether the sprayer was naturally turbo-charged, or if Dad modified it, but I suspect the latter. They were settled in, lighting up and stinking up the neighborhood when Dad came out, turned on the hose, and proceeded to dowse them with a jet stream of water that went about 80 feet from our front door to the pavilion. They left and never came back. That was so Dad. He did not tolerate baloney. 

I know it's not him, and it's not the same as having him here, but it's a place where a thing happened, and I was there, and I feel him in my heart. It feels comforting to see it again, to remember all the wonderful times in that house, that very nice house he provided for his family. He is still here, just in a different form. 

Anyway, it was nice to go back and to see a dear lady from my life. Today I'm mailing her some pecans from Wichita County, and I plan to go by next month and bring her a nice plant when I'm on the way to Imaginarium in Louisville.  I look forward to driving some of those same roads again, and hopefully with even more sweetness and less of the bitter. I'm feeling like the exercise is important to work out the bad feelings, to grind through the grief, and get on with the cherished memories. This is life as it is. I'm trying to make the most of it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Moving right along...

 Father's Day ended more happily than I could have imagined. An urgent heath situation erupted for a friend, and it was stressful but he came through the experience and that is a great blessing. Spent part of the afternoon/evening at the hospital anxiously awaiting good news. 

Got home about 630 or 700, and went out to pull the army of wild lettuce that loves my yard with such abandon. After a while of toiling and sweating, a man came up the street on a gigantic riding mower, and he said he'd seen me struggling to clean the place up (mentioning the slow tedium of a push mower), and he asked if he could make a pass over the yard, said it wouldn't take him 5 minutes to mow the whole thing. He refused any pay, but may do some work for me in the future. 

We chatted a bit and he asked me what I was trying to achieve with my yard. I told him about losing Dad suddenly 4 years ago, and I admitted I'd let the exterior of the house go to pot. In  fact, I need a new fence, desperately. In January of 2019, I ordered materials for a new fence, hoping to install it before Summer. The materials were delivered to my house at the beginning of March, Dad died at the end of March, and I just haven't been able to muster until recently. The materials are where they were delivered. My goal is to finish that work before this year is over. At least now I'm making progress.

He went on to tell me that he and his family moved to town a couple years ago after the sudden death of his mother. He said they'd moved here to keep his father company and so they could have more time together, but his father died suddenly last year, too. We commiserated about missing our Dads. I told him I feel like Dad sent him by my house that day, and he said he thinks his father sent him. :)  It was sweet. I said they're probably fishing together in Heaven, and he said "yeah, my Dad's a fisherman." They must be getting along swimmingly. <3

Anyway, Tim and his wife will be helping yank out some of my small trees. It's going to be great to get the saplings cleared and get the place tidied up. I felt encouraged, my spirit buoyed. This was unexpected on a day in which I'd already cried a few times. 

My friend is home from hospital, being watched over by his phenomenal wife, and on the mend in tiny steps. We're all praying and watching for his improvement. 

Onwards and upwards.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Missing Dad on Father's Day

 It's been four years, and although it still feels like a knife in my heart that Dad died, I feel he is ever present with me. I'm still very sad, but more than that I am grateful that I was blessed with such a lovely, outstanding father. 

The thing to which my mind has returned hundreds of times in the past four years is something a neighbor of my parents told me when I got to Mom's house that evening. She is a nurse who lives two houses over from my folks, and apparently Dad helped her with some car issues. She told me "your father was such a good, good man." I agreed and said that I am grateful for him, but that it felt impossible to imagine moving forward with life without him here. She said she understood that, but that it's important for me to remember that the world is filled with people who live their entire lives without a single good man in their world. She said many people have cruel and hateful fathers, and some never even know their fathers, that many people live an entire lifetime without a single positive interaction with their fathers.  She spoke of Dad in reverent terms, as the very best of men. She said he was a blessing from God, and I know this is absolutely true. 

He loved to laugh, so mostly these days, I remember him being incredibly tickled, and his megawatt smile that lit up the room. He was a joy to be around. I'm glad I told him I loved him so often, because even though I know he knew, it's important to say and to hear. 

Thank you for being mine, Dad. 

Monday, June 05, 2023

Gardening the Wrong Way.

 I expect tomorrow at the gym I'll be pre-sore from all the weeding I've done today in the garden. That will make squats with 130# less than happy-making. My neighbor wanted some of my wild lettuce, so I just let it go hog wild. WILD. Some of them were about 7 or 8 feet tall. Ugh. My neighbor has an illness and needed the leaves to make a tincture for some sort of relief. I used the opportunity as an excuse to neglect them, and I have lived to regret that choice as the weeds have obscured many of the legit specimens in the garden, and even partly the porch and the front of my house. 

A rumbly thunderstorm woke me about 2AM today, and it went on until I fell to sleep about 5 or so. Something about the rain makes me feel content, and keeps me awake. I realized the few hours of rain this morning would make for ideal moisture in the soil to pull the wild lettuce today. This morning I had a few weed-pulling sessions. I put on thick leather gloves and went out to pull weeds in the hot and humid morning. I would pull for about 10 minutes and then rest and cool off. A few were so thick at the ground that I had to use a spade to pull them. They have coarse, thorny whiskers on the stalk, so the gloves kept my fingers safe from the poky bits. Still, it was quite satisfying when they'd break free from the earth, and I'd shake the excess soil from the root balls. Now the lawn is littered with the stalks. I'd already filled the garbage trolley from cleaning over the weekend. 

The progress on the house is encouraging, but it's such a huge task. Removing the tall weeds at the front of the house reveals how I need to clean the siding on the house itself. Maybe if I ignore the house dirt, I can get it obscured by another wave of wild lettuce soon. I must resist the temptation to neglect it all again. So much to do, but I'm getting there. 

My oak leaf hydrangea is the biggest and most beautiful it's been, so hopefully I'll have a photo of it to share here soon. Now that the weeds are gone, I've got about a million saplings to eradicate from the property.

Baby steps, right?

Friday, June 02, 2023

Two days in a row? Reallly?

 Yes, I'm posting two days in a row. 

The weather has been unusually wet this year. We can thank El NiƱo for this state of affairs. This means that some of my wilder plantings in the yard are thriving more than usual, since I harden my plants to be water-thrifty. Oddly, my Texas Star hibiscus comes back every year and usually puts out a few dozen canes. Last year it only got to about 6' tall because I was too stingy with the water perhaps. I would typically expect the canes to be 5 or 6 inches by June 1, but they are now 3 and 4 feet tall. This year should be a doozy for this specimen. 

My catmint is thriving. It has a mild catnip effect, so feral cats do hang around my porch for some reason. I'm not a cat person, as I'm at least mildly allergic to them, but I love that they are around keeping the rodent situation in check around town. If the weren't here, we would surely have many more rattlesnakes and copperheads in town, so I'll take the cats any day.

I'm thinking of many improvements I'll make to my house, but now I'm also casting ahead on what to do about the outside. My house is a 1931 Sears Kit House in Craftsman style. It's a little bungalow that originally had clapboard exterior over which a taste-impaired individual slapped some vinyl siding probably in the 1980s or so. I'm not sure how much of the original clapboard might be salvageable under there, and I'm sort of thinking about Hardie board siding. I like the idea that it's a durable, stable product that is not plastic, and would not need painting within my lifetime. ;) For now, though, it's fun to think of the possibilities. More on that later. 

Have a great day. 

Thursday, June 01, 2023

What an excellent Summer this will be!

 Just a quick note this evening, and a brief one at that. 

I will do a tremendous amount of writing this Summer. I have so much to do, so the fires are burning and I'm on a mission. I'm working on getting my house in order, including the flowerbeds and other outdoor matters. However, I MUST finish a short story I've been working on for a bit, and I need to compose the next Mabel novel. I'll get there. Much to do.

My house is a huge mess. I don't have piles of pizza boxes and pop bottles everywhere, but I do accumulate things. Since the semester ended, I've been doing intensive cleaning jags every few days, in which I tackle a more deep-cleaning type of task. I have(or at least I had) paper glaciers on every horizontal surface. Sometimes, they calve. The sad element of them is that I can date them by the unopened mail therein, from Spring 2019, when Dad died. So I'm clearing it up, knowing that Dad would want me to not let my little house turn into Satis House from Great Expectations. It's been so easy to be checked out of it, though, as I had school and writing on which to focus. Now I have to face it down and bend it to my will. 

A young friend has said I can hire him to do some odds and ends in the yard, so that will really help me move the ball down the field. I may post photos as I make progress. I plan to transform the place in the next two years, though. 

The funny thing to consider is that I've lived in 25 different places that I can remember in my life. I count 6 that I remember when I was a child with my folks, then I've moved 19 times as an adult. The previous residence, I had a bad situation with a rude landlady and Dad told me if I found a house I wanted to buy, he'd give me the down-payment. He was so sweet. I found an adorable little house that was inexpensive, and now I've lived there since April 26, 2010. I thought I'd be there for a few years until I got my career off the ground in this little county, and then I'd upgrade to a larger house. The fact that Dad helped me with this one is a sentimental point. As for getting a career off the ground here, I quickly learned that this provincial place hires on different criteria than I was accustomed to in a big city. Go figure. So back to school I went. School was absolutely the right choice. 

Since January, I've been looking for another house in the area now that I'm finished as a student (for now) and have a fairly stable professional situation. However, I recently learned that moving at this time is simply Not Going To Happen, so I'm on my own to get this house in better order. I have many plans for it, so I'm going to chip away at the many tasks before me. 

Watch this space. I'll try and post photos now and again. I'm excited about bringing the house to the state I'd always envisioned for it. :) I'm very excited about the stories that I'll be writing over the Summer. I'm grateful to have a safe and secure home with a modest little payment. The fact that Dad helped me to buy it only makes it sweeter. <3 It's going to be so cute. 

Thanks, Dad. You're the best.