picking up old [writing] habits

I’ve been easing my way back into a regular writing routine. Looking through my progress calendar, there are a lot of gaps starting in mid-April, most of May, and the beginning of June. I started the year strong, but struggled with some life drama and other issues along the way that made writing less of a priority. Not an excuse, just a fact. I post these updates as a way to stay accountable, even if no one else is holding me to task. There are days when I just want to stop, but there’s this need that keeps me from doing that… it’s a compulsion at this point; even when I’m not writing, I’m picturing scenes in my head. If only it weren’t so hard to take what I picture and put it into words.

By my count, it takes me about a week to edit and rewrite each chapter (except, not really… at least, not if I tally up the number of days when I engaged in some form of active rewriting, but it’s a good estimate based on the average time spent on each chapter). My goal was to be done (DONE) by May. Then it was June. Things happened. Things didn’t happen. Here we are. I’ve decided to stop working towards an arbitrary date and take this “bird by bird,” as Anne Lammott says. I have four chapters left and another round of reading through the early chapters (my editing style changed midway through this draft and I find that later chapters received better treatment). At this point, I just want to get it all down.

I read somewhere that writers should read in-genre for every 2000(?) words, 20000(?) words written. Something like that. Whatever the number is, I should be reading in genre. So I’ve started making a concerted effort to read more fantasy, particularly more magical, elemental magic type fantasy. Uprooted really sparked my desire to write, as well as Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy (why were these waiting on my shelf for so many years?!). The only trouble arises when all I want to do is kick back and read, but that’s what happens when you’re a total book nerd.

finding normal

It’s been a pretty rough week. My birthday was the day after I lost Didymus; it was the saddest birthday I’ve had in a very long time. It was a few days before I felt like doing more than wandering around or lying on the couch reading, but I started writing again on Monday. The boy has been very supportive and managed to distract me with a Back to the Future marathon. There’s been a lot of soul-searching; it’s been a year full of loss and I’m just hoping to find a new sense of normal in light of it. I took in one of my mom’s special needs cats yesterday. He was born with ingrown eyelashes and lost most of his vision in one eye at a very young age. He had his eyes “fixed” last year, but he’s an anxious little cat and very jumpy. He’s getting used to the new sights and sounds, but he hasn’t eaten much and spends most of his time in the hollow under my couch when not demanding cuddles. I wasn’t really ready for this, but I promised my mom long ago that I would take him in after Didymus passed (he wasn’t open to sharing his space, so I couldn’t do it earlier). There’s a lot of post traumatic stress to deal with, I just hope little Cara acclimates enough to start eating and drinking.

grieving the loss of a cat

This morning, I lost my Didymus the Cat.

Didymus was the only surviving kitten in a litter of five (I like to think he’s the one looking back, but he could be the one firmly attached at the front–he was a voracious eater).

It was a litter of outdoor kitties and his siblings didn’t make it. I won’t go into details but it was a case of cruelty involving minors so there was no justice in the end. Didymus was 5 weeks old when he appeared in our garden, hungry and scared, but alive.

We weren’t allowed to have pets in our apartment, but I begged and pleaded to keep him until my mom let me have my way. I said I would find him a home and I did–with me. He was a funny little cat from the start and enjoyed being carried so much he learned to lift his front legs into the air whenever he wanted to be picked up.

His markings became darker with age, until he was mostly gray and black with a white belly.

And he always had the most amazing blue eyes.

He was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma after I discovered a strange lump on his shoulder. He underwent surgery in February, but the bump was back within two months. The vet wanted to try again, but I refused. I knew it was a terminal illness and that it was progressing too fast to have any real hope of long-term recovery. I made the decision to watch and wait. His quality of life started to take a turn for the worse on Tuesday evening. It was getting harder for him to walk and lifting his head to eat was becoming difficult but he was still eating. Last night it was nearly impossible to get him to take more than a few licks of the moistened food and the only thing I could get him to take was a spoonful of yogurt. I knew that I was only prolonging his suffering so I asked my mom to take him in to the vet to see if there were any other options for palliative care, but there were none. I knew it was time to let go. I wasn’t there when it happened. I felt obliged to go to work for a meeting and because I needed to take care of business before going on vacation; I drove as fast as I could, but I couldn’t be there in the end.

I keep thinking he’s just around the corner every time I walk into the living room, plopped across one of his many blankets. It’s going to be hard to put his things away. There will never be another cat like him, though there will be others. The pain of losing a pet is real, but it would be more painful to not experience the love they bring.

I said goodbye to him this morning and he work me with a happy little mreow this morning. This is the last picture I have of him. I took it when he came to wake me at 6:30 am. I was surprised that he was able to make it to my room, he was that tired, but I was grateful to see his little face at my bedside one last time.


i’ve been reading: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I’ll be posting a reading update later this month, but I just can’t stop myself from gushing over Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. I received a preview of the first three chapters at a library conference and was hooked from the start. It’s been a long time since a book enthralled me so much. I wanted nothing but to stay up all night reading, and that’s saying something (I take sleep very seriously). The writing is just as enchanting as the story; I can’t wait to get a copy of my own so I can read it again, savoring every little detail. This may very well be the best book I read all year. I’m definitely feeling the good book hangover.

the view from sunday: the life-changing magic of tidying up

True story: I’m an organizer. I love keeping things in order. It doesn’t always look tidy, but there’s a method to my madness. My mom, however, has a bit of a problem letting go. Not I… I purge with abandon. Now that she’s retired, it’s time to start getting rid of all the stuff she’s held on to for the sake of work. Plus all that other stuff she’s refused to let go. Hoping to send her on her magic, cleaning journey, I gave her a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up in Spanish (hooray for translations!). To make sure she follows through, I picked up a copy myself. She’ll have no excuse but to get to it.

My mom’s hoarding aside, this book is awesome! There are some claims that make me feel a little squinty-eyed with doubt, but most of the advice is incredibly practical and easy to follow. The life-changing magic part? Learning that I’ve been storing my clothes all wrong. Seriously, who knew storing clothes vertically rather than horizontally makes such a difference? So much free space now! Nothing snags when I open a drawer.

My home is so much lighter without all the clutter. Still have far to go before it’s just right, but it’s a start.

Behold, the great purge! All donated, of course.

Now, to bask in the glory of it all.

encroaching adulthood, or something like it

It’s June, which means my birthday nears! While not a party girl, I’m particularly proud of my birthday (re: particularly full of myself), especially when it coincides with the solstice, as it does this year. My mystically-minded coworker says it is very auspicious and I gladly concur. Go magic summer babies!

Speaking of summer babies… I became an auntie last month and now have a special little girl to spoil (and an excuse to buy toys, not that I really need an excuse). Behold, the tiny person…

In other news, I had a terribly unproductive month, but I’m starting to get back to work on the draft (with some much-needed changes to tighten the ending). I’ve been pretty brutal with this round, cutting nearly 20k words from the last draft. I’m getting closer to the end and can see that the last five chapters will work much better if combined into three. In the meantime, I’ve started working on another project that I think of as “the sea story”. There are a few ideas I’ve stored for the future, but this one has been nagging at me for the last year and I think it’s ready to be outlined. My goal is to wrap up draft 3 between now and July, and start plotting for the next NaNo while I beg for critiques and venture into the next round of edits: the “detail” round (wherein I bemoan the loss of words cut so ruthlessly).

For now, au revoir.

the view from sunday: rest and rainbows

The weekend has been a blur of post-conference decompression. There have been a lot of naps. I had a great time, but whenever I’m away from home for more than a day I find it really hard to get back to normal. It’s like jet-lag without the jet part. Even after an afternoon nap, I’m still exhausted.

It’s going to be a tough week. The boy is away so I’m cat sitting, which means I’m going to have to do some creative scheduling in order to squeeze everything into my already tight schedule.

Didymus turned 14 while I was away, but my mom made sure to make him a party hat to mark the occasion. It’s a melancholy celebration because the sarcoma he had removed in February has returned. He’s going in for a second procedure on Tuesday, but I’m afraid it will be back sooner rather than later. Trying to treasure every moment.

On a lighter note, there was a beautiful rainbow that spread across the neighborhood this afternoon. I will take it as a good sign.

the view from sunday: mother’s day fun

My mom wears me out like no other, but every moment we spend together is definitely special. It’s been a rough year for us all, so I tried to keep things light. Took my mom and gran out for a quick brunch at one of the boy’s favorite Colombian bakeries, followed by a trip to one of my mom’s favorite health food stores (she gets a kick out of buying supplements and organic soaps). We dropped my gran off at home so she could rest and picked up the boy for a trip to Yogurtland and a little heart to heart… After 6 years, the boy finally asked me to move in with him (for real this time, not because it was the easy way out of a bad situation). I said yes, but it won’t be official for another year since I just renewed my lease (bad timing). Either way, we wanted to break the news to her and share in our excitement. It will be interesting preparing to move and figure out how our stuff will fit together.

We ended the day with churros, because who can pass on churros?

the hard stuff

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s. It started about 15 years ago. At least, that’s what I estimate. I was 15 the first time I noticed that she was lost. She picked me up from school; I stayed late for some after school activity, probably art club or something, and missed the bus. I was hungry and she took me to the McDonald’s down the street to pick up a snack. When we got back in the car, she didn’t know where she was or what she was doing there. I had to show her how to get back home. She was fine after that. My mom passed it off as age, exhaustion after a long day. But then it started to happen again, at random. Eventually we knew something was off.

There’s no way to stop it and it only gets worse. I lived with my mom and gran growing up, there was no day when she wasn’t around. She’s always been difficult. She’s always been hard to understand and a little cold towards my mom. Now, she’s aggressive and mean. She’s angry and irrational. When I moved out, I knew that I was leaving my mom in a tough situation, but I knew that I couldn’t stay. It was a hard choice. I was ready to move on, even knowing that my mom needed help to deal with my grandmother’s dementia. It’s getting harder. My mom’s health is poor. She’s retiring because she can’t work and take care of my grandmother anymore, but she also can’t take care of her without suffering herself. My grandmother’s actions stress her out and are making her own health deteriorate. Meanwhile, I’m unable to offer any kind of real help. There’s so little that can be done and no money for outside help. It’s hard to age when you’re poor and even worse when you’re unable to take care of yourself or those you love.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I worry for them both and there is no easy solution. My mom was in tears when I called to check in on her this morning; she was crying because my grandmother was acting out again. It’s hard to feel kind towards my grandmother knowing that she’s never been kind to my mom, and that makes me feel even worse. The thought of having to put her in care hurts, but it may come down to it if it means taking the pressure off my mom. There’s no easy out.

I just needed to put this into words.

in which I am a clumsy creature

My morning has been plagued by an attack of the clumsies. Dropped my $20 under the car seat during my trip to the gas station and had to crawl around, nearly straining my shoulder to fish it out. In my haste, I dropped my sunglasses on the car seat and forgot to move them before getting back in. I now have no sunglasses to protect me from the glaring Florida sunshine.

I them arrived at work early… too early as there was no one else around to let me in to the office (I work between campuses, but only have the key to my “home” base). I’m squatting among the students and feeling terribly self-concious as I click away on my laptop as it’s the last day of finals and students are stir-crazy.

I am taking comfort in a soy latte. I vowed to cut my latte addiction last month (and I did), but this one feels warranted.

On the bright side, it looks like there was a tiny increase in my earnings. Just a little one, but much appreciated as my rent just went up.

Serenity now.