Is It Safe Yet?

Is it over yet? August, I mean. Is it over? Five Mondays of sweat, heat, bugs, humidity…


Is this it? Did we make it?


I think so. I think by the time this posts, and by the time any of you read it, we’ll be well on our way through the last August-y Monday in the Eastern Daylight time zone, 2021.


The next month with five Mondays is November. That’ll be more tolerable unless the Indiana weather elves churn out another wave of evil heat in the middle of fall. It’s been known to happen.


There. I’m done whining about that.


But Little Miss Muse? She’s not done whining about anything.


And I’ve retreated into this hole of safety with a fuzzy blanket and whichever cat wants to hide from her frazzled fury.


Little Miss is not a happy camper, and she’s not done whining. As a matter of fact, I think she’s on the fritz. A purple-glittery glitz of a fritz.


She’s been helping me fire up the short stories. That’s been great.


She’s been helping me fire up plot ideas for the novel work-in-progress, and that’s been great.


She’s been helping me fire up ideas about novels that won’t be written for another ten years. And that’s great. Sort of.

She’s just fired up.


Possibly due to that bad batch of grape soda from last week, or possibly from the heat, or possibly that she and I have been in this hidey-hole of safety for way too long, isolating from drama and family disasters of all sorts.


And now that we’re poking our heads out and getting some fresh air and fresh plans, she’s malfunctioning. Stories go from sweet Hallmark-ish tales to twisted, dark webs of horror in a matter of five sentences. Plots for the now-novel intertwine with plots for novels-to-be. I cleaned up four piles of grape soda burp-ups. Those are not fun, people. Not fun. Especially when the cats track through it…


Then I find out she’s been watching the news. A steady diet of gloom, doom, terror, and torment. I caught her last night with the remote, flipping between one bad news story to the next. I told her it was time to go write, think about something else. Change our focus. And she told me to go glitter myself as she unwrapped three grape bubblegum pieces and crammed them into her already full jowls.


Well then.


Bad idea. News of any sort from any media outlet is a bad idea for heat-weary creative types with art to manufacture. Bad for logic-ish types with tasks to manage. Bad for those combination folks who swing from creative to logic with each passing hour. Bad for us all.


Just don’t. With the news. Limit consumption to the headlines at most. Perhaps just a single headline at that. Protect your malfunctioning muses, your peace, and your sanity from the state of the universe at large.


Perhaps dig a safe little hidey-hole.


Throw in a fuzzy blanket, a good book, and a critter of your choosing and ride out the insanity.

Everlasting Bubble Wrap

Five Mondays, yes? August has five of these buggers to wrestle through. It’s the month that wouldn’t end. Five Mondays of crisp fall-ness or fresh spring-ness, now those I could handle with no attitude.


Okay, not nearly as much attitude.


But August? Who declared summer to be glorious and magical? The bugs. The heat. The heat index. No thanks.


And, since none of you would let me buy a new notebook, it just made the scalding, swampy middle of August that much more unbearable. Even Little Miss Muse is looking a little like a mannequin in a wax museum with a bum HVAC system.

I’ve had to get up from the desk twice already to break up frenzied feline fights in the hallway. It’s the heat. And the humidity. Or they got in a tiff over a rogue bug. Bugs. Heat. Humidity.


August is awful. Sorry, summer lovers. It just is.


Perhaps to ease the stress I shall drive five towns over to where no one knows me and fill a cart to the brim with all things paper goods…


Or. Or. Or.


I could go to the nearest gas station or the nearest virtual amazon shopping cart and load up on these new-fangled sensory bobbles. They’re like everlasting bubble wrap, y’all. (I stole the one in the picture from a child. I gave it back, I promise. But I didn’t want to…)


I think Pop It! might be the original brand name of this little goody. Not sure, though, as the article I was trying to read blocked me. Apparently, I “reached the article limit” with this particular publication and need to subscribe to their newsletter, pay a fee, or auction off a blood relative to keep reading.


At any rate, here are some other titles/descriptions of this stress-reliving, anxiety-squelching, no-batteries-needed gizmo:

Push Pop


Pop Push


Big Pop


Krazy Popper


Silicone Popper


Bubble Fidget


Sensory Bubble Popper


And imma gonna stop right there because as I read back over those names all listed out like that, it’s starting to sound like I’m running an ad for a “pop”ular R- to X-rated genre of fiction. But I don’t write in that genre, so let’s change directions.


(And you, dear reader, just went back and reread that list, didn’t you? Tsk, tsk, tsk…)


I think a more appropriate name is Everlasting Bubble Wrap.


You pop, push, or squish those little bubbles. Then, you flip it over, and pop them again. And again and again.


Seriously, I don’t write in this genre.


I need to stop.


Some manufacturers have even paired these silicone bubbles with the fidget spinner design. Now you can spin and pop, and flip and pop, and twirl and pop…


I really, really need to stop. It’s got to be the heat. Or the heat index. Or that there’s still ANOTHER MONDAY after this one.


Back to PG ratings now.


They come in all sizes and shapes and colors, from simple square grids, to unicorns, Yodas, and dinosaurs. Santas, pineapples, and game controllers.


Crabs too.


(Now, I didn’t mean anything by that mention of crabs... See how dirty your mind is? I’m running on PG ratings, here people.)

Little Miss believes the only way Pop Its! could be improved upon is with an accompanying poof of purple glitter.


Or a smoky, purple haze.


I told her she couldn’t call it purple haze. She grinned. Then winked. Then fluttered off sideways, bumping into the hall walls.

Had to pause writing this so Little Miss Muse and I could have a conversation. She swears to me her grape soda was left in the hot garage too long and went sour. She drank it anyway. She swears this is the reason for the sideways flying — that, and dodging the stupid bug the cats were after. And the heat. And the heat index. And that she’s got to inspire yet another blog NEXT MONDAY.


“Five Mondays. It’s all too much,” she cries as she spreads her chonky self over my desk in dramatic flair. Hurry up, autumn. My muse is malfunctioning.


Perhaps to make it to the end of August de-stressed and ready to enjoy the glorious fall season, I should replace the notebooks in each room (and drawers, and closets, and cabinets) with a Pop It! And maybe the stress will go down.


On second thought, maybe several of each in each room with brand new pens! I’ll take a unicorn in sherbet colors, Yoda, and a giant square grid.


And a King Kong and Godzilla Pop It! for those really, really stressful days.


Little Miss raises her head off the desk to request half of them to be in shades of purple.


“All the shades of purple!”


And she’s off, fluttering and flitting down the hall. Stirring up the cats again, crying “Bug! Bug!” and generally wreaking havoc all over the house.


“All the shades of purple.” She’s made a groovy jingle from that phrase to the tune of “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”


I have to go now.


She’s got the cats squalling and wailing. Malachi especially hates her shrill voice.


I really need to save this document and be done—


“All the shades of purr-rrrple, purr-rrrple, pur-rrrple…”


On second thought, there aren’t enough Pop It!s on the planet for this summertime stress.


“…shades of puuuurrrrple!” Dining room chairs crashing to the floor in the next room.


I gotta go.


I suppose I should simply be happy her favorite color isn’t gray.

Someone Stop Me

I’ve been cleaning house lately—not just the sweeping up of a dozen “extra cats” every other day or scouring the kitchen sink on the rare occasion (I hate the kitchen).


I’m talking about the purge-it-real-good kind of cleaning. We painted, updated *very* outdated (or non-existent) décor, and generally gave the interior a facelift. Most of the main living spaces are done. We finally have a display case for an ever-growing collection of vintage tropical bird figurines (more about those on another day) and have a coffee table for the first time since wee little ones. (And NOW they make coffee tables with the corners all rounded off and soft. Now. Not when my kids were wee little. Now. But I shall be happy because I also am about as coordinated as a wee toddler, and I’m sure those rounded-down corners will be a blessing to my clumsy self going forward.)


With all the things we’ve hung and assembled, I’m very proud to stay the hubs and I are still married. Nothing brings out the snark like interpreting directions after long days at work and 110-degree heat indices that seep through the air conditioning.

Many folks seemed to start and complete this purge-and-cleanse process during the Spring 2020 lockdowns.

I can’t exactly remember Spring 2020. I know we got one room painted, intending to do all this extra work, but then, well. Something happened.


Something always happens to derail the plans.


So, here we are, doing the purge-it-real-good clean (which turns out is much easier when the adultish-children are out of the house).


And I’m ashamed of myself.


I’m a bit of a squirrel.


Like one of those squirrels who bought into the conspiracy news around the birdbath that the acorn crop this fall will be meager and you’d better get ready or starve. Said squirrel in a half-rabid panic begins strategically—or haphazardly—placing caches of acorns all over the neighborhood.


My acorns? Notebooks.


How long have I been “collecting” them?


Years.


Decades.


I’ve always had an office supply fetish, but this is out of hand. When my kids finished their school years, I thought I’d done a good job paring down the paper products to only the things I’ll use.


But somehow, I’m still wading in notebooks.


Anytime I’m in a store, any store, my just-in-case-a-notebook-apocalypse sixth sense kicks in, and I find the stationery aisle. Or, say it’s a hardware store, I can find that one rogue end-cap displaying some random handyman special to-do list. And I’m tempted.


I’m not a handyman. I’m not married to a handyman.


I know I do not need a handyman to-do-list pad with the measuring tape border and a convenient magnet on the back to affix to my toolbox. But I can’t help myself. I’ll pick that pad up. Turn it over. Imagine all the wonderful ideas and lists to make on it.


And I put it in the cart. And in the cart, too, goes a pack of those flattened-out pencils that won’t roll off your lumber as you’re measuring and cutting. (I don’t have lumber. If I did, I wouldn’t know how to measure or cut it. I don’t need these pencils, but they do match the handyman to-do list notepad soooo well…)


Sometimes, good sense kicks in and I’ll stick the notebook back on the shelf, even as I worry I may never find another paper product of that sort again.


When we’re at garage sales or auctions, and dear hubs isn’t with me, the office supplies are mine. Reams of paper, old school boxes full of pens (there may be a vintage one in there, don’t ya know?), and crates of return address sticker labels (I seriously don’t even know—it’s a sickness). Even when the dear hubs is with me, I often make him cart my finds around like a pack mule. He doesn’t try to stop me. It’s not worth the fight.


Augist is hard for me. When the school supplies come out in giant aisles all to themselves? Bins of pencil sharpeners, dry erase markers, index cards, and binder clips. And rows and rows of folders and notebooks and paper…


Jail me now. I’m gonna go broke.


The photo doesn’t even show the notebooks I’m truly using (I lost count at eleven), the ones I’ve piled to give away (two-feet tall pile), nor the half-dozen that slipped behind the dresser as a cat came galloping through the room just before I snapped the picture and the pile shifted.


I have squirreled away, stored, stashed, hid on purpose, hid on accident, and generally “placed” notebooks all over the house.


All. Over. The. House.


Notebooks everywhere.


A few weeks ago, I wrote about how there was snot everywhere. I don’t know how I even got all the cat snot cleaned away without breaking an ankle on All. These. Notebooks.


I must stop. I have enough.


Please, pretty please. If any of my local peeps catch sight of me out in the wild, and should I have in my hands or in my shopping cart notebooks, journals, calendars, planners, paper pads, or folders, please stop me. Likewise, I don’t need any more mechanical pencils, highlighters, eraser tops, paperclips, or Post-It notes.


I don’t.


Stop me.


And don’t believe my lies when I tell you I’m shopping for someone else. Or that I’m truly out of the thing in my cart. No way, not even in an office supply apocalypse, will I ever be “out” of any of the above-mentioned items.


Pay no attention to my tears or trembling hands or beads of forehead sweat when you insist that I put these items back on the shelves. To leave them for someone else.


Someone else who will not appreciate their worth, mind you.


Just ignore these baseless pleas. Get nasty. Be bossy. Stomp your foot and wave your arms around and call me a fool.


If I run, chase me.


I’ll take you to lunch for your trouble and to make up for the scene I caused in the office supply aisle. It’ll actually save me money—you can even order dessert.


Then after, maybe we can run over to OfficeMax.


I’m out of index cards.

Nothing Like It

Unboxing Day!


These aren’t brand new titles, but rather copies of ones I’ve already done that I ran out of.


I ran out of!


Because folks are asking for copies of this or that. “And do you have any more, please?” And I’m happy to scatter the paperbacks into my minuscule corner of the wide, wide world.


My dear aunt wanted “one of everything, please,” to give my great aunt for her birthday. So I had to place an order. Because I was out of “one of everything.”


But even with this small print run of not-new-to-me titles, this wave of “unnamed” emotion came over me. (If you would even dare to call it a print run— a traditional publisher’s “small” print run for a new author may be around 10,000 copies. I printed five each. Five. No zeros.)


I can’t quite capture the feeling in a word. To see something once only alive in my imagination show up in tangible manifestation on my doorstep in an Amazon box all holdable. Touchable. Feelable.


These words don’t work: Thrilling. Sensational. Gripping. Magnificent. Fabulous. Rip-roaring wild. Those words only work for me during the writing process when Little Miss Muse stands tap dancing on my head and my fingers won’t fly fast enough over the keys. Like trying to control a wild, bucking bronco—bareback and with one rein.


Joy? Happiness? Love? Those strong connotations I tend to reserve for family, friends, and faith. And it didn’t feel the same.

My thesaurus fails me. Little Miss nods in agreement as she sits on the edge of the desk sucking on her grape lollipop, her chunky legs swinging her new lilac stilettos (five sizes too big, all the better to clonk around the house in). She knows the word. She’s not giving it to me, though.


She’s also silently taking all the credit as she peeks over the edge of the box, running a sticky finger along the spines of the books.


I like the term giddy-little-jump-and-squeal moment. I’ve used it quite a lot when a story sells or when Little Miss Muse gives me that plotting breakthrough I was looking for. But I didn’t do that when this box came. I didn’t cry or laugh or shout for joy.

My reaction was something more internal, the emotion staying centered somewhere under my rib cage.


Satisfaction? Contentment? Pride? Nope. These don’t work either. I’m never satisfied or content with any of my creations, and my temptation is to tweak and re-do and re-vamp, etc., etc. In my mind, no story or cover or blurb is ever “right” or “good enough.”


But at some point, you’ve gotta call the thing done and move on.


And so, until Little Miss coughs up the vocabulary, I’m declaring this line of thought done and moving on. There’s simply no word for it. (Dopamine and endorphins probably have quite a bit to do with it, but let’s say there’s “no word for it” and not get too science-y.)


What that shiny new pile of paperbacks did do, though, was spur me over to Amazon to place a fresh order for grape lollipops. In bulk.


With Little Miss fully restocked, we’re knocking out some of those Summertime Dreamin’ goals. Update coming next week…


Thank you for hanging out for a bit. Check back on Mondays for a new blog or revisit older post on my Archive page. Don't forget to come back on the first Monday of every month for a free fictional short, and be sure to visit my Amazon page.