Hands and knees, baby, hands and knees

The only good way to get the floor clean is on your hands and knees.  Believe me when I tell you that I’ve tried virtually everything else and in the end it’s a scrub brush and a bucket of hot, soapy water that does the trick.  Scrub, rinse, wipe, scoot, repeat.  And I’m of the opinion that it does me good, too.  It’s honest work, it stretches out the back muscles, and it gives me some time to think about things that aren’t necessarily related to what I’m working on or how annoyed I am by my leaky roof or whatever’s been on my mind for the last few days.

I pull the brush out of the bucket, apply it to the floor and think about what I’m doing.   I am in the moment.  Of course my knees hurt like hell, but I feel more clear-headed, less aggravated than I did before I went down on my hands and knees to do something that is about as direct a chore as  I can imagine doing.  I think scrubbing floors makes me a better person.

Early this morning I finished the novel I started on Feb. 1st.  I did it by writing 2000 words a day.  It’s a lot like scrubbing a floor, too.  You put words on paper and move them around until you’re satisfied with the way they look.  Then you move on and do the same again, and again.  At the most basic level, it is just that simple.

“Oh no,” you say, “it’s about brilliance! and genius! and just the right words! and ideas! and plot! and characters! and, and, and…”  Well yeah, it is.  But all those things are worthless unless you sit down and actually put those words on paper, one sentence after another.  If you have all the rest inside yourself it will come out.  But only if you do the work.  How do I know this?  Because I used to be one of those writers who never really did the work, and I’ve known a lot of others like me.  We have great ideas, we create great characters, we can talk plot until we go green, but we never really accomplish much of anything because sitting down and writing?  Well it’s kind of the dull part of the job.  Or as Peter de Vries was reported to have said:  “I love being a writer; it’s the paperwork I can’t stand.”

The physical act of writing is the floor scrubbing of the literary life.  It’s when you get down to the most basic level, when you get your hands dirty, when you hurt doing it, but you can see that something good is happening on that page because you’re doing the work.

We write on our hands and knees.  There’s no other way to do it.


How they met themselves

Those of you who have seen the new Sherlock Holmes film may have noticed this, but then again you may not have done.  I have been a portraitist and illustrator in the past so I’m used to looking at people’s faces very carefully, but I frequently see things that other people don’t, things that make folks say “HUH?” when I mention them.

However, if you’re of a mind, take a good look at Holmes and Irene whenever they’re in the same scene and note the following:  They are the same height and have similar compact builds.  Both have triangular faces with high foreheads.  Both have hair that is not only dark, but about the same shade.  They both have large, dark hazel eyes and brows that are straight across and then dip down at the outer edges.  And they have almost the same nose.  I’m not kidding here, almost exactly the same nose.  Only their mouths are different.  They could not only be brother and sister but could almost be fraternal twins.  Now I’d have said this might well be a coincidence until I started looking at Watson and Mary.  Both tall and slender, both with reddish-blond(e) hair, though his is darker, both with strikingly pale eyes, and again, very similar noses.

What does this mean?  I have no idea, but given both the physical resemblances and the similarities of character — again, most particularly between Holmes and Irene, but still discernible between the good doctor and Miss Morstan — I’m inclined to think it has to mean something.  Any notions?

I haz elliptical! I haz counters! I has laundry spinnin’!

No, srsly, I cannot recall the last time I could see this much counter space. I think it was when I first viewed the house.

So after a furious few days of cleaning and putting things away, I can see most of the counters in my kitchen.  I’ve also cleaned out the fridge, and the meyer lemons I had that were still good, I cut and preserved last night.  I’m trying them with some sugar in the mix this time.

Charles and Wil went to pick up the elliptical and TV that Taylor and Christ gave us, so now we have a really nice elliptical machine right next to the really nice treadmill, facing a really nice TV.  All I need to do now is get a DVD player and we can watch movies while we work out.

I’ve got a load of towels in, and the colored clothes ready to go once they stop spinning.  I think I’m going to do my duvet today as well, and maybe my sheets.  I’m kind of on a cleaning roll and I want to make the most of it.  It’d be terrific if I could get the bedroom looking nice again.

My favorite place at my favorite time of day in my favorite season.

I went out yesterday around dusk because I wanted to try an experiment.  Shelagh had posted a photo she took in which the cloud of vapor from her breath was roiling around the scene like an ethereal frame, and I thought it was so beautiful I decided to give it a try.  Well no joy here.  I suspect it wasn’t nearly cold enough.  But I did take a rather nice pic of the house with the lights on with the Mardi Gras flag a-wavin’ in the wind.  I do love this place.

I’m waiting for UPS to deliver my new rice/slow cooker.  I want to make something cool for supper.  Fortunately I had a final gift certificate from my Amazon rewards visa to spend (forgot I had it!) and so didn’t pay a whole lot for it, which is the best sort of deal to get.  Also, I found a Sherlock Holmes poster which is 27×40 and will be faboo in the front hallway, keeping Audrey company.  We finally found a frame for her.  I hope it doesn’t take us as long with the Holmes.

Looks like I’ll have four or five boxes of books to take with me next time I go to HPB.  I hope it’ll be enough to get the last four glasses in my wine glass set from Pier One.  I’ve got six champagne trumpets and two wine glasses.  I want four more of the wine and would love a set of the martini glasses, but I’d only buy them if I was swimming in dough.  Target actually has a line of stemware that compliments the Festive Stripe from Pier One.  It’s called Splendor and I have the set of cordial glasses.  They look great together.  What I’d really love to do is get a set of cut-to-clear, white wine glasses to round out the set of brightly colored glassware (I have a lot of beautiful old etched glasses, but they’re not quite as festive.)  Actually what I’d love is to find a set of mixed colors, but I think I’ll collect them myself, one at a time.

And that, oh my droogs, is the state of the house as of Thursday.

Snow day

The view from my front porch

We haven’t gotten nearly as much snow as the east coast, but it’s lookin’ pretty out there.  And Chicago is prepared for stuff like this.  Our sidewalks are clear thanks to some good neighbors with snowblowers.  Our street is clear  thanks both to the city — our Alderman may be a douche, but he’s  a douche that makes sure the side streets get cleared as soon as the main roads are passable — and one of the guys on the block who has a plow on his pickup truck.  The people around here are basically pretty decent.  I’m not even seeing any chairs out there on the street, which means the parking spaces are fair game.

We may not have gotten a ton of snow, but we had an earthquake early this morning.  That should count for something.

The other direction

As I’ve said a number of times, I write better during the winter and especially when there’s snow.  I don’t know why this is, but I do.  I did 4000 words last night after having resigned myself to falling two days behind.  I am actually caught up!  Today I plan to get some work done earlier in the day so I can put my feet up tonight, watch Leverage and maybe read a bit.  Tazlet recommended Naked Is the Best Disguise: The Death and Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes
to me and I started reading it last night. I also got The Science of Sherlock Holmes: From Baskerville Hall to the Valley of Fear, the Real Forensics Behind the Great Detective’s Greatest Cases on my Kindle and so far it’s fascinating.

I’ve come to the conclusion that arguing with people on the internet is an utter waste of time.  The communication is so fast that no one actually reads what people write anymore.  They decide from the first few words what your comment must say and then answer that.  It’s like being in tech support hell all the time.  I had an argument last night with a woman who kept needling me, accusing me of doing all the things she was doing and crowing about how she didn’t do them.  (Frex: “I can argue without getting personal!” after several personal attacks.)   The discussion had already gone on for quite a while before she jumped in, so obviously she didn’t really bother to catch up because I’d already explained, literally, five times what I was saying, and she started insisting that I was saying something else.  Eventually we started insulting one another (I admitted I was, she wouldn’t.) and I suddenly got that icky feeling I get when I’ve been rude and, whether it was deserved or not, I know I shouldn’t have done it.  Yeah, you know that feeling.  Anyway I apologized, and left.  I suspect she thinks she won, but it was my conscience that won in the end.  And I have to admit that it was someone I’d argued with in the past who became the voice of my conscience yesterday.  He and I had disagreed so bitterly at one point that I unfriended him.  Well yesterday he apologized and I had some idea of what kind of soul-searching he’d done to come to that point.  How could I do less?

I’ve been attacking the piles of crap that are still all over the house.  I really want to get my life back in order, and with the garage sale looming this spring, and an even closer (possible) deadline of a trip to HPB on Sunday, I really feel like I need to get cracking on all this work.  I actually can see a difference in the dining room.  Not a huge one, and not one that other people might notice, but a difference all the same.  And I have most of my Christmas stuff put away.  I still need to get something to store my wrapping supplies in.  All the storage solutions I like cost a fortune and the ones that are reasonably priced are in some way either awkward or flat-out crappy.

And now I need to fold laundry and unload the dishwasher.  Oh and clean the bathroom.  Ugh.  My least favorite task.

The snow always wins

Mom & Dad & snow.
Mom and Dad, playing in the snow for the last time. I brought it indoors for them.

Ah, the snows of February.   As early as 6 a.m. on Monday the predictions were dire, but they’ve been dire on and off since about November, and so far winter has been tolerable.  Well Tom Skilling, our resident weather guru, says 14 inches and by golly it looks like we’re going to get 14 inches today.  Meh, Chicagoans are fatalistic about snow.  Snow happens.  We just make sure the shovel and salt are at hand, and there’s enough toilet paper in the house to last a few days.  If we dig out a parking place,  we put old chairs in it as a warning to other drivers that the space is taken.  It’s Chicago-speak for “I cleared it, I keep it.”  Failure to heed the chair indicator is grounds for summary execution.

I love the snow, in part because I don’t have to go out in it.  But I also love the whiteness of it, and the awesome silence of a world blanketed in snow.  I love watching cars roll by my front windows and not being able to hear them, and even the sound of people talking as they pass the house seems very far away.  Snow is dreamlike.

It’s also quite real which is why I just went out to sweep it off the steps and sidewalk.  Understand that I am what I like to jokingly refer to as “A heart attack waiting to happen” so I don’t shovel.  I sweep, like some ancient bubbie, lacking only the babushka.  Even in weather like this, I don’t much like to cover my head.  Gene says his best memory of me was the time he saw my hair covered in icicles.

Crazy Christmas Lady has left the building

So it’s Saturday and Dawn is off helping Taylor & Christ pack because their house is being listed on the 15th.  I would have liked to help more (I do have some stuff to do for them, but it’ll come later) but I can’t lift and carry things easily with my back so bad.  Anyway, she’s spending the weekend over there and that’s a good thing because she and  Taylor won’t be seeing a lot of each other after the move.  That’d be a hard thing for me, having my best friend move away.  And with four people over there working, it’s going to be tight enough; the last thing they need is one more body that’s not being really useful.  Apparently we’re getting a TV, a hedge-trimmer and an elliptical machine out of it, so that’s a good thing.  Except, none of it really makes up for not having T&C around.  And now I’m starting to feel melancholy…

So today I’m taking down my Christmas decorations.  The tree is down, and the rest are coming down bit-by-bit.  The chair is back where it should be and I’ve put an end table between it and the couch, so there’s a place for glasses.  I’ve vacuumed about six times in here, but every time I move something, I discover more dust and dirt.  I put “I, Claudius” on the DVD player, but it’s not really grabbing me today, possibly because I’m feeling rather jaundiced about politics lately.  I think what I need is some German expressionism or noir or a really great old comedy.  Something older than Claudius.

I also need to write.  I have about 1000 words to do today to keep to my schedule, but I do better at that later in the evening.  There’s a potato in the oven for a late lunch and I have a lot of tasks mapped out for the rest of the day.

It’s getting dark already.  Feels like I just got up.

Tempered glass can still cut you, and other observations.

I got rid of my old coffee table today.  It was actually a TV stand that I got when I bought my widescreen TV, and I’d been using it as a coffee table for a while now.  (Very handy with two shelves plus a tempered glass top so that eating off of it wouldn’t be too hideous a mess to clean up.)  But Dawn will complain that she can’t put her feet under it, and it really wasn’t an attractive option, so I started giving some thought to what I could do to improve the situation.

The problem was space.  I couldn’t really put a huge coffee table in here, I don’t have the room.  My chair and ottoman take up a chunk of space even with the back end of the chair shoved into the dining room.  I didn’t like it but there didn’t seem to be an option since I wasn’t going to get rid of my ottoman.  I like putting my feet up.  So I got to thinking that maybe I should look for one of those ottoman coffee tables that they use on HGTV all the time.  Alas, I couldn’t find any that I liked, that were a good size and reasonably priced since I’m not spending $500 on something my friends are going to put their feet on and spill their drinks on.

Finally, Overstock.com gave me my solution.  Instead of a single ottoman coffee table, I’d get four ottoman cubes and shove them together into a square!  So I ended up buying two of each of the ottomans below, and now I not only have a cool-looking coffee table, but one that can be moved around so Dawn can stretch her legs out, pulled in close to be used as work space, or serve as foot rests or extra seating.

Blue chenille ottoman Blue zig-zag ottoman

I like my new ottomans.  They look fantastic on the rust-colored rug.

However, the whole point of this explanation of ottomans was that I have this media stand which I no longer need.  So I thought, well why not take it down to the basement — which is where I’ve put the old ottoman, reuniting it with its original chair — and maybe end up using it if we put a TV or something down there.  It seemed like a good idea, that is until I went to take it down the front steps.  And then I realized that the two bottom shelves weren’t affixed to the table frame.  They slid free as I was going around the corner, and while I tried to catch hold of them, the stresses on the glass were apparently too much and one of them shattered in my hand.  And now I have a boo-boo.

No, it’s not a huge one, and I washed it and put a boo-boo strip on it (one that says “Dude!” and “Awesome.”  S’rsly, I have some v. cool bandaids.)  But I ended up having to sweep about a million bits of broken glass into a bucket, and as they were all over the stairs, I pretty much had to do it on my hands and knees.  On the upside, I’d been wanting to have some shards of tempered glass to use in mosaic work, so now I have a bucket full of them.  And the weird thing is that tempered glass keeps on crackling after its broken.  I’m not kidding, it sounds like I’ve got a bucket of Rice Krispies sitting down there in the basement.

So yeah, tempered glass will bite you if you give it a chance.  Don’t.

Also on the home front, there are squirrels living under the roof tiles on the porch next door.  Just a bit ago, as they were getting ready for bed, one of them came out and licked up the newly fallen snow on the tiles.  Just a little drink before bed, I guess.  I think he’s the little booger who leaves neat piles of poo on our porch.

Working like mad on the as yet unnamed Victorian novel.  Word count meter is on the side of this blog.  I’m having my own private NaNoWriMo.  Go me!

Shaking Hands with Death

This is the first of six videos of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Dimbleby Lecture at the Royal College of Physicians. His topic was assisted death, and I urge everyone to watch all six parts because they’re moving and funny, and will make you think very seriously about the subject no matter which side your own.

To see the rest, click on the video and it will take you to YouTube where you can find the playlist.

Closed Circle

Closed Circle: is a new venture in e-publishing, organized by C. J. Cherryh, Lynn Abbey and Jane Fancher.  Their basic intention is to make available their older works, now out of print.  They’re doing this in multiple formats and at very reasonable prices, so if you’re a fan of any or all of these wonderful writers, you should hie yourself over to the site and check out the storefront and blog.  With any luck, other established writers will join Closed Circle to offer their backlists, and perhaps even the occasional new work.

Even if you’re not a fan, you should still consider bookmarking the site because it’s an important one.  The growing market for digital media is making it possible for creative people to offer their work, not only at prices the public can afford, but without losing the bulk of that sale price to other people.  It’s a model which I think is going to change a lot about how the publishing business is run, and that’s all to the good, IMO.  Not that I don’t think there’s a place for publishers out there as well as sellers, but when the industry is dominated by the big guys, who are more interested in going at each other (Witness the current Amazon-MacMillian kerfuffle) than in benefiting the very people who earn them their money to begin with, the authors.  (BTW, I don’t have too much of an opinion on the whole contretemps; I think there’s too much hysteria occurring on both sides.)

So check out Closed Circle, and buy something from them if you find a title that rocks your socks.  I think you’ll be doing  a lot of good as well as finding yourself a good read.