Wednesday, June 29, 2011


For some reason, I was charmed by this article on birds, and how parasites are actually just family asking for a little help. The idea of grandma and aunt ducks helping out their juniors is so endearing. Not Exactly Rocket Science is one of my favorite blogs these days: always interesting, always readable.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Hanging out at Mom's house, and feeling helpless. I can empty the dishwasher. I can make chicken soup and PBJs. I can call the CT scan place and ask for them to get the films ready. But I can't do anything about the fact that she's hurting. It sucks. And I want to write but the words just aren't happening.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Seth Godin's Improved Orwell

I read Seth Godin's revised Orwellian writing rules in my feed this morning and thought, I want to save this forever, how can I do that? Yeah, it was before coffee. But these are awesome. (I would have cut more from #3, though -- what's the point of those "out"s?

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. You don't need cliches.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do. Avoid long words.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Write in the now.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. When in doubt, say it clearly.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. Better to be interesting than to follow these rules.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

C & Z

Caroline has an only child attitude toward Zelda. It's kind of funny, actually. Yesterday, we went out to pick up pizza, and they were both in the back seat. Caroline didn't quite say, "But she's TOUCHING me!" but she came close. I had to remind her that it's actually Zelda's back seat: since Zelda is the only one who ever sits back there, it's not exactly a surprise that she's not quite sure what to do about Caroline sharing her seat, and that seemed to satisfy.

Swimming, though, it's come up again and again, and not because Zelda is doing anything. She's just...a dog. Curious. Interested in what Caroline is doing. Willing to run endlessly around the pool so that she's always next to where Caroline's head pops up. If she was doing something wrong, I'd intervene, but she's not, so when C. complains, I've said, "Yep, she's a dog." Finally this morning, when Caroline was complaining again, I said to her, "Honey, I know you'd like her to ignore you. But she's a dog. You're a people. If you can't ignore her, how can you expect her to do more than you?" I guess that struck a chord, because for the last forty-five minutes or so, Caroline has been doing a beautiful job of distracting the dog with the ball, then running and jumping in the pool. It's the first time they've ever really played together and it is seriously charming to watch.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I'm surprised by how really truly tired I feel. I have weird moments where I just can't keep my eyes open, and ten minutes later I realize I've actually fallen asleep, sometimes with the computer still on my lap. These little ten minute naps, though, are oddly refreshing: I get two hours worth of energy off them. And then I'm exhausted again, desperately wanting to lie down and pull the covers up. I think I've probably fallen asleep eight times in the last 48 hours.

I sat down this afternoon to read my ethics assignment and read for ten minutes and then thought, no, I'd really rather be talking to my dad instead. So I picked up the phone and called him and it was exactly the right choice. He said today had been pretty bad, that he'd been in a foul mood in the morning. Foul mood? My dad? I tried to picture it, and not so much. He's "eternally optimistic" according to my mom's sister, "able to make the best of whatever comes his way," according to his sister. Yep. But some things stretch even the most resilient.

Gah, time to go to class. I'm going to do badly on a quiz or two. Knowing that is less stressful than it would have been two weeks ago.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pancreatic cancer

You imagine that there'll be a moment of shock, a pause where your brain tries to make sense of what just happened. But I heard it in his voice, in the sound of the way he said hello, and I was crying before he said the words. Pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to the liver. Pain management.

You imagine the stages, the ending. But I realized while walking the dog that there'll be no hair loss, no head scarves. That's chemo. That's when you have time. That's when you're fighting. This...this won't be that. I don't know what it will be.

But we spent a somewhat lovely tearful afternoon yesterday sorting jewelry and talking about trips -- to England, to St. Thomas, to Hawaii, to New Mexico. That silver and turquoise was from the Grand Canyon, your dad picked it out. That ring was from the little jewelry store in the mall, Dad used to go in and chat with the jeweler, Bob. That cross was a 21st birthday present from your dad. Those pins belonged to your grandmother. So many stories, I'll never remember them all.

I guess I should go to work. I guess that's what people do?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Plenty Well Enough

Sometimes a phrase just strikes me as mysterious and this is the one for today: plenty well enough. It's got to be colloquial, right? Like "anyways" and "anymore" and "down cellar"? But from what region?

The line I was using was "I know him plenty well enough" and after I wrote it, I wondered -- southern? New England? Rural upstate New York? Unfortunately, google hasn't helped me out. I might be the first person to have written this question on the internet, which actually would be kind of cool. I like the idea of wondering something that no one else has wondered. But that still leaves me wondering.

Writing fan fiction

Or maybe this post is really about publishing fan fiction? I should write about writing fan fiction, too, and maybe I will at some point, but this post is really about publishing it, and maybe about publishing in general. Ever since I got obsessed with Eureka last fall, I've been writing and posting stories at, along with thousands of other people.

Not thousands of people for Eureka, alas -- the most popular fandoms (<--ooh, look, new vocabulary) are Supernatural, Glee, Harry Potter, Twilight. (Momentary digression, Supernatural? I think I saw that show once. But it turns out that its fan-community is obsessed. They've written something like 49,000 stories about their beloved show. I have wondered if they're cheating and writing a lot of one-shot super-short stories just to get their numbers up, but I haven't wondered enough to read a lot of them and find out.)

And back to my point. I've written 9 real stories, ie long stories, and a couple of shorts that are just scenes. It has been really fun. The writing has been amazing -- more on that later,  probably -- but the posting has been scarily validating.

Wow, do I have an external locus of validation problem or what? Getting a nice review can make me happy for hours. It's the best drug ever. In the abstract, I shouldn't care. I shouldn't need other people's approval to enjoy writing. And I don't really -- the writing part is fun no matter what. But the approval is so satisfying. Knowing that someone enjoyed what I wrote makes the writing even better. And it isn't that it makes me feel like a better person or that it is validating in the sense that it changes my self-image, but there's something about knowing that I made someone laugh or squeee (<--also new vocab, but I'm pretty sure it's an onomatopoeia) that just brings me joy. It makes me want to write more and more and more. I could use the joy.

(Endoscopy for mom today; colonoscopy on Tuesday. Liver cancer and pancreatic cancer are words that are being bandied about. I like those words even less than suspicious nodule.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Suspicious nodule

I have decided that the phrase "suspicious nodule" is high on my list of life's least favorite phrases. Obviously, it's not as bad as "it's malignant" which has to be one of the worst, but in terms of creating tension and anxiety, it's probably pretty close.

Chances are, of course, that it will turn out to be nothing serious -- so many times medical worries wind up forgotten in a few months. But I spent a lot of time today thinking about tears, because they kept running down my face and falling off my chin. I wasn't crying in the way I think of crying, no gulping sobs, no struggle to catch my breath, no snot-filled nose embarrassingly dripping. It wasn't even really weeping. It was just...tears. Overflowing. Steadily. Like a gentle summer rain of crying instead of the thunderstorms and downpours that have been my more typical (albeit rare) cries.

Anyway, my mom will have a CAT scan on Monday and I'll know more then.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Celebration of dirty laundry

Today should have been a celebration -- I am 99.9% of the way done with the work project that has consumed so much of my energy and brain for the last few months. But it was more like waking up from an obsessed dream and discovering that the laundry was piled high, the dishes filled the sink, the dust bunnies had become more like dust wolves, and things were in a general state of chaos. I didn't feel happy, I felt overwhelmed.

I watched the dog rolling in the grass and tried to remind myself that life is about the small pleasures. Then, when I put my head back down to the computer, she went and rolled in the wet sandy dirt. Her white coat turned gray and black, and I had to laugh. I swear she smiled at me. There's meaning there somewhere -- be happy with the dirt, too? But I'm not sure what it was except that in that moment, we both felt happy despite the messy house and work to do.

I'm going to aspire to a better balance as my life changes. A little house effort every day to avoid the misery of chaos. Tomorrow I think I'll try to balance studying for summer midterms with cleaning the house. A little of each, and a little writing. Could be a good day!