An Ode to a Midwinter Cold

midwinter-cold

Hark!

Is that a death rattle I hear, trembling the dark wood around me?

Nope.

‘Tis the phlegm from thy chest cold shaking the bed frame as I hack up another loogie.

A midwinter cold has claimed yet another Kleenex which shroud thy bedclothes like moguls on ski slopes in thy feverish dreams.

Okay, so I don’t have a fever, but as I gaze out the window, red nose pressed against the glass, the lengthening daylight draws me outdoors, like a siren, or Beckham, or some other hot guy. Thy waning energy, thy only defense against overdoing it on yonder slackline. (A gift from Santa.)

yonder-slackline

Each day, upon wakening, hope soars that its hold has loosened. Alas all that has loosened are the reeds in thy larynx as I croak in a strong baritone, “Coffee, I need coffee.” Perhaps I should audition for a boy band.

And so linger do I like fingerprints upon thy neti pot. Only a shadow of thyself, stretching out with the day, on the couch, zapper clutched tight in one pale hand while guzzling mugs of green tea like shots of tequila with the other.

The next few days would certainly ring brighter. But, alas, I awake slack-jawed with energy zapped. Now rapid-fire sneezing and nasal congestion appear. I try to sleep it off.

Then darkness swallows all hope as a shiver slices thy core. I tunnel deep within the tangled sheets, tossing then turning to Web MD – How to sleep with a fever. Reduced to a mouth-breather, I check off thy list until the corners’ of thy cracked lips curl in a smile.

Nasal strips. Duh!

I dash to the bathroom to see if drawers contain the desired breathing implement. Aha! I apply it to nose’s bridge and can instantly breathe. Oh, the relief and sanguine bliss and scent of flowers and sunshine and… then I notice thy reflection which resembles a prizefighter after losing the prize. What if my nose sticks like that?

I quiet down for a long midwinter’s nap, snoozing for two hours at a time. By morning, the fever has fizzled. Yes! My expectations fly away with my imagination. I would rest, then go running tomorrow and then write, then replenish thy refrigerator, and then… I dragged through another day.

I curse thy pharmacist. How dare she send me away since thy flu shot was almost in hand (or arm) and with such a lame excuse. Something about anti-cancer drugs suppressing thy immune system and not giving anyone a shot who had double boobectomies. Never before have I beset such an outrage. Instead of smiling and leaving, I should have explained, “I only had one bad boob!” Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

And here am I, a mere shell of thyself, crawling with legs splayed sideways, skittering from bed to couch to chair, always hiding, the light too bright still.

Oh, when, doth midwinter’s cold end? Hack, cough, spit.

It better be soon, dammit. Snow’s in the forecast and there are wild rides to be had.

Did you get your flu shot? It’s not too late. When I’m well, I’m demanding one.

I drew Midwinter’s Cold as I imagined it when I wrote this poem. Yes, thy mind is a very scary place.

My Resolution Failures and Why You Should Join The Big Chill in 2017

When I realized I would fail to reach my 2016 resolutions, disappointment kicked me in the gut and I landed on the floor. While gasping for breath, I discovered lots of dust bunnies under the furniture. Sheesh.

The plan had been set. I had stayed on target. Very few sparkly things led me astray. In fact, I worked harder, maybe twice as hard as any other year. I would sit down to write and find myself in a telephone booth where the universe would expand and I’d be transported into the lives of my characters. Many hours later, owls hooting on my chimney would be like, “Whoooo. Doooode, I’ve never known a human whoooo could sit so long.” I’d snap out of my time warped daze and stretch, then gape at the time. Balance between work and play crashed and burned. I needed to chill, big time.

Resolution failures and why you should join the big chill in 2017

So, what happened?

No matter how hard I worked, I depended on too many outside forces to complete my 2016 goals. The other problem seems counter-intuitive, but I needed more play time. Really!  

#2016 Failure One:

To find an agent and contract my book with a publisher. I planned to finish querying my long list of agents by June 2016. If I didn’t find one, I would hit up mid-sized publishers and work my way through that list. Then, I would query independent publishers and pull the trigger. My first book would be scheduled for publication in 2017.

This seemed like a reasonable and logical progression to a goal. I could have reached it, but I forgot one tiny factor. Agents’ response time can be reeeeeally slooooowww.

When a few agents didn’t respond at all, I retired their queries after ten weeks. I could have exhausted all of my lists by June if I had used the shotgun technique – When you write a query letter then copy and paste the names of the agents, blasting 20-100 at a time. No freakin’ way. That’s not my style. I spend hours researching each agent and then personalize each letter. I usually send out five at a time. Why only five? Because I’ve gotten amazing advice in rejection letters. When an agent’s criticism enlightened me and I could see how it would improve my project, I revised my book, rewrote the query letter, or both. I mean, this criticism came from professional in the publishing business. I never ignore it.

By mid-June, I panicked. Unless I got an offer with the few I sent, I wouldn’t reach my goal. I kept a positive outlook for that lucky break.

Well, that hasn’t happen…yet.

But I made some decent progress. A few top agents requested full submissions. It was super exciting.

By the end of July, I wondered if I should blow off my first book and focus on other projects. I put the question out into “the Universe.” Days later, it became a finalist in a contest. The bonus? Receiving amazing feedback from neutral judges.

I shelved querying, but continued working on my first book, rebuilding and remodeling. I’m hoping to shape its structure so the storyline draws you into a place where you find a comfy chair and hang out for a while hopefully, in a Dr. Who phone booth. I’m glad I didn’t set a bundle of dynamite in its basement and plug my ears. It will get published someday. What’s the rush?

Failure Two:

Finish two other novels and a screenplay. Yep, I’ve got a lot on my plate.

I’m close, but I ran out of time. I could have worked through the holiday to cross one off the list, but I focused on family instead. It’s weird, but I needed to forget about my projects for a while. It’s a Wild Writing Technique that I’ll explore in 2017 as a part of the Big Chill.

2017 Resolutions:

Take the Big Chill with me and CHILLAX! 

After working my butt off in 2016, I am scheduling PLAYTIME to chill the hell out. Yes. It warrants all caps as a reminder. I worked too hard and inefficiently in 2016. Didn’t you? This break time will be written into my planner’s schedule like any other appointment, in pen! I’ll spend less time dinking around on the Internet like a monkey on crack tapping on a keyboard. It’s easy and unhealthy to sit for hours on end. Instead, my chilling time will be spent AWAY from my computer. It’s magical. You should try it too. 

Get ripped again.

Look at my Boob Report photo. Even though I’m sick with cancer, I have defined arm muscles. Scheduling exercise will be a part of playtime. I’m in control of this goal, so let the Wild Rumpus begin!

susie lindau boob report picture

Take yoga and meditation classes.

Clearing a cluttered and over-active brain while meditating makes room for new ideas. The benefits carry over into all aspects of life. I can’t wait for more of that. My friend just told me about HeadSpace. She listens to the app on her phone and meditates every morning. Cool!

Find balance in 2017.

Recently, while face-planted and counting the dust bunnies drifting across the wood floors, I had an AHA moment. I needed the dust bunny perspective of break time to look at my projects and life in general from a more objective distance. I didn’t play hard enough in 2016. I picked myself up and brushed the lint from my yoga pants.

After a few weeks off to prepare for the holidays, my brain exploded with new ideas. These were next level, oh, My God, ideas. I don’t think they would have popped into my pea brain without a break. Here’s the thing. I kept writing. My Dear Holiday Diary posts exercised the crazy technicolor film festival running in my brain so ideas wouldn’t become puny, lazy roadies who hung out smoking cigarettes behind my frontal lobe.

Regardless of whether taking breaks accomplishes anything in 2017, enjoying and experiencing life is imperative to any well-rounded, Wild Rider’s life. Work super hard, play even harder. I’m sure some face-planting will be involved, but at least I’ll be out there trying.

What about those owls? They can jolt someone else from Dr. Who’s telephone booth time machine. I plan to have fun at the end of the day.

Oh, yeah, and once in a while, I promise to dust under the furniture.

What do you think of adding more playtime to your life? What is your top goal for 2017?

Dear Holiday Diary, Mistakes were made.

Dear Holiday Diary,

I cranked out four cakes yesterday. Four! An eggnog, a poppyseed, and two chocolate bundt cakes. I should have quit while I was ahead. I could have spent the time inking my Christmas card. Mistakes were made.

bundt-cakes

The craziest thing happened the day before. I had searched for a ginger snap cookie recipe, but couldn’t find the right one. You know the kind with the sugary topping, right? I remembered a picture of one in a cookbook somewhere. Then the image of the New Boys and Girls Cookbook popped into my head. Do you have that one? It’s hardly new. It’s an antique, I mean a classic. I didn’t even know if I still had it. I searched my shelves filled with tons of cookbooks. There it was, between Betty Crocker and Colorado Cache. It opened up to the page. No lie. There was the picture of that cookie! EUREKA!

betty-crockers-boys-and-girls-cookbook

I glanced at my stack of drawings sketched the day before. If I continued baking, I probably wouldn’t have time to ink them. There are three illustrations in this year’s card!

But I’m cursed. Once I get an idea in my head, I have to do it. I looked at the recipe while the cakes cooled on the counter. Easy peesy. I mean it’s a kids’ cookbook, for gosh sakes.

I studied (squinted at) the ingredients. One cup of molasses seemed like a lot even though I was doubling the recipe, but what did I know. I probably hadn’t made these cookies since the sixth grade back when mini skirts were in style for the first time.

Molasses cookie recipe

After finishing that step, I perused the dry ingredients, then checked the molasses amount again. WHAT? It only called for half that amount of molasses. I had misread 1/4 cup! It looked like 1/2. Stupid tiny typeface. Now what would I do? I had cut back on sugar for high altitude, so that would make up for some of it. I didn’t want to double the recipe again. I’d have batter for sixteen dozen cookies! I didn’t have time to load cookie sheets all afternoon. I adjusted the ingredients and added flour and another egg. The bitter batter tasted better.

Danny stopped home and I asked him if he would taste test my ginger snap cookies. “Hmm..” That didn’t sound like the response of someone who tasted a delicious cookie. “No, they’re good,” he said and backed out the door, “Really!”

I tasted a couple, but they didn’t have that ginger snap flavor. I considered throwing them out. There was something weird about these cookies.

My sister, Patty, dropped by.

“Wanna try a cookie?”

She thought they were great.

Now it was my turn to say, “Hmm…”

When I put the book away I noticed the name of the recipe. “Molasses cookies.”

Duh! They weren’t ginger snaps. No wonder they tasted funny. They’re fantastic molasses cookies. No, I’m not going to make ginger snaps tomorrow.

Note to self: Slow down and make sure you know what you’re doing.

Wait. That won’t ever happen. First of all, I never slow down.

Second of all, I always think I know what I’m doing. That’s my biggest problem. I go balls to the wall with stuff I could double check, but rarely do. If I do double check, I start thinking I’m OCD or am suffering with short term memory loss. Both could be true given the situation.

I could wear the reading glasses hanging around my neck or use a grown-up cookbook next time. Or better yet, quit when I’m ahead. What a concept.

2nd note to self: Ink drawings today.

Do you bake for Christmas? Have you made any mistakes lately?

 

It’s not too late to join The #Blessed Project. Check it out and get linked up on the 19th!

 

Dear Diary, Please make it stop!

Dear Holiday Diary,

After a week of decorating, I still am surrounded by doodads and ditzies just begging to be made into some form of centerpiece, swag or other holiday shimmery thing. It doesn’t help that I keep looking up at my cupboards with the memory of this ceiling I spied while in Denver.

oxford-hotel-christmas-decor

Thanks a lot, Oxford Hotel. I’m still trying to forget the images of Patsy Ramsey’s house. Now I want to buy gold ribbon to swing from above my cupboards to the top of my chandelier. As if I don’t already have enough to do –

  1. Finish sketching the Christmas card.
  2. Note to self: Ask Danny to hide all the scissors in the house. NO POPUPS!
  3. Ink the illustration.
  4. Blog the contest to win a Christmas card.
  5. Put away crafting supplies and duct tape the containers shut. Danny should hide them too.
  6. Start baking.
  7. Get outside! It’s supposed to drop from the 50’s to below zero by Wednesday. Maybe I can add one more string of lights to the outdoor display, I mean, take a hike.

Ideas keep popping into my mind. I need to make them stop. I’ll let you know how I manage.

Have you started your holiday traditions? Are you scrambling like I am?

Dear Holiday Diary

christmas-decorations

Dear Holiday Diary,

I thought I would take some notes to document Christmas 2016. Danny keeps saying flying to Tahiti would solve most of my problems. I wouldn’t have to decorate. The kids could join us and we could skip the gift exchange. He’s dreaming. This is a transformative time of year for me and my house. Besides, I love sparkly things. We’re staying in Colorado.

Note to self:

Next year, make sure to wear a leather outfit and gloves when using angel hair to decorate. It resembles a swirling snowstorm, but it’s not really hair from angels. It’s hellish fiberglass. It sticks to everything including my hands, clothes, and surfaces within one mile of the “construction area.” It especially likes to pierce my sweat pants and poke through my undies when I’m working underneath a table. “Yowch!

christmas-village-and-hellish-angel-hair

Second note to self: Add changing clothes and laundry to the long list of things to do. *strips down in front of washer*

Oh, yeah, and there’s a light bulb out at the Town Office.

For other holiday disasters click here.

Check out The #Blessed Project. There’s still time to join us and get featured.

Need a Susie Whisperer? Random Acts of Chat

This photo is begging for a caption dogs begging for treats

My husband, Danny, and I watched the Dog Whisperer on TV last Saturday. An aggressive Ridgeback named George needed to learn submissive behavior. When leashed, he disobeyed his owners and picked up rocks along the trail.

So the dog picks up a rock and that’s a terrible thing because… I sipped my coffee and half-listened while skimming the newspaper.

The show’s host, Caesar Millan, explained the root problem for most aggressive behavior: Insecurity.

My ears perked up. That sounded a lot like human behavior.

Caesar planned to introduce George to a huge pack of similar size dogs including Rottweilers and Pit Bulls. He mentioned if he didn’t show control over George when introduced to the pack, the Ridgeback would be attacked and torn apart.

Well, that seemed risky. More than twenty humongous dogs circled Caesar and poor George inside the enclosure, but I trusted Caesar. *gulp*

Caesar unsnapped George’s leash and the dog’s tail and ears descended. George snarled. Caesar sprang to action and cornered George. He commanded him to lay down. He never touched the dog or praised it.

When George showed calm behavior, ears and tail up, he was allowed to check out the group. The pack took turns sniffing the new dog in all the best smelly dog places. Accepted, the Ridgeback had a wild romp with others in the pack.

Later, Caesar introduced rocks to George. The Ridgeback looked at him like, why would I want to play with those stupid things when I have all these fine canine friends?”

Reunited with his owners, George walked down a rocky trail and ignored rocks and other dogs. His owners couldn’t believe the dog’s transformation.

Credits rolled at the end of the show.

ME: Wow! Did you see that? One minute he was freaking out and the next, the dog was having a blast. He just needed to know Caesar was in control.

DANNY: I need a Susie Whisperer.

ME: I have one. They’re called writers conferences. *wags tail*

 

Dodging Bullets and Creepy Crawlers

Roxy is a hunter. If you looked at her body, you’d say, “Nah, I don’t believe it.” She’s pretty puny with front legs about eight inches long.

Believe it.

Dodging bullets and creepy crawlers

She has been known to take down grasshoppers and the occasional mouse. In the beginning of the summer, she had been outside for quite a while. I became concerned. There were plenty of rabbits around, so I wasn’t too worried about a repeat performance with the Coywolf. In fact, I haven’t seen him or his kin around all summer. Instead, there’s been an owl, who (no pun intended) has hung out for months. Anyway, I worried Roxy’s radio collar’s battery had died and she was off gallivanting somewhere. It happened to be trash day.

I found her all right. She stood over something furry and freshly killed judging by the blood in the grass. A young rabbit. Euww! I ran inside for two grocery bags, picked it up and tossed it out. What could I say? Bichons are known for their mad hunting skills. I couldn’t punish her. I checked her coat, but she was as white as the pure driven snow. Hmmm. I wondered about the owls.

A few weeks ago, I found her in the very same place, right on the edge of her dogwatch system standing over her rabbit prey. The owl flew from the thick green canopy when I walked outside later that day. Aha! Roxy must have scared it off and stolen the owl’s dinner. Then I stole it from both of them and into the bin it went.

Dodging bullets and creepy crawlers

Flash forward two weeks. I returned from a quick trip to California and arrived at midnight on Monday. All I could manage the next day was a quart of black coffee and the newspaper.

There it was. An article about Tularemia. I had seen a sign posted at the trailhead last summer when I went on an epic waterlogged bike trip around the Boulder reservoir. It warned (and I paraphrase), “Contact with dead rabbits with the disease could cause high fever and swollen lymph nodes. It can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.” The article suggested we call animal control for any dead animals in the yard. If we insisted on removing them ourselves, we should use a shovel and cover our bodies with long sleeves and pants.

What??? I’d been in a t-shirt and shorts every time. It had been two weeks since the “incident.” I looked at Roxy. Her eyes were clear and she seemed to be her old high-spirited self. The rabbits must not have been infected.

Bullet dodged.

I took a nap in the afternoon and Roxy cuddled with me. I scratched her fur and found a speck of dirt. She must have rolled around while playing at the kennel. She needed a bath and a haircut, so I made an appointment for 10:00 on Thursday.

When I dropped her off, the groomer said, “It’ll take about three or four hours.” I returned home and caught up with writing. I planned to get a lot done since it had been a short week.

At noon, the phone rang. “I have some bad news,” she said.

I thought about the tularemia symptoms and wondered if she detected the disease somehow.

“She has fleas.”

Her words struck me like shrapnel. “No!”

“We found a few eggs. They’re just like specks of dirt.”

I just about fell on the floor. I flicked the egg I found in her fur onto the bedspread!

She would give Roxy a flea bath and give her some kind of treatment. In hyperdrive, I asked about a zillion questions and she finally directed me to the Internet. Of course, that’s always a reliable source. Ahem.

The top search was a first hand story about a lady in England who had an infestation problem of monstrous proportions. According to her, I needed to vacuum everything that couldn’t be washed and then repeat it every day for two month. She used flea powder everywhere. I had cancer thee years ago. I don’t want to be anywhere near insecticide.

I imagined how many times Roxy had run through the house shaking flea eggs all over the place. It grossed me out.

It took seven hours to do all the work. Is this what my next month would look like? I’d have no time for anything else. I went to bed that night exhausted and depressed about all the cleaning ahead.

The next day, I caught up on writing and blogging, and planned on cleaning in the afternoon.

The phone rang. It was another groomer from the same place. “I see that Roxy is due for a visit. Would you like to book an appointment?”

I laughed and said she’d been in yesterday. “She has fleas.”

“Oh, no.”

Her reaction added to my already heavy heart. “So I guess I’ll be cleaning every day so I don’t get an infestation.”

She explained that soap and water kills them. “She got the Advantix treatment, right? You won’t have an infestation.” She explained that the eggs stick to their fur and she wouldn’t have shaken them everywhere. I was somewhat relieved since I washed all the bedding the day before. Hopefully that  tiny little sucker I found in her fur didn’t roll under the bed…

“So is Advantix a repellant or insecticide?”

“Insecticide. Don’t worry, she won’t get bites from fleas, ticks or mosquitos. August is the last month for treatments, so you won’t have to come back until she’s ready for another grooming.”

Oh, God. Apparently, I will have a freakin’ bug bomb running around the house on four paws for the next month. I hate insecticide. At least she can’t be infected by anything and I don’t have to spend seven hours a day cleaning.

Another bullet dodged, sort of.

In the meantime, I’m reducing the size of her yard. Her dogwatch radio fence can be changed by the twist of a button.

She’ll be only hunting for a warm spot to cuddle.

You’re welcome, owls.

Owl Thanks You

Have you ever dealt with fleas or other pesky pests? Have you ever seen an owl?