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An Outer Layer of Chrysalis

She's exiting the larval stage, now. Spinning her cocoon, which not long from now will be made of teen-aged angst and hormones. Her birthday arrives in a couple weeks. Number twelve, just one shy of the first "teen" and an inability to order from the children's menu but possessed of the ability to take over-the-counter cold remedies which say "under twelve, ask your physician". Some days remind me of this more than others.

"I'm sorry I was late, Mom," she said, as she came in the door. Her brother had arrived home from the bus a few minutes earlier. "I was walking my friend home, and then I stopped to catch a grasshopper."

That's okay, I said. Did you catch your grasshopper?

"No, he hopped off while I was waiting for him to get onto the rocks and dirt." She put her pink bookbag down and shoved a tangly lock of hair back from her face. "I try not to catch them on the sidewalk or road anymore."

Why not? I wonder if she scraped herself doing it, or if the sun made the surfaces too hot.

"I caught a grasshopper on the sidewalk once. He'd been on someone's backpack. But when I caught him, the sidewalk was too hard, and I hurt his jumping leg." She winced. "I had to kill him. I didn't want to leave him to suffer. So I try to only catch them on grass or dirt, now."

My reaction to this came in several parts. A blink, as I realized my child understood euthanasia, followed by that gentle pinch of regret she has to know such things. And pride, to see her empathy, her willingness to do hard things, and better, to change her future behaviors based on what she had learned. This, it seems, is the little human we have created, and raised. The one we hope will leave the world a better place, no matter how she chooses to do it.

She's got a mighty fine start on that.

Good job. You did just the right thing. I'm proud of you.

"Thanks, Mom." She smiled. "Do you know my friend doesn't know what to do in a zombie attack? I'm having to teach her."

That's my girl.



Today's walk theme: Hello!

Got out plenty early today. It was still sweat-making, but not unbearable. That's this time of year for you, though.

On the way to the park, we met a gigantic white labrador who pulled his person across the road to come make friends. His person was very apologetic, until he realized everyone was enjoying his dog. Nugget loves to meet new buddies. I loved to pet the dog, because he was soft and goofy and friendly. All he wanted was to have his ear rubbed. What a sweetie.

Then, on our way around the park, we met some form of black spaniel who promptly ceased playing fetch to run over and greet us. His owner was all a-flail until I told her it was all right. More friend-making.

And, last, Chico the chihuahua was out again this morning, following his owner while the paper got fetched. Sniffings and greetings ensued. Altogether, a very social morning.



Today's walk theme: getting stuff done

I got out a little late today, since I got to bed a little late last night. We went to see Star Wars in Concert, and it was awesome! But we were tired and braindead afterward, then I slept for longer than usual to make up for it. So it was hotter than I like, but not unbearable.

The dog and I must have gone around four sets of workmen at various tasks. People getting their roofs done, or their houses painted, or...whatever they were doing at that one house on the corner. I think it was sealing up windows and doors to keep the AC air in. Someone had a plumber out. Hope they don't have a leak.

Unfortunately, workmen tend to park on the sidewalk and sprawl their stuff in the way. We had to go around on the asphalt, which is really too hot. I cut a few corners off the walk to avoid the work and keep the dog off the hot road. Tomorrow morning, I'll try to get out earlier.


Duck Season!

Today's walk theme: rabbit season!

Bunnies, bunnies everywhere. I got out early enough to see the rabbits before they all went to ground, apparently, because they seemed to be under every bush and behind every rock. Most of them were small, this spring's babies grown enough for solo expeditions. All of them just young enough to let you close before they realized you presented a danger and darted away.

This drives the dog nuts. Shiba inu are bred for flushing prey, and she wants to do her job. Little movements alert her, and she starts to prance with her legs stiff and her head high and her little ears perked. Then she makes little tiny noises, as if she can't keep herself quiet. If one runs, she'll try to take off after it without any sort of thought.

When I tug on the leash and walk along despite her opinion on running the rabbit down, she makes her shiba protest noises. She tries to convince me that by not allowing her to chase that rabbit, I am killing her very soul. I am so very, very mean.

The last rabbit we saw was a little one, sitting in the shade of a bush. Now and then he would stand on his hind legs to pull leaves off the bush. Entranced by the cuteness, I walked around the long way and let him keep eating. A bunny needs his strength, after all.

In walk unrelated news, tonight, I get to go see the Star Wars Live show. I am so very, very jazzed.


Into the Silence

Today's walk theme: quiet

A writer's brain never sleeps. Mine's outright insomniac. It woke me up every couple hours last night, and opted not to go back to sleep after I got my husband up for work. So I found myself awake far earlier than I wanted, and decided I'd might as well walk before it got hot.

Solitude is the only thing that makes early mornings worthwhile. A hint of the promise of the afternoon heat. An anticipatory quiet in the streets. The very first bark alarms from the few houses with doors already open. The quiet *ping* from my pocket as my husband responds to a text and, from miles apart, we share a morning walk.

Yes, almost worth it. But I'll have to grab a nap all the same. I just don't do mornings well.


Bark Alarms

Today's walk theme: Dogs

It's a beautiful day today. A very windy day yesterday blew in a day when the high's supposed to be about 80. This meant a gorgeous walk, and open doors all throughout the neighborhood. Open doors, of course, mean dogs at them, watching pedestrians go by and griping about it.

So everywhere I went, the bark alarms went off. And the Sheltie Lady was out today, walking her trio of hairballs. They all popcorned at the ends of their leashes and barked their fool heads off as she walked by. She popcorned, too, shouting at them all to shut up while she hauled them away from us. Nugget (the dog) and I waited (I waited patiently, Nugget made her shiba inu noises and danced with her little ears up) until they'd moved up the sidewalk a ways before we followed.

Since we're talking about dogs, I suppose I ought to introduce mine. Her name is Nugget, and she's five. She's half corgi (we think cardigan), half shiba inu, all sausage. When we rescued her a couple months ago, she weighed 43 lbs...and was supposed to weigh 30. Scheduled feedings and walks have done her a world of good, but she's always going to be thick. It's just how her combination of breeds will make her.

Say hello, Nugget.


A Promise to a Muse

About five years ago, I started a novel. Kind of. I wrote a short story to entertain my husband at work, and kept writing it. It blossomed into a humorous series of vignettes with a wonderful world and voice I loved, with characters I adored. I tried to expand it into a novel (which I'll call Carolina), but I knew not even halfway in I couldn't do it. It was an incoherent mess, and I didn't know how to fix it.

Among my staunchest supporters in this endeavor was my best friend Ryan. Ryan was my best beta reader and front-line editor. He supported me through my rejections and never let me get discouraged. He celebrated my successes, and bought all my published works, even though I'd given him a copy. I could always count on him for honest opinions, brutal but polite critiques, and support which never gave out.

But he never failed to say, "So, when are you going to finish Carolina?" Ryan loved that story. It was his favorite. When I'd tell him I wasn't good enough to write it, he'd say, "How are you going to get that way? Write it. Learn on the way. There's never going to be a better time. You want to do this. So do it."

On the evening of April 5, Ryan called me to tell me he was in the hospital, and wouldn't be leaving. What we'd prayed was a bad cold was his cystic fibrosis instead. Carbon dioxide was building up in his lungs. When I asked what the plan of attack was, his voice was matter-of-fact. "Hon, they're making me comfortable. I'm not going to make it through this one."

Standing there on my back porch, staring at the tiny upside-down tomato plants I didn't really see, I made him a promise. I would finish Carolina.

He died April 9. And I'm keeping my promise.

We're a bit more than a month out, now. I'm working on the middle of the outline. When I'm not plotting, I'm scouring the web for writing advice, reading links posted by agents on Twitter, looking for the hints that will get me through this. (I've never written anything as complex or extensive as this book.) Special thanks to matociquala for writing and deathmarching and blogging candidly about it (she doesn't know me from Adam, but her insights resonate with me, and whenever she tells herself she can do it, she's telling me, too), to Michael Moorcock for writing this article, and to Mary Robinette Kowal for her piece on focus.

Can I do this? I'd better. He promised to haunt me. I'll have a lifetime of computer crashes if I don't. Nothing worse than an angry muse.


Preheat Oven to OMG

Today's walk theme: hot

It's the first day of summer vacation! This means, among other things, that I could tell my alarm clock where to stick it. I didn't get out to walk the dog until about an hour and a half after my usual time. All the usual birds, lizards, and other wildlife had already taken off, because it had gotten rather warm.

We're not even preheated yet. Give it another month or so, and we'll be at 95-100 degrees early in the day. This means I either need to keep getting my butt up early, or the dog walks will have to migrate to later evenings. It also means my electric bill is about to start extorting me like a freon-based mafia.



On Writing: Focus

I liked this little entry on how focus indicates thought, and how writers use focus to tell a story.


Walkus Interruptus

Today's walk theme: interruptions

Most walks are straightforward (and straight forward, I suppose). Walk along. Enjoy the peace. Things happen around you. Not today.

Landscapers were working on the grass in the park. Big machines poked holes all along the thing. Sprinklers went off in random places. The dog and I had to watch ourselves as we went through. Later in the walk, a garbage truck rolled by and startled the dog when it stopped to grab a can, totally interrupting the quiet. And then we met a five-pound black chihuahua named Chico who bolted out of his owner's house, all growl and bristle, only to run up to us and realize meeting another dog was fun.

Today's theme matches the day. This is the last day of school for the semester. My writing time and schedule are about to experience a serious interruption. Thank goodness for my laptop. It and I can hide in the bedroom while the monkeys run about the house.