Friday, June 13, 2008

The Feline Anti-Literacy Brigade, Part 2

This is going to be my last post for a while, but it's not the cats' fault. (I'm actually going to a writers' conference, like a real live writer. Then I have houseguests to entertain.) Although when she saw me start working on this blog entry, feline anti-literacy agent #2 started poking her nose into things.

Meet Calliope. She got her name not because she inspires heroic poetry (like her namesake), but because she is Clio's sister, and thus needed the name of a Greek muse. Good thing there were eight to choose from; some of the other muses's names just didn't sound right. ("Here, Euterpe! Melpomene, are you my sweet puddy tat?" Nope, that wasn't gonna happen. I'm only literary within reason.) So anyway, Callie saw me begin typing and decided to come see what I was doing. This time I was able to fob her off with a couple of treats, and now she's sleeping in the cat tree next to my office window. Awwwww, so cute. Hold on, I'll be back in a sec.

[Wipes fur from hands before returning to keyboard.] This is Callie's secret weapon: being cute and stationary. She doesn't spend much time in my lap (unless she knows I'm planning to get up in five minutes), but she does seem to be around all the time. While the other cats sleep upstairs, usually under the bed, Callie hangs out where she's always visible. Her favorite spot is on the family room sofa, and I have seen her sleep there for eight hours straight, no kidding. In the mornings I usually find her dozing in the sunshine that pools through the dining room windows. In any case, she's visible. She's cute. She sucks me away from the computer to stroke her soft, soft fur. And then she gets up and meows at me: "Hey! Lady-with-the-Wondrous-Opposable-Cat-Food-Can-Opening-Thumbs! Get me some food!"

This is Callie's not so secret weapon: her incessant crying for food. "Beautiful voice" (the translation of Calliope), indeed! MEEEEEOWWWWWWW! Can't you see I'm tiny and underweight? she whines. (Yes, I do see, Callie, but the vet says there's nothing wrong with you.) MEEEEEEEOWWWWW! Why won't you feed me? she pleads. (I did, Callie, but you turned up your nose at Little Friskies "Liver & Chicken Surprise" when last week you ate it with pleasure.) MEEEEOOOOOWWWWWW! I mean, feed me some REAL food! YOUR food! she demands, paw stretching out for a stray crumb on my plate.

Seriously, how I can work in the face of such persistence?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summertime, and the living ain't easy....

For some reason I don't seem to get a lot of writing done in the summer. It's the season of sun and fun, right? I must be out cavorting at the pool, or reading in the hammock, or eating fresh cherries and spitting the pits at the cats; there must be all sorts of relaxing things I'm doing instead of writing, right?

Ennnnhhhh, wrong! I am not a summer person. First of all, I'm not a big fan of heat and humidity, since it tends to make me wheeze like a leaky balloon. Second, summer means "summer vacation," which means Boy is home full-time. Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my son--probably more than he does with me, given that he's now fourteen and I have become totally embarassing--but day after day of "I'm booooooorrrrrred" gets tedious. (This year, ha ha ha, I made him think it was his idea to join Marching Band--four weeks of practice during the summer--and take a summer computer class, so that problem should be alleviated somewhat.)

Still, there are several things I enjoy about summer, although they take away from writing time. First of all, I don't have to get up before 7 am every weekday!! That means more glorious sleep, but less writing time. (Although I will argue that added sleep makes my brain more efficient. There must be some way to prove that I write more words per hour when I'm well-rested.)

The other thing I love about summer is my garden. As you can see from the picture, it's going gonzo right now: irises, columbines, geraniums, even the roses are starting to bloom. Unfortunately, that means it needs maintenance. If I want more blooms later in the summer, I need to get in there and deadhead the irises. It's very relaxing working in the garden, but I generally end up doing it in late afternoon, which is usually peak writing time for me. I also need to pick out all the sunflower sprouts from the back garden. The bird feeder is great for attracting everything from finches, sparrows, and cardinals (and grackles, blech) to a hawk that likes to eat sparrows (and grackles, yeah!). Whoops! Another reason to lose a little more writing time, staring at the birdies. (Or staring at my kitties staring at the birdies, which can be a hoot.)

Still, I can't complain too much. I'll bet that next February I'll reread this entry and think, "What was her problem? Crazy girl, at least she sees the sun more than once a week!"

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Feline Anti-Literacy Brigade, Part 1

If you already know me, it's hardly news if I tell you I'm a cat person. I luuuurve the furry little beasties. There's just something about the way they move, the way they caper about, the way they snooze in anatomically impossible positions ... they're just so cute, and I can't resist them. (Within reason, of course. Although my other half insists he is the only thing standing between me and a life as a crazy old cat lady with two dozen cats, I do have limits. "Can't resist them" usually means stopping to pet a friendly cat, not bringing them home.)

So we have three cats in our household, and they provide endless hours of amusement and possibilities for procrastination. In fact, they often take an active role in preventing me from writing or even reading. I jokingly (?) call these incidents part of their "Feline Anti-Literacy Campaign." The reason they wage this campaign is obvious: I, the Lady with Wondrous, Opposable, Cat-Food-Can-Opening Thumbs, should not be spending my time on anything other than their entertainment.

Meet Clio, leader of the Feline Anti-Literacy Brigade. Actually, I should have known what she was capable of when we brought her and her sister home as kittens in the summer of 2002. She earned her name with her first anti-literacy efforts. I was proofreading galleys of a history reference at the time, and the new kitten spent so much time crawling over them and the computer desk that I decided to name her after the Greek muse of history, Clio.

As you can see from the photo at the top of my blog, Clio's usual modus operandi is to sit on my lap while I'm at the computer desk. It's a very simple and effective technique. Sitting on my lap means I can't pull out my keyboard drawer; neither can I reach my hands into the keyboard drawer. Thus, I cannot type, and my hands are free to gratify her need for a belly rub. Of course, she does not want me to capture photographic evidence of her anti-literacy efforts, which is why my poor camera endured the savage attack documented here.

Clio's other anti-literacy techniques include: chirping on the floor (an irresistible invitation to play); vomiting on the carpet (an irresistible invitation to steam-clean); and producing incredibly foul smells (an irresistible invitation to scoop the cat box). I turned the table on her efforts, though; a few years back she was stationed in her usual anti-literacy post, on my lap, when she released an incredibly foul smell. My anti-muse had struck! But in so doing, she inspired my poetic muse. Within a few minutes, I had the following stanza:

You come to sit upon my lap
To find a comfy place to nap.
Nothing’s softer than your fur
Nothing’s sweeter than your purr
Rumbling from your little heart,
Why, then, o Kitty, must you fart?

Four more stanzas soon followed; Boy recited the poem, complete with whoopie-cushion sound effects, for his third-grade class; and I was off to the poetic races. I now have over 20 "Poopy Poems," as I like to call them, on topics such as scooping the cat box, watching the cat barf, and enduring the cat chewing my hair.

So take that, Clio! You may entice me away from the computer have me wrapped around your little paws, but you can't squelch my creativity.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's always the big ones that are the hardest to finish....

So this weekend I attended a baby shower for the lovely little Miss Amilia, bringing along a cute pink "stars and moon" baby quilt as a gift. I love making baby quilts. They are small in size (around 45" square), making them a manageable project that only takes a few weeks. You still get the fun of picking out and matching fabrics, piecing the patterns, and seeing the whole thing take shape--but the hard part, the quilting, takes much less time. In fact, because the quilt is so small, I often do the quilting by machine, which even makes it kind of fun.

In contrast, full-sized projects can be a chore to quilt. I started quilting about 7 or 8 years ago, and during that time I've completed over half a dozen baby quilts, along with four wall hangings of similar size. I've also finished a twin-sized quilt for Boy (who does not wish me to name him here in my blog, because who knows who's reading teh internetz?), as well as a couple of queen-sized quilts I made as wedding gifts. As for my very first quilting project, a queen-sized log cabin pattern for my own use? I'm still quilting it by hand. I worked a little on it the other night, and I should finish the quilting by the end of summer--but I've got another baby quilt to make, so it's possible I may put it off yet again. In the meantime, a king-sized quilt (again for me) is still awaiting my hand-quilting efforts. I finished piecing it almost a year ago, but have been waiting to complete the backing, basting, and quilting until I finished the log cabin.

I was thinking about this because last week I found a similar way to procrastinate with my other huge creative endeavor, writing. I really should have focused on revising Chapter 15 in my current novel-length project, and then started writing Chapter 16 so I have something for my critique group next month. I've only got four more chapters to write, but I know once I've finished with them there's a lot more revision I have to do on earlier chapters. But instead of chipping away at the bigger project, I spent most of my time jotting notes and writing sketches for a new idea that popped into my head. It's a completely different kind of piece--humor instead of fantasy--and the main character was whispering to me: "Hey! There's more fun over here! Stay with me and play; leave working with those other folks behind!"

I guess brainstorming new ideas, for me, is kind of like going to the fabric store. It's fun to consider all the possibilities, envision how they might work in the pattern as a whole, and calculate what the result could be. Why wouldn't I rather do that than stub my fingers on the hard quilting needle of revisions?

Of course, at one point the current project was whispering, "We're the fun ones!" Like a quilt, it started out as lots of fun--it's just getting to the end where it becomes a lot of work. So maybe I should ignore this new idea and focus on finishing the old project ... but what's the expression? All work and no play makes Homer something something? (Yes, I am a huge "Simpsons" fan, as if two references in one post didn't give it away.)

If creativity is a gift, I don't want to refuse it. I certainly don't want to turn it into a chore. So right now I'm keeping two windows open: doing a little piecing here, a little bit of quilting there. It might take longer to finish, but hopefully the results will show more loving care.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Photo of the Week--6/2/08

When it comes to travel, I've been very fortunate. Ten years ago my husband's job took us to London, England, and we lived there for four years. It was very easy to take weekend trips around Europe, and when we got home we decided we'd keep travelling when we could. In this weekly feature, I'm going to share some of my favorite photos from the past ten years' travels. I'll feature one at the bottom of the blog, then archive them in "Photo of the Week" listings. If you want to review, you can always click on the "Photo of the Week" label. Here's last week's photo, a shot we took while on visiting Antarctica. These two penguins--a Gentoo and an Adelie (crazy-eye)--had just emerged from the ocean, and were giving each other the stink-eye.