Apocalyptic Creativity

Both books hands

As readers and writers of post-apocalyptic fiction, we’re all preparing for the inevitable. For some, this means, “I should probably consider buying some bottled water and maybe a flamethrower.” For others, it’s more like, “I have an underground bunker in the woods behind my house crammed full of toilet paper and fifty-pound bags of rice, and I don’t even like rice.”

We all know what we should stockpile. The obvious supplies include food, water, weapons, ammunition, medical supplies, tools, things to make fire (nobody wants to be chilly during the apocalypse, and raw snake tastes terrible), fuel, and coffee—because if the apocalypse starts before ten a.m., I’m going to be at a serious disadvantage.

Everybody knows about that stuff. Which means when some moron decides to hide the fact they’ve been bitten, turns, and eats everyone in their hideout, there’s bound to be a good bit of those obvious survival supplies there for the taking. So I think we should consider the less obvious, but very useful, items we should have on hand to make our zombie apocalypse experience more “hey, this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be” and a lot less “oh, shit, I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be able to see my own intestines.”

To compile this list, I did extensive scientific research, by which I mean I posted about it on Facebook. In no particular order…


Underpants: This is a no-brainer. Nobody likes dirty underwear, and once you turn your only pair inside out, unless an unexpected lull in the fleeing and head-chopping allows you free time to do laundry, you have a problem. And considering the number of times you’re going to walk around a corner and end up screaming, “Aaaahhhh, zombie herd, and I left my flamethrower in my other purse!” you can assume there will be a lot of soiled undies. You’re going to need plenty of spares.

Icy Hot: What with all the machete-swinging, running away, and climbing ladders because zombies don’t understand how ladders work, you can bet there will be a lot of sore muscles. It’s also possible the unspeakable Icy Hot stench will mask your Juicy Human smell. But if it turns out Icy Hot is like barbecue sauce or bacon gravy to zombies, you’re totally screwed. Further research might be required, though I suspect test subjects will be hard to find.

Note: Under no circumstances should the Icy Hot be used in any proximity to the underpants (see above) unless the whiner in your group really needs to be taught a lesson. It’s also an acceptable consequence for the guy who asks everyone you encounter, “You been bit?” because the zombie apocalypse is no excuse for sloppy grammar.

A Golf Umbrella: Sure, they’re big and bulky, and when a major downpour occurs they’re always in the back seat of the car you didn’t drive that day, but they could be very Umbrella_zombiehandy. Not only would a golf umbrella keep the rain off, it provides shade if your apocalyptic adventure is happening where it’s hot and lacking in leafy trees. You can use the pointy end to stab a zombie in the eye-hole (Pro-tip: Close umbrella first), and should the guy next to you suddenly erupt in a fountain of blood and chunks of innards, you can use the umbrella to shield yourself from the gore as you run away. Hey, he was pretty much dead already; you couldn’t have saved him. The zombie apocalypse is no time for sentimentality.

A Small, Light-Powered Calculator: Life in the apocalypse is essenially one giant story problem, and who has time to sit down and scratch out math problems in the dirt with a stick? Maybe some of you can do math in your head, but I find numbers way too slippery, and possibly evil. When we encounter a swarm, I want to be able to quickly calculate how many zombies each member of my group needs to kill. Why? Because if someone isn’t doing their fair share of zombie extermination, I need to know who to trip the next time we’re forced to make a run for it. It’s called “survival,” people. Don’t judge. Also, it’s important to know how to equally divide seven cans of creamed corn among eleven people, because you know someone’s going to cheat.

Several Whoopee Cushions and/or Cans of Spring-Loaded Snakes: It has been pointed out to me that the zombie apocalypse can be a bit grim and depressing, and everyone could benefit from some laughter. Except me. I hate practical jokes, and I’ll stab you in the neck with a rusty spork, which would make me laugh, but you probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

Disclaimer: They say laughter is the best medicine, but I don’t think that works with zombie bites, so you should probably cut off your hand if you’re bitten, just to be safe. Or, you know, whatever body part is affected. Unless it’s your head. That seems counterproductive.

A Bouncy Castle: This is tangentially related to the items above. No, you can’t be expected to pack a bouncy castle, let alone inflate it, but ever since the second episode of Fear the Walking Dead in which the featured family was peeking through the blinds at the neighbor’s kids playing in a bouncy castle while someone with a distinctly zombie-like appearance approached, I’ve wanted to see a bouncy castle full of kid-sized zombies. I mean, how awesome would that be?


Bonus points if it’s a zombie themed bouncy castle!

I was woefully disappointed, so if you do encounter a bouncy castle, fill it with tiny-human zombies if it doesn’t already contain some, because that is an opportunity that must not be missed. And if you have a cell phone with any battery left, take a damned picture, because when someone re-invents the internet—possibly Al Gore’s grandson—I absolutely need to see that shit.

Car Air Fresheners (But not the pine tree kind. I hate those.): Despite the abundance of clean undies, assuming you took my advice, bathing is going to be a relatively infrequent thing. Everybody knows from years of research (watching campy horror movies), the instant you take off your clothes, whether to bathe or have slutty teenage sex, that’s when the bad stuff happens, so most people won’t often take that risk. You need these air fresheners—I suggest something like “ocean breeze,” personally—to mask the funky aroma of your travel-mates as you continue your endless search for a safe place to hide out.


What would zombie air freshener smell like? Do we really want to know?

Yellow Pages (assuming you can find any, because everybody just Googles stuff now): An alert aficionado made this suggestion, and it has a lot of merit, as long as you’re not in a major metropolitan area where phone books are six inches thick and weigh forty-three pounds.

First, you can strap them to your forearms as makeshift armor. Studies show the majority of zombie bites occur on the hands and forearms. I might have made up these studies, but I stand by their validity. Also, if you failed to find someone who got eaten before they used up all their stockpiled toilet paper, pages from the phone book could be a substitute. Perhaps best of all, you’ll have a handy guide to the location of all the liquor stores sporting goods stores.

There are several intriguing variations, as well. If you enjoy, for example, crossword puzzle books, you have a source of entertainment on those rare zombie-free evenings. For younger survivors, consider coloring books (don’t forget the crayons!) or connect-the-dots books, but be sure you get small-sized ones or they’ll be too big to strap to their kid-sized arms. I hear some of you shouting, “Sudoku!” but I’m ignoring you. From what I understand, those puzzles involve numbers, and I’ve already told you how I feel about math.

This list is just the beginning. Be creative! Look around you and imagine how ordinary items, things you’d never think would be essential to your post-apocalyptic survival—possibly with amusing side effects. What would you include in your Z-Day supply stash? I’m going to go look in my junk drawer and that weird box in the hall closet and see what other useful things I can find.

PS: As you see in the header, I wrote a couple of zombie books. If you’re interested, you can find them HERE.

Honor…and Hope

WARNING. Contains spoilers of The Walking Dead season 8 mid-season premiere. If you haven’t seen the episode, steer clear.


Unless you’re seasons behind in watching and have also miraculously not seen any mention on social media of the season 8 mid-season finale a couple of months ago, you knew this was coming. There were those who held onto the thin thread of hope that it was all another elaborate plot by TWD producers to mislead viewers, but I never believed it.

I knew Carl was going to die.

I wasn’t really upset about his impending death. Carl was never one of my favorite characters, and I’ve hated that damned sheriff’s hat since about season 3. I figured it would be sad, sure, but didn’t expect to get too worked up about it.

And then I spent half the episode ugly-crying. Where did that come from?

While Carl was never my favorite character, I do understand and respect his place in the TWD universe. We now have only three of the Atlanta originals left–Rick, Carol, and Daryl. He was Rick’s prime motivation to fight, survive, and try to build something in the post-apocalyptic world. He was the vulnerable little boy everyone watched grow into a competent young man. The death of the kid they thought would make it, who matured into a true survivor, is going to rock everyone’s foundations.

My apathy toward Carl is in contrast to how I feel about Chandler Riggs. He’s a well-spoken, intelligent, charming, talented, humble guy, and I’m going to miss him. I’m sure he has great things ahead of him, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. And thank goodness, he finally got a big-boy haircut.

A few random thoughts about the episode…

Everyone on my live chat sort of fell apart in the first five minutes when Carl was having his “last normal moments” in Alexandria. He was writing goodbye notes, making blue hand prints on the porch of their house and taking Instamatic selfies with little Judith, and turning his face to the sun and smiling, knowing he’d never feel the sunlight again.


It was kind of brutally beautiful.

Down in the tunnels, where Carl guided everyone to hide out from Negan’s goons, there were final interactions with those close to him, and we learned Siddiq was a doctor, or at least a resident, meaning Carl brought someone of immense value to the group, at the cost of his own life. Daryl indicates all the people gathered there, and reminds Carl they’re all there, safe and alive, because of him, then goes to take Judith to safety.

But that bleeping hat. I hate that hat. I’d hoped for a ceremonial hat-burning, but my hopes went unfulfilled. He gave the stupid thing to Judith. Please, please, don’t let me have to watch six seasons of little blonde Judith bopping around and dodging walkers while wearing that ridiculous hat.

Each time the episode cut back to a Carl scene, he looked worse. The makeup was amazing, and I was shocked to see him look so…diseased.

Some viewers are angry that his ultimate demise took place off screen, but I think it was appropriate. I really didn’t want to see his skull explode, a la Beth at Grady Memorial. He chose his exit, and I’m fine with it. The whole thing was devastating enough for Rick and Michonne, who had to go back in and remove his body for burial. They didn’t need to witness it.

Also, Michonne was a better apocalypse-mom than Lori ever was.

The message Carl was determined to pass on to Rick before he died was the one thing everyone needs most at this time in their apocalyptic journey. Hope. Hope that they can still build something meaningful in this new reality without completely losing themselves to the darkness. No, it’s not realistic for Rick–or anyone–to go back to his season 1 mantra, “We don’t kill the living,” but Carl wants to remind him it’s okay to show mercy sometimes. To fight for your people, but retain some humanity.

Even though at times in earlier seasons it appeared Carl was “going to the dark side,” at the end, he expressed the guilt and remorse he felt, even now, for shooting that kid who was surrendering to him and Hershel in the woods outside the prison.

So, reluctantly, we bid farewell to Carl Grimes. But another development has me wondering if perhaps there’s a new little-boy badass in the making…Henry.


Fun note, though most dedicated fans already know…Henry is played by Macsen Lintz, the little brother of Madison Lintz, who portrayed Sophia in seasons 1 and 2.

What do you think? Did you react to Carl’s death the way you expected? How is this void in their lives going to affect your favorite characters?

All I know is…I can’t wait until next week. I hope we’ll find out what’s going on with Enid and the Oceanside gang after she accidentally shot Grandma in the mid-season finale.

Grammar Apocalypse

I have a couple of zombie-related posts planned for this week, in honor of the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead. I’ll discuss my thoughts on the episode tomorrow, I think, since it doesn’t air in the UK until tonight, and it will be full of spoilers.

One small detail that irks the living crap out of me, though, is a common grammar error that’s pervasive in the genre. I can’t help it; I’m an editor. Words are literally my business.

Basic conjugation of “bite” is simple.zombie

Present tense = bite. Zombies bite tasty, slow-moving humans.

Past tense = bit. The zombie bit him on the ass when he tried to crawl under the fence.

Past participle = bitten. Jeb was bitten an hour ago, so it’s too late to cut off his arm to save him. The loud-mouthed idiot got bitten yesterday, and Frank happily shot him in the face. He’d been bitten by a zombie weasel, which was kind of funny. It had bitten him six times before Horace killed it with a lawn dart.

Apparently, past participles do not survive the zombie plague, because nobody uses them. “You been bit?” “I got bit.” “He was bit.” I understand The Walking Dead originated in the rural southeastern United States, and that phrasing is a casual dialect that is accepted in the area. I know it, but I still cringe. Because it’s wrong. Just…wrong.

The rapidly-declining use of proper grammar in our society might be a sign of an impending apocalypse. People so commonly say “he got bit” that it’s accepted, and most people don’t even realize it’s incorrect.

Because of this, even though it goes against every nit-picky bone in my editorial brain, I have to leave it that way in dialogue when I’m editing. That (sadly) is how people talk, so I have to swallow the bitter bile of poor grammar and move on. I still insist on “he was bitten” in narrative, though.

While I have to pick my battles, I refuse to completely surrender.

Classic: Bunnies Should Be More Durable

Flashback to 2010 and recall the lovely, gentle, wonderful, gentle-giant, puppy-and-kitty-loving Ozark, a Great Pyrenees/Lab mix, and his unfortunate interactions with bunnies. In his defense, he probably just wanted to play. But since this was not the first time such a thing occurred, maybe he should’ve figured it out by now.


Seriously, does this look like a bunny-mauler to you? Either of them, but particularly the one on the right.

Maybe my days off aren’t quite as boring as I think. You can decide.

I woke up at around 7:15 a.m. and wandered out to the kitchen for the customary and metabolically necessary first cup of coffee. The first thing I saw was a note by the coffee pot. Aw, how sweet! My honey-bunny left me a note! I wondered if it would be of the romantic or naughty variety. Or both.

None of the above. This is what it said:

“There is a wounded rabbit out there somewhere. After Ozark dropped it on the deck and I got him in, it was still there for a few minutes, then gone. But I think it was “damaged.” You probably want to go out with them and be prepared.”

See? Neither romantic nor naughty. Upsetting and anxiety-inducing. I had to ingest enough coffee to feel functional, then go search for a damaged-and-probably-dead bunny. Bunnies are not very durable.

Actually, dead is sad, but I was more worried about finding him not-quite-dead, because then I would have to figure out what to do about it. My options were:

a) rush to work and let them try to save it (which never works; see above mention regarding bunnies’ lack of durability)

b) let it suffer and hope it dies soon

c) whack it with a shovel

I do not like any of those options.

While I was in emergency caffeine consumption mode, Ozark came over for his morning stopsignskritch-fest. Lovely, except I quickly discovered his entire head was crawling with fleas.

Apparently, a whole bunny-load of fleas realized their meal ticket was about to be punched, and migrated onto the huge, fluffy, delicious (if spleenless) creature that was currently attached to the bunny. By his teeth.

I also must assume that if the other dogs aren’t infested yet, they will be within about 37 seconds. Awesome.

I found two doses of Frontline Plus for 45-88 pound dogs. I put 1.5 doses of it on Ozark, and put a few drops on the other two, hoping to stem the tide of infestation until I can get more Frontline at work tomorrow.

I also realized I can’t take Ozark to work tomorrow while he’s a walking flea-circus. The owner of Ozark’s puppy, Murphy, would go batshit insane. For a veterinarian, she’s unusually upset by fleas.

Scene we will not witness tomorrow. Sorry, boys!

I went outside and quickly discovered the deceased bunny between the deck and the steps. He was missing large portions of fur. And skin. His eyes looked sad. I watched to make sure there was no blinking.

There was not.

He’s not only merely dead, he’s really most sincerely dead. (Read that part using your Singing Munchkin voice.)

I got a shovel and transported Poor Dead Bunny, who was in full rigor mortis, to his not-quite-final resting place. I am glad tomorrow is trash day.


Ozark, deceptively innocent-looking bunny-muncher

Ozark has spent an unusual (for him) amount of time out in the yard today, lying in wait. He is hopeful that a search party consisting of the Poor Dead Bunny’s friends and family will show up. He is anticipating another velveteen chew toy.

Given the flea situation, I’m content to let him stay out there a while.


Perpetually Pursuing Perfection

Like most of my family, I am an over-achiever. If I do something, I don’t want to be pretty good. I want to be an expert.


When I was a journalist for Indy Car Racing Magazine and essentially lived at the Speedway the entire month of May, I could tell a Lola chassis from a Penske from the other end of the straightaway, and even the model year. I could identify a Chevrolet engine from a Cosworth the second it fired up.

You’d think this kind of obsessive, determined, perfectionist nature would make me a great athlete. I guess it could have, but I dislike perspiration, and competition makes my stomach hurt.

My brain needs to be busy all the time, learning and perfecting new things. Editing is the perfect job for me, because I learn something new with each manuscript, whether it’s a fact learned from the story itself, or a better way to structure a sentence.

Which, as I described in this post earlier this week, is how the whole knitting thing started.

I’ve crocheted since I was a kid, meaning I have 40+ years of experience. I briefly experimented with knitting maybe seven or eight years ago (probably longer, since I’m old and even 1990 doesn’t sound like that long ago) but never pursued it.

Now I’m back at it, and the over-achieving perfectionist in me is getting mouthy.  “I’ve been knitting for almost an entire week! Why is this not perfect? Why can’t I knit intricate cable designs yet?”

Never mind that I can’t change colors yet, add or decrease stitches, or any of about a million other skills I still need to master. I want to know it all. Right. Now.

Why can’t I make these yet? Why??????

I’m purposely, against everything I stand for, moving slowly in my knitting evolution, trying to refine basic skills before tackling the next thing. As you can see from the images below, the white stuff being some practice swatches and the green one being my first soon-to-be-completed piece, I’m working on straight, flat, single-color skills at the moment, nothing more than knits, purls, and casting on and off.

The green thing is allegedly a dishcloth, according to the pattern. I don’t understand why anyone would spend hours making something so pretty just to scrub melted cheese and congealed grease from a plate, though, so this is something else. Not sure what yet. Maybe a hot pad or trivet. Or the first item in Lori’s Knitting Museum. I also didn’t use kitchen cotton yarn. It’s regular old acrylic.

I went to the craft store a few days ago and bought a beginner’s kit. It has a couple different size metal needles and a lot of little gadgets and gizmos of which I do not yet know the purpose, but I’ll get there. I also got a pair of bamboo needles, in case I decide I like them better. I have a full set of bamboo crochet hooks, which I have never used. They were free, though, so I don’t feel too badly about that. Who knows? Maybe knitting needles are different.


One thing is certain. There are zillions of needle options. Metal, plastic, or wood. Long, not-so-long, double-pointed, circular, in sizes from itty-bitty to bigger than a broomstick. I just know every new project will involve new tools, because it’ll be a while before my knitting kit is as comprehensive as my crochet kit. Anybody have old knitting gear they don’t use? I will accept donations! 🙂

I’ve learned this all by myself, using website diagrams, YouTube tutorials, the book that came in my knitting kit, and trial and error. Which means I’m probably doing a shit-ton of things wrong.

I was texting my friend Jess, who is an experienced knitter, a few nights ago. I need to get her on a plane to NC to tutor me. She asked me if I was an English or Continental knitter. How the f*** should I know? What does that even mean? 

Sigh. Google.

Turns out I’m a Continental knitter, using my left hand to handle the yarn, which is an easier method for crochet people to learn. And then my brain was happy because I learned something new.

The pattern I got has three “dishcloth” patterns, which could be hot pads or place mats or scarves, depending on how long it takes before I get bored and want to make something else. I’ll make one of each, then move on to something with another challenge in it. Color change, adding or decreasing stitches, something pretty or fancy.

I need to hurry up and become an expert knitter, though, because about five years ago I bought a set of Tunisian crochet hooks and two books, tinkered with a few basic stitches, but sort of lost interest. Now I want to be an expert at that too.

That Time I Might Have Been Replaced By An Alien

These two posts appeared a few days apart in 2010. The only significant changes since then are I do cook and bake more often, I now prefer rum to wine, I no longer apply eyeliner to go to the store, and we did escape Minnesota for the more hospitable clime of eastern North Carolina. Oh, and no aliens or clones showed up to help us pack. Stupid aliens.

If It’s Not Aliens, It’s Something Just As Bad


Dear FFFans,

Try not to panic, but I have reason to believe Lori has been abducted and replaced by a simulacrum.


Creatures of interest in possible abduction

Earlier this morning, she professed her determination to remain on the Sofur, reading smut on George-the-Kindle all day. In fact, last night, she had this conversation with Tom:

Lori: I worked my ass off today. I’m not getting off the Sofur at all tomorrow if I can help it.

Tom: Do you really have to get off it? You’ve got the computer and George right there.

Lori: Yeah, I love it. It’s like Command Central.

Tom: So, why get up?

Lori: (points to the right) Because the bathroom is over there. (points behind) And the kitchen is back there. (pauses, considering) But seriously, if I had a mini-fridge and a potty-couch, I’d never have to move.

She is, obviously, quite committed to her Sofur Slugdom.

Yet this morning, she did some disturbingly out-of-character things. Before 10 a.m., she put on jeans. While it is true many people leave the house in their plaid flannel jammie pants, she never does that.

She also applied eyeliner, because if she doesn’t have on her terribly dated eyeliner, she claims to be unable to recognize her own face.

Then, she put on shoes. Shoes.

She drove to SuperTarget and began buying (brace yourselves) ingredients. She has a powerful, nearly pathological aversion to ingredients, because those imply an intent to cook, which she avoids at all costs. Yet there she was, with her red shopping cart, cruising up and down the aisles, selecting ingredients.

She is now, as we speak, in the process of making vegetable bison soup. And chocolate chip banana bread. Both. From. Scratch. Read those last three words again. It’s the only way you might start to believe them.

I don’t know how she’s going to accomplish this, but must assume by the end of the day there will be a huge cauldron of soup (because she can’t make a small batch) and a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread.

It’s terrifying, actually.

On top of that, she was seen emptying the canister of the vacuum, implying that she may actually make use of it sometime today, probably when BroZarkWin are outside. Why would she do that? She’s developed the inability to see dog hair on the carpet, much to Tom’s everlasting disappointment. But the evidence speaks for itself.

Are you hiding under the bed yet? Should we suspect a doppelganger? Alien possession? Pod people? Some sort of personality-altering brain worm?

If you weren’t already prepared to barricade yourself in the basement, you should start collecting boards and nails and enough supplies to last you till this situation is resolved. (There’s no telling who might be next!)

And the most unsettling part of the story is about to be revealed.

She did not stop at the Liquorette on the way home, despite having barely a single glass of wine left in the fridge. True, there is bourbon, but still. Wine is yummy. She loves wine. Currently, Alice White Lexia, to be exact. Yet she did not stop to visit Tim and Bill and Young Guy and Woman With The Long Hair, or any of her other Liquorette friends.

If this bizarre behavior continues, I’m going to count on you to mobilize the Men In Black. There’s no way Tom is going to do it. He’s going to think this impostor is a definite improvement.

The fate of this household – or possibly the world – is in your hands.



All Clear

For those of you who took Tuesday’s advice and boarded yourselves in the basement and are reading this on your smart phones, it’s safe to come out now.

It seems I entered some sort of fugue state a few days ago, and while there I – or someone impersonating me – made a full cauldron of soup (Yes, a “cauldron.” What else could it be?) and chocolate chip banana bread.

She/It also vacuumed copious amounts of dog hair from the carpet, and did not guzzle any wine. I know – it is still freaking me out a little bit.

I’m still unsure if it should be attributed to alien abduction or a doppelganger, but the point is I’m back now. I’m sure you remember me. The cynical, self-centered, apathetic, lazy, wine-swilling, reclusive bitch with all the dogs. Yep, that’s me.

I was probably returned because I had to go to the dentist yesterday, for what was the final time, regardless of the opinion of the staff at Otsego Dental. What alien or doppelganger wants to sit through a “full mouth debridement?” Probably none, and definitely not the one who had gained temporary control over my brain.

Hell, I didn’t even want to be there. I don’t know how long a regular dental cleaning takes. I can, however, testify that a full mouth debridement takes an hour and a half, and leaves your gums looking and feeling as if you’re suffering from an advanced case of scurvy.

This is what happens when you have not had your teeth cleaned in eight years. The procedure is apparently only slightly less involved than excavating a pachycephalosaurus from a 75-million-year-old fossil bed. I can definitely confirm that it uses many of the same tools.

So, I have returned. The best part about the whole situation is that there is still plenty of soup and some chocolate chip banana bread left. Whoever was handling things in my absence sure made some yummy stuff.

And if she’d show up again for a while when it’s time to bulldoze junk out of my house so we can get ready to sell it, that’d be awesome, because that’s one part of the whole “Leaving Minnesota” adventure that I’m dreading.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled, non-basement-hiding activities.


Classic: Fun For the Frozen

This post appeared on Fermented Fur nine years ago today. Since it’s currently approaching 80 sunny degrees here in eastern North Carolina, I’m enjoying the contrast of what February used to be when we lived in the Frozen North.

When you both have the day off, and you’ve been in sort of a rut, it would seem to be a good thing to say, “Hey! Let’s go out today and do something fun!” There are three reasons why this is not true.

  1. This is Minnesota
  2. It is February
  3. I am neither a polar bear nor a Siberian husky

When going anywhere involves donning a coat that is essentially an Everest-rated sleeping bag with sleeves, just so you don’t freeze and start dropping appendages in various parking lots, your options are somewhat limited.

Yes, many Minnesotans thrive on winter activities, such as ice-fishing (two problems, ice and fishing), snowmobiling (don’t have one, don’t want one), cross country skiing (talk about excessive physical exertion), or skijoring. This involves dogs pulling you on skis, like a sled dog race without the sled or the diptheria. However, my dogs would take off chasing a squirrel or something and drag me into a river.


They look like they know what they’re doing. I’d be face-down being dragged through the underbrush.

Bowling. This is technically a physical activity, and I avoid those whenever possible. However, it does take place indoors, and there is the possibility of snacks and adult beverages, so I’m occasionally willing to consider it.

Still, there are a couple of problems. Bowling alleys have started to get all militant, at least around here. It’s hard to find a place where you can still eat and drink at your lane. They want you to go back behind the rail to the area designated for eating and alcohol consumption. This adds way too much inconvenience (walking), and when combined with the physical exertion inherent to the activity, drops bowling way down my list of desirable “fun day” activities.


The bowling alley closest to us isn’t there anymore. (Try not to choke on the irony…) A few winters ago it got so much snow on the roof that it collapsed. Winter in Minnesota. Sigh.

If you choose the bowling option, it will burn maybe four hours of your day before your bowling arm is limp with painful exhaustion and you can’t drink any more and still get home without a DUI.

The Mall. I am not a recreational shopper. I haven’t even set foot in a mall in several years. When I need something, I go to the nearest retail establishment that has it, make the purchase, and come home. Walking around a local mall might kill a few hours, but even if you don’t buy anything it will still cost some money, since lunch is a requirement. Otherwise I could have just stayed home and not bought stuff on eBay.

As you are probably aware, Minnesota is the home of the Mall of America. I’ve lived here for 13 years, and I have been there several times. But no more than necessary, believe me. It’s an easy way to kill the better part of the day, if you are so inclined, but there’s a lot of walking. Like, Appalachian Trail amounts of walking. And since I don’t shop for fun, it would be a lot of totally unrewarded walking.

Factor in lunch, and little to no alcohol since the Mall is 45 minutes away, and I’m seeing an outlay of cash that is not providing sufficient amounts of fun.


Oh, and there are people there. Lots of people. Many of them children. Another valid reason to avoid MOA.

Going Out To Lunch: Simple concept, right? But we have the time/money ratio dilemma again. A nice lunch (because I ain’t going to Denny’s), with drinks, is going to cost at least $50, maybe as much as $75, depending on whether we have appetizers and the number of beverages consumed. If there are significant drinks (which in my book determines the quality of any lunch date), we have to be close to home. I mean like close enough that we could walk if necessary, which leaves all of maybe 2 options, and “going out” somewhere that you could still see your house from the parking lot is kind of pathetic.


Rockwoods…close to home and super delicious

Even the nicest yummy, drink-filled lunch close to home is going to kill perhaps two hours of a long, dull day.

The Casino. On the surface, this would look like a stupid idea. When you don’t have a lot of money, why would you want to go out of your way to give it all to a bunch of happy, smiling Ojibwe? Allow me to explain our reasoning.

When Tom asks if I want to go to the casino, I never want to.

Tom: Wanna go to the c–?

Me (cutting him off): No.

He likes to throw this randomly into any conversation or period of silence, just to see if I’m paying attention.

I am.

It’s about an hour and twenty minutes to the casino, and the drive is boring as hell. The drive home is even more boring, because it’s usually dark and I can’t read without the map light, and that’s just annoying. But after I run the other “day of fun” options through my head, I sometimes give in.

We never take money we can’t afford to spend, so it’s usually around $100. A typical day goes something like this. One of us does well in the morning, cashing out machines for more than we put in. The other one can’t hit anything to save their life. We consume many free Diet Pepsis, then we break for the buffet lunch, for which we have a coupon for a free or discounted meal thanks to the players’ card.

After lunch, our fortunes usually change. The person whose luck was good in the morning is suddenly swearing at machines or wandering around muttering, looking for a machine that seems like it would like to give us a bunch of money. The other one is now on a roll, making up the deficit. At some point, we go, “Oh, hell, the dogs have got to be starving by now.” Then we cash out and go home with almost the same amount of money we had when we got there.

True, sometimes we end up spending everything we brought, but not usually. It tends to be a break-even day, and we’ve killed 8-10 hours, and had lunch. No drinks, though, because the casino is on Ojibwe land and is dry. Unless you’re staying the night and keep a bottle in your room. Which we’ve done. But not recently.


It’s like a teeny-tiny, alcohol-free Vegas. Sort of.

Since we have such a long drive home, though, day-trips to the casino can’t be a drink-fest, so the whole “dry” thing is fine. I can always drink when I get home.

I don’t care what you say. You never, ever leave the mall with more than you had with you when you got there, unless you have a gun and a ski mask and a competent get-away driver.

Since I have none of those, and the whole “running away” part is too much physical activity, I’ll stick with the casino.


Taxation Procrastination

My job is handled as freelance or independent contractor, which means nobody is withholding anything toward my taxes, and this is the time of year I dread. Time to do the tax return. I’m putting it off as long as possible, but I’ll need to cave soon because we need to know how much more money we need to funnel into savings to pay what we’ll owe.


I’ve always done our taxes, which is kind of insane, given that I could most kindly be called mathematically remedial. I lost checkbook privileges in 1990, shortly after we bought our first house. We were buying a lot of stuff, and I neglected to write down about half of this and couldn’t be bothered forgot to balance the checkbook for four months. This resulted in some unfortunate consequences.

This task was a lot less difficult and unpleasant when I worked a regular, tax-withholding job. Now, I know I can deduct certain expenses related to my job, such as my Office 365 subscription, book marketing and promotion, and theoretically part of my internet charges and mortgage. I’ve never figured out how to do this because it seems very complicated and I suspect it involves numbers.

All year, I funnel as much of my income as possible into savings, so I can give it all back in April when I pay taxes. I leave enough in my checking account for my personal expenses. I also keep enough on hand to pay for a lot of dog stuff, including vet visits, grooming, their freeze-dried raw dog food, and the spendy but healthy chew treats I order from Best Bully Sticks.

At times, this all feels really stupid. I work long days simply to save enough to pay the taxes on the money I earn. I look at the savings account, and think, “Wow, that’s enough money for a really nice vacation, or a new deck, or to upgrade the kitchen, or do some landscaping.” But…no vacation, deck, kitchen, or landscaping for us. The savings account will by empty on April 15, and the only thing I’ll have to show for it is not being in federal prison.



I know I get benefits from the taxes we pay. Roads, parks, schools, a military to defend me, social security (which would be extra great if I could foresee any time we would actually be able to retire), public libraries…

But I also get arrogant, self-serving, clueless politicians with hidden agendas. And I do not get any sort of guaranteed healthcare, aside from a small subsidy to assist with my insurance premiums.

Friends in other countries are horrified when I tell them how much I pay per month for my health coverage, and how little I actually receive for this. Yes, I have insurance so if I am struck by a meteor or contract leprosy, we might not lose the house. But a minor hospital visit is still a hardship.

No wonder people go to Canada for prescription drugs and Mexico for surgical treatment.

I had a paragraph here about the current political climate and administration, but it made my guts feel like they were full of ground glass and barbed wire, and the last time I went to the doctor for that it cost me $4000, so…

Sometimes, I think about giving up the job and just taking a few private editing jobs for “pocket money.” But I’m in that gray area where that would mean paying a lot less in taxes, but I might not be able to help out as much or afford some of the dog-related luxuries–like regular grooming and vet care–that I currently finance.

I don’t know. If I were better with math, I could crunch the numbers and calculate whether working as much as I do is as beneficial as it should be. I do enjoy the job itself, and it keeps me busy and (mostly) out of trouble and allows me to feel less irresponsible when I hit the “buy now with one click” button on my Amazon cart full of a bunch of new dog toys.


Click it. Go ahead. Cliiiiiiiick it. It’s for us, right? Of course it is. Click!

Maybe I can get Mozzie and Oliver designated as editorial assistants, then all their food and toys and treats could be business expenses. Oliver is a standard poodle and Mozzie is a golden, so they collectively have enough intelligence that I should probably just hire them to do my taxes.

Worst case scenario, if the IRS comes to haul me away, they could distract them with their cuteness and give me time to escape.

Spring Is In The Air


It’s my favorite time of year–spring in eastern North Carolina.

We moved here from Minnesota for exactly this reason. Sure, there are times summer feels like a sauna inside a blast furnace, but I still prefer that to putting on seven layers of clothes, boots, and a hat just to get the mail.

During those brief chilly months–generally mid-November to about now–my daily wardrobe consists of leggings and long-sleeve shirts. Remember I work at home and leave my domain as infrequently as possible. If I do go out, I wear jeans because nobody I’m not married to needs to see me in leggings, comfy though they might be. The rest of the year it’s stretchy shorts and t-shirts or tank tops and bare feet.

The warm weather wardrobe change has begun, which brings certain issues to light. Yes, the leg and shoulder tattoos will be able to breathe again, but now dry, scaly winter skin must be dealt with.


Since I’ve started watching Doctor Who, you can expect a lot of these…

I remember being a teenager, when spotting one missed hair on your supposedly shaved legs was a crisis. Now, if I don’t look like a bear from across the room, I’m okay. Still, I want to go to the beach soon, and some standards must be maintained, so I need to locate a razor that won’t shred my legs like a cheese grater.

Beach weather also means sandals and flip-flops. After three months during which I remember to trim toenails only when they threaten to poke holes in the toes of my socks, it’s time to check the nail polish basket in my bathroom and get to work.

We’re also in that brief window during which we have warm weather but few bugs. And letting the dogs in and out (and in and out and in and out and inandout) means no matter how careful I am, some of these bugs will get in the house. They hitch rides on the dogs, or fly in while I’m telling Mozzie no, I do not have a towel or a brush in my hand and nobody is standing within reach of the freezer and it’s safe for him to come in. Some of my most annoying bug bites have occurred on my own couch by insect sneak-attack. They itch more when you’re not expecting it.


The good thing is I already have my beach body. Meaning I have a body, and it will be at the beach as often as possible. Period. Nobody expects me, at my age, to have sleek thighs and firm upper arms, perky boobs, and a flat tummy. I wear my one-piece suits with a skirt and a sun hat, and all is right with my world. I no longer strive for a dark tan, as I don’t tan so much as I turn to leather, so when I’m not walking or swimming, I’m under my umbrella, often wearing a cover-up.


Oh, look. There’s another one!

If we were still in Minnesota, we’d have at least three more months ahead in which it could snow.

No. Just…no.

If you need me, if I’m not here on the couch in my World Headquarters and Petting Zoo, you’ll find me here…


And if it’s not too hot, I might have company.

Beach Boys


A Knack For Knitting?


Never stop learning, right? Years ago, I taught myself basic knitting, but other than my sample swatch, I never pursued it, and it’s now thoroughly forgotten.

I crochet. In fact, I’d go so far as to call myself an expert. If I can find a pattern, I can crochet it. I’ve made countless afghans, hats, bags, doilies, decorative items, even a 62-inch lace tablecloth. I love taking a ball of yarn and turning it into something useful or beautiful.

I decided I needed a new skill, another hobby, preferably something I can do on the couch while watching Netflix, so rock-climbing or paddle-boarding were immediately ruled out. I’m 53, out of shape, and my bones are probably as brittle as stale bread sticks, so knitting is really more my speed.


I should’ve decided this five years ago when I still lived in Minnesota, because my friend Jess is an excellent knitter, and having someone show me and help point out flaws in my technique would be valuable. My daughter-in-law was here a few months ago and knows how to knit, but she’s a leftie, and I suspect that could present difficulties in teaching me. Besides, I didn’t know I wanted to learn to knit at the time.

I don’t really know anyone in North Carolina well enough to do the “hey, teach me to knit and I will reward you with rum and puppy snuggles” thing. I don’t even know if any of my acquaintances know how to knit, which tells you how well I don’t know people.

Enter the internet. You can learn anything online, often things you’d be better off not knowing. I started watching tutorials, but most of them are extremely annoying.

First, it’s too much like interacting with a human, which I avoid. I don’t even watch people’s video posts on Facebook.

Second, even when they’re going slowly, they can be hard to follow. Every time I need to pause or rewind to play again, I have to put down the needles and then try to get them positioned correctly again, which is still hard.

And third, every single damned knitter seems to have a unique way of holding the needles and guiding the yarn. Seriously, Google “how to hold knitting needles and yarn,” and you’ll see 145,990 different ways.

Yes, the result is the same. This needle has to go here, in this way, and the yarn has to go around here and through there, but everyone has a different method of achieving this. My crochet style is technically incorrect by some standards, the way I hold the hook and maneuver the yarn, but I’ve made it work, and I know I’ll have to do the same for knitting. I have a feeling if I had someone to show me, though, I could make changes to my technique that would make this a hell of a lot easier.

I know how to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off, but so far I’m only practicing the knit stitch. I want to be able to produce neat, uniform rows of stitches, and then I’ll move on to something else.


I clearly have a long way to go, possibly several light-years. I think I should watch some more videos (grumble) and instead of trying to follow along, just observe how the instructor works, how they hold the needles and manage the yarn.

I’ve been crocheting for around 40 years, and I know it’s unreasonable to expect to be knitting lacy wraps or complex cable work in a day. But I hate not being great at something, and I want to be able to download everything there is to know about knitting directly into my head right this minute.

lace knitting stitch 55 - Copy

I could make this by this weekend, right?

I feel like I need an extra hand or three extra fingers. I also know if when I finally get a grip on this, I’ll spend a stupid amount of money on knitting needles and knitting accessories, because I never do anything by half. Maybe I should go ahead and start shopping–online, of course–because even if the whole Queen of Knitting thing never pans out, the needles would be handy in the apocalypse.

Do you knit? When did you learn? Do you have any favorite resources for beginning knitters?

So far, my biggest accomplishment is not poking myself in the eyeball with one of the needles, but it’s been close a couple of times, and it’s a good thing I wear glasses.