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C.S. Cole
Writer, Reader, Gardener, Dreamer
It’s closing in on the time of year when, as a sort of sad, twisted Christmas present to myself, I ask myself if it was worth being a bitch for twelve months to have what might appear as a tiny bit of money left in the bank with which to start 2017.

In 2015, after six months of complaining, name calling, financial infidelity, and undermining all efforts to stick to my “Draconian” budgeting plan, I gave up trying in June and we ended the year being overdrawn. Major meltdown happened and frankly, that scarred me for life. I vowed that would not happen again.

And so, yes, it was worth being a bitch and sticking to my draconian budget plan if it means I get the gift of not witnessing a meltdown that was of one’s own fault in the first place.

Do I know how to party, or what?

I’ve decided to start my 2017 reading list early, beginning with a rereading of Fight Club, because the end of the year is approaching and I like how it smacks around the stupidity of consumerism for the sake of consumerism. As someone who, out of necessity because of massive debt, hasn’t celebrated the holidays with gifts since 2001, and spent too much time being depressed about that, parts of Fight Club is a good headspace to be in. Parts of the book isn’t a good place, but this is a reread; I know where it’s going, I know how it ends. I don’t need to focus on the bad parts, just what works for me now. Now is all about making sure someone else doesn’t start believing spending money is the thing to do just because everyone else is spending money. Also, the holidays.

It snowed here today, ever so briefly. A neighbor’s ignored kitten is staying in a warmed feral cat shelter I have in my backyard. Today, she experienced snow and she didn’t like it. She’s a smart one and stuck to the narrow space next to the house where the cement was wet and not slushy to get to a food bowl left out daily for neighborhood strays. She’s eight months old and black with a touch of white on her chest and she’s a sweetheart who loves human interaction. I cannot and will not take it in, nor will I turn it in to our “humane” society – I know their true death rate numbers as a result of being a shelter volunteer. I feel good about providing food, warmth, and shelter within our budget to someone not of our family. That’s a gift to myself, too.

Last year, we had numerous trees cut down and removed from our tiny property and we lost some bushes here and there, mostly on the front east side. Some needed to come down, others were permanently damaged by years of the rental neighbors urinating on them. Up until our front birch trees died and needed removed, I had a good Christmas lighting plan going. Everything looked balanced, as if some professional lighting expert knew what they were doing. I stuck to that plan year in and year out. It worked.

Now, I just don’t have a good vision on how I can make our Christmas lights look any better than a bunch of mismatched sets of various colors thrown willy-nilly at this bush and that. There is no plan. Nothing looks balanced. It’s a blob of color with a few strings of white lights wrapped around a short tree trunk.

Part of this angst is due to not putting lights on the house. We never have, for the following reasons: 1) we refuse to staple gun anything to our house, remembering the damage done to the rental house we lived in for eight years prior, 2) light clips have never seemed to work for us, and 3) I’m the only one who puts up lights, meaning, I’d have to be the one to find a neighbor with a twenty-four foot ladder to borrow, I’d have to be the one to hold it while I climb it, and I’d have to be the one to watch that I don’t fall off our moss-covered roof while trying, somehow, to put up lights without the use of a staple gun, nails, or light clips.

And then, I’d have to go up and take them all down again in January.

Nope. Not happening.

But here’s the good part: This year, all our neighbors have decided, independently, to put up red and white lights. Only red and white lights. Most are steady burning. Some flash like a half-burnt out Eat At Joe’s diner sign. All look tacked up, sagging here and there, with mismatched bulb sizes and brightness, LEDs mixed with regular, old school C9 bulbs that are probably sucking half the power of east Clark County. There are sun-faded inflatable things lying in yards, things that I’m not sure have anything to do with Christmas – maybe I’m just out of the loop but what does an octopus have to do with the holidays? Most are waiting to be plugged in and blown up, for those that will blow up. The others lay across yards in vinyl fabric puddles, killing the grass, their owners having already given up trying to resuscitate the six-foot jolly man in red or revive the snowman from the movie Frozen.

No inflatables here. Nothing fancy. No garland swaying free in the east winds. No big plastic ornaments banging together from a porch roof. Our lights are simply strings of multi-colored LED lights woven through a row of one-foot tall boxwood, a single two-foot tall blue juniper, a six-foot stretch of three-foot high holly bushes (bushes that miraculously survived human urine), and a four-foot tall Japanese maple completely wrapped in cool blue-white LED brightness.

It’s not pretty, but it does stand out. Everyone else has lights tacked up on their houses and none on the bushes in their yards. We have nothing on our house and everything on the bushes in our yard. I guess that’s what the old lighting plan did, too. It was different and it stood out. So, maybe it isn’t so bad out there after all. I feel better about it already.

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I’ll admit to running around like my hair was on fire since February. So much I wanted to get done, so much that needed to be done, and I’m thrilled to say all the things are done! That is, everything I had on my 2016 to-do list(s), my yard work list*, my reading list, and my what-the-hell-why-not list I completed. In addition, and because I thrive on being extra annoying this way, I’ve already decorated our house inside and out for Christmas, sent out my Christmas cards and a secret gift to a pet-loving friend.

Since I’ve done everything that needed to be done this year, all day I felt as though I was flying at one hundred and eighty-miles an hour and someone suddenly mashed hard on the brakes. And I’m wondering, what do I do with myself for the next thirty days?

This is a very unusual state for me, the one who has to do so much now by myself, that I would have some days, not to mention thirty days, free to do what I might want to do, instead of what needs to be done. So odd this is, I’ve not been able to think of anything at all other than to dive right into my 2017 reading list, and I’m not sure I want to do that just yet.

I guess I’ll just teach myself to enjoy this down time, because who knows what other drama and/or catastrophe might be lurking in the shadows.

*Stated as if every last thing pertaining to yard work would ever be one hundred percent done. Yeah, right…

Under the odd news category, on and off over the past twenty-seven years, I’ve secretly kept up on the doings and police record of a heroin addict, also known by DNA as my sister and recently discovered she has a facebook page. She’s filled it with confederate flag images, which is odd because while she and I were born in Ohio, she was brought to Arizona when she was a baby (I was six) and she has never been to the south. Not that she would need to go there to become a fan of that culture, I realize.

Reason number two million three hundred and eight why I am estranged from my family.

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A local convention has come and gone and I hardly missed not going. Well, that’s maybe half true. The person who bullied me the year of the last convention I attended, tried their hardest to bully another, failed, and quit the whole she-bang. I haven’t heard the details, not really wanting to for fear it would stir up the ugliness again, but I feel for the victim and offer up a Hurrah for You! It was more than I was willing and able to do.

As of this posting in my year of Reading Everything, thirty-four and a half books will have been read, leaving somewhere in the neighborhood of four hundred more to read. I have a library full of books, split down the middle of fiction and nonfiction. And until last December, I hadn’t read half of them. It’s high time that’s corrected.

I marvel at the ability some people have to read seventy, eighty, a hundred books in a year. Me, I savor each word and let them roll around on my tongue and in my head. I don’t skim or speed read. I don’t set down a book I don’t like for I believe even crappy books have some redeeming quality. Like, how not to write. There were a number of those in this year’s pile. No, I’m not going to share which ones.

I’m not writing, not really. Sure, I wrote and just crossed the fifty thousand word finish line for National Novel Writing Month. My novel subject was influenced by Raymond Carver and Richard Matheson with a little real life on living with someone with mental illness stirred in under the guise of complete and utter un-publishable fiction. Go me.

I learned I have a lot on my mind about certain things and I still struggle with listening too much to those around me who think writing is not my cup of tea. I just finished a writing class that, unfortunately, didn’t teach me what I had hoped to learn, but it was still worthwhile, much like those crappy books. There was some redeeming quality, one being, it had been the first time I had been away from my house since early summer, even longer since I’ve conversed with other people, in person.

Oh sure, I go grocery shopping every great once in a while and that’s about it now. He does most of that on his way home from work, he being the one with the broken spirit and who is discouraging in all things more than not. I keep telling myself I’m just in a holding pattern, waiting for my hair to grow in all gray and all the same length, waiting until I have these books read, waiting until I get over being publicly shamed, waiting until some writing inspiration hits me and waves away the one whose dark clouds fill these walls, waiting for him to snap out of it.

The holidays are coming, our anniversary is tomorrow, and once again, we’re doing… nothing. I’m still buckling us down to reduce his debt, our debt, and a huge looming bill due in 2019 that only squeezing pennies from now until then will save us from because someone has to. I keep counting down the days until I don’t have listen to any more Christmas ads on TV or the radio. After January 1st, I’ll feel much better about surviving this, my former most favorite time of the year, with all of those squeezed pennies still sitting in my change jar.

It’s not all misery and darkness here. I’m planning on putting up Christmas lights next weekend if the weather allows. I’m still walking on my treadmill four-five times a week. I still get nose kisses from my cats. My backyard is almost empty of yards and yards of extra dirt and tree stumps. And I just finished reading thirty-four, almost thirty-five books this year. Not really complaining at all. Just waiting for the year to close out and daring to hope next year will be better.

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September comes with the promise of rain. Just promises, though. I've yet to see a drop. Tomorrow, I hope, otherwise, I have to water my small front yard by hand and since the house next door sold, I'm not terribly fond of going out front. It's a long story involving many, many, many crappy next door neighbors.

I am one filled yard debris bin away from being done with all my outdoor summer yard projects. One more empty bin ought to do it. My yard work projects this summer included:

- Removing and disposing, by hand and shovel, five large tree stumps PLUS all the roots to reclaim a flowerbed. All stumps were smaller than a smart car, bigger than a cocktail table.

- Dug out and disposed of approximately eighty-two yards of dirt; some clay-like, some light and loamy, most composted, decayed, compacted bark mulch inhabited with entire colonies of ants.

- Fixed cut-thru sprinkler lines too many times (the perils of giving a husband free-rein with a Sawsall cutter).

- Laid eighty-six bricks and cobblestone blocks of differing colors, styles, and sizes to create a solid, stable surface under the bird feeder.

- Removed a sixteen-year old, poorly performing, overgrown Rhododendron... and remembering, too late, I had buried a dead opossum under it. (Look at the bones!)

- Painted over my Hot Patio cement poured just last November with solid blue-gray cement paint because the original tan brown cement stain faded to pink. To be honest, I don't like the blue-gray color any better.

- Dug a foot-wide, half-foot deep trench along the front of the eastern flowerbed (forty feet) for fall/winter rain runoff. No more flooding the cement walkways.

My hope is to actually enjoy my backyard's near complete transformation for a couple of weeks, without feeling the need to dig anymore, before cool, wet weather shuts everything down.

I have six more books to read by the end of the year. I finished my fourth book in August just before midnight last night. Anyone dreaming of running away to live on an island "paradise" first ought to read, "A Serpent in Paradise" by Dea Birkett. Eye opening. If you are a fan of or just curious about the descendants of the mutineers of the H.M.S Bounty still living on Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific, you'll probably race right through the book like I did, and scratch off visiting that place from your bucket list.

And finally, in case you missed it, here's a photo of the last 2016 August sunset.

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Reposted from http://www.cscole.com/

I have about a month’s worth of dirt removal left to do and no one could possibly be happier about that than I. Well, maybe the yard debris pickup guys will be. Year Two of the three year dirt removal project is almost at a close.
We were very lightly rear-ended in his car yesterday, on the way to his birthday lunch. I was driving. Very, very minor damage. No injuries. Almost a non-event. I worry he will over-focus on this rather than the previous three days in which we spent money we don’t have so he might think his 50th was pleasant. And then, that happened.
I gave thought to getting back on the treadmill today, after nearly a year off, then thought better of it. I’m happy to be thinking about it again, though. It means I’m tired of ill-fitting clothes even if I rarely think of that consciously. One more month of working outside, digging out clay dirt, and I’ll trade my shovel for the treadmill. And if I’m lucky, I’ll fit into jeans by late-October, in time for cooler, wet weather.
My streak of avoiding restaurants ended in late July with a truly crappy meal in Ridgefield. Last week, I had pizza out at a local place and was appalled at the lack of service I had once been accustomed to as normal. Yesterday, I realized I have lost my taste for restaurant food. Much of it seems to taste unnatural, chemical-laced almost, creamy to the point of bland and tasteless. And this makes me happy. My addiction to restaurant food is as good as broken.
I’m two-thirds the way through reading, Paradise by Toni Morrison and I still don’t understand what it’s about, but I’m determined to get through it and move on. I’m sticking to my reading list this year. That, and dirt digging. Nothing else is important.

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I'm heading in a fresh direction after this coming weekend and will be wrapping up some projects I've dragged my feet over for a long time. Reading, blogging, photography, perhaps some classes, next year's landscaping project list. Also, leaf raking! I'm very thankful leaf raking isn't as big of a chore as it once was here, back when we had eight additional deciduous trees on our small property. But the neighborhood maples have finally reached their heights and so, raking will always be. It's about keeping things tidy now, both inside and out. It's possible we're over-compensating for our across-the-street neighbor who now has nine vehicles and one boat parked on and around their property.

My NaNo novel is coming along. I have lots of notes, observances, and dialog chunks, and will pass the required fifty thousand word threshold tomorrow or Friday. Of course, I won't stop there. I figure I'm good for another ten-to-twenty thousand at least.

My old Mac laptop battery died permanently and yes, I can get another for next to nothing. But I did just drain my entire savings by paying for cement work. I don't need a battery anytime soon.

That cement work turned out... interesting. Much browner than I would have liked. Love the stamped slate look, complete with unexpected visiting animal paw prints in one barely noticeable corner.

I might try my hand at cement painting next summer, just a little gray shading sponged here and there to help with tie-in. Very thankful he has a solid surface to walk on now to get to the side gate, instead of the exposed root and mud pit that area used to be.

Facebook just isn't working for me right now so I'm giving it a break. Nothing wrong with Facebook itself. It isn't a good fit for me at the moment. Ditto on that twitter account.

My bully is still telling her sad, shameful, sexual-oriented joke about me wherever she can keep getting the laughs. So old, so... 5th grade behavior. This weekend's OryCon ought to work well for her. I worry more about her finding new material, who that means she's set her sights on next. Or maybe it'll be the same nasty, rehashed remarks about everyone she views as her inferiors. And don't you know? We're all her inferiors.

Not putting up a tree again this year for the holidays because, cats. There. Probably gave my bully some new joke material.

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I am not at all pleased to say a four inch piece of busted sprinkler pipe bested me today. I, who have done many a battle with sprinkler lines in the past, was outwitted, trounced, and defeated. To be fair, the sun was beating down on me too and the ground, half soak from the weekend rain and half rock hard packed clay, wasn't offering up any favors.

Tomorrow, oh white PVC pipe, tomorrow we dance. Tomorrow I win.

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October for me means wrapping up garden projects, taking drinking chai and coffee seriously, and creating an outline for my November NaNoWriMo novel. This year, thanks to my bully and the public shaming I received earlier in the year, I think I've got a good story to write. The upcoming rainy weekend will be perfect for ironing out the rest of the details and creating my outline (because it is glaringly clear now, without an outline, I suck at writing).

I had hoped to take a month-long writing class and was halfway signed up when during the process, I received notice the class was cancelled due to lack of enough interest. *sigh* Maybe next spring it'll be offered again.

Out in the garden, the Hot Patio cement that was scheduled to be poured first by the end of September, then mid-October, isn't going to happen now until the end of October. Unless it rains by which they cannot pour the concrete. I'm pretty ticked off about this because that was the reason I scheduled early, you know, to avoid the rain. Shouldn't be my problem but apparently, NO ONE listens to middle-aged fat housewives. Most of us are stupid, I gather, and prefer to whittle away the days sitting on our wide butts, posting outraged political story and opinion links from our Facebook page, and calling that, "important blogging."

My November is packed full of work and activities (don't need babysitting cement workers added to the list). National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or just NaNo) begins, some writing meetings around town throughout the month, an anniversary I suspect, will go again unnoticed, and the OryCon convention nearer the end.

As much as I hate to admit it, OryCon might be going by the wayside for me after this year. I say, "might." I'll have to see how this year goes. OryCon is home turf for the woman who bullied me and because I didn't jump to report her action at Norwescon and then, immediately follow up with the OryCon folks, I missed the opportunity to have something done about it. More than likely, my complaint would have made things a whole lot worse, something I took into serious consideration at the time and affected that decision. She has a huge friend network within the hard working convention staff. I, on the other hand, don't, even after volunteering for the past eight years, even after running a small department by myself for five years.

People still insist she could never have done such a thing. Okay. Fine. I won't be the first OryCon attendee who loves OryCon but feels uncomfortable going. All things change...

... like our side yard where the Hot Patio cement will reside, someday, maybe even this year, instead of another winter of wobbly bricks and a muddy mess. Everything will work itself out. December will bring with it a whole 'nother batch of things, good and possibly not so. Either way, I'll have something new written to pick at, another convention under my belt, and a new year to celebrate.

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While back in the yard working, because you know I can't help but find reasons to play in the dirt, I remembered I hadn't seen a number of friends at World Con who I just knew had to have been there. So not only did I miss talking to some friends, I completely missed seeing others too and this made me sad.

Somehow I wasn't surprised to feel ignored and shunned by some other friends from the past. We all move on, I guess. I don't take it personally.

Now that I've been home for just over a week, I realize I don't have a writer's tribe anymore, nor feel that I'm part of one as I used to feel when I was heavily involved with the OryCon convention. Also, for the most part, I've forgotten my favorite rule learned from a local writer, Ken Scholes, who once said the key to so much is to run faster than your fear.

Run faster than your fear. Yes, this. This used to be everything to me.

For all of my childhood and much of my adult life, fear ruled everything. Over the past five years in particular, with my husband's Multiple Sclerosis and changing personality as a result of his MS and adding in the world economy and layoff worries, fear has waltzed hand-in-hand with hopelessness and a touch a apathy every waking moment. I am so tired of that. It's so easy to let fear creep in. Will his MS be the medical bankruptcy everyone warns about? What if he falls and really hurts himself next time? What if he can no longer work? Will we lose our house and everything we own? Would that be so bad? Will I end up begging for a job cleaning tables at Burger King? Will I end up living on the streets or in a poor house as a first husband once predicted? Will I ever write again? Will I ever figure out how to write again? Will anything I ever write matter to anyone but myself? Why do I feel I would be betraying my husband if I wrote about the most pressing thing on my mind - his mental health? Is this all just a shaky house of cards waiting to fall down as he says during his deep bouts of depression?

And the worst fear question of all: Shouldn't I just give this whole writing thing up since I seemed to have forgotten how to do it?

Then, I remember I've done things, things important to me. And because I can't sit still for long, it's more than likely I'll do important things in the future. I have always gravitated toward the hard things; never been much of a "looking for the easy route" kind of person. There's no challenge, adventure, or reward in that path, in my opinion. My husband used to think the same thing too and that type A personality trait was what brought us together in the first place.

His personality, thanks to his MS and depression, has changed to more of a type B personality type. He now looks for the easy route, takes shortcuts, doesn't finish home tasks or projects, and has upon occasion, called himself lazy. I'd be lying if I said I didn't agree. He is very different now and that's a tough spot between us, much like writing. He used to work at writing fiction, was considered not too bad for a newbie, but quit when he discovered he wasn't a bestseller right out of the gate, even though he knew the odds of that being the case were almost nil.

He doesn't like writing now, not any single thing about writing at all. Doesn't like to read about it, hear about it, listen to it. Doesn't like my writing. Doesn't like reading it or listening to me talk about it. Will not entertain the idea of allowing me to bounce writing ideas off him. Will not offer input. Will not make suggestions. Does not support anything to do with writing. All those writing books we bought together ten years ago? Gathering dust for the most part in a bookcase. I pull one out every other month or so, read a bit until some home crisis pulls my attention away and the fear starts creeping in again.

And then, out of the blue, he'll mention something about sitting down to talk about all things writing, and I'm floored. I have a million things to say and ask and all things look good until one day not long from that first day, he clams up and I'm set adrift again to live in my writer's vacuum.

Run faster than your fear. I need to embrace that again, really burn it back into my brain, because sitting around waiting to talk writing with someone who doesn't like it isn't moving me forward. And that I do take personally.

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Thank you, Spokane, for hosting us World Con attendees in your lovely city.

Thank you, World Con volunteers, for putting on a good show!

Thank you, World Con attendees, for being patient, mostly, and also for putting on a good show. The people watching was fabulous.

It was good to see favorite friends from Portland, Seattle, Brightwood, Tri-Cities, Eastern Oregon, and California, and wonderful to make new friends while waiting in lines for this and that, and from around the world (I'm looking at you specifically, dear friends from Montreal). Thanks for the incredible World Con bid parties and for feeding so many of us. So much to explore. Maple Cream liquor? Whoa! Danger punch? Double whoa! Blue cheese on ginger cookies? Will replicate that here, perhaps often. Irish stew, wasabi Pringles (must find these), four kinds of chili; there was something for everyone it seemed. Note to self: Next time, pass on hard convention center pretzels and don't take anyone's word that the local co-op is "as good as Trader Joe's." Good try, but um, no.

The thick smoke-laden air from the massive wildfires nearby didn't bother me until late Friday when it was near impossible to see across the street. My lungs didn't complain much but my red eyes looked like I'd been awake for days on end, if not weeks. Sorry if that frightened anyone. The sunsets were spectacular, though, weren't they?

Thanks to the awesome people who let me run the panel on How to Pimp your SF Ride after it was cancelled unannounced. I, for one, was really looking forward to that panel, and I thank you for all your enthusiast participation. It goes on my list of favorite World Con panels.

Life has returned to normal back here at home. Laundry is done, World Con mementos are lovingly filed away, new books are added to the unread pile, the cats have forgiven me, and the husband's birthday dinner celebrated. Today, I look forward to quiet time by yanking those weeds in the yard that are screaming for attention and getting back to compiling writing notes for something new. Shush you, weeds!

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