Monday, November 30, 2015

Finish line

Well, that little image of the guy crossing the finish line that I posted earlier today represents the end of National Novel Writing Month, although the deadline is actually at midnight tonight. As I mentioned before, I passed the 50,000 word goal on November 18. I continue to tinker with the manuscript, however, and at the moment it stands at 56,158 words. 

When I am able to settle down in Madison -- in our "deluxe apartment in the sky" -- to final editing and all that jazz, I am aiming for a length of about 70,000 words. I could develop some minor things more fully, but I think keeping things clean and simple will work better for this particular book. My vision for it is that the boy with wings flies in and flies out. It is supposed to be a bit of a surreal flash, and the narrator's rambling style provides plenty of other stuff. The basic story will be tied up but loose ends are part of the deal.

The real finish line that I crossed today was my part of the library's NaNoWriMo effort. It was a bit frozen-rainy out when I left the house for the library, so I walked carefully across that finish line instead of running.The library project ended (mostly) at 11:30 when I packed up my computer and locked the door to the room that the other participants and I had been using this month. I have asked the participants to let me know their final word count by Wednesday. I will send the final group word count in a final email to everyone, thanking them  for their interest and support and providing some links to sites that can help them take their projects further if they wish to do so. And that will be that.

SPOILER ALERT: The next section is the [unedited] end of the novel. Your choice.

“If you could see us now, Miss Missouri,” I said, tearing up.
LuNella must have heard me. She leaned toward me and whispered, “She probably can, you know.”
I didn’t really believe that, not the way LuNella meant it. But it was a nice idea. I nodded at her, reached into my pocket and rubbed my ten-year coin.
Baptist weddings don’t take long. It seemed just a minute later Hank, Jr. was lifting Katie’s veil and kissing her. Only then did I notice that there were small white feathers woven into the crown of roses in her hair.
People applauded and I think I heard a cheer or two from the back where the groom’s buddies sat, punching one another in the arm and congratulating themselves on still being free.
The organist struck up something traditional and the newlyweds waited for the ushers to lead the families and friends outside, where other friends handed out small net bags filled with white confetti and tied with white ribbons. Finally Katie and Hank came through the doors and cheers erupted again as confetti filled the air. Some of it landed on my sleeve, and as I shook it off, I noticed that the small bits of paper were not cut into squares or circles or hearts. Each one was a tiny white feather. I looked sharply at Katie, but she was facing the other direction.
The couple walked down the steps to a waiting limousine that would take them to the reception at the club. As Hank held the door for his bride, I saw her look up and pause.
I could swear I heard the sound of wings, but when I looked up into the sun, I didn’t see anything.
Katie caught my eye and smiled crookedly, raising an eyebrow.
She held out her hand to help Hank into the limo and they rode away.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday farewells and felines

This morning I visited the woman I used to tutor to give her a parting gift -- I'm heading to Madison and she and her family will be relocating to Mexico sometime next year -- and to have a cup of coffee. We had a pleasant conversation, joined by her son who is in the fourth grade. I first met him when the Bookmobile went to the HeadStart where he was then enrolled, and it was through that contact that I eventually met his mother and became her tutor.

Then Tom and I managed to get the cats into their carrier and over to the vets. Cassidy whined loudly the whole way, which was unusual. Sundance is normally the chatty one and Cassidy is quiet. At any rate, we got their shots updated and they  have their certificate to show that they are now ready to move to the Madison apartment. 

We also discovered that Sundance is suffering from hyperthyroidism. She has been losing weight for some time and asking for food constantly. We will first try treating it with pills -- so much fun! -- and then move on to other options if that fails to work. She is of an age that the vet agreed surgery would most likely not be the way to go, although it is a common procedure. We are hoping we can get her to ingest the pills by hiding them in her food. I say "hoping" because this trick failed when we tried it in the past.

Despite the constant complaints on the way to the vet, once we arrived the cats were both on their best behavior; and we heard not a mew out of them on the way home. Sundance has been a little leery of us, however, having been shot once and then stuck again to draw blood for the thyroid test. It looks like she is about ready to forgive us. At least she is willing to share a bed.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Good and not so good

This morning was gym and then library for NaNoWriMo. Our library will be closed on Friday, which means that Monday will be my next and final NaNoWriMo commitment there. I told a friend that having the library NaNoWriMo project has been an added stressor during this time of preparation for moving, but at the same time, it got me out of the house and gave me something else to think about. And it helped keep me working on my own novel, however much or little help it has been to the other participants. So all in all, it was a good thing for me to do. This was probably my last contribution to the life of the Kilbourn Public Library. I got a lot from the library during the ten years we were in the Dells, as patron, as volunteer and as staff member. It feels good to go out on a proud note.

I have joked before about being OCD. Those are the initials for the Latin name of my former religious community, the Discalced Carmelites: Ordo Carmelitarum Discalceatorum. For three decades, I added those initials after my name: Fr. Michael Dodd, OCD (or as time went by, ocd).

They also stand for obsessive-compulsive disorder.This can be informally described as a mental disorder where someone repeatedly needs to check things (returning to the house five times to make sure the oven is off) or has certain thoughts over and over and over (Am I obsessing about this?) or constantly needs to perform certain routines/rituals (hand-washing) and so on. 

It is only a clinical disorder, of course, if it has significant negative impact on everyday life. I don't think I am there.

But I do tend to get carried away with things, even good things. 

Watching what I eat or going to the gym, for example. That is a good thing. My doctor loves me for it. (I compulsively do things to please my doctors.) I feel better. But I notice if I miss several days of exercise, I get antsy. I had to make a conscious decision to stop trying to increase the time I spend on the treadmill. Admittedly I am retired and have time to do whatever I want, but do I need to spend an hour and a half every morning on the treadmill? Do I need to check my Fitbit several times a day to see how close I am to 10,000 steps? Do I need to think that 10,000 steps is a minimum, not a goal, that somehow I should be doing 20,000 steps and more every day?

Or what about earning bonus points online for using certain apps or search engines? It is nice to see those points pile up and to have my Amazon gift card balance (where I apply all the money earned) grow and grow and grow. 

But do I need to spend the time tapping my tablet or clicking my mouse to earn these paltry rewards that I hardly ever use and that I certainly don't need?

Or NaNoWriMo. Only about 17% (I read somewhere) reach 50,000 words during the 30 days of November. I reached that on November 18. While going to the gym and getting ready to move and ...

So I have decided that as part of starting a new chapter of my life with the move to Madison, I am going to try to cut myself some slack. I want to maintain healthy habits, but I want them to be happy habits, not compulsions. 

There is more to life than walking on treadmills and poking tablets. And life is too short to waste on a lot of stuff.

Breathe in, breathe out. Relax.

But not compulsively! Breathe, don't pant.

PS -- I can become compulsive about blogging, too. So if you notice I am not here as often, assume that I am enjoying some free time. And feel free to enjoy the time you would have spent reading this blog doing something else that makes you happy.

But do check back from time to time!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

More moving moments [UPDATE]

A man came by early this morning to take a water sample for testing, because we have well water. At some point another person will come and do a well inspection.

Last night we went through the house to decide what we want the movers to handle. I have a call in to them and am waiting for a call back. I have spoken to them before, which is reassuring because three attempts to send any information via their website -- as they suggest on their phone machine -- have failed to work. The website form looks good and is easy to fill out, but once I hit the Submit button, I get a clever message ("We are moving on your request!") on a page that displays the circling circle indicating the computer is working. And fifteen minutes later, that is all there is. Still moving, apparently, still circling. Not sure what the hangup is there but ...

We continue the process of selecting what art work we are definitely not taking down and that can be given to family, friends or otherwise donated. At the moment we intend to take almost all of the colorful pieces and decide in situ what we will use and what we can bring back here for the gift/donation pile. The apartment has high ceilings to provide lots of wall space -- but it also has huge windows on the outer walls and little space for art there. I have selected the two pieces for my bedroom (one of the colorful ones from my room here and one of the monochrome portraits) and a grouping of small things for the office. That leaves one office wall open for something. Plus Tom's room. Plus the living room. Plus the entry way. Plus... You would think that would be a lot of space. But here's the deal.

 Here are just some of Tom's paintings that were featured on the library's Art Wall 
a few years back. The colorful one on the bottom is one I am taking from my bedroom. 
And this is only a sample of what we have to choose from ...

Altogether we need to select from a dozen large monochrome portraits (we expect to take only a few) and seven large colorful pieces. In addition there is a large four-panel set and a large three-panel set. And these are just Tom's pieces, all three feet square or larger. So much art, so little space! (Someone suggested that we can put things up and rotate works over the course of the year, but that would mean storing stuff somewhere.)

On other fronts, I paid some bills and hope to get some work done on the novel. 


UPDATE: I managed to contact the movers and we have them scheduled bright and early on December 28.


sometimes I need to laugh ...

Monday, November 23, 2015

That's so random!

When I went to the gym yesterday morning, it was 15 degrees [-9.4 C]. This morning it was warmer, but we had a bit of sleet and a short period of snow mixed with rain. 

"They" had been saying that by Thursday it would be up to 50 [10 C] for Thanksgiving. Now it looks like it will be a bit colder with lots of rain. With possible snow Thursday night and barely up to freezing temperatures on Friday. Glad I am not a Black Friday shopper!

One of the library NaNoWriMo participants joined me at the library this morning, and we worked alongside one another quietly and steadily for over an hour. I am making progress both with revising/editing and with filling in gaps in the story. She is struggling but hanging in there with a great attitude.

This afternoon I went to the bank to cash in a CD that had matured. This is a local bank and I am taking my CDs in cash so that I can open another account when we move out of the area. Their TV was blasting FOX News and I was tempted to withdraw all my funds immediately.

Then a quick stop on the way home to get fresh green beans. We are having Thanksgiving dinner at our neighbors' across the road. We asked what we could bring and they suggested a green vegetable side dish. My mother raves about the bacon-wrapped roasted green beans one of her neighbors makes, and I found a recipe that looks doable. We'll see. At any rate, this will be a minor player and won't do too much damage if it is a fail. And it will be a break from green bean casserole.

I cleared the desk and bookcase that Tom had built for my bedroom here and he dismantled it. I will be getting a different arrangement for the apartment. Now when I go into my room, I have to stop myself from tossing things onto the desk-that-is-not-there.

I called the apartment office and told them we would be there at nine sharp on the morning of December 15 to pay, get keys and start moving in. The phone/internet/television guy is showing up after lunch and we need to have some things in place for him to do his installation magic. 

As the Beatles famously sang, 
O-bla-di, o-bla-da, life goes on, bra!
Lala how that the life goes on.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sweet Thing

Back in the summer my mother wound up rescuing a kitten stuck in some brambles behind the local senior center. Although it wore a collar, efforts to locate the owner failed. The kitten limped, although there were no apparent broken bones or wounds, and was very passive. My mother took the kitten home despite her misgivings and then to the veterinarian. The vet told her the kitten had a neurological disorder -- probably the result of the kitten's mother ingesting pesticide while pregnant -- and would not live long. He suggested they put it to sleep.

My mother decided to take it home and see what happened. The vet gave it shots and some pills to help get rid of fleas. For months my mother fed, cuddled and cared for the kitten. She couldn't come up with a name and just called it a sweet thing for so long that Sweet Thing became its name.

Sweet Thing never grew much, never moved much, just came over and lay beside my mother on the couch and stared for hours. My mother was convinced that she slept with her eyes open. The one good thing was that from the very beginning, she used the litter box.

A week or so back, though, Sweet Thing began to wet her bed. She became more incontinent and finally quit eating even the little bit of food she usually took. A few days ago, my mother took her to the vet and said goodbye.

I reminded my mother that my friend Lee had said that no matter what happened, she had done a good thing. She had taken Sweet Thing and given her a home, warmth, food and love for the few months of her life. And Sweet Thing had brought something to her as well, a bit of life and warmth, amusement and distraction to her days.

I happened across the quote from Freud today. It seems to fit.

PS -- The girl in my novel has a cat named Sweet Thing so that the memory of Mama's kitten will live on.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Just a little bit

What with snow and cold weather today, a busy week behind me and another busy one ahead, I felt like doing nothing much of anything today. That was my plan when I went to bed last night and when I got up this morning.

I lazed around for a while; visited with a friend who stopped by to talk to Tom and drop off some stuff to help with our packing; listened to a lecture on Egyptian archaeology and then one on the Julio-Claudian and Flavian emperors; read blogs; and found a bird video on YouTube to put on the television in the basement to keep the cats from bothering me.  Once they were occupied for a while at least,  I thought I would do just a bit of work on the novel. Just a little bit.

Which I did. I have now done an initial read-through/revision/edit of a third of what I had written. (The total text at this point is 153 pages in book format and I have worked on 51 of them.) If nothing else, I should get that process completed for the remaining two-thirds by Thanksgiving. As you can see, although it is over 50,000 words, the NaNoWriMo goal, it would be a pretty short book as it stands, about 3/4 the length of my John of the Cross mystery. There are a couple of  subplots that I have sketched out but that I need to develop. And the denouement will have to be adjusted accordingly.

National Novel Writing Month ends the Monday after Thanksgiving and I may just let things sit for a while at that point. Tom and I will be getting into the final stage of moving-prep and I will need to focus on that. 

Unless I need an occasional distraction ...

At any rate, I have been validated as a NaNoWriMo winner:


Snowy awakening

We woke to two inches [5.08 cm] and 26 degrees [-3.33 C] this morning. The roads are not bad. The hunters should be happy, but I haven't heard any shots in the woods yet.

The snow predicted for the afternoon has disappeared from the forecast. Cold tonight, though -- 18 [-7.78 C]!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A quick word before the storm

Okay, not so much a storm, I suppose, but we expect snow tonight and then more snow tomorrow afternoon. In our area, probably no more than a couple of inches or so total. This is happy news for many people because deer [gun] season begins tomorrow morning. 

My day has been fairly uneventful. I went to the gym, did my library writing thing, happened to run into the woman I used to tutor and set up a coffee date with her for next Friday to chat and to give her a couple of small gifts. She and her sons will be moving to Mexico early in the new year. Her husband has already gone to get things ready. Tom suggested we give her something to remember us by and so we are giving her a couple of Latin American cloth art pieces. They hung in our house and are small enough that it will be easy for her to pack and take them to her new home.

Then grocery shopping to get some supplies laid in and later out to a fish fry with our neighbors and back home to settle in before the white stuff arrives.

Happy weekend and keep an eye peeled for deer hunters. Orange is the fashion statement you want to go with for the next couple of weeks.

To fear-driven, hate-driven, racist-driven, ignorance-driven policies

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Got in some good work, IMHO, on the novel this morning, making notes and doing some writing as I went along.

The wind was howling outside when I came back from writing, and after eating lunch, I looked out and saw snow. Not much, but definitely snowflakes. 

 This was not what I saw, thanks be to God!

A good reason to curl up with a purring cat and a mystery.


The appraiser from the bank came by this morning to look over the house and property. That seems to have gone very well and things should continue to move along apace.

It is chilly today, sunny and windy but above freezing. The forecast for Saturday, however, is for light snow with temperatures staying below freezing and dipping down to 18 [-7.78 C] at night. Oh, joy.

My plan for the day is to get my hair cut and then do some work on the novel. I may not do much actual writing, but I want to go back and read what I have written and make notes about where to add/subtract and when I notice contradictions in the text. I should at least get the names, ages and occupations of the characters consistent!

Otherwise, I hope to have a relaxed day. This is Sheldon Cooper night for me, and it looks like they are airing a new episode. 

Hope your own day is a happy one, that you enjoy some peace and still get enough done to feel good about yourself at the end of the day. And never forget: a good nap is a worthy accomplishment indeed!


Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski, O.C.D.  (September 1, 1835 – November 15, 1907) was a Polish Discalced Carmelite friar inside the Russian partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the city of Vilnius. He was a teacher, engineer, prisoner of war, royal tutor, and priest, who founded many Carmelite monasteries around Poland after their suppression by the Russians.

Kalinowski was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1991, the first man to be so recognized in my former community of Discalced Carmelites since Saint John of the Cross. Today, November 19, is his feast day.

For what it's worth, Pope (now himself Saint) John Paul II grew up in the town where Raphael Kalinowski died and was buried. The young Karol Wojtyła used to visit the tomb and once approached the friars about entering the Order. He was told to look elsewhere, and we all know the rest of the story. Nonetheless, he remained a great devotee of the Carmelites, wrote his doctoral dissertation on St. John of the Cross and canonized and beatified a number of holy friars and nuns of the Order that had refused him entry..

Because of Raphael Kalinowski's opposition to the Russian partition -- that is what led to his stint as a prisoner of war --, he was considered a Polish hero, although there are those who say he was really a Lithuanian hero. Whether this all had anything to do with the canonization, I leave to your own reflection.

A slightly personal sidelight on this story is that Fr. Raphael Kitz (of St. Joseph) was once my student master. When he was a student in Rome in the late-fifties/early-sixties, he was given a rosary that had belonged to the then-not-yet-canonized Polish friar who bore the same name in religion. Like me, Raphael Kitz was a convert to Catholicism, and his family was Lutheran. When his father died, Raphael, in a fit of filial devotion or something, put the Kalinowski rosary into the coffin with his father. We used to tease Raphael that if people prayed at his father's grave and miracles were worked by Kalinowski because his rosary was there, people might think that the miracles were the result of the prayers of the Lutheran Mr. Kitz, and this would lead to confusion among the faithful.

Maybe you have to be Catholic to find that story amusing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

And this is it for now

Here is part of what I wrote today. The scene is a town meeting to discuss what to do about the boy with wings, a meeting called in response to a petition from members of one of the churches in town.

At this point, I have 51,222 words. I will continue to work on the story for the rest of the month, but I think this is the last bit I will share with you. Thanks for your comments and support up to this point. Maybe someday this book will see the light of day. I'll let you know when and if.
I had intended to keep my mouth shut, but at the end I held up my hand.
Dankins called on me and noted, “This is going to be the last word, people. This has gone on long enough. What do you have to add, Corny?”
“I agree with Vern,” I said, but no one laughed. “No, I just want to say that I agree with Joanne.”
She turned around and looked at me, confusion and pleasure mixed on her plain face.
“That is to say,” I went on, “there is a clear and present danger to the young people of this community. It is not the boy with wings, though. It’s the people who want to sow seeds of fear everywhere, who try to make our young people believe that the whole world is like Blakesfield. Or worse, that the whole world is like part of Blakesfield, the mainly white, Christian part. That anyone who is different is dangerous and needs to be stomped on. That is the danger. People like Joanne talk about God creating the world and everything in it, and as soon as they see something or meet someone who isn’t exactly like their paltry little vision of the way things are supposed to be, they get all tied up in knots.
“Y’all know me,” I looked around, “and y’all know I’m a mess. But I grew up here and I love this place. But this place sure as hell ain’t all there is. And the sooner our kids realize that, the better and safer – yes, safer! – they’ll be.”
I looked around the room and saw a few heads nod and a few mouths tighten.
“With that,” I said to the mayor, “I’ll pass.”
PS -- I felt so good about getting past 50,000 words that after lunch I went to the gym and did my treadmill workout. I feel downright upright, not to say smug!

Weird Wednesday

This morning got off to a good start that turned bad then turned good. 

I got up early, fed the cats, ate my breakfast and headed to the gym. It took me a minute to find my key-card before I left, but I pulled things out of the bag and found it. Then I almost forgot to take my tablet (I watch videos on the treadmill), but I remembered in time. And I even packed the good earbuds -- the ones where both ears get sound.

It was raining on the way and quite dark, but that was fine.

What was not fine was getting into the gym and discovering that I had left one of my gym shoes at home. (We are not supposed to walk in wearing the shoes we will work out in, so as to avoid tracking stuff into the place. So I wear other shoes and pack the gym shoes in the bag.) It turned out that when I took everything out of the bag to find the key-card, I failed to put one of the shoes back in.

So I headed back home, a twenty-minute trip instead of fifteen because I had to drive slower through what had become fog and nasty rain, very dark and not pleasant at all for driving. I realized that if I got the shoe, drove back through the ugly, did the workout and then came back home, possibly again through the ugly (but with daylight), by the time I got cleaned up I would wind up rushing to get to the library for my scheduled NaNoWriMo time. So I decided to lie down and catch a few zzz's instead. The cats came and got in bed with me, thinking that was an excellent idea.

When I went to the library, I was delighted to have one of the other participants show up to join me in the writing room for a while. It was nice to have her quiet company as she wrote in her notebook and I clacked away on my keyboard.

And at some point while I was there, I passed 50,000 words. Hurrah!

The draft is far from finished, but now that I have reached my goal I can go back and start filling things in to make the story more complete. I will still have editing and revising to do later, but I feel good about what I have managed to do thus far.

I will post again later and save my excerpt until then. Meanwhile, in amusing synchronicity, the word-of-the-day is slugabed: a lazy person who stays in bed long after the usual time for arising. This fits where the narrator was in the story yesterday and perhaps where I was this morning. Although I would like to point out that I did arise early the first time. And after arising the second time, I got something done.

So there!