spy fiction, mystery fiction, cozy mystery,

That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine – Prologue

I’m trying something new on the blog today – a fiction serial. That Old Cloak and Dagger Routine was a novel I wrote in the early 1980s. I’ve kept it in its original time period. It’s not your usual spy novel, but I hope you enjoy it.


spy novel, spy fiction, mystery fiction, cozy mystery‘Twas Glasnost what done us in. That and a CIA mucky-muck with a chip on his shoulder. All those years of guarding our secret, and now we’re on overt status. Quickline has folded, a victim of the thawing cold war.

At least my journals can see the light of day. I started them shortly after I was first adopted by Quickline. It was a dangerous and perhaps even stupid thing to do. But my life had suddenly and profoundly changed. I needed some way to make sense of it, to understand it and the person I was becoming. The things I was doing were so unlike the person I’d always thought I was and the values I’d spent so much time working out. As it turned out, my values weren’t challenged. Just me.

Anyway, all the names have been changed, and some of the places. Secrecy remains a habit with us. Still, as I look over the pile of tattered notebooks and binders stuffed with pages scrawled over with cipher, I’m glad I wrote it all down. [Dear Lisa, so am I – SEH]

Wooly Got Adopted!

Pet rescue, basset hounds as pets, dog rescue, dog adoptionJust wanted to post a quick update from my post a couple months ago, in which I shared how my husband and I were fostering a basset hound named Wooly Boy for Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California.

Were fostering. The good news is Wooly got adopted over the weekend. It was not easy letting our boy-o go. I felt like a nervous mommy, sending her precious little one to day-care for the first time. I didn’t get to meet Wooly’s new parents, but I did talk to his new mom and bent her ear, rattling off all of Wooly’s little quirks and how to handle them.

There will be another foster hound in this space. But we’re going to give it another couple weeks, first.

The Training Walk: Back in the Groove

Boy, what a difference not being in pain makes! All that lovely physical therapy has finally paid off. Last Friday, I did six miles and was tired, but not hurting by the end. In fact, I was fine. I even did a little bit more walking after lunch to get to the library.

Who knew? I’m excited, refreshed and ready to walk again.

Now to get the foster dog with the program. Wooly Boy is a bit more energetic than our forever dog Clyde, so he’s getting extra walks to calm him down and keep him behaving. Next week is an easy week (I do three weeks increasing mileage, then an easy week), so Wooly will be coming out for the two and a half miler on Tuesday and maybe even the four and a half miler on Friday. Assuming I don’t have a meeting to get to that day. Mwah-hah-hah-hah!

Next up – finding a dictation program for Android that will let me dictate novels while I walk.

The Training Walk: Back in Action

Training WalkIt was during the second week of my training. I caught one nasty cold. In the post for that week, I lamented how it seems as though as soon as I start some sort of exercise program, the first thing I do is get sick. Or injured.

Well, early last December, it was the injury and it was a nasty one. Sciatic pain. Massively nasty, incredibly painful. Couldn’t freaking move for love nor money. I’ve been doing weekly visits to the physical therapist ever since. And with the start of the year, had to start all over on my walking plan. Damn.

But I’m doing a lot better. I’ve got a couple more weeks to go before I’m back to where I was when the injury happened. And I’m back to writing about my experiences. The good news is, the set back was simply that – a set back. It didn’t kill my training program. I’m still walking – which is terrific. Learning how to walk differently than I was, which probably is what thrashed my back, so that’s a bit intense.

Alas, it’s not that interesting right now. Did see a pretty tree during one of my walks earlier this month. More importantly, I thought to take a picture of it.


Back on Track: The Training Walk

Last week was good. If the idea is consistency, the I sort of made it. I worked Election Day, last Tuesday, so didn’t do a formal work out, but if you count all the extra steps, I got in a few miles. On the other hand, it’s not nearly as far to the library as I thought it was, so my long walk fell short. But I made my weekly mileage goal. Just bumped up again this week, too.

The interesting thing is that while it’s taking longer to get tired while I’m walking (a good sign, I hope), I’m a lot more tired by the end of the day. Yesterday, I did a 2-mile walk and could barely keep my eyes open by 6 p.m. This is not a good thing when I’m counting on my late nights to get in my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) writing done. Feh.

Thinking time is really great, too. It’s certainly helping my novel, since I now have time to think about scenes and plot points while I’m walking. I hope that part continues as I get in the longer walk days.


The Training Walk: Getting Past the Sickness

Well, the good news is that I’m feeling better. I took it easy this past week, but I’m already starting to walk a little bit more. And I was a little surprised that it even the longer walk I took on Friday wasn’t as hard as it would have been if I’d been starting over.

Up this week, longer daily walks and I’m finally adding some mileage for my long and longer walks. I hope.

But that’s about it.


The Training Walk: First Hurdle

I’d been so good! Overshot my target mileage last week, was on track to do it again this week. Then Tuesday night, the cough started. I still did my walk Wednesday morning. Thursday was way harder. I had some extended errands to run, put in a four-mile (non-consecutive) work out and racked up over 17,000 steps on my pedometer, but it wasn’t easy. I was coughing a lot and hard, but not quite feeling crappy.

That happened on Friday. I barely put in a half mile workout-wise, did errands minimizing the walking and still racked up almost 7400 steps. Saturday, the best I could do was walk from the car to the Urgent Care clinic. Yep. It’s a cold, triggered by my allergies. Got the heavy-duty drugs, but am .2 miles shy of my goal of 9 miles for the week. Nor do I know how this is going to impact my mileage for this coming week. Plus, I have two very driving intense errands to run on Monday, which may possibly also happen on Tuesday. I am worried.

See, the thing is, I come up with these great plans to exercise more, then inevitably something happens. I get a foot injury. I get sick. The weather gets unbearably hot or rainy. I skip days to rest or wait out the weather, then a week goes by and two weeks and I’m back not doing what I want to be doing. I don’t want to do that this time. But I am legitimately sick and I don’t want to stay sick, and doing too much will not help me get well.

My current plan, as drawn up by my coach and friend Sharon McNary (@ironcharo), is to increase my mileage every week by 10 percent, then take an easy week, then three weeks of increases, then an easy week. We’ve got a couple easy weeks ahead to account for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I’ve been dared to walk the Rose Parade, which is going to be really interesting, since presumably I will be attending Sharon’s party the night before – and it’s a really good party.

The mileage is divided up with one really long walk (about 40 percent of the weekly goal), one rather long walk (25 percent of the weekly goal) and the rest divided up for the other four days and one day off.

I’m torn between just taking an easy week and starting up with the three increasing and one easy after that. Or just shooting for my admittedly rather modest goal of 10 miles for the week, with one-mile walks on the four short days, 2 miles on the rather long day and four miles on the really long day. Just how to spread it out is the question, since I need a short day between longer walks. And I need to get well. Oy.

I can’t let this stupid cold hold me back. Well, I’ll figure it out. Sigh.

The Training Walk: Beginning

There is no Sewing Report this month because I haven’t had any time to sew. Well, there was that one project, but it mostly proved that I still need lots of practice at re-sizing patterns. Feh. And since next month is November, I will be giving over my Tuesday blog posts to The Dark Side of the Fridge, where I will do a month-long tutorial on how to plan and cook Thanksgiving Dinner.

I’m also starting a new section of the blog (as you can see above) called The Training Walk. This is because I am embarking on yet another new project and as my coach suggested, it might be a good idea to journal/blog my experiences. I’m not quite ready to reveal just yet why I’m doing all this training and blogging and what not. One reason is obvious – if I don’t meet my goal it will be pretty embarrassing, and truth be told, that has only been an incentive to give up sooner rather than later. Secondly, I just read somewhere that people who tell everyone what their big plans are seldom follow through. Apparently, telling everyone what you’re going to do is psychologically close enough to actually doing it.

What I will say is that I have a very specific goal in mind and for it to happen, I have to start training now. Well, I started last week. My key goal is consistency – which has never been numbered among my virtues. I have to say, though, having such a visible goal, namely something I’ve been wanting to do since I was in my 20s, is really helping me get off my backside. I think the other thing that’s helping is that we are starting really slowly. So slowly, in fact, that I blew past my mileage goal, if I count all the extra steps I took cleaning the garage and getting to the doctor’s office and running around the L.A. As Subject Archives Bazaar last Saturday. It was an unusually active week for me and if you only count my actual workouts, I only went over my goal by just under a mile.

I do walk an awful lot already since my husband and I don’t own a car (we rent when we need one). I asked my coach if she thought I should count some of the walking I do to get around in with my mileages. She thought that would make more sense – and I did that on Saturday. But I’m thinking I’ll do a little of both. I do need to do several sustained walks, as opposed to walk a little ways here, sit down, then walk there, sit down, like I would getting on a bus or the train. But given my schedule, it would probably help to integrate my workouts with getting from point A to point B at times. I’ve discovered I’m more likely to work out when I can integrate it in with whatever I’m doing on a given day.

There is no doubt, however, that I overdid it last week. Call it two days of cleaning the garage, and I probably could have started counting my workout a lot sooner in my running around on Friday. Still, I was up and walking this morning and I walked every day except Sunday last week. We’ll see what happens.

Essays, general essay

Stray Thoughts – When It Feels Like the Trolls Are Winning

St.ThereseQuoteThis morning I woke up in a foul mood. Now, this may have something to do with some minor hormonal mess-up that we believe I’m dealing with (as in we don’t even know if that’s the problem). In any case, I spent a good chunk of my morning raging internally at a former partner of mine who done me wrong then tried to blame it on me because she couldn’t get a hold of me.

Let’s not get into the fact that a) she did get a hold of me twice, and b) I am not at all hard to find. The bottom line is that the situation has been dealt with. I came out ahead. I do know better than to let these sorts of things take up real estate in my brain. And, finally, silly me, I keep aspiring to a vocation of love. I may not be able to do much, if anything, to change our world, but I can be as loving and kind as possible.

Except that what I wanted to do was scream at this freaking idiot about what a freaking idiot she is and maybe slap her around a little. Not very loving. I get that. May I point out that this loving thing is mostly aspiration, not actuality yet?

So I’m talking to my girlfriend, who has a real-life troll persecuting her, and we both agreed it’s frustrating as hell. The ding-a-ling in this case is also going around pretending to be a pillar of the community and supporting business even as she’s doing everything she can to malign my friend and her business.

The author of a blog I like to read came out with her latest – and largely legitimate – rant about the generally hell-bound state of the world. Now, it may be my historical bent, but I am of the opinion we’ve been pretty much hell-bound since we crawled out of the soup. But let’s take it as a given that things are looking particularly hell-bound of late.

In all of these three situations, decent people are feeling downright ornery for very good reason, and there isn’t a heck of a lot we can do about it except be the bigger person. Even if I wasn’t trying to be more loving, calling my former partner a freaking idiot isn’t going to change a damn thing. My friend’s troll has been called out as a hypocrite and it went right past her. The blog author conceded that screaming at the idiots of the world doesn’t do anything.

And it’s not surprising, really. If someone calls me a freaking idiot, you can bet my response is not going to be “Oh, you’re right. I will reform my life now.” Nor does calling these idiots out as idiots feel anywhere near as good as you’d think it would. Okay, the well-aimed and witty riposte to someone’s stupidity can be fun. But raging at someone, even when I’m right? Nah. That pretty much sucks.

But I have to admit that being the bigger person, that’s not very satisfying either some days. There may be part of me that is worried that I am going to have to call the lawyer on my former partner at some point, something I don’t want to do, let alone that she might prevail (not likely given that she couldn’t even find some current paperwork). My friend is definitely worried about her business, which faces enough challenges as it is. And the rest of us worry about what might happen if the idiots get elected.

But maybe it’s not about being satisfied. That’s what I like about that quote from St. Theresa of Lisieux above. Here was a woman who was obviously very keyed into God and frequently didn’t feel the love and the kindness and compassion. But she chose to sing as if she did, not to fake it, but to connect herself to the person she wanted to be.

So maybe it’s about going beyond what we wish we felt and keeping up the struggle to reframe our thinking in ways that address the idiocy, but with love and kindness. Maybe my job is to look past my former partner’s stupidity and see the panicked, hurt woman that she is and find some compassion for her. And I probably won’t succeed all the time. But it’s better than giving the troll more brain real estate than she deserves. And ultimately, it’s not about being the bigger person, it’s about becoming a better person.

The Sewing Report: The end of the Pants Fitting Saga

The end of the pants sagaSo-o-o-o-o, a few months ago, I reported on sewing the most perfect patch pockets I had ever made only to find the pants didn’t fit. Which was beyond aggravating and last month I whined a little more about it. Well, I finally got the verdamnt pants fitting and done. Raised the back waistband a bit. Added an inset along the side – which my good friend Hilary had suggested and I resisted until I realized that the original pattern included one on top of the inset along the inner legs. The waistband is still a little low and keeping them up will be a challenge, but I’m done. I’m getting suspenders and I will wear the pants. It’s just going to have to wait until November because they’re corduroy and it’s too hot now.

Granted, the weekend schedule around the Old Homestead has been a little packed. But I have to say, it’s pretty cool what happens when I finally get a problem project done. I finished the pants during Memorial Day weekend and cut out a few more projects, never mind that I had at least three waiting for me. Oh, and I made bias tape, but I’m saving that for a later post.top and skirt

But this weekend, I finished the skirt I’d cut out on Memorial Day. It was a way-easy straight skirt, which meant I could draft the pattern straight onto the fabric (a useful tactic since my measurements tend to be a moving target). Better yet, I could put reminders, such as seam widths, right onto the fabric, and, boy, did that help. I did remember to document my notes, though.

I also sewed up a blouse I’d cut out, sheez, maybe a year ago? It’s been a while, certainly over six months ago. Figures – I’d put on a bit more weight since then and the blouse is a little tight, dummit. But here’s the cool part – if you look at the top part and see those diamond-shapes?I made trapunto embroidery, which is not at all hard to do if you have a double needle. It does help if you make it on a piece of fabric that matches your eventual outfit and one that is large enough for the pattern pieces you’re using. It also helps to cut out enough collar pieces the first time around.shirt close up

So, the lessons learned are 1.) when you’re stuck on a project, sometimes it helps just to power through the mess and get it out of your face; 2.) documenting little things like what seam allowance you’re using where makes it a lot easier when you’re putting everything together; 3) taking good notes for your future self will save your backside; and 4) you don’t make mistakes – you take advantage of them and create design details instead.

Anybody know where I can get some really cool suspenders?