The Best Laid Plans

I swear, the Universe is mocking me this week. My original plan looked sort of like this:

Monday: Take advantage of rainy day and catch up on neglected housework.

Tuesday: Collect mail from Other House, aka my late father’s house, and maybe attempt to pull another bag of trash out of it. (My late step-mother’s Alzheimer’s made her start hoarding before she died, and Dad never went back upstairs to clean it out. Lucky me.)

Wednesday: Head out on the road in search of antique shops, dodgy side roads, and maybe a small god or two.

Thursday: Work on cataloging project, sort through photos to start building a database to work with for the winter when I can’t get on the road due to snow.

Friday: Housework and general relaxation. Maybe attempt an overdue foray into the Blackwater Triangle while the weather’s nice.

*insert image of madly cackling imps here*

What it ended up looking like:

Monday: Housework, made a nice stew, did some light baking because there’s nothing better when it’s cold and rainy than a bowl of hot stew and fresh, warm cider bread.

Tuesday: The lunch meat I’d casually tossed into my breakfast sandwich on Monday turned out to have gone off. Hooray for food poisoning! Leaving the house, not an option.

Today: Recovering from food poisoning. Mostly napping and watching The Muppet Show with the cats. All ground gained on catching up on housework has been lost. No idea if I’ll be able to get to the Other House this week at all.

Tomorrow and Friday: Probably catching back up on housework again.

At least I managed to cobble together something loosely resembling a Postcard for my Patreon Patrons, which is something, I guess.

Dragging My Carcass Back Into The Saddle

I’ve been procrastinating on getting words to the proverbial page because executive dysfunction is an absolute bear and just doing things like taking a sip of water from the glass in arm’s reach is sometimes a Herculean effort lately. Brains are fun! Seriously, who thought bodies were a good idea? Bodies are terrible. Anyway. Today’s FB outage reminded me that of all the sites I’m on, this is really the one that I should be focusing on the most, since, well, it’s mine, and if the other sites go tits up, this is the one I’ll be left with. I should probably use it more or something.

It’s weird. I spent years on LiveJournal, posting pretty much constantly, but then LJ went the way of the dodo and I ended up on FB and Twitter, which are not conducive to longform blogging, and now it’s actually hard to write a post. I guess some of it is that blogging became so much more…commercialized…and we were expected to all be fancy professional writers who only wrote Carefully Crafted Essays about one kind of thing and not just folks on the internet sharing things from our day to day or whatever, and it got intimidating. Like, I feel like I have to be Just A Writer Writing About Writing or Just An Artist Writing About The Business Of Making Art and not just, well, me, a writer and artist with cats and a long-term boyfriend (13 years this month!) and a house with a third of an acre of feral yard that’s been designated as a certified wildlife habitat that we share with a variety of native birds, bees, the occasional bigfoot, passing werewolf, and other things.

Look, cryptids are wildlife that face habitat loss, just like any other creature. As long as they don’t cause trouble, they’re welcome, too.

Here’s to getting back int the saddle, for real, this time!

There Is A Hole In The World And I’ve Forgotten How To Fly

(Warning, I’m talking about parental death in this post, so if you’re sensitive about the subject, please feel free to skip this one if you need to.  This is a hard subject at the best of times, and this is not the best of times.  Please take care of yourselves, my loves.)

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When I was little, I used to love going for walks with my dad. This was complicated, because Dad was 6′ 5″ in his prime, and his legs were so much longer than mine.  He’d try his best to go slow enough for me to keep up, or catch up, but it didn’t really work.  That’s what this month has felt like.  Like I was running, trying to catch up, and he was trying so hard to slow down and wait, to give us more time, but it didn’t work.

Early on the morning of July 7th, exactly one week from the day we found out that his cancer treatment hadn’t done a damned thing, and he was being admitted to the hospital so that they could try and get him strong enough to start another kind of chemo,  I held my father’s hand as he took his last breath and was gone.  He had tried so hard to slow down and hold on just a little longer, but it didn’t work.  The cancer was too aggressive and there was nothing anyone could do to fix it.  I sat vigil by his side through that long night, in a darkened hospital room, singing the songs we used to sing together when I was little to him, and the lullaby that my mom used to sing to me, and held his hand and told him that I loved him and that I’d be okay, and counted each breath as he slowed down, like a little wind-up spring toy, until he simply stopped between one breath and another.  I had promised him that I would not let him be alone, and I kept my word.  It is the most important thing I have ever done, and as much as it hurts, I am glad that I was able to be there for him when he needed me most.

There is a odd kind of peace that comes over you, there in that liminal space where life and death and the infinite meet.  A kind of calm, as if you have briefly stepped outside the world and time has no hold where you are.   I can’t describe it better than that, but I am glad for its presence.  It made a terrible situation bearable, and I will hold that peace in my heart forever.

There was a cheshire moon in the predawn sky when I stepped out of the hospital and back into the world and time, followed by the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen.  It made me smile, because it was the kind of morning that Dad loved most.

I am as okay as one can expect to be in these situations.  Which is to say that I’m a total wreck and I’m swinging between wanting to punch a god, wanting to curl up in a little ball and become an endless pool of tears, relieved that my father is no longer suffering and afraid, and wanting to scream at the world to just. give me. five. fucking. minutes to process what the fuck I just went through.  Sadly, I can’t do any of these things, and besides, his lack of will means that I have to deal with getting his house and property through probate, which is going to be a massive part of my life for the next 6 months.  There is so much more work involved in probate than people realize, even with my incredibly straightforward situation (I’m the last of my line, and have no other direct relatives who might be able to claim anything, so I get the “easy” probate.  It’s still damned near a full-time job, and one that’s currently eating my entire free time and a mind-boggling amount of financial outlay until I can get it through and reimbursed.)

I don’t know what things are going to look like for a while.  I wish I did.  I’m hoping that today’s round of paperwork will be the last of the major time-sucking portions of this, and that I’ll now be able to get my ass back to work, but the reality is that I just don’t know.  I’m in uncharted waters, and I don’t know what the currents are like or where the rocks are.  I’m taking this weekend off from any responsibilities besides trying to reclaim my house from the wreckage of a month of not having enough time to deal with anything but the most basic of cleaning attempts.  I might knit something.  I might throw out half my stuff and redo my entire life’s goals from the ground up because life is too short and precious and I might start over from scratch. 

I’m going to try not to do that last part too aggressively, because this close to a major loss is the absolute worst time to make life-changing decisions, but it’s also the best time, because you do see what REALLY matters to you so much more clearly, but yeah, major decisions, not the best time. Might start working on some retooling, though.  Might also just sleep for a few days straight.  Idk.  We’ll see.

Hug your loved ones.  Don’t put off the things you want to do.  Be kind to one another.  Enjoy the sunrises, and the cheshire moons, and the taste of your favorite foods, and just…savor every drop of being alive that you can.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

“All mimsy were the borogoves…”

Every now and then, something reminds us of things that we had forgotten. For instance, earlier today someone mentioned their frustration with the lack of clarity on the meaning of the phrase “10-4!”. It can mean either “understood” or “yes” or both and which it is can vary depending on who you’re talking to.

Of course, this reminded me of CB radios…

Back in the ’70s and early ’80s, there was a span of time where owning a CB radio and talking to folks on them was really popular, and a lot of folks had them and would chat with whoever happened to be in range, usually in the middle of the night. Much like existing on social media now, usernames or “handles” were used. There was a whole CB subculture.

My mom was one of those people, and she went by Cheshire Cat. She’d usually talk to the long-haul truckers that went through the area we lived in, and she’d been doing it for so long that she developed several friendships with some of the guys passing through. Sometimes she’d let Tiny Me talk to them, and one of them, a guy who went by Papa Bear, gave me a handle of my own.

I was very proud of this (I was about 5 years old at the time, and things like having your Very Own CB Handle Bestowed Upon You By A Trucker Named Papa Bear are SUPER EXCITING when you’re 5).

The name he gave me? Cheshire Kitten.

Somehow I suspect this also explains a lot.

Yes, I smile every time I hear S.J. Tucker’s song “Cheshire Kitten” because of this.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

Of Watchers, Forests, and Keys

Guess who has two thumbs and a business mailing address! Those keys? Those are my keys for my mailbox at the actual Post Office. Now I can put the PO Box address on receipts and things, and not have to give out my home address to people, just because they bought a piece of art or whatnot!

Of course, it turns out that mailboxes are expensive, so I pretty much just wiped out the entirety of what I’ve made in the last month or so, which means I need to hustle a bit and get some more paintings done and all that, which brings me to the next bit, where I note that I’ve also set up a business PayPal account so that I can use their purchase buttons without dealing with Weebly’s bullshit on Square. I’ve got a new page set up for posting artwork and other oddments for sale when I have them available and I even appear to have bashed my head against the html long enough to figure out what needed adjusting to make it work! It’s not an online store, but it’s what I can do for now, and I’m happy enough with it until I can swing a better solution. Here’s hoping it continues to work!

I guess this means I need to put together an FAQ page to address things like “Do you take commissions?” (no, because of who I am as a person) and “Do you sell prints?” (also no) and all that, having made Decisions on those fronts, plus general bits about shipping policies, etc.

All of this is well timed, as I finished another Watcher painting the other day, and have a bunch of Smol Monsters and even a Foxenwood piece that I’ve been very much wanting to be able to list for so long. Now I finally can! It’s all terribly exciting.

Reshuffling The Cards

The last week has been BUSY.  The studio moved across the house (we swapped the master bedroom and the studio because I needed more workspace and better light, and we didn’t need a gigantic room just for sleeping), and while it’s about half unpacked still, it’s also already worlds’ more functional than the old room.  

The cats are slowly forgiving us for the the upheaval.  Slowly. 

I set up a separate bank account just for business things!  I set up a Square account so that I could take credit cards wherever I go and have an online shop and “buy it now!” buttons that I could use on my website and elsewhere!  I sold a Watcher painting the same day I listed it! 

I also discovered in the process of that last part that Square’s partner, Weebly, who they run the shop segment through, requires you to include an address and telephone number on receipt emails.  While the address is doable, since I’m planning on getting a mailbox to have an address to ship from (I don’t like giving out my home address), I have phone-triggered PTSD from a couple of old jobs, and that’s a total dealbreaker for me.  I have an email address that I use for communication and a screaming refusal to give a third-party organization money to let them tell me how to run my own business and life.  If I wanted a company telling me how to do something, they have to pay me, not the other way around.

Still, I should be able to use Square itself for credit cards, though I’ll have to test it.  I still have PayPal and, as annoying as they are, they do have the ability to create “buy it now” buttons, so I’ll probably be using that, instead.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m also working on some Smol Monster portrait miniatures, which I think are cute, at least.  I hope other people do, too.   They’re on 3 x 3 in. squares, and are in 2 inch boxes, so they are little.  They’re fun, and I love them.

(The smallest one is the first one, and I messed it up, but I’ll let y’all see it, anyway.)

I am absolutely not thinking about doing these for a Sponsor-A-Monster program AT ALL.  Nope.  Definitely not.  (I totally am.)

Still haven’t been able to get on the road. The weather has been “I had to turn the heat back on, for the love of gods!” grade miserable – cold, pouring rain, all that – but it looks like it should be hot and sunny for at least the next week, and once that sun comes back out, I am grabbing some road snacks and my camera and getting out there to see what I can find.  I require a pilgrimage to find an obscure roadside god or weird place or SOMETHING.  It’s been far too long.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public, and help me feed the cats and keep a roof over all of our heads.)

The Watchers In The Woods

I was right about there being more to the strange figures in the woods a few weeks ago.

After that first sighting

there was another. This time, there were more of them, these strangers Watchers.

Now, it seems that the Watchers seem to be getting curious about the Smol Monsters, and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting curious to see where this all goes…

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public.)

The Thing In The Attic

Auntie Yaga’s Home For Wayward Monsters

The Thing In The Attic

There was a polite tapping on the office door frame and a small, violently yellow and mauve colored form oozed into the room.  Auntie Yaga looked up from the paperwork she’d been avoiding dealing with, glad for the interruption.

“Susan!  Your timing is excellent,” she said, smiling.  “What can I help you with?”

Susan was the self-appointed receptionist at Auntie Yaga’s Home for Wayward Monsters.  Visitors weren’t allowed without appointments, and Auntie Yaga hated talking on the phone, so Susan had taken on the job of screening and handling the majority of incoming calls.

“We just received a phone call from a couple who have run into a problem with their home renovation.  The woman, Jeannie Harrigan, said that Marika told them to contact us, as it’s likely more up our alley then hers” Susan said, her voice a warm, honeyed alto, entirely at odds with the fact that her appearance was an amorphous, jelly-like blob with a large number of eyes and pseudo-tentacles.  (Some of her relatives had once terrorized Lovecraft himself, a fact which she was rightly proud of.)

Marika was a friend of Yaga’s.  She was a professional spiritworker who specialized in poltergeist haunts, which explained why she’d been called for issues with a renovation.  Poltergeists are very territorial and extremely averse to changes in their homes, and often react aggressively to major upheavals.  The nature of both of their career paths led them to periodically send prospective clients to one another.

“Did she say what the issue was, by any chance?”  

“There’s something in the attic that’s been throwing things and stomping around all night, and it’s making it next to impossible for the family to get any rest.  They’ve ruled out raccoons or other wildlife, and Marika ruled out poltergeist or demons, but said that it was possibly some kind of lurk and to contact you.”

“Alright. Please call her back and set up an appointment.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Late the following morning, Auntie Yaga arrived at the Harrigan home.  It was an old Victorian that had clearly seen better days.  It wasn’t unlivable, but it had obviously not been well-cared for over the years and had probably been sitting unoccupied for quite some time.  Just as clear, though, were the telltale signs of restoration work being done to return it to its former glory.  The age and structure explained why they’d called a spiritworker when wildlife had been ruled out.  Yaga was pleased that they’d not automatically assumed ghosts first, which was less common than one would think.  She knocked on the door, which was answered by a younger man in his early 30s.

“You must be Tom,” she said, nodding her head, “I’m Auntie Yaga.  My assistant spoke with you yesterday.”

“I am,” he confirmed, nodding back.  “Please come in. Jeannie’s in the back.”

Tom led her through several rooms in various stages of repair to the back of the house where a woman of similar age was rolling painter’s tape around a window.  Introductions and general niceties were exchanged, and they got down to business.

They’d bought the house a few months earlier for a ridiculously low price, both due to its state of disrepair and the local rumors that it was haunted.  Eager to begin the restoration, they’d moved in and got started almost immediately after signing the paperwork.  

The first few weeks had been quiet, but then they had started hearing noises, like someone banging on the walls or dragging heavy furniture across the floors, but investigation turned up nothing.  First they called in a plumber, thinking that maybe there were problems with pipes, but everything was in order.  They tested for things like carbon monoxide, black mold, and other hallucinogenic elements, all of which had come up negative.  Next, they thought maybe a family of raccoons had taken up residence in the attic and contacted the local wildlife control, but turned up nothing.  The house was surprisingly free of rodents, which was odd given how long it had sat empty, but they’d just been glad to not have to call an exterminator on top of everything else.

Nothing explained the ongoing banging and dragging noises.  So, at their wits’ end, they thought maybe the rumors about a haunting had something to them after all, and contacted Marika, who came out to check for ghosts or poltergeists, but even that turned up nothing.  That was when she told them that they might have a monster on their hands, and had instructed them to call Auntie Yaga at the Home.  They admitted being highly skeptical of the entire idea of monsters, but nothing else had turned up answers.  They were desperate and willing to explore all possibilities.

Yaga listened to them, asking a few questions here and there as they told their story and when they were done asked to be shown to the attic.  Jeannie led her upstairs, while Tom took over taping the window frames.  When they got to the door, she asked that she be allowed to go up alone, to see what she could find out.  Jeannie consented, visibly relieved, and so she continued up the stairs.

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The attic was in better shape than she’d expected, given the general disrepair of the rest of the house.  It had a high ceiling with the original beams still strong and solid, and most of the floorboards were still intact.  There were a number of storage trunks, boxes, and pieces of old furniture scattered around left by former residents, but surprisingly little dust and cobwebs.  Auntie Yaga closed her eyes and listened carefully.  After a moment or two, she smiled, opened her eyes, and said “I know you’re in the corner behind that fainting couch, my friend.  You can come out.  It’s alright. “

There was no response, but she could hear the soft sound of something roughly human sized breathing in the shadow.  There was a faint rattling rasp to it that concerned her a little, but she’d be able to deal with that soon enough.  For now, she sat down on top of an old steam trunk and started talking about the Home for Wayward Monsters that she ran, along with her childhood friend and former Monster-Under-The-Bed, Glatis (named for the Bête Glatisant, or Questing Beast, of Arthurian Legend), and how they helped humans and monsters learn to live with one another.  After a little while, she heard the sound of something moving and a shaking, slightly-hollow voice whispered “They’re destroying my house.  Can you make them stop and go away?”

She turned to look at the speaker.  He was roughly 6 feet tall, but quite hunched over and painfully thin, even for a shadow-lurk.  He was also very, very old and frail.  It was entirely possible that he’d been living in the house for several generations.  She sighed, and mentally swore at the world for the thousandth time.

“Sadly, I can’t.  It’s their house now, and they don’t want to leave”, she replied, gently.

The elderly shadow-lurk bowed his head, and sat down on the fainting couch, his slight form barely moving the dust.

“They aren’t destroying the house, you know.  They’re trying to fix it.  Other than you, it’s been empty for a very long time.”

He huffed.  “I’ve been here since this house was built in 1842.  It’s my house more than it is theirs.”

“I know, but you and I both know that human laws don’t recognize that.”

He huffed again, but nodded in agreement.  She sighed regretfully.  He was so old, and had been here so long.  She had to find a way to either convince him and the homeowners to co-exist, or to convince him to move to the Home with her and the others. He was just too old to do anything about the humans in his territory anymore, and they both knew it.

He was silent for several moments.  She waited, patiently.  After a time, he spoke again.

“I don’t want to leave.  This is my home, but I’ve been around long enough to know how the human world works, and I’m too old to fight it.  If you think you can convince them to let me stay, I will stop trying to drive them out.  I’ll even make sure that they never have any problems with wildlife or trespassers, to the best of my ability” he said, then added in a conspiratorial whisper “I’m too old to be a threat to anyone, anymore, but don’t tell them I said that.”

She smiled.  “I won’t.  Let me go talk to them and see what I can work out.  I’ll be back in a little bit.”

With that, she went back downstairs to tell the Harrigans what she had found and see what they would decide to do.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

About an hour later, she made her way back up the stairs to the attic, this time with Jeannie and Tom following somewhat nervously behind.  They’d agreed to meet the elderly shadow-lurk and were willing to let him continue to live in the house for the rest of his days, with some stipulations.  In short order, an arrangement that was amenable to both the Harrigans and Eliphalet was settled on, and Auntie Yaga promised that she would check up on them all regularly as they got settled in their new lives together.

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Later that night, back at the Home For Wayward Monsters, as she wrote up her report and documentation for the day’s newest adopted family, she smiled in satisfaction.  In addition to adopting Eliphalet as a member of their own family, the Harrigans had offered to have him help with the restoration plans to include more shadowed areas for him to live comfortably in. She had a feeling they were going to get along well.  

Hers was an odd life, to be sure, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public.)

Spring Roads and Melting Snow

Back in the first days of January, 2020, I started a list page in my bullet journal titled “Places To See”, and started to fill it out with what was going to be places that I planned to visit and write about for the travel blog I was planning to formally do. I’d wanted to do something like travel blogging for years, and well, I had the time, the internet, and Patreon available to me, so dammit, it was time.

Yeah, that worked out well, huh? A+ timing.

It’s now almost a year and a half later and I’m just a few days away from being fully vaccinated (I’ve had both shots, and am now in the two week waiting period) now. I still have the time, internet, Patreon, and the original list. It’s going to need to be updated, but that’s a matter of a couple hours’ worth of research, and not a big deal. Hell, getting this site back up to date took longer than this will.

Of course, I’ve also got an actively raging case of agoraphobia now, and some New and Exciting Social Anxiety problems. I had the agoraphobia and social anxiety long before, but they’ve gotten A LOT worse in the last year and a half. It’s really hard to logic your brain’s hysterics down when it’s not actually wrong, for once. It really has been life-threateningly dangerous to leave the house or talk to people, and well, “it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you” and all that. So now I have to work on getting them back under control, on top of things.

Anyone could do it if it were easy, I guess?

*sigh*

I’m debating on whether or not I can get the brain weasels under a semblance of control before Memorial Day and, if so, taking a trip over to Yarmouth to finally check out the Edward Gorey House. The timeline is mostly because trying to get on and off the Cape after Memorial Day is a nightmare and even the damned Pandemic didn’t slow that down much. (Mutters something angry and incoherent about selfish assholes who couldn’t be arsed to sit their asses down for a few weeks, making this whole ordeal orders of magnitude worse for literally everyone else.) If I’m going to go, it’ll be easier to do so before Tourist Season starts, or wait until after Labor Day when they all go home.

I have to say, it’s both amazing and terrifying to be thinking about actually getting back on the road and Going Places. I haven’t been more than 20 miles from home in over a year, and while I love my home and my cats and my partner, OH MY GOD I NEED TO BE ON THE ROAD AND NOT STUCK IN THIS DAMNED HOUSE ALL THE DAMNED TIME.

*ahem*

I don’t do well being stuck in one spot for long. It’s not natural.

Guess it’s getting on time to see what roads are thawed out enough to travel on, which are washed out and gone, and which I’ll have to come back to later. It’s going to be good to grind the rust off and get some miles under my feet again, even if it’s going to be a while still before I can do any longer distance runs.

Learning New Skills: Fun With Photomanipulation

One of the things that’s been slowing down my ability to do a Massive section of “Auntie Yaga’s Home for Wayward Monsters” is the fact that you can’t photograph monsters lurking in the shadows, and while artwork is great, if one is wanting to say, oh, do a Sponsor-A-Monster type thing, photos work better.   Sure, you can do photomanipulation to add them in, but that involves technology, software, and skills that I don’t have.

You can see my problem.

I was poking at the problem the other day, and in the process of chasing down several rabbit holes discovered that my Chromebook has a drawing app buried in it’s factory defaults.  The touchscreen is Wacom, so it’s actually decent for drawing on, and well, one thing led to another, and I’ve been having fun learning how to draw things into photos.

There are very definitely monsters and ghosts in the photos.

It’s looking like I may be able to run a Sponsor-A-Monster program after all, with a little practice!  Some of my travel stories may also be able to get a little extra “help”, too, if I get good enough at this.

*cackles wildly*

(Originally posted at https://www.patreon.com/riversdaughter. Patreon subscribers get to see posts 3 days before they open to the general public.)