Vacation Adventure Part Four: The Leather Rembrandt

Also known as… paint and I don’t mix.

My last couple days have been occupied with getting the Maxwell ready to go on the car run. I almost wish I meant my cat as I miss him terribly, but no, I’m talking about my favorite antique car, the 1908 HC Touring car that is my grandfather’s.

This year, Shadow, as I like to call her, needed some patch work done on her seats. Leather is a resilient enough substance, but it will crack when it ages, and the leather with the car is over a hundred years old. So Grandpa had put the patches in the back seat, and there was one minor problem (well, the clamp wouldn’t work to hold the leather in place while gluing in the patch, but that was less minor, I guess.) The leather patch was brown, and Shadow’s seats are black.

The black leather was too thin for a proper patch. I asked Grandpa if he was going to paint the patch to match the rest of it, and he said I was.

After doing other prep work to get the car ready, Grandpa finished the patch on the back seat and turned to me, going, “okay, Rembrandt, your turn.” So, that was what I did yesterday, took leather dye and applied much like I might nail polish to the patchwork places and a few other areas that needed it on the doors.

I asked Grandpa if he was going to repair the front seat where it was just horsehair, and he said he’d tied it in so it wouldn’t come out. I just kind of looked at him. The car run is long, and I’m a bit thinking of my poor dresses getting snagged on the seat, and he relented and fixed the other seat, too, though with a great deal more frustration than the last one.

That was last night, and it had to wait to be glued, so this morning I got to do the larger patch and make it black. I ran out of the dye and think a bit too much of it ended up on my fingers and wouldn’t wash off.

It’s gone now, but then I had to resort to paint thinner because of the spray paint.

This is the part where I explain why paint and I don’t mix…

I got done with the painting and oiling the steering rods and tire rods and we loaded up the Maxwell after a few other disasters (um, no, not really kidding, either, the Maxwell got stuck and the winch didn’t want to work.)

Grandpa asked me to trim the hedge, which I did. Then he was looking around at other projects, and he asked me if I wanted to mow the lawn. I didn’t. In retrospect, maybe I should have, but my carpal tunnel was hating me for the hedge. I wanted a smaller project, so I chose the spray paint on the trailer, which seemed like it would be less strain on my hands.

Not so much, but then I’m getting ahead of myself… I was fighting some wonderful masking tape that didn’t want to be attached to the trailer and the paint didn’t seem to want to work. (I didn’t shake it enough, though I swear I shook it.) Finally got one can working, did the back of the trailer and one of the sides and ran out of paint. I went back one of the cans I’d tried earlier that didn’t work because the sprayer broke. I used the one from the empty can, and it seemed to work.

Key word being seemed.

I ended up having to repeat that process multiple times as I worked, and by the time I was done and out of paint again, my hands were white with paint. Sticky paint. I walked inside to wash it off only to have both bathrooms occupied at the time. So I waited, sticky hands and all, unable to do anything while I waited. Finally, space freed up, and I tried to wash it off, but it didn’t come off with regular soap. It didn’t come off with dish soap.

I had to go look for paint thinner. I couldn’t find paint thinner. I looked in the paint cupboard, missed it, and later went back only to find that bottle was empty. I made another attempt with dish soap and was told where to find paint thinner. So then I got to go into the shop and scrub my hands with the paint thinner, getting a little bit woozy from the fumes, and I swear, it took a good thirty minutes just to clean one hand, and even now there is still a bit of paint there.

On the bright side, the grease from yesterday and today is gone, but I’ve still got white paint on my nails and knuckles. Fun times.

Vacation Adventure Part Three: Culinary Adventures

I should talk a bit about some of the interesting things we’ve eaten thus far on our short little trip.

We used to eat at Runza a lot more when I was a kid, though after our move, we were more often getting Swartz’ krautburgers. It was kind of nice to stop at one enroute and discover that they had an order of Frings. Yes, half-fries, half-onion rings, this was perfect for us to share. Not really that adventurous, but I hadn’t known that existed, it being so long since we last went and all.

No, the truly adventurous part starts when we get to the lake. Well, hours after waking up there, at least. We were told we must try lots of my aunt’s friend Don’s homemade stuff. We didn’t get to the Raspberry Dandy, but we did have the homemade pesto bread with cheese, very delicious, and the burgers he made.

They introduced us to Skip and Go Nakeds, which is a drink made of lemonade, beer, and gin. Or vodka, if you’re out of gin, which they were by the third pitcher. Kathy says it tastes like summer. All I know is I couldn’t taste the beer, so it was good by me. I was tempted to put tea in one to see if an Arnold Palmer version was as good as the regular, but I didn’t.

Kathy made some chili chicken, which was not something I sampled as I’m not able to take really spicey stuff, but Mom liked it.

The real challenge was what we found at the grocery store: gummy bear brautwurst.

No, you did not read that wrong. They were real. I have pictures. We ate them. Well, we each tried half of one, much as Don protested. They were like regular brautwurst with just a bit of… gummy bears. It was interesting.

We continued our adventurous eating with a stop the next day to see my other uncle and aunt, who had us try Hub 41 in Detroit Lakes. There we had some new drinks, including beers (one had lemongrass) and I had something called a Birk. We had an appetizer made with korean pulled pork, tator tots, and bleu cheese dressing.

I got a Muffaletta sandwich, and that thing was surprisingly good, though I kept losing my olives and was too full to finish it. I should admit now that I had to look up a few things on the menu to know what they were, but it was all tasty and definitely part of our… adventure.

Vacation Adventure Part Two: The Possible Stalker Van-Trailer

I mentioned we got a late start in the last post. That becomes more of an issue later on in the drive, as anyone who road trips and drives straight through knows.

We had gone quite a ways since our button saga ended and most of that is uneventful driving that needs no real description. We encountered some road construction, not as bad as some years, though we noted that the same areas seemed to be under construction every year.

I had developed a bit of a headache, so Mom was doing the bulk of the driving, but she was tired, and so was I, as my attempts to sleep were interrupted. Every time I closed my eyes and started to settle, lights from across the interstate or the off-ramps woke me back up again. I got no real rest, though I tried.

I did take over driving since I apparently couldn’t sleep, and set out behind the wheel after Sioux Falls. I was driving along toward Fargo, but the headache and lack of sleep were catching up to me, and I was ready for a break far sooner than I should have been.

The first rest area along that stretch of my drive was closed, leaving me with the next one ninety-three miles away.
So, tired as I was, I steeled myself for a few more miles of driving. It was starting to get a little rough near the end, and it was time to stop and rest the eyes.

Especially with the car that was coming up fast behind me and not passing, that was a little frustrating.

I turned off with relief, ready to stop and rest.

Then the car behind me follows us off. And even though the rest area directions show to have the trailers go to the other side of the parking lot and building, they do not, following our little car over to the one side. I am now so disconcerted I almost park in the highway patrol slot and have to move.

After I park, four guys get out of the van, heading inside. From what we could tell, four more were waiting in the van. We’re both a little unsettled, so Mom and I go into the bathroom together. When we get out of there, one of the guys is still lingering inside the information section.

This may have been a very innocent thing, but it was rather unsettling. Neither of us were comfortable trying to sleep with them still there, but he didn’t seem to be leaving any time soon, even if it had seemed at first almost like he was waiting for us to come out.

I tried to make excuses for why we were lingering. I was cold, so I thought about changing into pants. I didn’t find them easy to access from my suitcase from where it was packed, plus the idea of changing while they lingered… not great.

He finally got back in his van with the others, and I waited, but they still didn’t go. I was getting a little bit unsettled again. Finally, I grabbed some food, started eating, and was thinking of giving them five minutes to leave, but Mom and I agreed we should just go to the next rest area.

We did, leaving the van behind. I was working on adrenaline and the influx of food, so I was okay driving again for a bit, but as the miles went on and that wore off, I was starting to fade again.

The next rest area came, and we got off to rest again. We parked the car near the end, away from the building, and I tried to settle into rest. I was still having trouble as the noise from the interstate was keeping me awake. Then I heard something behind us, rather loud, and a car was driving past us.

Not a car. A van and a trailer. The same van and trailer as before. For some reason, unknown to us, they had driven straight through the rest area parking lot like they were looking for someone.

Really disturbed by that thought, we went into the restroom again, together, and decided to leave as soon as we were done. I couldn’t drive any longer, adrenaline or no, and so Mom took over.

For a while afterward, we watched and waited, not sure if our potential stalkers would return. We saw a couple other vans, and they made us a little nervous. It’s strange what the mind does at late hours with a bit of odd behavior and overactive imaginations.

All of this stuff from them could have been very innocent. It just… didn’t feel like it at the time.

So we had a potential van of stalkers on our hands for a bit. I think we eluded them if we did, as they haven’t been spotted past Moorhead, but you never know.

Vacation Adventure Part One: The Button Saga

Aka how vacation became an adventure.

So vacations are a bit stressful, and on the day of departure, we were already behind, as things that needed to be done were not done before departure. Also… the computer fixing mandatory before leaving had a few snags… as I did something very unfortunate when I was opening up my computer to get it repaired and caused damage to it.

That all led to us being a bit behind from the word go in the morning. In this case, the word go was a grumbled ugh that I muttered as I checked my phone to see I’d woken before my alarm and finally forced myself up from bed to get started on my list of to-dos.

After my shower, I cleaned and loaded the car, readied all the coolers, and then finished packing the rest of the car. That done, we got in the car and headed off, with one minor errand to run before we left.

We were on a quest for… buttons.

You see, we were mid-fabric project at the time of this departure. Mom’s epic work this year is a coat to match her skirt (which sort of matches my dress that is like Mackenna’s.) However, we were short a few buttons of the ones Mom had chosen for the project. They had mysteriously vanished from the preparation area. It is likely we can blame this all on my cat, as he is a very fine… helper.

At any rate, the store had promised to get some buttons sent to them that matched. We stopped to see if they had arrived only to learn that no, no buttons had been asked for, but perhaps the store nearby in another town had them. We debated, and after the wrong bottle mix up that lead to an over-priced envelope and a return to the house for the correct essential oil to mail, we were off.

Well… We went in to look for the buttons. None of them were in the button section, and then we couldn’t find the clearance buttons. We went through all the racks in the store, looked around, and while there were lots of interesting things on clearance, the buttons weren’t there. They told Mom where the buttons were, but she couldn’t find them. We checked all the other racks in the store and a couple other areas, did not find them. Found me a hat, I have such a weakness for them, and so we ended up with things we didn’t plan on buying. No buttons.

Then as we were getting in the car, Mom discovers that our store has found that the store in yet another city has the buttons and will hold them for us. Mom just wants to get on the road at this point, since we’re running late and the store was a little unhelpful, plus no buttons. We could just do the buttons after the fact, have them shipped to our store.

I thought about it, and I said, “We’re going right by that city on our way to our usual route, so why don’t we just get the buttons and be sure we have them so that we don’t have to worry about them or try and stop later?”

So we go. We need to find the buttons, and Mom goes to the fabric table to wait. I went to the front to ask, and they had them at the fabric table. So, I go back and tell Mom, and then I wander off to browse more clearance.

What can I say? I am an addict.

I didn’t see Mom on the return, so I walked up front to meet her, and we got our buttons.

We then reentered the car, and it was already time to eat. We had not yet really left, and we certainly were still in the same state. Mom decided that meant this was an adventure, not just a vacation.

I was a bit dubious, as we were way behind and what part of button shopping frustration was an adventure?

Still… we had buttons. Victory?

So, Apparently, This Is How I Pack

We are leaving for vacation at the end of next week. It’s an annual thing, and we do it to see family but also to participate in the New London, New Brighton antique car run. This has led to fic before, but it’s also just nice to see the cars.

I also drive one of said cars when Grandpa lets me, and I dress up in costume and so forth.

Today I started readying my suitcase. First, I wandered around aimlessly, fussing and making no progress. I sat down and made a list of things I needed to bring, freaking out when I couldn’t find my boot socks. (These are a thing, they’re important, they belong to the boots as a nice accent and adds to the costuming/effect.)

To stop the fretting, I went about finding all the tank tops I wanted to bring, set them aside. Found some shorts and the sweaters for over the tank tops when it’s colder, made a pile. I’d say I had roughly half of what I needed set aside when I once again lost focus due to the lack of boot socks.

Frantic, I searched under the bed, on the top bunk, and through all the drawers. Victory came near the end. I found my boot socks, and relief overtook me. I put them in the suitcase right then, zipped it up and smiled.

Then I decided to figure out what jeans I wanted as non-work jeans (I pack one work pair, since I get under car and grease stuff prior to the car run and one for other purposes) and I found a pair with butterflies on them that I couldn’t remember if they fit. So I tried them on.

They were a little tight, but Little Daylight was playing in the background, so I did some dancing to see if the jeans would loosen up.

Yeah, so since then, I’ve accomplished nothing but dancing in the jeans. I guess I’ll resume packing tomorrow after my day job.

Writing Is Grieving

Writing has long been my preferred coping mechanism. People who wonder at my output shouldn’t necessarily do so. I have a long standing habit of using writing to cope with life or escape it, and while I’m told it’s not really normal to write when one is grieving, that it should be impossible, I’m not that way.

I’ve been writing. I need to try and write again. I won’t speak to the quality of it, and I’m not sure I’d share it, yet I find myself needing to do something to that effect. That is… I’ve lost my way again, and I don’t know how to keep the writing going.

Arthur is gone. That hurts so much I swear I would just shut down and cease to function myself (he was my symbiote, my other half, I am NOT okay with him gone) and the only way I know of coping with this sort of emotional duress is writing.

I may need help with that, though. My ideal thing would be to send fic bits to someone and have them tell me what they thought, but even just having some direction would be okay. Prompts, suggestions, stories someone wants to see more of, anything. Make me finish a challenge or do a bingo card. Something. Maybe I can do it for someone else because doing it just for myself isn’t working.

Arthur would be here, now, snuggling next to me and trying to block my keyboard, trying to make me feel better. He’s not here. I need something else, something that helps fill the gaping hole where he was… or just something to make me forget it’s there for a few minutes.

About Arthur

Right now, I’m not capable of much more than saying what happened.

Eventually, I’ll get a proper tribute together, something worthy of the unique and wonderful cat that Arthur was. As it is, I can barely cope with the knowledge that he is gone.

He made it several months past the dire diagnosis of kidney disease, but in the end, not even his strong will and determination to be there for me could overcome the physical toll of age and sickness.

We said goodbye to Arthur yesterday.

Nothing feels right and nothing is the same, but it shouldn’t be. He was too great a cat not to make this much difference in my life.

State of the Kabobble

I wouldn’t normally do this. It does seem rather wrong to do, given that Arthur is such a dignified cat, and he would not like his medical status to be public knowledge, but I fear it is necessary to do so.

Yesterday morning, I was able to take him to the vet after a few days (and a very long weekend) of worrying, and she confirmed a bit of my fears regarding his lack of appetite.

According to his blood work, Arthur is in the early stage of kidney disease. He is not so sick that he is dying immediately, and the vet did say that he was active and that the lack of phosphorus was a good sign. She thought we could buy him more time, perhaps a year.

Right now, he is getting fluids, anti-nausea medication, antibiotics for a couple infections, and has special food. All of this cost me a lot more than I’d hoped, and it puts back resolving the legal issues I am dealing with again, but Arthur is too important to me to lose, and I honestly don’t know what will happen if I can’t buy him that year.

He is the namesake of this publishing company, my closest companion, my symbiote, and I love him. I don’t know how I will do without him, and I don’t want to know. I am hoping this buys more than just a year, but in case it doesn’t, I thought I’d say something, do something, as much as I can, before anything does happen to him.

I am going to try and take a video of him if he is up to walking outside again. He was adorable when we did it the other day, and while he’s skinny and a bit sickly and it’s not him in all his dignified glory, it’ll be something to show of him.


I had a hard time writing anything for this song. I love it, but it hits too close to home.

You sit and stare out at the rain
Or bury yourself in your books
Don’t look at no strangers
No, don’t give them any looks

I’ve always had a problem with eye contact and dealing with other people. So I wouldn’t want to look at strangers and used to hide in books all the time.

Why you ask yourself, why you’re so afraid
Why you hesitate when someone asks your name
They’ll come too close if you tell them the truth

I have had and shed many pen names over the years and I have also found myself thinking that my name didn’t fit me. I never liked my middle name, but more recently I was signing things at work and found myself tripping over the name I was using because it wasn’t me. I didn’t know how to explain that to anyone, though. I tried, I considered renaming myself, but I didn’t find anything I liked or that felt like it fit (well, I did get a new pen name, but that I will discuss later.)

And the only man you ever loved
You thought was gonna marry you
Died in a car accident when he was only 22
Then you just decided, love wasn’t for you
And every year since then
Has proved it to be true

No, there was no car accident and no man I loved that died, but I have mostly come to accept that I will be single for the rest of my life. I don’t enjoy doing the things it takes to meet people (not even sure I like people when I’m honest about it) and I don’t consider myself a good prospect. Plus, my idea of an ideal marriage mate seems impossible when I think about it.

Now you’re just a shell of
Your former you
That stranger in the mirror
Oh, that’s you
Why’d you look so blue?

I can answer the last one easily enough: I have depression. I know this. And a lot of times, especially around a certain arbitrary date each year, I look back at my life and feel like I’ve accomplished nothing and all the things I thought I’d have and where I’d be by now never happened and seem impossible.

Kabobbles Sing Along is just what I think when I hear songs. I sometimes see images when I hear lyrics, pictures or movies in my head. Sometimes I relate it to stories. My interpretation of the songs and lyrics are probably nothing like their original intent.

Alternate Universes, Nano, and the Loss of a Cat

Yesterday we lost a cat we’d had in the family for twelve years. He was fifteen. He was very sick, but that doesn’t make it easier. He was a sweetheart and a favorite and I used to spoil him almost as much as I do the namesake of Kabobbles. (I’ve been telling that cat he’s not allowed to die and better not even be thinking of it. He glares at me, but he’s gotten very skinny in his old age and he worries me.)

I flailed desperately for some kind of distraction. I was having a hard enough time before we came home from my sister’s, but when we were home, everything reminded me of Leo and it was worse.

Incidentally, crying with a chest cold is very painful.

So while we watched a movie, an old standby favorite that is one of our cheer up or “feel good” movies, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t have the ability to play computer games or read, couldn’t focus.

I wanted desperately to write. I started considering every possible angle I could after I failed to find any prompts online that I could use and annoyed a few friends asking for them. I thought of trying to create an alternate universe for some of my characters, only the ones that need it the most were ones I couldn’t bring myself to write for, much as I like them.

I would have done things with the original Effie Lincoln and Nick Tennant because their story is tragic and they should have a world where they have a happy ending, but I couldn’t get myself to do anything on it.

I almost went back to this project I had… a project I shouldn’t have started, in retrospect because I did it for all the wrong reasons (albeit subconsciously, my conscious mind didn’t think of them until much after the fact.) I’d just ended it the night before because I figured stopping myself was better, and I was only going to take away from it the basic satisfaction that if it had been my Nano project I’d have gotten 50,000 words on it. I don’t think I would have counted them, but I did have that. Only thing is… I did so much wrong with it that I couldn’t go back in even with the loose threads and the possible domestic cuteness it offered.

So then I went back to a few older pieces, not thinking I would do much of anything, but my brain actually came up with an explanation for the world in Even Better than Dreams that I liked and could run with. I talked it over some this morning, and I think I will try to resume my edits there. I really like Tolan, and I am looking forward to doing more with him, though it’s dangerous because he could end up taking over the story.

I owe Leo, I guess, because even in the darkness of that moment when I was missing him so much and needing a distraction… a bit of light came, and when I feel up to it, I’m putting him in a story to honor him. I don’t know when I’ll be able to do that as thinking of him still makes me cry, but I will.