On The Homefront

Entries feed

Jan 1

Happy New Year!

Well, will you look at that. It's a bright, shiny New Year. And, by popular consensus if not mathematical fact, a bright, shiny New Decade.

Certainly, we've got challenges ahead. When have we ever *not*? And when have we ever just plain quit? It doesn't seem to be in our nature, and that's a good thing.

Happy New Year, all. Let's go to work.

Jun 22

How The Hell Did THIS Happen?

I wasn’t supposed to live this long, according to five doctors (the first when I was 8 years old) and one unidentified staff member in the office of a sixth who predicted I’d “be dead in five years” if I didn’t do what they told me to do and take whatever prescription drugs they wanted me to take. I’ve managed to outlive all five doctors, and that unidentified staff member in the office of the sixth isn’t looking too good.

This weekend I'm turning 70, and I'm still here.

Jan 3

She's Rested! She's Ready! Bring It On, 2019!

There’s nothing quite like a quiet and enjoyable Christmas and New Year’s Eve for hitting the ground rolling on New Year’s Day. My husband and I celebrated both holidays at home, just the two of us, enjoying wonderful meals of his crafting and recharging the batteries.

Which was good, because I spent my New Year’s Day as I traditionally do, in a marathon session of closing out the books on the year just passed, setting up the files for the one just arrived, and doing some of the prep work for things like 1099s, incoming tax filing, and the paying of royalties. Despite taking breaks to watch the Rose Parade and the Doctor Who New Year’s Episode, I managed to finish and fall into bed around 3:00am with a few brain cells still firing.

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions – haven’t in decades – but I do make plans. Most of the ducks are lined up for AnachroCon 2019: Time Traveler’s Ball in February, and are beginning to assemble for Wholanta! in May. I’ve very excited about serving as ToastMistress for WindyCon 46: Space Opera in November. Other conventions will be added as things firm up.

2019 is also a milestone year on the home front. My husband and I will be celebrating our 30th Anniversary and I’ll turn 70. (Not sure how we’ll celebrate either, but we’ll think of something.)

As with any New Year, 2019 holds both promise and concern. I expect to remain active on the political and human rights activism fronts, writing and editing fiction, and teaching the occasional workshop. I may even make a dent in my to-be-read stack.

So Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s make it a good year!

Nov 22

Thanksgiving 2018

For the first years we were married, Himself and I spent Thanksgiving Weekend attending the local Mensa Gathering. Fitting, since that’s where we initially crossed paths. (Although we didn’t “officially” meet until several months later, but that’s another story for another time.) For the several years after that, we hosted dinner for friends who couldn’t get home or, for whatever reason, would be spending the day involuntarily alone. Then came several years I guested at local SF conventions held on Thanksgiving weekend.

Ten years or so ago, we started getting up in the wee small hours of Thanksgiving Day, driving down to the Hill Country, spending Thanksgiving Day in the country with a good friend, her family, and the friends she invited in for the festivities, and capped with a lovely night-time drive home. By far, my favorite way to spend Thanksgiving and the closest thing to “going home for the holidays” I ever had.

Sadly, last year and this one, logistical challenges on my end have made the trip a no-go. There’s a turkey breast happily being brined in the fridge, bread and cornbread getting just a little bit drier in anticipation of onions, celery, sage and broth turning them into dressing, a pumpkin pie about to go into the oven, and other traditional sides lining up for preparation. Himself’s culinary wizardry for the win!

However you’re spending the holiday, have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Jan 1

Happy 2018!

Hey! Happy New Year!

There's a lot to do out there. Let's get busy!

Dec 24

Merry Christmas!

from all of us at HarpHaven.

Dec 10

Well, What Do You Know

When the city told us that replacement of the alley behind the house would take two weeks, I was skeptical. Understandably so, given our experiences with previous public works projects on our block. So the day-glo green doorknob hanger that appeared late Saturday morning, advising us that the work was completed came as a surprise.

We'll still be having a conversation about the fence "repairs", and keeping an eye on the phone line going from a temporary patch to a more permanent repair, but the heavy equipment and barricades are gone. Our vehicles are off the street and back in their usual spots. And that is the sound of muted celebration you may be hearing.

Dec 4

We Have Landline Again!

Up at 6:30am this morning in preparation for the call, sometime between 7:00am and 7:00pm, telling us the repairperson was 30 minutes out. Workmen from the city began making their noise at about 7:15am. Just before 10:00am, the landline phone rang.

Yes, it took me half a beat to recognize it as the landline ringing.

It turned out to the repairman, out in the alley, telling me we were back in business. It's a temporary hook-up until the city finishes in the alley, after which the phone company will return and bury the line properly.

No, we didn't need to be home to give anyone access to the house. No, the temporary repair (or the permanent one when the time comes) didn't need access to the house. No, we wouldn't get a bill. (Ahem.)

And it's working!

Dec 2

When Contractors Attack - Again

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, in mid-afternoon, a red doorhanger appeared at the front door. It was a notice from the city advising us that work would begin on the alley behind our house on the Monday after Thanksgiving Weekend, with scheduled completion due two weeks after that. Since the work involved tearing up the existing surface and pouring a new one, vehicles in the garage and/or would have to park on the street, where trash bins would also need to be placed.

Yes, we’ve been here before. About six years ago when the city did this exact same thing, and about three years ago when extensive repairs to the three-year-old surface were needed. (Garbage trucks are destructive beasties, they are.) And, of course, there was the truly epic work done about eight years ago involving tearing up large portions of the street out front in the service of sewer repair, which lasted nearly two months, another round out front two years ago, and the fun and games this spring detailed in a previous post.

Sunday afternoon, we moved the vehicles out front. Monday morning, the destruction began at the end of the alley, with the sound of jackhammers, backhoe, and dump trucks getting closer through the day on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning, Himself had an audit gig in Ft. Worth and left the house around 7:15am, just as the sounds of jackhammers, backhoe, and dump truck started up behind the house next door. I settled at my desk, noise-canceling headphones close at hand as I happily anticipated a day of uninterrupted wordslinging. Oh, silly me.

At 8:15am the doorbell rang. One of the contractors asking for permission to go into the back yard. A scoop-load of broken concrete had gotten away from the operator and had hit the fence, and he wanted to gauge the level of damage so the crew could get the necessary supplies and make repairs. I gave him permission and directions, texted Himself, and went back to my desk. Which was when I noticed that the landline was dead. You guessed it; the crew had cut the buried phone line. I was assured the city would arrange for repair of that, too.

As of today, the fence as been repaired – sort of. Himself suspects they used nails instead of screws, which means he’ll be doing it again once the alley work is finished. The vehicles are still out front. And the phone line is still dead, thanks in part to the city’s process for arranging repairs bearing no relation to actual, functional process. We’re still trying to unscramble that one.

Stay tuned!

Sep 30

Gone Ahead


Mistletoe (a.k.a. Missy) 2000 - 2017

Jun 16

Time Flies

That old saw that "time flies when you're having fun" must, indeed, be true.

Today, I'm celebrating twenty-eight years of marital mischief with the Mighty Himself. We stood in front of federal judge, in a friend's living room, with Himself's ex-wife and my ex-husband as witness, and I promised that life with me would never be boring. So far, I think I've kept that promise.

May 29

Okay....That's Different.

This morning, our houseguest for the weekend had been gone about an hour when I heard multiple male voices outside the house. Himself heard them, too, and looked out the blinds in front. I asked what what going on. “I don’t know, but there are at least four police cruisers and a whole bunch of cops in front of the house.”

Not the answer I was expecting at all. I toddled up to the door to see as Himself stepped out to find out what was going on. One of the officers told him that there’d been an “altercation” at the nearby apartment complex, and that they just apprehended one of those involved. (And when I say “just”, I could see a cruiser across the street with someone in the back seat, in the posture of someone with hands cuffed behind him. They were now looking for a gun the suspect apparently tossed away just prior to apprehension.

Our plants and shrubs, and the ground beneath them, have never been more intensely scrutinized. The same for those of the neighors on either side. I *really* hope they found the gun.

My pulse has almost settled back to normal.

Memorial Day 2017

Today, I remember my mother’s favorite cousin and his best friend, whom my mother would probably have married if things are gone differently. They lie entombed on the Arizona.

I remember high school classmates who served in Viet Nam and died there.

I remember my first friend in college, who chose to be drafted rather admit to his family that he was gay. He, too, died in Viet Nam.

I remember all those, from all the wars, who came back broken so completely that suicide was the only path they could see.

I remember them, and I honor them in the memory.

May 27

The Joys of Home Ownership: When The Ducks Line Up

I’ll admit it. After the round of multiple phone calls, conflicting information, and details that felt entirely too tenuous re: the replacement of our dead water heater, my confidence level was not high. And rarely have I been happier to be proved wrong.

Halfway into the two-hour window, the installers arrived - with the new unit in hand. An hour later, it was happily ramping up to blissfully hot water. We’d been warned that there would be extra charges should the plumbers find changes needed to be made to bring things up to building code changes made since we’d last had this done eleven years before, and there were. But the extra charges were entirely reasonable. Another happy surprise: when Himself went to the store to settle up for the water heater itself, he found that the warranty pro-rate covered to 2/3rds of the price.

All that remains is the permit inspection, scheduled for late next week. And in the meantime, I’m enjoying nice hot showers.


May 23

The Joys Of Home Ownership: Water Heater Edition

Frankly, I thought it would be the clothes dryer, the refrigerator or, most likely, the dishwasher that would go to Valhalla next. But it was our 12-year-warrantied, 11-year-old water heater that turned up its toes sometime in the night. It started leaking, bigtime, as evidenced by the amount of water Himself cleaned up with the wet-dry vacuum first thing this morning. Fortunately, aside from some leakage into the laundry room, most of the escaping H20 went into the garage and out under the garage door.

We've spent the majority of the day looking at possible replacements and dealing with the manufacturer's warranty division, the vendor, and the vendor's installation department. It would have taken considerably less time if the three parties communicated with each other, at least to the extent what one told us about what the others did bore passing acquaintance to what the others told us they did. It took many phone calls to each, but we finally have all three agreeing on the process, a ballpark figure on what the monetary outlay will be, and a game plan and time window for the installation tomorrow morning.

Himself was able to shut off the gas to the thing, but the cut-off valve for the water intake wasn't as cooperative. So, for now and until the installation is complete, we've turned off the water at the street. Toilet tanks are being filled with buckets of water from the rain barrels out back, and we're washing our hands with bottled water.

I'm really hoping things go as planned. We have an out-of-town guest due on Thursday evening.

Apr 22


You may remember that April 2016 brought several severe storms that included large hail. One of those storms hit HarpHaven, resulting in two broken skylights and damage to roof, gutters, roof vents, and Himself’s vehicle. As it is, we got off lucky compared to most people on this end of town, and a new roof went on in June 2016.

Last night, we got hit again. Large amounts of pea-to-quarter-sized hail, with what sounded like the occasional tennis-ball-sized hailstone in the mix. Again, we were lucky. Just north of us, most of the hail was in the tennis-ball-size range. Inspection in the light of day indicates that the only thing damaged is Himself’s vehicle. No broken glass, but we’re going to be calling it Dimples again for the next little while.

Springtime in Texas.

Apr 13


Back on March 22nd, the denizens of HarpHaven found ourselves, with all of half-a-nanosecond warning, watching big honkin’ implements of destruction tearing up a portion of our front walkway and leaving a hole in which one could conveniently hide a classic VW bug. (See entry for March 25: When City Contractors Attack.) The work in the neighborhood was supposed to be concluded by March 31st. You know where this is going.

Weather plays a big part in construction timelines, so I can’t entirely blame the contractor. Storms, some of them right nasty, have been a regular occurrence in the last several weeks. Each storm refilled the moat where my walkway used to be and kept the construction workers from their city-assigned task. When it wasn’t raining, we could hear work taking place on other streets in the area. Three plus weeks in, the front of my house was still a wheelie-no-go zone. It was getting a little old.

A call was placed to the number listed for the onsite supervisor, explaining that we understood about rain delays, but that the situation was starting to be a problem for the wheelchair-user in the family and asking when he thought they might be over this way to finish. He couldn’t give us a timeframe, he said, but would send someone over to cover the hole with something that might serve as a “bridge”. He got points for his attitude and for sounding like he at least understood the situation.

He got more points when, before the end of the day, there was *something* covering the hole. Granted, it was too flimsy for the BattleChariot and substantial occupant -- let’s just say I wouldn’t have ventured across it had the Tardis landed in the middle of the street and the 10th, 12th, and War Doctors, *and* Jack Harkness had stepped out and beckoned me aboard. But the supervisor was trying to be helpful, and that counts.

Yesterday, about noon, I looked out to see framing and rebar in the hole, and by late afternoon, concrete had been poured and smoothed into a a very nice section of walkway. That supervisor is getting a thank-you call shortly, and later today, I’m going out to reacquaint myself with the front of my house.

HarpHaven has been de-moated, and I am very happy.

Apr 8

Playing By The Rules

Somewhere – on a forgotten shelf of The Library, deep in the bowels of Warehouse 13, or hidden away in a niche on the Disappearing Seventh Level of Mammoth Cave - there is an ancient book. It’s the Universal Manual, the rules by which the universe operates, and it is a fearsome thing.

One of the rules contained therein is “An absolutely necessary tool will break at the absolutely worst possible time.” I am here to attest that, when it comes to printers, that rule is followed with fanatic zeal around these parts. Last weekend, I was printing out royalty statements and envelopes for The Ladies of Trade Town when my printer started screaming like a banshee. It went to Valhalla with the sudden and unmistakable smell of hot metal and the sound of an electric motor giving its last.

This was the printer that replaced the one that died in the middle of running galleys for Prejudice By The Pound in the fall of 2007, and it served well and faithfully through the publication of The Ladies of Trade Town and Bard’s Road, in addition to vigorous, everyday use. I certainly can’t complain that it didn’t earn its keep. I’m not thrilled that I’d just replaced the toner cartridge before starting the statement run, especially given that nothing running in residence take the same kind, but there’s probably a rule in the Universal Manual to cover that, too.

The printer normally used to print CDs finished the statements, which are winging their way, along with royalty checks, to their recipients. A new printer, with which I’m quite pleased, has been acquired and installed. Things are back to what we laughingly call “normal” around here.

And we’ve confirmed, once again, that the Rules of the Universe are still in operation.

Mar 25

When City Contractors Attack

Last week, Himself found a notice hanging on the front door when he went for the mail around 6pm. It was from a contractor hired by the city to “rehabilitate” the city’s sewer lines. We’d seen them working on streets all around our neighborhood during the last few weeks, and this was telling us they’d finally gotten to our street. We were instructed not to wash dishes or clothes, flush toilets, take showers or baths, or otherwise send anything down our drains between the hours of 8:00am & 5:00pm the next day.

At least they gave us a few hours warning. Unfortunately, it was too late to reschedule visits from the A/C maintenance tech and the fellow doing our annual termite inspection, which meant we couldn’t do the prudent thing of spending the day in an elsewhere with useable plumbing. So we toughed it out and gave the contractor points when they did, as promised, finished around 4:00pm that day.

I should have known it couldn’t be that easy. Fast forward to this past Wednesday, a bit before 8:00am, when an otherwise quiet and productive morning was broken by what sounded like an invasion of my neighborhood by a tank division from Ft. Hood. Himself went outside to find out was going on, and came back with another doorhanger, this one hand-delivered by the contractor’s onsite contact person, who apologized that it hadn’t been delivered the day before. Work was already starting and would continue, between 7:00am and 6:00pm, until the end of the month, as they “rehabilitated” the connections between each house’s sewer line and the city’s main pipe.

The words were hardly out of his mouth when we heard a concrete saw fire up and what sounded like something Really Big about to crash through the front wall of the house. Himself headed back outside, I headed for the front window. The section of our walkway nearest the city’s sidewalk was missing and a tank-treaded backhoe, size enormous, was attacking the dirt under where the walkway section used to be. Piles of dirt were everywhere and there was a hole big enough to bury a VW bug in, nose-first.

That backhoe driver was *good*. He was working scant inches from the mailbox, with many opportunities to cause damage. As near as we can tell, he didn’t even touch it.

The racket diminished a bit as the backhoe and crew moved to the next house, and stopped around noon when the crew took off for lunch. Himself went out to take a look. The hole was still there, without barrier tape or cones. At the bottom, there appeared to be some type of fabric wrapped around the junction of our pipe and their pipe, secured with what he described as “really big cable ties”. Around 3:00pm, the backhoe and a couple of the crew came back to fill in the hole, compacting the fill dirt every so often. What was left when they finished was a hole roughly a foot deep. Himself went down the street and liberated one of their cones and positioned it in the hole “just in case”. At least no one removed it when they broke for the day.

Thursday, they worked further down the street. Friday morning, we had thunderstorms and no one showed up. But – hey! – I’ve got a moat! And now it’s the weekend.