Mrs. Cat takes a writing retreat!

Mrs. Cat standing in front of a road with hills in distance, clear blue sky, and bright clouds overhead
Mrs. Cat hits the road.

That’s right! Mrs. Cat was long overdue for a writing retreat, the last one being in the long hot summer of 2019. It’s summer again, it’s hot again, and this time instead of being cramped in a desert tiny house with minimal allowed A/C use, I trekked all the way to the mountain town of Idyllwild to stay in a friend-of-a-friend’s cabin, with shade trees and moderately more A/C!

Mrs. Cat lounging on a deck rail, pretty trees in background
Mrs. Cat takes some air.

This retreat was a long time coming. After the long awful year of 2021, it felt like my brain would never recover. I spent the first three months of 2022 laboriously finishing a novel edit that I’d begun the previous August and then put on hold during The Terrible Times, well aware that the book would be forever etched in my mind as The Book I Edited While Big Sis Was Dying. The editing went so slowly, I began to worry that this was my new normal, just fits and starts of brain power at a fraction of the speed I used to work.

But I sent the book off to my agent, and I spent the next couple of months on a deliberate break. I squeezed one short story in there, realized I was making a mistake even trying to force that out, and then stopped writing shorts as well. For the rest of the time, I read sea monster books and took notes and let my brain percolate on something brand new, something not bogged under the stress that The Book I Edited While Big Sis Was Dying had suffered from.

And folks.

I think it worked.

I have an outline that I’m very excited about. I have characters and the characters have voices. (Yessss this is the project that I mentioned in my last post.) I had a start and a course of action and an end goal, and that meant I was ready to dive in.

Close up of chipmunk eating a nut on a large tree stump
Ms. Chipmunk says hello.

Enter: writing retreat.

Forty-eight entire hours without interruption. Forty-eight entire hours to get momentum going on the sea monster book and also to take several quiet naps! Heaven.

I napped and watched birds and chipmunks and ground squirrels and ate in the sunshine and sat on a couch typing until my hands went numb, and it was great. The book is past the 10K mark and I’m feeling good about it.

I’ve also spent some time pondering this here blog! It’s time for a bit of reconfiguring. Now that I’ve put short stories on hold, there’s a short-form-sized hole in my attention span. I’ve got ideas for blog series on music, B-movies, and crafts that I can pepper in between writing news. They’re gonna be great.

Goodbye, cabin! Till next time, Mrs. Cat out.

The back of Mrs. Cat in focus as she looks out at sunset behind leafy trees
Mrs. Cat says goodnight.

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Mrs. Cat gets away from it all

Mrs. Cat has been pretty busy since her adventures with moving and couch-surfing last year, and she sorely needed a break from endless New House fixer-uppering and painting with small children underfoot and learning how to network in a brand new field after decades of toiling secretly behind a computer screen at home.

My friends, Mrs. Cat needed a vacation.

Cue: the third annual Book Club Getaway Weekend!!

I’ve met up at least once a month with the same glorious set of reading-and-drinking-loving ladies for the last seven-and-a-half years. Most of us mostly read every book! But mostly we like to hang out, so our activities quickly expanded to numerous book club field trips, including an annual Friends of Book Club croquet match, boating, painting–

And now a mountain cabin retreat. I missed the first year because I was nearly nine months pregnant. I went last year, but brought my breastfeeding infant, so it was a ton of fun but not exactly a retreat.

This year, however! Oh, this year is on in full force! There are trees! There is a hot tub! There is a basement game room!

And Mrs. Cat is having a lovely time.

mrs cat in mountains

Mrs. Cat enjoys the view from our deck

mrs. cat in living room of mountain cabin

Mrs. Cat especially enjoys reading in the great room

mrs. cat in a hot tub

And the hot tub is especially pleasant after dark!

All in all, this has been a much-needed break, and I even managed to force myself not to do any work (other than a couple of emails and this blog post, of course, but email is an immovable force of nature, it Must Be Done).

Now I have breakfast waiting for me, and a couple of hours of quiet reading before the drive home. Farewell from the mountains, and see you on the other side!

mrs cat on a shuffleboard table


Mr. and Mrs. Cat are couch surfing!

or: Papa Lindsey’s Revenge

I’ve been reluctant to move out of our amateurishly haunted house. Soooo there’s a yawning hellmouth in the bathroom. Soooo toys and appliances turn on at will and there’s no indication whether the grave marker near the creek is for a dead pet or a deranged handyman felled by one of his own numerous electrical additions.

It was a weird, spider-infested ghost house, but it was my weird, spider-infested ghost house! We decided to move, for assorted Reasons, but to keep it short: the decision was bittersweet.

And based on the problems we’ve had getting out the door, I’d say the house isn’t keen on letting us go, either.

We went on the market in July. There commenced a terrible heatwave in which I struggled to keep my home and children clean and presentable and somehow cool for multiple visitors per week. There commenced numerous weekends of repair work and clogged pipes and a leaking fridge and my brother moving out of our converted garage and leaving behind some horrific bachelor pad filth (even though he isn’t even really a bachelor, he’s a single-ish dad with two tornadoes for children).

After three months of scrub pads and bleach and repainting inside and outside, and endless yard work as summer turned to autumn and leaves began to fall–then, in October, at last, we accepted an offer!

And our buyers have been the biggest pains in the asses, with a semi-retired agent who doesn’t understand the paperwork or how to use DocuSign, and a buyer with a laundry-list of truly minuscule fix-it requests (despite intending to buy the house for her son, who is a handyman), and the son, who wants to turn the property into a hippie commune (which is fine, enjoy) but who has a tendency to show up or overstay his welcome after appointments, leading me to believe I’ll soon be murdered and buried next to whatever’s in the creek.

Cuz the house just kept on throwing new kinks at us. Mostly the aforementioned petty fix-it requests (the diverter valve on the bathtub faucet sticks slightly?? fine, I hope you enjoy this $10 replacement), but then came the biggest drama of all: the septic report.

There commenced two weeks of chaos because our report didn’t include a phrase Mr. Semi-Retired Agent wanted it to include. We had an inspection that recommended a single repair, and a contractor who confirmed he had completed the repair. Good enough? NO. It needed the phrase!! But the inspector wouldn’t amend the report to include the repair because he only did inspections, and the contractor wouldn’t fill out an inspection because he only did repairs, AND ANYWAY it took a comical number of phone calls, texts, emails, and dollars to fix.

[Meanwhile, there was much chaos going on with our new home purchase as well, mostly revolving around a ludicrous solar lease we wanted removed; but this post isn’t about that. Leased solar is a scam, y’all.]

At last! we thought, like the fools we are, that’s it.

Except, dear reader, that was not it. Papa Lindsey had one more trick up his sleeve with which to torment us from beyond the grave: the termite report.

There was a small amount of wood damage when we first moved in that we’d never taken care of. The time had come. We got two estimates. One was significantly cheaper but included a recommendation to have the house tented, “just in case.”

Could we stay in our home till close of escrow and have the house tented immediately after, to avoid being displaced with a 1yo and a 3yo? Of course not. (Instead, our buyers asked, could we move out early and let them move in? UM, NO.)

We already knew we weren’t getting the keys to our new place till the 18th, but we had a place to stay lined up from the 12th onward. We just had to camp out on our property for one weekend, and then we’d have a temporary house-sitting arrangement to get us through the gap.

I spent all day Wednesday packing (the kids’ toys, alas, had to be out till the last minute). We spent all day Thursday loading the vast majority of our belongings into a storage pod, and some essentials into the vacant converted garage. We spent hours Friday morning moving freebies to the curb, cleaning the house, and babyproofing the garage for three days’ habitation.

My husband went to work.

The termite company arrived, and promptly informed me there was a single pipe connecting the properties, and there was a chance stray gas might reach the detached garage, and therefore we had to go. Like, now. Like, within the next two hours.

My husband came home.

There commenced much packing of cars, and disposing of trash, and rounding up of cats. We are now in a hotel until our cat-sitter and temp house each become available on Monday. The kids are bored as hell, the cats are confused, and my entire body is one big overtaxed muscle.

cats at hotel

“But why?”

I tip my hat to you, Papa Lindsey. See you in hell.

Mr. and Mrs. Cat v. the State of Washington

It’s been two and a half years since Mr. and Mrs. Cat last left Southern California. They were itching for adventure, but nervous at the prospect of traveling with a toddler for the first time. In the end, they were right to be nervous. Not entirely because of the toddler! It turned out the Cat family had a secret enemy all of these years. A secret enemy that only now chose to reveal itself.

The entire state of Washington!

Let me backtrack.

The traveling party consisted of myself, my husband, my younger sister, and my toddler. It was a one week trip with two days in Seattle, two days in the mountain town Leavenworth, and two days staying with friends just outside Seattle, bouncing in and around town.

The positives:

  • It was nice to get out of town for a week!
  • It was very nice to see my friends!
  • The Museum of Pop Culture rocks!
  • Snowwww!
  • Murder bear!



The negatives:

  • Bad timing,
  • Or perhaps it was a witch’s curse,
  • Or some wrong committed in a past life in the greater Washington area,
  • Or perhaps it was murder bear all along.

I should have known when we arrived at the airport and the diaper bag promptly split apart that we were in for a stretch of bad luck, but we ignored the omen and kept going. We arrived safely in Seattle–and thank goodness the toddler absolutely LOVED flying, so it wasn’t a nightmare plane trip. That afternoon we did a bit of pottering through Pike’s Place fish market and stopped at a Safeway to stock up on diapers and toddler snacks.

While we were shopping, somebody smashed in the window of our rental car and stole my husband’s bag. Thanks for scattering glass all over a toddler carseat, jackhole! Hope you enjoy two power cords and reading somebody else’s travel diary!

What proceeded was a trip in which there were no major disasters…but everything was tinged with slight bad luck, bad timing, misconception, illness. Washington was determined to slightly dissatisfy–but unbeknownst to the state, it was doing battle against folks with STEEL-LINED SENSES OF HUMOR. Once we realized what was going on, the fact that we were under the vaguest and mildest of curses became an ongoing joke and every subsequent inconvenience just added to the hilarity.


At least there was cherry pie.

My husband injured one wrist carrying our son, injured the other one falling in snow, banged up his shin, and had his bag stolen. My sister was nearly deaf for the first two days after the flight. I had gotten sick overworking myself before the trip, and promptly gave my cold to the toddler. He didn’t sleep for two days in Leavenworth and gave us hell the entire 3 hour ride back to the Seattle area, and as a result for the second half of the trip we could only go out for a few hours each afternoon in order to give him ample rest.

Our timing was consistently bad. It was rainy the day we went up the Space Needle, then sunny the morning after. We were in the mountains during the off season, so the pastry shop had almost no pastries, the sausage shop had no sausage, the beer garden my husband wanted to go to was closed for renovations. The AirBnB we rented had a busted DVD player and we weren’t allowed to raise the temperature over 55. We had to drive an additional half hour to find the last place in the region still offering any kind of snow activity–though to be fair, it was a gorgeous sleigh ride through fresh snow with a nice driver, one of the trip highlights! But honestly, the way our luck was going, I’m shocked we didn’t get snowed into the mountains or run off the road.

We spent 90 seconds at Snoqualmie Falls because it was raining again, and likewise spent most of a Harbor cruise belowdecks to keep the sick toddler bundled up. He was actually WAY ENTHUSED to go on adventures each day despite being sick, and was delighted by new sights, restaurant food, all the cool stuff at the Museum of Pop Culture, playing in snow, and so on. On the last day he finally lost his cool and was bored on an underground tour, so the one thing in my purview (history trivia!) I only half-heard in between lassoing a Totally Done With This Toddler.


Water above, water below

When we bought tickets to the underground tour it said “get a discount on food in the restaurant/bar upstairs!” so we arranged the day assuming we’d eat dinner there–and so of course, since we were under a mild curse the bartender informed us, “No we’re not serving food right now.” We ran across the street to scarf down some Subway instead, where a total scumbag looking slacker wandered in and stole some soda and looked like he’d murder us if we objected–and the very hangdog employee told us he usually comes in and steals chips. We left him a tip.

And then…we said our goodbyes and came home, with only a minor catastrophe at the airport when TSA banged up my husband’s brand new Nintendo Switch.

The End!

Or…. was it?

It took me a week and a half to write this blog post, because the Mild Curse of Washington followed us home. The toddler had a rough transition back to his usual routine. During my first attempt to write this post, my laptop was knocked off the couch and my USB flash drive destroyed by the impact. The laptop limped on for another couple of days, and then died a tragic death in another couch-knocking incident. I forgot my paperwork for some routine lab work because I forgot I’d taken it all out of my purse before the trip, making me late for work despite getting up an hour early.

But it was all worth it. One, for the endless jokes. Two, because despite everything I’ve just said it was nice to get out of town for a week and visit friends, and I can have fun doing anything when I’m with funny people. My sister and I even made a gallery of increasingly shitty selfies consisting of our faces at bad angles and the barest hint of a landmark behind us. I think they adequately convey the feeling: “we were here, but barely.”

Finally, perhaps most importantly: this trip gave us murder bear.


Murder bear.

This fine looking fellow was heavily chained to a bench outside a chocolate shop in Leavenworth. Some might say he was chained up to prevent theft, but WE say he was chained up because he’s a murder bear who comes alive at night and stalks the countryside, dragging his murder bench behind him. He was clearly responsible for everything that went wrong on our trip. Murder bear smashed our car window and broke our DVD player. Murder bear ate all the food in the shops. Murder bear knocked the Switch off the security conveyor belt. Murder bear put on a human suit and steals soda and chips from local Subways in broad daylight. You get the idea.
Happy travels!

untethered (the egypt trip)

Jeez look at the camera, Mrs. Cat

Jeez look at the camera, Mrs. Cat

Mr. and Mrs. Cat took a much-needed vacation. They climbed through tombs and maybe got a little teary-eyed at ancient monuments. They ate a lot of falafel and slathered themselves with sun screen. They met the chief of a Nubian village. They refused to ride on a camel. And then Mrs. Cat slept strange jet-lagged hours for three days, and all was well.

In the six months since I started my 9-6 dual-job work schedule, I fell into an abyss. For better or worse, I fixate on new projects and power through them in a workaholic haze. This creates tension in the form of work/life balance, because I can only devote obsessive amounts of thought to two or three projects at a time before my brain leaks. For the last 6 months I’ve been split between learning a new job, coping with the rising demands of an old job, and then devoting whatever brain power I had left to practical concerns: selling our condo and moving into an apartment, participating in two weddings, planning, planning, planning life.

When I am able to simplify my work life obligations and skew some of that obsessive attention to writing, it is immensely productive! I spend Saturdays knocking out 10,000 words in a go and feverishly outlining till 4 in the morning. But, you know, gots to eat and all that.

All of which brings me back around to a much-needed vacation. Egypt was wonderful. I won’t go on and on about all of the stuff we did (Nile sailboat! getting lost! evading the tourist police!), because my point is our return. By breaking the patterns set by my work schedule I really snapped something loose mentally.  I feel great! Even after having been back at work for a week, I’m still finding it much easier to step away from work thoughts on Friday night and put them off again till Monday morning.

It helps that I’ve gotten the hang of my morning job, so I’m not stretching my brain to memorize a load of new things every day.  And it CERTAINLY helps that I will be leaving my afternoon job in December (for fambly reasons), so even though it is a bit stressful to contemplate the mass of information I have to impart to my successor before I go (my successor who… hasn’t even been hired yet…), the end is in sight!!

And it just took two weeks to stop and breathe a little for everything to snap into focus.