August: The Most Interesting Month

Hello, cats and kitties!

I returned to work on July 27th and immediately plunged into the world of beginning my year as faculty association president at Kirkwood (round 2–I did this 2002-2003, a lifetime ago) and then began to prepare to be gone over the two Fall Kick-Off days. You would be surprised at how much paperwork it takes to create a virtual me. Well, I did all that and as of today have completed my World Con prep for panels as well. So, that’s all as it should be, and I’m looking forward to connecting with people and being on panels at World Con. I’ll post my schedule a little later in the week.


Meanwhile, in the rest of my life, there has been a confluence of strangeness all hitting at the same time. Some of it was well-meant strangeness, but when you have a lot planned, sometimes, the early isn’t ideal.

The above work preparation I knew about. Also, we knew Bryon’s mom was going to get a tumor removed from her bladder. It is a slow growing cancer, and after the lab results, they’re going to give her one more chemo treatment to reduce the chances of it coming back. She’s 90, so we’re thinking that will be the end of it for her and the cancer will trouble her no more. It’s a good diagnosis.

What I didn’t expect? People doing things faster than I expected, which is usually good. Like the geothermal guys starting outside about two days after we gave them the green light to transform our 160-year-old house into Environmentally Friendly Manor. Our backyard has had four giant wells drilled into it, and a couple of giant mole men furrows leading to our house. Who knew our yard was full of limestone chunks my husband took it upon himself to carry out of our yard so we could get it to become a yard again? Also, who knew, like when a grave settles, you have to leave giant channels of earth on top of the ground, letting them naturally settle until you can take the backyard to “rough” grade again?

Yes, I know that now. There were also indoor hijinx.

The geothermal installation has been adventurous. Immediately after our yard work, the crew moved inside and whacked holes in our floor to put in cold air intakes and vents. We are running duct work all over our house, because the steam heat we had before, well, pipes and radiators don’t do geothermal. BTW, these pipes and radiators are now authentic antique decorating. The next custodians of the house can take them out, if they want. Cutting holes in our floor made our house smell like those Basement air fresheners you buy for your car. What? You don’t? No one does, and there’s a reason! BUT the geothermal guys were gone in two days and our downstairs now had heating AND cooling, which is big for us, because we’ve been air conditioner-less since 1999.

AND THEN we were supposed to wait until September for the nice guy who was going to rip out our chimney to come. Very manageable with World Con and the surgery. We re-instated tidiness and cleanliness into our lives and prepared to move on with our creative lives, me on my new book, Bryon on his Halloween display.

BUT there was a sudden opening in brick guy’s schedule and he thought he’d do us a favor by coming this week. Two days, he said, was all it would take. So, for the last two days our house has undergone major demolition. We moved tons of furniture out of the path of destruction over the weekend. My closet is in our den in huge piles. The floor is crunchy. As promised, though, two days and our chimney is history. Then, the geothermal crew said, hurrah! We’ll come back and finish!

Right now, while I’m here at work, Bryon is home covering all of our possessions with plastic tarp. Now that the chimney is out, the geothermal guys are coming back tomorrow to run ducts up the now empty chimney space and fill our attic full of duct work. Crap will leak down from the new holes they will carve in our ceiling, so there will be much cleaning in our future, and sleeping on the air mattress in the living room. Both of us will be back to work next week, so this will be perforce a gradual project. We predict that geothermal work will be finished by the end of the week. The chimney guy is threatening planning to come back next Monday to cover the duct work up with what looks like chimney walls, so perhaps by next Friday it will all be done and we’ll just be left with a world of dusting, replacement, and closet sorting.

So, hey, it’s good that they’re getting this done now. Cool. We can handle it, although it makes for extra work. But it was going to be extra any way, and we have more time to do it now, since at least one of us is off of work, right?

Dramatic pause.

You might remember my mother-in-law? She has dementia and post-surgery has been really rough on her. Usually, Bryon’s brother, who lives close by her would handle any problems of this nature, BUT his wife, who has had many, many medical problems this past year, was admitted to the hospital with kidney bleeding on the day of Phyllis’ surgery. Debbie is still there. They have fixed the problem with the kidneys, but now she is sleeping often and can’t remember people visiting. Doctors are worried she might have a brain hemorrhage like she did earlier this year. Bryon is worried about her and his own mother, and there have been drives south, emergency room visits, and many, many phone calls. Sometimes I’ve been home dealing with the construction while he’s on the road. Other times I am emotional support on the road. When he’s not on the road, he’s been dealing with the construction.

Okay. That, I’ll admit is a bit intense. Work and construction and two family members with time-demanding medical issues, one of whom is in serious condition. Luckily, I got all my edits off to my editor before all this happened. Sure, I’m not working on my second book except in drips and drabs, but that’ll change once the school year starts and I get my writing time back, everyone gets well, and we’re living in the cool, cool energy saving comfort of geothermal. This too will pass.

Except my new editor is fast. She has a lot of time on her hands, and my edits landed. In the middle of what appears to be much chaos.

There it is. Not exactly my moment of zen. No one’s in a hurry to get these edits turned around, but I have a month, and it’s going to take a month. There’s not a lot of wiggle room to my way of thinking, even though my editor told me not to worry because I was so fast. Besides, I would like to get back to my new book.

We’ll manage. I’m optimistic about my mother-in-law getting less odd as she gets off her pain meds and recovers. She’s imagining some really weird things right now, but she improves as the day goes on. At least the construction will be mostly in hand before the school year starts for Bryon. I am diligently editing. Honestly, the biggest problem is Deb. She has been very sick before, but she did recover. We have hope, but yeah, that’s kind of bad. Bryon is feeling a lot of pain. I’d like the universe to cut him a break.

And that’s August, the most interesting month.

Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

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