Freezing in Summer

Right now, I am in the lobby of the DoubleTree in Chesterfield, MO. I’m writing at a computer table. And I am freezing. Mind you, very seldom in my life am I cold, much less freezing. I am jiggling my foot under the table to keep from turning into an icicle.

This is a business hotel, which means they have a Conference Center, which is a fancy way to say a building with conference rooms. They have a decent cafe for breakfast and lunch and really bad coffee for guests, and they have a broken thermostat in the lobby.

I wish I had a swimsuit. The pool would be warm, right? Warmer than this lobby.

I could go upstairs to my room to write at what is euphemistically called a desk, right? That setup where my face is approximately a foot from the wall? I like a little space myself, which is why I’m out in the lobby at the computer table. It’s a nice computer table.

Eventually it will be lunchtime, and I will go into the slightly warmer cafe to have something that will warm me up.

I suppose if worse comes to worst, I can grab the duvet off the bed, wrap it around me, and sit in the lobby. Nobody would notice, right?


I have an irrational fear and have had it for most of my life, which is quite a few years. Hydrophobiaphobia (I’m told this is what it’s called) is fear of contracting rabies. I fear that someday some animal is going to bite me, or even slobber on me, and I am never going to see it again, and then I’m going to get rabies and die.

Dying is almost inevitable in rabies. Only 29 people have survived rabies ever. Even with the Milwaukee protocol, a method of supportive treatment, most don’t survive. Luckily, rabies is rare. Only one to three people in the US die of rabies each year. This is in part because of the over 60,000 preventive vaccine series given each year.

That does not stop me from my fear. I’m better than I used to be as a kid when I would pet cats and dogs and ask myself if they’d bitten me and I just couldn’t remember. I would lose sleep at night checking for brain malfunction.

Nowadays, I just worry a bit and keep an extra close eye on my cats. It’s necessary because we have bats in the house. Cute, fuzzy little rabies vectors that cats like to play with. So it’s a matter of vaccinating the cats and making sure to bring the bats in to the Public Health Department to test for rabies. I think about the actions it takes to get the treatment if it comes to that. And my fear is much better, because I have a solution.

Have I Missed the Silly Season?

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about living in Maryville is what I call the Silly Season. It runs from April through July, and it features little oddities that I’m not sure most college towns (or towns of any sort) have to weather.

The Silly Season usually starts on campus with art projects. Like giant rubber duckies on Colden Pond, or a doorframe set up in the middle of the sidewalk. The Northwest Yeti. Little things like that. Then it spreads to the town, with horses at the local drive-in tied to the order kiosk and a large cow in the grocery store parking lot. Not so much madness as a head-shake and a chuckle. This is our excitement. It’s slow around here.

That has not happened this year. Nothing has startled a smile out of me on campus, nothing unusual has been sighted in town, not even a Weinermobile. I am worried that the Silly Season has expired in Maryville, and I miss it.

Photo by Jan Koetsier on

It might be time for me to figure out how to revive the season. The trick is that one cannot try too hard to be silly. One can try to get attention, but not try to dictate what kind of attention one gets. And the most important thing, one has to do it without any self-consciousness. One gives in to the awkwardness and goes all-out. It’s the difference between wearing a mascot costume and doing that mascot dance wholeheartedly.

I have too much self-consciousness lately, and I blame my meds for that. Bipolar has a great correlation with unabashed weirdness, but it has a great correlation with other things I’d rather do without. If I had less, though, I’d consider adding some silly to people’s lives here. Set up (with the proper permits) a lemonade stand downtown. Walk in bunny ears through Walmart. Put signs on my car reading “Lauren Leach-Steffens for Whatever” in campaign style. And more.

I hope the Silly Season comes back. It’s good for some Facebook posts from home.

June 1st

I feel a detachment from the outside world, which dresses itself in an indecisive grey-blue sky. I want it to thunder, with a torrent of rain. Life has gotten dusty.

I dress myself in an equivocal mood: I want to stand in the deluge; I want to rest inside.

After the Three-Day Weekend (in the US)

Repeat after me: “It’s Tuesday.”

Everyone I’ve run into today has struggled with today being Tuesday. They must have had a good Memorial Day weekend.

Mine was restful. Almost too restful, as I slept in and read all day. I got a blog post done, some writing, a bit of fretting about writing. I ate grilled bison burgers and some roasted Brussels sprouts. Hence a Tuesday that feels like Monday.

A little kid at the next table in Starbucks just asked “Today is Tuesday?” So it’s even happening to the younger generation. What day is it? It’s Tuesday, isn’t it?

But isn’t it great to discover that it’s Tuesday, and the work week is one day shorter? That extra day off gives an extra bonus at the end of the week when Friday should be Thursday. It’s a new, happy kind of math.

I’m going to go home and get some work done, with an internal smile that today’s Tuesday and not Monday.

Having it all (If all means “not all”)

What does “having it all” mean to you? Is it attainable?

One of the things I have taught and researched is well-being. Studies in economic well-being explain that when people are asked whether they’re satisfied with their income, they respond that they would like (on average) ten percent more. I suspect that if the researcher would ask them in terms of material wealth, that 10% more would hold. So money and material goods — can we have it all? Apparently not.

And if it’s not money that becomes the confining resource, it’s time. As we only get 24 hours in a day, we find ourselves making decisions on where we put our time — work, relationships, hobbies and side hustles, family obligations, relaxation. We can buy substitutes for our time: restaurant meals, nannies, maids, time-saving appliances, but they only go so far.

In other words, our expectations expand with our acquisitions. If we don’t have a car, we want one. If we get a car, we want a new or better car. A new set of dishes. A bigger house to put all the things we’ve bought into. A Roomba. A hot tub. An RV. Jewelry and paintings. A professional level kitchen …

We can’t have it all unless we define our own “all”, which will require us to go against what might be our innate human nature. Can we decide we’ve acquired enough? There’s lots of advantages to this. Less stress, more room in the house or apartment, fewer things in landfills, less need to have yard sales. Some would argue more time with people because we have to work less to buy things.

Dead Bats and a Review

I’m going to find time to write today. I will not be a writer if I neglect the writing. First, I have to take the dead bat that my cats were all playing with to the Health Department to make sure it doesn’t have rabies. Good jolly morning we’re having here, especially if you’re the poor dead bat.

I’ve been thinking of Gaia’s Hands, and that one of my friends considered it “a fun read”. I never thought of it as a fun read, but I guess in some ways it is. A sentient monster vine, a rampant green thumb, an unlikely romance, a bad folksinger*, a little snark.

It also has escalating acts of aggression within academia, scientific method**, a breakup, a menacing presence, and computer espionage.

Ok, honestly, I can see how it would be a fun read. My favorite line in the book is when Josh, the male main character, says “Everyone has to start somewhere” at what might be an inconvenient time. Read it if you want to know how inconvenient a time.

* This is how we kill our exes as authors.

** We write what we know. I know academia.

A Short Hiatus

Photo by Ron Lach on

Wow, when was the last time I wrote here? I think it’s been a few days. I’ve been busy scheduling internship visits and going on internship visits and recovering from internship visits — in other words, summer as usual.

I’m struggling to write. This might be because I skipped to the last chapter of my book, hoping it would be an easy write, and it has been anything but. Maybe I need to go back to a hard chapter and start setting up for the final battle. There’s a few chapters of setup there to happen. Maybe it’s those doubts about writing creeping up again.

I’m not going to get out of those doubts any way but to start writing again. Even this short entry is writing, and I can do this again and again until I get out of the rut.

Broadway Cafe, Kansas City MO

I’m here in KC for a change of scenery and some writing time at my favorite cafe in town. I’m hoping I feel motivated to write on the story, because I’ve been struggling with that lately. I’ve skipped ahead to the last chapter to write on that, and maybe that’s the problem. Not much happens in the last chapter of a book except the tie up the loose ends. And in this case, a baby is definitely front and center.

Photo by Sam Rana on

I don’t really understand babies. I’m childless by choice; I have never been graced with a maternal instinct. But enough of that; I am sitting in the best cafe in Kansas City.

Broadway Cafe is the real thing, with worn chairs and scuffed walls and young baristas. I don’t know if they do latte art because I’m drinking their coffee of the day, Guatemala. The coffee is roasted and brewed so well that it has notes. It doesn’t just taste like dark roast. If we hadn’t just had breakfast at AC Hotel, we would have some pastries

So from here, I write on the book. Damn babies. What do babies do at 3 months old? They eat, poop, cry, burp and squeeze your finger. How hard can that be? They smile, which is how they get away with eating, pooping, crying, and burping all the time.

And people make burbling noises at them.

Ok, back to grounding myself in my surroundings. I have coffee, and I’m about to write. I’m about to write the sappiest chapter in my life. All it needs is a cute dog. (It’s not going to get a cute dog).

Ok, time to write …

Playing with WordPress Embeds

In WordPress, in editing mode, there’s this blue plus sign in the upper left corner of the screen with a lot of options. I’ve used few options, mostly because I haven’t needed to. But am I missing something? Let me see.

I’m specifically playing with Embeds today. Embeds are a way of putting external content from social websites into your blog. Let me start with embedding one of my books via the Kindle embed:

Oh, I like that! Visual, professional, and with a link!

How about Twitter?

Ah, my Twitter is very boring. I need to fix this.

WordPress has a generic link for sharing. I’m going to try Beacons with this:

Ok, not at all exciting.

How about a map?

It’s an old map — the university no longer houses the Missouri Academy. And 102 BBQ? I’ve lived here for 24 years and don’t recall seeing that.

There are a few embeds I can see myself using plus many more I won’t, because I don’t have the social accounts they correspond with. The ones that work are pretty attractive, though, and I especially see myself using the Amazon Kindle one.

I think I’ll end this with the Facebook embed:

Well, that was anticlimactic.

When WordPress is good, it is very very good, but when it’s not, it’s so-so.