The New Weird

Remember when we used to talk about the “new normal”? Was life post-coronavirus going to get back to normal, or were we going to have to cope with a new version of normality? I’m tired of waiting for anything resembling normalcy: let’s just call it what it is: The New Weird.

I always enjoyed the Weird Sisters from Macbeth, didn’t you? In high school, two fellow thespians and I performed a rap version of the whole “Double double, toil and trouble” bit. Yes, I rapped. Pretty dismally, admittedly, but it was not to be the last bit of hip hop that I’d write! (Or in the case of the Bard’s work, re-arrange, I reckon.) I just learned later in life to send the lyrics to someone who could actually perform them better than 99% Celtic me. (Don’t argue with me that House of Pain is Celtic AF, because Everlast is a phenom all his own. But I digress. As usual.)

Regardless, jump up, jump up, and get down, because I have taken my proclivity for journaling, AND teaching people to journal, AND weirdness, and put together the following:

The Kitchen Witch’s Guide to the New Weird: Practical life magic in the time of Covid-19 is the unexpected, unplanned, big and juicy follow up to My Life as a Kitchen Witch, yet another book I had not planned to write! If you enjoyed My Life, then you are going to love the BATWINGS out of this new book. It’s much longer, goes much deeper into herbs, emotional well-being, life during and post-pandemic, and there’s even a chapter on GHOSTS, because your girl Red absolutely has seen one.

Why write about ghosts, forest spirits, and what-not? WHY NOT? Let’s let all the weird, witchy goodness hang out, shall we? And because I really want this book to be as much about YOU as it is about me, there are writing prompts. Dozens of them. I will have you journaling your ever-living heart out, girlfriends! (And I use “girlfriends” here to include all friends, regardless of gender status.)

Did you know I used to teach journaling classes? They were super popular. The only reason I stopped was because it was wearing me out, and after all, I was still an introvert, mom of multiple young kiddos, and dealing with chronic illness, myself. But I really enjoyed those classes. My students called me their teacher, but I would insist I was only a guide, because journaling isn’t something you can teach. “What’s the first rule of journaling?” I would ask the class on the first day. They’d look at one another nervously, waiting for someone to take a stab. “There are NO RULES!” I’d announce, happily, and they’d all smile, some would laugh, and pretty much everyone would breathe a sigh of relief. We did whatever we wanted with our journals. Draw in them, make collages, write…one fellow would fill up an entire college composition book with “unsent letters” to his ex-wives from week to week! I think he went through at least nine comp books in one six week session! (I miss him–he was a great guy. And for the record, he did NOT send his exes those journals, in the end agreeing with me and the rest of the class that just writing out his feelings was the release he needed.)

I know from my own experience how therapeutic journaling can be. After hanging in limbo with the pandemic for months, I needed to take stock, myself. And so, the old journaling guide inside of me spoke up. “Write another Kitchen Witch book. Share this.”

And so I did.

I hope you enjoy it. In the paperback version, I left room after the journaling prompts for you to write your own responses, although if you are like the guy from class years ago, you might need more room than I left you!

The ebook is pretty, too.

Oh, and if you didn’t read the first book, My Life is on sale for $.99 at Amazon right now. Buy yourself both, maybe, and get ready for the New Weird.

The best dog in the world

Cass runs back to Seamus & me while Sam and Sean run toward the lake at Mount Saint Francis in November 2007

Cass is outside barking in the yard next to dogs that are ten times her size. She’s a Jack Russell Terrier, mightiest of all the little dog breeds, with a jaw the size of a Spaniel’s set atop her 14 lb body, a bundle of muscles that propels her on the daily across the chasm from our backyard retaining wall to our kitchen’s back steps. She can no longer hear when the Amazon truck pulls up the driveway, but she can tell when the Great Pyrenees and the Foxhound trot around the side of the house, that it is time to send off the alert bark. “Alert! Alert! Intruder alert!”

Cass, Parker, and Samson in November of 2020

She’s friendly despite her protective nature. She has always been one to bark a few times at a stranger, before folding back her ears and letting her tail wag like an oscillating fan, fairly telepathing, “Pet me! Pet me! Oh, pet me!”

If you watched Wishbone on PBS in the 90s, then you know how smart Jack Russell Terriers can be. Wishbone, after all, was a match for all the famous sleuths in popular mysteries. Cass is as smart as Wishbone, no doubt, but not built like him. Her legs are shorter, her ears set more to the side, giving her a Yodaesque silhouette. Now that her facial fur has faded to white and her hearing gone, she would certainly horrify the judges at a fancy dog show–but we have never been in it with Cass for the looks, have we?

Cass keeping watch at the old house, 2007

I started looking for a small dog when Seamus was a toddler, because he had developed a fear of dogs. A few experiences with aggressive dogs barking or lunging for his face when he was in his stroller or learning to walk had resulted in him crying and carrying on to a severe degree around any dog. (Mind you, he was on the autism spectrum, but we wouldn’t know that for years to come.) When you have small children–and I had three in less than four years–you visit parks often. Dogs are *everywhere*. A fear of dogs can be devastating for a child’s development in this circumstance, so I set out to “fix this situation.”

I needed a calm, small dog. Say that aloud with me: “I need a calm, small dog.”

If you’re an expert on the species, then you know how tall an order that was. It is very easy to find a small dog that needs a good home. It is moderately challenging to find a calm dog that needs a good home. After all, it’s more the “troublesome” dogs that end up put up for adoption by their owners. Easy-going dogs tend to stay where they are, with their happy parents. I didn’t want to take a chance on a puppy, and figured that an adult dog with an established personality was my best chance at finding a dog that would remain calm throughout his or her time with my children. Any dog that had a face-to-face stance (or taller) with my toddler was out the question, as these size dogs sent him cowering in fear. That ruled out even medium sized dogs.

Eventually, I wrote to a number of dog rescues explaining my very specific request. I didn’t get a lot of responses, but I got the one that counted: I heard back about Cass. We went to meet her in a public park, where she rolled over and showed my then-husband her belly and did her “Pet me! Pet me!” routine immediately. She was one year old, and recovering from having a litter of puppies. She had been dumped on the side of the interstate in Louisville. As soon as the rescue had her spayed, she came home to live with us, forever!

Seamus holding Cass and telling her she is his baby, May 2008

A lot of people treat their animals like babies, but I don’t think Cass ever saw me as her mother. We started more like roommates, and over time, we became friends. She was the worst to walk with–always pulling, to the point of hurting my hips, although there was that one time I let her pull me up a hill to Community Park in New Albany while I wore roller skates behind her–a disastrous experiment that led to me practically crawling back down the hill on hands and knees while strangers walked Cass down on her leash. She loved walks, though. She and I took the boys to the bridge often, where we threw rocks into the water to see who could get the biggest splash.

Cass saw me through my divorce, sharing my bed, although only sleeping at my feet–never letting me cuddle her like I wanted–and keeping me safe through the sleepless nights when my children were with their father. She loved my Pom “Britches” who came to stay with us for a year. She was friendly to Bean, the dog of a girl I dated for awhile. Bean had doggie roommates and Cass loved them, too.

Cass was and remains a rascal. When she was young, she’d jet out the front door at every chance she got, to chase squirrels. In a flash, she’d be blocks away. The boys and I had a regular engagement of hurriedly jumping into the car to chase her until she tired enough to be caught. Even now, she digs in the back of the fence of our yard, and we are never overly surprised to see she has gotten out into the neighbor’s yard to play with their dogs and children. (We do fix the holes in the fence, and the gaps, but she is a great digger, and she finds her way out like the Raptor in Jurassic Park! Clever girl.)

Cass and Parker play with GiGi in the leaves, November 2013

In her old age, Cass has mellowed. She is kind and loving to all the other dogs, including our Pomeranian, Lord Grantham, who she has treated like her own child since his adoption five+ years ago. She saw our little girl born ten years ago. She is closely bonded to Parker, who became her step-dog-brother eleven years ago. And, she loves Tim. She loves me. She cuddles on the bed with me now.

Cass has never been like a baby to me, but she seems to have gravitated in her old age to seeing me as the pack leader. We used to compete for this title. She thought she was the boss of me the first couple of years, at least–but now, although she can’t hear me, she follows me everywhere. When it is nap time, she happily lies right next to me on the bed, and even lets me put my arm around her, although inevitably, at night the bed grows too crowded, and she makes a nest in my closet to snore the night away.

Yesterday, I took Cass for a walk. We hung out at the park and there were so many neat smells. She still pulled on me some, but as in other ways, she has mellowed in that regard, as well. Her eyes are bright. Her ears are happily Yodaesque. Her tail wags like mad. You could not tell looking at her that she has stage four kidney failure, but she does. We went to the vet yesterday after our walk and I got the news today.

The big mole Cass dug up in April, 2015. Not her first or last kill!

I knew this day would come–the day when I would have to look at my life partner, my sister, my friend, and decide for her that she should not draw breath much longer. That her suffering should not be prolonged longer than necessary. In truth, although she has all the signs of being an alert, happy old lady dog, she has been vomiting quite a bit and even if I kept her on IV fluids daily, it would only prolong the inevitable.

So here we are. I have not made the call yet. I have not told the kids yet. Only myself, Tim, the vet, and Cass herself, know.

The kids grew up with her. The one who was afraid of dogs used to hold her like a baby on his lap. He is now an adult, and he loves animals of all kinds, including all sizes of dogs. My sixteen year old has been staying at his dad’s house, and I wonder what Cass thinks of that–surely she misses him. I hope he will choose to come and say goodbye, but I can’t force him, and it’s tricky to handle.

Sean cuddles on the couch with Cass, July 2013

My oldest, who doesn’t think he even likes animals that much, will be devastated, I can promise you that. He has a huge heart and he doesn’t remember much of life before this little dog was in our lives.

Seamus, Sam, and Sean with Cass at Mount Saint Francis, May 2008

The other dogs will have no alpha mama to boss them around (although I suspect Samson will step in to fill that void).

I feel like I am losing a sister. She is my baby, and she isn’t. My peer, my protector, my best friend.

When we put Lee (Tim’s dog) down a few years ago, it was rough. I felt guilt, horror, sadness, grief…I loved Lee. I picked him up off the side of the road, myself, as a puppy, but I didn’t spend the years in-between with him like Tim did. I saw him in and I saw him out, but in between, I only wondered and hoped he was okay.

Cass, on the other hand, has been my responsibility all this time. I’ve done my best with her. When she went in for a dental last year, I half-expected the vet to tell me to save my money, fearing some invisible malady would be detected. She said no such thing. Just pulled the bad teeth, pronounced Cass to be happy and healthy, and I left knowing every day was a gift with my precious, old, healthy girl. I can do the math. She’s 105 in human years.

She zips up and down the steps, flies off the couch, and plays with the other dogs–or, she did play, until recently. If I’m honest, she has been doing more sleeping the past few weeks than playing. It has been a few weeks since I’ve seen her digging a hole, although this afternoon she was staring hard at the dirt, as though she might be ready to go after another mole.

Digging for moles, May 2021

I’m going to miss this dog. I’m going to miss her in ways my heart and mind can’t begin to enumerate. She’ll always be with me, I know, but it won’t be the same. I feel as though she’s been at my ankle so long, she is part of me.

I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to lose her. I know it’s inevitable. I don’t want her to suffer. The vomiting she’s doing is because the kidney failure puts so much urea into her blood, it makes her feel nauseous. I can’t imagine how awful that is. If I were her, I’d probably sleep all day, too.

Today I will tell the kids. Tomorrow I will make the appointment, or Tim will. I hate this, but I love her. I love her, and it’s time to say goodbye.

Cass today

Journals & Mistakes & Updates

Gorgeous day out there today! I’m going to try to get Mr. Tash & the fam to visit the local festival with me for some outdoor, socially-distanced fun!

I was snagged by another Instagram ad today. This time, it was an herb journal on Etsy. How could I say no? Just too damned beautiful. Now to wait for it to ship…

…waiting…waiting…waiting…
If you have previously downloaded My Life as a Kitchen Witch, make sure and download the update! There is additional content, including a sneak peek of the new Kitchen Witch non-fiction witchy book! (The update has only gone live to Amazon, so far.)

Hope your holiday weekend is wrapping up nicely. I thought I would sneak in some work this morning, and, I was updating the previous version of My Life As a Kitchen Witch on Amazon…I don’t know WHAT I did, but somehow I royally goofed up the formatting on the title page. Therefore, it shall no longer bear the grimoire graphic!

Let’s all take a moment of silence in remembrance of the Grimoire with the eye, reminiscent of Hocus Pocus‘ Sanderson Sister’s Book…

It’s alright, loves. This version of the book will return in The New Weird, coming September 30! We shall meet again, BOOKIE!

And speaking of journals and books and new books and whatnot, yes, that’s a pre-order link above. Go snag The Kitchen Witch’s Guide to the New Weird so you wake up with it on launch day! It has dozens of journaling prompts about this new life we’re all experiencing together post-Covid.

Did you know I used to teach journaling classes? I did. And I have some rules for journaling. The first rule of journaling is:

THERE ARE NO RULES IN JOURNALING.

Also, don’t talk about Fight Club.

But, I digress.

If you survived the pandemic, I think you will enjoy this upcoming book. It’s out to betas right now and I will be looking through my Secret Updates from Red Tash Facebook group for volunteers to join the ARC team (who post reviews of the book on launch day).

Obsidian – My Second Brain

Twenty-plus years ago, I read an article detailing one professor’s experiment on creating a database system that cataloged his life. He had a team of assistants digitizing his calendar, photos, receipts, and journal entries. From this he could review a day a year from now and know there was a sale on Twinkies at the local gas station.

It was an interesting idea, and I had time on my hands, so I started trying to build a similar system. I fired up a database and a web server and started creating my version of this Second Brain. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t ready for hobbyist at least not for this hobbyist, digital cameras were priced for professionals, and scanners were just as expensive, the workflow just wasn’t there yet, we didn’t have decent cameras in our phones, no apps that tie everything we do together, no it was difficult since it relied on me scanning, cataloging, and linking the data. It just became too much. Although the idea stuck with me – still does.

Then there was Evernote – this application had everything, multiple platform support, offline folders, syncing between devices no matter what the underlying OS was. Evernote became my second brain. It had web page snippets of technology reviews, how-to on everything from drywall repair to how to build a water sprinkler for your kids out of PVC pipe. It was how I tracked and reported on project and tasks for work. I enjoyed this application so much that its yearly cost was paid for without review or thought.

Time rolled on and the platforms age began to show. Offline folders went away and became more of a web application. This next point isn’t the application’s fault, but my 9 to 5 blocked communication at the firewall, so it wasn’t as useful for work anymore. The web snippet may work, it may not depend on factors I couldn’t determine. It was aging – reviewing past notes was difficult, the search functionality was limited. Which means it is living on life support – and it was time to look for something different.

Obsidian to the rescue. This software is a powerful knowledge base application that uses a local folder of plain text Markdown files. The benefit of this is the markdown language is simple to use. I’ve just started working with it and in the past month I’ve incorporated it into my daily routine. It is literally the first thing I open to plan my day. With a growing number of community plug-ins, I’m able to quickly get my day planned using templates and mermaid charts. I’ve used dataview and the tagging system to create custom datasets for my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tracking. With its built in PDF export function, I can quickly generate a weekly report for my boss, or an agenda for the regularly scheduled One on One review. So far, I’ve been able to keep track of meetings, and project status and daily re-occurring tasks with ease just by using the tags and dataview plugins.

I just finished creating a vault for my achieved data (2010 thru 2017) and I look forward to importing in the rest of my Evernote data, so I can see the links and patterns that emerge from years of data collection. Obsidian is a tool that allows me to see the connections between my interest, hobbies, work and family in a way that Evernote just couldn’t do. If you are looking for a way to manage everything that life throws at you, I recommend looking at Obsidian. After a small learning curve, you could create your own personal second brain.

The image below is a graph of the data so far – looks very PlanetTash to me.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the WIDE RELEASE sale

Just for this holiday weekend, An Honest Woman, Montana Brides #2 is on a $.99 sale at all available ebook outlets!

You can also listen to the audiobook on Audible, though that’s not on sale. (If you do snap up the ebook at sale price, however, you get the audiobook much cheaper, and it’s WhisperSync’d, so you can switch back and forth between Eileen’s fantastic narration and the ebook version at your liking.)

Hope you enjoy your Labor Day weekend! Ours is off to a great start with Shang-Chi & The Legend of the Ten Rings at the Georgetown Drive-In! We stayed for the post-credit scene, then packed up and snuck out…and missed the post-post credit scene! It’s really too bad, too, because all the way home, I was lamenting how the little sister got the raw end of the deal. Tim was defending the movie, which, by the way, I loved…but I had a justifiable issue with it…I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, we pulled up to the house and I said, “I agree with you! We both feel the same way! I just wanted ____________ for little sister!”

And then this morning I found out via YouTube that little sister Xialing definitely is getting HERS. So I feel quite a bit better, but really, REALLY wishing I’d stayed a few minutes later last night.

If you have eclectic reading tastes, like moi, now is a great time to pick up a “little sister gets hers” book by yours truly. It’s not part of the MCU, but I’m still pretty dang proud of it. An Honest Woman is the story of the Rancher‘s little sister, Jessica, and the village outsider, Sleeping Fox. It’s not got ten rings, but it might have a couple. 😉

Happy weekend!

An Honest Woman, Montana Brides #2

An Honest Woman on Amazon

Audible

Barnes & Noble

Google

Apple

Kobo

Other outlets

OH, and if you’ve never read The Rancher Takes a Wife, you don’t really need to, to enjoy this book. But if you want to…it’s on sale this weekend for $.99, too, because WHY NOT? It should be right next to An Honest Woman in all the links above.

Miss Fitz is LIVE!

Read it now!

Video announcement of Miss Fitz Discovers Midlife Magic, a Paranormal Women’s Fiction Cozy Mystery

Miss Fitz at Midlife!

Melissa Fitzpatrick (aka Miss Fitz) is a blissfully married mother of four living happily ever after in a cozy-yet-bustling tourist village in picturesque Brown County, Indiana. Between juggling the needs of her family and a part-time writing gig, she soaks in quality girl time with her besties, aiding them in the running of their side-by-side popular coffee shop and handmade soap boutiques. Missy simply adores animals of all shapes and sizes, and they love her right back–from the strays she collects at her home, to the black cat in town who seems to read her thoughts.

Pleasantly plump and practically invisible in her mom attire and minivan, Miss Fitz revels in her Hallmark Channel-ready life–that is, until a tycoon of local business sends his vehicle careening through a wrought iron fence into the well-manicured flower beds of the shopping center, thrusting a group of coffee shop regulars into harm’s way. Reacting instinctively, Missy throws her large quilted handbag at the truck–only to find that sometimes a purse is more than a purse, and her two besties are into more than just tarot cards and Stevie Nicks. It’s not long before Miss Fitz finds herself in the center of a murder investigation, discovering there’s more to midlife than menopause.

Are you ready to come out of the broom closet with Miss Fitz at midlife? Who better to play detective than a well-read, wise-cracking woman finding her power in her forties?

A tale of friendship and love, MISS FITZ DISCOVERS MIDLIFE MAGIC is a cozy mystery by Red Tash that will have you laughing as you discover along with Miss Fitz and friends that midlife can be truly magical.

“I loved this book. Melissa Fitzpatrick (Miss Fitz) is a sleuth I can relate to and root for. Her world is both perfectly plain and transcendently whimsical; love, family, and friendship are rock-solid, yet wreathed in tendrils of fantasy as light as air. And there are recipes, because Miss Fitz rocks in the kitchen, just like her creator, Red Tash. In short: read this charming mystery, try a recipe or two, and join me in happy anticipation of more books in the series.” ~Emma Jameson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“A magical, midlife mystery with a touch of whimsy. Can’t wait for the next Miss Fitz adventure!” ~Shéa MacLeod, author of Lifestyles of the Witch and Ageless, Season of the Witch series of Paranormal Women’s Fiction Cozy Mysteries

“Miss Fitz and friends are a kind of found family–and they know how to throw a great girl’s night out! I wish I could live in their town and have coffee with them at Bethany’s Brews.” ~Reviewer A. Channing

“These characters are like the women from Practical Magic, if they were on the Hallmark Channel–but funnier, and smarter. I wish I had Missy’s purse!” ~Reviewer S. A. James

Includes recipes, talking cats, wildflowers, and a few choice words. This is a Paranormal Women’s Fiction Cozy Mystery, where mature women not only deal with aging and chronic illness, but sometimes say naughty words and drink midnight margaritas as they sleuth their way to hidden truths. Good witching fun, with a sidecar of the supernatural.

This book will be an Amazon exclusive for at least 90 days (yes, it’s part of Kindle Unlimited for right now!). After that, I will re-evaluate whether or not to do another 90 days on the ‘Zon or go wide (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc.). If you feel strongly about one platform or another, let me know! There will also be an audiobook in the future…not sure if I am going to try narrating it myself, or hire someone with more experience. I hope to start “testing” the process as soon as I finish up The Kitchen Witch’s Guide to the New Normal, release date TBA.

SPI Girls Kick Ass!

The latest episode of Leslea is live, and with it, an announcement!

My secret project with besties Chrissy & Kat is now live on Kindle Vella. We’re releasing it under the shared pen name of Kaye Elsie. (KLC, get it?)

SPI Girls Kick Ass by Kaye Elsie

Kindle Vella is a serial platform, for short, episodic stories. The idea is, you find stories you enjoy, then you follow them. The first few episodes are free, then you can unlock future episodes for tokens. If you’re a fan of Radish or Wattpad, you’re familiar with the set-up.

SPI Girls Kick Ass is the story of three women who form a sort of dystopian “Charlie’s Angels” team in a world that something like Ready Player One meets Free Guy! It’s a whole lot of fun to write, and I hope you will check out the first few episodes for free on Kindle Vella.

And, of course, Miss Fitz goes live on Monday!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT! Pre-order it now and wake up to it on your Kindle. 😀

Miss Fitz Discovers Midlife Magic, a Paranormal Women’s Fiction Cozy Mystery

I’m off to bake a birthday cake now. Here’s hoping you have a kick-ass, magical weekend!

An Honest Woman (and her man!)

Howdy, partner! I’m getting the August newsletter ready for Smart Girls Gone Country readers. So much news today! Here are all the links that matter:

Emma Jameson on Miss Fitz!

My friend, NYT and USA Today best-selling author Emma Jameson was instrumentally helpful while I was rewriting Miss Fitz. I’ll be frank: she really saved my ass with her insights! That lady really knows her craft!

Here’s what she has to say about my new #pwf #cozymystery series:

I loved this book. Melissa Fitzpatrick (Miss Fitz) is a sleuth I can relate to and root for. Her world is both perfectly plain and transcendently whimsical; love, family, and friendship are rock-solid, yet wreathed in tendrils of fantasy as light as air. And there are recipes, because Miss Fitz rocks in the kitchen, just like her creator, Red Tash. In short: read this charming mystery, try a recipe or two, and join me in happy anticipation of more books in the series. ~Emma Jameson, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

Can you EVEN? I just keep re-reading this. It gives me super duper warm fuzzies.

While you’re waiting for Miss Fitz to debut, why not go check out one of Emma’s thoroughly enjoyable mysteries? I’m really loving her new Jem Jago series, but I’m also partial to Dr. Bones (Magic of Cornwall)! If you are an anglophile or an Acorn TV subscriber like me, you will NOT be disappointed!

This is the cover image of Salma, one of Miss Fitz’s besties! Isn’t she lovely?