Michaeline: Romantic fantasies

Woman lounging on a couch with a long jacket, long shirt and loose pants tied at the ankle
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, a sculptor and patron of the arts. (via Wikimedia Commons)

I was surprised to see a romantic vignette this morning on Japanese TV.

A cute young salaryman was getting coffee, when a rich woman spilled a cup of latte all over him. I came in just at the point when she said, “You have some time. Let me buy you a suit.”

The young man was shocked, but persuaded to go to the suit shop. She picked several for him to try on, and like a Ken doll, he dressed and submitted himself for review. “This is fine,” he said about the first one, not caring. She sent him back to the dressing room.

“I’m a little embarrassed; this is a bit flashy,” he said. He came out in a subtly striped suit with a definitely striped dress shirt and patterned tie combination – it worked, but was not conservative. “Next,” said the woman.

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Michaeline: Witness

You may already be journaling or writing daily, even through the daily crises and tribulations of 2020/2021. If so, good for you. Keep doing the good work!

If not, you might consider spending just 10 minutes today witnessing the world around you, and writing it down for posterity.

A lot of the best things I read in 2020 were the result of witnesses who saw, and told, the story of a time of trouble.

A woman in a dark room writing with feather quill and ink. She has a shawl around her shoulders, and a velvet slouchy beret.
Writing in times of darkness. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
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Michaeline: The Fabulous Five Weeks of New Year Plan

a check. Upper banner: May Courage and Good Health and Fortune Favour You. Your Course keep Cleap (clear) Through all the Year. The Consolidated BANK OF SUCCESS Pay to (blank line) the Bearer, Three hundred and sixty-five days of Prosperity, Good Luck and Happiness. L (pound mark?) New Year Greeting. Being the sincere wish of (blank line). Mountains, crest, New Zealand (?) flag bearer woman, native person (Maori?) with a spear and two feathers. Mountains and a road with a small bridge. The border repeats: Good luck, happiness, prosperity.
OK, Capitalism. But from New Zealand! So it’s got to be better for us! Wishing you all a nice draft from the bank of success in the coming year. (Image via Wikimedia)

Look, it’s been a rough 2020 for the world as a whole, and for many of us personally. I’m not here to tell you what you should or should not do. Except for this: you need to make room in your life for things you enjoy. Some of you are probably doing an excellent job of this already, while others may feel guilty about failing yourself on this as well as other things.

Well, first of all, stop feeling guilty about fun. It IS a luxury, no matter what people these days say. If you don’t find room for fun, well, that was life for millions of people all through the ages.

But . . . it is a delicious feeling to have a little fun when you’ve already got a lot going on. There’s no failing this quest – but there is winning this quest.

So, go ahead and read through my advice – and I’m going to tell you, making plans is really, really fun for me! I love giving advice, particularly if I think it’s good advice. But if it’s not for you, no hard feelings. You can comment about what does work for you, or go research a little deeper into methods that look more interesting. But I hope this will work for some of you (and I hope it will work for me, too).

Four kittens marching through the snow on hind legs, with ribbons around their necks, holly in their front paws. Flag by biggest cat reads: Bright and happy thy New Year. Caption is Happy and Free Jolly Cats are we.
May your new year be full of metaphorical jolly cats (and literal ones, if that’s the way you like it). (Image via Toronto Public Library)

The whole Fabulous Five Weeks of New Year Plan hinges on second chances and redemption. Maybe you don’t keep resolutions well for a whole year. This is a shorter-range plan than that. You only have to try for five weeks at a time. Then, the beauty of 2021 is that February 12 is almost

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Michaeline: Learning from a Christmas Story for 1945

Barbara Stanwyck being kissed by Dennis Morgan in a Warner Bros Poster for Christmas in Connecticut
Rom-com for the holidays! Barbara Stanwyck is fabulous in Christmas in Connecticut. (Image via Wikipedia Commons)

Happy Boxing Day, everyone! It’s the second day of Christmas as well as Saturday, which means for a lot of people, it’s a day off and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is starting to slow down.

Christmas isn’t such a big deal in Japan, although the merchants try to make it so. This year, most people worked; some kids got off school but only because Christmas fell on Friday this year and we lost the old emperor’s birthday in December now that the new emperor is on the throne. My kid and I had the day off, so I decided to make a Christmas feast on Christmas Day for the first time in, well, far too long.

To keep me company while I sliced and diced and boiled and roasted, I put on Christmas in Connecticut, a 1945 screwball comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet with Reginald Gardner and S.Z. Sakall. I wrote about it being my favorite Christmas movie back in 2017, and guess what? It still is!

Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a magazine writer who is scamming her publisher with fables of rural American womanhood – cooking, cleaning, shopping for antiques and even taking care of cattle. In reality, Elizabeth doesn’t

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Michaeline: A New York Happily Every After

Snow queen in a swan sled. An awed little boy in a sleigh behind her is entranced with her beauty and her shimmering crown and fur-trimmed gown that seems to turn into snow. They are going downhill fast through the snow at night.
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Princess McBride was a fairy. Well, actually, she was an actress in a car commercial (“The XVCalibre – it’ll whisk you away like magic!”). A starving actress, practically, who had just had a horrible day on the set. The sleazy director, Jason, was a yeller, the wardrobe mistress and her staff all quit at lunch, and then finally, after they finished, she found that someone had stolen her clothes. Jason sympathized, backed her into a corner and made her promise to have dinner with him, and then kissed her without a mask. He gave her ten bucks for cab fare. It cost fifty to get home, but she was so determined to escape him, she left the set, wearing the costume and the glittering amethyst jewelry of the XVCalibre Car Fairy.

So that’s how, two days before Christmas, she wound up taking the subway home. At least everyone on the train averted their eyes. She was trudging that final block home when she tripped over a man wearing a leather jacket and jeans, sprawled across the sidewalk under the broken streetlight.

“Gosh, are you OK, mister? Sorry!”

Mister was not OK.

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Michaeline: Being of Good Cheer

According to a Merriam-Webster post, “cheer” comes from the Greek cara meaning “face”. It originally could mean a happy face or a sad face, or any kind of face, but it gradually came to mean happiness and a certain rah-rah spirit.

I’m certainly feeling cheerful this year, in spite of all the crap going on in the world at large (the pandemic being a big piece of crap). I started an anti-depressant about a year ago, and it’s helped my outlook considerably. Things don’t seem as overwhelming as they did in, say, August 2019. I’ve been able to start and finish more little projects around the house, and the voice that tells me, “That’s HOUSEWORK. That’s not important or interesting. That’s NOTHING” – you know that voice – that voice doesn’t seem to hold as much conviction and persuasiveness as it used to.

A young girl welcoming a boy on a sleigh pulled by a giant pig. The boy has a Christmas tree in back. The card says, God Jul.
What a cheerful winter scene! Reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s The Hogfather, without the teeth. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve managed to finish my Christmas shopping, wrap my presents as they come in, and decorate the house – and not go overboard with wild schemes to have The Best Perfect Christmas Ever! I’m shooting for a nice Christmas; a comfy New Year; a cozy rest-of-winter-until-Valentine’s-Day 2021. My husband helped me tape up an outdoor Christmas tree made of three trellis and three strings of solar lights, and I made a Christmas tree out of cuttings for the front entrance, and a kitty tree for the porch. It actually sounds like a lot when I put it this way, but believe me, it was less than three hours of work, and that was spread out over different days.


When I feel like it, I make little paper decorations for the kitty tree, and I have a pretty red ribbon to tease the cats with. It’s less like work and more like therapy. (The decorations are shuriken made of origami – aka, Japanese throwing knives. For some reason,

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Michaeline: Holiday Gifts for Writers, Redux

The Farm Cats of Tokachi. The Gang’s All Here! Captain Greebo, Mama Tabby, Large, Medium and Chibi gather on the porch for after-snacks fun. One of the kittens steals Christmas!

Just last Sunday, Jilly wrote about holiday gifts for writers, and I came up with a few ideas I thought might get lost in the progress of the blog, so I thought I’d repeat them here and maybe add to them.

Personally, right now, I would like a holiday gift set of drinks. Warming beverages, because I’m in the northern hemisphere. Caffeinated teas or cocoa for the morning writing session, and some herbal tea (chamomile, mint, non-tea spice mix, turmeric) for afternoons and evenings. If you are writing in the southern hemisphere, a sun tea kit, or teas that can be chilled, or fancy and hard-to-find sodas could be welcome. Writing is thirsty work, and I like to have a cup of something at a safe distance from my laptop.

Here’s another idea: how about Merch for Christmas? Or a birthday?

The easiest way to do this would be to

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Michaeline: Thanks Given

Kana and Yuta, my housecats, form a ball of snuggle on the sofa. (E.M. Duskova)

It’s been a good week for me. We’ve had unseasonably sunny days, lots of visits from kitties and plenty of snuggles from the domesticated pets. And there was NaNo, which brought me a good story and some nice story seeds this week.

Before I talk about National Novel Writing Month, I do want to say a word or two about Thanksgiving dinner. It’s almost always on a workday in Japan, so I often do my best with some roast chicken and wait for the community Thanksgiving that we do in a huge kitchen with loads of people. (Loads being about 60 or 70 people eating, in our case.)

I miss seeing those people, but it was relaxing not to have to get up early and drive 45 minutes each way for a day of cooking and cleaning (and the very, very nice meal). And since I’m not working for anyone but myself these days, I decided to make a modified Thanksgiving feast. Roasted chicken thighs with sage. My mom’s dressing, cut in half, and mutated with my mom’s scalloped chicken recipe. It’s onions and celery in way too much

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Michaeline: Let Us Give Thanks

TEXT: ILLUSTRATED CURRENT NEWS To Prevent Influenza! Do not take any person's breath. Keep the mouth and teeth clean. Avoid those that cough and sneeze. Don't visit poorly ventilated places. Keep warm, get fresh air and sunshine. Don't use common drinking cups, towels, etc. Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze. Avoid Worry, Fear and Fatigue. Stay at home if you have a cold. Walk to your work or office. In sick rooms wear a gauze mask like in illustration.
From ILLUSTRATED CURRENT NEWS, October 18, 1918. At this time, the influenza pandemic wasn’t very old at all; it only reached Nebraska on October 3, for example. But the advice is much the same as the advice we get today. As the old folks say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. (Via HuskerMax.com, 1918 War, Influenza and football.)

It’s been a horrible year full of surprises and plot twists on the world stage. Late last year, COVID-19 made its first appearance, and by February, it had swept around the globe, and health officials were panicking. We learned about masks and social distancing, and those of us who could worked from home, and those of us who couldn’t washed our hands really well and hoped for the best.

The disease brought a lot of people to a standstill, and in that quiet time of reflection, a lot of things happened. I think a lot of the unrest in the US can be traced to people having time to do something about the injustices that have plagued our country for centuries (see my review of The Garies and Their Friends to see how much hasn’t changed since the 1850s for free Blacks). 

Unrest brought about reaction from people who had a lot of time on their hands to think and plan, and then came the election, which still isn’t settled as a done deal in every American’s mind.

Does it help to think that the world has been through similar circumstances before, and managed to get through the times of trouble and even thrive again? I think it does. During the pandemic of 1918, we saw a lot of the same scenarios play out – masks, mask-deniers; the

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Michaeline: Pet Inspiration for NaNo and Other Writing

I’m writing short stories for National Novel Writing Month, and here’s the elevator pitch for my work in progress:

Tabby Kate, caterwauler at the Brawler’s Grate, is on the run from her boss and former lover, Tuxedo Jones. Stowing away on Captain Alphabet Greebo’s ship seems like an easy solution for getting off the planet without getting noticed, but this stickler for the rules notices right away that he’s got trouble on his hands.

–Weird and Wonderful Stories for Every Holiday (WIP)

It’s about cats in space.

Tom cat looking in the window with his tabby lady cat friend. Both cats have ears perked forward and interested whiskers. Tabby is ready to run, though.

The Dynamic Duo: Captain Alphabet Greebo and Tabby Kate. Unlike their fictional counterparts, they don’t fight crime: they commit it. (E.M. Duskova)


Now, let me backtrack a little bit. We have two housecats and two dogs who have been featured on these screens before. But staying home this summer, I came to realize we’ve got at least seven outdoor cats. One mostly stays in the barn, and I rarely see him (a Tuxedo boy who is white and black), but the others hang around our house and the house next door, waiting

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