Rules for Sleep

I’m feeling half asleep as I write this, but as I’m home and about to curl up in bed with my dogs and a good book, I don’t mind the muzzy feeling in my head just now. I’d thought to take a bath, but decided that I was so tired, Calgon might take me a bit farther away than is safe, so instead, there’s tea steeping, and dogs waiting to bed cuddled. It works.

It’s funny, but when my body is tired, my brain is always racing. So much neural activity is happening tonight, for example, that I just knocked out a lovely vignette in my Harry Potter fanfic series…it’s rough though, so isn’t posted yet.

I love the way the weight of sleep creeps up on me. Some nights, I think I’m wide awake, and then, as soon as Fuzzy’s in bed and the dogs are settled, and the lights are out, I feel my muscles settling, feel each finger and each toe growing heavier. When I was eight or so, a friend’s mother taught a group of us a mild form of self-hypnosis, really a relaxation exercise, that I still use, and being able to identify individual digits is part of it.

I lie flat, and close my eyes, and for a moment, I just revel in the soft pillows under my head (flipped so that the cool side is touching my skin) and the light cover of the cotton sheets above and beneath me. I identify the added weight of the blanket, the comforter, the quilt, many layers because we don’t use electric blankets, and because I like the air temperature to be cold, even though I like the bed temperature warm (this is a recurring theme with me).

I flex my toes, slowly, mentally telling each of them to go to sleep, and then I work from my feet to my head, flexing and releasing each muscle once and telling that part of me to rest. On good nights, I’m on my favorite swing in dreamland before I get to my thighs, on bad nights, I have to do the entire ritual twice.

On really bad nights, the ones where Fuzzy’s at work, and I’ve let my imagination go on overdrive, and am convinced there’s someone in the house (even though the dogs aren’t barking) I have to resort to guided imagery as well. I close my eyes, and take deep breaths, and count backwards from one hundred, imagining each number in glowing candleflame, and forcing myself to start over (25 numbers higher) every time I get sidetracked into any other image. It sounds hokey, but it works.

In some novel, I think it was one of the Low Country novels by Anne Rivers Siddons, a mother speaks of her daughter’s “rules for sleep” – a private ritual for keeping the boogie man at bay during the night. I had my own rules, as a child, and I think some of my habits are left over from when I was a small child with an imagination gone wild.

An unofficial list of my five-year-old self’s Rules for Sleep might have looked something like this:

Anything Under the Covers is Safe.
This was the most important rule. Blankets and sheets are bedtime armor, and the more of your body you can cocoon, the better, though it’s important to leave a breathing space. Suffocation is bad.

Doors Should Remain Closed.
This freaked my babysitters out – they claimed that everyone else wanted their door open. I didn’t. In my childish logic, I assumed that if whatever was after me had to go through a door, I’d have time to hear it coming.

Stuffed Animals Good. Real Animals Better.
Even my wuss of a chihuahua will growl at someone he perceives to be a threat to me – the poodle I had when I was five was completely fierce, however. The white fluffy lamb look was just an act. But, when the family dog is indisposed, an army of carefully selected, well-loved stuffed animals works well as an honor guard, patrolling the corridors of bedtime.

Light Fixes Everything
No matter how scared you are – it could be the worst nightmare, like the one I had after reading some novel, that my mother had no feet and the room had no floor (the latter was from a Hardy Boys mystery) – turning on the light makes everything okay. That scary shape that looks like a monster in the dark, is revealed, by lamplight, to be the sweater on the post of your bed.

When I was a little girl, I had to have a bit of reading before bed, a glass of water at my bedside, a light I could reach without having to get up, and either a stuffed animal, or my dog, to keep me safe. Today, I still have to have the water, and I generally have the dogs, and of course, there’s Fuzzy, and I /can/ sleep without any of them.

But why should I?


I’m not sure if she’s there every night, but every time I’m at the local Safeway, she’s there as well, lingering near her parked minivan, her voice quiet, but carrying easily through the twilight even so.

“Tomales!” she calls, a slight upward lilt at the end of the word. And then, when you’re just at her actual parking spot she meets your eye, no matter how much you try to evade her dark gaze, and she asks, her accent making it more musical than annoying, “Do you want to buy some tomales? Only a dollar each.”

Most nights, we shake our heads, and murmur, “No, thank you,” and she accepts this, and we go our separate ways. Tonight, we were hungry, and had nothing planned for dinner, and I knew, because her young son used to go from door to door selling the same tomales, in my parents’ old neighborhood a few blocks way, that they were “safe” the way those See’s candy bars that kids push so shamelessly, in order to earn money for school functions, are also “safe,” so we stopped, and I said, “sure.”

She has three kinds of tomales: chicken, pork, and jalapeno and cheese. We’re wusses about spices, and I’m not a pork fan, so we bought chicken tomales, six of them, giving her exact change, and being ushered to her van, which she opens to reveal still-warm containers of tomales, and which filled the immediate vicinity with the warm smell of corn and meat and herbs.

We thanked her, and walked the rest of the way to our parked car, and she went back to her routine, calling out, “Tomales!” and “Do you want to buy tomales – only a dollar each!” to the next passersby.

On the ride home, I mused about how Fuzzy never stops at truck farms when we go down highway one, and I always want to, and how I like supporting the people in my neighborhood, even if it’s just this small woman, probably about the same age as my mother, selling tomales in the Safeway parking lot, and not a storefront business.

But mostly, I was thinking about how much I love warm tomales, especially on a cool spring evening when I didn’t really want to cook.


Two people I know from their blogs have lost dogs in the last few days, a third less recently, and another lost a cat. And then there was the cat that was killed in front of our house the other night. I look at my dogs, and remember how terrified I was when Zorro ran away, the first weekend we owned our old condo, and every time he had a seizure, which, I hesitate to write, he has been free of for almost two years now.

I’m told that Americans treat their housepets differently than most other people, what with many of us bringing our animals into the bedroom, hiring petsitters, coddling our furry friends, so I ask: how, after being awakened in the morning by happy kisses from a pooch who is sharing their joy in life, or waking from a nightmare to find a furry body full of non-judgemental comfort, who will rouse himself from a comfortable position and accompany you to the bathroom, without you asking, can you NOT consider a pet as part of the family?

There are times I feel sorry for my pair, and their apparent compulsion to be my dual shadows. If I go into my office, they trot after me; if I go to the bedroom, they hop onto the bed, and wait with their eyes shining in seeming adoration. If I stop in the hall, momentarily indecisive about where I was going, they stop, too, and circle my legs, or jump up for cuddles.

There are times they annoy me – when I’m in the middle of a project and they want attention RIGHT NOW, when it’s 4 in the morning and they need to go out, when I’m doing laundry and they decide the stack of freshly folded clothing is the best place to sprawl, but those are fleeting moments, solced with nothing more than a firm No, and a treat later.

Most of the time, though, my dogs are sources of entertainment. I watch Cleo try over and over to catch flies, or chase birds; I grin at the way her tail curls when she goes on alert and runs the perimeter of the yard. I giggle at Zorro growling at his meat, when we feed him, a ferocious beast packed in an eight-pound body, and laugh when he ducks his head, and play-bows, demanding belly rubs.

Cleo is almost four, and Zorro is not quite seven, so hopefully there’s a while yet before we need to worry about either of them dying from natural causes, but whenever there are workmen here, the gardener, the pool guy, the recent stream of plumbers, I’m terrified that one of them will get out, and get lost, or hit by a car. And if that happened, would someone stop, as the kid who hit the cat did, and read their tags, and knock on doors, or would they drive away in denial? It’s a thought better left alone.

Instead, I’ll enjoy evenings like this one: we watched a movie earlier, and each of us had a dog to cuddle during the gorey bits (it was Freddy vs. Jason), and then my actifed kicked in, and I went off to take a nap, with two furry guardians making sure I rested, and now Fuzzy’s in his office, and I’m sitting on the bed, and the dogs are taking turns visiting each of us. Later tonight, we’ll settle in for sleep, and so will they, only content when their family – their pack – is together.


I read once, that the mystery novelist John Dickson Carr (aka Carter Dickson), has a sign above his desk that reads, “Weird Villain Liaison” because he habitually misspells those three words when he writes. I don’t have any habitual misspellings, but sometimes I’ll use a simple word, like “fork,” and it just looks wrong. Is it a sign of early dementia when basic pattern recognition fails to work, or just a symptom of being a bit distracted, having a mind that’s racing in several different directions at once? (For that matter, doesn’t that rather describe dementia in it’s non-clinical form?)

Words, not specific words, but the spelling and choosing of them, have been catching my eye this past week, as I’ve been having a feast of Laurie R. King novels. For the unfamiliar, she writes a series about a “retired” Sherlock Holmes and his young American-born protege-cum-spouse, Mary Russell. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Holmes’s adventures ever since I first came upon The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was quite young, and it’s a love affair that was only enhanced by the performance of the late Jeremy Brett in the PBS/Granada TV series from the eighties. (When I later found out that Brett played Freddie in the movie of My Fair Lady I thought it was cool that two of my favorite things – mysteries and musicals – had a connection.) As I grew older, my taste in things Sherlockian expanded to include some very cool pastiches, like The Seven Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer (the movie, however, was awful), and even some rather obscure fanfic that I picked up at a Star Trek convention once when I was nineteen.

But I digress.

It’s not the plots or the characters that are catching my attention at this moment (though, be assured, they are grippng when I am actually reading), as much as it is Ms. King’s use of Conan Doyle-esque style. All those fussy Victorian spellings are there, like “phantasy” instead of “fantasy,” and “connexion” for “connection” but the dialogue is a mix of British and American English, and while it can be jarring, at times, because otherwise the Mary Russell character feels like she was a member of Holmes’ universe from the start, it’s at least well-done, and reminds us that Russell is supposed to be from San Francisco.

Elsewhere on the word front, not recently read, but recalled from childhood, are Ogden Nash (I grew up being madly in love with the story of Belinda and her “really-o truly-o little pet dragon.”) even if he did resort to puns all too often, and Poe, through whom I met and fell in love with the word, “tintinnabulation,” as well as the concept of onomatopoeia, you know, those words that sound like what they mean, i.e. “squish,” “bang,” “crack,” and “slap”.

Words are my drug of choice, these days, chosen even over caffeine.
Is it any surprise when I tell you my favorite games are Balderdash and Scrabble?


Last night, I smelled Cedar in my bathroom, or thought I did, but didn’t say anything about it to Fuzzy, for fear of being teased. Besides, we’d been talking about saunas at work, and it might have just been my over-active imagination.

This morning, I awoke to a grey sky and was immediately ecstatic. The rain has returned! We’re really not beginning summer in March! When I walked into my bathroom, there was still a faint trace of something like Cedar, and there was condensation on the inside of the window over the sink. But, again, I didn’t think anything of it. Surely it’s been that way before. Hasn’t it?

Then tonight, when we got home from work, I was luxuriating in a bath full of bubbly minty water, reading the first chapter of my third straight Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russel book by Laurie R. King, when Fuzzy came in, and paused. “The floor is bulging,” he informed me, his voice sliding from its usual bass up past the tenor ranges. “That means there’s water under the linoleum.”

Now, it’s important to remember that we spent a small fortune and a week of plumber-enhanced hell, this winter, because of a broken sewer main in this same bathroom, and therefore we’re both a little paranoid (Fuzzy more so, this time, but only because I was blissed out by the bubblebath.)

Out Fuzzy goes, with his big clompy boots and a flashlight we got from the Winchester Mystery House last Halloween, and then, a bit later, in he tromps. “Are you done with the hot water?”

“What’s wrong?” I demand.

“Are you? Because you have to stop everything now.”

“The washer has to finish,” I remind.

“We may not have 14 minutes. Everything will be ruined. That bubble is getting bigger!” (It wasn’t, but some things you just can’t argue about.)

“What’s wrong?” I repeat sliding the drain stopper aside, and making the decision to end the bath.

“There’s a valve, and water is POURING from it. It’s all leaking under the floor. There’s mud.”

Having never really bothered to wade through the much and mire that was once a dog run for a wolf-hybrid and now serves only to irk me, I’ve never looked at the closet for the water heater. But Fuzzy has. Go Fuzzy. So he clomped back out, and I got out of the bath and into fuzzy pajamas. (The best thing about the rain is that I get to wear fuzzy pajamas.)

Eventually, I find out that the tpr valve has ceased to function, and he’s turned off the water heater, the gas to the water heater, and the cold water input to the water heater. He calls a water heater emergency service, and within an hour a guy in a white plumbing van is outside our door.

I would be a very happy woman if I never had to see another white plumbing van.


So, Water Heater Fixit Guy tromps out back, and his flashlight dies, so Fuzzy gives him a Winchester Mystery House light of his own (we have a collection, apparently) and then a few minutes later (well, okay, half an hour later) the van leaves, and Fuzzy comes back, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” he asks.

Evil man.

Of course, I’ve already been researching the price of water heaters, and finding that they’re not terribly expensive. About $500 for a Really Really Really good 50-gallon (our size) one, before installation and accessories. We could do it ourselves, but Fuzzy’s not good at stuff like that.

“About a thousand dollars,” he tells me, handing me the estimate. “But we then have to get it permitted, because when they replace it, they have to bring everything up to current code.”

“How long does that take?”

“Two weeks.”

“You want me to live without hot water for two weeks?!?!!!!”

But before I could start cursing, he assured me that the permits happen AFTER the work is done. And that if we go with this company, they’ll have their white plumbing van outside the house between 7 and 9 tomorrow morning, and I’ll either be asleep or at the salon, and won’t even know they’re around.

I agreed to the estimate. Even though I think we could get a cheaper water heater from another source, I know we couldn’t get it by nine AM, and without my involvement.

I spent an hour looking at potential replacement bathtubs to soothe myself. Bathtubs, soaking tubs, which is what I want, are surprisingly reasonably priced, but I guess when you consider it, they’re just big pieces of plastic with strategically placed holes.

Fuzzy’s evening, however, took a turn for the worse. Cleo, our belligerent barking bitch of Beelzebub, took issue with him trying to take her squeaker, lovingly liberated from inside a plushie, and nipped his finger, drawing blood.

And, unlike every other time she’s done something wrong, she has NOT gone up to him to cuddle and apologize.

But…at least there was lovely rain today.


It’s fitting, I think, that I’m redesigning my blog tonight, because not only is it the beginning of a new season (I don’t mean the exact beginning, but, at less than a week into Spring, we’re still at the beginning) but it’s also the anniversary of my marriage to Fuzzy.
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