The Pain of Pancakes

I have a younger cousin in high school, who is a writer. She isn’t published yet as far as I know but she ended up with that creative gene that affects so many in my family. I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. It is actually comforting when one of us is experiencing one of those pesky writer problems and the other knows exactly what it feels like. This kid has such a bright spark too. Her life hasn’t been the easiest but I know one day she is going to take all of that and use it to do something fantastic.

fairy-1181702_1280My eldest child and this cousin are exactly one year and one day apart in age. If this were a fairy tale that would mean joining together on an epic journey to a hopefully happy ending. Honestly, if they ever decide to do comics or something, it could happen. My eldest is an artist. ( And yes, I realize there are more ways for a collaboration between a writer and an artist to happen other than comic books, but I watch Into the Spider-Verse last night and so comics were the first things that popped into my head.)

I am horrible at making pancakes. (Also know as hotcakes or flapjacks.) You are probably wondering what one thing has to do with the other, but stick with me please, I really do have a point.

This past week was filled to the gills with errands and appointments and I didn’t sleep catnapwell all week. I’ve been having trouble with writing because when I sit down to write I know I don’t have the time to just get lost in the words like I prefer. Everyday worries and responsibilities keep crowding in and I lose my focus. Also, I have just been so tired.

I take naps in my car on my lunch break at work because my head is too fuzzy to concentrate. I have trouble string words together coherently and the filter between my brain and my mouth isn’t working correctly either. This has been going on for a while. I’ve been depressed and frustrated with life and it only seems to get more difficult as the days go on.

Last week my annoyance levels hit the “to hell with it mark”. Often, that is a bad thing but it can occasionally be a good thing too. When I reach THWI, I can either go do something stupid or I can stop looking at all I can’t accomplish and start looking for things I can.

UndertowIn this case, I pulled up the poetry chapbook I have been fighting the formatting on for months. I sat down, added another poem, deleted all the pretty pictures I had plucked off pixabay, added some simplistic basic art instead (also from pixabay), and then spent hours adjusting and deleting things. I paid attention to what got me the result I was after and what caused problems when I uploaded my manuscript to Amazon. I came to the conclusion that I was an idiot when I realized I was causing one of the main issues myself. However, I kept plugging away and now I have a new poetry chapbook available.

(Right now I am also working on a book of short stories because I have had some complaints from readers who prefer physical copies. Once I am done, it will include all of the shorts I currently have up on Amazon and even more shiny new ones.)

Once I finished the book and ordered a proof of the physical copy, I got the oil changed in my car and then washed the poor thing. I started feeling better because I could see progress. I still had all of the other obligations that had been dragging me down but now I felt better about my ability to get things done and I managed to get a little more sleep.

This brings us back to pancakes. I truly am awful when it comes to making pancakes. pancake-640869_1920I have heard all the tips and tricks. I have watched carefully as other people make them but my pancakes still turn out barely edible if I am lucky. My kids beg me to buy the frozen kind that you heat up in the microwave so that they won’t be forced to endure my attempts at the homemade variety.

I usually listen to them, but a few weeks ago there was a sale at the grocery store on mixes. I picked up a packet of confetti style and a packet of chocolate chip batter mix. I smiled as I thought about getting up early on a Sunday and surprising the kids with a breakfast of fun pancakes and bacon. If one of the kids had been at the store with me, those packets would have never made it to the cart.

I know I am bad at pancakes but I still keep hoping that one day I’ll get it, that it will just click and suddenly I’ll be the pancake queen. I am awesome at grilled cheese so I don’t understand why pancakes are so difficult. I used to be really bad at scrambled eggs but my sister eventually fixed that, so I live in hope that I one day I will be good at pancakes too.

(If you doubt my inept pancake skills, I have had at least three different friends on separate occasions walk in on me during pancake experiments over the years. Each time they wore the same expression of horrified disbelief before they pushed me away from the cooking surface and took my spatula, then proceeded to churn out perfect pancakes from the rest of the batter. My friend Jessi could even make them look like cute little animals.)

cold-2722002_1920This morning the house was chilly because yesterday was lovely and sunny and I didn’t think to turn the heat on before bed last night. I slept in because warm blankets in a cool house are one of the best things in the world. When I awoke, I laid there in my warm cocoon and remembered the packets of pancake mix I had stored in the drawer. It was a perfect warm breakfast day.

After letting the dogs out and feeding the cats, I pulled together all of the things I would need and carefully read the instructions on the back of the package. My son walked in while the first pancake was in the pan and quickly requested something different for breakfast. I frowned but told him he could have what he was asking for along with the chocolate chip pancakes. (He is on the autism spectrum and it is hard to get him to eat different things.) Defeated, he left me to it.

craft-1423803_1920.jpgThe first pancake was black. I lost track of how long it was in the pan while talking to my son. The second one was less black but still overdone and with tiny bits of plastic stuck to it where the spatula melted. I cleaned the pan and switch to the metal spatula that I should have been using all along. This time I had better results. Still not good, but better. By the time I got to the end of the batter, I managed two reasonably roundish, lightly browned pancakes. I presented them to my son and ate a couple of the more promising failures myself.  We each ate about half of our pancakes because warm chocolate chips first thing in the morning turned out not to be the best idea.

Life is full of challenges like pancakes. It may seem like something simple that everyonevintage-1722329_1920 you know can accomplish without issue. That doesn’t mean you should be disheartened because it is difficult for you. It just means that it is going to take you extra effort to accomplish what seems easy to them. There are probably things that you do without a second thought that others find hard.

Something I hope both my cousin and my eldest child remember as they grow in talent and in life is that it is okay if the first try doesn’t work. It is okay if your repeated attempts don’t turn out perfect. Success is defined by the person who is attempting to achieve it.

In my case successful pancakes aren’t bunny shaped, they are just edible ones. One day that may change. Right now I know what I need to master first; the challenge that is in front of me.

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Sunday Yard Sales and Writing

Right now I am sitting on my front porch with my computer open before me. It is pleasant and sunny with a strong breeze blowing the wind chimes. Two tables are set up at the end of my driveway with various items decorating the tops in the hopes of enticing some random person into handing over cash.  This was not my idea.

54514151_10210688318363354_3942095613344088064_oYesterday I went to a small convention in Chattanooga. Even though I was running on only a couple of hours of sleep, I had a good time. I picked up a couple of graphic novels and a nine-tailed plushy of a kitsune in glasses. It was fun. It was Metrotham Con’s inaugural year and I think I just may return for year two if they manage it.

My weekends are usually divided up into a day where I actually go out among the masses and accomplish things like socializing or grocery shopping, and a day where I stay home and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Yesterday was my do things day. Today was supposed to be my stay home and do-nothing-unless-it-involves-a-creative-endeavor day.

Then my mom decided she wanted to have a yard sale. At my house. On a Sunday. At one o’clock in the afternoon. label-2016248_1280

She is having a bad depression day too which isn’t making life any easier. Signs weren’t put up to advertise her impromptu yard sale until 2 o’clock. We haven’t had anyone stop by yet but I am still sitting here waiting. She decided to run home and see if she could convince my dad to come back with her, so now I am temporarily in charge. I put a few of my books on the table with her stuff because, why not?

If she does manage to get my dad to return with her maybe I will cook dinner for all of us or something. I highly suspect that no one will return and in about an hour I will be packing away her yard sale. That is okay too, I guess.

So far this yard sale hasn’t generated any revenue unless you count words. I started a new story and have been fighting formatting for the new poetry book I’ve been trying to get out. I also managed to write this post. If this day had gone the way I planned, I probably would have never changed out of my pajamas and would have stayed inside reading. I consider that a perfectly reasonable way to spend a day off. However, this has maybe turned out better. Sitting out here is rather relaxing and peaceful. Duke

 

Life right now

Quicksand_9977I haven’t felt much like writing lately. I think my depression has raised its head to torment me because I really haven’t felt much like doing anything. I also haven’t been sleeping well. It just seems that everyone either needs something from me or wants to tell me what to do lately. I just want to hole up in a cabin somewhere away from people. I want to turn my phone off. I don’t want to check social media or talk to anyone on the phone. I don’t even want to text.

When I sleep I have nightmares. When I am awake there is always something I have to do. Reservations for a hotel for Libertycon, change reservations for Libertycon, cancel old reservations (still need to do that), make optometrist appointments for the kids because I am tired of wiring together my son’s glasses with jewelry wire, doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments….the list goes on and on. I just want to be for a little while. I want to just sit here and not worry about work or paying bills or fixing the car or the toilet. I just want to sit still and breathe.

Watermelon Pajamas and Word Attacks

I slept in a little today because I haven’t been sleeping very well the past few nights. I woke up to a question from my younger cousin who was having trouble with her math homework. She reached out to me online for assistance and while she included a picture of the problem I could not make heads or tails of it.

doctor wibbilyMath is not my forte. Part of it is because I am somewhat dyslexic, especially with numbers, but did not find out until I was in college. So all the math teachers before college, though they explained things well, never got the information to click in my brain. I did what they told me but still came up with the wrong answers, so at the time I assumed I was doing the problem wrong. It turns out that I was more likely doing the wrong problem. It makes a difference if you are dealing with 35 as opposed to 53.

Holmes

Still, I wanted to help my cousin so I, in turn, reached out to a writer friend who also happens to be a math teacher. He explained the question in a way that made sense even to me. I passed the explanation over to my cousin who was then happily able to complete her homework now that she knew what it wanted her to do.

Finally, I sat down with my coffee and brought up my current work in progress, only to click open a new document instead. The whole confusion over the math problem gave me an idea. I thought to jot it down for my own amusement and revisit it later.

out of toushTwo thousand words later here I am, still in my watermelon dotted PJs trying to figure out what happened. I now have a new magical world where proficiencies are denoted by color and there seems to be some type of political catastrophy boiling up in another country. My brain feels like mush. I don’t know if I should keep plugging away at this thing or go back to what I planned on doing today. I think I am going to take a break before deciding.

Accelerating Down Hill

holidays-1283014_1920So about twenty or so years ago, (Yeah, I know. I’m getting old.) My boyfriend at the time and I tried to take a trip up to Chilhowee. We ended up most of the way up the mountain before trouble struck. A screw in the engine vibrated loose and fell in just the right place that the accelerator became stuck. We quickly realized that we had a problem and turned around. It was my car so I was driving. We took curves at 80 miles an hour because there was no other choice. I burned up the breaks getting down the mountain and used up the emergency break getting home, once we were on comparably flat ground again. I always considered that as a once in a lifetime event. I had to back part of the way down the mountain at one point too.

 

Yesterday, I used a couple of hours of vacation time to leave work early. Chattacon is this

shopping-1761233_1920weekend and my kid needed some light gray face paint for cosplay purposes. I had tried to acquire it during my lunch break but couldn’t find it at the three stops I managed. So I was hungry, cold, and grumpy when I came back. I caught myself almost snapping at an insistent customer and thought that excusing myself would be the better part of valor. My vacation time was approved so I left early to search Target for the elusive face paint, only to find that Google lied about it being there as well. I figured I would just have to stop in Chattanooga tomorrow after Toby’s therapy appointment. So I turned on to Paul Huff Parkway to hit the interstate and go home.

 

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Unfortunately, that was when lighting figuratively struck twice. I speed up to go up a hill and heard a click. Then the gas pedal was stuck to the floor and I was clearing the other side of the hill with traffic in front of me and behind me. My emergency flashers wouldn’t come on. (I blew a fuse to the turn signals a couple of days ago and the old fuse was stuck and wouldn’t come loose. I had planned to get my brother to fix it the next time he was over.) However, there was a gas station coming up on my left, so with smoke coming up from my breaks, I timed it until the road was clear enough and shot across three lanes of traffic and into the Speedway parking lot before throwing the car in neutral and stomping the breaks until I slowed and then was able to slam the shifter into park and turn the thing off. (I felt like I was stuck in a Final Destination movie for a moment.)
I called my brother who was just sitting down to dinner with his wife and his friend. He left with an empty stomach and came out into the cold to rescue me. (I really do have the best brother in the world.) We didn’t manage to fix the problem but he did get the turn signal fuse replaced. He took the idle positioning sensor off and we have to cough up $150 tomorrow for a new one. Oddly enough, the thing idles better without the Image result for idle positioning sensorpositioning sensor than it ever did with it. I guess that means it has been going bad for a while. I am thankful that James wasn’t too far away and I am also thankful that it happened during daylight and without my kids in the car. The fact that I had experienced something similar before helped me keep a calm head while it was happening. (The “Oh Shit” response didn’t kick in until after the car was turned off and I had already called my brother.)

A Late Night And A Full Moon

dscn0227[1]Last night I stayed up too late. I didn’t actually go to bed until after five this morning. I took a nap yesterday afternoon because I knew I would want to take a peek at the Lunar eclipse. If I didn’t take a nap, I probably would have been warm and comfortable in my pajamas by the time the eclipse started and then I wouldn’t want to go out into the cold. And it was cold, 18 degrees to be exact.

The moon was full and round, as something called a Super Blood Wolf Moon should be. The eclipse itself was pretty spectacular too. We won’t see another total lunar eclipse until May of 2021.

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I managed to get a few pictures before I could no longer feel my fingers and toes. Some of them turned out pretty good considering my camera isn’t exactly fancy and doesn’t have extra lenses and such. I warmed up with a hot drink then sat down to read since the cold had made sure I was wide awake. I only have one book of a trilogy left to read and then the first one of the next trilogy. After that I have to wait for the author (Yes, still Mercedes Lackey,) to publish more.

I have been able to focus more on writing lately though some places feel like I am struggling through a swamp. I have to write a magic battle coming up next and I need to visualize it so I can describe it properly. However, this is harder than it sounds. At first, my brain kept basically showing me Dragon Ball Z reruns with my characters substituted and I had to convince it that there would be no Kamehameha-ing going on. Now I have an inkling of an idea. I just have to flesh it out.

I am also working on another nonfiction book I hope to have completed by May. If I focused solely on it I could probably have it done earlier, but I have other things I am working on too. I am also thinking about putting out another book of short stories. I haven’t decided for sure on that yet but I am gathering my orphans together so to speak.

Next weekend, if all goes well, I will probably be popping in at a local convention.

We must use time creatively. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

January Pains

Image result for january 8 2019 calendarToday is Tuesday 1/8/2019. Most of you know that but I need the reminder. My sense of time and date has been off since Christmas. My patience has been off for two or three days now. I have none. It’s gone. My ears hurt and that turns me into a whiny, stomping, toddler version of the Hulk. I admit it.

I’ve done a lot of jaw clenching and teeth grinding over the past couple of days because I know my mood is horrid. I get really annoyed about little things because I hurt and even small inconveniences feel like one more thing to put up with on top of the hurting. It all started on Friday or Saturday when my dog was enjoyingImage result for cold the cool air and the wind whipping through her fur and refused to come in. So I stood with my sweater wrapped around me in the fading dusk, calling and whistling for the brat to come to me so I didn’t have to traipse through the patch of woods near the house.

That thirty minutes of cold air blowing into my ears did me in. I am paying for it now. It doesn’t help that my day job entails wearing headphones for 8-9 hours and there is no sound level regulation. I mean I can turn the volume up and down, sure. Yet one call can be at a normal level and the next is eardrum-shattering loud. That means I am trying not to voice pain while frantically pressing the button to turn down the volume and listen to whatever the person on the other end of the line is saying.

entrepreneur-1340649_1920January is also the months of employment threat stress. This is true no matter where you work. January is when all those above you on the totem pole start getting a ton of pressure from all the ones above them to “trim the fat”. That can be anything from how many work hours a retail store is allowed for employees to how long phone calls take and how many you get through in a day. In a grocery store, they sometimes focus on items scanned per minute. So hours are cut or quotas are raised and everyone is pressured to do more with less or else there could be repercussions.

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Right now, in my current mood and with my aching ears it all feels like so much B.S.