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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Beware The Writer/ My Ego

coffee mugThere are  times when being a writer goes to my head. Like this morning for example. My daughter has a big test today and asked if I would take her by a coffee shop before school. Since coffee sounded good to me too I agreed. So I dropped my son of at his primary school and took my daughter out for caffeine.

Yes, I know. Some of you are saying that is  horrible parenting, but there is  more sugar than caffeine in her drink. It is like glorified chocolate milk. She thinks she is drinking coffee and feels adult, while I con her into eating breakfast which is really what wakes her up. (Shhh that is parental trickery.)

Anyway, the line at the drive through was roughly 140,000 cars long so I decided to go in. My hair was pulled back in a pony tail and I was wearing sweats because it was chilly this morning. I originally had no plans of getting out of the car. I was just going to drop the kids off and come home to work in the garden.

(Before I continue, I should  mention that I have worked as a barista before. I understand what it is like on the other side of the counter. I did it for years.)

So I walked inside and I am the third person in line. Waiting patiently, I pick out the food I am going to order and watch the antics of the a very enthusiastic child in line ahead of me. Then suddenly it is my turn and I order, pay, leave a tip, and step to the side to await my food and drink.

Usually, they go over and bag up the food first. Instead the young man took the next person in line. Which I was okay with because it is Monday morning and all. People need their coffee or tea. Fifteen minutes later my drinks were ready at the other counter but I still hadn’t received my food.

I watched the young man rush around and prepare things for the other customers who came after me. I tried to catch his eye but he refused to look up. That was when I started to get annoyed.

In my head I was having a conversation along the lines of: Yes I am dressed down. If you give me my stuff I will leave! I have work to do. Oh no you did not just ignore me! You do not realize who you are dealing with my young man! Do you want that receding hair line immortalized forever in words?…tumblr_mlkf0pWOiX1s0x8bxo1_500

It went like that for another few minutes until I came to the realization that I sounded  like Chaucer from the movie A Knight’s Tale. Fortunately, a nice young lady came up and asked if she could be of assistance so I got my food and my daughter to school on time, even if she had to eat a bit hurriedly.

The saying is: “Writer’s get their revenge in print.”

I will not say I have never written people who have ticked me off into a story. Those annoying people are a valuable resource for a writer because they bring out strong emotions that translate to page and then to the reader. However, not  even that person’s mother would recognize them in my prose, because it is more that I write the feeling of them rather than the actual person. Writer’s draw on personal experience. That means both the good and the bad.

I even have a t-shirt that offers a disclaimer. It warns: “Be careful or you could end up in my novel.”

P.S.

For those interested, here is the quote from the character Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale.

“I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day; you will be naked for eternity.”~ Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale

Thoughts Before The Alarm

toby feetSometimes I wake up an hour or so before the alarm goes off. If I am still really tired, and my mind hasn’t woken up yet, it is easy to just roll over and go back to sleep. Those times are few and far between however.

I often wake up and find my mind has been in over drive and is still running strong when my eyes pop open. Sometimes that takes the form of weird half remembered dreams. Sometimes it is the 3a.m. epiphany that has me scrambling for pen and paper in the dark.

(3a.m. epiphanies tend to be an interesting thing for me. Either it will be this great idea, that truly is great, but I won’t be able to read what I’ve written later. Or it will be a crappy idea that I thought was great at 3a.m. in the dark. I don’t turn the light on because the only thought I have after that happens is: “Ahhhhh! my eyes!”)

This morning I woke up with my head hurting like my brain has been going for Olympic gold in mental gymnastics and practicing while the rest of me sleeps. I had a thousand and one thoughts running through my head. Part of me was excited because obviously my brain isn’t a dull as I have been lately beginning to believe. Part of me was mad because my head hurt and I had two hours before the alarm. The last part of me, the writer part, was all: “Go for coffee and write it down! No skip the coffee! You might forget something, Go write!”

Art by my 12yr old daughter
Art by my 12yr old daughter

Which is why I stumbled through the dark to my bedroom door intent on reaching my computer. The problem was I forgot about “The Horde”.  Nope, that isn’t a rock band or the misspelling of all the crap littering my hallway.  That is in reference to the trio of cats who occupy my house. (Panda, Casper, and Max.) They look cute and fluffy but nothing stands in the way of their breakfast.

 

So as I stumbled down the hall it was to amax sleeping chorus of meows and the feel of little sharp kitten claws. (Max doesn’t meow much. He is blind and I think meowing messes with his radar or something. I don’t know. Maybe the other two put him up to the biting because they know he is a baby and I won’t do anything to him. Whatever the reason, kitten claws and teeth hurt.)

pandaNormally, by the time I make it to the kitchen and feed them all in order of rank, (This is important. There will be a war if rank isn’t followed. Panda always gets fed first.) any idea that is still hanging around is a strong one.

So what did I think about this morning that had me crawling out of bed, stumbling to my computer before coffee, and facing The Horde two hours early? Heck if I know, but I thought if I was here anyway I might as well write.