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.

Taking Punches

road-sign-940644_1280Someone said something to me a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. It just pops up every now and then. I can hear the voice and everything.

I was sitting at my desk at the beginning of a long shift at work when one of my co-workers, several desks down, looked up and said: “I want to be Tammi.” I remember my surprise and the way I replayed her words to make sure I heard what I thought I heard. My clever reply, of course, was “What?”

So she said it again. “I want to be Tammi. Nothing ever seems to bother you.”

I blinked for a moment as all of my current struggles flashed before my mind’s eye. “No, you don’t. You really really don’t.”

Looking back I am still surprised at her words. I don’t know if I will ever get over the surprise. It isn’t that I have a bad life. I am actually pretty blessed. However, it is not all roses and sunshine. This person knows this. She has been there to see when life sucker punched me over and over. It has taken a while but I think I understand what she meant now. I guess I have rolled with those punches and gotten back up. That is what she was expressing envy for.

I still don’t think it is that big of a deal. I think I do a crappy job at this whole existing as a responsible adult thing. It is hard. Every day is hard. It feels like life is just one big constant fight.

I fight to wake up in the morning. I fight to get Toby to school on time. I fight to get to boxing-415394_1920.jpgwork. I fight the school when they can’t understand Toby’s Autism. I fight to pay bills, to write, to have groceries, to walk the dog, to feed the cats, to wash the laundry and the dishes…every single day is pushing against the wind. It may not seem like it on the outside. Many of these are things everyone has to do.

Simple things take so much energy. I am tired all the time. Which is why I guess I don’t react as much as others when life throws me those sucker punches. I am already fighting. It doesn’t make sense to stop just because I got decked with a harder blow than normal. That doesn’t mean I like it and that doesn’t mean I don’t loudly express my exasperation and frustration. Sometimes I throw myself a toddler style fit until I cry and have to take a nap. I am not unaffected by life’s punches. I just don’t know how to stay down for the count. I don’t wish those punches on anyone else either, because I know how much they hurt. boxing-984174_1920

(I am honestly a little afraid to post this because the universe might see it as a challenge. Please Universe, don’t see my words as a challenge. Life punches hard enough already.)

Just Tired

I am tired. I’ve been tired so long I am not sure what not tired feels like. I can tell you what tired feels like though.

Tired feels like words just out of reach so that there are large gaps when you speak as you try to grasp the word you want or simply remember what it is you are trying to say. Tired is feeling like your eyes are always half closed rusted portals too dry to creak open all the way. Tired feels like effort to breathe, effort to think, effort to stand, sit, or sleep.

Tire feels like slogging along in thick mud caked boots so that each step is heavier than the last. Tired feels like wanting to sleep but knowing that sleep doesn’t help and neither does coffee. Tired is a constant. Or maybe that is just what it feels like right now.mammal-3096864__340

A rather depressing state

dust-cloud-593091_1920Recently I have been learning a great deal about the American Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s.  My grandparents were children during this period and it echoed throughout the rest of their lives. The more I learn the more I wonder if we aren’t heading for another one.

I know, I know, the politicians tell us that the depression of the past few years is over. However, it is an election year so they will say that. It also gives them an easy platforms to preach from because so many voters need similar things right now.

I don’t usually get into political topics because I don’t have the time or patience to make sure the boiling pot doesn’t boil over. I will make some observations though, because I see parallels between what I have been learning and what is going on today. I hear and read people constantly putting down and insulting those on welfare. Many of those programs came to be during the depression era. In pictures, I see the shame on the faces of the adults warring with relief as they wait in commodities lines for food to feed their families. These were people that were proud to worked hard. But at that time it didn’t matter how much they sweated in the fields or pounded the pavement in search of work. The rewards for diligence simply were not there.

Today I think if people look close they will see that same warring shame and weary relief on many of the faces of welfare today. True you still have those that abuse the system and see it as cart to carry them, rather than the hand up to help them stand it is supposed to be. Those aren’t the people the programs were created for.

The politicians will tell you that unemployment has gone down over the past few years. They will tell you hundreds of new jobs have opened up. What they don’t tell you is that many jobs that used to exist have vanished and many of the new positions are part time. With the health care reform acts many companies have been forced to provide insurance for their full time employees. This sounds like a good thing on paper.

However, insurance companies are being forced to accept new rules too. Since no one wants a drop in profits, they raise rates and adjust things here and there to keep their margins where they want it. The companies, who may not have a problem with the idea of helping their employees with health insurance, also don’t want profits to drop so they stop hiring full time employees and find insurance companies who offer lower prices for less coverage. The letter of the law is met and the bottom line protected even as the out of pocket cost rises for the average worker.

Everyone is required to have insurance or be fined, but few can find full time positions. Those lucky few that do, find that the hours they work are just barely enough to qualify as full time. Their take home pay is gouged severely by insurance premiums, taxes, stagnate wages, and minimum hours. Many work two or three part time jobs but still only bring home hardly enough to cover the basic bills.

Some of these employees apply for welfare from the over loaded system. They are working hard but it isn’t enough to both keep the rent paid and feed hungry mouths, much like the dust bowl farmers of the 30’s.  Others tighten already tighten belts until their ribs crack. Morale drops even as stubborn determination sets in. Families suffer under stress. Many are single parent homes, where the parent has to work several jobs and the kids go unattended. The choice these people must make is, Do I want to spend time with my children? Or do I want to feed them?

All of this means that the idea of “disposable income” is a joke. Sure those with the bonuses can buy the new car, house, or bass boat. But the backbone of the working class cannot. Most of them can’t even afford new shoes for aching feet.

The retail worker, the server, the cashier, the teacher,…the list goes on, these people are struggle financially. No one looks too close however. Even those fighting don’t really want to know how close to the edge they are.

If this routine continues, like an inflatable raft with a leak, the economy will eventually sink. The middle class that is supposed to blow air into the nozzle to keep it afloat can’t breath any more. And like dustbowl farmers before the droughts, the big money makers keep trying to increase their crops even though few are buying.

Eventually it will all turn to dust.

Guilty Blues

It is Monday again. My daughter goes back to school today after  being off for Winter break. Both of us are dragging our feet to get her there. Winter has finally arrived here in the Southern United States. It took a while. It may be chilly out right now but a few days ago I was comfortable on the porch in just a t-shirt and jeans.

Yesterday I divided my time into: feeling bad because my boss was sick and I couldn’t come in to work because my usual babysitter was AWOL; wondering why my parents weren’t answering their phone; feeling guilty because I felt the tiniest bit of relief that I wasn’t able to go to work because I couldn’t find a babysitter; and working on a story for my niece.

Today I still feel guilty because I was unable to go into work. This is the reason I never skipped school as a kid. The guilt eats at me. I never want to face droves of customers even on my regular shifts. I shouldn’t feel guilty because I felt relief at not facing them on a day off. But I let my boss down so I do.

This is the circle of self disappointment that has been swimming around and around my brain since the second or third time I failed to reach my mom. Yeah, I know. It’s dumb. Welcome to anxiety  depression. You obsess about things sometimes.