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

 

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.

My Dad

daddyHappy Birthday today to my awesome father. The man who originally gave me the inspiration to write. Without his example, I wouldn’t have realized how amazing it is to create your own worlds and to put your thoughts down in words. I wouldn’t have known it was possible.

When I was a kid I always saw my father reading in his spare time. We had Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine, Popular Mechanics, and a variety of books scattered here and there. My mother would sometimes get the chance to read, she loved it too but was often too busy with the responsibilities of tending to our family. I watched my father read and knew this was a good thing. I watched my father write and I knew that this was also a good thing. I watched Doctor Who and NOVA late into the night with him and learned about science. I watched the Dark Crystal and The Last Star Fighter and learned about dreams and fiction and possibilities.

I may have been laughed at by my peers when I answered a question in class with outlandish answers, but that was because they hadn’t been taught to look beyond the now. (I still get a bit of satisfaction from the fact that we do sometimes use robots to help clear minefields now. They laughed at me then but I was right in the end.) My dad has been one of the greatest role models of my life. I wouldn’t be who I am without him.

Happy Birthday Daddy! I love you.

Unplanned

black and white house under thick clouds
Photo by Alex Andrews on Pexels.com

Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Take this weekend for example. I had planned to get a ton of writing done. I was going to work on this short story I want to finish and send out before the end of June. I was going also work on this other thing that looks like it might be part two of something I’ve already completed. I was also hoping to plot some of a series I’ve been planning, then write a blog post.

None of that happened. Well, this is the blog post but not the one I originally planned on. Yesterday the sky was overcast and the wind was shouting nature’s fury through the trees. Then the storm began and the power went out. No power, no internet.

It was fine at first. All the people in my neighborhood opened their curtains and doors. People stood on their porches and watched the storm rage. When it the weather cleared the power was still out, so my son and I went to visit family, run a few errands, and grab some lunch. We passed downed trees and broken limbs everywhere; evidence that the storm had been worse than I thought. Traffic lights were down and a lot of places were without power.

It took us longer than expected but we returned home by seven in the evening to a dark house. The power rarely goes off where I live so I had expected it to be repaired by the time we made it home. It wasn’t a big deal to me. We have candles and lanterns if we need to see and I have a camp stove if we needed something warm to eat. I also have a reading list that never seems to get any smaller.

My son, however, thought the apocalypse had come. The battery in his game console was almost dead and so was his phone. He couldn’t turn on the tv or his computer and we had to use a tap light to see in the bathroom. I told him to read a book. He pouted for a bit but finally started a series he received for Christmas.

The power was back on by 10PM but it was kind of nice to unplug from technology for a bit. I managed to read three books and my son focused on something that wasn’t Minecraft for a few hours. So, even though things didn’t go as planned and I didn’t get the writing done that I wanted, it was still a pretty good day. (The power went off for a while today too but only for a few hours.)

The month for lightbulbs

I know, long time no post. I did mention back in August (I think) that I wouldn’t be posting
as often because of school and such. Life is still as crazy and busy as ever. However, I thought I would take a moment to let everyone know what I am working on. It is for school but I think it will have added benefits by the time I am done.

I didn’t come to that conclusion by myself, mind you. It took a comment from one of my classmates to make me see the potential. Thanks again Emily.

lights-1088141_640“…You could add links to your possible ideas and rough drafts so others can get an idea of your writing style and interests!”  I read this will drinking coffee
and the thoughts exploded in my brain like Christmas lights coming to life. I’ve had some complaints here and there that I don’t write enough about my writing. There are several reasons for that.

One is because I often use this blog to empty my brain of all the other things that get in the way when I try to write. It is my freedom space. All of those thoughts or ideas that have to go some place usually go here, with exceptions of course. This blog is me talking to myself in a crowded room. Yet, no one looks at me funny because if you are reading this you came here to see me talk to myself.

Now I have to create a new blog for school. I wasn’t really looking forward to it. I mean I 6a00d8341c630a53ef013488af5745970c-800wihave this one, amazontwitter, a facebook page, and I have a web page. I don’t update those anywhere near often enough. Why would I want to add one more to the mix? Why would I want to do all of that work for just a grade?

Then Emily commented on my post in our discussion area, (I am going to MTSU online) and it was like the scene from Dead mc2_robinwilliamsPoet’s Society when Robin Williams stands on his desk to gain a different point of view. My eyes were opened to the possibilities. I have needed a place to stash links to things I find online that I want to revisit. I am focusing on History and Literature at school, which is pretty much regular life for a grade and a bit more structured.

(I seriously should get my kids to guest post aboutIMG_20160409_144243004 how many museums and historical sites I drag them to and the documentaries we watch.)

So, coming soon: Back Stories: History in Fiction. It will be on blog spot because I like to spread myself around like that and it is something new to poke at. I will post a link here when I get it up and running.