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Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

Why must we torture ourselves so?

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

So, we committed ourselves to a self-imposed challenge we are calling “Sober October”. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

It’s about as dreadful as it sounds and we are one week into it.

While the title implies it’s all about the boozing, that’s only part of the package. We have been drinking too much too, among other things this past year plus. This self-imposed torture is about what some might call “Self Love”.

Sober October is committing to 31 days of “sobering” cutbacks and kick-it-ups. Thirty-one days of self- punishment, ahem, love, with a cheat day allowed for Thanksgiving, only because it’s Thanksgiving (Even if Covid means limiting family gatherings. But hey, pumpkin and apple pies, right? You don’t need a houseful of people for apple pie!) but not going all out crazy that day.

Thirty-one gruesome days of watching calories, eating healthier, eating smaller portions, zero alcohol, zero snacking, except for the Thanksgiving cheat, exercising daily at home and/or hitting the gym (or nearly daily, we fail at daily) – basically sucking all enjoyment out of life.

Before Covid shut down the gyms a year and a half ago we went on a semi-regular basis. I did walking exercise at least two to three times a week. Since they shut down I continued regular almost daily walking exercise at home and we did occasional long hikes. So you wouldn’t think it would be such a stretch to do the walking exercise most days with the gym at least half the days.

A week in and I feel more tired, more achy, weaker, and hungry more.

Even now, after a banana for breakfast and a hot coffee at my side, my achy legs are hating me for telling them as soon as I finish posting this it’s time to get walking. And I need to do an extra walk to make up for working through lunch on the job that pays the bills yesterday and missing my noon walking.

Got to get ‘er done to get on with the cleaning house and walking the dogs (One at a time because they are arseholes walking together, yay dogs.), before exercising again, showering, picking up the kid from work, and supper.

Maybe by the end of the month it will have given me some new fodder for dark stories of depravity.

Be good to yourself and keep writing my friends.

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Sometimes life just gets in the way of our promises we make to ourselves and to others.

At times life just makes us suck, right? We make promises we’ll do something and then before you know it time has passed and it didn’t happen. Of course, we can’t just put all the blame on outside sources, Old Man Time, Mother Nature, demands on us for work, family, and friends, or the wickedness of surreal time and memory lapses causing time to pass quickly or drag endlessly while we forget some things while focusing too much on others.

Ultimately we are in control of our own actions and lack of them. We own how much actual effort we put into meeting those deadlines, self-imposed or not. And in keeping promises we made whether they are to ourselves or others.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Maybe you just overreached what you can manage. Good intentions and all that.

And life does constantly throw up little roadblocks, bumps in the road, and a thousand mini obstacles.

Still, we have to reflect on ourselves and look inward, but with the same compassion and understanding we hope others will give to us, and that we must give to others because we strive to be good people.

A promise to both myself and you to commit to weekly blog posts. One I am still failing on at the moment. It is a surprisingly large time commitment when your time is stretched. But, ultimately, I own the fail on that.

Committing to self-care, that term floated to you that often seems intangible. As illusive as that hint of motion caught in the corner of your eye that is gone when you turn to look.

A promise to myself, and perhaps to my all of three fans, if they truly exist outside the realm of fiction, to finish some of the endless WIPs taking up disk space and eating away at my guilty subconscious for neglecting them, stories waiting to be told. To write new stories. To have some of these shorts published and finish the novel length works so they too can be released upon the world with all their pervading darkness. Another fail, but a wish not abandoned entirely.

March 19, 2020, my first day working remotely due to Covid. Today is October, the start of the best month for us writers of horror and everything dark. This is one year and almost 6 1/2 months of ultimate fail to my writer self, failing to write, to feel that energizing driven inspiration. The crossing of that 1 1/2 year mark of writing rut that began on that very strange feeling day when it seemed I was in my own insidious dark story of a world gone upside down where the down below became our world.

Am I alone in feeling a little down, a little like I lost myself, for not being able to be embraced by that feeling of being swallowed into the heart and bowels of a story I am writing? I don’t think so.

Am I alone in feeling like life just keeps ponderously moving along second by second by minute by hour oblivious to my wants? Certainly not.

A lot of us find ourselves in exactly this spot and it will happen multiple times in your life. Sometimes it lasts longer than other times.

I actually started writing this post yesterday, what should be a quick knock off of a few words, on October 1st. Intended to post it yesterday. But life happens.

As a simple necessity, the job that pays the bills always takes priority over everything else in life, and takes up the majority of your waking hours. The needs of the household and family take the second priority.

Your partner. Your kids need help or just attention. Groceries, cleaning, meals, and a million other mundane life duties. Right now there is a massive mound of washed laundry in the process of being folded next to me and the vacuum is waiting to take a turn right after washing everyone’s dishes and the general clutter of a household.

Somewhere in there you try to fit in five minutes, ten, twenty; you hit the jackpot at thirty minutes of writing time. But that’s okay.

Allow yourself the courage to push through the niggling little things getting in the way, the dramas large and small, chores, day jobs, and the time goblins, all seemingly conspiring to suck away any writing time. Your life is the sum of all of its parts. Embrace it.

Our attempts at training the Big Dumb Bunny have so far failed. The first of two kids started university and the first student loan application was denied on the assumption we should I guess borrow the money ourselves to pay for it. Still, an interest free and payment free until graduation loan beats anything we could get, assuming we have enough equity to get the loan, and then more loan when the second kid starts university. Between school, work, and boxing, you’d barely know she lives here. The second kid got her first job and is learning to drive. Meanwhile the bus schedules have her walking or relying on us to drive her to not be 45 minutes early or 15 minutes or more late for work. We are trying harder at self care, something as parents we neglect too much.

These are barely a drop on top of the day to day with each of us in our own little worlds that sporadically merge one with another a few hours a day while we all live under the same roof. And here I am giving that time to you with this random rambling.

Mom! Mom! Mom! Pay attentionz to mee!

When I can’t break out those precious moments for a little writing time, I may feel a bit sorry for myself, but it’s still just one part of everything that is my world and overall it’s not a bad world. It’s worth embracing.

So when you feel like it’s been forever since you could get that time to do what you really want, embrace it all and take greater pleasure in those moments when they do come.

And now Roxy, aka the Big Dumb Bunny, is demanding my undivided attention.

Here’s to hoping I can post again in the next month.

Be good to yourself and keep writing my friends.

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Or, more accurately, did you even notice I was gone?

Photo by Jasmina Rojko on Unsplash

No, this isn’t one of those feel sorry for me deals. Those are so cliché and overdone, aren’t they?

I’m more of a realist than that. With the world going a little more down that dark twisted path of an angst horror story each day, its contradictive every person for their self strongly political egotistical self-righteous “only I’m right” political grandstanding and apocalyptic “nature is trying to kill us” story plots at times clashing like a badly written narrative, I half expect each one of you and everyone else to be swallowed up in that darkness, along with me.

The weirdness is even more striking with that overall story thread of mundane normalcy casting its deceptive veil over reality. Or is the mundane the reality and the rest the waking nightmare our narrator is playing us with?

Life goes on.

March 12th, 2020 Manitoba officially reported it’s first cases of Covid-19 as a stunned populace watched the progressing news story in stunned disbelief.

The stories coming out of places like Italy were staggering. Heart wrenching. Hidiously unreal. People singing to each other from their imprisonment in their homes creating a surreal uplifting moment in a lockdown where people stole food to survive with their world in a complete lockdown, and stories of care homes with the elderly and infirm left abandoned by the hundreds, dead and dying in filth, stink, and overrun with insects, rodents, excrement, and rotting waste, a plotline straight out of a fictional apocalypse story.

March 20th, 2020 Manitoba declared a state of emergency, and the lockdown began April 1st with the ordered closure of all non-essential businesses, as if there truly is such a thing when that income feeds and homes people reliant on it.

People cried out that it’s all fake. It’s not real. It’s made up to control us. (Have you read Orson Welles 1984?)

With a sinking feeling of what was as yet unknown to come, it all feeling utterly unreal and entirely fabricated, two days before the announcement, our office was shut down at the end of the day and everyone sent to work from home. March 19th, 2020 I began the odd journey of mostly self-isolation.

Ill prepared schools, teachers, and students scrambled with schools being shuttered to move thousands of kids practically overnight to online learning from home.

Businesses shuttered, mass numbers of people suddenly became unemployed with no job prospects, people were forbidden seeing or touching friends, family, and other loved ones. There was an eventual run on animal shelters by people seeking companionship. Unscrupulous people bought up mass quantities of basic staples: cleaning and sanitizing products, and toilet paper of all things, leaving none for others, those jerks!

Masses of people voraciously embraced new home projects and hobbies with the audacity of assuming everyone had the endless time and financial resources to do the same. By the way, this is also just one of the things that happened during the 1918 “Spanish” flu pandemic (called the “Spanish flu” then much in the same vein as some call Covid-19 the “China virus” now, only there was zero evidence of any Spanish origins to the 1918 flu.) that is being mimicked during Covid-19 today. People then also embraced anything to push away the boredom of quarantine, weird and self-destructive cures, false political wins became more important than protecting people, and people embraced conspiracy theories.

And with all this, for many, life felt relatively untouched. All the horror was distant, someone else’s story.

Interspersed with this has been a nonstop eclectic list of political farces, dramas, and atrocities. The never-ending inhumanities of war in countries that long ago forgot how to exist without war. And the planet seems bent on annihilating us all like a bad case of lice, throwing nonstop global destruction at is in the form of storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, pandemics and other too common and weirdly new illnesses, and unprecedented fires, heatwaves, flooding, and droughts with the apparently requisite grasshopper pestilence to decimate what little will grow. And don’t forget the Murder Hornets. We will never forget the Murder Hornets.

Seriously, who is writing this stuff? Is it any wonder it all feels like a far away unreal story to so many? Is it any wonder anyone in your world may have seemed to have just checked out?

And yet our mundane lives go on. Strangely normal and untouched for many while billions suffer just beyond the reach of our little enclosed lives.

We have to eat, sleep, work, volunteer, deal with the dramas of family and friends, raise our children, and pick burs out of our dogs’ ears. We have birthdays and anniversaries, teenagers being teenagers, kids being kids, and partners who we love to be around but sometimes need a break from. We get lonely for the friends we wish we had, miss the ones we do, and watch in sick fascination the train-wreck relationships among us.

And our life goes on, mundane and unchanged for many of us.

The surreal ugly of the world can be a depressing place. If it doesn’t depress you, it can still envelope you in the morose sense of the pain endured by others. Shocking headline after headline. Social media filled with sympathies for others’ suffering and castigations of failures to offer sympathies for that author’s righteous cause. It is impossible to offer sympathies to every pain and loss, and offering daily generic all-encompassing sympathies lacks the merit of sincerity.

And finally, you have been asking where is this going? Nowhere. Like everything else it is going nowhere. Our mundane round and round of daily life, for many sheltered from the reality of others. From the reality of their neighbors.

All during this world and local news unravels in a daily horror story that leaves many screaming to be felt and heard in the most ingloriously strange ways, embracing things they never would have before, some becoming increasingly hostile to anyone not sharing their voices. Many embracing what feels ludicrous in the face of what is happening locally and globally.

As much as I’d like to pinpoint for each week why is has been almost a month since my last post, more than a month since posting something that involved actual writing, the truth of it is that mundane round and round life. The daily commitments of work, volunteering, and family. Teenagers being teenagers, the partner you love to be around but sometimes need a break from, being lonely for the friends we wish we had and missing the ones we do. Picking burs out of Roxy, the #BigDumbBunny’s, ears and between her toes. Watching with that dulled dissociation and disappointment the train-wrecks that some among us have become. The fact that there just is not enough time to fit it all in and so sometimes something must give.

Unfortunately reality holds that by necessity the job that pays the bill takes priority over all else in your life. After that comes the needs of family, pets, and others you care about in your life. Home and house. And finally at the end of the day, behind everything else is you. Writing is for me. It’s my passion. It does not benefit anyone in my immediate world, and so that puts it last after all else.

Over the past five weeks, among other things, we had our first training session with an experienced and qualified dog trainer to try to fix Roxy (and us, because dog training is as much about fixing you as it is the dog). The air conditioner quit during the heat wave. We discovered a nice walking trail close by, an hour round trip walk where we can go partially woodsy deer trail or all grassy field, whichever strikes our interest.

And today we celebrate my nephew and his wife, married in 2019, but she finally now managed to immigrate to Canada.

My attempt to write a simple blog post weekly, large or small, helpful or not, in depth or mediocre ramble, has proven to be an incredible challenge. As in it is very challenging. To find the moments to write even in bits and spurts of a few minutes at a time. To edit it. To be creative.

I went into this knowing I would fail at times to pull it off every week. Heck, I barely managed to edit this at all, so bear with any mistakes and let’s just call this a “rough draft” published publicly.

And today’s random rambling lesson is this:

Don’t let those times when your desires, your driven passion that is what you want to do, gets pushed to the back and, frankly, shoved right off that backburner (cliché, yeah, bring it!) onto the floor behind the stove get you down.

Our world has fallen down a dark abyss of strangeness that belongs in an episode of The Twighlight Zone. Expect to be derailed.

Just because you couldn’t do it for a while, days, weeks, months, or even years, that does not mean you have to call it quit or abandoned. It’s not even a setback, really. It’s just life.

It is way too easy to let yourself slip into that daily drudgery and not make yourself get back at it. Not let yourself get back at it.

Don’t let those times quit you from what you love. Get back to it. Embrace it. Yes, you may feel morose, neglected, rejected, defeated, given up, and a whole of of other negative feelings at times while you quietly yearn to be able to do what you have a passion for, like writing. Life doesn’t care about what you want. It moves on around you, oblivious to you.

It’s up to you to embrace the good. The people you care about and the things that give you joy.

My writing has suffered since March 2019, but it is not forgotten. The passion and drive wanes and flutters back to life, but it will not die. Don’t let yours die either. It is never too late to reclaim your passion.

Be good to yourself and keep writing my friends.

P.s. This was not intended to be a Covid life rant, but the fingers will go on the keyboard as they will sometimes.

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This problem has driven me to distraction with frustration ever since I upgraded to my (now not so new and already partially broken ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  ) new laptop.

I use spreadsheets a lot and for multiple purposes. I’m also not a super technology-type person.

Photo by Vivek Doshi on Unsplash

My issue boils down to learned behavior. You know, when you do something so much that it’s an automatic reflex.

Typing is a learned behavior once you really know how to type. You know what words and numbers you want and your fingers do it without you having to consciously focus on them.

On my day job, in every program we use including Excel, it’s the same date format: month day year. All day, every day, Monday to Friday. Month day year. Month day year. Month day year. An endless stream of typing month day year in the same format: 5/27/21

My previous laptop was the same: month day year.

I’m so used to it that it’s an actual burden to have to stop and think to type anything other than month day year. It’s the same typing format always and it automatically translates to show the date in any form you formatted it to, whether it’s the short numerical form (8/15/21), short date form (Aug 15/21), or long formal date form (August 15, 2021). You can even set it to show day month year or any other order after you type 8/15/21.

  • 5/27/21
  • 6/30/21
  • 3/18/21
  • 2/28/21
  • 8/15/21
  • 5/5/21
  • 5/8/21

    .

You get the idea. Consistency is golden. Your dates are always correct when you enter them consistently, in my case month day year. You don’t have to stop and question, or go back and verify anywhere, was that May 8 or August 5th.

     .

     .

Why oh why did Excel suddenly demand a new date format?

The issue and where the frustration lays is that when I reinstalled Microsoft Office on the new laptop, it flat out refused to use the ‘month day year’ date format.

I periodically tried repeatedly to reset the date format in Excel to take month day year. But no, it persisted in only accepting day month year. My dates kept coming up wrong and I ended up taking the more lengthy process of entering them as text instead of dates: ‘May 8/21 instead of 5/8/21.

I periodically tried researching how to fix it with no luck finding any answers.

Yeah, it sounds like a minor issue. But entering dates as text renders all formulas using those date boxes unusable.

    .

I like formulas. They make life easier.

For example, if I submit to a publisher who does not respond unless the story is accepted, but instead tells you to assume you’ve been rejected if you don’t hear from them in 75 days.

If I enter the date I submitted as May 8/21 text, I have to count 75 days on the calendar to find the date I should assume they rejected my story.

On the other hand, let’s say in the spreadsheet box K11 I entered the date I submitted my story properly (5/8/21), Excel now sees it as a readable date number. In box M11 where I want the assumed rejection date of 75 days after May 8th, I add the very simple formula =K11+75 and Excel automatically finds that rejection date (Jul 22/21) for me in the fraction of seconds it took me to type =K11+75 (in this case actually =<arrow over two boxes>+75, which is even faster).

With the ability to use formulas that use date boxes, you can also create formulas that will average how long a particular publisher you submit to frequently takes to respond, the longest time it took them to respond, or the same for all publishers’ responses.

    .

For me, not being able to use formulas on Excel boxes with dates is the equivalent to the dating dealbreaker. It’s just a big fat NO.

     .

The Solution to the Excel Date Entry Format

There is absolutely nowhere in Excel or any Microsoft Office program that allows you to change your date format to determine whether you should enter mm/dd/yy, dd/mm/yy, yy/mm/dd, or any other variation of 5/15/21.

The key date format is in your operating system. Windows, for example. That is where you need to fix it.

Microsoft Office pulls the date format it uses from your operating system.

Buggers.

I’m not familiar with Apple, so if you have a similar issue with a program I you can maybe try a similar fix, but for Windows here is where you need to fix it:

*What you see depends on what version of Windows you are running.

  1. Open your Control Panel (Settings).
  2. Click on Clock, Language, and Region (Time & Language).
  3. Click on Change date, time, or numbers formats  (Date, Time, & Regional formatting – scroll down to it).
  4. Under the Formats tab (scroll down to Related Settings), click on Additional settings (Additional, Date, Time & Regional Settings).
  5. Click on Time (Region: Change date, time, or number formats).

Make your changes here and click Apply and OK:

   .

You should see the little clock in your computer taskbar change to show your new date format if you changed it, for example, from day month year to month day year.

   .

   .

I’m still working on fixing the why my Microsoft Word documents are all such smaller print on my laptop screen now at 100% scale. My eyes are not going to get any younger!

Changing the Windows screen resolution settings just makes everything in every app and on the Windows desktop …

SUPER BIG!

Or small like Word. It also completely messes up some programs that require a specific screen size/resolution to work properly.

And yet, I’ve downloaded word templates that are normal sized on my screen.

That’s a problem for another day.

   .

Keep writing my friends.

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My attempt to write a blog post about writing techniques, which I’ve been trying to do since Thursday, got hijacked and I’m attempting to jot off something. Of course, trying to write it today, four days after starting the other, is taking hours because family wants to chat or needs attention. My intended writing time became half a day waiting at the vet.

Life just happens sometimes and takes away your planned writing and editing. Life also gets in the way of your characters, but this vet thing has me thinking about the animal aspect of stories.

Roxy the reverse lampshade

Our stories generally revolve around humans or humanoids. Unless you write for children, where your main characters are just as likely to be animals.

Do you ever include animals in your stories? At the very least as part of the world scenery because they are everywhere and naturally will be encountered? As backdrop characters like that angry looking chair that sets the tone?

How about as small bit characters whose purpose is to reveal something about your main character’s personality?

   .

I did that in The McAllister Farm. Some readers will hate me for it. First for Zeke, the dog at the start of the book, and later for the new McAllister dog, Boomer.

Some readers will tell you they will forever hate any author who harms an animal. Some authors will say that sort of thing is off limits. But in some stories brutal things happen and in real life it is often the innocent that get hurt. Even while your stories are fictional and no real animals are harmed, writing is emulating real life to make your reader feel they are inside the story.

William McAllister is a hard no-nonsense man. He doesn’t hesitate to do what must be done and nothing is more important than the safety of his family. So, when the farm dog, Zeke, is bitten protecting his wife, Marjory, from a rabid raccoon trying to attack her, William knew there was only one thing to do.

Keeping with the times and being a rural farming area, farm dogs were not always vaccinated. They also weren’t pets that were coddled. When it came to putting a dog down, it was not out of the ordinary to treat it like any other farm animal on some farms. A lot of this came from the stories of my own family generations before me. Zeke was a working dog who had a specific purpose and that was to keep away from the house anything that might be considered a danger to William’s family. Coyotes, bears, and people.

This opening chapter showed both the ruthlessness of William McAllister, and his softer side. Zeke was bit by the rabid raccoon. He would be infected and suffer a degenerative death. There is no cure for rabies and it is an interspecies disease. Zeke would also be a danger to William’s family. Any animal or person coming in contact with the dog risked being infected with the contagious disease.

The gun would be a quicker kill, but William put his family first even in this. “Best not to use the gun. The kids will hear.” Marjory was distraught and he knew the kids would be without having to see their teary faces to know it.

Inside the dim interior, William stops and turns to Zeke.

Zeke stands staring up at him expectantly.

“Zeke, drop it,” he commands. “Sit.”

Zeke obediently does as ordered, looking up at him with trusting eyes.

“Best not to use the gun. The kids will hear.”

William casually moves to the wall where a shovel hangs. Taking it down, he approaches the dog.

Waiting patiently, Zeke sniffs around at the air, not paying attention to his master.

William walks around the dog, moving behind him and suddenly swinging the shovel in what is intended to be a fatal blow.

The scene gets more traumatizing to the reader before it ends, but even after the brutality of Zeke’s death, one William partially fails at because he’s concerned with upsetting his family more, and perhaps he even held back on that swing out of feelings of remorse for the dog, William showed care in the gentle treatment he gave the dog’s body in burying it.

And again later, in showing just the edge of the harsh reality of their world, the new dog, Boomer, is also injured protecting his family. This time, the little girl Sophie ran into a pack of coyotes. William failed his family in not driving them off or killing them sooner. The den is too close to the farmhouse. That is the remorse he lives with. And on seeing the severity of Boomer’s injuries, William automatically turns to what he knows. The dog should not be made to suffer unnecessarily and he does not think he will survive. It’s that soft spot in William that intervenes again, but this time the only danger Boomer is to his family is to their broken hearts.

The little girl, Sophie, trying to gently hug the dog, still a puppy, their pleading pained eyes as she begged her father not to kill Boomer. How could he not relent?

It’s a tough life for the McAllisters and Boomer will continue to play his occasional part in revealing things about the family members. Sophie’s brother Jason, with his barely repressed anger, self-doubts, and jealousy of his sister. Marjory in her anxious concern over protecting her children from everything, including from her own husband at times. And again near the end of the story where the family is pitted in a standoff against the community, Boomer will take his place as a story tool to bring home the harsh realities of the darker side of humans. Spoiler alert: Boomer will survive this story.

    .

    .

Where do animals place in your stories? Have you considered it? Are they all animal free? How much thought and story do you put into the personalities and impact the narratives have on the animals in them?

After the long stressful day waiting for the vet

I try to put a little humanity and personality into every character. Even a short sentence of that character whose whole existence is three sentences long. The animals are no different. They are confused, trusting, and feeling even if it is only behind the scenes which don’t make it into the story.

   .

Even in our real world we sometimes forget to consider just what is going through the minds of the animals around us. That dog silently watching you walk by its house. The one maniacally barking and lunging at the fence as you pass. Your own pet enthusiastically greeting you or saying goodbye at the door only to rush to the window to watch you go.

   .

Observing these things with the mindset of trying to see it from their point of view like you do with a human character can add a depth of understanding to your writing.

   .

   .

The sympathetic sister

I recently read an article about how a study analyzing stress hormones in dogs showed them to have lower levels of it if the owner leaving simply takes a moment longer to show them some love and say goodbye when they leave versus rushing out the door.

This article was completely forgotten when we ourselves left, being rushed out the door without the chance to do anything more than shout a quick, “Bye and have fun,” as your are being verbally pushed out of the house.

Three-quarters of the human part of our household vanished mysteriously Sunday. We were rushed out so fast we didn’t get the usual moment of goodbyes at the door. Both dogs always come to the door to say bye when you leave, even just stepping out to pull the garbage bins to the curb.

What goes through the minds of pets when some of their people disappear? They don’t know what’s happening. If you aren’t someone who regularly goes away overnight or for days for work or school, they aren’t used to you being gone. And now with Covid forcing so many to work from home or be out of work, pets have had to adjust to losing their quiet time being home alone for hours and become used to some of their people never or rarely leaving the house.

Not feeling good.
Red, raw, and swollen

By Tuesday one of the dogs had an irritated foot without having done anything to actually injure it. When we returned Thursday the foot was worse. She yelped and cried when we tried to look at it, trying to hid the foot, and obsessively licking it despite our best efforts to keep it wrapped. The dog was out of sorts and very cranky. And being Canada Day, the vet offices were closed.

Between the day closure and a large outbreak of kennel cough currently happening in the area, it took two more days to see a vet. Arriving at 9:30 am and sitting for hours in the car outside the vet’s office because they are doing curbside only with Covid, we were camped at the emergency vet.

This is a dog who was absolutely terrified of cars when we got her from the shelter. She’s over that fear, but not the anxiety, so waiting hours in the car was not ideal. And with the current heat wave it was too hot to take her out to walk around, so it was sitting in the air conditioned car with the engine running the whole time.

So out of sorts.

Spending hours in a car is enough time, apparently, for a large dog to abandon alternately huffing against the window like an anxiously bored child and trying to open the door, and learn how to operate the electric window button. She starts rolling down the window and we’re rolling it up before she can get it down enough to jump out. And repeat, repeat, repeat. Fortunately, there was a lock button on the driver’s door to stop children from playing with the window buttons.

The long wait also gave the opportunity to watch others bringing their pets to hand them off at the door and picking them up. There was the fat dog that had to be helped over that flat metal floor piece separating the vet office tile from the outside world at the door. Apparently the dog couldn’t step up over it. And the smartly prancing little dog being taken for a pee walk by a vet tech, its bright pink cast blinding in the sun. The little dog kept staring at the cars with a look that said, “Mom? Mom? Mom?”

They all exhibited a similar behavior, the reluctance to enter and the sulking slinking out the door after. Even Roxy after her turn finally came, went in reluctantly and she smashed her cone-headed face into the door before sulkily slinking out back to us.

The dog also came from the shelter with an abject fear of vets and needles, and very traumatized by the whole shelter experience. So, we knew she would not be happy to see the vet.

But why are vet offices so filled with anxiety? Do they remember the needles? The techs and vets are always so friendly towards them, offering cookies, but most animals seem so scared and anxious. Is it just them feeding off your anxiety, even if it’s only the size of the bill making you unhappy? Are they reacting to sensing and smelling the fear of the other animals? Is it the smell of sickness and injury? Do they smell the deaths of those who came before and were euthanized?

Our reverse-lampshade dog was clearly relieved to meet us at the door and slink out after being held down to be x-rayed and her foot examined. They wanted to sedate her for it, but she wouldn’t let them.

More than $400 Canadian later, three medications, the cone of shame, and the entire day shot, we learned there was nothing actually wrong with her that was not self-inflicted. There was no injury. The vet figured she stress licked her foot raw, which caused a cascading event of more licking because it hurt and more stress licking and more pain and inflammation, which caused more obsessive licking until it was raw, swollen, and infected.

And now she seems to be getting stuck on everything almost intentionally. Almost like giving us the middle finger while unhappily silently seeking attention and feeling sorry for herself. She gets stuck on chairs, tables, people, the other dog, and can’t get through a door. She paces and lies down and paces, unsure what to do with herself with that big cone constantly in the way of everything.

This isn’t the first time we’ve left the dogs, but they were used to all of us leaving the house for up to ten to fourteen hours a day, depending on the person, for work and school. And with kids activities, that was often followed by more hours away. It was rotating constantly with who was out or home at what times of day and night, and rarely everyone home at once. We went on vacations leaving them home alone for a week with a dog-sitter staying with them. A virtual stranger.

We never before had issues with one of the dogs going drama queen and stressing themselves like this over anyone being away an extended time. Not until Covid and three of four of us not leaving the house for months at a time (okay, maybe a year at a time, or at least it feels like it) because of schools and offices being shut down, and stores and businesses being for the most part shut down.

Maybe taking that moment to say goodbye with some extra ear scratches would have helped. Maybe not. But they are more anxious every time anyone leaves the house even before the camping trip that some of us went on. And leaving one of their favorite people home with them wasn’t enough.

What happens when the world opens up and we return to full time school and working in offices and other jobs, and our animals are stressed over our suddenly vanishing for hours every day?

   .

   .

If this were all part of a story, how would I consider the animals’ feelings and how they relate to and affect their human’s reactions? The pining of the dog and its growing anxiety, whether its humans are aware or entirely oblivious to it, both the humans present and away.

In making our stories real for our readers, we want to add as many little touches of reality as the story needs. These details are also valuable tools in revealing things about our characters, both obvious and hidden personality characteristics.

Everywhere you go, everything you do, is an opportunity to observe the world and its interactions. Watching both people and animals gives you an insight into making your stories better.

Take some moments to watch the often neglected characters of our world, animals. Your pets, others’ pets, farm animals in passing, and the wild creatures around you. Observe people and dogs distant interactions when they pass on the sidewalks. Even watching birds interactions is an insight into that hidden and often skipped piece of stories. And consider this, would adding the odd animal as part of your story or world-building enhance your story? They are everywhere and affect every part of our lives even when we don’t own a pet ourselves.

Keep writing my friends, and I have to go rescue my dog who got stuck on the wall. Yes, the wall.

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Let’s take a break this week to just bask in our creativity.

Photo by Yann Jacobsen on Unsplash

What gets your creative juices flowing, spurring on sudden onsets of new ideas?

Are you a visual-leaning creative, your muse awakened by things you see? Scenes, scenery, pictures, and the like?

Or perhaps you are inspired by auditory cues? Music, birds singing, the ugly sounds of traffic and the city, or the beatific auditory dance of nature?

Is it the things you experience that stimulate the writer in you with those ‘Aha!’ moments? A scene in a movie, a real world moment you witnessed, the news, or world or community events? Books, poetry, and other literary works? Submersing yourself in all the stimuli of visiting certain places, art galleries, museums, and parks?

Perhaps it’s your relationships with people and pets that you draw on for inspirations, or the opposite, sweet solitude.

There are a lot of schools of thought on what makes us creatives tick. What it is that makes us… us.

Some think creatives to fall into categories like being risk takers who are happier taking on that big project instead of sticking to the boring mundane. And people who are not afraid to face potential failure. For us, failure is a learning curve and mistakes are just the bumps we learn from. In fact, those setbacks may make you want even more to figure it out.

We are willing to be different. We have to be or we’d probably be hiding in some corner writing when no one is looking and never releasing our creations on the world. Status quo shmatus quo, something here isn’t like all the others and it’s you. What others think of you isn’t as important as writing our hearts out.

Have you seen the movie Divergent? That’s you. Instead of falling into step of being who everyone else thinks you should be, doing what they want you to or what they think is ‘normal’, you challenge the boundaries of what is considered normal thinking and perspectives by others.

Some people out there even think we’re weird. That’s okay, because difference is beautiful.

Take some time this week to explore your creative energy, your muses, and your inspirations. Try out new things, new ways to ignite that creative spark. Find inspirations in new places and different ways.

Challenge yourself to try a new medium; drawing, painting, crafts, sculpting, rearranging your room, experiment with cooking, flower arranging, anything goes if you put the creative spirit into it.

Visit a new genre and explore it through reading and writing it. Have fun with it. Are you typically true to a single genre? Then try a crossover that mixes genres together.

Play with shorts. Not the kind you wear, but the written shorts. Micro poems, micro fiction or nonfiction. A single scene or description. Whatever catches your interest. These also make excellent writing practices.

Just for fun, take the Creative Type personality test by Adobe Create:  https://mycreativetype.com/

Adobe Create lists these personality types:

  • The Artist: “The Seeing beauty, creating beauty.”
  • The Thinker: “The Deep thoughts, big questions.”
  • The Adventurer: “The So much inspiration, so little time.”
  • The Maker: “The Committed to your craft.”
  • The Producer: “The Process is power.”
  • The Dreamer: “The power of imagination unleashed.”
  • The Innovator: “Move, shake, disrupt, repeat.”
  • The Visionary: “Imagining the impossible.”

* I got “You are the Dreamer”

Looking for ideas?

Try going onto a page like Unsplash and using a random search word and pick any photo as a writing prompt. Write anything. An external or internal (their inner person) character description, world build the scene or moment, write the action of what is or is not happening. Get creative, poetic, anything that strikes your fancy.

Do you have a music app like Spotify? Do a random song shuffle and write whatever that song inspires.

Go outside. On your balcony, front steps, anywhere you can safely people watch. Just watch and pick a moment to write about.

Or seek nature. If your yard backs onto a river or bush, that’s perfect. Maybe talk a walk on a trail or to a park. Urban nature trails are filled with wildlife, particularly if they run along a river or stream.

If you have any other suggestions for finding inspirations and waking that muse when it’s sluggish, you are more than welcome to share them.

Keep writing my friends and enjoy this beautiful summer weather.

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Let's blog into the new year.
Photo by Antonio Gabola on Unsplash

Although Covid-19 is far from over, the dreaded year of 2020 is over and we start today with a new chapter.

Vaccines have been and are still being created and, despite the high toll the winter season celebrations will have on the spread of the virus in the weeks and months to come, we have every reason to look ahead with optimism. And it is exactly that, a virus. It’s not a supervillain bent on the ruination of or total domination of the world. It’s just a virus like so many others, only it’s new so we have no long-acquired immunity to it.

Hopefully our beloved local businesses will be able to open again and start picking up the pieces soon, people laid off and furloughed will be able to go back to work, and our lives will be able to return to something resembling normal.

I’ve never been a New Year Resolution kind of person. But, I am about promising myself new starts and doing better going forward, and that can happen randomly at any time throughout the year. Of course, we all know the saying about best laid plans.

Since March I’ve promised myself to blog more, write more, edit more, and read more. That despite being among the lucky few still able to be working the ‘pays the bills’ job full time and other commitments to family and the writing community.

Like so many others, I’ve been in a funk since our first shutdown in March. In roughly 2 ½ months I’ll have been working from home for a full year. It would be a dream if not for the near total isolation of seeing the world through the front window and in-person social contact being relegated only to a pair of teenagers, my partner, and two dogs. One of those dogs lives to be an asshole, but she’s still cute, cuddly, and lovable; and can cover your entire body like a blanket if she lays across you.

As socially distanced (aka physically apart) as we are, we are all in this trying time together. Let’s be together (apart), help each other, and most importantly be kind and forgiving towards each other.

Help each other, pay it forward, and be kind.
Photo by Ava Sol on Unsplash

Simplify your life by rehoming things of valuable use to others that you have no need of. Those out of work are struggling and have no means to buy these things.

Share a smile and a wave with a neighbor or a stranger from a distance.

Pay forward or commit an act of kindness to a stranger.

Be extra kind to those serving us daily in the stores, delivering our parcels and groceries, looking after our loved ones in hospitals and care homes, and all our first responders. They are going through an unbelievable amount of stress right now.

Give a little something of yourself, safely, to help others.

I do promise myself, again, to blog more, write, edit, and read more. And to share that to help others.

We will explore character development and story arcs, formatting and editing, platforms and self-promotion, and more. The world of writing and being a writer is as vast as the worlds we build in our stories.

You can sign up for my infrequent Author of Darkness newsletter or follow my fan blogs for my two pen names: L. V. Gaudet (adult fiction) and Vivian Munnoch (youth and YA fiction).

Let’s continue to meet (virtually) in the new year and grow together as writers, because that’s what being a writer is all about.

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Photo by Ryan Sepulveda on Unsplash

November. Are you ready? Will you spill yourself heart and soul out onto the written or virtual pages this month?

It’s November. That month where the world grows gloomy and cold, commuters begin their winter trek in the dim twilight or somber darkness, seeing little of daylight in their false indoor lights, and the long shadow of winter is upon us. Some of us are wallowing in regret from eating all that sweet Halloween candy bliss we had to panic re-buy last minute before we get tricks for not treating the ghouls, princesses, prancing unicorn ponies, and Ninja Turtles racing door to door October 31st.

Leaves have turned shades of yellows, oranges, and reds, like a burned effigy to summer, and fallen crisp and dry to the ground to house the creatures surviving the winter outside. Soon, tangled strings of mostly working lights will be pulled out to create a carnival of Christmas color.

November is the month of remembering those lost to us in forgotten wars of the past and the sacrifices made by both the living and departed veterans of yesterday’s and today’s battlegrounds.

It is also the month of awareness for too many causes to list; Movember (men’s health issues including prostate cancer), pancreatic and other cancers, crohn’s and colitis awareness, national domestic violence awareness, fall prevention, … let’s stop there.

What else is November? For some us it is the month of mad writing spurts, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you ready for it?

 

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

For those unfamiliar with that strange term “NaNoWriMo”, it is an acronym of the first few letters of each word for this wordy month: National Novel Writing Month.

NaNoWriMo is about writing and getting out of your comfort zone. It’s about putting aside meticulously plotting and thinking out each word and sentence carefully before committing it to literary art.

The month long writeathon pits participants (Wrimos) against their own inner doubts with the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s on the short end for a novel, and it doesn’t actually have to be a novel. It can be anything so long as you meet that goal of 50,000 words. You could be finishing a work in progress or starting something new; writing any genre or type: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories. There is also a youth version of NaNo. The kids set their own word goals.

 

It’s free to participate and is a worldwide massive internet-based writing competition. If you win, you get to download virtual badges. If you lose, you can boast participation badges. There are no monetary awards and no magic publishing button at the end of the rabbit hole. Wins are awarded on a self-declaration basis. That is, you upload words to a counter that determines if you won or lost. So, yes cheating is easy and is done; but, who are you really cheating?

 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

NaNo is about challenging yourself to put aside thought and free your inner muse. Write. That’s it, just write. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be planned or outlined. It’s an exercise in freedom to write without constraint, to simply let the words flow. You might be surprised at what you learn about your own writing ability if you have never done this before.

 

More importantly, NaNoWriMo is about encouragement, support, and awareness. Yes, and having fun in a weird writerly way that non-writers will probably never understand.

 

From the NaNo Org:

“NaNoWriMo is a nonprofit organization that supports writing fluency and education. But it’s also a social network for writers like LinkedIn is for job professionals, or DeviantArt is for artists, or Facebook is for moms whose kids accept their friend requests only to provide them with “limited profile” access. It tracks words for writers like Fitbit tracks steps for the ambulatory. It’s a real-world event, during which 900+ volunteers in places like Mexico City, Seoul, and Milwaukee coordinate communal writing sessions in thousands of partnering libraries, coffee shops, and community centers like… well, like nothing else.

 

It’s internet-famous. It’s a community-powered fandom (before there was the Beyhive, or Nerdfighters, there were Wrimos). It’s a start-up incubator for novels (books like Water for Elephants, Fangirl, and WOOL began as rough drafts in November!). It’s a teaching tool, it’s a curriculum, and its programs run year-round.

 

Whatever you thought NaNoWriMo was, it is more than that.”

 

 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

How the heck do you survive NaNovember?

 

50,000 words in 30 days is daunting. It’s the mountain of incomprehensible impossibility. The molehill the ant could not imagine to build. It is also only 1,667 words per day (rounded off). That’s only 69 1/2 words an hour. You got this! Okay, accounting for the need to sleep, eat, go to work/school, and all that, you might get two or three or four hours a day in, so realistically 417 to around 830 words an hour.

 

But hey, who really needs that eating and sleeping thing, right?

 

The NaNo community is very supportive of their fellow Wrimos. There are groups online and off to find encouragement in. You can get endless writing prompts and cues for NaNo sprints. A sympathetic shoulder to lean on, you go girls/guys/theys, and even encouraging articles from known authors. You can buy self-affirming posters, coffee and travel mugs, shirts, buttons, and other swag to litter your writing space with reminders.

 

The trick is not to let yourself feel overwhelmed. Give yourself a daily goal. If you can exceed that, great, you have a buffer for those days that will invariably come where you flop or cannot write at all. Life does have a habit of getting in the way of best intentions sometimes. The more wordy buildup you can get early on, the better you stand later. (I usually flop around the three-quarter mark of the month.)

 

Every word adds up.  If I get half a dozen words in before racing out the door in the morning, it’s a win. Write a scene on your phone notepad, or a real notepad, while your bus or ride trundles along through traffic. I strongly recommend against that if you are in the driver seat. Nope, no, not a good idea. And, it’s likely illegal wherever you are. (It definitely is illegal here in Manitoba!) Coffee breaks, lunch breaks, waiting for that ride home; every bit of scene, dialogue, and drama adds up. I will write in bits and spurts in the evening too, between supper, house stuff, fur babies, other commitments, and family.

 

Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

Find local NaNo gatherings where they encourage sitting quietly and writing, offer writing prompts and tips, and muse support. Hide away in a quiet corner in a coffee shop where you can disappear from family and friends (although you might want to let them know where you are so they don’t call the cops when they don’t hear from you for hours), focus, and unplug from the constant buzzing bleeping of your phone alerts to every post and picture of your extended online life.

 

The other trick is to ignore that inner editor. They can have at it later to wreak havoc on whatever you write. Don’t let yourself question or second guess the words spilling out. There is no going back to edit, revise, or fix anything, not even spelling. You can run it through the dreaded Spellcheck later, that nefarious creation which I’m sure was spawned with evil intentions and purposely tries to make you sound like an eighteenth century professor who hasn’t a wit about what half the words in existence now mean, or how people actually talk. You can rip, revise, and edit to your heart’s content – after the sun sets on November 30th and dawns on the crisp road gunk dulled snow of December 1.

 

If you’ve never tried it, don’t be afraid to give it a go. No one in the NaNo community will denigrate you for failing to reach that 50,000 word mark. You have nothing to lose, except maybe your sanity to the NaNo muse.

 

Don’t forget to join your local NaNo chapter!

https://nanowrimo.org/

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Hands up introverts! Let’s get a hand-count here.

Is it just me, or do writers seem to have a disproportionate demographic of introverts compared to the general population? And what is scarier for an introvert, and even many extroverts, than having to put yourself out there front and center for the world? Writing, by nature a past-time of solitude and, the thing we embrace, is also our bane. It forces us to step out of our semi-isolated comfort zones into a place that leaves us exposed, where the world can stare at us, judge us, and even criticize us.

Stepping out of your comfort zone. Those words are enough to send a shiver of icy dread coursing down many an introvert’s spine. I, for one, am guilty of being an introvert, if ‘guilty’ can correctly be used here.  I don’t feel guilty or embarrassed about being an introvert, however it will cause me to be embarrassed by situations. Embarrassed, mortified, uncomfortable, awkward; they all fit as symptoms of introvertedness. (The making up of random words is another thing entirely). As a kid I was absolutely terrified of talking to anyone.

Like many new writers I’ve met over the course of my writing career, I wrote in secret for years before ever admitting to anyone it was a thing. I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. They would tell me how stupid I am being even thinking that me, me of all people, could be a writer. They would demand that I was wasting my time. I’m just nobody, right?

With some coaxing from an author friend I met online, I slowly crawled out of the dark and dusty world inside my laptop as a wanna be writer. “No,” she sternly reprimanded me. “You are a writer, not a wanna be.” It took years before I stopped feeling guilty admitting to anyone other than myself that I am a writer, to stop feeling like I was somehow a pretender, giving claim to a lie. That they would see through me, that my writing is crap no one would ever read, even after having first one and then another book published. (I now have nine under two pen names with another coming soon).

Calling myself a writer was stepping out of my comfort zone in a big way. It opened me to possible ridicule and denouncement. Certainly, there were a few who tried to blanket me in their negativity with the over-used clichés that I was wasting my time, would never ‘get rich’ or famous, would never amount to anything, yada yada yada. The joke is on them, though, because I am still writing and never wrote for any of those reasons.

Writing Tip – Step Out of Your Comfort Zone:

The comfort zone is by nature a very limited space in an introvert; small, solitary, and with limited room to grow; like hiding under your blanket in the dark as a kid. For extroverts that space perhaps is less solitary.

An inability to escape the comfort zone can hinder both your writing and your writing career. First and foremost is the simple act of admitting, to others, that you are a writer.

Whether you write openly or in secret, there can also be the ingrained fear that someone will not approve of your writing. It’s not good enough, it’s not up to snuff for the genre, it’s too this or too little that. Someone won’t approve if you use a few swear words, describe a sex scene, or write about real people and events (especially when it’s your own life).

How we each get through that is as unique as each of us are.  I spent years reminding myself that my friends and family aren’t even going to read anything I write, and I am mostly correct on that. I’m also okay with it. It’s actually quite liberating, really.

One of my biggest introvert challenges is public speaking; any kind of public speaking, even with people I’ve known my whole life. I panic. I freeze. Even with a speech written down my mind goes blank and I am completely incapable of thought or reading the cues. I stutter and make an absolute fool of myself, then feel utterly ridiculous for every word that managed to fall in a jumble out of my mouth. I can talk individually and in twos and threes to a long line of people about my books, but put just two or three people in a staring at me as a speaker setting and forget it. I have managed to read to middle grade kids, and totally bombed at trying to read my story at the St Valentines Horror Con a few years ago (I was so terrified I couldn’t even look at the scattered bodies among the mostly empty chairs).

Writing is stepping out of your comfort zone. It is about experimenting and learning. Not being afraid to try new things and getting over that fear of trying to be published. It is about talking to total strangers about why you think you are good enough to be published, doing readings and book signings, talking about your stories and writing habits. Letting other people actually read what you write, that can be a big hurdle when you are insecure about your writing. It is about realizing that it is okay to say, “I am a writer,” and not letting anything stop you from that dream. It is letting yourself write new things you didn’t think you could, being okay with it if it sucks, and working to make it better.

It does get easier, getting out of that comfort zone, with practice. Anything that takes you out of that comfort zone is practice; facing anxiety at having to return that item to the store, that job interview, and submitting stories and articles for possible publication and to contests. Even if you are certain you will fail, you are facing that fear and that makes you a winner.

What else makes you anxious that you could face? This summer we took the kids and stepped out of all our comfort zones. They have only ever gone ‘glamping’ in a campground with full amenities including a pool and hot tub and other people. For the first time in their lives we stepped out with tents and sleeping bag to real back woods in the bush with nobody but us around, not but a bucket for a latrine, no electricity or running water, if you want hot food you are cooking over the fire, oh my gosh there are bears and wolves and coyotes (and the beaver which was the only actual animal we saw more than just scat and prints of), and swimming in a gravel pit water hole, camping.

They were hesitant to put it mildly, but faced it like troopers. They stepped out of their comfort zone, realized it didn’t kill or mortally injure them, and I think they even had a little fun amid the, “I’m bored, I need Netflix,” complaints. They unplugged, learned new card games, hiked and teased each other, wanted photos, and even suggested they might be willing to do it again if there is a toilet and someone other than us to talk to. They faced it and are stronger for it. One of them is also a budding writer, while the other is an artist. Having not done real back woods camping ever, or even tenting in a campground since a kid, it was stepping out of our comfort zone too. It was a little scary, but fun. Or maybe that’s just the horror writer in me.

Every time you step out of your comfort zone makes you stronger and braver. It makes it easier to step out in other ways doing other things. It makes trying new things, in your writing and writing career and out of it, less scary. Just taking on doing this newsletter is stepping out of my comfort zone.

Challenge yourself. Step out of your comfort zone and let your writing flourish.

Online articles for writers:

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20180210_092535Anyone who has ever experienced the family vacation knows the family vacation experience starts weeks before and ends weeks after the actual vacation.

 

This is about a family vacation experience, and about different perceptions.  Writing a story is all about the use of perception.  Twisting and focusing the reader’s perceptions, utilizing opposing perceptions, and even tricking the reader into thinking you are following a certain line of perception before revealing your true intentions.  What you do with this depends on your story and its goal.

 

Real life is drama.  Don’t shortchange your readers by forgetting that in your stories.

 

Feel free to skip to the parts that actually interest you.  I am also sick again as I write this, so please bear with me.

 

BEFORE THE VACATION

 

Of course, there are the “pre weeks” aka “the months you can’t get back”; the weeks where one of you spends a painful amount of time researching vacation possibilities (because travel agents are for wusses, people less cheap than you, and people with a different type of common sense).  They endlessly read opposing reviews, getting excited and then woefully disappointed by the same resorts, before finally taking a great intake of air, holding it indefinitely, scrunching their eyes tightly closed, and hitting send.  The vacation is booked.

 

And then once the vacation is booked it is the stressful “vacation time coordination”. Anyone with differing vacation in-house work rules will find this more difficult.  We are lucky in this.  Unlike some, we don’t have to definitively and un-irrevocably book vacation time all at once for the year and not be able to change plans.  Still, you have at least two people with different work vacation booking rules, plus kids/others, to try to book everyone off for the same week and it can be a juggling act.

 

Then it’s the preparation time.  You have to make sure you pack all of your stuff, that everyone else has theirs, and plan for every possible contingency and buy a pharmacy.

 

How you think it will go aka “the boring story” or “what your character wants” – You make your list, pack and purchase, and everything is packed nicely and easily.  Stress free.  And you happily and contentedly go to sleep looking forward to your vacation.  Your vacation is flawless. You do stuff, relax, enjoy, and come home refreshed.

 

How it really goes aka “insert drama here” – Ugh.  Let us not forget how real life can get.  You have a job, kids, dogs, and a house.  So, in between looking after all of that, you have to find the time for packing, lists, shopping, re-packing, and cleaning.  And, if your dogs are lucky enough that you have someone willing to house sit/dog sit so they don’t have to spend the week stressed and panicked in a boarding kennel, you also want the house clean when you leave.

 

Starting with the dogs, the husky, Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny, decides to pick that time right before your vacation to start blowing out her coat.  In the middle of winter and -30 to -45 wind chills.  How a dog can shed more than her weight in hair every hour is beyond me. Cue the endless vacuuming.  We call the other dog, Meeka, the “good dog”.  She does not blow out her coat, steal all your socks, or make you put her out every five minutes.

 

20180210_173118.jpgThe kids.  Anyone with kids can tell you that you really need to plan a week off kid free to clean the house for anything upcoming of importance.  This still applies when they are teens.  As fast as you try to clean, the place is unraveled around you into a bedlam of chaos and mess.  And, the virtual extra large dogs aka the Big Dumb Hair Bunnies you need to vacuum up endlessly.  You are also trying to get all the laundry done, and make futile attempts to pack your own stuff.

 

Just a quick interject – naturally, pre-vacation week you get sick (cough cough). You feel like Bill the cat from Bloom County looks. If you don’t know, look it up.  But you still must be up before six every morning, go to work, and deal with the kids, dogs, family, house, etc. every evening, plus vacation preparation.

 

Three days prior to vacation you announce to the entire household (repeatedly), “Tomorrow night I have to pack my stuff for the trip.  All my stuff.  I have nothing packed.  So let me do that or I won’t have any clothes to wear.  After I pack all my stuff, I can help you with yours.”

 

Two days prior to vacation, the “I MUST PACK ALL MY STUFF” evening, …guess what. Yes, you guessed it. Kids.  One, who is old enough to handle it in my opinion, absolutely needs your help to figure out and fill out the grade 10 course registration for next year that ABSOLUTELY MUST BE DONE THAT NIGHT OR THE WORLD WILL END.  Because it has to be handed in tomorrow, since it is due when you are gone on vacation.

 

The other kid has a mountain of homework that she absolutely cannot figure out on her own, even though she is the one going to school to learn it and knows it better than you do.  Seriously, some of these math word problems I am sure are written in some archaic ancient dead language from a planet in a far away galaxy.  Mostly I repeated the questions on the page until she started actually thinking about them and solved them herself.

 

Now, it is past bedtime for everyone, you still have laundry and cleaning to do, and have not packed a single sock.  Or maybe you did pack a sock, but the Big Dumb Bunny stole it.  At this point you are too tired and sick to know or care.

 

The Nightmare before Christmas, I mean (um), the night before vacation.  Okay, now you really need to pack.  You start your morning with slopping an entire cup of coffee on yourself minutes before you have to leave for work.  Nice.  Now you have to do laundry again because you had to pull clothes out of the stuff you washed to pack, because you don’t have enough clothes that fit.  You bust your butt at work all day making sure everything is done. You half expect at this point that your car will break down on the way home.  Somehow the stars and planets align and it does not.

 

However, and, I should have put that in all caps.  Let’s try that again.

 

HOWEVER, you get home and while you were at work the good dog puked, the toilet upstairs plugged and overflowed, and the house is a complete disaster.  The panicked teen tries to resolve the overflowing toilet by staring moodily at the toilet bowl, water flowing over its sides to flood the bathroom floor, glares at it, and starts throwing all the towels on the floor in an effort to make it all stop without asking for help, and the water continues to flood over the toilet bowl.

 

Meanwhile, on the downside, aka the kitchen, water has begun to flow from the ceiling light fixture located directly below the offending toilet.  Cue the sudden discovery by your spouse that something is wrong upstairs.  This, by the way, is next to the brown spot in the kitchen ceiling from the other kid previously trying to fill water balloons by placing them over the entire tap end, forcing the water to wash back up the space between the water pipe and the tap covering until it wets and stains the ceiling below.

 

20180210_075200.jpgIt is your last evening to pack, and you are overtired, still sick, and trying to clean, do laundry (again), deal with dramas, back up all your life’s work so you don’t risk losing it if anything happens to your laptop (because you stupidly think will all that spare time while you are up hours before everyone else every morning on vacation you will have time for writing), and attempt to pack your stuff, finally.  Only, the evening is gone before you know it, you have accomplished little if anything, the house is still a mess, you are still doing laundry, and EVERYONE HAS GONE TO BED WITHOUT YOU.

 

Oh yeah, and you still have to pack all your stuff for the week, but you can’t because everyone went to bed.

 

Vacation day!  You are not sure what time you went to bed.  Eleven?  Eleven-thirty?  You are up at two am because you are supposed to be ready to leave the house by 4 am.  Showered, dressed, and dolled up.  Your brain is mush.  You know you are forgetting a thousand things.  You have half an hour to pack.  You are constantly being interrupted despite your pleas of, “Let me pack!”  Your spouse is trying their best to help.  You gather stuff, set it down, turn, and it is gone. Your spouse packed it in their bag.  At this point you are now packing without knowing what you actually packed.  You can’t find anything because your brain is mush.  You will take stock of everything you are missing when you get there.

 

20180208_194931You will get there to find that you are missing basic essentials like deodorant, hair brush, and a toothbrush.  You will spend an exorbitant amount of money buying two of the three at the little resort store, only to find halfway through the vacation it was packed in your spouse’s suitcase.

 

After arrival and after going through the customs security screening and passing through the door of “Thou Shall Not Go Back”, the thirteen-year-old discovers she left her phone in the bathroom on the other side.  Being stupid Canadian tourists they let us through and watch in confusion as I scurry with her to retrieve the lost phone.  Later we learned how terrified our handler was that we committed such serious a faux pas, and we speculated was possibly shocked we were not arrested for it.

 

20180210_112138.jpgThe vacation.  Day one, everyone wakes up cranky.  Everyone is moody, miserable, and fighting.  The beds and pillows actually inflict pain; they are so bad.  But, once settled in, each person has the time to start living the moment instead of only reacting to a fast paced series of reactionary moments.

 

While on the drive from the airport to the resort the previous evening, you are taking in the world the local people live in through the bus window, your kids, who are sitting much closer to the front of the bus, are noticing how rude, insensitive, and disrespectful they feel some of our fellow vacationers are being towards the travel guide whose job it is to get everyone to their hotels.

 

20180209_153704.jpgWe are in a place where the local population is predominantly dark skinned.  You notice how kind and friendly all of the people working there are, how some struggle with the language barriers between them and their guests, but they still do their best to help.  Your kids, however, whose sole experience with different people in your other raced neighborhood is what they learned in school about the history of black slavery, are feeling weird and at odds over watching all these dark-skinned staff serving the predominantly white guests.  They question the appropriateness of it, not understanding it is so only because of the nature of the local population’s demographics.

 

20180210_103428(0).jpgDuring one dinner, while you are observing the strange behavior at the next table, your spouse is observing a very different scene behind you.  The table next to you, a larger group, are taking turns politely clapping each person as if each is taking a turn quietly sharing some life affirming moment.  The moment feels almost cultish to you, and you wonder if this is some sort of retreat for some group.  Your spouse reaches across the table, touches your hand to get your attention, and looks you in the eyes.

“Get ready to move fast, there is going to be a fight behind you and I think it will be ugly.”

You glance quickly at your teen sitting next to you and then at the couple quietly arguing being hind you, just at the moment the whispered argument gets louder.  The wife was very inebriated, and the husband not.

We each had a very different memory of that dinner.

 

Naturally, being a vacation of the sort we have not been on in years and may not again for years to come, everyone has to take a turn being sick.  Another wrench thrown into that perfect vacation.  Another drama, another obstacle to overcome.  I have to say, I don’t know when I felt a sickness like that.  After the vomiting the large ball of discomfort settles in to take up permanent residence in your stomach.  You are cold and hot.  Every inch of your muscles and skin hurts.  The weight of your body against the mattress is agony.  Even the feather weight of the light sheets is pain.  Luckily we packed a pharmacy.

At one point, as I lay there, my spouse thought he saw bruising.  It was only shadow.  I said I had the lividity.  That now I know what dying feels like and it hurts like hell. That I am now The Walking Dead and if I didn’t feel like such crap I would probably be eating everyone.  My spouse called me a dork.

 

20180210_075334.jpgOf course, the vacation was not all bad.  Kids and teens, being who they are, were in a constant flux between getting along and annoying each other.  Anyone with teens knows how little you see them when they start hiding in their rooms.  And, with work and kids, how little time a couple actually has together.  We had eight full days, including travel both ways, of all four of us being together 24/7, getting reacquainted with each other.  That was through good and bad, sickness (literally, with us taking turns being up all night vomiting), and health.  We still like each other.

 

20180211_144645.jpgThe trip home.  The plan was to have everything packed and cleaned up the night before and ready to go.  Everyone is up, showered, dressed, and last bit packed with lots of time to haul our stuff to the front lobby, get lunch, and hop on the bus to the airport.  Easy.  No fuss, no muss.

The reality; okay that actually did sort of work out for us.  Not so much for the other family with two small boys who were on the wrong time zone.  They missed the mandatory check out time, thus incurring the wrath of the forewarned late checkout surcharges.  The bus did wait for them while they hurriedly put their two small boys on the bus and scurried off to hastily pack all their belongings and race back to the bus.

It also presumably did not work out so well for the others who our vacation company on-site liaison, bus driver, and hotel staff were unable to locate.  They missed the bus.  All but one eventually made it to the airport, where we all looked at each other wondering what fate befell the mysterious man they kept paging over the intercom to make his way immediately to our boarding gate.

 

20180211_105331.jpgGoing through customs is its own experience.  Leaving Canada, the fourteen-year-old was randomly selected for the “sniff test”.  Yes, apparently they had to make sure a fourteen-year-old girl was not carrying or recently in contact with cocaine.  I, being the concerned parent, laughed at her plight.  The Canadian customs staff were typically Canadian, indulgent and kind about it.

And then there was the phone in the bathroom incident on arrival, which we teased the thirteen-year-old about and told her that her father would have had to contact the Canadian embassy or consular service or whatever they have there to have our government try to negotiate our release from a foreign country prison.

Coming home, we learned while in line to check our luggage that the rules for carrying going the opposite way are different.  We hastily shifted items from our carry on to our checked luggage.  On the way to security I ended up having to throw out my chapped lip stick because that apparently is illegal.  Every man woman and child went through a cursory pat down.  The Dominican customs people were all very understanding and kind while processing all of us.

On arrival in Canada, and after a slightly bumpy landing, it is time to breathe a sigh of relief.  It is over.  You are home.  Cue laughter.

We are in the back quarter of the plane.  Naturally, disembarking is done from the front to the back.  Everyone is collecting their stuff from the overhead compartments and beneath the seat in front of them, committing incredible acts of acrobatics trying to squeeze through the ten-inch aisle with their stuff to the front of the plane, and stumbling numbly down the tunnel ramp on legs and buttocks that are no longer functional after a more than six-hour flight trapped in tiny uncomfortable seats with their legs pressed to their chins.

20180211_144010.jpgLiterally, with the last of the rest of the plane passengers passing through the door at the end before us into the great terminal beyond, an airport worker hurriedly rushes to the door and closes it in our faces.  We, and our fellow back of the plane passengers, are left staring dumbly at him as he motions us to stay and runs off through the secondary set of doors.  We look at each other.  There are a few nervous chuckles.  We are literally in a dry aquarium.  A glass-walled prison with no way out except to race back to the plane, whose door is presumably closed by now, and no place to shelter.  Is there some sort of airport security event?  Should we be afraid?  But, this is Canada, so the worst it might be is that someone forgot to say please and thank you.

After some moments of the same man who locked us in and another worker looking around in confusion, the other trying his swipe card on some random card swiper at a desk through doors the rest of the plane did not disembark through, a third airport worker came along and let us through.

20180211_143714.jpgAt last, we are home.  Or at least on the last leg of home, driving home with a slight detour that involved going in completely the opposite direction of home for some distance before realizing we are going the wrong way, and made it home.

The vacation, naturally, does not end there.  Because now you have to catch up at work and do all the other post-vacation stuff.  But the real story has already ended and that stuff happens after you cut to end story.

 

And that, my friends, is how an unexciting vacation story becomes filled with obstacles and drama.  Real life throws a wrench in things and so must you when you write your story.

 

While we were all in this together through various stages, every person would have had their own unique perspective and experience.

 

There is more to the story, of course.  The monkey on the beach, the walk off-resort through a possibly sketchy area, and the salami taxi.  But that is the fine details you flesh out later in your story.

 

Now, if I were to re-write this from each person’s perspective, each would tell a very different story.

 

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You are here:  The Intangible World of the Literary Mind

This blog is about writing, being an author, and life.

 

LV Gaudet, author

This blog is for the fans of dark fiction, those stories that slither softly into your dreams in the night to turn them dark and foul.

 

 

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