Pets

This is my ever-present (and persistent) writing assistant, Henry. He struck this pose just this morning, and I was compelled to write about him.

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What? I’m helping you….

Henry is a rescue, found a little over two years ago, half-starved in a machine at the plant where I work. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for cats. The phone at my desk rang at 6 a.m.- the guys on the production floor couldn’t get near him and asked if I’d come get him.

He was covered in grease and fleas. I carried him to my office, where he immediately made himself at home on my desk or in my lap, whichever was available. The then-President of my company was an animal lover, so I called him and he brought cat food and a small litterbox so that I could keep him with me that day.

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Day One – I’ve been rescued!

I pretty much accosted everyone who entered my office that day. Didn’t they want to take this sweet baby home? I sent emails, text messages, put up pictures on bulletin boards. There were no takers, so he went home with me that night, much to my fiance’s chagrin because we already had two cats (one being a bottle-fed foster).

Over the next three months, I continued to try to find Henry a home to no avail. By then, though, we had all already fallen in love with the goofball, including our oldest cat, Charlie. Needless to say, we kept him. He’s been a member of our family for two years now.

Charlie is an excellent big brother. Talk about unconditional love. He grooms, loves, protects, and helps raise the foster babies we (aka me) bring home. He’s awesome. Camera-shy, but awesome.

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I have found the best hiding spot EVAH!

A trip to the vet told us that Henry was part Maine Coon, and that he was going to be a whopper of a cat. They weren’t lying.

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Treat time! Charlie (the small one) is five years old. Henry (the big one) is almost three years old.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m writing this. I just couldn’t help but share a little joy this morning, after a few too-hard head-butts from Henry as he sat on my desk. He likes to aim for the nose, make a person see stars. Truly.

Animals can be a perfect representation of unconditional love. I know that my two boys remind me every day that love can bring a smile even on the worst of days.

We could learn so much from them.

We all need to be rescued from something. We all struggle with something. Some struggles are bigger than others, but we all have them.

Be kind to others. Be a reflection of God’s unconditional love. Make an effort to put a smile on someone’s face today. Let someone know that they’re loved. Even the smallest act of kindness can have a huge and lasting impact on someone’s life.

My cats are great teachers. I get to begin every day with a smile.

 

I wrote a boring character….UGH.

Have you ever been 20,000 words into a story when you realize that you don’t find your main character interesting anymore? Writing for this character has become boring, filled with blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda.

This is where I find myself.

My main character’s best friend, however, is awesome. I know her, right down to the noise her shoes make when she walks. And, she makes me laugh.

I like laughing.

I like the secondary character more than I do the primary character.

How’d I do that? How did I create a “best friend” that outshines my protagonist?

Her purpose was to bring levity to an otherwise not-so-funny situation. I enjoy writing for this character – her scenes and dialogue flow with ease because I know precisely how she’s going to react or respond. I can literally hear her voice in my head and I can’t get her words to paper (or screen) fast enough.

On the flip side, it takes real work to write for my protagonist. She has become cumbersome, an anchor that’s pulling me down, down, down.

This struggle is showing in my writing, and I have to do something about it. And, I think I know what the problem is……

My protagonist has zero attitude. She’s too polite – meek, even. She has no quirks, nothing that makes her stand out in any way, nothing that I can play on while writing for her. She’s bland. There is nothing that makes her interesting.

Because I didn’t give her anything that makes her interesting. All I did was give her a problem and a supporting cast to get her through it.

I failed her.

So, I’m returning to some very basic NaNoWriMo tips in order to meet her. For the first time. Again.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? I mean, I’ve done a lot of writing and this means that I’ll have to back up and kind of start over.

I’m okay with that. I look forward to it, actually.

I look forward to it because I know my writing will be better, and her story will be a better one. Plus, I’m learning from it and that’s never a bad thing.

That’s the cool thing about writing – we never stop learning. We will never know it all.

And here’s the bonus: do-overs are as limitless as the stars. We can start over as many times as it takes to get it right. And we just know when we’re there.

That’s such a good feeling. I’m gonna go find it.

 

 

 

 

 

Working for the Weekend

I’m showing my age here, but does anybody remember a mind-bogglingly (is that a word?) fascinating band called Loverboy? They had a song called “Working for the Weekend” back in the eighties, I think.

Anyhoo, that song earwormed its way into my head this week as I sat as my desk (dayjob desk) thinking “it’ll be over soon, it’ll be over soon, it’ll be over soon”.

By the way, clicking my heels as I repeated that mantra did nothing. Massive disappointment.

Back to the point. I had a glaringly obvious realization this week that I am doing precisely that: working for the weekend. And it made me start thinking about why my perspective changed, because I used to like my job.

My daddy passed away almost three years ago. He was our rock. He taught us everything we know about earning what we want through hard work.

He was an aluminum siding man, working long hours outdoors no matter the weather. He worked all of the time. And, he never complained.

He was an incredible story-teller. We would gather around him, in the floor of the living-room, while he played his guitar for us. Mom would bring a huge Tupperware bowl of popcorn and cups of Kool-aid to us. He would sing a little, talk a little, sing a little more.

That sums up how I knew my daddy, until he passed.

Like him, I’m an avid reader, so I got his books. His many, many, many books. To say he loved history is an understatement. He studied history. He underscored, high-lighted, cross-referenced, notated. I have spiral notebooks full of things he’d found interesting, written in his neat script.

He was brilliant.

But I didn’t know that about him. I had no idea he was so passionate about something, other than being our daddy.

He never got to visit the places he studied up on, wrote about. He was only there in his beloved books, his mind leaving the confines of our tiny crowded home to take him on journeys to battlefields and historic buildings. I imagine he thought about those things as he climbed ladders, hammered nails, and burnt up in the sun or got soaked by rain.

On his last good day, he talked to us of regrets. He didn’t want us to have any. He wanted us to chase our dreams, fulfill what we felt we were put here for.

He wanted us to live, fully and abundantly. He was proud of the adults we had become.

Yeah, he had a huge hand in that. Mega huge.

My life changed after my daddy passed away. His words changed me. His books and his writings changed me. I cried as I perused his notes, laying my hands on pages of books he’d worn thin.

That’s when I became dissatisfied with my path. Not with my life, just with my path. It made me really think about where I was going. I was at the half-way point of my journey here, so I made a conscious decision to change direction.

It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Daddy really did know best.

He would’ve turned 79 this week. I suppose that’s why my mind has lingered here all week. His quiet influence still plays a role in my life, gently urging me to continue on, whispering encouragement to me.

I’m crying now, missing my daddy. I have his picture beside my desk, a constant reminder of how much I’m loved. He was pretty darn awesome.

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you.

 

 

 

 

Why a divorcee?

A beta reader asked me why I would make the protagonist of my story a woman going through a divorce.

So I asked this person, why not?

Their answer: Well, divorce is devastating.

Yes. Yes it is. But, it can also be FREEING. It can be viewed as an opportunity for a new beginning instead of just an ending. We can draw strength from it instead of wallowing in our heartbreak and misery.

I, myself, am a divorcee. Believe me when I tell you that I wanted to wallow. And I did for a short while, with the help of A LOT of good red wine and way too much take-out. But then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and began creating a new life for myself. A better life.

I had no idea that someone would find that idea offensive. I didn’t know that I would make a person feel “broken” because they were still struggling, years after the fact.

Given my own experience, I know that my perspective on it will be different than others. I wrote from that perspective, because it is the only point of view on the subject that I have.

Never, ever, did I intend to make anyone feel “less than” or “wrong”.

Unfortunately, she felt so strongly about the subject that she became angry with me and decided to stop reading for me. I will truly miss her input.

We, as humans, are made up of experiences. Some will be similar, and others will be vastly different. That doesn’t mean that one is better, or more right, than the other. We are unique individuals, therefore our reactions to certain situations will be unique, as well.

I’ve always been told to “write what you know”, and I really think that’s sage advice. What I know is that laughter can be abundant again, love can be thrilling again, and life can be as fulfilling as we make it.

Words are powerful. I just witnessed that truth, in a very awkward way.

 

 

Paycheck VS Passion

It’s six a.m. on a Saturday and I’m the only one awake, as usual. Except for my cats, of course. It’s them who wake me up this early because, technically, it’s two hours past their feeding time. Apparently they have schedules to keep, even on the weekend. Go figure.

My day-job continues to be a hellish landscape. Text messages while I’m at home allow no escape from it. The stress and pressure follow me wherever I go, even the frozen food section of the grocery store as I am too tired to prepare a fresh meal for my family.

My mind is so tired from the business of the last two weeks that words simply escape me. I am exhausted, more mentally than physically. I still have the urge to write, the craving to do so, but my mind simply isn’t cooperating.

It is preoccupied with the busy-ness of life. It won’t allow me to take flight into my imagination because one part of it knows that it’ll take me all weekend to get the laundry caught up. It wonders if I have enough scent-beads to make it through all those many loads.

While I yearn to jump back into the make-believe world of my novel, my brain is making a meal plan and grocery list instead of allowing me to see what my characters are going to do and say next.

I’ve stopped laughing out loud when my favorite character, Ella, pops off at the mouth with her usual silliness. Her frame of mind has morphed into my frame of mind, and she has become tired and boring.

That’s not good writing.

I have never seriously considered quitting my day-job. Until this week.

I am the primary bread-winner. My paycheck is a necessity for survival.

But what about my own survival? What do I do when that paycheck is squashing the very thing that makes me feel alive?!

Reading and writing are what fuel me, bringing out everything that is passionate within me. If I were ever stranded on an island, I’d need three things to survive: a good book, a pen, and paper.

Yeah, I would starve to death but I would die happy.

I have vacation scheduled next month, and I strategically planned it around it my family’s activities so that I could have a “stay-cation”. I plan to stay in my jammies, my big bootie at my desk, and write.

Blissfully uninterrupted, laser focused, completely responsibility-free.

I will block the numbers of my co-workers. They’re on their own.

I am steadfastly determined to finish my novel that week. I look forward to the rewrites, revisions, cuts, and all the hard work that will follow.

This is the difference between passion and paycheck. I welcome and embrace the work produced by my passion, while simply earning a paycheck is stripping me bare.

It’s two completely different types of survival.

I’m hoping, during that week of “stay-cation”, to determine a solid path that will allow me to survive with passion.

And, I hope that returning to work after a nine-day absence won’t make me lose my mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets and Lies

Secrets and lies are poison. They are toxic, deadly, and destructive. We, sadly, are not immune to them, and can never build up a tolerance against them.

Why do we do it? Why do we create a circus of secrets and lies that leads us to jump through hoops and tame lions as the truth tries to swim to the surface?

I am currently watching a loved one go through hell because of someone else’s secrets and lies. I have been there, and my heart aches for this person. The anguish, pain, confusion, and fear caused by someone (whom you believed loved you) desperately trying to maintain a facade can be unbearable.

I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

The truth doesn’t just make the facade crumble. It causes it to explode with atomic force. The wake is usually far-reaching and devastating.

Why is it so hard to be honest?

Fallen out of love with someone? Leave them. Over-drawn the bank account? Tell your partner. Behind on several bills? Talk about it. Check your priorities and make an effort to straighten things out.

The truth is so simple. Secrets and lies create more work than they’re worth.

I’m not naive. I know that relationships are a many-layered thing. I know that there are nuances to the way every couple communicates. I get it.

I just don’t understand wasting precious, precious time with secrets and lies. It takes entirely too much effort in up-keep, and it usually never pays off.

I wonder if people need to be more introspective.

If we have an inkling that our partner is going to be hurt by something that we’re doing, why do we continue on with that activity? Maybe, just maybe, we need to stop and consider our own motivations for why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Is it for the thrill of having a secret? Ask ourselves why we need that thrill. What is lacking in our current situation that would create such a need?

I totally get that people change with time. I know I have. When that happens, it’s difficult to make things mesh. So, we need to ask ourselves if it’s worth it.

Is what we have worth fighting for?

Sure, the truth will cause an argument. It absolutely will be an unpleasant experience. That’s why we lie and keep secrets: to avoid the pain of finally telling the truth.

Sometimes, it can be worked through. Other times, the damage is too great.

I suppose my perspective is skewed, having been on the receiving end of said atomic bomb. Maybe it’s not as easy as I’d like to believe. Maybe I am a little naive.

Or, maybe I’m just too honest. Trial and tribulation can do that to a person.

 

 

Rhythm of Life

Have you ever heard the saying that someone is “walking to the beat of their own drum”? It seemed to me that it was always used to imply that a person was a little bit odd, a little bit different than what others would consider normal (whatever that is).

Earlier this week, I had a conversation (aka argument) with my fiance about our differences. I explained to him that our individual rhythms were total opposites. His is loud, erratic, and chaotic. Mine is quiet, steady, and orderly.

Naturally, his children follow his beat and I totally get that. It’s just that, at times, I am outnumbered and overwhelmed. Together, their drumbeats are so much louder than my own, and it completely drowns out my peaceful rhythm.

Not being able to hear my own drum causes me to lose my pace, to stumble , and my little private orchestra falls apart.

This does not make for a happy maestro.

This has been one of those weeks. Work has sucked, so let’s just add that to my pile of crap, too. I have been incredibly irritable, short of temper, and a general joy to be around.

He even had the audacity to ask if I was pms’ing, to which I emphatically replied, “NO.”

I’ve got to give the guy credit: he knows how to read me. He was right on that one.

Anyhoo, as my hormones balanced out and I became somewhat rational again, I realized that I can bang my drum just as loud as they can. I decided it was time to get the band back together.

On good days, our rhythms blend to create beautiful music. On bad days, we can make your ears bleed.

But, we still maintain our rhythm. We occasionally have to adjust our steps, skip a beat, and then flow back into the music that is our life. We can each bang away at our drums, so long as we’re mindful of the others in our band.

Every now and then, someone needs a solo and that’s okay. We each deserve a moment in the spotlight.

This, apparently, was my week to be a diva. I pushed, shoved, and elbowed my way to the front. It was not my proudest moment, and I plead temporary insanity.

But, my family banged on, backing up the horrendous piece I played. They wielded their sticks with fervor, trying to keep up with the crazy tune I created.

They really love me.

So, bang away, guys. Swing your arms till they hurt. We’re all listening, ready to join in when we pick up on your unique rhythm. Let’s make some music.