Monday, February 27, 2017

Two ideas

I have two story ideas and I'm still struggling with which one to write.

One is a vaguely formed short story that's sort of dark fable kind of material. It's something I thought of a while ago, but then yesterday I had a great revelation about how to change it to make it infinitely more awesome.

The other is a chapter in a rewrite of a book. Yesterday I had the sudden brilliant idea about how to fix the troublesome character that's been holding it back. And then I thought I might rewrite this book into chapters that are self-sufficient short stories but that connect together like a string of pearls, know what I mean?

Anyway I need to pick one and get going on it because Time Is Of The Essence. I'm behinder than I've ever been so far this semester. Or any semester. Because I don't usually have to start from scratch and come up with a whole new story every three weeks. Ahhh! Actually I can do both of them, but I need to do one NOW and one NEXT. Woohoo!

This weekend my chest has gone all tight and I've been all shaky and weird. I don't quite know why, because nothing has changed. Well, I'm worried about my friend who's in a bad situation with an emotional abuser spouse, but that's also not new at all.

Actually a dreadful thing happened. We were texting and trying to figure out solutions going forward and he got hold of her phone and read our whole conversation. Which sort of proves her point, actually. But oh boy. I was trying to help, you know? And now things are at least out in the open, but I suspect so much worse. Maybe that needed to happen to break the deadlock.

I don't do relationships, so maybe others can confirm how awful a thing that is to do. What would you think if someone picked up your phone and read your whole text conversation about them with a friend? I mean, that's breaking every kind of boundary if you ask me. I call it a betrayal of trust. And not just that, but a deliberate violation. I mean, it's not like accidentally overhearing a phone conversation.

Anyway. I hate to hit the xanax when I'm not getting on a plane or something otherwise traumatic, but I feel exactly like I felt when I ended up in the E.R. last fall and had to be given all these teeny tiny nitroglycerin pills to get my blood pressure and heart rate down. Like my accelerator is stuck and the engine is screaming for no reason.

Otherwise everything is actually quite delightful! I'm working away and getting all of that done. And I'm accomplishing other jobs like working on this cedar chest refurbishment and fixing up a gummed up practically brand new super expensive Dyson vacuum I found yesterday that was put out for the trash.

Dog and I went for a long walk yesterday and found it, but it was far too heavy to carry all that way back, so I went and got it when I was out in the car getting white bread and turkey at the store. (I bought sandwich makings last week, but completely forgot bread, which is hilarious. And they were out of turkey breast that day, too. Now I have them.)

It took a long time and lots of fiddling to get the vacuum fixed up, but oh, what fun that was. I love fixing up machines so much. Why can't editing writing be so straightforward? And now I have a $600 like new fancy vacuum. I'll probably promote my smaller battery-operated Dyson to upstairs and use this one downstairs. And therefore will actually vacuum the upstairs more than almost never.

I also got the mailbox out of the snow pile where it had landed and fixed it up and put it back on its post, this time with stronger and longer screws. I hope it stays in place longer than two days this time!

Dog is up on top of the big green comfy chair again, draped over the cushions and the arm of the chair, with his back end on a stuffed bunny. It's flipping adorable. That's the spot with the best view outside.

I was thinking back to the last 5-6 office jobs I've had and how universally terrible they were, except for Warner Bros., which was the 7th one ago. Just appalling behavior, from people being vicious and awful to people giving me all the work and sleeping until noon. Lies and treachery and personal attacks and so much ridiculously terrible drama that I've never experienced in any other kind of job. I mean, this didn't happen at Starbucks or in the grocery store where I decorated cakes for years. It doesn't happen in teaching. Professionals don't behave like that. Nor do people who work with their hands, in my experience.

Is it an office thing? Is it a small town office thing? I'm starting to wonder if that was the problem. They were all in small towns in three different states. Different fields, different types of job (temp or permanent), and so on. Though all fairly small to very small companies.

Just something I've been thinking about and trying to figure out. People! So tricky! It doesn't take too many of them turning into giant many-headed screaming lizard people before you start looking at all of them and wondering when the scaly lizard heads are going to start to appear. And I've seen it happen a LOT.

Oh, it's probably the stupid cold cuts, isn't it? I got the fancy no preservatives kind, because I'm deathly allergic to most preservatives, but I bet there's something in them that's setting me off. I just noticed hives on my face. Good times! Well, dog and cat will enjoy the last of the chicken slices. That kind of allergic reaction definitely causes racing heart. Not to worry! I can fix that.

Sandwiches on this super white Canadian white bread are insanely good, though. With lettuce and mustard and mayo. If you have sandwiches regularly, you might not be out of your mind over them the way I am, but oh my goodness, they are superb. (Actually I'm probably allergic to the mustard, too. Dang it.) The super white bread means my innards don't rebel. And it's all soft and friendly and makes sandwiches that look like in cartoons.

Me and my Platonic ideal of a sandwich, yep.

Okay, I will go for a dog walk and decide for sure which idea to work on, then start it when I get back. Raaaarrrr!

Friday, February 24, 2017

That lovely post-submission lull

I get a few days or even up to a week after I turn in my writing for school before I get feedback. And I feel so good in that time! Ah! It's bliss! I definitely should be working on my next story already, but I woke up ungodly sick this morning and spent the day (when not working at work) doing a puzzle of the Grand Canyon and gently moving the kitty off the middle of it.

I even managed to take dog for a walk and take out the recycling and the compost, so woohoo! Go me.

The field between the woods and the road has a somewhat hard packed path where we've been walking, but underneath that there's a foot and a half of snow. So as I'm walking along, one foot or the other will suddenly sink in almost to my knee, which is very disconcerting, especially when it happens eight or ten times in a hundred feet. Gaaaah!

Also I get snow in my socks. Do not like!

I just had a whole jar of kimchi for supper, plus some terrible Easter candy. What a combo! I know! Oh my golly, that boughten kimchi is amaaaaaazing. I should have bought all the jars. My own kimchi is also highly delicious but there is far too much red pepper flakes and especially the seeds, which sort of sandblasts my stomach lining. I suppose I could just take out the cabbagey goodness and sieve out all the peppers. I might have to do that. The juice is delicious, though. Mmmmm.

Next time I'll use chili powder and a little cayenne and not red pepper flakes. It's what the recipe called for, though! I mean!

This is one of those coldy flu things that feels much worse first thing in the morning. I was afraid I had caught man flu or something, the way I was huddled on the couch. But I needed tea, and for that I needed food, and so I opened a can of soup and got my day going properly and felt better. Mmm, tea.

I should probably put my whole self into a hot bath. Last night when I went to bed I was so utterly frozen that I was shivering all over and seriously wondered whether the furnace had gone off, but the dog wasn't cold. I just wrapped a fleece blanket around my head and huddled under the comforter with the dog until I got warm.

Next story: maybe I'll do some weirdo supernatural demon kind of thing. I think I will. I wrote the beginnings of a kind of terrible poem about the demon's daughter a while back, like maybe last summer. It didn't really go anywhere. But I think I could turn it into a story. These things have a way of turning into stories on their own without my intervention.

The thing you do is describe a situation and then what happens next just happens. I don't know, I don't get it. I keep thinking I need to understand what I'm doing in order to do it, but apparently not. And then when I get stuck and stop, when I come back, the ending is obvious, so I write it and I'm done.

I'm especially excited I got to include the Jonah and the whale modern art metal wall sculpture from our church where we went when I was little. I was crazy about that thing. I wonder if there's a picture of it online?

Apparently not! Though the church is on Facebook, which seems bizarre to me. All the pictures are of people, not artwork, except for a series of weird crosses I had totally forgotten about until I saw them again.

I wonder if my friend Lindsay would go take a picture of Jonah and the whale for me? I wonder if it's still hung up outside the fellowship hall?

I wonder if I should up and move to Michigan again?

Anyway! The boxes arrived for my work computer, so that got shipped away, woohoo! Now I just have to wait for the severance thing and figure out COBRA and get my car fixed so it's safe to drive and then I can see about going out to work, unless one of the awesome online jobs hires me before then. Which I would much prefer, yes!

Obviously it's best to keep on doing the thing I know how to do and am good at and enjoy, rather than the thing that is not ideal in oh so many ways and tends to go south in various ways. Yuss.

Anyway my focus now is to write these stories for school, three more of them, and to get my dang novel revised and finished and SENT OUT. SOON.

I need bigger caps for that. SOOOOOOOON!!!

I'm pretty thrilled that I took three giant bags of stuff to the Salvation Army. And I have a ton of non-clothes stuff ready to go, but it's all jumbled into random boxes untidily. I have to sort it out and box it up so it doesn't all fall out and get smashed. And then!

What weird dreams I keep having. Last night I signed on as a production assistant for a movie musical that Neil Gaiman was shooting in my old high school. I was all wrapped up in packing my blue backpack with every possible thing I could need, plus dressing for the part.

It was totally a flashback to the time I dressed as a P.A. to talk my way onto the studio lot where Grey's Anatomy was shot so I could deliver a scrub cap I had sewn for the actress who plays Bailey. It worked, too. Pretty awesome. Then the next time I was there was for an interview at Grey's Anatomy. Hurray!

I wish I could get as excited about writing books as about writing television. But writing books is just staying home and doing work. This is why I gave up composing music, and even then there were always times I could get ensembles together to play things! Sheesh!

Well, once I get the dang car fixed, I'll go back to my writing group once or twice a week, if they're still meeting. February is a rough time in Maine. Lots of people get laid off seasonally and of course everyone is paying for heat and still broke from Christmas. And then the weather got hairy for a while there. Though now it's all just ice and mushy deep snow and meltwater lakes. And that's just the path from my house to the front gate!

It really is a lot of deep water out there. I tried shoving a bunch of snow into it but guess what? Snow melts in water. Now there's more water. I know, genius move, eh? I sort of thought since the snow wasn't melted in the first place, it would...never mind.

Open ground is warmer than ground with snow on it. Doy.

I could go to sleep on this couch again RIGHT NOW. Oof. Do not go into my chest, ailment! I forbid you! My chest does hurt a lot but then I've been hitting the inhaler to fight that. Raaarrr! Breathing!

Anyway I'll have a hot bath and get all bundled up and write things this evening and it'll be lovely. Until I get my feedback, which no matter how productive it is always makes me all devastated, woe! We shall see. Who knows, maybe it'll be awesome this time? I am not a pro at short stories, man. I can write you novels all day long but I don't get the short stories. I don't know what they're for except to make people feel like crap. That seems to be the usual goal. How is that a reasonable thing to do? See.

So there we go, back to the Infinite Monkey Cage podcast and nice big ideas about science and the world and books I have to read and books I have to write and weirdo stories to figure out and dogs and cats to snuggle. Go go go!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Nothing continued to happen unabated

Yes. I'm doing the same amount of work for half the pay and no benefits, which always gives a person a real thrill. I'm putting lots of time and energy into The Search, which led me to post a lot of writing about books over on one of my other blogs, Story on the Brain. Oh, you can find that here.

I read a bunch of the old posts there and marveled at how my brain used to work much better than it does now. Amazing! Exciting! Awesome! Good times.

But now I have Dramatic Renewal of Purpose in writing about the books I read so I guess that's good. Oh, I seem to be rather grim and gloomy today. Well, it'll pass, I suppose?

I'm also utterly freezing for no good reason. I'm all bundled up in coats and quilts and scarves in a nice warm room. And I had a good walk with dog! So what the what? Is it all part of the glooooom? Could well be.

No sign yet of the boxes I need to receive to ship my old work computer back, without which I can't receive a lovely check. Without the check I can't fix my damn car. Without my damn car I can't go out and temp or whatever, or even go get more Canadian White bread, which is just ridiculously delicious for something that looks like slabs of marshmallow.

Seriously, I've never been an eater of white bread but there was a sandwich in one episode of Community that set me off and I desperately wanted one. And this bread! It doesn't make me deathly ill like whole wheat bread, or worse, the kind with all sorts of seeds and grains and things. People: mill your grains. This is 2017.

I get these evenings where I'm frozen solid with icy hands in a warm room and have hot rosy cheeks and then take my temperature because Something Is WRONG and it's 96.7. 

My story that I have to turn in Thursday isn't great. I mean it's about two things but only starts the second one halfway through and that isn't integrated into the first half, so either that needs to happen or the second thing needs to get taken out. I guess I should say it's not finished, really. Very gloomy also because at least with the first story I was super happy with it. Now I'm not very happy with it AND I know it's not going to go over well at all.

This book I read recently mentioned having an ideal reader, and oh, I got all depressed about that, because I don't have one at all. I mean there isn't some awesome person out there who I imagine reading my work and loving it, or even liking it, or someone I want to charm and entertain and make happy and impress. Because I don't believe those things are possible, and who would that be anyway?

I'm in one of those mind zones where I feel completely invisible and not on anyone's radar, because--well, logically--I'm not.

We got directions for setting up graduation today. I have to pick two peers to be on some committee with me, from my own genre. And that's when I went...oh. Who on earth? I am friendly with a lot of people at school but I only am actually friends with like three and they're not in my genre. I guess I could think of some I sort of know, who might work out? Will anyone put me on their committee? Obviously not, because I'm not friends with anyone in my genre. Gosh!

Another thing I can't do until the boxes arrive and the computer gets sent back and the check comes is...buy a plane ticket to school for all of that senior thesis stuff and graduation. I don't even know who to pester about getting the boxes. They kind of cut us off. It's weird.

Getting laid off is tremendously rejecty, everyone knows. It's getting kicked off the team or out of your group of friends. It's exile and ostracization on every level. Add the tremendous uncertainty to it (we don't know if/when we will get work assignments) and the halving in pay for those times when we do have work assignments and it's pretty much a recipe for thunderstorms in the brains.

Take last night, when I had a nightmare that I was sitting in a bath and took off my head to rinse my hair in the water more easily. Then I cradled my head like a baby and nursed it.

Don't ask how I was seeing my head when I was holding it in my arms. Dream logic!

I've been going off one of the optional sleep and nightmare meds so that's definitely part of it, which is why I take them in the first place. Terrible nightmares, ugh. Do not like. I actually go to quite a lot of trouble not to access terrifying images and all that stuff, to try to keep this sort of thing down as much as possible. I mean it's not like I'm out there watching movies about severed heads or whatever. At most I'll watch Community or Leverage or something like that.

I can still feel the weight and heft of that head. Heads are heavy! And hard. And you have to be careful of the nose and eyes and mouth when rinsing the hair in the bathtub, see.

I'm sort of considering taking that thing again tonight. Oof. Why are things so vivid? Things that I dream are more vivid than things that happen, but that's mostly because nothing happens. I mean, I eat clementines and sugar snap peas and I make cups of tea and I cook mac and cheese and oatmeal and soup and stuff. And I work on my laptop. And the animals skirmish around me all the time. Dog is snuggling me right now on the couch. The cat likes to get between my book and me when I read at the table. My boys!

Anyway I'm feeling like I'm going to do a lot of writing coming up here, now that I'm working as of today. Not working is BAD. Psychologically. I think it gives the lizard brain conniptions about survival. Then the lizard brain is like: EAT! Eat everything! Eat it all now! So maybe it'll all be calmer after today. I definitely feel like I've cleared off the table in some sense and I'm ready to focus on some stuff that I've been too panicked to work on for a while.

Mostly I just want to read books in a hot bath. Or sleep. Though I haven't been sleeping a whole lot, come to think of it. Just normal amounts, not the great swaths of sleep I would have expected.

See? See how boring? I know! I'm wearing a stripey pink and purple shirt if that helps liven things up at all. Colors! More than one! At the same time! Ahhhh!

Yawn. Maybe I'll make some quilts, since I'm too zombified to organize myself to baste and quilt this flannel one. Snap out of it, man!

Actually I was a complete panicky maniac for a week and a half or two weeks and ran around doing every possible thing for eighteen hours a day, so I guess I deserve some zombie time to recover from it. And the moral of the story is: go easy on yourself, jeez! Eat protein! Drink water! Have more baths if you want them! It is okay to make pumpkin pie! Or go to the Walgreens and get that terrible Easter candy!

Ooh. I have to do that soon. Very soon. Oh, it's really terrible, that Easter candy. I totally want some.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

When is a story not a story?

When you forget to put the story part into it, I guess. You know, the part where thing A happens and then because of that, thing B happens?

I have this great story but it doesn't have a story in it, not really. I might be able to make it have one. It's due on Thursday.

Such a weird time right now. We all (170 of us) got laid off as of yesterday, with the option of staying on at greatly reduced pay in a different position, which I'm doing. It's a big jolt, though. The different position is super intermittent and not guaranteed, so for one thing it's impossible to say if or when I'll be working.

When I found out, I was in such a tizzy that I made all sorts of mistakes in my Quicken, putting debits in as credits and credits as debits. I was in a panic because I would have to move right away, because on the if/when/maybe job I wouldn't be able to afford my rent.

Then I was outside standing on top of a giant plowed up snow pile along the road, digging for my mailbox that the plow knocked off its post, when my landlord stopped to see what I was doing making a spectacle of myself, so I had to tell him. And he reduced my rent by a lot, which it turns out he was planning to do after a year anyway. So that's super nice and I was able to stop my frantic packing and sorting stuff to donate, which was basically all I'd done since I heard about the layoff.

Now the car is full of stuff to donate and my mailbox is around the corner next to his. A different mailbox, that is. Mine is still deeply buried somewhere in that five foot high mound of snow. I was worried it had mail in it still from Monday, but luckily we didn't get any mail delivered Monday due to the massive blizzard.

Blizzard! It was crazy out there. The snow is still much deeper than my dog is tall, though it's been squishing down with temps in the 30s. It's too deep to walk in, though, even under the trees. I tried today.

I did not get the car fixed after all. It was supposed to get new tires yesterday. But that would have meant not being able to pay the rent, so nope! I did get the smart idea to get all of my prescriptions refilled with a 90 day supply while I still had insurance, though, so I got all of those yesterday. Phew!

Anyway I should be able to do that in two weeks if things go the way I think they're going, meaning if I really am on for part time, which I think I am, but who really knows anything anymore. I would say the whole place is anarchy but I really doubt that--just that some people are super overwhelmed with questions and confusion and unable to keep up.

It would be much nicer if I could at least pretend to be in control of what's going on in my life, y'all. I mean it's hard enough to make decisions without having those decisions countermanded or not followed or whatever.

Anyway. I'm reading this excellent craft book for school because since the inauguration I've had the absolute worst time reading fiction. Normally I read a book a day. I mean, not Dostoevsky, but you know. A modern book. I did just finish a fun Meg Cabot book. I was halfway through before I realized it was in present tense. How weird is that?

I'm actually reading two craft books, but one is a distillation of the patriarchy and the other is awesome. The awesome one is called Vivid and Continuous. Highly recommended! I'm going to reread Save the Cat! also because it's brilliant. Reading good craft books makes it very hard to keep reading them, though, because I run off and work on my own writing.

As in all times of crisis and uncertainty, I've been browsing Airstream trailers on Craigslist and looking at pictures of tiny houses. I mean, I'd rather live in a house, right? But I'd rather live in a Wonderfalls Jaye Tyler Airstream than nowhere at all, or with my mother, heaven forbid. Anyway I'm seriously thinking about getting one of these gutted and mid-renovation Airstreams that are for sale around here and making it into my home away from home type home. In case of no home.

I have far more stuff than would actually fit into an Airstream even if you stacked it all in there floor to ceiling with no room for humans, cats, or dogs. But in this scenario I imagine storing things, right? In storage? Which means my brother's extra lawyer house. Don't ask me why he's has this extra unused house for six years without renting it out or using it for lawyering. Renting it out would have been incredibly smart. Go figure. Anyway the garage is good for storage.

This terror of homelessness sucks, but I'm doing my best to find a good job and avoid dealing with any of those scary options. Still, my method is to look things straight in the eye before I need to deal with them, so that things go better in the long run. I spent a lot of time this week getting rid of everything it was easy to get rid of, for example. The next level down is a little tougher. But I also took down shelves and spackled holes and did all of that kind of thing while there's lots of time and I have lots of angsty energy to burn off.

Oh, I still keep on having to shovel things, too. I had to dig a path to the compost and a path to the shed, on top of the long path to the gate and a couple of paths for the dog to use for his business trips. Having a path to the shed is great because I keep wanting to take the recycling out or go get things from there and now I can. My hands wake me up all night long from going numb, though. Last night my left index finger in particular kept going numb. I think that's from knitting, though.

I'm trying to finish my nephew's sweater as fast as I can. Finish everything! Knit it all up! Quilt it all up! I got more quilt basting jobbies on Friday, then spent twenty minutes standing in a muddy slush puddle in the parking lot of JoAnn Fabrics pumping up my tires with the little compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter. It works!

I'm pretty much not planning to go anywhere until I can replace those dang tires, though. In fact I've been looking into replacing the bearings and rotors myself, since I already know how to do the brakes. I wonder if I can? There are plenty of videos out there telling how to do it.

I am just realizing that this sounds incompatible with the already numb arthritic carpal tunnel hands. Good point.

Another absurd idea I have is to buy and fix up those Airstreams and resell them for a massive profit. I know, right? Airstream flipper. What a business plan! Guess what I know nothing about: how to fix up an Airstream. I mean, I'm good at fixing things, but I'm not familiar with these things at all. I do love the idea of fixing them up, though, making them so homey and cozy.

Ugh, this story I'm working on is hard to write. I mean it would be hard for anyone to make it work. But it's also really hard material for me to deal with. Good times, good times.

Does anyone have any pizza or anything? I'm in this weird food zone where I haven't really cooked much of anything lately so I end up eating snap peas or pepper jack that isn't made into a meal. It's highly unsatisfactory. Also I haven't done the dishes so the rice cooker is dirty and I don't feel like making soup or whatever because it'll take too long.

Pay no attention to me. I have two dozen cans of Progresso soup in the cupboard, easy. I will go warm up one of those. I think of things like that as For Emergencies, like the end of the world, but as my landlord said, the world just ended for me, so it's okay to eat the soup.

Also I'm down with some kind of cold, unless it's asthma and general raw breathing apparatus from doing massive amounts of shoveling in severe cold weather. I mean, I think it's both, actually. So give me one of those chicken soups, man!

I'm putting all this excess energy left over from the shovel fest into the house and the stuff contained therein. I sure do love seeing everything gradually get cleaned up, tidied up, fixed up, put away, organized, mended, sorted, and ironed out. So very satisfying all around.