Sunday, January 14, 2018

Taking On Another Challenge

I wrote my first ever erotica short story. And let me tell you, writing erotica -- good erotica (at least my hope is my attempt is good) -- is not easy.

I sat in this chair, at this computer, for nearly ten hours making sure the one lengthy sex scene in the story didn't come off as cheesy, silly, or over-the-top. My desire was that the scene was sweet, rang true, and showed two people who knew each other's wants and needs. I guess you could say I was going for tasteful (if that is even possible in the world of erotica). Now the story is in the hands of those who will critique it. I did ask that they be gentle since this is my first time.

As I was working on the story, Funny Delightful Son came in to chat. He asked me what I was doing, and at that particular moment, I was reading a page about the female anatomy, complete with images and labels. I pointed to it and explained what I was doing. FDS laughed and said, "Okay. Glad I asked."

"It's for another contest," I said. "And if I get any good at it, I'm going to go the erotica route. That's what people really want to read."

"Sure, Mom," FDS said. "Sounds like you're selling out."

"Nope. Just accepting the reality of things," I said.

"Well, I'll leave you to it," FDS said, standing and leaving me to my work.

Not long after his visit, Lovely Beautiful Daughter came in. She sat in the chair near my desk, and over the next few minutes, I had the same conversation with her, though she didn't call me a sellout. She just laughed. She did say, however, that this is one piece of my writing she absolutely will not read. Fair enough.

If nothing else, writing in a genre I'm totally unfamiliar with was a challenge. The guidelines for the contest are that the piece include a steamy scene within a story of 1500 words or less. The story I've had in mind for a while. The steamy scene? Nope. To be sure I built a scene that can be considered erotica, I did some research to be sure I wasn't crossing any boundaries. Now I'm hoping those who offer feedback can give me further guidance to tighten the piece even more.

One thing I noticed about myself while writing the steamy scene was how uncomfortable I was with the language when I started vs how comfortable I became by the time I had finished. Yeah, I find this really interesting.

So, that was my day.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

50 Degrees Brings Out the Bike

I defied the weather forecast today and rode my bike to work!

And I got rained on during my ride home.

But I really didn't mind. Instead, I remembered the day on the Pacific coast ride when it was rainy, foggy, and cold, and I had no hat, no gloves, and no leggings. I was miserable.

Until I caught up to a couple of the guys who had reached the little town where our first rest stop was scheduled. We were ahead of the van, so we found a small cafe to get coffee and warm up. The server, the person bussing the tables, and the chef treated us like royalty even though our mud-covered shorts left the chairs a mess, and our jackets dripped water all over the floor around the table. We were given kitchen towels to dry off with. Our coffee was refilled without once having to ask, and the server gave us a heads-up on cycling the road out of town, what to be careful of. When we left that cafe, each of us felt ready to tackle the next twenty or so miles and the sun was beginning to break through the clouds.

Today, I rolled along happy. I go through times of being off the bike for one reason or another, more recently because of the below zero temps, snow, and ice, and it always feels like magic when I settle onto the saddle, push the pedals, and the bike moves forward, gaining speed with very little effort on my part. The freedom that comes with riding a bike is priceless.

Now that I know how long it will take me to get to work from home, since this was the first time I took the bike to work after moving to the new place, I know how long it will take me -- right at a half hour. Not bad. And a great way to mentally prepare for facing whatever the day throws at me.

The other day, I caught the bus to work. If I'm going to live a car-free life, I have to learn the bus routes. The bus stop is right up the street, maybe a hundred yards from the front door, and it arrives at 18 minutes past the hour as well as 48 minutes past the hour. This bus takes me to the hub where I transfer to the bus that takes me out to work. All in all, I'm looking at a half-hour bus ride to work, which I can use to write in my journal, read a book, listen to music, or look out the window. I looked out the window the other day because we'd had enough fog overnight and it was still cold enough for it to freeze that much of the landscape was sparkling while still shrouded in fog. It was beautiful.

Last night, Lovely Beautiful Daughter, Angel Baby and I went to see Tommy Wiseau's The Room. What a hoot! LBD had told me about the movie some time ago, and when she found out recently that a special showing was happening at one of the movie theaters here in town, she told me about it. I figured seeing the movie ranked right up there as a "Don't Squander Opportunities" moment, so I bought tickets for the three of us. Definitely the best "Don't Squander Opportunities" decision so far this year. I can see it staying at number 1 for the entire year. Unless I get that dune buggy ride in sometime this summer. Even then, it's going to take something really, really special to knock The Room from its number one position. And when a friend at work turned and saw me walking behind him this morning and said, "Oh hi, Jenn," in that same tone Johnny uses in the movie, I just cracked up.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Returning to an Old Routine

Back to work today. To be honest, I was totally ready to get back to the routine of designing the curriculum, teaching, figuring out how to get the writing center moving forward, and seeing all my friends. I've missed all of them very much. I saw them a couple of times during my leave, and we texted at times, but not seeing them on a daily basis created a hole in my life. They're wonderful people I am so glad are my friends.

I did run into a problem first thing. I turned on my computer and began working on a document only to have Word crash on me every single time I opened the document. I tried other documents. I tried creating new documents, but each time, Word closed out on me after about five seconds of being up on the monitor. This is really weird to me since my computer was off the entire time I was gone. What could possibly have happened to the program while the computer was off for seven months? Thankfully, I can work from home tomorrow, doing all my Word doc work from my own computer.

This afternoon I had to take Ado to the vet. His lip on the right side of his mouth is swollen and red. I first noticed it last Thursday and hoped it would clear up over the weekend, but this morning it was worse. The vet did a test and he does have an infection, so now he's on an oral antibiotic, a topical antibiotic, and Benadryl. The poor guy can't have any of his chew toys for at least a week. Just a few minutes ago he was stretched out on my bed, howling at the sirens in the distance. Such a goof.

To finish off my day, I learned I won third prize in a writing contest. The theme of the contest was holiday food, and I wrote a poem that went up against a lot of short stories. I think there were only three poems entered amongst all the submissions. Third prize earned me $50. Not bad. So, now I can say I have one poetry publication and one poetry prize award. Baby steps that make me smile.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Down a Rabbit Hole

My husband had a heart attack a few days ago.

I was sitting here at my computer, working on a new piece I've been tinkering with for a week or so when he called.

Do you have a car? he asked.

Yes. Why?

I think I'm having a heart attack.

He described the symptoms further.

I'll be there in a few minutes, I said.

I drove over then took him to the ER. As soon as they hooked him up to the machine, a code STEMI went out to the rest of the hospital. Lots of people showed up at his room, even the Chaplain. The staff worked quickly and efficiently to prep him to go to the cath lab. One of the nurses explained to me what was going to happen, and the cardiologist came in not long after we arrived to further explain how things were going to go. Right before they wheeled him to the cath lab, Lovely Beautiful Daughter and Angel Baby showed up. The three of us walked with him as far as we were allowed to go; then we went to the waiting room.

About an hour later, the cardiologist came out to let us know what was found, which was basically nothing. No balloon or stint needed. Meds should do the trick of dissolving the blood clot that was found.

The following day, an echocardiogram was done to see what kind of shape his heart is in. If I understood the doctor correctly, the lower chambers of my husband's heart are weak. His heart in general is not performing normally. He was on nitro from the moment he went into the ER  until I left at 8:30 last evening. Still, his blood pressure is bouncing around, going from 140's/90's to 150's/100's. While that is a whole lot better than the 193/137 he registered when he first went into the ER, his bp still seems high given all the medications they've been putting into him.

I stayed with him all day yesterday and nearly all day today. Tomorrow he goes home, and I wonder what it will be like for him there alone. I care about him, but I can't be with him. I simply can't, and knowing this makes me sad for him and me.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Yes! to Opportunities

My first Don't Squander Opportunities came last evening at a get-together with friends. Smoked oysters.

Eat one, my friend said. They'll bring good luck.

So I stabbed a toothpick into a dark brown blob of flesh piled on a plate and plopped it into my mouth. The smokey flavor spread over my tongue and the roof of my mouth. The texture was soft, like a piece of smoked fish. I savored every second of the delicacy.

Yummm, I said. I enjoy most seafoods, and the smoked oyster was yet another like to add to the list. My friend, in my phone contacts as Princess Leia because of her affinity for all things Star Wars, however, after very, very hesitantly biting just a small piece off an oyster, grimaced and spit out most of what she could. I wonder if the real Princess Leia would have reacted that way to smoked oysters. I kind of think she would have eaten them with gusto.

Cricket sucker, anyone?
And my second Don't Squander Opportunities happened as a result of me being the first to lose all my chips in the friendly poker game we had all gathered for. I like playing poker, but I reach a point not long into the game that I just want to watch the others play. So, with all of my chips stacked nicely in the others' piles of chips, I was given the 7th place award: a small box of vinegar and salt crickets, and an orange sucker with a cricket inside it.

I tried to share my crickets, but only one other person partook.

So I ate them myself. They were actually quite flakey, kind of like a really tender cracker that just falls apart in your mouth. And they were very salty. More salt than vinegar, unfortunately, but still, I thought they were good. The one other person who tried a cricket wasn't so keen for them, which was okay because that meant more for me.

On another note, a very strange thing has been happening. Over the last ten days or so, I've dreamed about bees being near me or on me. Like four times I've had this dream. I've never dreamed of the same thing so many times in such a short time frame. I've never felt scared of the bees, and in the most recent dream, a person beside me was shooing the bees away, scared of them, and I told them to stop, that the bees weren't going to hurt them. I just find it quite weird to have so many dreams of bees. Especially in the middle of -10 degree weather. Maybe it's my mind pining for summer days of warmth.

Monday, January 1, 2018

My 2018 Mantra: Don't Squander Opportunities

Happy New Year!

I love the promise that always swirls with the coming of the new year. All the possibilities stretching out before me. The older I get, the more I wish I had really tended to each year's possibilities and nurtured them fully, not just for the month of January. Thinking about what slipped by the wayside, what became lost in the everyday shuffle of life, makes me sad.

But I have another opportunity. 2018 is rolled out like a red carpet in front of me, and today, here at the starting line, a neon sign is blinking: Don't Squander Opportunities!

Last year my mantra was Persistence. I truly feel like I did persist in many different areas of my life and I feel stronger, more confident. Each time I said, "No," and each time I went with my gut instinct on an issue, the taller I stood, the calmer I became, and the more convinced I felt that the direction my life had veered is the right direction.

This year, my mantra is Don't Squander Opportunities. When I think about the ride along the Pacific coast, one moment of regret raises its head. I had the opportunity to go off route when we neared Coos Bay. If I had, I could have ridden a dune buggy along the Oregon coast. My entire being was screaming, "Go! Have some fun! If you don't do it now, when will you?!?" But I didn't listen, and after arriving to camp that afternoon, after starting out the next morning, I kept thinking about what that dune buggy ride would have been like. I'm not going to let opportunities slip by anymore. 

Which is why I drove over to see my dad and a high school friend last week.

Which is why I started taking boxing classes.

Which is why I went to the trampoline park and jumped for nearly two hours.

Which is why I stood outside last night at 10 pm looking up at the bright moon.

So many opportunities to create happiness. I'm going to do my darndest this year to take each and every opportunity for happiness that comes my way. And who knows, maybe that dune buggy ride will happen sooner or later.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Odds and Ends

Yesterday, I drove over to my dad's place in Indiana and spent the afternoon with him as well as four of my five siblings and their spouses. Not long after I arrived, one of my brothers pointed to a family photo and asked me how old I was at the time it was taken. That photo is my all-time favorite of me. It shows my mom leaning against a tree with us six kids lined up beside her. I am at the end of the line, with about two feet separating me from the rest of my siblings. I'm standing kind of silly, and my face shows nothing but happiness. To me, that image says volumes about me and how I've always felt a little outside my family.

Anyways, back to the question of my age there. I told my brother I thought I was four in that photo. He just nodded. Long story short: there had been a discussion about our little brother and how old he was in that same photo. The brother who had asked me my age insisted our little brother was only one year old in the photo. Everyone else was saying no way, he had to be at least two or three. If I was four in the photo, our little brother would have been two. So that discussion went on for a while.

After a delicious lunch and a bit more hanging out, everyone began leaving. I stayed to chat for a little while longer then headed over to see an old friend from high school. She was in to visit her dad for the week, so I took the opportunity to catch up with her. I'm trying to turn over a new leaf -- taking the time to do things instead of saying, "Oh, I'll do it next time." There may not be a next time, so it's got to be now. When I drove away, even though it was dark and the roads were icy and I had a two and half hour drive home, I felt really happy for having taken the time to see her and learn about what she's been up to. My two and half hour drive turned into three and a half hours because of having to wait at the train tracks in one of the small towns along the way. I checked Google maps to see if there was a way around, but there wasn't unless I was willing to drive icy, unfamiliar roads. I wasn't. So I sat and listened to music for an hour.

This morning, I awoke, turned to look at the clock and saw that it was off. All of the power was off. Angel Baby came downstairs and said he and Lovely Beautiful Daughter had heard a loud ringing noise outside just before the everything shut down. I figured the negative temps had taken a toll on a transformer and it blew. I called in the outage, built a fire, and sat back to enjoy the morning. The house cooled off to the mid 50's, but the area in front of the fireplace stayed nice and warm. Around 11 o'clock, the power came back on. Ado and I snuggled on the couch then and took a nap together.

Now I'm looking around the house and thinking it's time to put all the Christmas decorations away. I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to greet 2018 and see what the year brings. At the beginning of 2017 I said it was going to be my year of persistence. I persisted through the separation from my husband and in the process found a new beginning, one that saw so much love and support from my kids. I persisted with the writing and sending my work out for consideration, and I received my first poem publication. And I persisted in being much kinder to myself, which found me looking at a photo of me just the other day and thinking, hmmmm, you look really pretty instead of the usual hmmmm, not a good photo of you yet again.

So, with just a few days of 2017 remaining, I'm going to keep moving forward. I'm ready to put my mantra together for 2018, and I'm ready to put it into action.