The Return

Picture this scenario for me.

You have just had the best first date of your life. You laugh at all the same things, you talk constantly with no weird pauses, and at the end of the night you just know that you can’t wait to see them again. As soon as you get home, you get a call saying your mother is sick. Then, you have a crisis at work. Then a small fire in your building, forcing you to move. Then, then, then, just one thing after another, constant crisis for months, each of them seeming to be the worst thing that has ever happened. During all this time, you never get around to calling that fantastic date of yours again.

You completely meant to, of course. But you can’t call and tell them about your sick Mom. It’s too soon, you barely know each other.  And you can’t start in on the work problems, because it will just sound like an excuse. With every crisis that comes along, you have more and more to explain until you realize that you just missed your chance. I mean, not calling or a week is one thing. But it’s been months now. For all you know, they’ve moved on. There is really no explaining anything anymore.

But I guess I can try to explain.

That’s right. There was no date, it was all a thinly veiled effort to explain my disappearance and sudden reappearance. I’m honestly not sure exactly how a year passed without a post, but I guess it’s just like I said above. The longer I was gone, the more I felt I had to explain when I came back. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to call, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to explain everything. I’m not going to go into every gory detail, but hopefully an overview will help.

It was one year ago. I’d been struggling with depression for a while. Belgium is a beautiful country and most people I met were wonderful, but it wasn’t a good place for me personally. I wasn’t able to work, not because I didn’t try but because there weren’t a lot of opportunities. I lived far away from most of the people I knew and  I have never been a person who was great at making new friends. It was isolating and rough. I had tried to make the best of it, but we had begun to hit a point where I was drowning underneath the rejection letters and the quilts I had made to ignore the rejection letters. Topping it all off, we had been having trouble with our landlord for a while and were working on trying to move out when our lease was up. Again, I’m not going to get into it. Not only is it in the past, but it would not be fair to give you only one side of the story. Let’s just leave it with the one thing I think we would both agree on; neither of us were fans of the other.

Basically, things were stressful. Eventually we found a new house and moved. I struggled a lot during this time. I stopped writing on the blog, I stopped writing on my novels, I stopped sewing. I didn’t read as much. Somedays I barely managed to get dressed. Worst of all, I stopped wanting to do a lot of that.  I just kind of stopped.

Things weren’t always bad. I had a lot of good days in there too. I worked hard at keeping myself as physically healthy as possible with diet and exercise. I even had bursts of creative energy occasionally. I finished a few quilts along the way. I had the inspiration for a novel, and even a desire to go back and finish one I had started a few years ago. Sometimes I thought about coming back here, but I never quite knew what to say. Do I apologize for disappearing? Do I promise it will never happen again? How much of the lost time do I explain? Every last detail? Pretend I was never gone? Or somewhere in the middle? It was too much to think about, so I kept putting it off.

And then things changed. Two months ago, we left Belgium for England. It hasn’t been an easy transition, and not everything has worked out the way we wanted it to but it’s still been good. We like where we are. We’re settling in, and someday I might even be done unpacking boxes. Maybe. I really hate unpacking. But the point is, things were slowly starting to look up. Even when things were really bad, I didn’t feel quite as down. I even started wanting to write again; and not even just wanting to write, I felt like I had something to say again.

So where does that leave me now? I honestly don’t know. I’m not going to promise I won’t disappear again. If I need to be gone for my mental health I’m going to be gone and I am not going to apologize for that. Instead I am simply going to say, today I am here. Tomorrow, I might not be. I hope you can understand that. If not, that’s fine too. We all have to do what we have to do.

But for those of you who come back, who choose to stick it out with me. Thank you. I don’t know if you’ve ever been low, but it means a lot to have others around to help you back up.

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The Problem with Sequels

August is here, and that means the second session of Camp NaNoWriMo is over.  As I have during both November and April, I took up the challenge and set out to write a novel in one month.  During my first attempt, I completed my novel but did not hit my word count.  The second time, I hit my word count, but did not complete my novel.  This month was the least successful for me personally as I achieved neither. My word count was short, and my story was incomplete.  Even worse, it was crap.  My problem was simple, I attempted to write a sequel.

It is a generally accepted the sequels can be iffy.  It either takes the characters and circumstances you loved and makes them better, becoming the best thing ever, or takes them, strips away all that way amazing, and kills the series.  On occasion you can be really lucky and they simply make a lateral movement, not getting better or getting worse.  It is a risk to create a sequel, and not one of my personal strengths.

For this particular attempt, I was attempting a sequel to the novel I had written in April.  You know, the one I didn’t finish.  I knew how it was going to end, but somehow I had been struggling with the words.  I had continued on, because it was a critical scene I could not seem to write.  I assumed I was just feeling the pressure to get it write and a little distance might prove to be helpful.  So, I skipped it and started working from a half finished outline.  Perhaps it should have been a clue that something was off when I couldn’t even seem to finish the outline.

Yes, there were many warning signs I should have heeded, but well.  I didn’t.  I plowed through completing 20,742 words on a story that was wrong.  I had been unable to write the ending to the first novel because it was going to end wrong.  Then, I began again from the wrong ending.

I have had problems writing sequels in the past.  Simply put, I don’t know how to do it.  The times when I felt a sequel was necessary, I began with an idea.  As I asked myself questions, forming who did what and when and how it will all end, the story gets bigger, too big for the one novel I was working on.  Instead of finishing the first novel as a complete tale, I finish it as a section of a story.  Yes, I have finished the tale I began with, but I left it open for the next part.  Instead of beginning, middle, end I know have beginning, middle of the beginning, and end of the beginning, ready to be followed by beginning of the middle or beginning of the end.  Somehow, it ends up being beginning of the awkward transition.

I have only tried two sequels at this point.  The first time, it required moving the characters to a new place, completely different from where they had been before and introducing some new characters who both fit and didn’t fit into the world.  It was so far from where the first one had been, I felt like I never found my footing.  This time, I tried to bring the characters right back to a familiar place, only to realize later, it didn’t make any sense.  They needed to go somewhere different, because the change in their life was too big for them to stay the same.

There are so many great sequels out there in the world.  Let’s be honest, every time you turn around there is another trilogy, and many of them are really good.  It’s hard to tell, am I simply doomed to only successfully write single books, or will I one day find the formula that makes a good sequel?  Either way, it is time to take a break, and work on something different.  Perhaps in time, the second book will come out.

Through the Tunnel

Over the last month I haven’t posted much.  Well, probably more than the last month.  Okay, definitely more than a month.

For the last year and a half I spent much of my time staring ahead, keeping my eyes firm on the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and constantly worried I would never actually get to the end.  Of course I did, I made it through the tunnel, into the light and I graduated.

Of course, I was initially elated.  I was done, and I was extremely relieved.  I just wanted to be relaxed, and enjoy my moment.  Eventually reality set in and I realized, I was done.

It seems like it should be a good thing, realizing I finished something big.  I know I should be proud, and excited for the next stage of my life.  Instead, as soon as reality set in I was overwhelmed with terror.

What am I doing next next?  What should I do next?  What have I been doing with my life up until now?  Am I where I should be in my life?  Am I going anywhere?

What comes next for me?

So, yeah.  I haven’t been posting much due to a minor existential crisis.

I had thought to share that fact with you, but thinking it was too much.  After all, who am I to whine about my problems?  Of course I am not perfect, and I do not have the level of privilege that some may assume, I have a roof over my head, I am a citizen of a free country, and I have the means and opportunity to not only get an education, but also travel, and occasionally sit at a computer and ramble on about my life, even though I am well aware of the fact that my ramblings do not help anyone in any way.  My problems are nothing compared to the people who are starving, or who live with horrible illnesses.  I know that, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about my own problems.

I try to think about what I should do next, and I begin to feel overwhelmed.  The two most obvious answers, get a job or continue with school, are both slightly out of the question.  I live in a small area with limited work options and no current availabilities, in or out of my career field.  Additionally as much as I would like to continue on with my education, I’m not exactly prepared to embark on the journey towards my doctorate degree.  Which leaves what?  What do I do now?

I came through the tunnel, but I am still have no idea where I am.  Somewhere along the way I lost my focus, and I can’t seem to find it.  Worse than that, I’m not sure what my focus should be.  Should I make my focus my writing?  Should I pour myself into the blog, or spend hours sewing, or get deep into exercise and fitness and run for hours every day?  What do I do?

Sadly, I am not writing this down because I have any answers to share.  I have nothing.  This post is little more than a whine.  The most I hope this will do is allow me to let go of a little of the frustration and move on.

So there is where I have been.  Hopefully it’s not where I will stay for long.

50 Books: Birdsong

Some of you may have noticed, this is not the promised book for this week. I was completely on schedule to be done with Anna Karenina this week, but during my weekend travels I ended up without any time to read. Normally I am a person who reads before bed, however as I was sharing a room, I couldn’t keep the light on. Instead of skipping a week of bookishness, I decided the quickly read the next book on my list, as I knew it was a very short one.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Where did I get this book and how many pages?

This book is available on Oyster, and is reported to have 88 print pages.

Have I read this book before?

No. I have never heard of this one, not even in passing.

What do I already know?

Not much. The cover says it is a modern play, and there appears to be a soldier and a woman there. My guess, based on these clues, is it is a wartime romance.

What do I think now?

This was a very short play, but I liked it. I don’t always like reading plays. It took me a little bit to get into the rhythm of the story, meaning things were slightly lost at the beginning. It was a story about a group of soldiers fighting in a war. It didn’t say which war, but they referenced speaking French and fighting Germans. I originally assumed that meant WW2, but a brief internet search told me it was actually supposed to be WW1. There doesn’t seem to be much beyond tragedy in this story. There is a soldier who loses a son, a soldier who lied about their age to enlist and isn’t doing well, and a commanding officer who is haunted by the memory of the love of his life, who left him many years earlier. It is a pretty dark story, but well written. I would like to see this play one day. I think it would be dark beautiful.

Should you read this book before you die?

Occasionally I have trouble when I come to this portion of the post. I feel as though I should always say yes, read this book. Someone else made the list. I don’t know who, and I don’t know why. There is no explanation as to why these books were chosen, or what makes them better then the billions of other books that have been written. Not every book I have read on this list has made a large impact on me; some have been just mildly entertaining. I’m not sure what I am supposed to get out of this. I’d like to know what put this on the list.

As a writer, I enjoyed the rhythm of the flashbacks and the way they told the story without telling the story. I liked the technique of the writing, but I’m not sure that I learned anything new. As a reader, I felt it did a great job of creating an image of war. It was horrible, and dark, but of course I already knew that about war. Again, not really a lesson.

I suppose that is the reason to read this book, to see what you get out of it.

Next week, I will be caught up, and we will finally see Anna Karenina, followed by Heart of Darkness.

Happy Reading!!

Insert Something Witty

Hello all!

I fully intended to have a full week of witty and insightful posts this week.  Somehow I thought as soon as school was over I would have more time, and I would be able to allow myself more creative freedom.  So far it’s not working out that way.

Instead of being open to creative endeavors, I was struck with wanderlust.  It was strange, hitting quite literally moments after I turned in my final paper.  I was overcome with the need to run through the hills, celebrating my newfound freedom.  So that is what I am going to do.

We threw together a quick trip to Salzburg, Austria.  We leave tonight, approximately five days after we decided to go.  We have never gone from idea to vacation so quickly, so I have still not wrapped my mind around the idea of leaving.

Long story short?  Instead of photographing the new quilt I have to post for this week, I decided to get ready for our trip.  It may seem crazy, but I decided I would rather have clean underwear to wear all weekend than have a pretty for the day.  I hope you are not offended, but at the end of the day I am comfortable with my choice.

So no new posts for a few days, but I am hoping to come through with a good travel post after I get back.  It was after all one of my goals for the year, so I have so make sure I don’t fail on the first try!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Done

I know I have been AWOL this last week.  It was not something intentional.  I completely meant to post, but well, things got busy.

I know, now I sound like the date who promised to call, didn’t and then awkwardly bumped into you at the coffee shop.

I promise, it’s not like that.  I was distracted, as I was completing my last week in my Master’s program.  That’s right people.  I am done.

There are no words for the level of relief I feel right now.

I was never sure I wanted to start the program, as much as I wanted the degree.  I knew it would be a lot of work, and I was terrified that the payoff would not be enough.

Now that I am done, I can’t seem to stop dancing around the house.

I’m not sure I could say the extra degree will pay off, but I can say I am happy.

There was a lot of stress, and several moments where I wasn’t sure if I would make it.  But this feeling, right now, completely worth it.

I have finished this chapter, and I am moving onto the next one.  As soon as I take a nap.  This dancing is exhausting.

(Ok, I’m still going to be dancing.  I just find sleepy Boo to be adorable.)

Have an AMAZING day everyone!

One Year Old

I have been debating on what to write for this post for a couple of days.  Well actually for almost a month.

I have been blogging here for one year.  It feels like it should be a party, celebrating everything I have accomplished and everything this blog has become.  In truth, I am doing less celebrating and more reflecting.

I started this blog for a reason.  I wanted to share who I was, and find others who were going through similar things.  I was looking to make a connection, to reach out into the world and make it a little smaller.

I know my blog is small.  It has grown since I started, of course, but not at a record breaking pace.  I don’t have a slim focus, which makes it difficult to gain a following.  I write about what crosses my mind, what worries me, and what interests me.  Sometimes it means I have something exciting to say, and other times I have nothing.  It doesn’t make it easy for others to know what to make of me.

I haven’t been making the connections I set out to make, but I think I am staying true to who I am.  I guess I can’t hope for much more.

My second year of blogging has begun, my next chance to do what I set out to do.  Now it is just to do it.

What We Do

Last year was not great for my running.  I was constantly letting my laziness and exhaustion overtake me instead of pushing myself, and I did zero races.  I’m not talking about virtual races, I’m talking about standing at the starting line with a large group of strangers, running through the cheering crowds, pushing through the course, crossing the finish line and having a medal placed around your neck and limping away triumphant race.  I love races.  I’m not fast, and I’m never in it for the possibility of winning.  I’m there for the feel of the crowd, the excitement in the air, and the exhilarating moment of crossing the finish line.

This year, I decided I needed to get to a race again. I have already picked out two semi-local races, spread apart and with a few options for distances which will let me have options if my training does not go well.  I was just waiting to get started training again until I got over being sick.  I had a massive flu/chest cold incident which has left me with the joy of coughing fits whenever I either move around too much or in a strange way.  Not the end of the world, but not something that would work well with running in freezing temperatures.

Yesterday worked to show me just how far I had fallen.  As I mentioned before, yesterday was my Big One’s birthday.  Growing up in a large, and quite bluntly poor, family, we didn’t do much as far as birthdays went.  There were no big parties, and we didn’t go out to eat.  Instead, on your birthday you were allowed to choose what was cooked for dinner, as well as what kind of homemade cake you wanted.  Living far away from everyone and everything, we keep the tradition.  Its simple, easy, and all about family.

Big One had a simple request for her birthday; a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup cake, and curry.  Our curry is a little different from other curries.  Our curry is based on our favorite Japanese curry house, Coco Ichibanya.  It’s a thick curry sauce, almost a gravy, that we eat over rice and chicken cutlets.  Most of this was easy enough, however we had no chicken breasts.  The store down the block, about 1/2 mile away, was out of chicken leaving me with there choice between disappointing my child on her 13th birthday, or making my way to the next closest grocery store, 3 miles away.

Yes, I did it.  I walked three miles the next town, bought the chicken, then walked three miles home.  After that excursion, I whipped up the cake and then lay down for a long rest.  Walking six miles had been nothing such a short time ago, and now it exhausted me.  Not a happy thought.

I consider myself lucky however.  Sure it, was not a fun walk, and I have a wonderful blister as a souvenir, but I was able get what I needed for my child.  The look on her face, when she was able to have what she wanted was worth every sore step I took.  It’s just what we do for our kids.

Most Important Part of Today

I know it is cheesy and weird, but I am still trying to get my life together for this new year.  Two weeks of kids home, plus being sick (which I still am), have left me off schedule and feeling lost.  Fortunately, the children went back to school yesterday, the husband went back to work, and it gave me a chance to rest and recover slightly. However today, I am officially back in school as well, which takes away my rest time.

None of that matters today however.

Today, there is something more important than any of that.  This girl.

IMG_1793

Not the dog, the sleeping child.  Today is Big One’s 13th birthday.  She is officially a surly teenager.  She denies it of course, but I have my doubts and am preparing full swat team riot gear just in case.  Now that she knows everything, she has instructed me to not panic and to continue on as we always have in the past.  Of course she also promised me that she would not now or ever decide to start dating and having a social life.  I think this is definitive proof I cannot trust anything that comes out of her mouth anymore.

But for this one moment, what comes out of her mouth does not matter at all. It is all about what I have to say.  Happy Birthday to my Big One.  She changed my life, and continues to make me a better person.  I look forward to everything she is going to put me through over the next seven years of her teenagedom.

Kicking Off 2015

It’s a new year, which means people everywhere are making promises to change they will not actually keep.  I always try to avoid making resolutions and instead make goals.  It seems the same to some, but to me it is very different.  A resolution is something you are going to change about yourself; a goal is something you want to accomplish.  When I feel as though I need to change something about myself, I change, I don’t wait until the beginning of the new year.  However, goals help to keep you focused; it’s nothing something I want to change, it’s just something I want to achieve.  As I said, it’s a small distinction.

Last year, I made five goals for myself, not all of which I accomplished.  As I make new goals for myself, I also reflect on those from the year before.  So, first the breakdown.

Goal 1, start a blog.  Okay.  Done.  Obviously.  I didn’t grow the blog quickly, or post consistently, but I got started.  I think I am still finding my voice here, but I made the first step, and that was getting started.

Goal 2, finish the three stories I began.  Okay.  Not done.  Two I didn’t finish, and the third I did, but it was barely begun at the beginning of the year.  Somehow this goal got a little twisted in my mind and turned from finishing projects I had begun and turned into writing three novels.  Either way I didn’t do it.  I did however finish two novels, learn a way to outline my story ideas that works for me, and managed to finish a story in one month for NaNoWriMo.  I definitely made progress in learning what works for me when it comes to writing.

Goal 3, work on my healthy habits.  All right, it was a rough year, but I never stopped trying.

Goal 4, publish a novel.  Also, not done.  I went into the year with so much hope and optimism.  Bluntly put, I knew nothing about how to publish a novel.  I didn’t know how hard it was, or how long the process could take.  I had no idea about any of it.  On top of that, I feel as though I may have had an overinflated idea of how good my novel was.  A year of perspective, and putting it kindly, it was not ready.  I was not ready.  There are still things I like about the first one, but overall, I think it was more of a mess than it should have been before I started the query process.  Some of the writing was great, but the story was not. Instead of trying for publishing, I think I should be ripping it apart and using it for spare parts.

Goal 5, create something on a regular basis.  I wanted so much to just keep making things, and I think I managed that.  Not everything was great, or perfect, but I never stopped trying to create something new.  So, I guess for this one, go me!

It’s hard to say I actually accomplished my goals here.  I guess three out of five isn’t bad.  I learned a lot, and I know I really improved my writing this year, even if other things did’t go as well.  Maybe this is a sign I need to pick my goals better, and think a little more this year.  There is nothing wrong with setting your goals or resolutions on January 1st, but there is not reason you can’t make them a little later either.  So no, I am not posting my goals today.  Instead, I am giving myself at least another week.  I want to be ready, and know I am choosing something I want for myself.  In any case, with goals today, tomorrow or three weeks from now, I am going to make something out of 2015.  Maybe that is the only goal I need.