Pancakes

For a very long time – like, half of my life – I hated pancakes.

I refused to eat them, even at the annual pancake dinner fundraiser held at my church. The very thought of them – and their fluffy, syrupy goodness – made me feel nauseous. Same goes for waffles and any other similar breakfast foods. I straight-up hated them and wouldn’t touch them with a four-pronged fork. Because those are the only legitimate forks, by the way. Don’t come at me with that three-pronged fork nonsense. Four-prong all the way.

Truth be told, I’m not sure where my pancake hatred began, or what the impetus was. I just know that up until a few years ago, the word “pancake” equated to “EW,” in my brain, so I always skipped over them on diner menus and whenever they were offered up as a breakfast option at a sleepover or something.

Then, one fateful day when I was in my late teens, I somehow ended up at an IHOP. And, of course, you can’t not order pancakes at IHOP. It’s the International House of Pancakes, for crying out loud. I mean, it’s not like it’s the NHOP, or National House of Pancakes. It is a force not restricted by national borders – you cannot forsake the cake at an IHOP, end of story.

So I ordered the most generic pancakes available on the menu and figured I could just slather them with syrup, suck it up, and suffer through it. But when they arrived at the table, an odd thing happened. My nose twitched, enticed by the sweet scent of maple. And my mouth began to water, instead of my mind blaring, “EW” over and over again like a siren. My stomach growled, too.

So, I took a hesitant bite. Then another, and another. And wouldn’t you know it?

As it turns out, I kind of like pancakes.

Now, I order them for breakfast all the time! I prefer the oat-bran variety, though, because I am secretly an old woman concerned about my digestive system. But I never would have known this if I hadn’t given pancakes a second chance. Inspired by my quick turnaround in opinion when it comes to pancakes, I have also tried to see if my opinion has changed on other foods, but alas, I still hate watermelon (all melons, actually), pears, squash, pretzels, and animal crackers, among others. But I have made an effort to give the things I once dismissed a fair chance to prove me wrong.

So, what’s the moral of this pancake-based tale, you might ask? Is it to always give those you have spurned a second chance?

In a way, yes. Pancakes deserved a shot at redemption in my eyes, to prove their worth to me. I granted them that chance, and they effectively reshaped my opinion, to the point where they are now one of my favorite breakfast foods.

However, people don’t always deserve a second chance. That would be ridiculous. It’s a case-by-case basis when it comes to human beings – sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Some people deserve a chance to right a wrong or mend a bridge or whatever. You’re not obligated to give people a second chance if you don’t want to, though. Because people aren’t pancakes.

Always, always give pancakes a second chance.

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If you’re in need of a new read, or need something to spend your holiday money on, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

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Worth 1000 Words #10: Reese

On a Wednesday night in 2007, I received a cryptic text message from my older sister while watching the latest episode of Lost. The message contained only one word.

Meow.

Some time later, I was dozing off on the couch when my sister returned home and deposited something furry onto my lap. I opened bleary eyes to see a small, mewling tortoise-shell kitten blinking at me.

That is how we came to own Reese. Technically, her full name is Reesie Lynn (my sister is to blame for that abomination of a moniker, we had exactly 0% input) but we have more or less only ever called her Reese. Sometimes, I call her Kit-Kat. Just to be contrary.

IMG_20170629_102725_202.jpgI think Cat People are Cat People for a reason. Cats are often thought of as fuzzy companions who don’t require constant attention; they’re adorable, not terribly messy, and can provide some warm, cuddly comfort on bad or rainy days. But Reese apparently has never read a single page of the “cat manual” because she doesn’t act like a standard cat at all; though Reese does provide ample fodder for my instagram, because she is cute, if nothing else. And if you think I can’t babble on and on about my cat for 1000 words, then think again!

Reese has never been much of a cuddle-buddy; the only time she ever feels like snuggling is at night, but only for about an hour before she gets bored, and she typically only solicits one person to cuddle with before departing back to the bowels of the basement so she can get the couch covered in fur. She loathes being picked up, and in order for us to trim her nails, I have to wait until she is asleep or groggy, then scoop her up when she is vulnerable – often, this results in being kicked in the chest/nose/throat when she inevitably rebels. She refuses to meet strangers, and I suspect some family members might not even know we have a cat, since she won’t show her face in the presence of visitors. My best friend house/cat-sits for us whenever we go away for any length of time, and during a 10 day absence, it took 4 days for Reese to be in the same room with her, and even then, she rubbed her head against my friend’s hand while hissing at her. So, claiming that Reese is fickle would be a drastic understatement. When I went away to college, it took several days during each school break to get her used to me again; I had to endure lots of dismissive tail swishing and scrambling away before she deemed me worthy of her good graces again.

She loves to sit outside on the enclosed patio and cackle at birds and bunnies, either because she wants to be their friend, or she wants to eat them, I’m not entirely sure. She greets me at the door every day when I get home from work or wherever, usually meowing her head off as she gets my black pants covered in her fur. I like to think that it’s because she misses me when I go away, but I’m fairly sure it’s because she’s just hungry. And boy, she’s perpetually hungry. She expects to be fed at around 5/6AM every morning, since there’s a couple of super early-risers in the family, so now, she’s accustomed to a schedule and there’s almost no chance of everyone being able to sleep in – not if Reese has anything to say about it. When she’s hungry, she is vocal. And then, even after breakfast, she expects snacks. Several of them. She also thinks she can trick us into feeding her more if she begs and whines at each person in the family, but fortunately, we are able to see through her ploys. It’s a wonder she isn’t shaped like a bowling ball with how much she tries to eat, though we’ve managed to regulate her diet well, despite her best efforts. Reese also loves to distract me while I’m trying to write; at the moment, she is sitting beside her food bowl and staring at me. She will not break me, though. I am steadfast – I can resist the food-mongering wiles of any cat, no matter how cute! Though, I must admit, she is especially “awwww”-worthy when she chases the laser-pointer around the living room.

A few months ago, I bought Reese a new bed; a nice quality one that I was able to snag at a great discount. Did she appreciate my generosity? NOPE, she actually prefers the comfort of a cardboard box, or a plastic bag laying on the floor. Her idea of a five star resort would be a kingdom of boxes and bags. We actually have fashioned a “cardboard apartment” of sorts for her to use, and she loves it. She’s a creature of simple comforts, I suppose… she did eventually warm up to her new bed, and it is now positioned on the floor beside my bed, so when she gets fed up with me, she has somewhere to escape to.

Reese is not a typical cat; but she’s my cat. She doesn’t like cuddles, but to be totally honest, neither do I, so it works out well. She’s an introvert, and can sometimes be downright obnoxious with her constant appealing for food, but she occasionally shows off her softer side. If I scratch behind her ears or she rolls over to let me pet her tummy, she might even deign to purr a bit, like a fuzzy motorboat. Sometimes, during her rare affectionate moments, she will rub against my legs, even when I’m trying to walk up the stairs… I refuse to believe it’s because she wants to trip me, though, sadly, that wouldn’t be much of a shock. I often suspect she’s the furry offspring of some feline version of Satan, but even if that’s true, she’s my furry offspring of Satan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Writing Techniques: Time

I think most folks can agree that there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish all the tasks that need to be done. But – and I’ll admit, I’m biased – I think this is especially true for folks with creative careers/ambitions.

Like many aspiring writers, I have to work a day job. I do full-time shift work in a field that is totally unrelated to writing, so my schedule varies from week to week and shifts from day to day. For example, this week my start times are 7AM, 5AM, 5AM, 3PM, 4PM. Sometimes I have to work overnights, then flip it around to dayside right after. There are occasional bouts of consistency, but it’s hard to develop a routine when just about every day I have to adjust what time I wake up, go to the gym, prepare meals, do chores, etc, in addition to a work schedule that frequently changes.

So, the struggle becomes finding time to write. My schedule is obviously not as demanding as some, but it can still be difficult to find the appropriate work/life/other work balance. I’ll admit, it isn’t often, but there are days where I’m on the go from 5AM-6PM and by the time I get home, eat dinner, and take a shower, exhaustion takes over and the last thing I have energy for is cracking open a Word document and trying to put competent thoughts down into writing.

Weirdly enough, it was easier for me to schedule writing time when I was in college and writing I’m With You, even though I worked 2 jobs for the majority of that time along with a full course load every semester, and a partial course load in the summers and winters. Fortunately, my schedule, while busy, was consistent from week-to-week, so for the entirety of my senior year I didn’t have to scramble my plans and obligations around to find a solid chunk of writing time. For a while, Fridays were also dedicated to writing from about mid-afternoon on; my most productive writing sessions occurred during that window. Friday nights were also dedicated to being in my pajamas by 5PM, having cereal for dinner, and watching at least 2 episodes of Hoarders, but that’s irrelevant…

I can imagine that it is hard for a lot of people to schedule time for writing; but it’s important to do so, especially if your days are hectic. “Oh, I’ll do it later” all too easily turns into hours passing by unnoticed, and suddenly, it’s 11 at night, your alarm is set to go off at 5AM, and you haven’t written so much as a word all day, and that is the worst kind of feeling.

My personal strategy to combat this is simple; set aside a designated time (15 minutes at minimum) depending on the day. A white-board weekly calendar hanging above my desk assists with this. It’s such a basic plan, but writing down my schedule for the day makes it much easier to visualize the breakdown of the time I do have, so I’m able to set aside a specific block for “writing time.” This doesn’t work 100% of the time, due to unforeseen circumstances popping up or last-minute plan/work schedule changes, but that’s the great thing about white boards! You can erase and start over, good as new!

Ideally, I try and fit at least a couple of hours of writing into each day, be it a blog post like this one, character development, free writes, actual drafting, or just dabbling with an outline or some new ideas. On my days off from work, I can sometimes spend an entire day at a Word document, pounding out potential content or shifting between a couple of different projects. Some days are more productive than others, and that’s fine. I might (and by might, I mean, I definitely do) look back on previous writing and cringe at how poor it is, even if I only jotted it down the day before. It’s all fine; it’s all part of the process. As long as I get something of substance down on paper or in a Word document each day, I chalk it up as a victory. Journaling also helps with this, because it ensures that I do at least a bit each day, even if it’s just a sentence or two.

And when those “unproductive” days happen – where my schedule allows for no writing at all – I try and do better the next day instead of calling myself a failure and wallowing in despair. I mean, I never shut my brain off, so when I can’t fend off a sudden brainstorm or have a stroke of creativity, I whip out my phone and text the idea to myself. On my phone, I have a massive text chain to myself that is just random snippets of dialogue, scenarios, or descriptions, and it’s actually been very helpful when I’m on the go and only have a few seconds to jot down an idea. This tactic really helps when I conjure up bits of dialogue and want to remember it exactly, because lord knows if I don’t make note of it immediately, I will forget when I sit down to formally type it out later. You can’t control when inspiration strikes; I find that I have to write it down quickly, in a text or scribbled on a sticky-note, unless I want to lose it.

So, the gist is, even when there’s no time, never stop trying to make time for writing. I know that when I don’t write for any notable length of time, I feel unfulfilled, and it makes it so difficult to build or maintain momentum. There are never two non-writing days in a row, ever. Life does get in the way; but it can’t be a permanent obstacle.

The 3 Happy Things Journal

I have never been a “journal” person. Not because I don’t like to journal, but because I always tumble into the “I’ll do it later” mentality and fall off the routine. In an effort to be a more positive and appreciative person, I decided to give journaling another go at the start of 2016. But instead of daily entries detailing events or pondering my existence, I wrote down at least 3 “happy” things that happened over the course of the day.

I’ll admit, I slacked a bit during the holidays, so I ended up cramming a few days at a time toward the end, but on the whole, I managed to stay consistent in my journal efforts for the first time.

1/11/16 – CORN MUFFINS
1/26/16 – Orchard Skittles and reclining movie theater seats.
2/5/16 – Mac n’ cheese absolutely MURDERED my cramps.
2/18/16 – Went through a car wash without suffering a panic attack.
3/2/16 – MANUSCRIPT DONE AND SENT! AHHHHH!
3/10/16 -Made the cashier at a gas station laugh.
4/10/16 – Discovered Would I Lie To You? reruns on Youtube.
4/26/16 – Survived a day with no coffee.
5/5/16 – Captain America: Civil War was awesome, and the Winter Soldier is FINE.
5/27/16 – Two-story Barnes & Noble in NYC, A.K.A, heaven.
5/28/16 – Steve Martin playing the banjo at the intermission of Bright Star.
6/10/16 – Cereal. I just really love cereal.
6/20/16 – New shampoo smells great.
7/10/16 – Mom, Dad, and I driving around to all  Pokestops in the area.
7/20/16 – So cool to see the format of my book.
8/8/16 – Got to watch a beautiful sunrise.
8/26/16 – Stayed up until 2AM reading and finished two books in one day.
9/30/16 – MY BOOK WAS RELEASED ON AMAZON!!! AHHH!!!
10/1/16 – MY BOOK WAS RELEASED AT BN.COM!!! AHHH!!!
10/6/16 – First person told me they like my book!
11/9/16 – Solidarity, unity, and determination.
11/27/16 – Killed a fly with my ninja skills.
12/16/168 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown reruns. I AM ADDICTED.
12/25/16 – Held my baby cousin for the first time.
12/26/16 – Giveaway ended with 1,202 entries.
12/29/16 – Burritos with friends, catching up for 4 hours.

2016, on the whole, was not a great year, but looking back through my journal has reminded me that there was at least a little bit of good to be found in each day. A small bit of sun to part the dismal clouds. Sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean frequently) the “good things” were something as small as “Chinese food for dinner!” or “Had a great workout today.” There were multiple days where I wrote basically the same thing; some variation of “good workout, work was okay, got some editing/writing done.” It is also alarming how many times I wrote about coffee, pizza, starting a book, and getting to sleep on time. Mundane things, maybe, but I’ve found there’s nothing wrong with thinking the “boring” things are positive.

There were some not so good days in there, too. On June 7th, I only wrote one thing down: nothing. Implying that nothing good happened the entire day. But looking back on it now, I don’t remember what made that day so bad, so really, it must not have been as awful as I thought at the time. That’s not to say that bad things should be ignored, because they shouldn’t. Bad things are a part of life, and they must be acknowledged, but they should not conquer all else.

The year might not have been great, but despite the bad things that happened, there are tiny pinpricks of light that make the bad far less bleak, even if it’s something as small as “Corn muffins!” I only intended to keep this journal for a year, sort of as an experiment, but I’m going to keep going into 2017, and probably beyond. There are a lot of blank pages left in my Happy Things journal, and I look forward to filling them.