Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Any Other Damn Day

"Oh! Look, look, it's James Franco," said Stephy. I didn't turn to look. I'd already been disappointed by her supposed sightings of Colin Farrell, Penelope Cruz and Christopher Lee. I was especially pissed at myself for turning at the last one, considering he's dead.

I blew on the steaming coffee in my oversized blue ceramic mug. It wasn't cool enough to drink yet, but I was done hanging out with Stephy already. She still hadn't gotten around to why she called, why she insisted on meeting again, after we'd agreed we were over.

"What's going on, Stephy?"

"He's getting coffee now. And a muffin. Wow." I couldn't catch her eye, she was so absorbed in this poor schmoe she'd decided was famous.

"I'm leaving. Nice to see you."

"No! Don't, he's coming this way, wait a sec."

"For fuck's sake, Stephy. That isn't James Franco. Celebrities don't just show up at Boise coffee shops on a Sunday morning. Besides, Franco is a pretentious douche. I'm sure he wouldn't be caught dead in this city, let alone this coffee shop!"

If this were a film, then that would be the moment that James Franco tapped me on the shoulder. He would ask me why I thought he was a douche since I'd never met him. If this were a dream, then that would be the moment that I realized I wasn't wearing any pants. And if this were any other day of my life, then that would be the moment that I walked out on Stephy for good.

Instead, Stephy saw that I was on the verge of leaving. She pulled a plastic baggie from her purse and put it on the table between us. I stared at the pink plus sign on the white plastic tester. Any other damn day…

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Revision Woes

I feel pretty good about the first revision of my second story for class. And that's actually a bit of a problem. Somehow, I need to do additional revision on it. I need to take it beyond and do something that pushes the story out of my comfort zone. 

It was good to hear last night at class that it would be okay for the story not to be absolutely finished when we handed it in for the final portfolio. He wants more of something that will show that we are trying to push the story past our own limits. 

Even though I don't really like revision, I think I managed to improve the story using the feedback of the small group. But to improve it again? It's already there - it's where I want it to be. 

And so I'm going to try something radical. I'm going to make some big changes, not because I think they'll improve the story, but for the sake of trying them. Change the tense, change the point of view character, change something, everything. I'll do my best to take the story into a completely new place, even if I don't like it. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Loose Ends

This is the last semester for my English Writing degree, and I have three class sessions remaining. At this time last year, I was planning out my class for next semester, looking at who would be teaching which section and what I needed to complete my degree.

I've actually let my registration date pass without fanfare instead of jumping on the very morning of and signing up for my chosen class. I don't know what to do next.

I have ideas... I could take Spanish and try to increase my fluency from Duolingo to real life. I could try and start working on another degree, perhaps in Information Technology, because that's my job right now, or maybe in something else. I could take classes here and there in an effort to increase my knowledge base and inspire my writing. Maybe anatomy and physiology, physics... if I want to go for IT, then I'll probably need to retake calculus since it's been so long. I could take almost anything I want.

Maybe that's the problem. I'm about to achieve a goal. The logical next step is to write more, start making the writing a larger part of my life. But I like using the education benefit through my job to take classes. I like learning. I like the interaction with students, which I don't get in the course of my job.

Taking another class would necessarily take time away from writing, but it would also help by forcing me to organize my time. And it could provide inspiration, whether through the people or the topic. Setting time aside for writing, as if it were a class might be the way to go. Perhaps it's time for me to take a break from classes and enter into a period of self study and creation.

Ambrose suggested taking a year off from classes and writing a book. I didn't like the idea because of the way he phrased it. To me, he placed a lot of importance on a singular creation, and the concept of taking a long time to write it. I don't have a problem with taking time off to write, but I don't want to limit myself to a single novel, or force myself to go slower than I need to go. And any writing would be in addition to the backpacking book that I'll be writing this fall.

So, what's next? As soon as I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Battle Ducks

Spring has officially sprung. Not because of the date, or the warming temperatures, but because the ducks that Ambrose feeds outside our apartment have become combative. No longer do we get large crowds of ducks that occasionally nibble at each other to force one another away from choice piles of bird seed, but rather we get pairs of males and females.

Sometimes, the pairs will co-exist peacefully. Maybe as many as six ducks at once will come and feed together in an uneasy harmony. Food is more important than squabbling. But then another couple will encroach and the males will begin to fight.

The drakes charge each other, and the hens as well. Any duck that dares to approach gets a billed charge and an angry quack. The interlopers will back off for a moment and then try circling around to approach from another direction. A single hen will be eating, two other couples milling, and one angry drake keeping them from the food.

But, however willing they are to fight each other, they still fear most other things. They fear the shadow of movement inside our apartment when we try to get a better glimpse at their antics. They fear passing dogs, regardless of whether or not the dogs notice them. They fear passing cars, despite the fact that the cars are no danger to them.

At the least sign of danger, they fly off as one group, no matter how divided they just were, sailing away to other food or the nesting grounds, but always returning to battle for our bird seed in due time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Story Inspiration

There was a service dog on the flight I took from Boise to Seattle for my conference earlier this month. I had seen the dog, and its owner, earlier in the airport, but I had no idea that the dog was going to be on my flight until I found my seat and saw him splayed all over the space where my feet belonged.

His owner cajoled him out of the space where I needed to put my feet, and I thanked her, but I am allergic to dogs. Not so much that I couldn't be on a flight with a dog, but enough that I didn't want to be sitting next to one. If I get fur on me, there's a good chance of itchiness to follow. So I told her I'd asked to be moved.

But then I saw my co-worker enter the aisle of the aircraft. I walked up to her and asked if she would switch seats with me, explaining dog, explaining allergy. She agreed and went to the back of the plane, where, while it was loud, she had a pleasant flight chatting with the dog's owner, who turned out to be military.

I sat in her seat, closer to the front, but not much less noisy. We were, after all, in one of those puddle jumper planes- not a prop plane, like we'd get on the way back but a small jet nonetheless. Noise permeated the space, but I didn't care. My focus was drawn inexorably by my nose, which could not help but inhale the disgusting combination of stale cigarette smoke, unwashed body and moldering clothing (that smell that clothes get when they're left in the washing machine for too long after it's done, a nasty, nose pinching foulness).

I tried using the air vent above me to keep my nose awash in freshness to limited effect. I tried burying my nose in my coat, in the collar of my shirt, but that was not very effective and a bit too obvious. I mean, did this guy know how he smelled? Did he mean to smell that way? Maybe he's down on his luck. Maybe this was his cleanest set of clothing. Maybe... I don't care. When spending an hour jammed into a very small metal tube with fifty other people is on your agenda, you should think about not being stinky.

But, I actually have to thank this anonymous smelly guy. Because I was driven to distract myself by any means necessary, and the means that I landed on was writing. I began to write a story on my phone about a character in an airplane, sitting next to a very smelly person. From that point the experience of the character and I diverged. I landed in Seattle without any other events. I have not yet figured out exactly where my character is landing, but I'm going to find out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Curse NHL.tv!

I'm sick and tired of NHL.tv.

Actually, I’m not sure that what I’m sick and tired of is NHL.tv or if it is what I purchased last year, which was Gamecenter Live. Even before the All Star break, I was frustrated at the number of times that my Blackhawks would get blacked out for me. As an out of market Blackhawks fan, I expect to be able to watch my team a fair amount. I understand that they, as the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, will be more often on the dreaded NBC Sports Network. I don’t like it, but I understand it.

And, before the app changed, those times would be clearly marked. A nice little logo would appear (either NBCSN or NHLN) and I could curse the fact that I wouldn’t get to watch my team. But ever since that app change, whenever my Blackhawks were being broadcast not only on their normal channels, WGN or CSNC, but also on NHL Network, there would be no convenient warning logo - only NBCSN games are marked. I’ve already complained about that. I still think it stinks.

But what is absolutely ridiculous is that I wasn't able to watch a Blackhawks game from March 3rd until March 22nd. I am paying a lot of money for a service that has blocked me from viewing the 7 straight games of my team:

  • 3/6 - NHLN
  • 3/9  - NBCSN
  • 3/11 - NHLN
  • 3/14 - NBCSN
  • 3/16 - NBCSN
  • 3/18 - NHLN
  • 3/20 - NBCSN

I’m beginning to understand why my husband has decided that his team is the Buffalo Sabres. The only times their games get blacked out are when they’re playing the Blackhawks. Or the Avalanche because Boise, ID is apparently in Colorado when it comes to hockey. Or those Eichel vs McDavid matchups. Still. That’s 5 games of 82 (thanks to McDavid missing one of the games against Buffalo with a broken collar bone).

I’m not even listing all the Blackhawks games that I don’t get to watch over the course of the season. These 7 just happened to be in a row, thereby pointing out their hideous unfairness. No, NHL, I don’t want to get a cable or satellite subscription in addition to Gamecenter/NHL.tv/whatever. I want to watch hockey, so I pay for hockey. I want to watch the Blackhawks, and you’re making me mad.

Also, the Blackhawks have been doing awful lately, and I can't help but blame you, NHL.tv. Clearly, without my constant ability to watch my team play, they have been suffering. And, because they have been suffering, they have made me suffer with last night's horrible performance. This is not acceptable NHL.tv. I've got my eye on you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rhythm

I'm still feeling out of sorts after the conference last week. In the past, I've taken a day or two off the week of the conference to try and get myself back into my regular rhythm, but this year that wasn't an option. There have been staffing shortages for months now, and I feel an obligation to be present as much as possible.

After all, even when I go in every day, there's still more work than I can accomplish in a single day. Taking a day off, even when I rather need the break, hasn't been a good option in the last few months. But I am now running into a peculiarity of the system in which I work. I am approaching the limit on the number of vacation hours I can accrue.

It's time to use it or lose it.

I never thought I'd get there. I've known other people who reached the limit, and, internally, I half scoffed and half awed at them. Never, thought past-me, would I be able to spend so much time working that I'd come up to the use-it-or-lose-it limit.

But here I am. And I have no intention of losing the hours that I have worked hard to earn.

That is going to mean continued breaks to my rhythm. Days that I take off because I have to take something. It's a good thing. Now that I've reached that limit, I can see that I have gotten to the point where I need to be "forced" to take some time off of work. I've scheduled three days in the next five weeks, and I don't have any plans for those days, other than "not working."