A Post In Which I Complain About Procrastination

This is a blog post. In this blog post I am going to complain bitterly about my procrastination abilities.

That’s funny, because writing this blog post is a form of procrastination.


You see, I have spent the better part of the last few months chewing my nails, pulling out my hair, and generally stressing something fierce over the novel series I wish to write. I finally decided to give it some space.

Does that mean I won’t ever write it? Hell no. It’s my baby. But it needs some room to grow without me constantly hovering around it fretting that it isn’t good enough and no one will ever like it. That’s stressful. And it’s not very productive.

That brings me to my next endeavor (and again I remind you that I am still working on the first, just not actively). I have wanted to, for a very long time, publish paranormal romance novels on Amazon.

I just never did it because, you know, self doubt and stuff. What if I publish something and everyone hates it? What if people throw eggs at my work? What if every publisher in the world sees my awful failed abortion of a romance novel, points at it and laughs HAHAHA LOSER we will never publish anything you write now!

Yeah, what if. I decided I don’t care anymore. I want to write and I want to share it with the world. Are you listening, world? I’m going to write, whether my obnoxious brain pelts me with self-doubt or not.

I wanted to share my inspiration for this turnaround, because it seems fair that I should do so. Her name is Amanda Hocking, and you can check out her stuff by clicking that link. I randomly Googled “how to self publish on Amazon” and was rewarded by an article by The Guardian detailing Ms. Hocking’s extraordinary ascent to the bestseller list.

She made a lot of money, got a lot of press attention, scored thousands of fans, and eventually landed her own publishing deal, all through the power of perseverance and Amazon self-publishing. But that’s not what really caught my attention. You see, Ms. Hocking sounds a lot like me.

Like her, I also read voraciously as a child. I read everything I could get my hands on and I spent so much time in my elementary school library that the librarian knew me by name and would loan books to me on the side. I remember her even gifting me a book or two. I was obsessed with books. I was reading well ahead of my grade level and enjoyed adult novels far earlier than I probably should have been exposed to them.

Like her, I battled depression in my youth. I don’t know where it came from, either. It was just there, dragging me down. Most of the time I was okay. But there were times when I was indescribably sad and weighted down and miserable and I always buried myself in books when that happened. This lead very naturally into writing, and writing became a creative outlet for me. I could gather up all my childhood angst and weave it into a story (a lot of my early stuff was really super bloody and depressing) and then I felt better.

I never stopped writing. I wrote endless short stories, many of which remained unfinished. I wrote fan fiction, so much fan fiction. I wrote “novels” (which is my way of saying that I wrote the first chapter or two of a novel and then abandoned it for something else). I wrote poetry. A lot of poetry. And I engaged in massive amounts of text-based roleplay.

Over the years my writing outlets changed from writing stories for my own amusement to writing college essays and papers, but I never really let go of that part of me that loved the challenge of fiction. Someday, I promised myself, I’ll publish a book.

I want it to be someday soon. If Amanda Hocking can do it, I can too.

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What Are Good Reasons to Lose Weight?

Last time I mentioned that some of my friends had attempted to lose weight and failed because they did it for the wrong reasons. What are those reasons?

The difference between a good reason and a bad reason is your motivation. If your motivation to lose weight is “I want to look good in a wedding dress”, then you have some serious issues to sort out that have nothing to do with weight. A goal like that is superficial. It’s shallow. And once you get married, then what? Your goal doesn’t extend beyond fitting into that one dress on that one day. And who says you won’t look good in the dress at your current weight? Is there some new law that I missed that states that only skinny women are beautiful in their wedding dress?

But if your motivation stems from a deeper, more meaningful place, then you have a much better chance at succeeding. If your motivation is to get healthier (not just skinnier, which is not the same thing) then you have everything you need to do well.

Of course, I’m not an expert. I’m a blogger. Don’t take advice from blogs as being the end-all-be-all authority on any subject. But this is what I have come to understand from personal observation and from doing a bit of my own reading on the subject.

Bad Reasons

  • “I want to lose weight so I can fit into this or that piece of clothing.” This is bad on so many levels. First, choosing a subjective piece of clothing to measure your weight loss is a bad idea. Not all clothing is made the same size, even if the label says it is. A small shirt from one brand may be a medium in another. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment, which is the bane of weight loss. Second, you have set no goals beyond fitting into that shirt/skirt/dress/potato sack. What happens after? Set goals that keep you moving forward, not goals that stop you in your tracks.
  • “I want to lose weight so I look good for such and such an event.” This is a bad idea. Losing weight in order to feel comfortable at an event with your peers says a lot about your self esteem. Work on that first, not your weight.
  • “I want to lose weight so that I can wear a bikini this summer.” Ugh. Really? And what about after this summer? Are you going to gain all that weight back? A bikini is not a magical piece of swimwear that only the thin can wear. Wear it anyway. Learn to love your body even if it doesn’t look like it should be on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition.
  • “I want to lose weight so that my husband/wife will find me sexy again.” Woah. Woah. If your husband/wife finds your weight off-putting, then you have some marital issues that you need to work on. Don’t ever change yourself to please your spouse.
  • “My doctor said I should lose weight, so I probably should.” Losing weight needs to be a personal journey that you undertake for yourself. Doctors are good sources of information when it comes to the how-to of weight loss, but no so much when it comes to the why. Yes, being overweight comes with certain health risks. And yes, losing weight can help to combat those issues. But if your sole purpose is to get your doctor off your back, then your weight loss is going to reverse its self as soon as he or she stops nagging you.

Good reasons

  • “I want to lose weight because I want to be healthier for myself.” This is an excellent reason to lose weight. Do it for you and not for anyone else. Do it because it makes you feel good. Do it because your goal is to be healthier, not skinnier. Do it because you want to.

Why is there only one good reason? Because no matter how you reword it, it always comes out the same: “I want to lose weight for me.”

Your motivation should come from within. When you fall off the healthy-living bandwagon (and you will, but that’s okay, because everyone does and you can fix it) you have the ability to motivate yourself to jump back on. You and no one else. You don’t need the support, approval, or validation of anyone else.

If you start your journey with a deeply personal motivation, you will be surprised what happens along the way. Suddenly you fit into clothing you couldn’t before (and you look good in it too). Suddenly that bikini you always thought would make you look like a sausage escaping its casing looks damn fine when you put it on. Suddenly, you feel better about yourself, which in turn keeps you motivated to lose more weight, which makes you feel even better, which helps you stay motivated, which…

You get the idea. Do it for you, and everything else will fall into place.

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A Personal Update

It’s been a few months since I thought much about this blog. That’s actually a good thing! I have had a lot going on recently with work and job hunting and gaining some perspective on my life. It’s a fun ( and sometimes stressful) journey. What’s been on my plate lately? Well…

A Healthier Lifestyle

Thanks in no small part to the Weight Watchers program, I have been able to shed 45-ish pounds. That’s no small feat, especially for me. I still have a long way to go, but I am hopeful that I can get there. I need to get there. This is a personal journey, one I am undertaking for me and no one else. I think that makes all the difference. I have had friends in the past who have attempted to lose weight, but they did it for other people or other reasons, and not for themselves. I think that’s where they went wrong, and ultimately why their weight loss journey ended abruptly and without results. Do it for yourself and no one else. That’s my point of view, anyway.

Eating better is hard. No joke. I spent most of my life severely lacking any self control when it came to sweets. I can eat entire cakes in one sitting. I was never taught not to. My childhood was replete with desserts and sweets and rarely ever was I tasked with eating just one serving. I grew up stuffing my face and now I am learning not to. It’s hard. Sometimes I give in. But more often than not, I resist, and it makes me happy.

Exercise is something I was never all that fond of. I hated most sports as a kid, though I played a few when I was little. My hobbies have always been more computer-centric. I like sitting on my butt. I like reading, playing games, writing, doodling and chatting. I dislike running, jogging, and working out. But I am starting to find balance, and that feels good too. Thankfully my job is a bit more physical than most, so simply going to work is helping me lose weight and be more active.

Letting Go

The older I get, the less inclined I am to put up with other people’s crap. I was never very tolerant of bullshit to begin with and I haven’t grown any more patient with age. I am beginning to recognize that certain people in my life may not be as welcome there as I once thought, and that their actions and behavior aren’t as benign as I used to believe.

It’s always hard to come to the realization that an old and once-valued friend needs to go, but I think it’s one of the most important decisions we make in life. Someone who used to bring you happiness now makes you miserable. You get into an unhealthy cycle of pretending to like that person because letting them go would be too uncomfortable, but eventually you realize that by keeping them around you are hurting yourself.

Bad friends have to go. There’s no two ways to it. But when you finally get the nerve to let them go, it’s amazing what can happen. Your life gets better. It sucks for a while but it gets better. And good friends begin to slip back in to fill in those gaps. Sometimes, you don’t realize how awesome some of your friends really are until you have space for them in your life. Funny how that works, right?

Looking Forward

I’m not a kid anymore. I wish I was! But I’m not. I’ve done amazing things in my short life: I graduated college, I got a job, I found someone to love forever. But I’m not done achieving and I’m not done moving forward.

These past few months have felt like a stalemate between where I am now and where I want to be in life. I knew where I wanted to be but there were roadblocks (some real and some possibly imagined) that kept me from getting there. Now, things are beginning to fall in to place and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The Boy was accepted to a nursing school – finally! I may have a chance at a promotion at work, which would put me closer to home and raise my pay. We’re only a few years away from packing up and leaving Fresno behind for good, which is exactly what we wanted to be doing. It’s painful to sit here and be patient while I contemplate all the amazing things in store for us down the road, but so long as we are moving forward, I can cope.

What exactly is so exciting in our future? Well, The Boy is going to attend nursing school and graduate with his RN, which he will then take to a university to receive his BSN. Then he will be joining the US Army as a nurse, a decision we made together. It’s something he has always wanted to do and I support him one hundred percent, even though this means changing my career goals a bit. But that’s life. Things change, and we adapt.

I’m excited to find out where we end up. Hawaii? Alaska? Germany? Who knows? It’s all good.

Career Aspirations

I wish I could pick just one career. I wish I had only one life goal. But I don’t. I have many. Somehow I want to simultaneously become a master chef, a gardener, an author, a lawyer, a doctor, an interior decorator, a marine biologist and a therapist. Is it possible? Maybe. But I’d lose my mind before I ever accomplished everything.

So I should narrow it down. I know I want to write – in fact, I have been writing. Slowly but surely, something is coming together. Maybe someday it will be published and I will be able to live off the proceeds. Maybe it becomes a best-seller. Maybe I get rich. Maybe it flops and no one wants to publish it and I am forced to consider career alternatives.

Maybe, just maybe, I can prune my life into exactly what I want it to be, encompassing elements of all my interests, until I have made a whole out of the parts and a life out of the pieces. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I’ll figure it out somehow.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” -Robert Frost

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It’s a Mystery

Surely you’ve heard by now about the missing flight, Malaysia Airlines flight 370. If for some reason you live under a rock, here’s the quick and dirty as far as I understand it: Flight 370 departed from Kuala Lumpur on March 8th and was scheduled to arrive in Beijing six hours later. However, the Boeing 777 and its entire passenger and crew disappeared and have not since been recovered.

Theories abound. I’m not big on “conspiracy theories” and I think people who constantly spew them are daft, but Lord help me I have a soft spot for this type of thing. Enormous planes with several hundred people on board don’t just…disappear. Even if the plane its self crashed into the ocean and sank, surely someone survived? There ought to be wreckage, debris, people floating in makeshift life boats, or at least a distress signal, right?

I find things like this fascinating not because of the loss of life. On the contrary, I hope very much that these people are found safe. But I love the mystery of it. I love the idea of something so big and so modern and so technologically advanced just vanishing into thin air. It reminds me of the Bermuda Triangle stories. So many ships and aircraft lost at sea, never recovered, no trace left behind. Quite fascinating.

One such story revolves around the ship called the Ellen Austin. As the story goes, the Ellen Austin was sailing from London to New York in the year 1881. She was using the North Atlantic Gyre (known also as the Gulf Stream in that specific region) to hasten her journey, which places her in the area called the Bermuda Triangle. The story goes that she spotted another ship, and upon closer inspection noted that this ship had been abandoned. A righteous sum of money could be earned by sailing this derelict ship back to port, so the captain of the Ellen Austin sent over a prize crew to do the trick.

As they sailed back to New York harbor, a storm arose and the ships were separated. By the time it had passed, the Ellen Austin had lost sight of the prize ship and it, along with the crew on board, were never found again.

Some reports later embellish the tale with this addition: the prize ship was rediscovered, sans crew. So the captain sent over another group of men, only to lose them too, and the derelict ship vanished a second time. Of this there is little to no evidence. In fact, the entire story is unsupported by shipping documents of the era. That doesn’t mean that it never happened; it simply means it wasn’t documented properly by port authorities at the time.

What happened to the original crew of the derelict ship? Why was a seemingly undamaged vessel floating unmanned in fair weather? How does a modern day commercial air craft equipped with the best navigational and radio technology disappear during a routine flight?

I smell a short story in the making…

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Coffee Shop Creep-Out

A couple of weeks ago, I made the grave mistake of setting my prescription glasses on the roof of my car. I forgot them there and they went for a 45 mile road-trip…or they would have, had they not fallen off in the first ten feet and gotten crushed into a dozen little pieces. Oops.

Today I finally got my new pair in. They are exactly like the old ones in every way and I am so very happy to have them again. I can see! It’s a miracle! To celebrate, I wrote a new short story using a prompt from my very favorite prompt website. I chose to write something spooky to get my creativity flowing in the right direction for the novel series I intend to pen someday soon.

Are you ready for another short story? I know I am.

This one is definitely creepy. I was going for “creepy” as opposed to down right terrifying. I wanted more build up than action, though that is rather hard to do in a short story format.

I also played a little bit with psychological creep factors, too. Personally I am easily creeped out. I can’t read creepy stories online without looking over my shoulder every six seconds for the boogie man. I can’t handle those video clips where screaming faces pop out (no, seriously, I can’t. Don’t send me one. Please.) and I can’t handle horror movies very well either. It’s a real mystery why I like writing scary things if I can’t actually stand to read them.

I picked a couple of things that would freak me out, psychologically speaking. First there is the fear of being followed by something you can’t see. Then there is the fear of being trapped with that thing, and the fear of what might happen if you close your eyes. I tossed in a tiny bit of claustrophobia (the shower scene) because I’m claustrophobic myself. Then, I wrapped it all up in a nice, creepy, supernatural bow. Supernatural things are scary to us, likely because they have no rules and cannot be predicted. As humans, we like predictable things. Anything that defies that makes us uncomfortable.

I decided to go more with psychological creep factors rather than horrorcore blood and guts because it felt more realistic. You can imagine the things in this story happening, even if logically you know they can’t, because nothing here goes so far out of the realm of possible that it jumps the shark. For me, at least, stories that incorporate bloody, over the top murders tend to get a little less scary and a little more ridiculous. Liberal addition of blood to a story does not always make it scarier!

And finally, I wanted to go with a water theme for this story. The bad guy and water are always paired up. Why? Who knows. What is the bad guy? Who knows. It’s creepier if not everything is explained.

Here’s the funny part: I wrote a creepy story about a girl who is home alone during a rain storm and…I’m home alone during a rain storm. I creeped myself out! Well done.

Without further gilding the lily, my writing prompt was:

Write a story with this title: Coffee Shop Creep-out.

                                                  Coffee Shop Creep-Out

Rain came down in a thick sheet of gray drizzle, providing a monotone backdrop to life in the city. Outside it was chilly and wet, but inside the Loaded Latte coffee shop it was warm and smelled strongly of ground Arabica and steamed milk. These familiar smells comforted Grace as she sat, legs curled beneath her in a puffy chair in the back, sipping a cup of warm frothy caffeinated caramel macchiato goodness as she browsed the internet on her phone.

She came here often enough to know most everyone by face, if not by name. So when an unfamiliar man came in from the storm and gruffly ordered a cup of black coffee, no frills, she noticed. She watched him idly as he waited for his coffee, obscured slightly by a potted plant between them and a row of bar stools along the counter. He had black hair pulled into a low pony tail and sallow skin, like maybe he didn’t get enough sunlight, or had a vitamin deficiency. He was wearing a long black coat that had seen better days and his fingers were rough and ragged. A drifter, she thought, or a homeless man. And she didn’t think any more of it until the man went to sit down in a chair across the shop from her. As he sat, their eyes met, and she felt suddenly cold despite the heater vent blasting away above her.

It was a little like looking eye to eye with a shark. Like staring into a bottomless pit, knowing people had died trying to map it, knowing if you fell in no one would find you. Her hands tightened on the coffee cup in her hands. Then the man looked away, seemingly disinterested, but she had the nervous feeling that he was not done.

Too much caffeine, she told herself. Decaff next time. She turned in her empty cup and grabbed her bag to leave, choosing to go out the back door into the alley instead of crossing through the shop, past that man, to the front door. She zipped up her hooded jacket against the rain and stuffed her hands in her pockets to walk home, splashing through the puddles down the sidewalk. Ten paces later, she heard a sound behind her like someone clearing their throat. When she turned to look, there was no one close enough to have made that sound. A few young boys playing in the rain half a block away and a car idling at a red light were all the life the street had to offer on this cold, grey day.

The footsteps started a block later. Quiet at first, barely discernible over the sound of the rain all around them, but growing in intensity until she was certain, despite lack of evidence, that she was being followed. Her heart beat uncomfortably hard in her throat, distracting her from rational thought. Someone was following her home. She thought of that man at the coffee shop and his awful, lifeless eyes and she quickened her pace. Casting a wild glance behind her, she saw a dark shape disappear out of the corner of her eye and decided right that second to take a taxi the rest of the way home. She stumbled to the curb and whistled loudly. A yellow cab came to a stop in the flooded gutter beside her.

She stepped up to the door and reached for the handle. In the wet glass of the window she saw her own pale, scared reflection and, right behind it, the reflection of the dark-eyed man in the long black coat. She screamed, spun around so fast she dropped her bag, and stared blankly, heart hammering, into nothing.

No man stood behind her. The cab driver rolled down the passenger side window. “You okay?” he asked, his accent placing him as an immigrant from somewhere east of Egypt. Normally she would have thought that detail very interesting, but she was shaking so hard she could only nod mutely, snatch her sopping wet bag off the sidewalk, and pile into the cab’s back seat. She gave the man her address and spent the rest of the ride afraid to look out the windows and unable to stop.

They arrived at her apartment, a single bedroom flat in a four story building that was as wet and as cold as anything else today. She paid the man, stepped out onto the curb, and took a deep breath. “You’re imagining things,” she told herself, attempting to infuse her voice with the stern tone her mother used to use when she would insist there was a monster beneath her bed. “Nobody followed you home.”

Nevertheless, she felt eerily uneasy walking up between the buildings to the tenant’s entrance just off the street. She kept glancing around, determined not to let her guard down, determined to see this man if indeed he had followed her. Her fingers were cold and numb and not working right as she dug in her bag for her keys. Momentarily distracted, she jumped a foot in the air when a trashcan rattled a few feet to her right.

If a black and grey tabby hadn’t just ambled out into view she might have died of a heart attack imagining what had rattled the bins. “Fishes!” she snapped, and grabbed the tabby under the belly. He let out a mewling sound of dislike and hung his claws into her coat. With one last glance behind her, Grace unlocked the door and let herself into the hall, making damn sure the door locked behind her.

Still carting the tabby under one arm, she climbed the stairs to the second floor and let herself into her apartment. Once inside, she felt considerably less jumpy and a little bit embarrassed. Here it was warm and familiar and there was no creepy coffee shop man to rattle her nerves. She set Fishes down and he sauntered off, leaving her to flick on lights and adjust the heater up a notch. She scrounged in the fridge for a bottled water and sipped it, watching the rain fall, trying to shake off the feeling that someone, somewhere, was watching her, too.

“Start dinner, will you, Fishes?” she asked. The tabby settled on the back of the sofa and stared at her indolently, refusing. “Fine.” She set the water bottle on the counter and went into her bedroom, pulling off her wet coat and shoes in favor of something drier. She heard the soft buzz of the heater kicking back on and it melded nicely with the patter of the rain into a soft, comforting white noise in the background. She contemplated a hot shower, something to soothe her nerves, when she heard a sound like hell breaking loose in the next room.

Fishes was shrieking at the top of his lungs, the way cats do when something is horribly, terribly wrong. Every hair prickled on the back of Grace’s neck and she rushed to the living room in time to see the cat arched and spitting on the back of the sofa, ears flat to his skull, teeth on display, eyes wild. Her bottle of water was rolling across the counter top, spilling its contents before it fell over the edge and splashed across the kitchen floor.

It felt a lot like being struck by lightning, the way her fear returned so swiftly and so violently. Her heart was beating so hard she couldn’t breathe around it. “Shhh,” she hushed the cat, reaching shakily out to pet him. But Fishes hissed and dove off the couch, disappearing into the bedroom under the bed. Alone in the kitchen, Grace bent slowly to pick up the water bottle. It was dented in, as if someone had been a little rough with it, and she didn’t remember gripping it so tightly when she had gotten it from the fridge. She set it gently on the countertop and stood there for a long moment, trying to figure out what had happened.

Fishes knocked over the bottle, a rational voice in her head told her. But he wasn’t anywhere near the bottle, a scared little voice protested in return. She shook her head, silencing them both. Again she felt as if someone were watching her and she remembered the man at the Loaded Latte and his abyssal eyes. In a fit of paranoia most unlike her, she made sure the door and windows were locked, and barred each window with a wooden dowel so they couldn’t be opened from the outside. With one last glance around the kitchen and living room, she retreated to the back bedroom with thoughts of a hot shower and a nap to clear her head.

She undressed and stepped into a steaming shower, but the hot water and gentle massage of the shower head didn’t have the effect she had hoped. Now she felt nervous and paranoid and jumpy. And worse, she felt claustrophobic in the little shower with its opaque glass doors. Twice she thought she saw something move in the foggy glass and twice she had a mini coronary trying to see what it was. Twice it turned out to be nothing.

You’re a freak, Grace, she told herself. Shampoo foam ran into her eyes. She’d had them wide open, trying to spot the abnormal in her own damn bathroom. She closed them, forced herself not to panic in the darkness behind her eyelids, and dunked her head under the shower stream. She ran her hands through her hair, detangling it, rinsing the soap out. She began to calm down.

Then her hands felt something in her hair that was not there before. Something warm and thick and rough and before she had a chance to figure it out, she felt a man’s hard, cruel fingers twist into her wet hair and drag her head back. She had one brief, terrifying look into a pair of black eyes before the single light bulb over the sink hissed and popped, exploding glass everywhere and plunging her into darkness.

She screamed. It was incomprehensible, mindless, too-scared-to-think screaming. That man was in her shower. He was in her shower. He had grabbed her by the hair and forced her head back. She had not imagined it. She had seen his eyes. Those awful, godless eyes as black as a demon’s soul.

She flung herself out of the shower, knocking the glass door entirely off its track so that it hung askew, dribbling water out onto the tile floor. She scrambled for the bathroom door in the darkness, able to see it for the grayish light coming through the cracks at the jamb, but unable to find the doorknob in her panic. The two seconds it took her to claw helplessly up and down the door seemed to take an hour, so that when she finally found it and threw herself out into the well-lit bedroom, she was in a full blown hysteria.

Beneath the sound of her own panicked gasping she could hear Fishes hissing beneath the bed. It only served to cement in her mind that something was happening here. Something real. Not imaginary; real. Naked and sopping wet and still a little soapy, she grabbed her cell phone off the bed and dialed 911. The operator’s calm voice was greeted by a young lady fair shrieking: “There’s a man in my apartment!”

“Can you get to a safe place?”

“There a man in my apartment! He was in my shower!”

“I understand. Is he still there?” The question jarred Grace. He had to be…didn’t he? There was no window in the bathroom for him to escape through and he had not come out the door behind her. He had to still be standing in her shower. She could hear the water running as she stood, shaking, at the far end of her bedroom.

“Hello?” asked the operator.


“Is the man still in your apartment?”

“I…I don’t know.” Her voice came in a quiet, raspy, terrified whisper. She clutched her phone in her hands, trembling, watching the bathroom door through which she could only see the sink and the cabinets. He had to be standing there, just out of sight. The very idea made her heart quiver in her chest, skipping beats at random.

“Can you safely exit the apartment?” The operator’s voice sounded distant, alien, and unacceptably calm.

“I don’t know.”

“Stay calm. Try to get to a safe location while the police are on their way. What is your address?”

“Five-twenty-two North Cambridge Way…apartment number two-oh-seven.” Her voice shook. A soft electronic beep interrupted the call. Fear drenched her more thoroughly than the shower. “My phone is dying.”

“Do you have a charger? Don’t hang up the phone.”

“It’s on the other side of my bed…closer to the bathroom…I can’t…I don’t want to…” But the deafening silence on the other side of the line said that her phone had died, and the call was lost. Fear gripped her, icy and absolute, and she made a mad dash for the bedroom door. Get out of the house, she thought wildly. Run. Hide. It didn’t occur to her that she was naked.

The bedroom window slammed wide open with such force that it splintered the wooden dowel holding it shut. A harsh blast of cold, wet wind blew in, and the draft slammed the bedroom door shut just as Grace reached it. Her wet hands slipped on the door knob, trying desperately to wrench it open. It wouldn’t budge. “Please,” she sobbed, banging on the door, screaming, hoping a neighbor would hear her. “Please help me!”

She turned and pressed her back against the door, suddenly acutely aware that the man was in this room, and unwilling to turn her back to him. The room was empty, silent except for the sound of the rain outside, and filled with a cool wind that drove rain across her bedroom floor. In the vanity mirror directly across from her, she saw the man.

He stood motionless, silent, gaunt and staring with dark, haunted eyes. She saw those eyes and all reason left her. It bolted, shrieking like a banshee, and vanished out the window. With nothing left but fear and desperation, she flung herself away from the door and into her closet, climbing in among the shoes and clothing and huddling in a dark corner, as if in doing so she would be safe.

She wasn’t.

In the semi-darkness she felt a breath on her skin and tears rolled down her cheeks. “Please…” she whispered, and the words fell almost silently into nothing. She saw his eyes in the dark. They gleamed like light circling a black hole, ever drawn in, never escaping, doomed and helpless and dying. It was the last thing she remembered seeing.

The police arrived ten minutes later to find the front door locked from the inside. When no one answered, they broke it down, and charged into the apartment ready to stop something awful in progress. But all they found was a puddle in the kitchen, a very unhappy tabby cat hissing in the corner, and a lot of wet footprints on the bedroom floor. They followed the footprints to the closet where they found Grace sitting, huddled and naked, on the floor.

She seemed dazed, disoriented, and utterly unaware that the police had been called. They questioned her for an hour, but in the end they were forced to conclude that drugs must have been involved. She refused to go to the hospital to be checked out, so the police left. On their way out the front door, Fishes bolted between their legs and disappeared into the rain. He didn’t come home.

In the morning, Grace got dressed and left her apartment. The city streets were gleaming wet from the rain the previous day and dark clouds threatened an encore as she walked, purposefully, from her apartment to the Loaded Latte coffee shop. She had a five dollar bill in her pocket and nothing else. No phone, no keys, no ID.

She stepped in to the coffee shop and ordered a black coffee, no cream and no sugar, and sat down in a corner to observe the room. Kevin the barista said good morning to her and she only nodded to him. After a moment, her eyes met those of a young man sitting across the room and held them the way bear traps hold a hunter’s game. The young man gathered up his laptop and his iPad and left shortly after, and Grace stood up, discarded her half-drunk coffee, and followed him out into the gathering storm.

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Tips For Eating Out

**EDIT: Somehow this post published its self without me telling it to and as a result was unedited. I fixed it. Sorry!**


It’s been a while since I posted anything about my weight loss journey. At my weekly weigh in on Monday, I realized that I had lost 30 pounds. Slowly and steadily, I am meeting every weight loss goal I set for myself. Small, attainable goals are the key to my success: if I set the bar too high (or in this case, too low!) I run the risk of failing, and that is the last thing I need.

Thirty pounds down, so many more to go. When I hit 40 pounds lost, I plan on going out to eat at a favored restaurant for a night of diet depravity. But going out to eat doesn’t have to be an exercise in diet destroying.  There are plenty of strategies you can employ to stay healthy and sane while indulging in a night out. I do it all the time! So I though I would compile a few of my best tips for those of you who, like me, are fighting to lose weight in a world of  deep fried calories.

  • Skip complimentary bread baskets. If you really want a piece, take it. Then pass the basket far away.
  • Some restaurants have entire menu sections devoted to lighter fares or even Weight Watchers meals. Go for it!
  • Many dinner portions are big enough, and have calories enough, for two people. Split them with a friend or put half into a to-go box before you chow down.
  • Some restaurant salads can be worse than a burger, especially when laden with fried chicken, creamy dressings, etc. Opt for lean, grilled meats and a balsamic vinaigrette instead.
  • Skip dishes that involve cream sauces, loads of cheese, are fried, or which contain a lot of bread or butter. Pasta is a major problem. So are a lot of sandwiches.
  • Eat slowly and drink a lot of water. There is no law saying you have to clean your plate!
  • Inform your waiter of your dietary needs and ask them to recommend a healthier dish from the menu. You can also ask them to inform the chef not to add any additional butter or oil to your meal, substitute fries for a light salad, etc. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
  • Make use of that little black nutrition book available at most restaurants by request. Weight Watchers folks can use it to calculate the points of a meal while everyone else can use it to get an idea of how healthy their dish will be. Don’t be afraid of this book. Use it to your advantage!
  • Order water and stick with it. Unsweetened tea is also fine. Sweetened teas, sodas and alcoholic beverages have a ton of sugar and calories.
  • Opt for one of those little dessert shooters in the tiny glass instead of a full dessert. Or, split a dessert with a friend…and let them eat most of it.

Eating out should be fun and a treat, not an ordeal to be dreaded. It is perfectly possible to dine at a restaurant and not blow all your hard work away with one meal.

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The Catfish

Earlier this week I talked a bit about perspective and narrative in a story, and now I want to present a short story I wrote a very long time ago using the first person perspective.

I think the first person perspective is a great tool for storytelling. It allows the author to describe in detail the main character’s thoughts and feelings from the character’s own perspective and allows the reader an unsurpassed insight into the character’s personality, motives, whims and thoughts.

First person perspective is excellent for stories which revolve around one singular character. It is also useful for limiting the reader’s knowledge of other characters and events beyond those that the main character experiences. Want to keep your reader in the dark with the main character? First person helps.

So this story was, as I mentioned before, written a very long time ago. I have memories of writing it on our old computer in our first house, which we moved out of when I was 15. I’m 24 now. This story is nearly a decade old. 🙂

I wanted to play a little bit with a story told from the perspective of a child, from the perspective of another culture, and from the point of view of someone whose cultural beliefs and mythologies are as real to them as anything else.

The main character sees a catfish in this story, but can you decipher what the catfish really is?

                                                            The Catfish

When night falls, the sea becomes a great wide mouth, the mouth of the river catfish. The sea spray becomes its whiskers, reaching forward as waves to feel for food, and the rocks its teeth, to gnash its findings down. The port becomes deserted. Fishermen dare not tempt the gaping mouth of the catfish. They’ve too long poached her children to now beg safe passage.
Grandmother tells me the sea is angry. The catfish has grown weary of our presence on its lips. She says, we must be eaten or move away. But the sea is our life in Singapore. Tonight the fishermen tie up their boats and tomorrow they will set sail again, as the catfish sleeps.
Tonight I sit by the window. Through the thatched shades I can see the wave caps roll into the harbor, gilded by lanterns hung along the docks. Hundreds of eyes stare back at me, and then they wink and disappear. I have heard the fishermen’s stories at the docks, stories of two great eyes glowing in the depths of the sea. They say that when a man has taken too much from the catfish, she takes his life in turn, and swallows him down with eyes alight. Mother says these are sick fantasies. Grandmother says they are true.
“Xiayin,” she says as I curl into bed that night beside my sisters, “be wary the catfish mother. She is wary of us. We take too much and give too little. She is wary of us…”

“Xaiyin! The clothes! Before they wrinkle!” I nod at Mother and take the basket of laundry outside. Our world exists on the very edge of the sea. Beyond our front door, there is planking and no railing. Beyond the planking beneath my feet, the sea swims. Waves roll beneath our floor as we sleep at night. The rocks on our borders protect us from the worst of the weather, but it is not the weather we fear.
Today the sea is calm. The sun colors it fair and bright and I shield my eyes as I hang Mother’s skirts up to dry. A breeze blows the hanging lanterns along the planking. Paper lanterns are hung to guide the spirits of men lost at sea back home. Grandmother says that my mother does not believe in spirits. She says that Mother only hung the lantern so that Father might not be so far from her. She says Father took too much from the sea, and now he is sleeping beside the catfish.
When the clothes are hung and pinned I take a walk. The fishermen have already set sail and so the docks are empty. I stroll to the end and squat down. My shadow creates a ripple of darkness over the sea. The waves loll by, effortless and silent. I strain my eyes to see down beneath the surface. I wonder, if I looked hard enough, if I could see my father asleep…

“Xaiyin!” My uncle sweeps me away. He does not approve of my excursion. He tells me the sea is dangerous and that I should not tempt it by leaning so far out. I find myself back at home and Mother yells at me, too. I sit in the corner and play with my doll’s hair. Father brought her to me from China. That was the last time I had seen him.
That night after dinner, I crawl into my grandmother’s lap and ask her to tell me the legend of the sleeping catfish. Her cobwebby face tautens a bit, and her dark eyes flicker in her skull. As my mother leaves the room, she speaks:

When the earth was created, Xaiyin, the gods left the realms of earth, sea and air separate. No being was to cross these realms. But man was greedy. He wanted to be master of all realms. He conquered the land and turned his eyes upon the sea. The gods liked their solitude. They feared man’s desire to mix the elements of earth and water and air. As man stood upon the edge of the world and looked upon the kingdom of water, a spirit approached him. The catfish told man that he was the emperor of the land. Why should he seek further? The gods would not allow his greed to soil their beautiful creations. But the catfish was too familiar, and man waved it back into the sea and ignored its warning. He built a boat with sails, and using the air, he conquered the water.
The gods sent the catfish once more. The spirit appeared at the side of man’s vessel and told him of the gods’ displeasure. The catfish said that the sea was a shrine, and that man’s fishing and whaling was disrespectful. Man ignored again the gods’ messenger.
The gods were furious. They observed man’s blatant mistreatment of their earth, water and wind. They could not right this wrongdoing, but they could punish it. Again they sent the catfish, but this time it offered no words. It swallowed ships whole and drowned cities at the edge of land and water. At the end of its rampage it slept. It wakes when man has again taken too much, allowed his greed to defile what the gods created in harmony.

That is why, Grandmother says as she tucks me in to sleep, we must be respectful of the sea. We are guests in the realm of gods, and we will do well to remember it.
I close my eyes but I cannot sleep. Catfish swim across the blackness of my lids. I think of all we take from the sea and I shudder. In the next room through the thin wooden walls I hear my mother berating my grandmother for the tale she overheard. I plug my ears and try to dream.

The next day the sea is calm. I am leaning against a support at the edge of the dock, hugging it as the breeze lifts my skirt. I watch as a fishing boat comes in to dock, sitting low with the weight of her catch. Men skitter to unload her and I watch, horrorstruck, as great bulging nets of fish are hauled onto the dock. The breeze turns into a wind. I reach out and shout to the fishermen: “No, you’ve taken too much!” I want to say “put it back!” but the wind steals my words. It blows so hard now that lanterns rip from their strings and fly into the waves below. People are shouting. The docks sway beneath me. Beneath them, the sea begins to gurgle. I know it is the voice of the catfish.
My world sways harder. The sea is rushing out. I watch it, anchored tightly to my post and terrified. Beneath me it passes in a blur of white and green. The ships in the harbor are falling lower and lower. The masts of a scuttled ship appear out of the waves. The sea flees the port, leaving beneath us wet shoals and rocks and the carcass of an old ship. The fishermen bellow from the docks, looking down at their ship that rests on rock where once water held it afloat.
Mother races out. She grabs me and wrenches my arms from around the pole. She is panicking. She picks me up and turns to rush back inside, but the wind bullies her. I watch the skyline where the sea and the wind meet. I see it. I see the catfish beneath the waves so far out. I see the great brown body thrashing, writhing, moving. I see the wave that is rising. I watch as it conquers the sky as man had conquered the earth. I watch as it rushes towards the land to swallow us whole, as man was intent on swallowing the seas. In the vast wall of angry blue I see the eyes of the catfish burning bright. I see the mouth of the catfish open wide, and as the wave hits the docks I see the culmination of our greed. I feel the cold mouth of the catfish close tight around me. Mother is ripped away. Darkness drags us down into the belly of the catfish, down to meet my father.

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