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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Ch. 15

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing….


Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 15

Turning her back to the wall, Shelley slid down to sit on the floor. Her whole body was shaking — she couldn’t help it. Dillon sat down beside her but she didn’t look at him.

The image was burned into her mind. Even in the dim hall light, she’d seen the big dark stain on the front of Tabby’s shirt. Cuts and slashes seared through it like grill marks, and all Shelley could think about was what kind of an animal could have done that, and whether Tabby could have survived it or not.

Or anyone, for that matter.

“She’s dead, isn’t she?” Her small, shaky voice sounded foreign even to Shelley’s own ears.

Dillon put an arm around her, pulling her into his side. “We don’t know that. People have sustained some very rough treatment and still lived to tell the tale. Don’t give up on her yet.”

Shelley nodded against his chest, soaking in the warmth of his comfort for a few more seconds. Then she gently pushed away, swiping the tears off her face and getting to her feet.

“There’s no way I can sleep now — not when she’s out there hurt and in pain. We have to find her, Dillon. What can we do now? Check maps and make a plan for first light? Go scouting the trail? I need to do something. I can’t just sit here.”

He got to his feet as well. “I know. Mike’s still out there too. I hope he’s with Tabitha, and that they’re somewhere safe tonight. Let’s go back down to the command room and see what we can figure out. I promise we’ll leave at first light to explore the section of trail where her shirt was found.”

Shelley nodded. “I’ll get my shoes.”

A few hours later when the sun was just barely peeking over the horizon, she shouldered a pack full of supplies, turned her headlamp on and followed Dillon and three other men through the woods and down a narrow trail that wound back and forth across the side of the mountain. The birds had a lot to say, it seemed, and the hiking was anything but quiet. There was an old, earthy quality to the fragrance each step kicked up, mingled with the fresh scent of pine needles and the occasional not-so-fresh smell of scat. If she hadn’t been desperate to find Tabitha and the guy she’d run from, Shelley might actually have enjoyed the walk.

They passed the spot where the sweatshirt was found about an hour into the hike, but a thorough examination revealed absolutely nothing. Not even blood droplets leading away from the site.

The sun was finally warming through the trees when the man in front called a halt. She looked ahead past Dillon to see why, and it was immediately obvious.

“Oh God,” she muttered, coveringher mouth with one hand. “Is that –?”

“Black bear,” Dillon said, moving to block her view. “Looks like someone killed it. Human, not animal. Mike usually has a hunting knife on him, but he wouldn’t do something like this unless  he had no other choice.”

“Like saving Tabby.”

He nodded. “We’re not too far from an old ranger cabin close to the creek. He might have taken her there if he had the strength.”

“Any idea which way that cabin is, Sir?” One of the men had a compass out, and the other was searching the bushes for a possible trail leading out.

“It’s been awhile, but I think I can find it. I’m pretty sure the creek is north-east from here, so that might be a good place to start.”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 16!

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Odds n’ Ends

Oh look! Another odd week on the horizon. Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the States, so we work Mon-Weds, have Thursday off, and I’ll work Friday too. Which is fine…I actually like working Black Friday, because everyone else is either out shopping, or blurry-eyed from getting up early to shop before work. Either way, it tends to be a quiet work day, and a good one for getting things done.

Thursday should actually be a pretty quiet day too, since the hubby and I aren’t expected at my brother-in-law’s until around 5pm. Which is nice, because I spent a good couple hours this weekend cleaning off part of the dining room table specifically so I could explore a haunted-dollhouse-by-mail that I subscribed to back in October. There are five boxes/mailings total, and I have four, only one of which I’ve opened so far. So while I have some publishing-related things to do that day as well, I fully intend to open the rest of those boxes and start figuring out the mystery in miniature contained therein.

In entertainment news – we finally watched the movie Spectre this weekend, and it was everything a Bond movie is supposed to be, of course. I’m bummed that Daniel Craig doesn’t want the part anymore, but I can understand too. I wonder who will take up the mantle now?

I also finished Season 2 of Vikings this weekend, and man…I tell you what. I finished the 8th episode while doing my nails Saturday night/early Sunday morning, and then Sunday evening I blew off a few things to watch the last couple episodes because I just *had* to know how that storyline was going to resolve. Ugh! I’m glad it ended the way it did, and next weekend I’l start on Season 3.

We’re working our way through the third season of Penny Dreadful as well, and man…that show is seriously intense. I love it. It’s a crazy ride, and just when I think it’s getting predictable, it takes another twist. Excellent writing, in my opinion.

I mentioned last week that I was going to start limiting my social media “scrolling” time…and toward the end of last week, I actually did. And it made a pretty big difference in my productivity (she says, surprising exactly no one). I got more done, I stayed more focused, and I realized just how addicted I am to simply watching people. Clearly, I missed my calling as a sociologist/anthropologist, eh? Alas, I need to quell the addiction, but it has served me well as far as understanding people in general.

Along with limiting screen time, I also picked up the paper planner again. And along with scheduling out my priorities and loosely scheduling my day in the morning before work, I also started writing a short synopsis of where I left off in whatever draft I plan to work on later that night. So all day long, my subconscious is chewing on that, and when I finally sit down to write at night, I have a good idea of where the story’s going next, and better yet, I’m excited to write it because it’s been in the back of my mind all day. I’ve only done it twice so far, but both times had the same result. I’m hoping to keep that up this next week…seems like an incredibly easy and useful “mental manipulation” to have in my personal toolbox…

I’m not 100% back up to speed just yet, but I feel like I’m finally on an upswing. Here’s hoping momentum continues in that direction…

Well Alrighty Then

It’s hard to know what to say after a week like last week. Here in the US, we elected a new president, and the results were rather…unexpected (even for the winner, methinks). There’s always some grumbling and complaining after an election, but this time, things are worse. Much worse. Which leads to a whole lot of ugliness that begets a whole lot more thinking and internal processing (or external, judging by my Facebook feed, but that tends to muddle things even more, from the looks of it. I’m not brave enough to check Twitter, which I hear is worse).

Humans can be incredibly cruel to each other. More cruel, I’d argue, than at least some of the fictional killers I’ve written about. But we also tend to be our own worst enemy (individually speaking), and therein lies the rub.

However, there are still plenty of good, decent, kind people out there, and I personally know several. So that gives me hope.

In any case, last week wasn’t really a great week for getting stuff done. In addition to all the election madness, I only worked two days, and while they were quite a bit more productive than my days off, it was still less than I’d wanted to accomplish.

Here’s hoping this week I can find a better groove. Though I will say that the Shinedown/Sixx:AM concert we went to last Weds night was stellar…

I am hopelessly behind on my NaNo novel, and the reason is pretty simple – I’m not making it a priority. And in order to make it a priority, I have to de-prioritize something else, and at present, I really just don’t want to. I need sleep, I still need a tiny bit of reading time, I need to exercise and cook dinner, I need to work (obviously)…and there are only so many hours in the day. Plus I have a novel to proof-read before publication (not mine – another BSB author) and get it off to the format-er, hopefully next week. And then there’s my children’s book that just needs to be edited, formatted, and covered before I release it…

So…there’s really no way I can “win” NaNo this year…and that’s okay. Priorities are made for a reason, and this year, mine just have to be different. I’m still writing regularly again, and that’s really the most important part. I’m keeping my normal writing time, so it’s not like I’m not writing, just…not pushing to get a certain amount of words done quickly.

After dealing with some back and ankle issues last week, I really need to re-prioritize my morning yoga too .I’ve been slacking on that, and it’s painfully (in the literal sense) obvious.

This week, it’s all back to normal – normal schedule, normal routine. I’m going to be cutting out a lot of my “idle” online time (ie, time scrolling aimlessly through social media feeds) because it’s time I could spend actually being productive (or resting, which is important too), and also because it’s hard on my eyes. I need to get back to scheduling days too…on paper, I mean. I’ve fallen away from that, and I really do think it helps.

So…lots of focus on getting myself back to where I need to be, mentally and physically this week. That’s never a bad place to start.

And I need to make Murphy-dog a coat, too. We’re expecting snow on Wednesday, and I, for one, am ready. 🙂

Swirly Thoughts

So many topics to choose from given last week’s more-social-than-normal obligations, and as I sit here late Sunday night trying to convince myself that I should have written this post earlier instead of watching that movie, I’m having a hard time deciding what to blog about. Writers of all kinds are often asked how they get their ideas, and the answer is always the same – ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere. The trouble comes in distilling them down and deciding which are actually worth pursuing, and which to leave lying about for someone else to pick up as they go by.

The issue of appearances came up several times last week in a few different contexts, and that always makes me think. How we present ourselves both physically and intellectually is something I’ve been fascinated with since I was very young, and social conventions regarding that topic are varied and complex enough to analyze for years.

And then there’s entertainment and media, which I partook rather lavishly in last week (and enjoyed every minute of it). So much food for thought, both on screen and in print…it was a very creatively rich week, and inspiring as well.

There’s also the fact that I started using my Alphasmart Neo to write with again, and started a brand new romance draft that I feel really good about, and also really odd about, but the important part is, I’m writing again, regularly, and I really, really want to keep that going because I love it.

I hired a part-time promotor for Brazen Snake Books this weekend on a trial basis, which includes a whole lot of mental conflict on my part but also some extraordinarily long-term planning, which is not something I do well or often. But neither is promotion, and I’m already seeing good things happening in that arena, so I’m anxious to see what she can do for both myself and Carol, my best buddy and the other writer who publishes under the BSB umbrella.

That got me thinking about longer-term plans for writing, my pen names, the BSB business, and my day job too. Not conflict, necessarily, just potential progressions of work and life.

Friday was tattoo day, and not just because I finally got the grasshopper/ladybug tattoo I’ve been wanting for the last few months, which took care of the last large open space on my lower left arm. I thought a lot about coverage and perception and appearances (see above) and living in the moment rather than in the future, and my next appointment (which I made after Friday’s tattoo was done).

There’s a lot going on in my head, obviously – which isn’t a bad thing. And I’m not stressed, which is odd, frankly. Normally having this much swirling around at once would be pushing me close to the edge, but I’m surprisingly relaxed. Hopefully I can keep it that way.

Next week, I’ll tease out a topic to go into more depth on. For this week, I’m content to let ’em swirl around unfettered in my brain for awhile yet. They’ll eventually sort themselves out, I’m sure.

This Noisy World

This past Saturday morning I went out to clean up the yard a bit, as I occasionally do. At first, it was cool, quiet and peaceful, and I love being outside when it’s like that. But it never seems to last for long, and as usual, pretty soon I was hearing chain saws, yard trimmers, nail guns, and the occasional motorcycle and loud car driving past.

I can’t adequately describe the effect the sound of a power tool has on my psyche. It’s very close to the quintessential “nails-on-a-chalkboard” analogy. My muscles tighten, my teeth want to grind, and all I can think about is how to get away from the noise. If I’m ready for it, and I know it’s necessary for something we’re working on, I can handle it, but just random neighborhood noise that never, ever seems to quit as long as there’s daylight…it makes me want to move to that oft-romanticized cabin-in-the-woods.

It seems like lately this is an ongoing thing, on the weekends at least. I understand on a practical level – it’s cooler in the mornings, and people need to get things done, but at the same time, I just…want quiet. I want to be able to go out on the back patio, drink my tea, and enjoy the (late) morning without having to listen to machinery constantly grinding at my brain.

The majority of humans do seem to lean toward the “noisy” side of things. I know a great many people who cannot sit in a quiet room for too long without doing something to break the silence. As I write this, my dogs are snoozing and I’m in my quiet living room, the only noise is my fingers tapping across the keyboard…which is how I prefer things to be, perhaps without the occasional shout/yell from the neighbor kids playing in the yard. There is no radio on, no TV, it’s just…quiet. Which is exactly what my introverted little self needs to rest and recharge.

But after I pegged humans as the noisiest living beings on earth, I realized that wasn’t true at all. Nature is not “quiet” either. There are generally always birds chirping, squirrels chattering, other animals talking to each other incessantly (and probably driving other animal-introverts insane). Add to that rushing rivers, waves lapping at beaches, trees blowing in the breeze, grasses rustling, insects buzzing, and wind itself howling along as a merry backdrop to the whole thing. It can actually get quite cacophonous at times, especially when you add in mating seasons and migratory patterns.

Natural noise doesn’t bother me nearly as much as a lot of man-made noise though. I don’t know why.

I was born in the winter, when the natural soundtrack to life is quieter overall, both in the city and out. Snow crunches, ice cracks, cars are out for as little time as possible and people are huddled inside staying warm. For the most part, things are quieter, more muffled. There is no outside construction, no lawn care, no bending nature to our will (okay, the occasional snow-blower or shovel, but it’s as quick as possible, because everyone just wants to go get warm again). And I wonder sometimes if that contributed to why I am the way I am…that is, why I prefer quiet…silence, even, to the hustle and bustle of a summer cityscape.

I do like music, of course, and I like to watch TV, and videos, and I even like a good party here and there. I just wish it was easier to find these quiet times in which to think and recharge and even get things done. I am vastly more productive in a dead quiet environment – and I realize I am in a severe minority on that particular point.

Maybe someday, perhaps when I retire, I’ll be able to live somewhere quieter. Somewhere slower, where maybe new construction and perfectly manicured lawns aren’t the most important weekend activities to complete.

And then I’ll have something different to complain about. Like the fact that the nearest pizza place is a hundred miles away…


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Mood Management & Skin-Tight Capris

I’m pretty sure Keith Richards’ lost love was at MontanaFair this weekend.

Let me back up a bit, and I’ll explain.

I was in a pretty serious funk on Sunday…later I figured out it was probably because hubby and I went out for dinner Saturday night, tried to go see the comedian who was here for the fair, got there too late to find parking and went back home, completely forgetting to take the supplements we normally take with dinner. Yes, I realize supplements are controversial, and it was quite some time before I even talked myself into taking a multi-vitamin. But after experimenting a lot on myself, and helping my husband experiment as well, it’s pretty unmistakable that the ones we take do have a very positive effect on our daily lives, and our moods as well.

It’s actually kind of disconcerting, but without my Super B complex and fish oil, I’m an anxiety-ridden mess who can’t focus to save her life. Scary, but true. Skip one day, and I’m merely a grump. I know this because I’ve run out before, and had to go without for various periods of time. Disconcerting, as I said – in an apocalypse situation, I’d be a much less pleasant person to be around in just a week due to the lack of supplements readily available.

So, there I am on Sunday afternoon, limping through the day on less supplementation and less sleep than I should, walking the fairgrounds with my hubby before the concert starts, thankful the crowds weren’t that bad.

That’s when we saw her.

A character so perfect that if I wrote her, no one would find her even remotely believable. And yet, there she was, in the pasty-white wrinkled flesh.

She had to be at least 70 (I’m guessing older), all skin and tiny bones with long, wavy white hair and a thickly-lined expression that said she didn’t care, and she never had cared what anyone thought of her or her choices. Two long, bony fingers held a smoking cigarette that hung down at her side, but it was her choice of clothing that really said more than anything else.

At an age when most people would give up on zippers and anything remotely snug, this lady was wearing skin-tight shiny black capris with white rock-n-roll style crosses on the front of each thigh. And up top, a black tank with more rock-n-roll motifs. I didn’t notice any tattoos, but they certainly wouldn’t have been out of place. And if it hadn’t been rude, I’d have looked closer and snapped a pic, because she is everything I want to be, as far as attitude goes.

Seeing her made my whole day and snapped me right out of my funk – because *that* is how we should all approach life. She was rocking those rock-n-roll groupie clothes, and she clearly didn’t care what anyone else thought about it either. She didn’t let age hold her back, and she is who she is, even after all these years.

And if she’s single, and Keith Richards is looking, I doubt he’ll find a better match…though I dare say she’s probably not always that easy to handle.

In any case, we got some fair food, got confused as to what happened to the main exhibits we normally see (some of which we never even saw), and enjoyed the Theory of a Deadman/3 Doors Down concert even though the sound sucked where we were sitting. Murphy did fine in his cone for the extra time we needed him too (poor thing), and I got home in time to finish the laundry and get this post written/posted before bed.

All in all, not a bad weekend, if it was a little chaotic. I tell you what though – seeing that lady at the fair made everything that led up to us being at that exact spot on that exact day and time was totally and completely worth it. It was one of those pivotal moments in life that sticks with you forever…in the best possible way.


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Just Saying No…to a List-Driven Vacation

In four more days, I’ll be “on vacation” for a week. My vacations are often spent at home – I don’t travel much because I’m mostly a homebody (though I do enjoy myself on the rare occasions I leave the city – but I hate the prep it entails, and need a fair amount of recovery time when I get back). My husband will be out of town on his own vacation (playing pool in Vegas), so the dogs and I will be left to our own devices for seven whole days.

It’s gonna be great. 🙂

Normally when I take these vacations, I get excited about all the stuff I can get done. Household projects we never seem to get to, “resets” on things that have just gotten out of hand, or stuff I’ve been working on, but never seem to make any headway with. I make a huge list, and plan every day out to the hour, and by the time the week is done, I’ve gotten quite a bit done, but never as much as I thought I would, and I’m just as tired and in need of “recovery” as I would be if I’d traveled.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing the very same thing. I need to get to “this” – but I’ll wait and do it during my vacation. I really should do that, but since I have vacation coming up, might as well do it then. Need to make this and this and this appointment – I should just make them for that week I’m already off work. You get my drift. And see the problem too, I bet.

This weekend I was really gearing up, and sat down to make a list, and…that’s when it hit me. My vacation week does not have to be “pre-loaded”. And it’ll certainly be way more fun and relaxing if it isn’t!

When my husband and I travel, we don’t make big plans for what to do once we are wherever we’re going. Unlike a lot of people, we might have an idea of things we’d like to do, but we pretty much just play it by ear – do what we feel like on any given day, depending on how energetic or tired we feel, we sleep in, and stay out late, and generally have a great, relaxing time. It’s draining for both of us to be around a lot of people for any length of time and my husband loves to just be spontaneous, so we leave the routines behind and just “go feral” for the time we’re gone.

It occurred to me that my “stay-cations” would be far better if I did exactly that. Treated them like an “away” vacation, where I just do what I happen to feel like doing on any given day, and don’t set a strict agenda or force myself to try to get a bunch of things done. If I get stuff done that would normally have to wait, that’s great. If I don’t, well, no big deal – if it’s important, we’ll find time to get it done eventually, and if not…then it’s not important enough for me to bust my butt getting done on vacation time.

If I feel like spending an entire day reading a book (not that the dogs would let me, but just go with it), I do not have to feel guilty in the least for doing so. If I wake up one day and decide I want to clean and reorganize the bathroom, I can do that too – but not because I feel obligated to work on my “list of things that never get done that need to get done while I have time off”. If I wake up and decide to watch three more episodes of Game of Thrones, and then decide I’m tired of sitting so I may as well clean out the shed on the patio – no problem. Maybe I’ll decide an hour later that sitting was way more fun, open a draft in progress, and write until the dogs remind me I need to feed them, and should probably feed myself while I’m at it.

I’m a planner by nature (obviously), and very routine-driven, and the idea of not planning out every second of my vacation for maximum gain strikes me as somewhat irresponsible…maybe even wasteful. So it’s uncomfortable for me to adopt this “just go with the flow” attitude. But I know I’ll be glad I did when my vacation is actually restful and stress-free, rather than busy and packed full of expectations that I can’t possibly meet, ensuring a heavy dose of guilt at the end before I go back to work.

I’m just saying “no” to a list-driven vacation. Which means I should probably think about working the stuff I’ve been “saving up” to do during said vacation into the confines of my normal routines, eh? No reason/excuse to procrastinate now…

Gone to the Dogs: Life’s Little Pleasures

MurphAndHedgeHog

Murphy sez: Hey Mica, that new hedgehog we got is as big as my head. Do you think I should chew his nose off first, or his toes?

Mica sez: I don’t know about you, but I’m going for the stomach. That’s where those weird chattery sounds come from. Not quite a squirrel, but not like a squeak either. What is that, anyways? And are hedgehogs normally that big? I can barely get my mouth around it…

Murphy sez: It sure is fun getting mail, isn’t it? I had that giraffe’s ears and tail off quicker than J could eat dinner. Though she’s slow, so that doesn’t mean much. But still. Got a hole in him already too. I don’t get why J doesn’t want me to eat the stuffing though. Isn’t that what it’s there for?

Mica sez: Yeah, I don’t think so. I don’t know how you can eat that stuff anyways – it’s pretty dry. I just leave it on the floor. Like dry, warm snow. My stomach had enough problems this week, but it’s all J’s fault. Not sure why she thought she could get away without making treats last weekend, but all that freeze-dried meat is kinda rough on the digestive system after awhile. We didn’t even get to walk on Wednesday night ‘cause I was sick! Geez.

Murphy sez: I don’t know why you have such a sensitive tummy, Mica. I can eat anything just fine. Even those bones I found in the street on Tuesday night. It was kind of embarrassing when J pulled them right back out of my throat when we got back on the sidewalk. Sheesh. I was just cleaning up a little. Didn’t even get enough of a taste to tell if it was rabbit or chicken. Huh.

PupJoy_June16

Mica sez: You know you’re not supposed to just eat stuff off the street, Murph. We’re not that desperate, and you never know what you might catch. J says we’re not supposed to eat anything without her permission. But somehow I doubt you’ll remember that the next time a stranger tries to give you treats…

Murphy sez: Stranger, schmanger. If those little girls riding their bikes by last night and callin’ us cute wanted to give me treats, that’s fine by me. I’ll risk it. I’m tough. And so is my tummy!

Hey, what do you think J meant when she held up that bottle out of our Pupjoy box, and said she was gonna take us out on the patio this weekend and make us smell like u-calypt-us and lav-en-dar? Was that cologne? ‘Cause I don’t think I need cologne…

Mica sez: I think she might have been talkin’ about baths, Murph. Honest to goodness baths with water and everything. Which means she’s lost her mind, and we’re gonna have to fight for our lives. Maybe she’ll forget. Or get too busy. I hope she gets too busy.

Murphy sez: Hey – we still don’t really have many pictures for the post this week – and they’re mostly me. What gives? I thought we talked to J about that?

MurphStretch

Mica sez: I think she’s workin’ on it. There’s this thing called Pawscam coming out – it’s new. Cameras for our collars, Murph. She’s gonna order them next week (they go on sale July 5th), and they should be here in September. Then we’ll get to take the pictures – even on our walks! Fun, right?

Murphy sez: But September’s a long ways away – she just needs to get her butt into gear and take more pictures. Or we’ll give *her* a bath. Sheesh.

Mica sez: Yeah, yeah…you’re right. I guess I could cooperate a little more. I don’t really like that flashy thing pointed at my face, but…

Murphy sez: Our fans need us, Mica. Ya gotta cooperate.

Mica sez: Shush, you whipper-snapper. Just ‘cause you got another link added to your prong collar for walks, and you get to leave your legging off for longer times now doesn’t mean you’re all that. Just you wait until I start getting video of you rolling around on the floor like a total weirdo. Then these guys will know what you’re really like.

Murphy sez: A cute and funny cuddle-bug, you mean? Nothin’ wrong with that, Mica. Maybe they’ll give me more treats…

Mica_Murphy


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A Memorial Day Writing Assignment

It’s Memorial Day here in the US, and last night, I looked up the origins of the holiday. Apparently Decoration Day was the day established after the civil war to remember those who had lost their lives in battle – literally fighting for freedom. It was the day to decorate graves and remember the ultimate sacrifice that so many paid for others to be free. I have no idea how that actually worked back then, as the Confederate soldiers were actually fighting *against* freedom for their slaves, but somehow the holiday was established and eventually morphed into Memorial Day. It’s kind of ironic that the government decided to move the date so it would always be a convenient three-day weekend, and there is a movement afoot to get that changed, so the holiday has a more proper “focus” (rather than just the long weekend that marks the official start of summer for so many). I’m sure it will never happen, because people do like their long weekends, but that would be a better way to put the focus on the holiday itself, rather than the BBQ’s that are so prevalent on this particular weekend…

In any case, I got to thinking about what it would be like to be “in the trenches” so to speak, and know that your last breath could be any moment now without some sort of miracle. Would you think about why you’re there, why you’re fighting? Would your life flash before your eyes? Would you pull out that picture in your pocket and say a quick goodbye? Would you even have the chance to think or process that you’re going to die?

Yes, I know, this is all very maudlin, but considering the people who have died (and continue to die) in service, it seems only right to explore those questions and try to empathize with what they might have been feeling, at least to some degree. We can never actually be in another person’s head, but we can imagine what it might be like if we spend some time in that head space. I think we owe them a little time thinking about it, in any case. They did give up their lives, after all.

In light of that, I’ve given myself a special writing assignment that will be in effect on all Memorial Days from here on out, starting today. I need to write a scene wherein an officer is near death while serving in some capacity. It doesn’t have to be a full story, but it does need to explore the head space that my fictional officer might be in given whatever circumstances he or she happens to end up in that will ultimately result in his/her death. This is how I explore things – how I learn what others might be experiencing or feeling – I create a character, and then let them tell me their story.

I may or may not share these with anyone – after all, it’s really more of an exercise in empathy for me. No two characters ever end up alike (I don’t script my characters…I let them tell me who they are, so it all comes from my subconscious, not my conscious mind), so it should be someone different in completely different circumstances every year.

This will be a challenge for me, as my conscious mind sort of rebels against military service, even though I understand the necessity and strategy behind the “machine”. But this is one of the big reasons why I write – because it helps me understand and empathize with viewpoints that are sometimes dramatically different than my own. A way to expand my perspective, so to speak.

And yes, we are having ribs for dinner. It is a holiday, after all…

Remain Calm. You’ve Got This.

Last week was one of those “can’t win for losing” type weeks for me. Monday was fine – my Mondays normally are, oddly enough. Tuesday was rough though, and things just sort of spiraled downhill from there. Things broke that I didn’t know how to fix, so I had to learn how to fix them, which means I tried about five billion (okay, it was three or four, but the former is far more dramatic, don’t you think?) ways of fixing the problem before I stumbled over the easiest couple. It was stressful, though I think I did a fairly decent job of staying calm, and it was a great learning experience, which is what I try to remember whenever I need to do something I have no idea how to do.

Yes, it happens more often than you might think. I work in IT. Which basically means we spend a good majority of our time troubleshooting problems and figuring out how to solve problems that pop up out of thin air. It’s fun, but it’s also rather challenging at times, and it never fails to make me feel like an idiot at least once ever couple of weeks.

That’s not a bad thing. Gotta keep the ol’ ego in check somehow, eh?

In any case, keeping my “health as investment” perspective in place, there were several times throughout the week and weekend that I had to remind myself that while the stress of a challenge is good for your brain, stress from anxiety is bad for your health. I made a conscious effort to let that anxiety-based stress go (I wasn’t always successful, but I did pretty well, I think) on several occasions, and even re-prioritized some things on the fly when it became clear that it was either sacrifice my health, or put off the “thing”.

The net result had me ending up at Friday night still dealing with far more stress than I should have been, but a better outlook for Saturday. And after a brief bit of work monitoring early Saturday morning, I spent the rest of the day/night just relaxing and taking it easy. I did do the dogs’ nails and baths, but I felt like it, so I did it. I didn’t do anything I didn’t feel like doing, and for once, I gave myself permission not to feel guilty for just taking a “rest day”.

It was lovely, and if I’d gotten to bed just a little earlier on Sunday morning (forgot to turn my heated mattress pad on, so had to wait for the bed to warm up), everything would have been perfect. Still, I went into Sunday with a much healthier headspace than I’ve had lately. I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to, but it’s okay.

It’s okay.

I was talking to someone at work last week about some pretty big changes coming up this next fall. This person was worried about what might happen and hoping it would turn out okay. My automatic reply was, “Of course it will. It always does, because there is no choice – the work has to be done, so somehow, someway it will get done, no matter what else is happening”. Things always have a way of working out in the end, whether we can see it ahead of time or not, and also whether we’re even around to see it at all.

So anxiety-based stress is really pretty much pointless, all things considered. Things are going to work out the way they’re going to work out, and for every negative, there’s always a positive somewhere, if you look hard enough for it. I used to be far better at remembering that and not stressing out over things. I’m not sure what changed or why, but I really want to get back to that attitude as my “default setting”.

Remain calm. You’ve got this.

So simple, and yet so true, if you nurture and maintain the right attitude and perspective on things.