Live Through Us at The Burrow

Lucy and Ethel at the Cash Machine

We closed today at 6PM, which meant some of us, such as yours truly, stayed until 7 closing down registers, etc. The self-checkout registers are recyclers. That means they recycle the money people put into it and give that money back out as change, etc. So every night when they are shut down, we print out a little slip that tells us what they need to be “topped off”, we get that money from the main recycler, and we put that money in the self-check out register. We literally dump the coins in the same slot you do when paying. It sorts the coins slowly, and sometimes (OK, alot of times) it doesn’t like the coins. This is when it spits them into the well at the bottom-that place you normally pick up your change. We then take all the extra money (bad bills/coins, coupons, etc) and turn it into the cash office. In order to get to those bad bills/coins and coupons, we have to open the front door.

So here’s the story. But before I start, bear in mind this is the first time Katy has done this.

Katy, that’s not her name of course, is standing in front of a self-checkout register with the door open. It starts shooting quarters out like a cannon. She screams, “Debby! What’s happening? What do I do?”

I, while miraculously not falling over laughing, yell, “You’ve got the door open! Shut the door! Shut the door!”

Three co-workers getting ready to leave run to her. “Katy! Katy! Money!” Although it was more like, “Sputter! Words! I don’t know what to say!” They ran around stomping coins to stop them from rolling away. Meanwhile, I stood on the other end of the chain (I was actually too far away at the time to be of any physical use) laughing my head off, pointing, and trying to tell everyone left in the store what was happening.

Katy, still in shock, manages to find her legs again and use them. They pick up all the money, but by this time they’re laughing too hard to be of much use. I wish-I had this- on camera. O. M. G. It was like Lucy and Ethel on the chocolate belt. It. Was. Hy-sterical.

Y’all have a good night now and enjoy yourselves.

The Human Turd

By now you know I work at Wal-Mart. And I’m sure your realize the random insanity that can happen there. Like the other day when the maintenance guy finds a turd under the bench by the front door. A human turd.

This bench is not made so that the patron could have backed up and deposited their treasure out the back. It was made in such a fashion as to make one wonder how it got there.

So. The maintenance guy calls security up and tells them to look on the film and see how it got there. She does. Here’s what she told him.

An old guy came in, shook it out of his pants leg, then kicked it under the bench.

Um … doing this outside was out of the question? You felt the need to deposit this in a store with people and food? How long have you been carrying this around? Or, did it appear during your entrance? I’m not sure I want to know the answers to these questions, but thank you for reading another prime example of #mylifeatwalmart #helpmeiworkretail

Rolled Ice Cream in Crossville, TN

I remember the first time I saw rolled iced cream (yes, it was originally iced, not ice). It was in Taiwan or someplace like that and on YouTube. I never imagined it being near me. I suppose if I ever thought about traveling far and wide, like NY or something, I could have imagined it being there. But here? in the middle of  nowhere? a place where it takes a minimum of one hour to find a town? No. I never imagined.

But then some friends starting talking about it at local places like fairs and such, like a temporary little booth they were selling it out of. I was crestfallen that I had missed it. Then I heard about an outlet in the local mall, yes an actual mall, in Crossville-a half hour’s drive from here. Which, btw, it a normal excursion for us. (Now you know why time is so precious to me.)

We happened to be in Crossville, trying to have a family day, pulled over on the side of the road because the place we had intended to visit was closed. As in, weeds three feet high closed down for unknown centuries closed. The memory of the rolled ice cream vendor in the mall came to me. Let’s go!

My family didn’t want to really. They thought it was silly and moaned and groaned. Then they got there. Then it happened.

Klix is not a tent vendor or even a temporary booth set up in the middle of the mall. They’re a real store set up as part of the mall, like permanent. So you can drop by anytime without worry!

You get to choose a base flavor, two additives, and three toppings. The price, $6, was way too high for me, but it was a one time fun thing. I later decided it wasn’t too bad. It was very good, and you’re also paying for a display of sorts. Still, it is expensive and therefore not something to be done often.

Marcus chose strawberry with pineapple, caramel drizzle, topped with whipped cream, a cherry, and butterscotch chips. Arlis chose Oreo with caramel drizzle in vanilla ice cream topped with whipped cream, cherry, and a dark chocolate pirouline, since we didn’t know what that was. Btw, a pirouline is that cylindrical cookie of very flaky pastry/cookie/cracker with a filling of a type of light, fudgy icing inside.

Image result for pirouline

This thing.

They basically pour milk onto this frozen pan, chop up the additives, and toss on the toppings. The texture has more surface area and is therefore harder to press a spoon into than normal ice cream. It’s not as fluffy and creamy either. But it is good, and if you’ve never had it, I suggest you try it. The flavor combinations are endless enough to keep you coming a long time. Enjoy!

Are you setting the right goals?

Are you setting writing goals? Are you meeting them? Are you coming short? Are you expecting too much of yourself?

I’ve had a lot going on in my life for the past … ohhhh … month. First our kitchen floor fell through. Again. It did this once before maybe three years ago, something about the sink. This time it was the hot water intake for the dishwasher which meant our hot water heater was going non-stop for a good long while. We kept wondering why our electric bill was so high-geez! Good thing we have well water. I couldn’t imagine the water bill!

Anyway, so that put us without a kitchen for two weeks, which was honestly the least of our troubles. A new puppy, who brought mites with it, and another infestation, all within a single 48 hour period quite literally drove me insane. I was sleeping four and five hours a night. Two weeks of that, and I started to hallucinate. Normal, but annoying. And dangerous.

I spent every waking hour I could trying to fix our problems. There was no writing.

Two weeks later, we finished the floor.

Dad and Arlis did 100% of the subflooring, etc, and I did the top flooring. Again, there was no writing, for obvious reasons.

Then, on that very day I went to work to show everyone my pictures of my new floor, and how all my troubles had a light at the end of the tunnel, I came home to a message on my answering machine. My husband’s test results came back. He had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

For those who don’t know, this is a deadly tick-borne illness with potentially life-long organ damage. And when I say deadly, I mean actually something to be afraid of, not the “potentially deadly” the media uses over the measles.

So yeah, he started treatment for that. So far so good. I think it’s been about two weeks since then, and he seems to be OK for now. 

But wait.

I kept getting headaches, something I’m not used to getting. I shrugged them away as stress. I even had to leave work early one day because of them. Turns out, it wasn’t stress. My husband and I sleep in the same bed with the same dogs with the same ticks. See where I’m going with this? My test results came back negative, but I had to miss two days of work and spent the next three I had off in bed. Since the tests take five days to get results, the doc went ahead and started me on doxycycline, the treatment for RMSF. I got better. For the first time in two weeks, I was getting better, not worse. RMSF and Lyme have a lot of false negatives, so I think I had one of them. I never got the giant ring around a bite, so I’m leaning towards RMSF. But it really doesn’t matter. I finished my course of pills yesterday and still feel good, hopefully it will stay that way.

During this month of insanity, I also had, Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, and most of my author event/story telling days. All rolled into one tidy “betcha can’t do this!” package. I did.

Needless to say, the writing took a back seat. And it should have. There is no reason whatsoever I should have made time for my writing during all of that. Working, holidays, events, putting in a new floor all at once? Let’s not topple the tower.

But now, I can get back into routine, almost sorta. My life is still a hot mess, just not as big. If I try to reach the same goals I set before, I will fail. So, instead of pushing myself too hard, instead of failing, I changed my goals.

See, I have to have goals, much like I have to have routine. If certain things get too out of wack, I get sick, physically sick. So I’ve learned how to manage those things. If I don’t have goals two things happen, and often at once, as if that were somehow possible. The first is that I stress over not getting anything done, like I don’t feel I’ve accomplished anything. The other is not knowing how far to go and therefore not pushing myself when I should. I know, two opposites which somehow exist simultaneously.

So, where am I going with this? If you’re like me, you don’t live in this dream world of stay-at-home writer. You work. A lot. Outside of the home. Your writing takes a backseat to something called responsibility, as it should, and you push yourself harder and harder until it’s way too much. So the way to get it done is not necessarily daily tasks, but weekly tasks. Reasonable weekly tasks.

Let’s say I work Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday. That gives me Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday off. If I try to cram all my writing into the three days I’m off, I burn out and don’t have a life. Let’s set a daily goal of 1000 words. I rarely get 1000 words on the days I work, but I can usually get over 2000 on my days off. So, I set a weekly goal of 5000 words. This gives me Saturday for rest and Sunday for household chores. I may write 200-500 on my work days and 2000-2500 on my days off. Sometimes I write more, but I’d rather have reachable goals than feeling like a constant loser. Even if I only have two days off instead of three, I get those 5000 in. Not too much, not too little.

So there’s the key. Set goals. Set a routine (if that helps. I understand many of you probably flourish on chaos/spur of the moment randomness, but you might want to give routine a couple of weeks’ try. It might surprise you). Set goals you can accomplish. If you find you never reach your goals, lower them. That’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of reality. Of having the maturity to know what you can and can not do. Just because someone else is doing more, doesn’t mean you can or should. It’s OK not to be the best, and btw, stop comparing yourself to other writers!!! If you find the goals easy to reach every week, raise them. It’s OK if you don’t hit the mark every time. Remember all those times you went over the mark when that happens.

And most of all, keep writing!!

Believe in yourself, aka, fan mail

I remember my first “fan” very clearly. My good friend Eve (hope you don’t mind me mentioning your name here). I don’t want to be insulting. To me, the word “fan” conjures ridiculous idol worship with screaming and pandemonium. That’s not what I mean by the word fan. I guess the best way to describe it would be someone who likes my work, a reader if you will. She begged me for chapters, rereading them when I needed her to so I could go on. If it weren’t for her, I don’t know if I ever would have finished that first book and gone on to write more. Thanks, Eve, my gratitude is never ending for that gift you gave me.

Since then I have had other “fans”. People who have told me how much they love my books. People I have inspired to keep going with their own personal goals and challenges. People who have started writing because of me, and people who have thanked me for making a book/story they really liked.

My initial reaction was typical, confidence. I can do this. My writing is good. Keep going. People like it. Then, as more and more queries proved fruitless, and the sales flatlined, that confidence waned. I debate quitting. I’m not a quitter, so it was very very hard for me, but there comes a time when you have to decide what’s best for you. Should I keep spending time, money, and emotional muscle on a barren endeavor? Then a newer, better story pops up, and I write it; the cycle begins again.

I’m currently on another new story, my last one still in the waiting area (don’t worry-it’ll get there soon enough-see below). And by now I’ve learned depression and bouts of quitting are all part of the process. I’ve also learned something else. I was watching a video this morning of Patrick Stewart announcing a return to Star Trek. He talked about a letter written to him by a cop who needed his show to survive. Literally.

That’s when I realized. I’ve had that. I’ve actually had people write me to say how much my writing, my journey has meant to them. I’ve had people thank me for getting them back into reading when nothing else could. And this has taught me a great great lesson.

I have accomplished.

I had never, I repeat, never been one to care about what others thought, to hit some stupid standard of society. My heart was always elsewhere. But when I think hard about it, I do. I want to be traditionally published. Why? Stigma. I want to feel like I have accomplished something. I ask myself what. I have a great family, a son I couldn’t ask better for, everything I need and more, and a promised ending for my soul. What more could I ask for? But it keeps at me. But then “a fan” says or writes something to me, and I realize, that’s what matters.

If I never get an agent. If I never land a publisher. If I never make a noticeable income from my books. I have accomplished something in this life I can be proud of.

Back to my last story in the waiting area. I lost passion for it. I don’t know why. The queries had no results, and I honestly thought it would be a shelved piece. But I had several people want a copy, signed for that matter. I figured after my current WIP I would print up a few just for those people, but after today, I think I might publish it afterall. If they loved it that much, maybe someone else will too.

I hope this post has inspired you as much as that video inspired me. If you have touched one person, you have accomplished.

Don’t be afraid to break your own rules

Pretty sure this is a common problem with most if not all writers. We write something and then insist that every single word after that correlates with those first words. That’s not how it has to be. This isn’t a perfect world, you’re not a perfect person, your writing isn’t perfect. You can use that delete key!

Just because the new something you wrote doesn’t follow previous set rules doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It could be the previous work that needs readjusting. As soon as you realize what you’ve done, sit and think. Which is best? Which will provide the best experience for the reader? Can’t decide? No problem, leave a little side note and come back to it when you’ve written more. A lot of these things take care of themselves. Right now the planned ending for my current piece is a cliffhanger. Readers don’t like that, but I’m not sweating it. I know things will change a dozen or more times before I get there, and I can worry about it then. (Of course I’m still holding out for not having to 😉 )

Can’t bear the thought of removing or changing your beautifully crafted words? No problem. Cut them out and paste them in a special section title “removed” or something like that. (If using Scrivener, be sure to paste them in the notes section instead of the actual document area to prevent an off word count.) Those words are not lost forever, and yes, I have actually gone back and used them on multiple occasions. One thing I do is before transporting my piece from Scrivener to Word, I reread all my notes, deleting the ones I’ve taken care of or are obsolete and then doing the same with the removed section. By the time I’m using Word, my piece is to the point I know what I will and will not put back in or throw away.

Good luck with your writing, and don’t be afraid to contradict your previous work! It may just be the best thing for it.

Don’t be a lazy writer

I remember reading an article where an agent mentioned, “I hate lazy writers.” This shot a fire or fear through me. Was I a lazy writer? I didn’t think so. I certainly spent enough blood, sweat, and tears on my work. But would she consider me lazy? In other words, was there something I wasn’t doing I should be and didn’t know it?

Turns out I was being lazy and didn’t know it. Maybe you’re lazy where I am too, don’t realize it, and this post will help.

So something’s not working. Your murder mystery took you to the bottom of the family well where Tommy drowned only, wait, you didn’t write it that way. You wrote Suzy poisoning him during the breakfast of their honeymoon. But you like the well so much better! Everything else works out perfectly and it’s a groovy twist (whoa-did I just say groovy?) that NO ONE would expect, and, and… You just love it, OK?

So now you have a choice. You can either go back and rewrite countless words to make it so Suzy throws him into the well instead of poisoning him, you can change it back to poisoning at the end, or you can spend countless hours struggling to make the well work.

Here’s where my lazy comes in. I had the plot and character a certain way. I get stuck. I spend the day figuring out what to do. I fix it in my head. Well crap! Now I have to fix it on paper too! GRR!! I have two choices, keep working on it in my head until what I have already written somehow works, or rewrite what’s on the computer screen to match what I spent the day formulating. The lazy writer (and me a few months ago) will do the former. I chose the latter. Which will you choose?

Don’t be a lazy writer. I know chucking and rewriting can be painful (this is your baby we’re talking about) but what it really comes down to (for some writers anyway) is the desire not to have to spend more time writing what you already wrote. Annoying, but think of it this way. You will actually spend more time putting it off and trying not to do it than just doing it. Put on your work clothes and get dirty.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to pull my sleeves up and rewrite a scene.

The Most Hideous Outfit Known to Man

We went clothes shopping today, and I found this.

The most hideous outfit known to man, y’all. I mean look at it! It looks like a garbage bag left in a closet so long a giant moth tore holes into it!

After I showed it to my husband, I couldn’t help it. I had to try it on!

I took it into the dressing room and pulled it over my head, thinking it was a long shirt with super ugly powers. I had a hard time pulling the bottom down to where it needed to go. Surely my hips weren’t that big were they? Then I realized. It’s not a shirt. It’s a full outfit with shorts!


I am now stuck in one of this thing’s leg holes trying to figure out how to get out. As I tug on the bottom end, my arms now over my head, housing my upper torso in unseemly wannabe taffeta, I contemplate asking a total stranger for help, not really caring about my potential nudity at this point. Us girls have to stick together, right?

When I finally did get it off, I stepped into it this time and then, not believing my eyes, took pictures for the world to see (because you cannot describe this level of ugly in words, people), laughing the whole time.

Then I really got into it and started posing.

I’m not going to post the rest, because they get really embarrassing. Just imagine a woman in a garbage bag mocking models while laughing uncontrollably.

And just remember, no matter what you’re wearing, it can’t be as bad as this.

Anxiety and Writing

I’m kind of writing this in hopes someone will say, “This isn’t anxiety; this is normal.” Then again, I would like the recognition of, “I have never experienced this. I can’t imagine what you must go through.” Not sure which one I want.

Anywho, so, I have anxiety, or at least I did. At any rate, it’s tapered greatly. Anxiety for me is as though I can see the future, like I have a time limit on absolutely everything I do. I’m sure you not-yet-published writers out there can understand where this leads to problems. Take this for example:

I wake, knowing I have to go to work later in the day. I have a few writing tasks to get done. I get done with part of them, possibly enough for most writers, I wouldn’t know. It’s not like I have a writing group where I ask, “Hey, how long would it take you to do XXX?” That seems silly and competitive. But that’s not enough. I can do more. I should do more. I have to do more because it’s not getting done fast enough. That’s the part that doesn’t feel normal.

And for you writers out there, you understand how looooooong the process is. Not “can take”; is. Not the writing itself, I’m talking about not-yet-published authors or indie authors who have to do 10X what the published ones do. The marketing, the writing, the editing, the querying, the cover design, the formatting, the uploading/dealing with distributors, the begging for reviews, the constant battle not to compare yourself to every single other author in the world, the networking, the trying to find cover designers/illustrators/editors, the job you work to make money until your writing takes off. I could go on, but like I said, I have work later today. The fact I get done what I do is mind boggling.

I want you to imagine this though. You have all that, but you see it all being played out in the future, not in a planner or that you have allotted false due dates for everything (trust me, that doesn’t help) but that’s it’s already overdue. You know your entire life’s track, and you should already be on the next train. So when you do your writing project of the day, no matter what it is, there is a tight feeling that starts from your upper arms and pulls into the center of your chest like an elastic spider’s web from p90X. That’s anxiety, and that’s what it feels like almost every hour of every day for me. I feel that way at work because I’m not editing my next ms. I feel that way while editing because it should have already been done. I feel that way now because I see the end of this post and want it done five minutes ago. But I have to keep going. I have to finish typing and then go back and reread it for errors. I’m sure I’ll miss a few, but I have to nonetheless 😉

Now, I could quite literally write a book on this, but I shan’t bore you with the details. Suffice it say I want to know the answer to just one question, “Is it like that for you?”

Describe your anxiety below in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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