Friday, January 2, 2015

we need new dreams tonight.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Affirmations for Writers Who Haven't Finished a Novel Yet, A 12-Step Model.

If the easiest part of doing anything is starting, then the most difficult part of doing anything is seeing it through to the end.

I'm a habitual quitter, particularly in writing, but my life is really a long, drawn-out series of unfinished projects.  From baseboards to flooring, from artwork in the closet waiting to be hung to outdoor project ideas for which I've collected items but haven't even attempted to put them together, I'm a minefield of great and terrible ideas that I just never got around to finishing.

On the one hand, that's a drag of a person to be.

On the other hand, once I start crossing all these half-finished projects from my list of things to do, I will appear to be a rock star with how quickly things get done around here.

Adam Levine:  Rock star or eye candy?  Yes.

So, on the cusp of Nanowrimo 2014, here's what we're going to do:  We're not going to talk about writing this year.  Yep, you heard me.  We're not going to talk about it, we're going to "be about it."  Next year, once we've got a completed novel under our collective belt, we'll give out all the advice we can spew ... but our advice doesn't matter if we haven't finished anything.  Ever.

So what about those twelve steps I mentioned the other day?  How can we incorporate the affirmations of a twelve-step program into something we can use to finally finish the writing we set out to do?

My 12-Steps for me would go something like this:

1.  Admit you suck at finishing your novels, at getting your ideas down on paper even if they don't come out perfect the first time around.  All those half-finished manuscripts?  Yeah, you suck.

2.  Believe that finishing something, even if it's not a masterpiece when you sign "The End," is the only thing that is going to keep you writing at this point.

3.  Don't worry anymore about closets that need to be cleaned or sorted, laundry that needs to be put away, or any other worries during your writing time.  It's your writing time, and everyone and everything else can wait.

4.  Search your soul and realize who you are and want you want to do.  You can't be someone you're not, so don't try.

5.  My blog is my confessional:  I've admitted my wrongs and failures and that gives me a clean slate from which to begin.  Find a place to clean your slate, too.

6.  Stop procrastinating and stop focusing on things that don't really need to be done at this particular moment in time.  The big picture isn't being remembered for your shiny bathroom floor, but instead in the remembrance that you wanted to write a book and you went out and did just that.  Go, you.

7.  Look deep within yourself to that spiritual place inside, and embrace the comfort and peace that comes with realizing that you can do this.  Setting goals--and achieving those goals--is the cornerstone of what gives us satisfaction as human beings.  Set small goals and work off of them.

8.  Make a mental note of all the terrific characters, plots, settings, conflicts, resolutions, titles, book jacket ideas, etc that have come your way throughout the course of your life when you were least expecting them, and apologize for not giving them the attention they deserved.  Maybe they'll come around again.

9.  Making amends?  How about just a solemn oath, right hand raised, that you're not going to be the same writer you were last year.  This is the November that you'll have something in the Outbox to edit come February.

10.  It's not enough to read over these--or any other affirmations--once.  We aren't a "once and done" type of people.  Revisit the reasons we don't finish things.  Analyze again the ideas behind why we'd rather not do anything at all if we can't do it perfectly the first time.

11.  Always ask yourself (or whatever other deity or religious icon you feel like asking) if you're on the right path.  Remember, it's been said that we're all geniuses, but "if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."  (Did Albert Einstein really say that?)  Either way, if the novel doesn't work out, ask yourself if the short story might be more your thing.  Be firm in your goals but stay flexible in your reality.

12.  Finally, if you've felt some kind of awakening, share the message with others.  Join a writing club.  Check out your municipality over at the NaNoWriMo site.  Attend a write-in.  Tell people you, too, used to be a quitter, but tell them how now you aren't.

Or better yet, show them.

Maybe, like those suffering from addiction, we'll never be fully "recovered."  Perhaps one morning, coffee in hand, we'll be sitting in our favorite spot to work when we'll suddenly be gripped by a nearly overwhelming compulsion to organize underneath the bathroom sink.  Maybe a quick break to the restroom will lead us to believe that the glass shower door should be replaced with a curtain rightfuckingnow.

Alas, dear friend, remind yourself who are you and from where you came.

You're a writer.

You've got this.

Till next time,
Cherstin, out.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A 12-Step Program for People Like Me.

Are you a person like me?  I'm sorry.

No, really.  I'm sorry.  Because I get you.  I do.  I understand how you let opportunities pass you by because you can't give it--whatever "it" is--a hundred percent at that very moment in time, and that, in the moment, you believe that if you can't give it one hundred percent, it's not worth doing.

I also understand your frustration later, when you look back after the fact and realize that maybe you could have at least tried it, and that even giving 80% of yourself would eventually get you over the finish line, even if it's 20% slower than other people.

My uncle died this summer.  My dad's brother.  My husband and sons got to meet him in March of this year when he came to Florida for my cousin's wedding.  He stayed at my dad's old house, which now belongs to me, and he was so grateful to have had the opportunity to do that that he wanted to leave some tokens of appreciation for my two boys.  To the oldest, he left a guitar and amp; the other a long board (skateboard).

Days turned to weeks turned to months.  I sat with the "thank you" card in my top desk drawer all that time, never filling it out because I wasn't sure if it was too rude to include a typed letter inside.  I knew I wanted to say more than I could write on the card, so I was going to have to include an insert.  I wanted to hand-write the letter because I thought it was a bit more personal, but I never seemed to have the time.

I never had the time, because I believed I couldn't be content just typing something and sending it off.

He died.

Prior to that, it was my dad.  I wanted to go see him in December so I could show him something on Facebook, but I didn't think he'd be able to see my phone screen with his glasses on so I was waiting for my husband to borrow a tablet from his work.  "As soon as I've got that tablet, I'll go down and show my dad this thing on the Internet," I told myself.

He died on January 4th, before my husband could ever borrow the tablet.

Had I gone down to see him in December and just used the damn phone, I would have at least seen him one more time before he died.

People like us, I'm not sure what they're called.  Ultra-perfectionists, maybe?  I can think of a few other, choice descriptors, but I wouldn't want to insult you.  If I know you, you probably do enough of that on your own.

With November rolling around again, I now have a grand total of five unfinished manuscripts floating around my desk.  Five.  Five years, five great ideas, handfuls of fleshed-out characters, hundreds of pages of story arcs and plots.  Pages of description.  Outlines.  Settings.  You name it.

But I have yet to finish.


Why can I start so strong but not seem to make it to the end?  (I'm not sure if "end" means the end of the story or the end of the month, because I fail at both.)

Regular folks finish NaNo every year, but I get so hung up on the perfection of the whole thing that I can't finish.  My desk has to be perfect.  My coffee has to be perfect.  I need quiet.  I need a plant on my desk.  The dog has to be laying right here.  I need the right pen.  A blank notebook.  A device not tethered to the web.

I have every gadget I have ever thought I'd need, yet I still can't manage to finish.

If you're like me, we need help.  A program.  A twelve-step program.  Something to keep us honest.  A way to realize that the means doesn't justify the end, but rather the other way around.  I looked into some of the 12-Step affirmations, and I think with a few modifications, we might have something we can work with, but we first need to define what it is to which we're addicted.

Is it an addiction?  Is it more a compulsion?  I'm asking legitimately because I've never been diagnosed.  It's just something I've come to live with, like that small hole at my tailbone, or the way my right eye gets lazy when I'm tired.  (No lie on either.)

Maybe we're addicted to our own version of "how things are supposed to be."  For example, I never want to write when my 3-year-old is running around.  As a stay-at-home mom, that severely limits the number of hours a day that I can actually write.  (Read:  "Zero.")  I mean, he's here.  He doesn't have anywhere else to go.  I can't drop him off at the library and tell him I'll pick him up in a few hours.  He came from my vagina, and that pretty much makes him my responsibility.  But should I give up on writing just because he's here?  Wouldn't some kind of a compromise ("just try it," for example) at least ensure I get something written?

So we're addicted to our perceived idea of perfection.  And now we need to fix that.

Til tomorrow, and our writer's version of Step One,

Cherstin, out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Here's why you haven't finished writing that novel.

In the illustrious words of Van Halen, "come on, baby, finish what you started."

Let me set the stage for you, and I want you to feel free to chime in and hit the buzzer when it starts to sound familiar.

It's November (National Novel Writing Month), or maybe it's one of the other eleven, equally-important months of the year.  You've come up with a terrific idea for a new novel.  It's never been done before, or at least it's never been done exactly the way you're going to do it.

You're a pretty decent writer.  Yeah, you don't make enough on your writing alone to cover the bills, but if you could just get this novel written, you have a few more ideas tucked away that might earn you enough pocket change to fuel your growing coffee habit.  (Or nicotine.  Or medical marijuana.  Whatever.)

So you take what you learned back in your creative writing class and you sit down and just start writing.  I mean, that's what writers do:  they write.  Right?  Maybe you outline a little bit first, or maybe you've decided you're going to pants the whole thing.  Let the ending romantically sneak up on you and all that.

So you sit and you write.  And write.  And write.

You're ten thousand words in.  Maybe twenty thousand.  Congratulations, you just passed the thirty-three thousand word mark...

...and then it trails off.  Peters out.  Shrivels up and just sort of dies right there on the page.

You don't know what went wrong.  You know the plot forward and backward, you know the characters inside and out, but something just isn't right.  You flip through the manuscript and the writing is better than you'd imagine for a first draft, but something vital is missing.  There's nothing there to make the reader turn the pages.  The pace is too slow, or maybe you're twelve thousand words in but you've eaten roughly 90% of your outline.  Your scenes are too short, or maybe it's your chapters.  "How long should a chapter even be?" you ask the empty living room.  You might choose to throw a few expletives in there for good measure.  It's your call.

You're frustrated.  You toss what has been completed into a desk drawer and promise you'll get back to it some day.  Or maybe that "failure" was the straw that finally broke the proverbial camel's back.  Maybe you start thinking that writing just isn't for you.  You wonder if there's a market just for outlines, because your idea was pretty dang good, wasn't it?

What I stated above, that "hypothetical example"?  I get that.  Five times over.

So what happened?  What really went wrong?

Story physics.

Or, to put it more clearly, Story Physics, by Larry Brooks.

If you have the same struggles I just described, this book might be for you.  Inside, Brooks discusses some of the reasons that good stories go bad, and defines them under his umbrella of "story physics."  Sound like just another silly catch phrase aimed at defenseless writers who are looking for a way to write better stories?  Yeah, maybe, but the book delivers as long as you're ready to put your ideas under the microscope.

Warning:  You may not like what you see.

After I finished Brooks' book, I decided to completely revamp my outline:  the story I wanted to write just wasn't compelling enough for my intended audience.  Hell, if I couldn't even finish getting it down on paper, what made me think a reader was going to stick through to the end?

Brooks looks at a few recent successes, completely breaking down two of the novels using his format so you can see exactly what he's talking about.  (Note:  It helps tremendously if you are already familiar with any of the three books to which he refers:  The DaVinci Code, The Hunger Games, and The Help.  I had only read two, but it was enough for me to understand his logic and examples.)

2013's NaNo outline has been completely revised.  The characters are mostly the same, and a few scenes from the initial outline are still going to work with this new and improved revision, but thanks to Brooks' guidance, I can finally see why and how my hard revisions are going to work.  Chapter 22 explained everything, but don't skip ahead or you won't have any idea what the chapter is really about.

Rewriting the outline was difficult, but following the advice in this book, I now feel like the "grunt work" is out of the way.  I finished chapter one of my manuscript yesterday, and I'm ecstatic at the outcome.

If you decide to pick up a copy, or if you've already read it, weigh in.  I'm always open for discussion.

Happy writing!


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Job, now Luc, days 4 and 5.

Not too much to report, other than the name change.  I didn't want to burden Job with a name that might follow him around with negative connotations for the rest of his life, so he became Luc.  It's fancy for "Luke," and pronounced the same, but in my mind, it's sort of short for Lucky.   ;-)

Day 4, yesterday, we still did 2 shampoos - the Chlorhexiderm in the morning and the Benzoyl Peroxide in the evening - but today I noticed his skin was looking super dry, so I just went with the Chlorhexiderm shampoo this evening.  Yesterday, the bases of both ears were swollen, so I went ahead and started him on some antibiotics.  I had three 500 mg amoxicillin left over from something, so I gave him one yesterday, one this morning, and another this evening.  I also made him a vet appointment for tomorrow morning at 9am to get more - it seems to be working.

Although I still had to bribe him to drink today because of his fever, he actually played with Bella this afternoon, which was really sweet.  I can see Luc is going to be a handful, though.  I think he missed out on a lot of his early socialization when it comes to play, so he's got some making up to do.  Bella straightened him out with her polar bear bark a few times, but I found myself cringing a bit, realizing when he's not feeling miserable and napping 98% of the day, we might be in for a strong-willed, ill-mannered puppy once he shakes this fever.  It's all good though.  If anyone can handle it, we've got it under control.

We're still at about 0.6ml of ivermectin 1% once a day, so I'm hoping with all the shampoos and stuff, the vet isn't going to want to do a skin scrape tomorrow.  I'll keep you posted.  For now, here's a sweet picture of Luc today - I had the rug spread across two sawhorses, which my 2-year-old claimed for himself.  I threw the rug onto the hammock (for lack of a better place), and Luc came over to investigate.

Said "investigation" turned into a nice, hour-long nap in the sun.

I'll update tomorrow after the vet - fingers crossed!

Cherstin, out.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Job, Days 2 and 3

Here it is, Christmas Eve morning.  Like each morning since Sunday, I woke again, holding my breath while I lifted the blankets covering Job's crate.  I gave myself the pep talk in case I looked to find that Job hadn't made it - the talk about trying my best, about how he knew love for the first time - but happily found Job with his head raised, looking all around at the morning light.

He ate a good breakfast this morning, and I've gotten sneaky on him:  other than the oozing, weepy skin, the second biggest hurdle since Job arrived is the fact that I could not get him to drink anything but low sodium chicken broth, along with 2 or 3 sips of Gatorade.  I put my foot down yesterday and began mixing his dry food with warm water.  He loves the Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream food, so now he's got to drink a bit in order to get that satisfying crunch.  I took a good, long look at him while he was eating, and he looks magnificent.  Let me break down what we did yesterday for those who may be in the same boat.

Yesterday, Job's shampoo arrived from Amazon.  He immediately took a whirlpool bath and started soaking.  (When I say "whirlpool bath," what I did was put a plastic tote in the bathtub and filled it up with warm water and one puppy, so he could soak soak soak.)  I used a small wet rag and began working on his crusty, scabby head, lightly removing all the dead skin and dried pus I could.  

Listen, I know it's gross, but imagine how he felt.  

The goal of the soak is to remove everything "extra" that the demodex mites can be feeding on/living in.  Nasty.

While his body was soaking, I started working with a rag and some shampoo in slow circles on his head.  I let the shampoo sit and do its thing.  After about 15 minutes, I removed Job from the tote and washed him with the shampoo.  Here is what I used:  DermaPet Benzoyl Peroxide Plus Shampoo.  And I used it twice yesterday - the bath/soak time where I removed all the scabs/crusts, and then in the shower with me again before bed.  Each time, I dried Job with a hair dryer on low, everywhere.  Even between his toepads.

Here is Job after his second shower, relaxing with me in the man-chair.  Hopefully you can see the difference, too.

Because he's gained 0.4 pounds, I went ahead and bumped his Ivermectin 1% dosage.  Using the formula (weight in pounds divided by 2.2) x .06, he's now up to 0.59ml per day. 

(The first part of the formula converts pounds into kilograms, and multiplying by 0.06 converts the mcg of the recommended dose (multiply by 0.03 if you're using the low end of the recommended mcg).  I hope that makes sense.

This morning, he looks fabulous.  The sores are dried and - I don't know - just all-around better looking.  


Lots more to come - I'm going to stick with the 2x a day shampoo regimen for a while, because it's working like crazy.  No more pustules - I'm sure he's got to be feeling great.  Today we should be getting some spray to use, too.  I'll update later.

Cherstin and Job, out. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Christmas for Job.

(Early edit:  Job's name may eventually change.  I came up with it this morning, considering all he's been through, but considering it's only 5:55am and everyone else is asleep, I haven't had a chance to discuss it with the rest of the household.  We'll see.)

We weren't looking for a puppy for Christmas, but sometimes everything falls into place in just the right way.  It was December 20th:  The stockings were hung (well, they were hung until Caleb pulled them down), the presents tucked away in the corner of the bedroom, shopping was (mostly) finished with a few last-minute items still on their way via Amazon (Caleb's blue rocks, for example).

My husband has been working long hours, and Bella - our lovely house pet - has been nothing short of depressed for the last few weeks.  Somehow, fate and luck were on my side when I told my husband, "We have to get a second dog, babe.  Bella is falling apart."  To my wondering ears, he said yes, and the thought of having a second dog home for Christmas overtook me.

I started my search where I last left off, looking for AKC-registered puppies that Aidan could use for junior showmanship, should he ever have the inkling again to give it a try.  I started again with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeders, particularly one I'd been talking with in Texas.  His pups boasted a championship lineage, and were almost nauseously good-looking, with their wavy puppy fur, black noses, and big brown eyes.  I started looking at some local breeders, particularly a kennel here in North Port that raises Siberian Huskies.  Beautiful, pointy-eared puppies - little bundles of fur.  A perfect sized breed that would probably suit the family just fine.  Two little bundles of love from which to choose, and the sibes were less than half the price of the Cavaliers, plus they came with full AKC rights.

I perused her webpage for a long time.

And all the while, there lay Bella behind me on the couch, her chin resting comfortably on the arm, raising her eyebrow (rather than her head) every time I'd turn and look at her.  There's the perfect dog, I thought to myself.  Why would I consider anything but another pitbull?

And so I looked at pitbulls.  Beautiful, stocky puppies from purple ribbon parents.  Litter after litter of pot-bellied cuties, ready for a new home.  I turned again to look at Bella and thought about her past, where she'd come from and how she'd gotten to us.  The horrible events she must have endured to make it here, to our couch, to her family.

I remembered two little roly poly pups I'd seen on a rescue site a week or two ago - every demodex (aka - "mange") puppy I see, I can't help but think of Bella - and the pair I'd seen had been no exception.  They'd been picked up by a rescue:  I visited their Facebook page again, my eyes searching the bullies until I found him.

And there he was.  Three months old, covered in scabs.  Nearly bald.  Swollen feet.  Yet despite that, he was still wiggling his butt - the pitbull trait.

I messaged the rescue and told our story.  We still had ivermectin left over from Bella.  I called my husband.  I loaded up the boys.  The rest, so they say, will be history.

After getting the kids to bed, I took a shower with Job and gave him a bath using Duodo Calming Shampoo - not my choice, but I didn't have any Chlorhexiderm.  (It is now on it's way via Amazon and will be here tomorrow.)  I stayed in the shower with him and kept it on for about ten, maybe twelve minutes.  The chunks of scabs falling off him were horrible.

Before bed, I gave him his first oral dose of ivermectin.  I wanted to give him the medication in the morning, as mornings are typically easier to remember, but I couldn't stand the thought of those nasty mites having their way with him for even another seven hours.  At 21.2 pounds, we are working our way up to 0.578ml/day, so I started him off at 0.4ml.  From what the dogs tell me with their lemon-face, it tastes horrible, but he didn't have the energy to complain.  He laid down and went right to sleep in his crate.

This morning, I woke him up early - since it was too late to have a nice meal last night when we got home, I figured the poor guy would be starving.  He gobbled up about a half-cup of grain-free chow and had a bit of water.  He's very slow on his feet:  because of the constant licking and chewing, puppies suffering from demodex typically have swollen paws and pads.  It must hurt to walk.

With a full belly and my warm sweater, Job tucked down and is now sleeping peacefully on the kitchen floor.

Before I go, in "open letter" format, I had something I wanted to say to Job's previous owners.  It goes something like this:

Dear Job's previous owners in north Orlando, where he was found walking the streets before being brought to rescue and transported to Fort Myers:

Maybe you had the best intentions, but more than likely you did not.  Let me guess - you owned the sire and the dam and decided they'd make some cute puppies.  Maybe you didn't realize the dam carried an immune failure for demodex.  Now that you've figured it out, you probably still haven't gotten her fixed, have you?  No, you probably think that mange was just something the puppies must have "picked up," which is why it was probably pretty easy for you to dump this little guy on the side of the road somewhere.  Did you at least pick a parking lot, where maybe he'd be found by a nice family?  Did you leave him a cheeseburger or something to distract him while you drove away?

Don't worry.  Your puppy is safe now with us.  In another 8 weeks, you won't even recognize him.  He's going to have a wonderful life, and we'll always know that when we could have chosen any puppy we wanted, we chose him.  Or maybe, somehow, he chose us.

I'm sure you learned nothing from your ordeal, except maybe how easy it is to throw things away that don't suit you.  How many others turned a blind eye to a stray, mangy puppy?  Yet he survived - which means that there were some kind souls who tossed him some food along the way, too.  Maybe some passers-by, knowledgeable enough to know that mange isn't contagious, even gave him a few pats on the head before they had to get back in their cars.  How many complete strangers wished your puppy good luck?

He's found his way home.  Today is only day one, but it's day one of the rest of his life.  He's sleeping peacefully and soon the rest of the family will wake up and come out to tell him good morning.  He's got a family now, and life is going to be great.

The Holtzmans

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas.  If you want to talk puppies, demodex, rescue, etc., drop me a line.  I'm more than happy to talk puppies all day long.  I'll be updating again soon, so stay tuned.  :-)

Cherstin, out.