On taking happy pills and writing fiction

And, I’m back.

So, when we last left The Rambling Jour, I was causing trouble in Monocacy and charming the fine gentlemen of the Shocker Mess.  Prior to that, however, I had a wee bit of health issues.  Spoilers: I’m fine now.

Before being fine, I was having heart palpitations and chest pain.  I attributed this to the fact that I sit at a desk, hunched over paperwork all day long, and I hold a lot of tension in my chest.  The heart palpitations were more of a concern, because my heart would just start to race and pound really, really hard.   And really, really fast.

So I went to the doctor.

Things first started to go wrong for the doctor’s appointment when I a) left work twenty minutes late because a meeting ran long, b) hit an insane amount of traffic, which resulted in it taking me an hour and twenty minutes to get to the doctor.  I literally arrived at the appointment the second it was supposed to start.  Needless to say, I was a bit on edge.

Then the doctor was running late.

Fine, fine, whatever.  I’d brought a notebook and a pen with me (because I never move twenty feet without bringing a notebook and a pen with me) and started working on my novel.  My current historical novel (sorry Random Contemporary II, but historical novel is winning out on word count at this moment in time) deals a lot with addiction, post traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks.  Sitting in a small, stuffy exam room was giving me a panic attack.  It was akin to Chekov’s Gun: using everything around me, introducing something small and forcing it into a story line and making it work!  No plot device left behind!  Experience it–write about it–make it work!  In between thinking my heart was going to bounce right out of my chest, I felt like A Real Author.  Living the dream!  Using my emotion and slapping it down on paper!

When the doctor came in, we had a delightful, albeit rambling, chat.

And then I had an EKG.

And then a second EKG.

And then a third EKG.

And then the doctor came in and said, “Well, I don’t think you’re having a heart attack.  But based on the results of the EKG, I have to send you to the ER.  I’m so convinced though that it’s not a heart attack that I’m going to let you drive to the ER instead of calling the ambulance.”

Um.

“Don’t worry,” she said.  “I’ll call ahead.”

Um…..

Okay, so what started out as some heart palpitations turned into “well, we can give you anxiety medication but let’s do an EKG first” which then turned into “I don’t think you’re having a heart attack.”  I’m surprised that I stayed as calm as I did, but I drove myself to the ER, handed the keys of my vintage 2003 Chevy to the valet parking attendant (“Don’t worry, we validate.”), and strolled into the ER like I owned the place.

What up, bitches?

And let me tell you what.  When you show up at the ER with chest pain, they just waltz you right into triage and give you a room.  No waiting.  No intake.  Just “take off your clothes and put this gown on, opening in the back.”

I got yelled at for accidentally putting the opening in the front.  Whatever.  Chest pain, remember?

They hooked me up to a heart monitor, popped in an IV, and starting asking me all these supposedly pertinent questions:

  • When was your last period?
  • Are you having chest pain?
  • Are you anxious?

I just looked at the nurse when she asked if I was anxious.  Finally I said, “Perhaps a little.”

She entered something into the computer.  “I guess that was a silly question.”

Yeah.

So, then I had a chest x-ray.  Then they drew blood.  Three more medical personnel asked when my last period was.  Finally, an absurdly young doctor came in and said, “I don’t think you’re having a heart attack.”

Well, this is excellent news.

“I think you’re just anxious.”

This goes without saying.

“We’ll just monitor you for a bit and run some tests.  We’ll have you out of here in no time.”

Two hours of watching Walker: Texas Ranger and working on my novel, weaving my horrible chest pain/palpitation symptoms into the main character’s own panic attacks, he finally came back in and said, “Well, I think we’re wasting your time.  Your tests are fine.  You might as well go home.”

Fantastic!  So, I said, “How can you tell the difference between a panic attack and a heart attack?”

“You can’t.  That’s why they pay me the big bucks.  You come in and we’ll tell you and, if you come in too much, we’ll call you crazy.”

Thanks a lot, asshole.

So I went home.  And then I went to Monocacy.  And I didn’t die.  Then, I went back to the doctor and saw a different doctor who said, “I think you have an issue with anxiety.”

Yes.  Yes I do.

Now I’m heavily medicated.  Well, maybe not heavily medicated.  But I’m medicated enough that I’m no longer overwhelmed, stressed, panicked, or slumping around with chest pain.  Meanwhile, though, the doctor said, “Just to rule out everything, though, let’s do some blood work and a holter monitor test.”

Damn it.

photo (10)This kid makes holter monitor tests glamorous.  Low rise jeans.  Always attractive sports bra.  Heck ya, that’s how a kid on happy pills rolls: Facebook ready, just living the dream.

I hadn’t had heart palpitations since I started my meds.  Until, you know, I was wearing the holter monitor and having every heartbeat recorded.  Then I had two.  So that was nice.

The good news is, the results of the blood work and the monitor came back fine.  I’m just this much over the line separating normal and crazy.  I haven’t been this laid back in years.

And I’m using every feeling, every twitch, and every flutter for my novel.

Granted, in 1912 we weren’t aware of PTSD and the effects of stress on people.  World War I gave us shell shock.  But the feelings are there.  I know those feelings and I can use it in my novel to better describe what the main character, Ava, is going through.  My med-pocolypse will be financially expensive (don’t even get me started), but invaluable for enriching my writing.  Right?  Right.

I’m about 165 pages into my novel–which actually has a title, Since April–so it looks like it’s actually happening.  Exciting!  Now, if I could only find time to work on it.  That’s the one set back to the so-called happy pills: about an hour later, I’m asleep.  Of course, that could also be old age setting in.  I just recently celebrated the third anniversary of my 29th birthday.  So…yeah.  Old age, heart palpitations, varicose veins, and asleep before 9pm.

Totally hot.

 

I’m going to rock you like a gravel road: A weekend at Monocacy!

I have a confession.  I don’t wear underwear when I do Civil War living history.

No, instead of underwear, I wear period correct split leg drawers that come down to my knees.  There was this deliciously bizarre moment this weekend when the guys were pulling up their trousers comparing socks and drawers and I was showing off the blue ribbon at the bottom of my drawers, which led to me asking, “Can I touch your sock?”

Yes.

IMG_0987.JPG (1)This weekend, the sesquicentennial rolled into Monocacy National Battlefield for their 150th Anniversary event.  The decision had previously been made that we would “rough” it this weekend, meaning, instead of getting a hotel room, we were going to sleep on the battlefield.  My initial response to this was “ehhhhhhh” followed by uncomfortable laughter.  But, whatever, I’ll be a good sport and try it.  Frederick, Maryland is practically within spitting distance, so in the event of frog sized spiders, rain, plagues, whatever, there’s always the means for escape.

Just like the Gettysburg sesquicentennial event.

But, unlike the Gettysburg event, we didn’t have rain, park rangers showing up at midnight shining flashlights into car windows looking for medical emergencies, or heat/humidity to the point of sleeping in underwear and/or passing out in the middle of the demo.  So, you can call that a success.  No hotel rooms needed.

Upon arriving, once we were checked in with the park rangers and all official like, we were given gold medals.  Which, frankly, is a great way to start any event.  Welcome to Monocacy: here’s your medal.  Sure, they were just our volunteer identification medals and mine spent the weekend jammed in between my boobs in my corset, but it’s awesome.  I want to wear mine to work tomorrow.

The Hubs, a member of our group Kevin, and I promptly traversed what appeared to be a soybean field and checked out thephoto (5) position of the artillery pieces for the event.  That’s what you do.  We were delighted to see we had an entire battery–four guns–for the weekend.  Yes!  Section fire!  Battery fire!  Boys, black powder, and a sassy little Napoleon light gun howitzer.  My three favorite things.

As much as I love watching artillery demos and swooning over the boys who fire said artillery pieces, I am also an incredibly huge fan of just hanging out in camp, laughing and talking.  This weekend we compiled a list of our top pickup lines.  Of note:

  • I’m going to rock you like a gravel road
  • Step into the stairwell and I’ll show you where your kidneys are
  • Can I palpate your liver?
  • Well, if you need an ambulance one can be here in three minutes.

Three of these have happened to me (the last one happened this weekend and was not, I felt, an effective means of flirting).  The top one is my favorite and one I kind of want to have made into a t-shirt.  That’s not just a pickup line.  That’s a life motto.

Interestingly enough, my forthcoming novel takes place in Frederick, Maryland and, up until this weekend, I’ve never actually been to Frederick, Maryland.  I relied extensively on Google when writing my book.  Anyway, so, after Saturday’s events I was kidnapped by three Confederates and one Union artillerymen and whisked away to Landon House.  Landon House (which is currently under extensive renovation) features in possibly the longest chapter in my book and was site of the 1862 Jeb Stuart extravaganza, The Roses and Sabers Ball.  Union artilleryman Jeff said, “You’re going to be disappointed because it’s being renovated.  Just remember that.  It’s under construction.”

photo (8)Maybe from the road looking down the lane and thinking, “I’d imagined it further away from the road” was me being disappointed, but up close the history nerd broke loose like some kind of scholarly Hulk-esq transformation and I squealed.  Took a selfie.  And I think I jumped up and down several times.

Rumor has it I also said things like, “Jeb Stuart was HERE!  Omg.”

Weird doesn’t even begin to describe me, I know.

Also weird was our discovery of Babar murals and an extremely sad koi fish/overly happy frog murals in the exposed basement of Landon House.  I’m not…I’m just not really sure why someone would paint a sad koi fish on the wall of anything.  “The koi fish is sad because you don’t put away your toys.”  Bizarre.  And why is the koi fish so sad but the frogs are happy?  If we’re consumed by Landon House, do the frogs disappear and the koi fish is suddenly happy?  It’s another novel entirely, I suppose, but somehow we eventually segued from my Confederates trying to scandalize me with salacious talk, Union Jeff apologizing profusely, me able to hang on par with salacious talk, and then being accepted as one of their own.  There was talk of camisoles, one-handed soldiers, roosters named Meatball.  And then someone said, “We probably aren’t supposed to be up here.”

“We’ll just drive away really fast.”

“Yeah, because no one would ever be able to pick us out of a lineup.  What were they wearing?  Three Confederates, a Yankee, and aphoto (6) chick in a hoop skirt.”

“Oh.  Well.  They’ll just think we belong up here then.  I’m sure it’s fine.”

I’ll tell you what, it was an insanely fun time.  It reminded me a lot of Gettysburg last year, with the laughter and eating dinner with my guys at the Trostle Farm.  Doing living history for the frank love of history is awesome, but hanging out with friends like these are the best.  We share a mutual love of history, shenanigans, and inappropriateness.  We make obscure references and get really, overly excited about standing in historical places.  We know more than you want to know about how artillery pieces are made and tactics and the historical applications of mercury and how prostatitis may or may not have affected AP Hill at Gettysburg.  As my friend Luke said, “We’re all cut from the same cloth.”  Not everyone wants to run around in the heat, humidity, ticks, and spiders the size of sparrows but we do.  These are some of the coolest people I know.

I’m completely bummed out that our living history schedule of events is blank until October.  We’ll possibly be at Cedar Creek, but definitely at Harpers Ferry.  Halloween at the Heights!  More on that to come.

photo (7)So, Monocacy was awesome.  The battery fire was awesome.  Running around with The Hubs and my artillery guys was awesome.  My strangely shaped sunburn is not awesome and looks ridiculous with a tank top.  My lips are chapped.  But it was completely worth it.

As confessions go, I don’t wear underwear when I reenact.  I run around with artillerymen and Yankees and laugh at dirty jokes and have the mouth of a well-educated sailor.  I may have been in a closed area this weekend looking at weird murals.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

(Special shout out to my guys: She just had really good muscle control and he had a wrist.  You know,  because of the war)

Of book releases and girls in corsets

Well, it’s official: my novel, Anything You Ask of Me, will be released on August 4, 2015!  Yes.  So, mark you calendars and get your wine in the fridge because it’s going to be epic.  I have no idea what I’m doing for a release party but look: with thirteen months of planning, it’ll be awesome.  Or it’ll be in my backyard with dip recipes I found on Pinterest.  Whatev.  More to come on that.

Meanwhile, this week marks the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and one year since I was running amok with The Hubs and The Baltimore Light Artillery in Gettysburg.  Which was awesome.  This week, though, we’ll be in Monocacy for their 150th Anniversary and, pending passing out from the heat and lack of shade, will also be awesome.  So, if you’re around Monocacy National Battlefield July 5 and 6, come on out and see us.  I’ll be the one with purple hair.  You know, trying to hide it under a hat or fake hair or something.

Anyway, I’ve been under the weather this week (read: stressed out to new levels of stress I’ve not experienced in all my well advanced years of living) and frantically working on my latest novel (read: the historical is winning out over the contemporary), but in honor of Anything You Ask of Me officially having an official release date, I bring to you This Republic of  Suffering: my ode to my blatant adoration of the Civil War and historical fiction.  One year to go, guys!  Then you’ll really be faced with my unhealthy obsession with Jeb Stuart.  Be warned, kids.  Be warned.

 

I’m a history girl with a writing problem.  Or, maybe a writing girl with a history problem; regardless, I have an out of control passion for the American Civil War.  I am a Civil War reenactor.  I like Civil War trivia.  I like running around Civil War battlefields.  My blog, The Rambling Jour, is actually named after an obscure firsthand account of the clerk of the provost marshal’s office in Harpers Ferry during the war.

And I like writing about the Civil War.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things about the Civil War I don’t like.  I’ve never read Gone with the Wind.  Tactics and strategies put me to sleep.  I thrive in the effect the war had on civilians and medical procedures.  I’d rather read about the role of women and how that role changed as the war changed.

artilleryMy recently completed novel, Anything You Ask of Me, is about all three of those key elements.  In 1862, a society girl turned spy must decide which is more important: the married general who asks her to risk everything for him, or the man tasked to stop her at any cost.

There is a monument in Gettysburg, near the copse of trees on the third day’s portion of the battlefield, inscribed with a few simple words: Double canister at twenty yards.

Canister shot.  Canister shot is basically a tin can full of golf ball sized steel balls; it turns an artillery piece into a giant shot-gun.  Double canister is two rounds of canister shot jammed into the barrel of the piece.

The effect of the human body is devastating.  These are the men listed in the ominous “missing” column in the ranks of casualties.  These are the men who simply disappear in a pink mist.

We have a nasty habit of referring to the Civil War as “the last gentleman’s war” or the last war before the initiation of modern warfare.  But this is so far from the truth.  Soft lead bullets, like the Minié ball, enter the body the size of a quarter but come out the size of a pancake.  If a soldier survives his wound, it is more than likely he will die of infection.  In the 1860s, we could see bacteria under microscopes—we knew it was there—but we didn’t understand how it impacted the human body.  This was the cusp of medical breakthroughs.  The war forced us to understand.

This is why I write historical fiction.

I’m a twenty-first century girl.  I drive an SUV to work.  I sit in front of a computer all day long.  I listen to Swedish Death Metal (I know, this actually surprised me too) on my iPhone while I edit my novel on my laptop.  I talk on a cell phone and wear jeans and eyeliner and take for granted all of our modern conveniences.

But I’ve also been cinched into a corset.  I’ve ridden in the back of a temperance wagon and marched in a temperance parade.  I’ve sat in a dry goods store and hand sewn a quilt by kerosene lamp and sewn on a period treadle sewing machine.  I’ve felt the rumble in my chest when a 12 pound light gun howitzer artillery piece was fired near me.  I’ve done archaeology of an antebellum house and held shattered pottery in my hand, textiles not handled by a human since, in one moment one hundred and fifty years ago, it broke and was discarded.  I’ve been touched by the past and it haunts me.  I refuse to forget the sacrifices of those who came before us and stared death in the face—and chose to march forward anyway.

This is why I write historical fiction.  Because those who are remembered, never die.

Well, it looks like this will be happening: And preparation for Monocacy begins

I am notoriously bad at being outdoors.

As an example of how I poorly I function in a non-artificially lit environment, I submit to you following experience: when I was, oh, let’s say around nineteen years old, The Hubs (who was then just The Boyfriend) invited me to his friend’s hunting camp for the weekend, to hang out with his friend Todd and Todd’s girlfriend Tiffany.  And when I say he invited me to his hunting camp, what I mean is he said, “Huntin’ Camp” because only city people (such as myself) enunciate the “–ing.”

Anyway.

So, I distinctly remember standing in his bathroom, packing my overnight bag, and saying, “Do you think I should bring my contact lens solution?  I mean, there’s a bathroom, right?”

There was a pause.  “Uh, I haven’t been there in a long time.  But I’m sure there is.”

I stopped packing and looked at myself in the mirror.  I looked noticeably confused.  “There’s a bathroom there, isn’t there?”

“Um.  I’m sure there is.”

Fast forward to later on in the afternoon, when we’re driving in his little green pickup truck, through what looks like the wilderness of pre-colonial America, and we stumble upon a little shack.  “This is it!”  The Boyfriend/Hubs exclaimed.

Okay, so it was cute.  It had a fireplace and rustic wooden chairs.  There were two sets of bunk beds in the back and a big, sturdy wooden table in the common area.  But some there were some things noticeably missing.  Namely:

  • Lights
  • A sink
  • A bathroom

“Um.”  I put my bag on a bottom bunk.  “Where’s the bathroom?”

“Oh, there’s no bathroom.”  Todd said.  “There’s a little shack out back we use as an outhouse.”

An outhouse.

I looked at The Boyfriend/Hubs and said, “I hate you.  I will never marry you, you big, fat, liar.  You “think” there’s a bathroom?”

We’ve been married for eleven years.  He still insists–to this day–that he didn’t lie because technically an outhouse is a bathroom.

So, I held peeing for like, ten hours.  When I could hold it no longer, Tiffany and I went out to the outhouse.  She held the flashlight and turned her back.

I was faced with the toilet.  Mentally, I had images of curtains of spiders sinking down from the ceiling and snakes, spiders, and a Sasquatch rising up from the toilet to grab me at my weakest moment.  Lets be honest.  I read a pioneer book as a child and, never more vividly in my life than at that moment, did I remember reading how the main character would swipe the inside of the outhouse toilet to check for snakes and poisonous spiders.

But, I really had to pee.  So, I cautiously sat down.  The toilet seat crunched.

Immediately my brain decided this meant it was like a rotten tree stump and it was just a matter of time before all manner of bugs, spiders, and other minute creatures would be swarming out.  This state of mind is not conducive to peeing.  I froze.  My knees locked.

And the next day I learned to pee in the woods.

As if this wasn’t entertaining enough, the other delightful moment of the weekend came right before we fell asleep in the bunk area.  The city girl that I am said, “So…you know, it really worries me that we’re this far out in the woods and there’s an ax behind the door.  I mean, I know it’s for chopping wood, but doesn’t that worry you?”

“Sure it does.”  Todd responded  “That’s why we have the shotgun back here.”

Oh.  My.  God.

So, yeah.  Camping is a like a barrel of monkeys.  A huge, explosive, barrel of monkeys set to destroy Tokyo like Godzilla.  Yippee.

With all this said, The Hubs and I have a good, long discussion about Monocacy which, is right around the corner.  Maybe a good five minutes or so.  Anyway, we mainly talked about the Pros of staying on the battlefield versus a hotel room.  Here’s the Pro that was the deciding factor:

  • Staying on the battlefield is free

Despite my misgivings, it looks like I”ll be sleeping on the battlefield at Monocacy.  Because that went so well when we stayed on the battlefield at the 150th of Gettysburg last year.  My only concern about staying on the field is, that the only time I’ve been at Monocacy, I saw this little creature walking through the grass ahead of us.  I pointed it out to The Hubs.  “Is that a frog?”

He looked at it.  “Nope.  That’s a spider.”

If you guys need me, I’ll be sleeping in the car.

Return of awkward bodice sunburn: A weekend at Gettysburg!

Quote of the weekend: “Hey John, tell them about the time you caught on fire.”

Second quote of the weekend: John: “It actually happened twice.”

Pollen spores were the name of the game in Gettysburg this weekend.  The Hubs had some kind of violent, pollen/grass/spore/whatever induced reaction and we had to leave the artillery event somewhat early.  He had congestion, weepy eyes, sore throat, hives, rash, everything.  It was super attractive.

And, basically, it’s how I look during the first ten minutes of the movie, “Up.”

photo (4)This year is the 151st Anniversary of the Battle Gettysburg.  Apparently, the public is not excited about the 151st Anniversary.  Also, apparently the public was not excited about Gettysburg in the months following the 150th anniversary extravaganza.  Word on the street (and when I say the street, what I mean was me standing on Confederate Avenue and listening to a park ranger talk to one of the guys in our group) is that the park was deserted after the event last year.  I wish someone had told me this was going to happen, because desertion is my favorite time to visit Gettysburg.  It’s 6am and 35 degrees on Culp’s Hill?  Why yes, that’s me hiking in the snow.  There’s fewer people in my pictures that way.

Anyway, The Hubs and I watched the sunset from Little Round Top on Friday night, which was romantic for 99.9% of the time we were there.  Things started to go downhill when he got this dreamy, far off look in his eyes.  I said, “What are you looking at?”

“The grass.”

“Why?”

“I think it looks itchy.”

Sad.

In other news, I made the mistake of trying my reenacting dress on about forty-five seconds after eating three soft tacos.  Lets talk about how things went very, very wrong from this point.  My dress did not fit.  I mean, it’s never fit particularly well, because I don’t have a 24 inch waist and I bought a dress with a 24 inch waist.  But, that’s okay, because only, oh, let’s say two hook and eye closures didn’t fasten.  I put a belt over it anyway.  Well, this weekend a few more hook and eyes didn’t want to close.  And I’d eaten a lot of tacos.  So, The Hubs tried to lace me in my corset tighter, to which I said, “Ffffffffffff…….!”

To which he said, “I like your other dress better anyway.”

So, the other dress it is.  That’s fine, I like the other dress too.  I couldn’t find the undersleeves, so I figured I’d just…you know, keepphoto (3) moving so people didn’t notice my wrists hanging out or anything.  Then, I forgot to put suntan lotion on my chest and ended up with a very flat-topped, square, sun tan on my chest.  I look like I stood in front of a fence too long.  But look, my hair doesn’t even look purple!!  I look respectable.  You know, this coming from a person who changed her clothes in the middle of a parking lot.  Because I can’t put my corset on in the car.

I enjoy how this picture makes me look far less pale than I actually am.

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t take many pictures at the event, namely because The Hubs was too busy sneezing and was so miserable and itchy we had to leave after the first day.  Here’s a positive/negative sandwich rundown of the weekend:

Positive: Somehow we ended up in a suite instead of the regular room I booked and our shower was bigger than my cube at Day Job

Negative: The Hubs looked like his sinus cavity was melting out his face

Negative: My computer power cord stopped working and I couldn’t write at all on vacation

Positive: I gave my first autographed book copy to one of my best reenactor buds who, fun fact, is yet to be scandalized by it.  This, however, may change as he’s not all that far into reading it yet…….

Anyway, so, let’s talk big reenacting events.  Let’s talk “running around in the heat with no shade and already we’re getting warned about not drinking enough water and possibly passing out from heat exhaustion” and we’re going to do it anyway because the sesquicentennial only happens once.  The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Monocacy will be held at, obviously, Monocacy artillery2National Battlefield on July 5th and 6th.  It’s going to be awesome.  It’s also going to be really hot because it’s Maryland in July.  So, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to come out and see us, we’ll be there.  Somewhere, we don’t know where yet.  But, I’ll be hanging out with the Baltimore Light Artillery and probably the South Mountain guys because, like wine and cheese or Nutella and peanut butter, we go well together.

And, finally, here’s me and my all time favorite light artillery, the suburbly awesome and better than a 3 inch ordinance rifle, the light gun howitzer (also known as a Napoleon).  Love it.

Oh, and before I forget.  In response to why John (referenced above) caught on fire twice: he was using a linen sling for his musket.  Lesson learned, friends.  This is why you use leather.  We’re just helpfully paving the way to keep you all flame free and happy.

And just one more thing (geez, I can’t stop): what is this new, “Mature Tour” at Gettysburg?  I’m assuming it’s a ghost tour….but then…is it?  The Mature Tour.  Do I have to produce photo ID? Is it in the language of well-educated sailors?  Is it all about sex and drugs and other illicit things we don’t normally read about in history books?  Syphilis?  It’s syphilis, isn’t it.  I’m too cheap to actually take the tour, so I’m hoping someone else has gone on it and was either super excited about it, or super disappointed.  Let me know, peeps.  They can’t just tantalize the public with “Mature Tour” and not have a scintillating pamphlet to go along with it.  Come on, America.

And now I’m on vacation. The writing will now commence.

gatsbyThis is the face of someone who is now on vacation.

And that’s my cool new t-shirt.

This weekend marks eleven years of wedded bliss (stop laughing, that’s a mostly serious comment) so The Hubs and I are, eventually, on our way to Gettysburg for our first reenacting event of the season/anniversary bonanza.  Until then, we’re slumming around the house.  Well, I’m slumming.  He’s out mowing the lawn.

And because we live in the wilderness, the first thing we did on vacation was pull a tick off The Toddler’s eyelid.  Yay.  Nothing goes well with going out for ice cream like, “Hold still.  Hold still.  Okay, don’t move while I get this.  Okay…where’d it go?”

Awesome.

I never get things accomplished on vacation, namely, because I spend most of my time wearing pants with elastic waistbands and shirking responsibility.  In fact, last night when we took The Rowdy Boys out for ice cream, I forgot to put my legit shorts back on and ended up hopping out of the car in a Victoria’s Secret t-shirt that says “Best Kisser,” hot pink flip-flops, and reeeeeeally short white cloth shorts I had to pull down on my hips so my cheeks didn’t scandalize any youth wandering past.  Whatever.

There are two things I’d like to accomplish while on vacation this week:

  1. Lace up my reenacting corset to the point where my dress fits because, let’s be honest, I haven’t worn it since last summer, and
  2. Write.

I’m a tad bit apprehensive about the reenacting dress fitting.  But that’s okay.  That’s what corsets are for and, as long as Gettysburg isn’t as hot as it was during the 150th last year, I should be fine.  Right?

Sure.

As for the writing, for those keeping score the historical is now at 89 pages and Random Contemporary II is at 56 pages.  I’m back on a historical kick this week after spending a week and a half not wanting to write at all.  I think I needed a break.  The Hubs said, “Well, of course you needed a break.  If you’re not eating, sleeping, or working, you’re writing.  It’s okay to stop for a bit.”

So I did.  And now I’m back to writing.

Then….then this accidental thing happened.

I started a third novel.

I know, I know, I need to stop adding projects in my “Work in progress” pile.  But, my work in progress pile reads more like a “work in progress!” pile.  It’s like Jeopardy.  You don’t say, “This is Jeopardy.”  You scream, “This.  Is.  JEOPARDY!!!!”  My works in progress pile(!) is super exciting.  We have historical A.  We have Random Contemporary II.  And now we have historical B.

Just as fast as my mother can say, “If you don’t start concentrating on one, you’re not going to finish any of them,” the one I started is more like jotting down a few quick scenes and character descriptions.  And a little bit of research.  And the whole of Chapter One that will probably end up getting trashed because I’m not sure I like it all that much because it’s one of those “present day” chapters with the rest of the book in the past.  Ehhhhhh….I don’t know.  But I dig the idea.  And I dig the characters.  It will eventually happen, but for now, I’m going to stick with the dueling novels (historical A and Random Contemporary II) and see where they go.  Okay, that last part is kind of a lie.  I’ve actually written the endings to both of them.  So, I know where they’re both going.  It’s just a matter of getting there.

Needless to say, they probably won’t get there this week.  I’ll be wriggling around in the 1860s and trying to hide my purple hair under a hat and distracting people with my wit and charm.  Or, it’ll be 90 degrees and I’ll be sitting around in the shade, wearing inappropriately short white shorts and scribbling in a notebook while The Hubs wriggles in the 1860s and impresses people with his historical knowledge and tolerance of wearing wool in the heat.  Either way, it’ll be fun.

If you’re in Gettysburg June 7 and 8, come on down to Pitzer’s Woods and hang out with the Baltimore Light Artillery.  And, if you’re not, stay tuned because I’ll post pictures.  I roll like that.

Newsflash: I did not miss a calling in construction

The year I graduated high school which, horrifically enough, was fourteen years ago in that magical year known as 2000, I went on my first church mission trip.  I actually only ever went on two mission trips.  This one, and the other one the following year.  Anyway, so, we went to West Virginia.  Twice.  I know, all the cool kids these days are going on trips to Africa and Honduras.  We went to West Virginia and don’t judge, because it was really cool.

I’m not going to show you a picture of what I looked like at age eighteen.  Suffice to say, every little girl goes through that awkward stage.  Mine just happened to last from age eleven to age nineteen.  In fact, many years later I won an “awkward childhood photograph” award at my former place of employment, utilizing a picture of me at age 12-ish, dressed like a banana.  Holding a banana.  Dressed like a person.

This has nothing to do with building a deck.

So, we’ve established I was awkward at age eighteen.  The mission trip was about a week after my eighteenth birthday.  Our mission was to build a deck on the front of a woman’s house.  Here are the qualifications I brought to the table:

  • I played with Lego’s as a child

photo (2)Despite this, we managed to build the deck in four days.  I think four days?  Anyway, this sassy little picture I’m showing comes straight from my high school scrapbook.  In case you can’t read the caption–which I’m sure you can’t, since it’s a picture of a picture–says, “Day Two: Our hammering improves slightly.”

I’m the girl with the red handkerchief in my hair and my sleeves rolled up.

With this solid construction background in my past, I recently said to The Hubs, “Hey, wouldn’t a deck on the front of the house be really fun?”

“Why yes,” The Hubs said, “but they cost like, $5000 to build.”

False, as a matter of fact.  We enlisted the help of my father-in-law and he and The Hubs set to work.  You know, being manly and trying to keep their cell phones out of direct sunlight so they didn’t get too hot.  A lot of work got done.  And then, Saturday, my father-in-law said to me, “Do you feel comfortable going to Lowes to pick up some more screws for us?”

“Absolutely not.”  I said.

“Okay,” he said.  “Here’s what we need.”

I have photographic evidence that at age eighteen, I was able to hammer nails into some wood and make a deck.  At age thirty-one, I am not actually much use doing anything that requires a hammer, screws, drills, measuring tape, levels, or sweat.  Especially sweat.

“Um.”  I edged away from the deck.  “I really need to go to the grocery store.”

“That’s fine, we’re still about two and a half hours out of actually needing them.”  He handed me an empty screw box (screw box?  That sounds vaguely obscene and I apologize for that, but that’s what it was.  The discarded, empty box of that formerly contained screws).  “We need these, in 2 1/2, and in tan.”

I wrote this on the outside of the box.  “Well, okay then.”

Things began to go wrong when I got in the wrong lane attempting to actually get to the hardware store.  I accidentally dropped the F-bomb.  You know, in front of my child.

“What’s stuck?”  The Preschooler asked.

“Nothing.”  I threw my car into the next lane to the right and floored it up a hill.  “We’re good.  Everything’s good.  Right lane.  Nothing’s stuck.  Right lane now.”

Obviously, I turn into Rain Man under pressure.

So, after meandering through what seemed like seventeen lanes of oncoming traffic and grabbing a spot within quasi-viewing distance of the front door, The Preschooler and I made our way into the building.  When it comes to navigating Lowes, there’s one thing I can always find, without fail.  The bathroom.  I cannot, however, find anything suitable for using when constructing a deck.  I initially hoped that an employee would see the look of confusion on my face and point me in the correct direction, but no.  Not an employee to be found.

So, what’s a screw?  No, not screwing employees in order to find what I need, but what category do screws fall under?  Hardware?  Sure, it seems legit.  The Preschooler and I made our way to Aisle 18: Hardware.

Which is where the furnace filters were located.

No.  No, I don’t have patience for this crap.  So, I saw two female employees standing nearby, discussing…something, I have no idea what, and I thrust the plastic box out to one.  “Can you help me find these?”

“Sure.”  One took the box and charged down an aisle not even remotely close to the hardware aisle.  She pointed at a section of screws.  “This size?”

“No,” I said.  “I need 2 1/2 in tan.”

“Tan doesn’t come in 2 1/2.”  She handed me another box.  “This should work, though.”

An hour later, after grocery shopping and stopping to get our mail, I delivered the box of screws to my father-in-law.  “They don’t make 2 1/2 in tan.”

“Really?”

I took a closer look at the box which displayed, in very thick bold letters, “2 1/2 in tan.”

What is this?  Sarcasm?

With that, I hung up my construction hat.  I went back in the house and made brownies because, be the feminist you want to be, but this kid is happier to stay inside and bake–then subsequently eat–brownies instead of working with the boys outside.  As a side note, the deck isn’t finished yet because monsoon season hit Pennsylvania early this year and we’ve had more rain than we know what to do with.  Well, I know what I’m doing with it.  I’m relishing the fact our well has water in it and we’re not brushing our teeth with bottled water.  Again.

Next week we’ll put on some of the more important deck features, such as but not limited to the stairs.  And then, this kid is peacing out and going on vacation.  What’s that mean?  A week shirking responsibility, that’s what.  And writing.  Let’s hope lots of writing.

And if I don’t write, at least I’ll have a sturdy deck that I didn’t build to sit on while I come up with excuses why I’m not writing.  Problem solved.

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