Don’t Panic

Do you ever feel the weight of the world on your shoulders? Like you just get bombarded with so many issues, problems, and tasks that maybe just you want to sit down and cry? I’ve felt like that recently. Things at work have been exhausting. We have many dogs at the shelter that need to get out three times a day, but only me and my three other coworkers to get them out. Because of all the walking, we’re falling behind on other tasks like enrichment, scooping, and playgroups that allow the dogs to release pent up energy and help us help them work out any behaviors that they need to unlearn. Top it off, there’s a lot of change coming up at my job. Coworkers are leaving, new ones are coming in, schedules will probably be changing, and we’ll be expected to deep clean kennels before the sun even rises (my work is dropping the cleaning crew that typically does it for us). There’s a lot of changes and uncertainty coming up and I don’t do well with either of those…

That’s just what’s going on at work. The drive there is also a hassle (people can be so rude and impatient on the highway and I’m one of them, but that’s a discussion for a different blog post). It takes me longer than I care for to get to work and my truck–though small–is a bit of gas hog. The discussion has already come up about me finding a better, more efficient car (I’d love a hybrid for the environment’s sake, but they’re so expensive!). Yet, getting a better car means taking out a loan and I may be almost done paying off my student loan, but when it comes to my job…I don’t earn a lot. I don’t earn enough to survive in this world. I think the only reason I am surviving is because I still live at home (thanks Mom!) and I don’t have to fork out an entire paycheck just to pay rent. So, with the thought of more loans, then comes the thought of trying to find a better job, but where do you find a better job in the field that I’m in? There’s not a lot of high-paying jobs out there in animal care, unless you’re willing to pay the price and stress of schooling.

Going beyond the stress of finances there’s also the issues happening all over the world: poverty, crime, scandals, countries at beef with each other, and climate change. You want to say you’re doing your part in making the world a better place, right? Yet, it’s easy to get sidetracked. You focus on what you need to do for your life that you may not be able to tend to the worldly problems. Or maybe its the other way around for you? Or maybe you try to throw all your eggs into every basket, but you quickly run out of eggs? It can all become so overwhelming so quickly. We need to get the dogs out to pee! The planet is dying! I gotta check the service engine light in my truck! Children are starving! How am I going to afford the rest of my life?! Why can’t politicians get their act together?! Don’t flip me off on the highway! You’re the one who cut me off, pal! Why can’t we all just get along?!

Breathe.

Just breathe. Yes. There’s a lot of madness going on in the world, but we don’t need to go mad because of it. We shouldn’t carry the weight of the world alone, because we can’t do everything. Did you know that in 2019 there were 7.674 billion people on Earth? And I’ve been told the number is on the incline which means there are more than 7.674 billion people to carry the weight of the world together. A pretty far-out idea, huh? Everyone working together.

Just because you can’t tackle one issue, doesn’t mean you can’t help it. You may not be the one to solve climate change, but you can recycle. You can reduce your gas emissions a little at a time. You could speak out for the sake of the planet, because every voice needs to be heard. Or maybe you’re mission is more helping the homeless, the sick, and those in poverty? Keep cans of food in your car and hand out a next meal to that homeless person on the side of the street. Donate to shelters or give your time. Little things do pile up. Just think of it like a rain storm. Every little thing you do is a drop of rain falling from the sky. If you don’t do much, not much is going to get wet, but if you add your drops of rain to someone else’s drops of rain, and someone else’s, and so on and so forth, then you’ll have enough water there for a flood and we all know how impactful a flood can be.

So, the next time you feel overwhelmed by all the issues in your life and the world as a whole, just pick one. Throw a dart if you have too and just do little things toward its completion. When those little things become a habit, pick another issue and do the same thing, then pick another, and another. Eventually, you’ll be making a bigger impact than you realize.

I may not be able to help with individual, unique life experiences, but if you’re still trying to figure out which worldly issue you want to start making a difference toward, I would suggest climate change. I mean, we can’t have all the other issues if there’s no planet to live on. Easy ways to help is by planting trees or growing gardens (I’ve got five pecan trees growing in pots and it’s so exciting to see them get bigger everyday). You could pick up trash you see on the ground, ride your bike more, or mow the lawn in the early morning or late evening. Some of the bigger things would be to change to solar panels or geothermal energy in your household or buying an electric or hybrid vehicle, but not everyone can afford that, so you do what you can.

Bottom line: when life gets overwhelming: just breathe. Take a step back, breathe, and push ahead when you’re ready. Don’t ever panic because panic can lead to bad decisions and there’s already enough regret in the world. Everything will work out if we all do our part, so don’t panic, and let’s change the world one little thing at a time.

Lake Week

Some people get the luxury of taking vacations multiple times a year. Some can only go once a year while others can’t go at all. I have the good fortune of going once a year. My extended family owns a couple lake condos for one week in June. This week, actually. I get so eager to come down here when the time arrives. There’s a bunch of swimming, games, tubing, skiing, feeding ducks, and hanging out together. My favorite part is going skiing. I only get to go once a year.

As of writing this post, I haven’t gone skiing yet, but I did get to drive a waverunner today. I’ve driven one in the past, but briefly and today, I got to really test myself on it.

I always wanted a waverunner. Or at least, I thought it would be cool to own one. They’re the motorcycles of the open water and I love boating. It’s freeing to sit at the bow and feel the wind rush past you, like you’re flying over the open water. People always tease about that scene from Titanic where Rose is spreading her hands out over the bow of the ship, but really, have they done it? It feels amazing!

Yet, a waverunner is different from an actual boat. There’s less to hold onto and when you’re riding with your brother, there are moments where he has to the do the brotherly tease of speeding up and slowing down suddenly and without warning. It’s hard to predict the runner’s movement when you’re the passenger and I’ll admit, I was nervous about hitting the waves. We never fell off, but with it being a smaller boat, some of those waves can hit you pretty hard (just ask my uncle). My brother took me around for a couple turns around the cove…then he asked me if I wanted to drive.

Did I want to drive? I took a deep breath and made that 😬 face. The thought was kinda scary. I mean, I can’t afford to replace the waverunner if I mess it up. What if I flip it? The last time I was on a jetski, I threw everyone off of it and made one of the passengers cry! I didn’t want to repeat that! Yet, I wasn’t sure I would have another chance. I mean, I used to dream about owning one, and I can’t do that if I’m afraid to drive one! Plus, my brother isn’t going to cry if I throw him off. He’s a big boy and he’ll likely just tease me (then I would throw him off on purpose). My brother is also leaving lake week early and if I was going to drive that thing, he was the one I wanted with me. So, I steeled myself and said yes.

We get back to the dock so we can switch places (we didn’t exactly trust ourselves to not fall off if we tried it on the open water). My brother starts running through the controls when my younger cousin cuts in to “teach me” as well. I’m already anxious and I do worse when multiple people are yelling or trying to tell me things. Since my brother knows this, he snaps at my cousin to shut up. My brother finishes up the lesson and we ship out.

I start off slow to get used to the throttle. It reminded me of when I was first learning to drive my truck. Go. Sudden slow down. Go! Killed it. Gooooo. Too fast! Panic! Let go of the throttle! Sudden slow down! Gah!

Good thing you can’t kill a waverunner like a stick shift truck. It’s just bunch of sudden speed ups and slow downs that your poor passenger is rocking back and forth like a loose bouy. We weren’t getting anywhere, so I took a deep breath, pulled myself together, gradually increased the throttle, and willed myself to not let go. It was thrilling to be flying over the water. I got it up to 47 miles per hour and that was even in the rain. We hit a couple waves that I didn’t see, and hit a couple waves that I went for. We held on, handled it well, and kept on going. I even dodged a piece of debris after seeing it last minute! And we still didn’t fall off (unlike my cousin and uncle. They stopped in the middle of the wake and it was a hilarious, slow motion tip over)!

I didn’t want to hog the waverunner or use up my godparents’ gas, so we pulled in to dock. I would go again, though. I’ve not been able to drive a watercraft myself and having that control was a new experience. Plus, I would love to test myself on some higher waves.

Just goes to show you can’t let fear hold you back. Fear or past experiences. Driving a waverunner may not seem like a biggie, but you never know what could happen on the water and you certainly don’t want to pay for something you can’t afford. If I let that fear hold me back, I wouldn’t have been flying with tears streaming from my eyes as the wind rushes past my face. The spray of the water splashes up at the waves and the rain pelts down in teasing stings. It was exciting and the water was crisp and refreshing.

So, if there’s ever a moment where you get the chance to try something new. Take it! You never know how you might like it. If fear tries to hold you back, take a deep breath and ten seconds of courage to say “yes.” Get yourself right in the middle of it and do it. Fly the water. Chase a dream. Do something new!

It’s Okay to Cry

There’s something that’s been bothering me lately and I really want to get it off my chest.

A couple weeks ago, my coworkers and I had the misfortune of losing one of our dogs at the shelter where we work. His name was Indiana Bones. He was a beautiful grey pitbull, but he had bad case of stranger danger. He was at the shelter when I first started in October and one of my coworkers had to introduce me to him just so he’d start to get familiar with me. We’re not sure what his story was before he arrived at the shelter, but we know people didn’t treat him well.

Indie would bark a lot at strangers. His hackles would go up and he’d get pretty tense. However, thanks to the help of my coworkers, he warmed up to me. I’d go on walks with him and his favorite person, give him treats, lots of love, and feed him in the mornings and we soon became friends. He was one of my favorite dogs to take on walks. People trained him and worked with him that he really only got reactive when he got too close to another dog or spotted a yellow butterfly. He really liked chasing yellow butterflies. I likely would’ve taken Indie home if he didn’t have so many restrictions. He couldn’t be around kids under 18, he had to be the only animal in the house, and he had to meet everyone in the household before going home. He had to go through one of our behavior programs and he even graduated, so we all thought it was just a matter of time before this adorable, loveable, pitbull found his forever home.

Then, Indie gave us quite a scare. Since he was a strict “no other dogs” we had to be careful that he didn’t run into other dogs and accidentally harm them. My coworkers and I were doing parallel walks with two dogs when we saw a volunteer walking Indie up ahead. Through no fault of the volunteer, Indie got away from him. Indie was getting pretty worked up seeing one of the dogs we had on our parallel walk and when he got away from the volunteer, he bolted straight for that dog. Thankfully, one of my coworkers was fast enough to catch Indie’s leash and the two never made contact, but the way Indie hyper-focused had us all worried.

Because of that incident, Indie ended up back in a behavior program. He moved to the behavior building and one of our trainers there worked with him every day just to help Indie get over his stranger danger and dog issues. We only heard good things from the behavior team and after a time, Indie came back to the main building and was made adoptable again! He was still a strict “no other dogs,” though. One of the main things my coworkers and I noticed when Indie got back was that he grew quite chunkier while at the behavior building. Because of that, he got added to our runner board and a couple volunteers and myself would run Indie while on walks just to help him slim down again.

Indie quickly became one of our long term dogs and, to help his Behavior issues (and spoil him), he got one of our largest kennels. Everyday, we cleaned out Indie’s kennel and gave him fresh blankets and toys. Well, when I cleaned it, Indie got into the habit of roping me into a game of tug-o-war. We’d fight over a rope, a plush, or a ring toy for twenty minutes before he’d peter out or I’d give in because I had to get back to work. I got plenty of bruises on my thighs because of him, but I always looked forward to that time with him.

250+ days was how long Indiana Bones was at the shelter. 250+ days of us taking care of him, playing with him, and working with him. 250+ days then the welfare committee decided that Indiana Bones was unadoptable. I didn’t know it, but Indie had seven pages of notes the adoption counselors had to read when potential adopters asked about him. By the time the counselors got through the first few, the adopter decided they didn’t want Indie in their home. He was too much of a risk. Plus, the welfare committee knew how Indie could hyper-focus on things and they feared the chance of Indie hyper-focusing on a child. We don’t know what kind of situations Indie could get into once he’s out of the shelter and the welfare committee decided he was too much of a risk to adopt out.

So his euthanasia date was set.

I can’t say I was surprised they made the decision, but I can say that I’m disappointed that Indie’s chance was finally up. They scheduled his euthanasia later in the week so everyone would have the chance to say goodbye and spoil Indie like the good boy he is. No one cared anymore about dropping Indie’s extra pounds. Everyone gave him chewies, and treats, and peanut butter to his heart’s desire. Whoever prepared his food in the morning searched through our stocks for the tastiest thing they could find for him.

As one of our longest termed dogs, Indie was quite close to a lot of people around the shelter and I knew he closer to a few of my coworkers than he was with me. I wanted my coworkers to have all the time they could with him. I didn’t want anyone to have any regrets. I just wanted to play one more game of tug-o-war with him.

The morning of Indie’s last day, I got my chance. I gave him a big rope early in the morning so we’d have something to play with and when the time came to clean the large kennels, I snatched that time with Indie. He petered out faster than usual, but he was stuffed with treats and other doggy junk food. Instead, I just sat with him a while. Said my goodbye while I had the chance. I think what surprised me the most out of everything was that from the time I was told about Indie’s euthanasia to that morning playing with him. I hadn’t cried. Hadn’t shed a single tear. Usually, I’m such a crybaby about these things, so I thought I was getting over it. I thought I could be the strong one for my coworkers. I didn’t know how wrong I was.

The middle of Indie’s last day, the behavior trainer who worked so closely with Indie took Indie to some wildlife trails just so Indie could enjoy time away from the shelter and around new scents and sounds. He and the trainer got covered in ticks, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Indie had a blast.

The scheduled time for Indie’s euthanasia was drawing near. A couple of my coworkers and I headed up to the behavior building to spend just a little more time with him. It would take place in a room where Indie was most comfortable. A room where he could romp around and play and even go outside if he wanted too (but it was raining, so he didn’t want too. He always hated the rain). A few people where already there and we learned that Indie was just fed a steak and my coworker brought another steak for him. He was as happy as can be when we showed up. In a room full of people he trusted, he was going from person to person for steak, pets, and love. From all the exercise and the junk food, he looked pretty tired, but he wasn’t letting that get him down. He grabbed one of the toys that were laying around the room and he brought it straight to me.

One last game of tug-o-war. I was extremely honored that he wanted to play with me out of everyone in the room. I gave him smiles and growls like I always did and he did his little, grunting growls in return. For as tired as he was, he still had a lot of strength in him. This game was a little harder for me since I was on the floor and the toy he grabbed wasn’t a rope. I couldn’t get a good hold on it, but every time it slipped out of my hand, Indie would hold it up and wait for me to grab it again. One of the times I got it away from him, he jumped and clambered over me just to get it back. I ended up blindly throwing it and I almost hit a coworker. Indie petered out once, but then he came back for more. I just tried focusing on being happy with him instead of what would happen in a few minutes.

The time had come. People Indie trusted secured with him two leashes while someone held him from behind. The behavior trainer who worked with Indie crouched in front of him to get his attention and feed him yet another steak. These measures were needed as our vet would be coming up from behind to give Indie his injection and poor Indie does not like our vet. We couldn’t risk Indie turning around and biting the vet. That being said, it was hard to see Indie like that. He didn’t deserve it. I still believed he had a chance. That someone out there would adopt him and he’d be their best boy. Turns out I wasn’t as strong as I thought and my tears started to flow. The room had already thinned from people not wanting to be there when Indie was injected. Since I was someone Indie trusted, I wanted to be there with him, but I fled like a coward.

I hate it when other people see me cry. I don’t want people thinking I’m weak because of it–plus, nobody can cry pretty. When my tears started, I tried to push them down, tried all of tricks to keep from falling apart, but nothing was working. Seeing Indie like that, bound by people he trusted. Knowing he just had his best day ever and now we were taking it away from him. It broke me. So, when Indie wasn’t looking, I slipped out, and I cried the whole way home.

I wish I wouldn’t have done that. I wish I would’ve stayed with Indie. I wish I wouldn’t have been so afraid of crying in front of my coworkers that I would’ve stay just so Indie could be surrounded by one more person he trusted. One more person who loved him.

So when did it become not okay to cry? We hide our emotions when we get upset. We don’t want anyone thinking we’re weak. We have to keep up the image of being strong, capable, and completely together. Because that’s the lie, right? You’re supposed to have it all together.

I think we should normalize showing our tears and normalize how to respond to someone shedding their tears. About a month ago, one of my coworkers started crying when she got some bad news. I came around the corner to find her eyes all puffy and red. She was trying to wipe her tears away as fast as she could while sobs huffed from her mouth. I could’ve tried comforting her. Given her a hug or some other compassionate gesture, but you know what I did? I just stood there. I averted my gaze and just stood there as awkward as a vampire at a vegan potluck. Why is that the normal?! When someone is upset, people just stand back, act like they don’t see it, and just let that person deal with their emotions by themselves. I get that some people need time alone when they get super upset, but there’s healing in knowing someone cares. Knowing someone is going to sit with you through the tears or not treat you any differently when your eyes are puffy and your voice is cracking.

There’s a song I’ve been hearing on the radio a lot lately (to the point where it’s driving me nuts). It’s called When We Fall Apart by Ryan Stevenson and I honestly think everyone should give it a listen. The very first time I heard the song, I changed the station. I denied every word in it, because–to me–it wasn’t okay to cry or to fall apart, the gift of mercy was a curse. I hate crying! Crying is weakness and why would I let anyone see that?! Then, I got the news that Indie was going to get euthanized and I could not escape that song. It played multiple times a day and since I listen to a radio app on my phone while I work, I couldn’t change it to a different song. It would even get stuck in my head when I was around Indie and after Indie passed away, it played on my drive home. I think it was trying to tell me that it would’ve been okay for me to cry in that room in front of Indie and all my coworkers. When everyone else is stone-faced, it would’ve been okay for me to show how much I cared and I should’ve.

For Indie’s sake, I want to do better. I want to be brave enough to go outside the norm and be okay to cry. And I hope I’m brave enough to be there for others. Show compassion when someone is falling apart in front of me. Compassion should be the new normal anyway, not stone-stoic distance. We humans are emotional beings and we shouldn’t be ashamed of them and we shouldn’t be condemned for them. We could close ourselves off, but that’s a lonely life. I mean, I could close myself off from all the other dogs at our shelter so I don’t cry when another one is euthanized, but then the dogs wouldn’t have companionship. They wouldn’t have any hope in a stressful shelter. They wouldn’t feel loved like Indie was.

So, it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to feel connected, show compassion, and be emotional. It’s not a curse to feel other people’s pain. It’s lets us know we’re human. Don’t buy into the lie that crying isn’t okay. That you can’t do it in front of others because it makes them too awkward. It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to look back on the sorrow, because without sorrow, there is no joy. I may not see Indie again until my time comes, but I can honor his memory by doing my best to care for every dog that comes through our shelter. So, here’s to you Indiana Bones. I miss you, buddy.

Indiana Bones was euthanized May 20th, 2021. On June 6th, 2021 another pittie named Dusk was also euthanized. Dusk was deemed unadoptable due to his dog aggression and an incident where he bit another dog. Dusk loved people, though. He loved to play and loved to get pets. He loved it when people visited him in his kennel and he also loved ripping things to shreds. He was a part of the first transfer I encountered at the shelter, arriving only a few days after I started working. He was greatly loved by my fellow Canine Care Techs and I, and he will be dearly missed. On his last day, the weather was really nice, so I set up a play-yard with a fluffy bed, a kiddie pool, his favorite toys, and a giant stuffed bear. He got to be outside all day and was never made to go back into his kennel. W spoiled him with a super cheesy breakfast, and a thick cardboard tube that he could rip apart to get the treats and chew-bones inside. He was fed Chipotle food, cookies, and even every dogs’ forbidden fruit: a chocolate cupcake. Alongside a few of my co-workers, I stayed with Dusk the entire time he was euthanized. We cried together and kept whispering we loved him and that he’s such a good boy. He died loved.

Here’s to you, Dusk. Here’s to you, Indie. I’ll miss you both, and I’ll see you again someday.

Fun With Imagination

Taps and puffs come through the microphone as a feline nose sniffs against it. Cheetah, an anthropomorphic feline, blinks curiously at it before testing the sound again with his paw. “It’s on.” He grins and his pointed teeth flash in the faint studio light. Cheetah slides himself up on the stool and glances over his shoulder to make sure no one was lingering outside the studio door. He turns back to the microphone.

“My name’s Cheetah!” His voice has a cheery chirp to it. “I’m so glad to finally meet you all! I’ve been bugging Nikki about it for AGES! Okay, well, not ages since the website only started last year, but it has been a long–“

“Cheetah!!!”

A yelp skips from Cheetah’s throat. In his start, his stool tilts and he falls to the floor. Cheetah pins his ears back, but his sheepish smile returns when he sees who’s coming into the studio. “Oh, hey Candra! What’s up?”

A frown lines Candra’s white face. He has long, silvery hair and eyes as pale as the moon, but it makes sense given who he is. He isn’t as skinny as Cheetah, but he’s lean and just a little bit shorter. Cheetah considers Candra a great friend especially since they’d known each other for years, but Candra can be quite the stick in the mud. “What’s up?” Candra repeats disapprovingly. “What are you doing? You’re not supposed to be in here yet.”

Cheetah lightly rolls his eyes. “I’m bored! I wanna get this interview thingy started!”

Candra crosses his arms. “Not until Nikki’s ready. Come on, we should wait outside for her.”

“She’s not gonna be ready!” Cheetah tosses his hands up and sits cross-legged on the floor. “You know how nervous she was posting that “What’s Your One App” post. She’s afraid people won’t like us too much–which she shouldn’t be, I’m adorable!” Cheetah purrs, his tail tip flicking happily. He then tilts his head in thoughtfulness. “Maybe she’s worried about you, people probably won’t like you as much.”

“Wha–?” Candra gasps, but he shakes it away with a shake of his head. “That’s not true, people have liked me in the past before, so I’m not worried about it. Besides, as long as we’re having fun, what does it matter?” He motioned back toward the studio door. “Come on, we can find Nikki and probably talk her into getting these interviews done.”

“Hmph.” Cheetah rests his head in his hand. “I know the type of interviews she does. They’re so boring! What is this? The Tonight Show?! BORING!”

“Cheetah, you’ve never seen The Tonight Show.”

“I’m just saying we should do something more exciting!” Cheetah jumps to his feet. “Maybe start with one of the exciting adventures we’ve been on? Maybe the time we went to Hyrule? Or raced on Rainbow Road? Or Skyrim? OH!” He grins from ear to ear and points at Candra. “We can start with a backstory! Me! The poor, orphaned, little cheetah cub who’s constantly on the run from evil hyenas! Struggling everyday to find food and hardened by the elements of Africa. No friends! No future! And yet, a survivor who will save Africa from total inhalation!”

Candra rolls his eyes. “Yes. Because that sounds exactly like you.”

“Then there’s you, the big, glowing orb in the night sky.”

Candra frowns. “Riiiiight….I think Nikki wants everyone to know the real us and not some story you think sounds cool. You make it sound like you’re ashamed of your background.”

“I am not!” Cheetah flattens his ears. “I just want to find ways to jazz things up! Readers are very picky these days. Just ask any of Nikki’s novel characters!”

“I know that. I also know that Nikki will come with something to ‘jazz’ things up.” Candra motions to the studio door once again. “Let’s get out of here before she shows up. You know you’re only going to make her worry more.”

“And I also know that Nikki will make us do the interviews over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over–”

Candra frowns. “Stop it.”

“–And over again until she thinks it’s perfect!” Cheetah places his hands on his hips. “I say we should just do the interview to each other. You know all her questions right? You could ask them and I’ll make things funny! Then we can post it after just one take! Nikki won’t have to worry about a thing!”

Candra starts laughing. “Right! That’s a great way to give her a heart-attack. Let’s just steal her website from her and make our own post! She’s worked too hard for this, Cheetah! We can mess it up!” His fists tighten when Cheetah slowly leans toward the microphone. “Cheetah, you stay away from that! Don’t touch it! I’m warning you!”

Cheetah keeps an innocent pout on his face as he whispers into the mic. “Candra’s a killjoy who doesn’t know how to have fun.”

“That’s not true!”

“He also eats bugs.”

“That is definitely not true!”

“He still wears a di–”

“STOP IT!” Candra claps his hand over the microphone and frowns heavily at Cheetah. “If I do the interview with you now, you will shut up?” When Cheetah excitedly bobs his head, Candra sighs. “We at least let Nikki review it afterward. You’re not exactly the best at editing.”

Cheetah purrs. “Fair.” He sets his stool back up and perches atop it while Candra moves to the other stool and microphone. Cheetah runs his mouth before Candra can even take a breath. “So, what’s the first question? The actual backstory? Well, I’m the fastest cat around! Known Nikki since she was real, real little. All those trips to Grandma’s house, I was running right alongside the car! I can run on fences, telephone lines, jump over billboards, cars, buildings!” Cheetah chuckles. “Nothing stops this cat!”

“Hm. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to having a running man outside the car when they take long trips.” Candra smiles fondly. “Except, I guess you were a running cheetah.”

“Yeah and whenever I felt like it, I’d sleep in the back of the truck bed,” Cheetah flicks his tail in excitement. “I even ran around her schools a couple times! Imagine all the chaos I could cause if I were actually real.” He chuckles to himself before he sighs. “I don’t fit in with other cheetahs, though. They’re all tough, independent, and fight everyday to survive on the savannah. I just like to run around and have fun!”

Candra nods thoughtfully. “Well, Nikki was a child when you first showed up, so it makes sense that you would have a childish personality.”

“Hey!”

“I, on the other hand, have always been around.” Candra holds his head up. “She didn’t know what cheetahs were in the early states of life, but she knew me! And because I’m the tranquil light in the dark of the night and as old as the Earth, I got more maturity than you did. She could look up and see calmness in my full light or a smile waxing or waning.”

“Or nothing if you decide to be something new.” Cheetah snickers. “Yeah, yeah. We get it. You’re the Moon. Nikki’s ‘Moon spirit’ or ‘man in the moon’ who not only watches over all the Earth, but helps her clear her thoughts when it comes to her stories and characters. We get it.” Cheetah shifts on his stool and sits taller. “But back to me: I like to wear knitted hats, and run, and play tricks on people, and run, and watch movies, and run, and I hate wearing fancy clothes, and I run, and–”

Candra sighs. “And you like to talk about yourself.”

“Well, it’s not like you’re going to do much talking. You don’t like to talk about yourself!”

“But I don’t mind telling people who I am so they can–” Candra sighs and rests his head in his hand. “You know what? Forget it. They’ll likely be more stories with the two of us. People can get to know me then. Please continue, Cheetah, so we can get out of here before we get into trouble.”

Cheetah grins. “Did I mention I like to run?”

Candra slaps his forehead with his palm. “No. I don’t think you did. I had absolutely no idea that you like to run.”

Cheetah tilts his ears back. “Ok. I don’t need your sass, Candra.”

“My sass is inevitable, Cheetah.”

“What are you, Thanos now?”

Candra groans. “Can we just move this along?”

“I can be sassy right back, you know!”

“Oh, trust me, I know. You’re as sassy as your spots!”

“At least I have spots. You’re just as pale as snow! And that silver hair? What are you, an old man?”

Candra fumbles a frown. “Well…technically yes and technically no…It depends on how you look at it. If you look at me as the Moon then…” Candra pouts. “Yes. I’m an old man. BUT! If you consider my age from the point Nikki created me then I’m only about in my twenties.” Candra smirks. “Cheetahs; however, only have a lifespan between ten to twelve years and considering you’re likely in your twenties too, then you’re the one who’s old, Cheetah! Ancient even!”

Cheetah flattens his ears. “Take that back!”

“Consider that payback for the eating bugs comment!”

“I said take it back!”

Candra gives a light-hearted laugh. “What’s wrong, Cheetah? Can’t take what you dish out?”

“Alright, boys! That’s enough! I don’t need you fighting in the studio.”

Both Cheetah and Candra pause when a new voice comes over the studio speakers. The light in the booth comes on and they both wince seeing me sitting in it. “You two can’t have a pleasant conversation without getting into an argument, can you?”

Candra sheepishly chuckles and rubs the back of his head. “Heh…Hey Nikki.”

Cheetah points at Candra. “It’s his fault!”

“I think this is enough material to introduce you two.” I smile as I type up the last few lines. “All I gotta do now is schedule it to post for this week and add some clever tag.”

“So…” Candra shakes his head and his pale cheeks flush with embarrassment. “You were recording the whole time?”

“Yeah.” I chuckle. “It felt more natural that way. You guys get one more line each. What are you going to say?”

Cheetah quickly leans into the microphone. “My name is Cheetah! Don’t forget me!”

Candra and I wince at the sheer loudness of his shout. Then, Candra chuckles. “Don’t worry, Cheetah, you’re hard to forget.”

What’s Your One App?

Do you have a favorite app? All the technology that people can access today, sometimes it’s hard to pick an absolute favorite app. Maybe, for you, it’s a game? Or for writers, it’s a memo pad or even Google Docs to give us quick access to our stories. Maybe you’re a banker and you keep an eye on stock. Maybe you’re a nature lover and you use the Seek app to identify every organism you come across. My point: there are a BUNCH of apps out there. So many, that some get overlooked, don’t quite make it, and disappear without a trace.

That happened to my favorite app. An app that actually helped me survive college. No, it wasn’t some “How to cheat on your tests,” or some quick access to my college materials. This was just a cute, little gaming/social app that kept me sane when college was overbearing. The app was called Miitomo. Maybe you remember it? Maybe you didn’t even know it existed? But I really miss it.

The app was made by Nintendo and you basically created your own Mii and your own room, and you could connect with other people who had the app and answer questions about each other, visit, play mini games for more clothing or room decorations, etc. It was meant to be a social app, but that’s not why I liked it so much.

The app eventually included a feature where you could create more Miis with their own rooms and you oversaw them all. You could create characters from video games, famous people, etc. and share them with everyone else. Well, I didn’t enjoy the app because I could create other people’s characters. I enjoyed it because I created my own.

With Miitomo, I had physical access to my characters and I could dress them up how I wanted them to look and it even helped me figure out the styles that my characters like. What’s more is that the app helped me develop my characters. It had a bunch of different questions that I was basically interviewing my characters. They each had their own greetings, goodbyes, and their personality developed the more time I spent with them.

Now, these questions were all simple: Favorite 5 letter word, Favorite Color, Favorite Childhood Dessert, What is something you want your spouse to call you? Etc. But through those questions–these “interviews”–through these little things, I knew how my characters would act during the bigger moments in my novel.

The app even allowed me to create pictures that included up to five Miis. I remember days where I just created pictures, ALL day. It connected me closer to my characters. It helped me visualize scenes. And it was a great creative outlet. So when I got back to my computer, back to my stories, I was able to write even more than before.

Now, when my college career was coming to a close, I got the warning on the app that they were shutting it down. They weren’t getting enough funds to keep it open (as much as I loved the app, I have a rule that I don’t spend money on phone games). I’m glad they gave warning though, because it game me time to save all the greetings, questions, and pictures that I created for my characters (some of them had over 60 questions I had to record). I have a whole document filled with a list of my characters’ questions and answers and two folders on my computer filled with images all from Miitomo.

As sad as I am that the app is gone, that doesn’t mean I can’t still connect with my characters. I can hand draw some scenes to help me visualize them and I can always look up random questions online to interview my characters. If you’re a writer and you’re stumped in your story. I would recommend giving “interviews” and drawing out scenes. It helped me learn how my characters feel about each other and how they might push through the heartbreaks of their past (plus many of them grew much more fashionable). Miitomo certainly made it easier, but I’m thankful it was there when I needed it.

I’ve been debating for a while about showing off some of the pictures and things I’ve done on Miitomo and I might start including them in later posts. There are two characters I created, that were Miitomo specific for a while and I would love to bring them back. Hopefully, later down the road, you guys will get to meet them, and I hope you love them as much as I do.

So, that’s my app that I loved and miss. If you take a good, hard look on your phone, would you be able to say what your favorite app is? What would you do if that app suddenly shut down like Miitomo did?

“Uh-Oh”

“Uh-Oh,” the author cried as she starts her laptop up.
“I’ve got nothing on the inside. How can I sum this up?”
“There’s no words, there’s no post.”
“I need something or I’m toast.”

“Maybe a story? Maybe a thought?”
“Or that prompt that I just bought?”
“Something to keep the site alive.”
“Something to keep readers in place.”
“I’ll write something with a jive?”
“I’ll try and pick up my pace?”

“But my head hurts against this desk.”
“Nothing is jogged. It’s all a mess!”
“So, I’ll throw out a cute little rhyme.”
“Something to help me buy some time.”

“Time for dreams. Time for thoughts.”
“Time for stories never forgot.”
“Then when passion arrives once more,”
“nothing will seal this mind’s door.”
“My fingers will fly. My heart will soar.”
“All for my characters’ deep rooted lore.”

“Life is a bustle that distracts and screams.”
“But nothing is going to kill my dream.”
“I’ll write again, something more clever.”
“Something much longer than this little letter.”

“I’ve got an idea! Something fantastic!”
“Or maybe it’s just a little bit drastic?”
“One way to know, so here I go.”
“I just hope I have something good to show.”

The author turns to the audience and gives a sheepish grin.
“I really hope you come back again.”
“Thanks for your patience. Thanks for your ear.”
“Thank you for clicking on this site right here.”

“Whether just one reader, ten, or one-hundred.”
“It’s quite enough to make me feel talented.”
“But it’s been a busy week and I don’t know what to say.”
“I surely don’t want that to turn you away.”

“I’ve got many ideas, but no time to write.”
“I’ve got thoughts, and poems, and tales of great blight.”
“But you know the drill: groceries, work, and the bills.”
“The time for talents is off in the hills.”

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m not ending this scene.”
“I just need a moment to think a few things.”
“So, thanks again. Thanks for your time.”
“I’ll cease your suffering and finally end this rhyme.”

Writing Prompt: Ten Years of Advice

If you could go back ten years and give yourself some advice, what would you say?

Don’t give up on your dream. Right now, you’re about two years into writing your first novel. You stay up late on weekends just to fill your pages with scenes that won’t make it into the final draft. Well, keep writing them because you love them, not because others do. You won’t get published for a long time. You’ll be 27 and you’ll still be waiting for an agent to say yes. It may never even happen, but don’t give up!

Yes. You’ll cry many tears. You’ll feel like the world hates your stories and you’ll think that those that do like them are lying to you. But the truth is: you love to write. You love the adventures with your characters, the tragedy of two who are meant to be, but never are. You love the laughter of friendship, the hopelessness in a battle no one thinks they can win, but you do it together. You love how you put yourself in the story and you won’t tell anyone how you did it.

You have an imagination that goes beyond the stars and that is more important than knowledge of any kind. You may never succeed, but you will truly fail if you give up. I believe their is a plan for every single story in your head even though I haven’t seen it yet. You will do great things. You will come up with many adventures and you’ll love every single one.

So, keep writing even when all feels lost. Write your heart into every word, keep improving, keep praying, keeping doing what you love! You will feel like the whole world is scheming to make sure that you fail. When the rejections come, you’ll feel like your dreams are too impossible to achieve, but keep pushing on! You’ve got talent. You’ve got the guts. And you definitely have the stories. Keep writing!

I believe you can get published.

A Collection of Words

Little book of words bran new.
Little words to know.
Teach me something fresh like dew.
Help me learn and grow.

Everyone tries to expand their knowledge. Some people like to learn something new every day. If you’re a writer, you tend to do a lot of research of various topics to help you make your book more authentic. Or, maybe you just research a topic because you enjoy it? Well, one of the ways that I try to learn something new every day is actually rather simple: I try to learn new words.

I have the Dictionary.com app on my phone and it has a cute little widget of the “Word of the Day.” Usually, the word of the day pertains to whatever is going on in life: something pertaining to spring, summer, a holiday, etc. Other times, it’s just a random word that most people aren’t going to know. Some of it is slang, others are words tucked way back in the dictionary, or it may include something in Latin, or some other language that isn’t English. Since the word changes everyday, it’s difficult to remember all of them, so I use one of my many journals to record the ones I like.

Now, the words that I like are words that I feel I could in a story (or perhaps it pertains to the Moon, books, or the environment). I especially look for words I can use in my current work in progress. A lot of the ones I record, most people aren’t going to know like sweven, or pleonasm, or foible. Not to mention, there are quite a few that the red, swiggly, spellcheck line appear under whenever I type them. Yet, I still want to use these words in a story. I figure if I can use them in a way that people can understand them through context, then they can learn a new word too.

Now, my current work in progress is a sci-fi story and it involves a character who’s quite the bel-esprit. I’m mean, he’s certainly smarter than me, he’s a top-notch technician, a bit umbrageous, and arrogant. You know the kind: those people who know they’re smart so they gasconade their knowledge over you. Well, he’s my excuse for using these words that some people don’t know. He’ll use them naturally (which means, I have to learn to use them), and other characters will just stand around and stare at him. Now, I’ve always been a fan of the “In English, please!” Line from one nescience character to a Brainiac. So, my story is going to have plenty of squibs between my thrawn bel-esprit and other characters.

Alright, you caught me. I’m trying to get used to using some of the words from my journal in this blog post. I’ve posted the definitions of some down below and if you already know them, you’re five steps ahead of me! If I’ve used a word wrong, feel free to call me out in the comments. I’m learning that just because you know the definition of a new word, that doesn’t exactly mean you know how to use it in a sentence.

So, this is what I’m doing to learn something new everyday. What are some things you do?

Sweven: a vision, dream.
Pleonasm: the use of more words than necessary to express an idea; redundancy.
Foible: minor weakness or failing of character; flaw.
Bel-esprit: person of great wit or intellect.
Umbrageous: apt to take offense.
Gasconade: extravagant boasting; boastful talk.
Nescience: lack of knowledge; ignorance.
Squib: a short and witty or sarcastic saying or writing.
Thrawn: contray, peevish, stubborn.

Writing Prompt: History Rewritten

Include the following in your story: funeral, condemn, distribution, button, sink, tax, art, jealousy, brain, lover.

If I could change the past you wouldn’t have been taken by weakness or by illness of age. Your funeral wouldn’t have occurred. Life would still hug your breath and you’d be enjoying the art of creation with us. We’d go down to the docks at the lake and watch lures sink into the water and how everyone fought over the distribution of the banana bread. Sure, so many people in one place is as burdening as tax season, but at least you would be here.

I’ll admit, I was green with jealousy when you gave your attention to everyone else, but I know I’m never one to open up or speak or make conversation, so it isn’t your fault. It just matters that you were here even though I was condemned from your attention.

We’d still play games at night. You wouldn’t be on my team, I’d make sure of it. I always kicked my brain into overdrive just to tease you or ruin your moves. What I wouldn’t give to hear one more “Nikki!” from you.

You lived a long life, but I’d make it longer if I could. I wouldn’t be buttoned up with regrets. I’d show you that I can drive stick. That I could make it out there on my own and get a call from you asking what mile marker I’m at. I would’ve called you more, even if I couldn’t understand you. At least I would be there to listen.

I’ll soon be at the lake again, but you won’t be there. Though, everyone will say you’ll be there in spirit. Maybe you are watching? Watching your family; your sons and daughters and your wife who was your lover. I know you look over my cousins, help guide their way, but do you ever see me?

If you were here. I would talk to you more. You were the only one who noticed my absence, saw me when I was invisible. But you’re not here now and history is set. There’s nothing I can do to get rid of my regrets.

Don’t Breathe the Green Gas

What is written below is a creative, fiction story. It came from a nightmare, so read at your own risk.

I never believed things could change in the blink of an eye. You’re always warned about it, but no one believes it. Well, the whole world changed and yet I can’t feel a thing. Everything is gone or might as well be. So why should I care? The nurses rush around calling for help with every patient that comes pouring in. I’m lucky, I guess. I somehow got away. But the man on the gurney over there didn’t. His mouth is filled with green foam. Blisters the size of baseballs pummel his skin and his eyes only stare straight ahead. There’s plenty more like him. Plenty more people are being ushered in with bursting blisters and foaming mouths and there’s nothing the nurses can do to help them. The whole world is in an utter state of panic. Yet, here I am, sitting on this hospital bed and I don’t care one bit.

It started out a day like any other. My day off work and my brother surprised my mom and me by showing up for dinner. My sister-in-law and my one-year-old niece too. When my brother walked into our split level house, his hands were full of baby stuff. He asked why there was a red sticker on the door and my mom explained that some solicitor came by, ignored our “no solicitors” sign, and that he must have placed it there when we sent him off. We didn’t bother to take that sticker down, but we should’ve.

The evening continued with fun banter, family updates, and we all sat around the table to share my mom’s delicious cooking. In the middle of the meal, I saw someone come in through the front door (my brother left it unlocked so he could go smoke) and bolt down to the basement. Both my brother and I got up. I recognized the man as the solicitor from earlier. My brother heads into the basement to confront him and I wait at the top of the stairs with a fork in my hand like it was some sort of weapon.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying in the basement, but I did hear my brother pull his gun out and threaten the man. I didn’t even know he had his gun on him. My mom, sister-in-law, and niece were still in the dining room and I told them not to worry. However, something outside caught my eye and shivered anxiety in my stomach.

It was a firefighter. A firefighter dressed in all his gear was limping in the front yard, coming from the side of our house. He was dragging a hose and I couldn’t see his face. I walked over to the front window and my mouth dropped open at the sight outside. I remember my mom calling from the dining room, asking what was going on and I told her: “The house across the street is on fire.”

It was in utter flames. Every window and every door was filled with a roaring inferno. But what’s more is that people were running, screaming, and crying as they ran down the street. Firemen were trying their best to put the fire out while people ran in a terrified frenzy around them. Some other authorities were trying to usher people into the glass house up the street. Many of them had cloths covering their mouths.

I told my mom and sister-in-law to wait inside and I headed out to investigate. Black smoke from my neighbor’s house filled the night, but in the distance, I saw green fog clouds rolling between houses. There was a News reporter by the curb, so I wandered over to listen in.

She spoke of a radical group with no name. They were running around the city causing riots and throwing bombs of an unknown substance. She repeatedly said “Don’t breathe the green gas.”

My mind was still whirling. Don’t breathe the green gas. Did she mean the green gas rolling through the streets?! I never thought something like this could happen so close to my home. You always see it on the News, happening in far away places, but this…this was literally happening in my front yard. Then, I spotted them. I was so horrified that I didn’t even think to scream in warning. Six people came running from up the street. Each of them wore green clovers on their shirts and they carried brown paper sacks that oozed with green fog. They didn’t wear any masks which told me they were committed to die for this destruction. Yet, what scared me the most was that two of them were children.

I held my breath in waiting for them to throw the bombs, but they just stood like corpses staring at all the chaos. Then, one of the kids finds my house and the little red sticker on the front door.

“NO!” I screamed, but no one heard. As I was turning to run back to the house and warn my family, an explosion sounded from the inside and suddenly the house was oozing with the green gas. The solicitor. He must have been carrying a bomb and my brother couldn’t take it from him. “NO!” I screamed again. I tried to run into the house, but somebody grabbed my arms. I fought with every sobbing breath, but I couldn’t break free from whoever had me. I can still feel the burn of the tears from when they rolled down my face. Why my family? What did they ever do to anyone?!

I don’t remember what happened next except for a lot of kicking and screaming. They said it was the firefighter who brought me to the hospital, but I don’t remember seeing him. I was placed on a hospital bed. The nurses gave me some shot to calm me down, but I just feel as dead as the man in the gurney. I can’t go back home. It’s too dangerous with the gas contaminating everything. The News reporter on the TV says these riots are occurring all over the globe. The green gas is spreading and wiping out populations, but no one can identify the group causing it.

I know they have an affinity for clovers and they use little red stickers to pick their targets. I still have the fork in my hand. The only thing I have left from home. My hand tightens around it. This radical group took away everything from me. Everything but this fork. So I’m going to plunge it into the eye of whoever leads them.