Why Don’t You Sleep On It?

Hello blog friends! Today we have a special guest joining us. Please welcome Nessa, a friend and fellow writer, who will be talking today about a recent adventure that she had…

Tats

There are certain decisions that require a clear head to make. You can get away with ordering your morning coffee when you’re sleep deprived, and it’s likely one of the better decisions you’ll make all day. Major decisions, like body modification, you should probably sleep on.

Which was my mistake.

Let me set this up for you: I work as support staff for a small municipal police force. One of my many duties is to search and supervise female prisoners, so it’s not uncommon to get a phone call in the wee hours of the morning to the tune of “We have a charming lady here, and we’d love for you to meet her!”

On the morning in question, this call came at ten to one in the morning, and I’d been asleep for three hours, give or take a little bit. So fifteen minutes later I’m walking in to work and we have a banshee in the cells: We had a screamer. And it was a cycle: ten minutes of silence followed by five minutes of screaming. For six hours. The noise drives most people crazy, but I really don’t mind it; it gets pretty entertaining when we’re holding someone who’s intoxicated until they sober up. This was one such occasion, and I had a great time making Silence of the Lambs references with the on-duty dispatcher (“It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again!”).

By 8:00 AM, I’m hitting my stride! I have officers telling me that I can go home and get some sleep, but I thought, “Why would I go home? I could have six hours of over time today, and there’s not a lot going on!” Over time and a slack day at the office? What wasn’t to love? So I stayed at work, determined to last the eight-hour shift I was scheduled to work.

This will henceforth be referred to as Mistake Number One.

Mistake Number Two was when I started flipping through page after page of literary tattoos. At first, I was just curious if I would know any of the quotations that people were having permanently placed on their bodies, and I wasn’t terribly surprised when I didn’t know any of the books. It was alright, though. I’m a book nerd. I know what it’s like to have a novel affect me so profoundly that it makes sense to wear part of it every day from here until eternity.

Then I started to recognize quotes.

And then I started to wonder what I would ever get for a quote tattoo.

And then I saw it: Tolkien’s Elvish on someone’s foot.

It was translated below the picture to reveal one of my favorite quotes from the trilogy: “Not all those who wander are lost.” I was nearing the end of Basic Training, and I was seeing Mac in a month; this quote hit home with new force after all of the trials that I had faced and it seemed perfect to have the quote on a foot. I mean, feet allow us to wander, right?

So I took my feet and went wandering to check the mail for the office. It was a short walk, on a cloudy morning, and my brain was buzzing since a coworker had bought me a tea. I don’t normally drink a lot of tea, and usually it’s herbal blends that have no caffeine in them. This was a large tea, and it had lots. I was now at the special stage of sleep deprivation where my mental process ran like “Bingo-bingo-bingo-SQUIRREL! OH MY GOD THAT MAN IS WALKING A CAT!”

It was actually a Chihuahua, so I’m sure there are people who would argue that it counts as a cat. But now you know where my mind was when I decided it was a brilliant idea to have “Not all those who wander are lost” tattooed on my foot. In elvish.

And it was brilliant! I would give my foot written instruction on what to do should I ever go through a period so stressful that it was akin to walking through Hell in bare feet. I could just autopilot. And then I thought, “Walking… Bilbo’s walking song!” Now, that was far too long to have tattooed on a foot; I have itty-bitty feet, so I’d have to use the abridged version. So I was faced with the decision: Which one did I want to get?

Secret Option C: Both.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Mistake Number Three.

Now, if I had been smart, I would have recognized that I was feeling “special” at the time. The Chihuahua incident was proof positive of it. I should have said “I’m going to go home and sleep on this decision before I commit myself to it.” Did I?

Of course not! What story worth telling ever included the phrase “And so I slept on it”?

I contacted a tattoo artist and set up an appointment. Then I contacted the very good friend who had been a part of previous bad decisions, like “Bring me more Sambuca!” and “I could totally write a thesis on Harry Potter.”

The conversation went like this:

“Ben,” I said. “I’m getting new tattoos! You should come with me!”

“I though you were off tattoos?” he says. “You said the last one was really rough. Where are you getting this one?”

“Two! On my feet!”

“Isn’t that going to hurt?”

“Probably.”

“This is probably a very bad idea. Why am I coming?”

“Because I need someone to drive when it’s over. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to walk, let alone drive.”

“Nessa, if you end up on your hands and knees in the middle of the road again, I’m going to be very unhappy.” (This was the culmination of Bad Decision “Bring Me More Sambuca!”)

“It was a parking lot, Ben!”

“No, it was the road! There was on coming traffic!”

“Well. I’ll be damned. So are you coming or not?”

He sighed. “What time are you picking me up?”

By the time I went home that evening, the decision was so firmly entrenched in my mind that there was no going back. I started to count down the days.

This wasn’t my first tattoo, so I knew what I was going to be facing. Or, I thought I knew. When the needle first hit my skin, I realized just how poor a decision I had made, but it was too late now! And my very good friend Ben, who had stood beside me through thick and thin, sat beside me reading a book and shaking as he tried not to laugh.

It took a little over an hour to do both feet. There was another girl there the whole time having a section of a full back piece done. I’m pretty sure she found religion while she was sitting there, because she kept calling out for Jesus and moaning. I prided myself on giving only the occasional explosive “Ho!” or “Argh!” Ben continued to shake. But I made it! My feet were wrapped; I paid the man, and walked out of the shop under my own steam without limping (which by this point I figured was a major accomplishment). We weren’t three feet outside of the door before Ben burst out laughing and declared, “Between you, that other girl and the buzzing tattoo guns it sounded like a lesbian orgy in there! You should make decisions like this more often!”

I could have slapped him.

The tattoos have healed now, and they’re beautiful. For bad decisions, they’re actually pretty awesome, and Mac seemed to like them when he saw them. He just smiled, heard my story, and shook his head. “Only you,” he said, “would think to give your feet written instructions.”

“I’m pretty sure it may have been genius,” I told him. “You’ll see; just sleep on it.”

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Bio: When not making crazy decisions, Nessa reads, writes, and actively campaigns to have her official work title changed to “Fount of All Knowledge.” She is marrying Mac as soon as the Air Force lets him sit still long enough.

Check out more of Nessa’s stories at http://airforcewifemisadventures.wordpress.com/

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Dance of Shadows: An Elaborate Dance of Intrigue, Minus the Suspense

Dance of Shadows

Dance of Shadows drew me in because it featured the New York Ballet Academy.  Call me a sucker for a good dance narrative, but I have always been fascinated with the idea of being a ballerina.  That being said, I can’t say that I fell as completely in love with the plot as I did with the notion of tutus and slippers.

The mystery centers on Vanessa, whose sister disappeared from the NYBA three years ago under suspicious circumstances.  Vanessa, who is also a talented ballerina, gets accepted to the dance school as a way to solve the mystery of her sister’s disappearance.  It is clear from the beginning that Vanessa is not entirely passionate about dance, which makes it somewhat difficult to believe that she would make such effort to be accepted into an elite dance school such as NYBA just to see what happened to her sister.  In sharp contrast to Vanessa’s sometimes lackluster interest in her amazing opportunity was the supporting cast of characters.  I enjoyed the interaction between Vanessa and her friends, as the dialogue was quick albeit occasionally a little odd.

At times, the plot unfurled a bit too slowly for my tastes.  I found myself wondering why Vanessa had not yet discovered a clue that seemed obvious from a much earlier point in the novel.  In particular, the villain seemed clear from the beginning and while some intentions were not fully divulged, a big part of the later reveal is described in the prologue.  This is not to say that Dance of Shadows isn’t a good story. I found Black’s descriptions of the rehearsals and the ways that ballerinas live and work to be fascinating and detailed.  Furthermore, the final chapters were fast-paced, exciting and immersed the reader more fully in the paranormal aspect of the story.  Without divulging any secrets, Yelena Black more fully showcases her ability to set a chilling mood in the final scene when she writes about the dimly lit basement studio, its scorched floors and the eerie dance that follows.

Despite some lackluster elements to the story, Dance of Shadows has some fascinating elements that are worth a read.  In the literary world, we might say that the plot was laid out with all of the right details, but none of the suspense.  In the dance world, I would imagine they might say that the footwork is in place, but the timing is off.

Soul Food: Writing Pitfalls and the Zen of Bagel-Making

Fresh whole wheat bagels in the oven

Restless and annoyed, I set to work in my kitchen to make some whole-wheat bagels.  It’s not something that I do often, being that my name is neither Martha Stewart nor do I have a strong urge to use my creative energy on food.  But today I was hungry and irritated by that feeling of unease that comes with being halfway through a novel and not quite understanding where it should go.  Sure, this is normal.  Writers are supposed to be uncomfortable, you say.  But here’s the thing.  How do you deal with feeling lost on a solo writing quest?

In school, we get gold stars, a nod of encouragement, awards of various kinds and perhaps the odd A+.  I don’t know about you, but I was one of those kids who loved getting A’s.  In fact, somewhere, trapped in the recesses of my parents’ cavernous basement are boxes filled with old report cards and plaques from each year that I was in school.  When I finished school, I was broke, jobless and determined to write.  This led me through a series of odd jobs: selling hand cream, fetching doughnuts (yes, that is a job), stamping election postcards and editing the odd doctoral paper (to name a few).  It was tough going, but worse still was that no matter how hard I worked there were no gold stars in sight.  The only gold star, it seemed, was to be plucked out of odd-job land and into some sort of professional gig.  Surely, then I would find the gold star that I so craved…

Flash forward to the present.  I’m sitting in my kitchen, feeling rather pleased, because despite my strictly anti-Martha Stewart inclinations (sorry, Martha), I made some pretty kick-ass bagels.  There still isn’t a gold star, but I’m starting to realize that gold stars don’t matter anymore.  It isn’t really the outside praise that keeps the fire going—it’s something deeper, more intrinsic that fuels me on every morning, despite the writers’ block, impending deadlines or that odd, unsavory rejection poised and waiting to attack in my inbox.

I never did find that elusive gold star, but here are some things that help me keep things in perspective:

  •  Acknowledge when you’ve done something well.  Let the little things that don’t work out go.
  •  Remind yourself that what you are doing is important.
  • Read inspiring quotes.
  • Go for a jog, do some yoga…anything that gets your heart rate up and your muscles feeling happy.
  •  Complete some other task that makes you feel accomplished (i.e. bagels. Will they win me a Pulitzer? Nope, but they taste pretty damn good.)

So here’s what I think: don’t wait for someone else to tell you that what you are doing is important—you already feel that it is or you wouldn’t be doing what you are doing in the first place.  Be your own guide.

Here’s the recipe for my Super-Simple Zen Bagels:

(adapted from Spark Recipes)

Ingredients:

1 1/8 cup of water (room temp)

2 tsp margarine (or butter)

1 ½ cup whole wheat flour

1 ½ cup white flour

1 ¼ tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

¾ yeast (preferably bread machine or fast acting)

  1. Add the ingredients into your bread machine in the order above.  (Remember: not Martha Stewart, here.  Besides, shouldn’t you be getting back to writing?)
  2. Select the dough setting.  When the dough has been through the whole cycle, separate it into ten portions and form them into circles.
  3. Put them on a greased cookie sheet or something to that effect where they won’t stick like carbuncles and put a cloth over them to rise.  This will take between 40-50 minutes.  (While you are doing this, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and go back to your writing, or whatever task you are avoiding by reading this post.)
  4. Now here comes the fun part.  Once you’re back from kicking ass and getting that long dreaded project finished, it’s time to boil those sons of bitches! And by sons of bitches, I mean bagels.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT boil your notebook, laptop or any other writing utensil!
  5.  Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a large saucepan.  Add the bagels to the boiling pot one at a time and watch them get all puffy.  Do this for 2 minutes. Once boiled, put the bagels back onto the cookie sheet and bake them for 20 minuutes (or until golden brown).
  6.  Breathe a sigh of relief, because you made bagels! This makes you a kitchen goddess, or something to that effect.  Give yourself an awesome pet name and go back to what you were doing.