Friday, October 21, 2011

Miss Independent

Women can do anything a man can do. I know some men will scoff at that and say, "Well, you can't pee standing up."

Actually, thanks to the SheWee, we can.
I've always been one of those girls who thinks sex doesn't really matter. Except when I lay down at night. Then it's all boys, boys, boys. Or, if I am telling the truth, man, man, man. Yeah, I like them older and...only one at a time. Because...

I don't think that needs explaining. I'm pretty sure most of you understand why gang-bangs and orgies aren't necessarily my bag. Not that I have anything against people who like to partake. I mean...


How did I get so off subject?

As much as I like to sit by and watch a man hammer a nail (that sounds dirty!), I am perfectly capable of hammering a nail myself. You know, I remember a time when my ex and his father were sitting around laughing over how small my hammer was. Granted, the joke was on them, because my ex didn't even have a hammer. Who was inferior then? Yeah, that's right. And my tiny hammer still did the job. Like they say, it isn't the size of the hammer but how hard you swing it.

Okay, I may have just made that saying up.

I am fiercely independent which kind of goes against the whole damsel in distress thing. It can also put a damper on a relationship. My mother once told me guys like to feel needed. Which sort of is a problem when I don't think I need anyone. It would be like a prince trying to rescue the princess from the people-eating monster only to have her already slay the beast before he arrived. If it was me, I'd then push past the prince, climb down the rope and ask, "What took you so long?"

Blame my father. He never made any excuses when it came to sexes. Boy or girl, it didn't matter. I've done everything with my dad from car mechanics to demolition to holding a goat down and grinding out its hooves. Actually, I've always been the one to jump at the chance to do those things. Maybe it's because I wanted to prove I was just as good as a son, if not better.

Oh, and don't go all Freud on me. I don't have daddy issues. My father has openly admitted that without daughters his life would have been a heck of a lot harder. All the quality time with my father, building sheds and scooping dog crap, instilled in me the need to get things done and get them done right. When I think about my childhood, some of my favourite memories are the ones where I am helping my father. The most cherished are his looking over his glasses and asking me to tell him what colour a wire is. Nothing like a man who is colourblind trying to rewire something.

I moved out a very young age. Seventeen. Ever since then I've taken care of myself. I've always been the one to make sure I am clothed, fed, warm and clean. No one else is responsible for those things. I don't know anyone who would want to be responsible for those things.

To further drive home how independent I actually am I will tell you a little story.

Once upon a time, about five years ago, I'd just moved in with my ex and I was suffering financially. It was because I owed money on my last apartment and then the mortgage overlapped with the strata fees. Regardless, I found myself at the bare minimum when it came to the green. I had to do what I'd never done before...ask for money.

I went to my dad. All I needed was a couple hundred to get me through until payday, but asking for it devastated me. I felt like a failure. I remember crying as I asked him for it. Which, if anyone knows me, I'm not really a big fan of crying.

In the moment, it was the lowest part of my life, which is odd because a lot worse had happened to me. It wasn't that I thought my dad would think less of me. There was no way he would. It was because I thought less of myself. I had let myself down. That's how hard it is for me to ask for help. Even from my own father who thinks I'm great.

My dad didn't hesitate in giving me money. And, two weeks later, when I gave him the money back he was a bit insulted. I didn't need to repay him because I'd never asked for anything. I told him I had to pay him back. And I did. I forced him to take that money.

Of course, when my ex found out I'd gone to my dad and not him I was in a bit of trouble. But that's a story for another time.

Not too long ago, I thought asking for help was weak. This was right around the same time I thought crying was weak. Not for other people. No, I admired others who could cry and ask for help without batting an eye. Weak for me. I know neither of these things are weak. Actually, it's the reverse. Doing these things are an act of strength. Unless you're doing them every day, then they are back to being weak. Funny how that works.

Like a good cry-fest, you have to know the right time to bring in help.

This last Tuesday I would have loved to have called in help. I even entertained it, but then again, I am stubborn. And I like to do things for myself. Here's what happened:

And the truth is, just between us, I actually do want to be rescued. I'm sure my prince is out there. He's probably just waiting for the right moment to save me from the fire blowing dragon. Right? Right???

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On Being Cool

I've never been cool.

I doubt I ever will be cool.

But I know cool when I see it.

This is cool:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

That Thing, That Thing

No, I am not channelling Lauryn Hill this fine Wednesday morning. That said, I kind of want to hear 'Doo Wop'. I'll be right back...

Alright, let's get down to business. I figured my lovely blog followers might be getting a little sick of my contemplative blogs. I mean, they're entertaining and well-written, but all you're learning about is me, me, me. As awesome as I am, I think it's time for me to do a blog about the written word.

Today I have selected a pet peeve of mine.

What, another one?

Why, yes. I have a few. Shocking, I know.

One day I'm going to post a blog about the things I actually like and completely throw you for a loop. Jaws will drop. Gasps will be heard. And, chances are, pigs will fly.

Lately, I've been spending a fair amount of time reviewing other people's work, both on websites and through email. I love it when people ask for my help. For a couple of reasons, one being that it gives me a little ego boost to hear people think I actually know what I'm doing! Sometimes it keeps me awake at night knowing I've fooled so many people.

All jokes aside, there are a few problems I see repeatedly when I am reading people's work through. (I'd say editing, but I have never been an editor. You can tell this by the state of my manuscripts) The most glaring issue for me is 'had' and 'personal pronoun starts', one of which I have blogged about previously, the other is waiting in the wings to have its moment of glory. The third, and easiest to correct, is one simple word.


That's the word. That.

This word constantly overruns new authors' novels, to the point where it can actually be a bit embarrassing when it's pointed out. Of course, I say this as someone who knows. A kind lady once pointed out the overwhelming amount of 'that' in my first novel. Actually, she only pointed out how many I had in the first chapter (close to 50) and I'd be lying if I said there weren't upwards of 2,000 that ended up being removed from my manuscript. This is where my cheeks turn red. The ones on my face. Just to be clear.

I suppose some of you are probably thinking, how could anyone not realize they are using a word THAT much?

Easy. We don't see it.

Often we write how we talk and, as authentic as it might seem to do so, it tends to weaken our writing. More often than not, 'that' in narrative is unnecessary. In dialogue, where I think it is more acceptable to use, I feel we still need to be careful we aren't overusing it. I am a firm believer in the importance of writers knowing what words they rely on. Bill Withers might want you to lean on him when you aren't strong, but no one should use any word as a crutch for weak writing. Once you recognize the words you depend on, whether they are 'that' 'just' 'only' 'really' or any of the other pesky critters that sneak into our stories without us noticing, then your writing will become stronger, your sentences fluid and you might end up growing as a writer. 

And that's what this journey is all about. Growth.

I have a feeling a few people are reading this blog and wondering what the heck I am talking about. Well, I love to explain myself and examples always seem to drive the point home. So, here are four examples for you to review before I continue:

After the day's events, Sherry thought that she needed a nice bath to ease her muscles and her mind.

Thinking back on the mistakes that I made in high school, I don't know that I would have changed them if given the option. 

The moon that hung in the sky was like a beacon calling me forward.

All I wanted, more than anything, was to know that he cared.

As per the rules, we don't critique my examples. We accept them for the terrible writing they are and move on.

These sentences have one thing in common (other than being poorly penned) which is the word 'that'. Obviously. I mean, that's what this blog is about. In these instances, we can eradicate the word and pretty much leave the sentence as beautiful and awesome as ever.

After the day's events, Sherry thought she needed a nice bath to ease her muscles and her mind.

Thinking back on the mistakes I made in high school, I don't know if I would have changed them if given the option.

The moon hung in the sky like a beacon, calling me forward.

All I wanted, more than anything, was to know he cared.

Actually, in a lot of cases you might notice the sentence is sturdier without the pesky word clogging it up. Also, paying attention to this sneaky little critter will help with your word count. There's an old saying, 'less is more'. The fewer words you use to say something, the better. Just like people on a diet trim excess weight from their muffin-tops, we writers tackle the task of trimming excess words from our sentences. It isn't easy, but no one is going to do it for us and, in the end, we want a novel that is clear, concise and not-so-clunky.

Here is the point where I stress for the masses (and those who already are irked) that I don't want you to cull all the 'that's from your manuscript.

And in case that isn't enough, I will make it clearer by saying: 

Sometimes the word 'THAT' is necessary.

Sometimes you have to have it. And sometimes we use it to convey tone and expression. Here are some instances where I would let 'that' go forth and do its job:

Aren’t we supposed to avoid making the same mistakes our parents made? Isn’t that our goal?

 "Honey, did you here that?"

And it didn't matter that her parents couldn't love her the way she wanted them to.

That thought never even crossed her mind.

In these examples, I think they are justified. They add expression, tone and swagger. It's like your oddball Aunt Judy. A visit from her every once in awhile is great because she adds a bit of colour to your life and energizes everyone with her boisterous, larger-than-life ways. But you always know when she's made one too many family appearances because everyone gets exhausted and needs a break to regain their strength.

Please keep in mind, if you do notice an exuberant amount of instances where you feel the word is needed then I suggest taking a deeper look. No one needs ten thousand instances of 'that' in their manuscript. And I do mean no one. Rework those sentences and be aware.

The main purpose of this blog is to make you privy to how easily this word is overlooked and how it can slip into your writing without you even realizing it. I have a feeling a few of you are going to go run the 'find' function on your novels to see if this word is an issue for you like it was for me. Don't freak out when you see all those highlighted examples because, and this is the great part, they are easily adjusted and removed. There is a bright side to this. Once you're aware of this often overlooked word, you never forget about it in the future. When writing, you will notice it and be able to decide whether there isn't a stronger way of writing what you want to say and if that 'that' is really necessary or not.

Well, I'm glad we sorted that out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Misanthropic Tendancies

Humans bother me. Not individuals, though there are a few who certainly have the ability to get my back up, but as a whole, humanity irks me. There isn't just one reason. I get frustrated over a multitude of things.

The greed and lack of compassion I see on a day-to-day basis aggravates me. Just watching the news or skimming through a paper makes me contemplate running away from home and never returning. And don't even get me started on what humans are capable of doing to one another, it simply horrifies me that rape, torture, murder, and child abuse are common, meaning that we all know someone who has had something horrible happen to them. Then there are the statistics, which drive me bonkers, like how the wheat we feed the cows for our meat could feed all the starving countries in the world. Like, seriously?

But it isn't just how we treat each other. It's how we treat the Earth. Of course, how can I expect people to treat the world well if they can't treat their neighbour right. It's the sense of entitlement people have and how they think they own everything that makes me furrow my brow. (Gee, thanks humanity for the trenches in my forehead).

The Earth isn't mine. I'm just a minor cog in the machine. For the short time I will grace this place, I share it. Not just with Joe, Jack, Judy and Jenny, but with animals, insects, birds, fish, trees and plants. A friend of mine said, "Tyson, people don't think like you." And he was right, because a lot of people think this planet is theirs. And, it looks like, they can do whatever they please with it. They litter, use up the resources, invade the natural habitats and displace critters from their homes. They clear cut and whale, hunt and slaughter, kill and maim, and, apparently, not lose a wink of sleep over it.

I wonder how it feels to lack a moral compass.

The truth is, I feel bad driving to work because I feel like I am polluting. If there isn't a recycle bin around, I'll carry the bottle with me until I find one. If I drop a gum wrapper on the ground, I pick it up. And if the wind kicks up and blows it away, I chase after it. I move snails and slugs off the path when it rains. Worms too. I stop if there are raccoons crossing the street and, when they pause to look at me, I don't honk my horn to get them moving. I take spiders outside. I have a healthy respect for nature and don't approach animals, not a beaver, nor a moose. If a friend's dog dies, I cry. I consider myself lucky to watch the sun rise every morning. And there is nothing more refreshing than the smell of the forest. Also, I truly appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds me.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people ruining it.  Some of you might be asking, what brought this blog on? Well, I'm going to tell you.

This last weekend, I went up to see the parental units. I love the mountains. It's where I want to be all the time. It's peaceful and as close to serenity as I have ever been. The only issue? People.

Okay, wait...I am getting ahead of myself.

First let me introduce you to this guy:

That's a pack-rat. It's actually the first pack-rat I ever saw. He came out with whiskers twitching when my mom and I went into the feed shed to empty the goat food into its bin. Not only was he absolutely adorable, but he was a very curious little fellow. My mom explained that they have a few of them, this guy who keeps residence in the feed shed, another who comes out to visit her in the chicken pen and the one who makes his home in the wood stove in the barn. Apparently, my mom feeds them. She feeds everything. And to be honest, when she told me to put a handful of apple to the side for the pack-rat in the chickens' pen, I wasn't surprised in the least.

So, I went dawdling out to the chickens, to give them food and fresh water. And I saw this guy:

You can't really tell from this photo, but this little man wasn't doing so well. He was coughing, breathing heavy and stumbling around. I put his food out, but he wasn't having any of it. I watched him fumble his way down to the water and hack and spew his little guts all over the place. Later that day, my dad and I found him keeled over on the ground, dead. His little life simply gone.

Death isn't new to me. Not death of animals or people. I grew up with many pets and saw some rather horrible things. Still, I found myself sad. I know to a lot of people this little guy is a rodent. Nothing more than a vermin that needs to be snuffed out to make their lives more pristine, you know, because rats carry diseases and stuff. (Apparently, they are unaware that the most filthy, germ riddled creatures on the planet are actually humans, who they brush shoulders with daily.)

Later on, my mom told me he was poisoned, hence the gasping and gagging, and that their neighbours had been putting out poison to get rid of the rodents. See, this enrages me. What is with these people who move into the mountains and then consciously try to extinguish all the wildlife? It isn't just about the rats either. There are squirrels, chipmunks, meerkats, bunnies and a plethora of other itty bitty beings who ingest the poisons these people purposely set out.

My parents also have dogs. Meet Ginger and Presley (pictures in that order):

Of course, this is just the tip of the ignorant iceberg. The stories my parents had to share with me weren't ones of nature hikes and listening to the crickets in the waist high grass around the reservoir.
They told me about how their neighbour shot a bear who was on his property. How ridiculous is that? He lives almost an hour out of town. Of course a bear might wander onto his property. There are other measures that can be taken other than shooting it. But this dude didn't give a crap. Just like a lot of dudes and dudettes don't give a crap. And, just like that, a bear is wiped out of existence. Outside of season too, I might add.

I'm not a hunter. I don't like hunters. In fact, if you are a hunter and I currently like you, it might be best for you not tell me, because it will change the way I think of you. Some might think that I am being judgemental and wrong. Well, then I am judgemental and wrong. I simply don't understand how anyone can shoot, gut and quarter this:

See, that's what I call beauty. And this world needs as much beauty as it can get. So why take any away from it? Just a question.

I, myself, am physically incapable of killing an animal, let alone putting my hands in its steaming innards and pulling them out. Without ever having done it, I can 100% say having the blood of an animal on me would mess with my head. And, this might be insulting to others, but I think there has to be something slightly (putting that in to cushion the blow) off about people who are capable of slaughtering innocent, defenseless animals.

This didn't start out as a blog about hunting. And I won't go down the food industry route, nor will I talk about our mass production for mass consumption and how it all ties into the gluttonous, greedy lives so many of us live. No, no, I won't get myself started. I don't have all night to write this and I highly doubt you want to read a ten thousand word rant-fest by me on the inhumane ways of humans (such an inappropriate name for us, if you think about it). Not to mention, I've probably already lost a few of you to boredom as it is.

My main point is my misanthropic tendencies. On a whole, I hate humanity. I do. At times I look at mankind and think we're just a cancer using up this earth, spreading, consuming and obliterating everything in our wake. Most days, I don't think the good outweighs the bad. Sometimes it feels like I am being suffocated by misery. What do I expect though? All we ever see is the bad.

Where's the good? Who is reporting the good?

Do you think the Internet and social networking has made us more detached? It certainly seems to make us more aware, but I get the distinct impression that there is a lack of connect, compassion and responsibility behind it all. I think that's probably a blog for another time.

Let me end this by saying, even though I am classified as a misanthrope I still have this overwhelming urge to help and change things. If anyone is hurt or in need, I want to lend a hand, a shirt, a dollar or an apple. How does that work? As a whole, I think, fuck humanity. But individually, I'd sell my soul and give you half my heart if I could.

You need someone to lean on? You can lean on me. I won't judge you...

Well, unless you hunt and you want to complain about how that stunning buck got away unscathed.

Anyways, maybe I should end this on a happy note.

I'm lucky. And I'm happy enough. When I can get out of the city, most of my troubles fall away. Sure, my parents have questionable neighbours. But I don't have to talk to them or acknowledge their existence. For the most part, I don't see them or hear from them and that is just fine in my books. I have an escape, and I thank my stars for it.

More pictures:

Apparently, and I just learned it, this hen isn't the one responsible for the eggs. Broody hens don't lay. She's sitting on another chick's eggs!

The Reservoir.


Fall has arrived.


The trees they are a changing.


I call this one "Old Man Relaxing"

Girl on a Quad.