Hat Trick? – December 4, 2020

Hello, again, and happy December.

It’s hard to believe that so much of the year has already passed. A year ago, we were getting ready to go with our kids on our Xmas trip to Cuba, having little inkling that 2020 was going to turn out the way it has. Back then, I was still smoking, wasn’t yet on Insulin, and I had no idea I’d be spending a big chunk of the next year wearing a surgical mask on my face.

December also means that another NaNoWriMo has passed.

This was the 3rd NaNo that I participated in, and like the last two, I completed the challenge and “won.” If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume that you know what “NaNo” is, since that was the reason for my starting to blog in the first place, but if you don’t, just follow THIS LINK.

Winning” wasn’t as exciting this time out, but I still see it as an accomplishment, and further proof that, if I put my mind to it, I just might be able to achieve my goal of writing and publishing a novel someday. Each time I do something like NaNo, I get closer to that goal, and thought that’s no guarantee that I’ll eventually succeed, it does increase my chances. After all, you won’t ever publish the things you never write.

As I’ve said before, the plan is to do NaNo every year until I’m eligible to retire, hoping that with every attempt I’ll get a little better, sharpen my writing skills, gain more confidence and eventually, be able to produce something that people may enjoy reading. In that respect, there is still a long way to go.

So, I have two completed first drafts, and another that’s partially complete, but I’ve yet to sit my ass down and edit any of them into a more polished second draft. I really have to get on to that. Being able to crank out a first draft is awesome, and quite the accomplishment considering it’s more than most “wannabe” authors ever get around to doing. But, it’s only a first step on a long journey. What I have right now are essentially just two and a half piles of word-shit, and I have to learn to turn those piles into something that people may enjoy reading.

For those of you wondering when you may actually get to read what I’ve been busy writing for the last couple of years, I can’t give you a definite answer. That is one of my goals, and I hope it can happen soon, but one thing I have learned through these last couple of years is that I’m horrible at estimating time-lines.

I’ve proven to myself that I can write a first draft, so now, I have to prove I can take that next step, to edit and write a second draft.

This year’s story is a bit different than my previous two. It’s in the genre of Fantasy, where as my other two were Science Fiction. This story has been brewing in my head for years, but I’ve never gotten around to putting it down on paper. I chose this one for NaNo this year was because, well, I wasn’t doing very well in the lead up to November.

I was having relationship issues, my health was again a big concern for me, and I was having a lot of anxiety issues, especially concerning this Pandemic Existence that we’re all stuck in. I wasn’t handling any of that very well, and I’m still not sure I am. I’m not sure if I’m dealing with things in a healthy enough way, but I am trying. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t totally fallen apart my now.

With all of that going on, I neglected to do much preparation for this year’s NaNo. On my last two attempts I had pages and pages of research, outlines, character sketches, etc. My first novel was a Space Opera, and for that one, I basically wrote a research paper on the unique orbital mechanics of planets that have their axis’ oriented with their home star, and whether a space elevator from the surface of such a world would even be feasible. I pretty much wrote another on the theoretical Alcubierre/White Warp Drive as well.

For that first NaNo, I was a bit over-prepared. For this one, not at all.

I went into NaNo with only a few rough notes, a couple of character sketches and a two-page “Story Circle” outline no where near as detailed as the outlines for my previous attempts.

So, I went in unprepared, but since I had been toying with elements of this story in my head for more than a few years, I at least had something I could work with. Incidentally, though the adventure party never got far enough into the campaign for it all to begin, I was going to start introducing elements from this story into a D&D game I was up until recently Dming. So, at least I had a bit of a foundation to build on.

Because I didn’t have much of a plan to work with, though, I feel the fifty-thousand words that I do have are bloated with un-necessary information, and the story does tend to meander. It will take a bit of work to clean this one up. Hopefully, unlike my last two novel drafts, I can finish this one before July.

With another NaNoWriMo behind me, I can get back to some of the projects I had to leave to languish for the month so I could take extra time to write. Winter is setting in, so I’m going to have to rush any outdoor projects I might have, and concentrate on finishing some of the indoor ones.

Just after my last blog post, the plant I work at laid us off for a week, and coincidentally, we had some unseasonably warm weather. It was beautiful outside all week, so I couldn’t just sit inside all day and write.

I wrote back in the summer how my daughter went and bought herself a new vehicle, and no longer needed the extra car we had that we gave the kids to use to get to school and work and such. The old car is a 2005 PT Cruiser, and I had decided to hold on to it as a “get-around” car, for me to use to zip around the city and back and forth to work.

The Cruiser had recently overheated in a bad way, and I figured out that the water pump had gone, which in that particular engine is a pretty difficult and involved repair. The garage quoted me about $1300 to do the job, which was probably more than the car is worth. I debated junking the thing, but being as it was the car I had bought for my kids, it held some sentimental value for me. Also, it is a bit more fun to drive around in than my aging mini-van.

I was going to just take the plates and insurance off of it for the winter and let it sit in the driveway until spring to give myself some more time to decide what to do with it, and then I found myself with a week off.

I did some Google and YouTube research about the repair, and I decided to give it a go myself. I’ve done some basic auto maintenance in the past, oil changes, brake jobs, etc., but nothing this involved. I figured I couldn’t make anything worse as the car was already un-driveable. If I really messed things up, worst case scenario was that she would go to the scrap yard anyway.

It took me nearly the entire week, and I had to borrow some tools from both a good friend and my friendly neighbourhood mechanic. I got some help from that same friend and his son, and a few scraped knuckles and a lot of swearing, later, I managed to “Do It Myself”. It cost about $300 in parts, another $100 in tools that I didn’t already have, and about $50 in beer, but the Cruiser is back on the road and seems to be running fine. For now.

I have to admit, it was a fun project. I can understand why it costs so much to do, as it’s a pretty labour-intensive repair. I had to raise the engine out of the vehicle by disconnecting the motor mounts and lifting it with a jack under the oil-pan to access the part of the engine I needed, and then I had to remove all manner of belts and pulleys just to get down to the water pump. It was fun, but I wouldn’t want to do it too often.

My last blog post raised a few eyebrows, I’m told. I often forget that people, some who actually know me in real life, do sometimes read what I write on here, and a few of the things I wrote about last time caused some friends of mine concern. A few of them reached out to me, for which I love them dearly.

I’ll admit it again, I haven’t been dealing with things very well lately, and that has been putting a lot of stress on my home life. I had mentioned that I was worried that my marriage might be ending, though I can say that things have gotten better. We are both making real efforts to not let outside stressors affect our attitudes toward each other. I’m doing my best to not withdraw as much, to not pull into myself whenever things start to overwhelm me.

The issues with my health have also been a source of a lot of my stress, as has the idea that I’m dealing with one thing I can’t do much to protect my family from – this pandemic.

I’m so used to being the problem-solver in the house all of the time, but I feel like there is very little I can do to keep my family safe from a situation that I never in my life thought I would have to deal with. Like I said before, it’s like I’m trying to live a normal life with this constant background hum of existential crisis permeating everything. It’s wearing me down to a nub.

But I am trying. We are trying. Thank you, everyone for your kindness and concern.

On a brighter note, a couple of weeks ago now we made the last payment on the mortgage on our home and now the house is ours free and clear. To celebrate, we went out on a little shopping spree and then out to eat. Our area was due to move into “Code Red” in our Provincial Pandemic Response Plan once the weekend was over, which would further restrict how many people would be allowed in stores and restaurants, so it was a good thing we got out when we could or we would have had to celebrate at home instead.

It is a good feeling having that weight come off our our shoulders and our pocket book, and to know that our home is ours now free and clear. Another way we’ve decided to celebrate this milestone is by finally saying good-bye to our old mini-van and upgrading to something newer and a little less “soccer-mom-ish”.

Our Dodge Grand Caravan has served us well for the past thirteen years, taking us on family trips down to Florida and Ottawa, taking a most of a Cub Scout Troop camping all over southern Ontario, hauling loads of building and renovation materials home, and loads of scrap to the dump. It’s been mostly trouble-free, and it’s going to be a bit weird not having it on hand.

I probably hold on to my cars much longer than I need to or should, but it is time for an upgrade, and with my kids now grown, an mini-van doesn’t exactly fit our lifestyle anymore. Like I said, it served us well, but it’s time to move on. We’re thinking of maybe taking a page out of my daughter’s book and perhaps getting ourselves a Jeep Cherokee, but we will have to see what happens.

Speaking of vehicles and projects, I’ve fallen into a bit of a YouTube hole lately that has sparked an interest, or really more of an obsession, that is tempting me to do something that could either be seen as “Cool,” “Awesome,” “Weird,” “Dumb,” or even “Crazy.” I don’t remember what prompted me to fall down this particular rabbit hole, but it’s had me hooked for more than a few weeks now, and I’ve been spending at leas an hour or more a day watching videos on the subject.

It started with stumbling across some videos by a guy named Nate Murphy, who is from England, is a rock climber, and lives in a van, touring Europe to climb and to showcase other people’s van/homes.

Now, before you start thinking about that Chris Farley sketch, these “Traveler Wagons” are some really nice, tricked-out vehicles. It’s kind of a whole culture, a whole community of people selling off their homes or never having a brick-and-mortar one, buying a van, sometimes brand new and sometimes old, fixing up the interior really nicely with kitchens, bedrooms, and yes, even bathrooms, and just traveling.

I stumbled across this other fellow, a Canadian named Foresty Forest, (yes, he has a theme-song). He lives in a mini-van full time, and drives around the country, hiking and climbing mountains. Part of his videos always feature a dish that he cooks inside his tiny van-home, and they’re pretty involved recipes. The guy’s got a charm and wit about him that makes his videos compelling to watch.

Now, before you all jump to conclusions and start worrying that I’m about to start selling off all my worldly possessions and move into a van down by the river, let me assure you that is not the plan at all. I do want to buy an older cargo can and put my wood-working and newly discovered mechanic’s skills to the test, turning it into a sweet traveler-wagon, but I want to use it for weekend or week-long writing get-a-ways. I’d love to drive to some remote-ish locations, do some boon-docking (rough camping on Crown land) and see places in my country that I’ve never seen before. I’d love to explore, hike and then spend some solitary time just writing, away from all of the distractions of my “normal” life, kind of like a writing cabin on wheels.

I hate to admit that I’ve seen more of the United States than I have of my own country, and that is something I’d really like to change. Plus, I think it would be great just picking up for an extended weekend, book a couple of extra days off of work and drive north, to take a nice, quiet forest hike and then settle in to my camper-van in the middle of no-where just to work on my writing.

Some of you might be thinking – “C’mon, Rob, are you sure this isn’t just another manifestation of your now decades-long Mid-Life Crisis? Another project that you will be all about for six months or so and then lose interest in?”

You might be right, but so what if it is? At the end, if I decide that Van-Life isn’t for me, if it’s not something I can maintain interest in, then I can sell off the camper van and recoup some of my costs. I don’t plan on purchasing a new or very expensive vehicle for this project – I’ve already seen quite a few suitable candidates in the $2000 – $4000 range. Yes, they’re fixer-uppers, but that’s part of the fun.

It’s not something that I can feasibly do right away, though, as I have no-where to work on a project like that through the winter, so I’ll have to wait until closer to spring, and re-evaluate my enthusiasm for the idea then. Perhaps I’ll have lost interest by then and changed my mind, or moved on to another weird and silly project.

So, my health…

I’m still smoke-free, which I’m really happy about, and as always, I’m doing my best to stay fit and eat healthy. I’m keeping up with my routine of going to the gym five times a week, which I know sounds like a lot, but the main goal with that is to help keep my sugar low, not to “Get Swole.” Now that my area is back in “Code Red” though, my gym has had to restrict attendance severely and gone appointment only, so I’ll probably be working out at home again a lot more, like I did during “Lock-down” a few months ago. It’s fine, as my membership wasn’t all that expensive ($99 for the year, which will be extended for the amount of time we were/will be in Lock-down), and I have a decent basic setup here at home, so I’ll manage.

My sugar has been… Well, it’s been OK. It never gets dangerously high anymore, but it can still creep up a bit higher than I would like it to if I have too many carbs (which just means if I have carbs :p ) or I don’t take enough excersise. I’m trying to do what I can to keep it low, but I worry that my medicine ordeal isn’t over yet. Every time I think I’ve got this thing handled, my glucose starts to creep up again and my endo ups my medication.

I really just want to get to a point where things start to level off and get stable. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but it would be nice to get a bit closer. I hate complaining about it, I really do, as I know at least a few people who have much more serious health concerns than mine seem to be, but it is very frustrating when you’re doing all of the right things, working really hard at trying to stay healthy, and you just keep failing. It’s disheartening, frustrating, and a bit frightening.

So, I suppose I’ve bothered you good folk enough for now, and I should be wrapping this up. Thanks for following along, and checking in on me. I am doing a bit better, I promise. Things like this blog help, especially in a time where getting together with people has become basically impossible. My blogging started as a way to record my progress on my way to becoming a “writer”, but it’s turned into more of a therapeutic life-journal.

It has bitten me in the ass a few times when I’ve written a bit “too honestly” and I knocked some noses out of joint, but I think it’s important to be as honest as I can here. I wish I could speak a bit more openly about some things, but then I probably wouldn’t have any friends left, and I do have to worry about other people’s feelings as well. Maybe I should have made this blog anonymous from the beginning.

Anyway, as always, I hope all of you are doing well despite the strange circumstances that we’re finding ourselves in. I look forward to the time when we can all meet up again in person.

Stay Healthy, Be Well,


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