Home Invasion

Almost 20 years ago, I got a cat. It was supposed to be “we got a cat,” but the breakup was final and sharp, and I was as depressed as I’d ever been in my life. I met the kitten with my boyfriend, but afterwards I kept going back to visit this kitten to alleviate my depression. I named the cat Sebastian and he became my long-term relationship, the one guy I felt I could rely on. He was my companion for 15 years.

When Sebastian died, my husband’s cat was distraught from losing his companion. I got another cat, a rescue kitty I named Selena. It wasn’t her fault, but the history of her abuse turned her into an aggressive, territorial, vicious kitty and I had to surrender her to keep my son safe.

Then I went to college for three years and had exactly zero time for a pet.

That got turned on its head on Tuesday, and now we have two kittens, Gamora and Nebula. They’re beautiful cats, gray and black and athletic with deep amber eyes. They’re difficult to tell apart until you get to know them, then they are as different as night and day.

While I would like to be curmudgeonly about it and say I didn’t want the cats and I don’t want to take care of them. And, part of me would be right, because I don’t feel like I have the time to be a responsible cat owner. However, my husband and I had that conversation, and he is the responsible cat owner. I’m in the side car for this one.

I do have to admit though, that there is something warm and lovely about having fur babies back in the house. The little vroomy noises they make when they run up or down the stairs, the snuffles, the purrs, and the graceless piles of sleeping furballs. They’re well-behaved, too. No claws, no teeth, they know how to communicate with people. They also don’t freak out in a room full of humans or run away and hide. They are social creatures.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. I’m learning that you can’t predict the future, no matter how hard you plan for it. It’s the hardest thing to grasp, that life is chaos and no matter what steps you take, something will come up that will derail you. On the other hand, that’s no reason to not plan – just stay flexible, bon bebes.

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Three… two… one…

As my husband sings, off-key but with honest enthusiasm, “It’s the final countdown…”

Final countdown to classes being done for me. For now, at least. A Bachelor’s degree is something to be proud of, and I’ve worked hard these past three years to attain one. I’m two tests away from passing my classes, and I’ve spent all week studying for both. It’s completely possible that I’ll panic and flub the tests, but I’ve done all I can to make sure that that doesn’t happen.

And thus will end my college adventure.

I will miss college. I love learning and the school environment, I get a lot out of it. I was spoiled – my professors were all good, with a few that were great. (Okay, there was one that started rocky, but we managed to work it out.) I also met a lot of students who were interesting. Intelligent, sarcastic, open minded, opinionated.. if it weren’t for college I wouldn’t have any stories of the woman who worked as a clown and wrote stories about serial killers. She’d bring cotton candy to class.

The job hunt, on the other hand, I did not miss, but it has already begun. I likened it to the dating scene – there are so many misses and so few hits. I have only just started this journey, though, and my hopes are that I’ll land a job soon. I owe my husband a nicer house, you see, and the only way we’ll get it is through my gainful employment.

This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dream of being a novelist. However, I have discovered that you can produce books while having a full-time job, it just takes time. If I hit it big on one of my titles, then things might change, but it may be a few years before I make it J.K. Rowling big. It’s good to have interests outside of work, after all. I mean, I also plan on getting a gym membership when I can pay for one.

The big change starts tomorrow, after the tests are done. I shall raise a glass to my college career, and then chase it with another for my future endeavors. Then I’ll be sure to be thankful that the summer’s not over yet!

Jiyeon Park

Summer Progress

This summer has been a whirlwind. My parents came for a visit, and we had a great time. We watched movies, we went out to the wilds of Birch Bay, and we went out to a backyard bbq. My parents were in their element. They are a dynamic duo. My dad’s a great storyteller, and my mom is an empathic listener. They are always welcome at parties.

My dad’s favorite hobby is taking pictures, which he made sure to do while we were out and about. My mom taught me what a Zen Tangle was. It’s a complex pattern that seems like a fun way to spend an afternoon. Luke and I showed them Fool Us and Macklemore and Maru on YouTube.

By the end of the trip I was tired out. I probably didn’t have to try as hard as I did, but I’m an overachiever, even if it’s not explicitly what my parents ask for or expect. I had to make sure everything was great for their visit.

Even after their departure, I can’t seem to find it in myself to relax. I jumped back on my writing projects with gusto, worked on chores on the house, and took my son to the Raspberry Festival.

I need to figure out what to do with the rest of the summer. I am not outdoorsy by nature, but I have a ten-year-old son that if left to himself would sit inside all day. The B&G club has been a godsend, but there’s something to be said to taking him to a park or out on a Pokewalk to get him engaged in the outdoors. I think I’m stressing out about this more than necessary, because I haven’t been able to carve out a routine.

This summer has been a roller coaster, and I can’t believe it’s halfway done. Yesterday during a conversation with Allison, I laughed and said, “Remember how we were going to do ALL THE THINGS this summer?”

She laughed too.

The summer progresses at its own pace.

High Note

We’ve almost made it through another year, and everyone is resetting. Everyone is looking at the new year as a new hope, and they’re trying to be positive. This is why I love the new year. I love it more than Christmas, more than any other holiday. Because at the end of the day, people are looking forward to something, whatever that might be for them.

Yes, bad things happened this year. A lot to celebrities that I respected died. Musicians like Leonard Cohen, Prince, and David Bowie. Advocates like Carrie Fischer. And honestly, celebrities I just felt attached too, like Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder. We live in a world where everyone is so visible to us. I am glad that I will have albums to listen to with Leonard’s rich, velvety voice when I feel sad. I am glad that I have Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’m glad that I have Star Wars on Blu-ray. They are permanent reminders.

The new year is a time to take stock, to see where we are as we begin a new year. It feels like so little has gone right this year. However, when I looked back on it, I realized there are things to be proud of or happy for.

  • I graduated from college with my AA degree, after making straight A’s for the school year
  • I am staying on my path and headed for a Bachelor’s degree next
  • My relationship with Toby has improved
  • My husband’s construction company is growing
  • I wrote a book this year! It’s the next installment of The Gray Hat series and I’m excited to see it moving to the editing stage.
  • I had a wonderful talk with my editor regarding my next steps for my career

I’m sure there are more positive things, but it’s more usual to get lost in the day-to-day of managing life; appointments, maintenance, responsibilities. Not everything stands out but I know I’ve had more than a few good days this year.

Which is why it’s good to take a moment and look back and appreciate the good.

Moving Forward

I have two more weeks of school left. This is when finals happen, when final projects come due, and when people lose their will to live. It pushes on nerves and strains patience, but it’s designed to do that and the wise student doesn’t taper off.

I have started writing again. It took a month to recover my creative drive. I was terrified that it wouldn’t come back, but it seems no matter what the shock, my creativity will come back home. I have Typhon, Inc. out to beta readers, and with luck I’ll get some feedback over the holidays. I’ve already got some, but I’m waiting on the rest before making any big changes. This is the hardest part of writing for me, but it’s also a very exciting time as well. And at least I’ll be able to make the changes when the feedback comes in.

I started a Creative Writing class this quarter, and was surprised to discover that my writing capacity is at a higher level than I credited it. Writers are notorious for low self-esteem and don’t provide themselves with much credit for their ability. Seeing is believing, I guess, and I have an excellent grade in the class so far. I’m looking forward to classes in the University.

I’m terrified about going to University, I’ll tell you. Higher level courses, bigger course loads, and the competition for classes are 3 times more. Whatcom is a friendly college that is close to my end of town and has plenty of free parking. The professors are enthusiastic and focused on their students. I don’t know what to expect from the university except for what I’ve been told by my friends that started last quarter, and the reviews have been wanting. I’m sure I’ll learn to navigate but it’s that transition period that can be the doozy.

I haven’t done well this year with investing in the holidays. Halloween was barely noticeable and Thanksgiving was good but also very short. We had a five-day break and once Thanksgiving supper was done, it was over and moving on. We didn’t even participate in much Black Friday. We got a couple items we’d been planning on, online. Luke went to Best Buy and came back within an hour and I went to a little local shop called Spice Hut because we were out of thyme and they were having deals.

With luck, the future will hold some good things for us for 2017, even if they come from unexpected corners. I imagine that the road is going to be rocky for the foreseeable future, but life doesn’t come with a guarantee that things will always be good. We just have to find the good where we can.

The Last Day of Summer

Today was the last day of summer break.

We celebrated by taking a long walk and playing Pokémon Go. Halfway through our walk I took Toby to the ice cream shop. We trucked back down the long walk and got home. I made veggie nori, basically vegetarian sushi rolls. We forgot the avocados but they were still delicious.

Later in the day we went to the Meet & Greet. I got to meet Toby’s teacher, and made sure to express to her that I’m taking an active part in Toby’s education, and that she could contact me any time to help Toby with his school work.

My son is finally old enough that time is beginning to matter. Summer was too short; it was only two days long, Mom! He’s nervous about going to school this year, which he’s never been before. I imagine that he’ll recover before long.

Getting the kid interested in stuff is the hard part. He’s fascinated by video games, but to the exclusion of pretty much anything else. We’re trying to engage him in Real Life, but you know, what the hell is Real Life anyway?

We all struggle through school. Summer quarter is over but fall classes will start soon, and I know as soon as I start up classes I’ll be pushing through a lot of stuff all over again. Problems will pop up and run tandem with dates when work is due. I won’t know what will happen, yet, I’m just pretty sure that it will.

At this point I’m glad that everything is starting up. We attempted to do ALL THE THINGS this summer and I’m pretty tired by this point. Everything was fun, I don’t regret a moment, but there’s only so long one can run like that without faltering.

It was rather like watching my husband, my friend and her husband getting ready for Pain in the Grass. They decided not to go at the beginning, because that would simply be too long at the concert. They took Powerade, because they didn’t want to get dehydrated. They wore sunblock. Sensible, everyday things that your average twenty-something wouldn’t even consider doing for a concert. When they got home, they joked about the people who were obviously wasted. One girl passed out well before the headlining band showed up. Can you imagine?

I wish I could go back to mindlessly throwing myself at every project and burning my candle at sixteen ends. I wish I could steal my energy from my youth, when I was so more apt to waste it. But the truth is I couldn’t even handle the concert crowd… I opted to stay at my friend’s house and watch her kids and mine, instead.

Yep, the end of this summer vacation not only heralds school, but also a changing of lifestyle. It’s not the worst thing in the world, just more of a natural progression.

That’s right. I’ve gotten old and boring.

As my dad would say, “It beats the hell out of the alternative.”

Gotta Catch ’em All

Summer has gotten out of hand. Trying to balance all the things that need to be done with all of Toby’s summer school responsibilities and my school work has made everything into a short, sharp series of vignettes. It’s time to do this now, okay after that it’s time to do this!

The one thing that has made everything more bearable is PokemonGo. My son loves Pokemon, we’ve been catching them all on Netflix for at least the last two years if not longer. Ash Ketchum, the protagonist, is 10 years old, a perfect role model for Toby. Honestly, the kid is a great role model. He is kind to animals (Pokemon but you get it), he has a never give up attitude, he always shows good sportsmanship whether he wins or loses, and he always gives other kids a chance to be friends.

Toby loves video games, and sometimes getting him interested in leaving the house is a challenge. PokemonGo has been a great way to entice him out to take walks. I let him use my phone, and that of course means I play overwatch, making sure that he doesn’t head out into the street or in front of other people on the trails or wherever we end up going.

What’s even more fun is my husband is also playing along. If Toby was hard to get out of the house, Luke was impossible, so this game has managed to get everyone out and about. We’ve talked to more people in the last week than we have ever, random strangers also looking at their phones and talking about Wheedles and Pidgeys.

In the past week I’ve spent more time with my friend Allie than I have in months. I’ve played a game with Toby, teaching him to pass turns and such. I’ve learned more about Pokemon than I think was possible. I’ve also walked miles of my city’s prettiest parks.

What gets me is how this game has brought my family together. Nights in the past were spent on individual devices, with the TV on in the background as we all zoned out and ignored it. I hated what was happening but I could not find a way to engage my husband and son. I appreciate that video games are their thing and not mine, but it was getting silly. Now we’re talking about Pokemon nights and making plans to go out to the parks two or three times a week.

This by itself has made my summer much better.

I am also writing my stories and books. I am working on publishing a short story through our press, Barely Salvageable. We have Hot Mess Volume 2 in the works. I’m also writing a story to try to get published through another publisher, but that’s more of a ‘let’s cross our fingers and hope’ situation. I haven’t forgotten about my novel, by the way. It’s just moving at a slower pace because I’m learning more about my writing process and that’s taking time.

I wish summer was more of a, ‘sit down and write’ time for me, but being a mother and a student and a wife, summer is more like the crazy-go-round that you can’t step off. It’s like the holidays, except that it’s three months long. So it just becomes a matter of dive in and swim, because there’s nothing else you can do.