Tag Archives: true stories

The Bees

Well… don’t I feel like the kid disrupting the class by showing up late. There’s no way to quietly sneak back into this and pretend as though I’ve been writing this whole time and didn’t, in fact, miss an entire week’s worth of posts. Suppose I ought to suck it up, then!

Truth is, I went on vacation with the best of intentions of writing each day. However, the adventure turned out to be more exhausting than I had ever anticipated! My partner and I alternated who felt like crud each day, and by the end we were both just ready to hibernate for the winter. It was a good time, although clearly not what we were expecting.

I feel like I ought to share with you a story from this adventure… I know! I’ll tell you about The Bees.

Now, I am fully aware that bees are tiny creatures that are probably much more afraid of the giants in their environment than the giants are of them. Also, for the most part, they only sting when provoked or threatened. They can even be quite adorable if you take the time to examine them! But even knowing all of this, they terrify me.

We’re not talking the normal, “Eek! A bee! I don’t want it to sting me!” type of fear. I’m talking irrational paranoia bordering on phobia. I’ve known people in my time who were deathly afraid of clowns, butterflies and birds. I found it odd and hilarious, but I respected their fear. When you tell someone you’re afraid of bees, people empathize. “Oh, me too!” They say. But they don’t get it.

I go fleeing in the opposite direction, if I can, whenever one comes near. My heart rate instantly increases, I sweat, and it’s a definite ‘fight or flight’ type of scenario. I have forced myself into the habit of playing the “if I don’t see it… it doesn’t exist” game. This usually fails, of course, because bees are prone to buzzing and if I hear it but can’t see it, that is all the worse. If I can’t run, I attempt hiding. Distractions sometimes help, but most of the time the buzzing just does me in.

I run. I try not to swat, but have started the “shooing” method that I’ve noticed Germans do – though it never seems to work for me. I cower. I don’t scream, but I do implode. All of my senses are consumed with the need to get away. I am almost paralyzed with this fear.

So when we were out to a lovely dinner, sitting on a terrace shrouded by a curtain of rain, with a cool breeze wafting in to take the edge off summer, I was mortified to find myself the object of affection for no less than three of these little black and yellow terrors.

They had no interest in my partner. They had no interest in the couple dining at the table against the wall. No interest in the vines or flowers around the edge of the terrace. But my left arm sure seemed particularly fascinating.

I do not wear colognes or perfumes and choose subtle, plain deodorants precisely so that I do not attract such attentions. Our food had not yet arrived, either, so I have no idea what it was that attracted them… unless they were bully bees that could sense my fear and wanted tease me.

It should also be noted that despite this deathly fear, I wish them no harm. I really do find them adorable when they’re not buzzing around me! If they simply crawled about instead of flying, I think I could tolerate them much more easily- alas, this is not the case.

My partner became worried for me when one dipped into my wine glass and almost drowned itself there. I hit my point of overload. Every time I brought the glass to my face, despite having checked it at least three times, I imagined I was going to feel a struggling little bee body against my lips that would then crawl onto my face.

Twice I left my seat to escape them and they followed me. I was near the point of hysterics when my partner was finally able to flag down a waiter to ask if we could move indoors. Of course, the wait staff did not help us to move the food that had arrived or the wine glasses. So when I picked up my bowl of soup, it almost went crashing to the ground as these three or four bees immediately came to float around me. It was as if they were taunting me!

I was just able to get the food inside, but had to send my partner back for my wine. He was patient and kind despite my apparent craziness. At least I didn’t flail about like I used to?

Once inside, I began to calm down. The wine helped. We talked about my paranoia and I took deep breaths and the wait staff began to avoid us – surely I was crazy to have been so affected by some harmless insects! But the food and wine were both superb and I was enjoying them immensely. I began to feel normal again.

As I scooped another bit of delicious soup into my spoon, I thought of how silly this all must seem. How silly to be so terrified! Honestly, what is the worst that could happen? I’ve been stung before and it’s really not that awful. What is so terrifying?

I went in for another dip of the delicious Kartoffelsuppe and that’s when I saw it. One of those little buggers had kamikaze’d into my dish and drowned itself! The sharp blackness of its stripes and wings protruding through the thick golden succulence like the hull of a ghost ship mired in a shallow sea. Dead.

How I managed to miss it before this point is beyond me. The wait staff became a bit more forgiving of my behavior now that I seemed to be eating the things, at least. It was like I was in some horror movie.

Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds gave me nightmares for years in my youth.

This was The Bees.


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Update: Clay Mind

Have you ever experienced one of those days where the entire world seems overwhelming?

That was my yesterday.

We had an unexpected lunch outing at the last minute, which was quite enjoyable but threw my schedule a bit. Upon returning home, I wasn’t quite yet ready to write. I opted instead to miss my deadline of getting started by 2pm, informing my partner he’d have to choose a penalty for me later, and bumbled about the internet for a bit.

I did this in attempts to settle my mind – the opposite happened.

The more I attempted to zone out and calm my thoughts, the more stress I began to feel. People wanted to chat with me, children’s shrieks on the playground seemed louder and more frequent than usual, and I had a plethora of tabs open of things I wanted to read but hadn’t found time for… it all felt like some tidal wave of information I was meant to take in. It was too much.

I promptly shut off the computer, collected a soft scented candle and something to cover my eyes, then drew myself a nice hot bath. The bathroom is the only place you can escape the playground noise. It was quiet, the cloth I put over my eyes blocked the light, and the scent of the candle allowed my mind to drift away from my current environment…

but my mind would not shut up!

I tried some meditation, I tried thinking on the character I wanted to write, creative exercises – nothing worked. I could feel my brain hardening into that unmalleable lump of cold clay coated in slimy mucous it becomes when I’ve reached a point of overload. I refused this and tried to let go of all thought.

My partner came home. We talked. We played some games. Still, I was fried. He encouraged me to power through and I thanked him for it. It’s nice to have someone rooting for you when you don’t want to give up.

Then I thought of transforming this feeling into words, as I had once done when I’d felt too angry to write, then applying that to a character. Nothing came, though. The computer felt intimidating.

So I had an internal conversation.

I reminded myself that the reason I challenged myself was to improve my writing. I’m doing this for fun – to do something I enjoy. If it begins to feel like a job, full of deadlines and stress, I’d be missing the point.

This lead me to one question: If I force myself to bang out my minimum words on an incomplete character and complete the challenge requirement for the day, would I begin to harbour some weird resentment?

Ultimately, I decided not to risk it. I foresee much housework and dish-washing in my near future, but I believe this was the right choice.

When I awoke this morning, I didn’t feel guilty or let down or angry with myself. Interestingly, I did feel like I’d let down my readers a bit… but as most of you are writers yourselves, I also found myself wondering if any of you have gone through anything similar.

How did you handle it? What do you find most beneficial?

This blogging community has truly been much more than I expected. I’ve had the great fortune of connecting with so many wonderful independent writers, it’s as if I’ve tapped into a wealth of knowledge and creativity I never realized existed! So if you’re here and reading this – whether you read regularly or this is the first and only time you’ll ever be by – thank you.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for writing.

Also, I should note that I have kept up with the reading portion of my challenge. I failed to mention it, but on Wednesday I caught up with Yawatta Hosby’s blog, an independent published author, and Carrie over at Magic and Marvels, which is currently the favorite read out of all my subscriptions. Carrie has a very unique way with words and, just as her tagline suggests, it adds a bit of magic to life (or reminds one of its existence) when you read it. Then I found I’ve Infused Myself with Puppy DNA, with his jarring title image but fun and creative writing. I’m still reading through his recent seven-part series on recent life.

Yesterday was Legends of Windemere, another of my favorites (especially when I’m looking for some creative inspiration), and 5 Degrees of Inspiration, which I always overlook and then regret having done so when I return. I did fail to seek out a new blogger yesterday.

Today’s reads will appear at the bottom of the character write up I intend to post later this afternoon.

Looks like today will be quite full! Perhaps this is positive reinforcement that taking yesterday off was the proper decision.

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Have you ever had a recurring dream?

I’ve had a recurring dream, as of late. It’s not precisely the same thing each time it occurs, nor does it recur every night. But over the past few months, I’ve dreamed that I was looking out a window and saw tornadoes dancing along the horizon.

Once, I was in a high rise building that was entirely glass windows looking out over a dense cityscape. This last time, I was in the home of my childhood and just looking at a window that was created in my mind’s eye. Each time I see multiple funnel clouds wreaking havoc in the distance. Each time I think, “I should probably go to the basement… but they’re so far away. They probably won’t even come over all this way. Even if they do, I’ll see them coming in time to take cover.” Then inevitably, they do cut a course in my direction – all three or five of them, like they’re on a mission. And they’re coming fast. Sometimes I am alone, sometimes I’m among others that I may or may not know in real life, but I’m always trying to save someone or something. Most recently, it was cats – my cat, cats from my past, and cats I’ve never known – but most often I’m trying to make sure all the people I’m with are headed for the basement.

I feel the panic of not reaching the basement in time. My mind in my dream reels with the imaginings of what it will look and feel like when the cyclones tear the building to shreds and I’m caught up with it. I feel the worry of ensuring that everyone I love and care about, as well as all the complete strangers, have made it to our safe zone – that we didn’t leave anyone behind. My heart races.

But every time, I reach the basement. Every time, everyone (or everything) is safe and there with me.

Then the dream ends.

It’s such an odd dream to me because I’ve never experienced a tornado. Hurricanes, yes. Windstorms, yes. I’ve even been in the same storm in which a tornado formed, but it was not precisely near me. We always went to the basement if there was a warning, but the most damage I’ve seen done (first hand) is a few missing roof tiles.

When I realized this scenario had been dreamed more than once, I began to wonder if it means something. I don’t put much stock in those books that claim there is a set symbolic definition for everything that may be present in a dream. I more adhere to the idea that dreams are creative projections of our experiences and emotions from the day-to-day. So perhaps I should rephrase: I began to wonder if it represents something.

The interpretation I came up with, after much inner reflection and some googling, was that I have a tendency to procrastinate. I say, “I have so much time to do this!” and then dead lines come up on me faster than I’m prepared for – it’s very stressful. When that happens, I feel quite out of control… even though I began the scenario quite in control. This repeating dream says to me: you should really get your ass in gear and get organized. (Pardon the french.)

Have you ever had a recurring dream?

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Do you know this book?

Today I experienced a feeling that I should probably make note of, for any future quirky characters of mine. It began after RhombusGirl commented on a previous post about her affinity for Little Golden books. I was reminded of the little metal bookshelf my grandmother kept tucked in the corner of the den. It was mostly shiny black with a few white accents and had wheels, even though it had no place to go. On it were stored a box full of crayons, coloring books and a plethora of Little Golden books, as well as a handful of other small children’s books. My favorite was the one about the doctor.

The doctor was a tall, slender white man with white hair, rosy cheeks, a white lab coat and an old black doctor’s bag, if I recall the illustrations properly. He made house calls to a variety of different creatures who had all taken ill. The only one I remember with any certainty was a snowman who’d stayed out in the cold too long and gotten frost bite on his foot. The doctor instructed him to wrap the foot in peeled potato skins, keep it elevated, and rest by the fire. This stuck in my head not because it was a snowman that had frost bite (ha ha), but because I had always wondered at the curative power of the potato skins. (I still think of them – perhaps erroneously – as something good for irritated skin.) There may have been an elephant with measles or chickenpox, another random critter with a cold or the flu, and something most definitely had a nose bleed… I remember having a fascination for the illustrated blood. The doctor took care of them all with empathy and compassion, then was on his way to the next patient. The story ended when the doctor himself fell ill and all of the people he’d helped came to take care of him. (At least, I think that’s how it ended.) Armed with this happy memory, I took to the internet to see if I could find its title!

I figured I had enough information to go on, but I was most certainly mistaken. After two hours of searching, I had nothing. The illustrations were akin to those in Scuffy the Tugboat so I figured it would be from the same era – 1940s or 50s – and I was fairly certain it was a Little Golden book. The only doctor-related book I could find meeting that description was Doctor Dan the Bandage Man, which was most certainly not the book of my memory.

The longer I looked, the more hopeful I grew that I would find it again. I had to find it, I thought. It felt important. It became an obsession! At some point I found myself thinking that if I could just manage to find this book, I would purchase it on the spot so that I could keep it forever. What had started as a simple, treasured memory became a dire hunt for this childhood relic. I grew frustrated and irritable. Google became my enemy for not making proper sense of my search terms. Where was this book?!

It was an anticlimactic ending that can be summed up as follows: I didn’t find it. The search only came to a halt when I became sidetracked with another equally nostalgic something. It was only then that I realized how crazy I’d become over finding the mysterious doctor book. I had to laugh at myself.

If possible, I’d still like to find it (in case anyone out there finds my description familiar)! But the most intriguing thing to me was how quickly my mind went from casual curiosity to passionate frenzy. This seems like something that could happen to any hero or villain that gets caught up in a moment. Could it even be someone’s fall from grace? Just getting too caught up in something, then not being able to let go?

Sometimes I think it’s important to note our odd behaviors and feelings so that we can better bring out the humanity of our characters.


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Countryside petrol stations: apparently stressful jobs

I’ve never met a anyone who has taken their job as seriously as the gas attendant we encountered on the way home yesterday.

Getting gas is a pretty routine activity no matter where you live. You pull your car in, you pump some gas, you pay, you leave. Sometimes you make use of the facilities or purchase some snacks at the convenience store, but that’s about it. There is nothing too time consuming about the whole procedure. Sometimes you may end up waiting for someone who’s inside purchasing snacks to move their car so you can reach the pump, but it’s never a long wait. I suppose anything can be frustrating in our 4G, always-on world, though. Anyway, I’ve gotten off point.

Yesterday, we pulled in for the final fill-up before reaching home. The driver topped off the tank while the other passenger and I went in to locate the restroom. It wound up being one of those exterior toilets for which you had to obtain the key from the attendant, which was simple enough. Never before had I considered why keys like this come with giant dongles attached to them – huge pieces of wood, giant plastic flowers, diving sticks, etc. Clearly, they’re meant to signal to people “THIS IS NOT YOURS! Remember to bring it back!” But would someone still take the thing, dongle and all? Apparently. Because the station’s attendant gave us very stern instructions to do our business, re-lock the door, then bring the key back. He was quite huffy about it, so I figured perhaps someone had walked off with this key’s predecessor earlier in the day and it had been quite an ordeal. Who knows!

So we made our use of the creepy, less-than-clean-but-functional toilet then stepped outside. As we exited, we found our driver in conversation with the attendant who had since left his post to ask our driver to please move the car. He had finished pumping our gas, but there was no one in line waiting to use the pumps. There was also another pump free right behind us and three cars on the opposite side who would be done shortly. So our driver said he’d move it as soon as he used the restroom. He entered and I waited, with the key, to lock up after him. I’d attached the key to my belt loop because there was no place in the facility to hang it or rest it – at least not someplace you’d want to retrieve it from again. The entire two minutes it took for our driver to relieve himself, the attendant huffed and puffed in disbelief and gestured toward the car as if it was preventing starving children from reaching food and water. Had I had the key, I would have gladly moved it to ease his mind (or so that he’d stop giving us dirty looks) but I didn’t. In the time it would have taken me to reach the car anyway, our driver was finished and on his way over.

I began to remove the dongle-tethered key from my belt loop to re-lock the bathroom door, but it snagged a bit. In the time it took me to free it, the station attendant had closed the distance between us and was reaching for the key himself! I explained that I was going to lock it for him but he simply grumbled, locked it himself, then stormed off. My friends and I got back in the car and continued our drive home… not sure what just happened, but we decided to laugh about it.

Bad day, perhaps? Bad year? Bad life? Bad job, at least, regardless of the rest. Perhaps he just needed a hug. Or a hobby.

But honestly, if you’re so easily upset over bathroom keys and cars that are in nobody’s way… seek help.


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The Playground Predicament

Whoever designed my housing complex was as clever as a dead rat.

My flat is nice enough, with spacious rooms and large screened windows. The floor plan doesn’t allow for much air circulation, but fans remedy that well enough. We don’t have too much noise from the neighbors next to, above and below us, aside from the occasional barking dog or crying babe. It’s quite lovely, really.

Until you factor in the playground.

The windows of my kitchen and living room face the windows of kitchens and living rooms in another building directly across the way. Perfectly parallel, the buildings are about 30m (appx. 90ft) apart. (If I didn’t throw so abhorrently, I could chuck a ball through a neighbor’s window.) In this scant space, the composting rat of a designer decided to install a playground. No, I take that back… three playgrounds: one meant for tots, one for kids up to the age of five, and another for children up to the age of twelve.

There are the good days, during which I consider creating a twitter account solely for the purpose of relaying to the rest of the world the hilarious excerpts of conversation I hear through my open window; and there are the bad days, during which I pray for the ground to open up and swallow them all whole… perhaps then re-sealing itself and leaving a lovely vegetable garden in their place. Or a very selective and specific natural disaster. Or, if neither of those can be managed, at least (for sanity’s sake!) a plague of laryngitis.

Let’s just say that most days I’m not thinking of what to name my twitter account.

Until living here, I was never aware how much children like to scream. I don’t mean shout. I don’t mean shriek with delight or excitement. I mean scream, like little incessant banshees. For as long and as loudly as they possibly can. Honestly, how can something so tiny have that much lung capacity?

As they have their little contests to see whose voice can reach the highest pitch or resonate the longest, the sound waves of their wails are ricocheting off the walls and windows of the opposing buildings, vibrating through the windows that I must leave cracked open because air conditioning barely exists where I live, and piercing my ears like molten fire stokes. It sometimes helps my soul to recite Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies. My ears are another story.

There are signs posted next to each piece of equipment notifying adults that children must be supervised at all times while on the playground. Even so, it is rare to see adults monitoring the children from under the shade of the nearby gazebo or, god forbid, actually interacting with their children. No; this is because many mothers and fathers prefer to “monitor” their children from the comfort of their own home through those convenient playground-facing windows. The parents who live in other nearby buildings must figure that as long as some adult is checking out their window, the children are being monitored well enough. The lack of supervision leads to children bullying one another, causing screaming and crying; or to children thinking it’s a really good idea to try all those daring feats mom always forbids, ending up in sobs and wails.

The only quiet exists in the hours before the young ones awake and after they’ve been called home for dinner.

My favorite days are filled with rain.

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Galactagogue (not short for galactic synagogue)

galactagogue (n.) – something that promotes lactation

example: Brewer’s yeast is a galactagogue, but nutritional yeast is not.

Of all the things I thought I might write about today, a word that directly relates to lactation would have been very far down on my list. I do not have children and I don’t intend to for a while yet, so anything to do with lactation, poo receptacles that we tie around tiny human waists or squeezing very large things out of normally tiny holes is not much on my agenda. But for several of my friends, this has become the case. The constantly-posted-to-Facebook case. I was able to maintain my distance from this world, getting by with only the obligatory cute-baby-photo likes when new ones popped out… until one came out of my very close friend. This is a woman who is the closest thing to a sister an only child can have. This new baby is the closest thing to a nephew I’ll ever have. The obligatory likes no longer suffice.

So when my friend confided that she’s having lactation problems and wants to make “lactation cookies”, I roped myself into helping her hunt down the ingredients. Not without first expressing my disgust at calling them “lactation cookies”, though. Fortunately they are cookies meant to help a new mother increase her breast milk supply, not cookies made of the stuff. The little treats themselves are galactagogues; which sound something more to us like an abbreviated word for “Galactic Synagogues”. (Wouldn’t those be interesting?)

I digress.

Most of the ingredients are your basic cookie-type things: butter, milk, sugar, eggs, etc. However, the key ingredient is something called Brewer’s Yeast. At first, my friend understood this to be yeast used in the process of making beer. On this assumption, I suggested we check a local home brewer’s supply shop. Fortunately, I thought to Google this first. As it turns out, Brewer’s Yeast is a by-product of the brewing process and entirely distinct from the active yeast used during brewing. It is also different from, and not to be confused with, Baker’s yeast and Nutritional yeast. Even though sometimes people call Brewer’s Yeast “Nutritional Brewer’s Yeast”. How confusing can they make this stuff?

Anyway… after more research than I ever expected to do on yeast and its relation to producing breast milk, we found the information we were looking for. While Baker’s and Nutritional yeasts would be just fine for baking cookies, they would not produce the desired effect: more milk. The reason being that Brewer’s Yeast is unique in the fact that it is a galactic synagogue galactagogue. New mothers make cookies with it because Brewer’s Yeast is, on its own, bitter. (Just a spoon full of sugar…) Many young women had been directed toward Nutritional Yeast at vitamin stores because, well, that seems logical when the purpose is baking cookies. Why would you want the bitter grossness to bake with? Nutritional Yeast is packed with nutritional things and isn’t disgusting! …but it will not improve your breast milk production.

Also, asparagus is apparently also a galactagogue.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever have cause to use the word ‘galactagogue’, but I’ve definitely added it to my repertoire. Perhaps I’ll give one of my future characters a lactation issue…

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