The Part of Eccentric Writer Will Be Played Unsuccessfully by Me

I woke up this morning in dread of my upcoming book signing. I had a headache, and I was slow moving and prone to many bouts of panic over the morning alone.

I didn’t know what to wear. I had a hard time talking myself into a shower.

Eventually, I found a dress I’d worn before for memorial and renaissance fair, and I tried it on to be sure it still fit. It did, so I had a dress that looked awesome, if a bit over the top. (A lot over the top.)

I did the showering and even ironed the dress, as it had gotten very wrinkled. Maxwell helped so very much by jumping into my dress while I was ironing it. That gave me a bit of a panic as I felt sure that he was going to rip it. I got it on, and I wandered about, hours before the signing. I even attempted to fix the windshield wiper problem with my car (one is too long, it’s odd) and put on a new Grumpy Cat decal, all in the dress.

I even put on a flower headdress, as I was without any other idea what to do with my hair.

I told my nephew that I was embracing the role of eccentric author.

I even took along Bill, my bag that is shaped like a buffalo, to complete the look.

Alas, things went rather badly at the signing. At first the room Mom booked was still in use until after the scheduled time and they didn’t clean it afterward. We organized things in the room, got all set up, with a few disagreements about certain pictures (I do not photograph well) and we waited.

People passed, lots of them, as we were in the walkway, but no one came in.

No one came at all until the other part of Kabobbles, the cover artist, showed.

So I did not sign any books. I did not sell any books.

I did tell a man outside the place who asked if I’d gotten married that I was there to sign books and showed the proofs to him, but that was it.

I drove home uncertain what part might have fallen off my car earlier, took off the dress, and did my worthy best not to curl up in a ball and cry.

We ended up getting supplies for Skip and Go Nakeds, and so ends my day of being an eccentric writer. I suppose I have that last part down, you know what I mean, right?

The Ability to Wreck Nearly Everything

So I have talked a bit before about depression and how it affects me, not in any great detail or anything, but I think people are aware that I have it. It’s something I’ve been officially diagnosed with for fifteen years now, but it probably goes back further than that. It’s also not alone.

I have depression with anxiety. What does that mean?

I’m not going to give the medical explanation, that’s something google can tell you. I’ll tell you what it means for me, though.

Nothing I ever do is good enough.

For a writer, this means that even things that are published are not worth it, should never have seen the light of day, should be burned in protest of how horrifically bad they are. There are thousands of other ways this has manifested itself by either cause (depression or anxiety) but as relates to the writing, it’s a hard thing to finish anything, harder to edit it, and publishing can be nearly impossible. The amount of stress going along with publishing usually means actual physical symptoms, showing up in stomach trouble, migraines, and insomnia. There’s also some very, very dark thoughts that go with it.

Being around people is incredibly stressful.

I am an introvert, and people are draining on my best of days. That said, I am also socially backward, and while I can occasionally fake being okay, ninety percent of social interaction makes me want to panic. Meeting new people is terrifying. Being in crowds leads to panic attacks. I’m constantly on edge and tense around people. As my main job these days involves retail, I have pretty much nothing left when I get home, even on days with a short shift.

Obsessing over past mistakes or criticism is endless.

I have a tendency to remember the bad, not the good. And the bad will come up and replay with all the same emotions that it had at the time. Did I embarrass myself twenty years ago in school? Yes, and I can still feel every second of it if that memory surfaces. If someone says something harsh about me or my stories, I can almost always repeat it word for word. That thing you said you thought was helpful? Not so much. It’s been rattling around my brain tormenting me for fifteen years, so thanks for that.

Adding the social missteps to the obsessive bit creates huge problems.

I am a lightning rod. I don’t mean to be, but I am. I don’t tend to speak up at first when things bother me. (When ninety percent of what goes on bothers you, there’s no point in saying anything.) I try to let things go or get some distance from them if I can. However, that thing that got said that hurt and damaged me… that never went away, and so then it can resurface, and if it does and I’m talking to you… Then there’s a good chance I’ll make things very much worse, whether it’s about that or not. And since I’ve buried other things, they can add to it. I might lose my temper. I might lash out. I might just crawl off to hide and cry bitter tears because I can’t handle it anymore, but usually the hiding comes after I realize I’ve done a bunch of hurting others myself, and it wasn’t what I wanted, but it happened.

When I say I’m fine, it’s more often that I just have no way of explaining the things going on in my head.

I don’t vocalize these things. I’ve tried, and those efforts seem to always backfire spectacularly (not just because I lightning rod, but because people who haven’t been in this situation don’t understand, people who have been and are past it seem to think they know the cure, and others really never wanted that much detail in the first place.) It doesn’t help that I’m a chronic multi-tasker who has the unfortunate tendency to obsess over multiple things at any given moment, whether it be story stuff or personal crises or even the mundane and ordinary.

When it is bad, it is really bad.

There are times when I have absolutely no desire to be in my head. When that stuff scares me. When I shouldn’t be left to my own devices.

So that is a bit of life with depression and anxiety, for me. In the past week, it’s made a real mess of things, again, per usual. I almost didn’t get all the work for my day job done. I had migraines all week. I got into a couple arguments with friends. I just about burned one of the proof copies without even reading it because I can’t get a negative comment out of my head. I stressed out about every step of publishing new things, be it laying things out or proofing them. I haven’t written anything in two weeks. I was supposed to go somewhere important today, and I didn’t make it. I stayed home, and my efforts to distract myself ended up being futile… I broke the sewing machine, ordered the wrong part for my car, and couldn’t fix more than one of the other problems with it even after going to multiple auto parts stores.

And I’d rather die than do a book signing, but I have two coming up.

In spite of myself, there is a new book out in print. It was just an ebook before, but now it’s both. The plan was to have them all done, all the older releases, but obviously, that hasn’t happened. One isn’t quite to the proof stage, and the other is the one I can’t even look at, so… yeah. That’s where things are with me and my ability to wreck just about everything.

When in Doubt, Dance

So due to some personal circumstances that I’d rather not discuss, I was a rather useless mess when I got home from other work today. I was trying to do responsible things like cleaning, or if not housework, then it should have been writing.

Alas, it still was not to be. The flawed legal system really let us down today, and while I hope the evening goes better and my latest insanity will be at last appeased by a vehicular sacrifice, it was a rough afternoon.

I felt almost like crawling back into bed and giving up. After yesterday’s set back in getting another print version ready and the overwhelming sense that I won’t have all I want done in time, again, I did not need for the other stuff today to go wrong.

Still, I’m one of those people that always has music on in the background. I don’t like silence. So I put on iheart radio (I like streaming music to find new things to listen to or make huge lists of old favorites) and was trying to distract myself.

Wouldn’t you know, it worked? Not in the way I thought, not really, but periodically as I moved around I found myself starting dancing. Just random, few bits of steps and bounces (okay, I can’t dance,) but it seemed to help and I keep doing this little bounce as I move. It’s not that I’m all better (I’m not) but dancing a bit helped.

Vacation Adventure Part Eight: The Mysterious Squeak

Most of the time after the run is a bit quiet.

This would be a bit of an exception. We unloaded the Maxwell from the trailer, and Grandpa set to work trying to repair the light for the oil gauges. I had the fun of wiping down the entire car post run, where lots of grease and oil had gotten all over it. Yes, I was quite dirty by the time I was done with my work, covered from head to toe again, though at least this time I’d used my bluetooth speaker to give me some music while I worked, making it more enjoyable to a point.

Grandpa managed to fix the light (after breaking it) and the short that was causing it to fail after he’d replaced the washer.

We then started the Maxwell up, and Grandpa backed the Maxwell into the garage. He went to step down, and that was when he heard it. The squeak.

It had squeaked on the run, according to Grandpa, but we hadn’t noticed it. So then we tried to identify the source of the squeak. It kind of sounded like it was coming from the back on the driver’s side. Only it sounded like it was coming from the rear passenger side. And then it sounded like it was coming from the front.

Grandpa said maybe it was the springs, so he got underneath the car and oiled them. We checked. Still a squeak, still no clear sign of where it was. So he went to the front, took the bolt off the springs, and found signs of wear, aka a squeak. So he was going to switch it with the other bolt, but it was still good on the one side. Both sides got oiled, the bolts and pins were put back in place.

Check, and there is still a squeak.

Mom had come out to check on us and asked what we were doing. I explained there was a squeak. Grandpa told her that it moved.

It kind of did, in a way, as it was impossible to pin down.

We went back out, took off the bolts on the rear of the spring, and the process repeated itself, with the oiling and putting back in place. We had it all done, and I went to check the squeak.

The loud squeak? Gone.

Only there was still a squeak. Grandpa said it might be the running board, but currently, it remains a mystery.

Vacation Adventure Part Seven The New London New Brighton Run

I’ve been a little remiss in updating the past few days. It was a long, long day Saturday, and I suppose I’m still recuperating some from that day and the weekend. I’ll get into a bit more of what happened after we got back in another post.

Back to Saturday. The day of the run. Day starts at five, getting us ready, the car repacked, and the Maxwell up and going. Well, we were a bit late this time due to a slow funnel for the oil, though I should add that the Maxwell pretty much started first try. The oil took so long that people came over to make sure we were going to make it.

We did. We got over to the church before the starting gun.

Joe had decided that since he was replacing Grandma in the Maxwell, he was wearing her hat, so he put it on right as we were driving out, much to everyone’s amusement. He said he’d put it on at all the stops, though we missed a few along the way.

We explained to him about waving to the cows and statues, and he even neighed at some horses.

We made it to the first stop okay, about paced with the group, though we got slowed down along the way. After Litchfield, I was driving, and it was a little bit awkward as I’d gotten no practice until then. So I’m up front with Joe embarrassing myself by grinding the gears, but we made it. (The guys in the car in front of us did look back at me, and I’m not sure if they were trying to figure out who Joe was or if they didn’t understand why I was behind the wheel.)

I drove to Kingston, and there was a trumpet player there going along with hits by Johnny Cash and CCR. That was neat, never seen that before, so I took a little video of him on my phone.

We took off kind of late from Kingston after stopping for sandwiches for Grandpa and Joe. As we were leaving, this guy was crossing the road and not paying attention. I had the brakes going and honked the horn but still had to swerve to miss him. We made it out fine, and he wasn’t injured.

I drove almost all the way into Buffalo, and then Grandpa took over just before there. The tow truck stopped when we switched, thinking that we were in trouble, but while Shadow was lagging a bit, she still made it.

Lots of people made comments as Joe and his hat came into Buffalo, and we went in to eat again. I sold my last of the books I’d brought with me.

I ended up driving after Buffalo for a bit, to my surprise. We had to find a gas station, and there was a bit of confusion as to where we were supposed to stop, if it was the one listed in the directions or just any of them. It was a little nerve wracking, thinking I was to run out of gas at any second, but it turned out we had three gallons, so we had plenty.

Grandpa drove the rest of the way. We stopped in Crystal, and they gave the driver free corn. We headed on to the last bit, thirteen miles of winding paths to avoid city traffic, ones that Shadow didn’t care for much as it was a lot of stopping and starting.

At last we reached the finish line. Grandpa told Joe not to wear the hat, but the mayor of New London asked him where it was, so Joe put it back on. The Maxwell almost died just before the finish line, but we made it. Grandpa completed his thirty-first run.

Vacation Adventure Part Six How to Clear a Parking Lot

Some car issues today. We will call them issues as Shadow may just have been persnickety and not necessarily having any real trouble. It’s hard to be sure.

She had a bit of an incident in the parking lot prior to the Green Lake tour. We call this one how to clear a parking lot. Mostly because it kind of did… by smoking the place up. The Maxwell was parked in the middle of the antique cars at the Legion, almost right smack in there, and Grandpa decided he needed to run off the oil. I’m not entirely sure what the issue was, if doing the valves resulted in a spill or if the oil in the car itself was suspect, but he held down the gas and let the car run for a while. The result was a rather large cloud of foul smelling smoke that was kind of all over everyone.

People started leaving for Green Lake early.

We had to go back to the trailer for air and then repeated this process some. The run around Green Lake seemed fine, at least from what I could tell as a back seat passenger. We made it around, stopped for rootbeer floats, and that was when things took a bit of a worrisome turn.

The car would not stay started. I got it to start, much to the surprise of people watching who did not believe I could crank it (I can, but sometimes it doesn’t work and it does hurt a bit, too, at times.) Grandpa said it wasn’t getting enough gas.

So we checked, had plenty in the car, and so he checked it going into the carburetor. Grandpa got under and started trying to fix it, and I’m not sure entirely what he was doing, I couldn’t tell, but we thought we had it fixed. I put the tools away, he tried to start it. Nothing. I reminded him we didn’t turn the gas back on, so I did and woosh. Gas puddles under the car, and it turns out some line was disconnected. Whether that was the line Grandpa tinkered with or not, I am uncertain, but it was a bit of a new disaster as at first it seemed like it needed a new part. It didn’t. Grandpa put it back in place, the car started, we drove back to town.

(I will add that the parking lot was rather deserted at this point.)

It did not want to start again when it was time to do pictures. I got it started after that, a bit in advance, and we were off to the nursing home.

And the car seemed to start fine the next few times, so here is hoping that bit of finicky behavior is behind us and all will be good for tomorrow’s long run.

Vacation Adventure Part Five: The Impromptu Book Signing

I woke up this morning with the epub version of Forgotten Legacy still giving me fits. I downloaded it to my phone to test it, but it wasn’t working. I tried it on the computer, and it seemed to be working, so I went to upload it everywhere.

I did it, and it gave me some errors.

Then I fixed what I could, got the various epubs up, cursed the website for not making posting the print version easier and cooler than it was forced to be, and then I published it all and sent out the updates for the website and Facebook.

Left that, went back to town to meet the tow driver, and it was time for dinner. Well, they ate inside. I went to the local A&W as I am picky eater deluxe and don’t like roast beef. I came back, ate my food in the Maxwell, ended up in more pictures of the car, again, and then finally went in to join the others.

Mom told me that people were interested in the book, and I was a bit in panic mode. I ended up signing a copy for them, wishing them a good run, and then she said she’d spread the word. She did.

I was unable to leave, caught as I was by people asking for the book. People were very interested in the fact that Grandpa’s car was on the cover of the book as well as sitting outside, so they wanted copies of the book. They wanted Grandpa to sign the book. So I signed copies, Grandpa signed copies, and finally the crowd thinned. I think I was pretty red and wanted to hide. I wanted to kind of disappear, not used to all the attention.

I went to the car with Grandpa, managed to start it on the first-ish try (after Grandpa actually turned it on, I’d tried before he did, too,) so we were able to put it away easily enough, but came back to find that we owed two more signatures.

I admit to being very surprised by the interest in the book and people wanting signed copies. I feel a bit weird about it all.

Vacation Adventure Part Four: The Leather Rembrandt

Also known as… paint and I don’t mix.

My last couple days have been occupied with getting the Maxwell ready to go on the car run. I almost wish I meant my cat as I miss him terribly, but no, I’m talking about my favorite antique car, the 1908 HC Touring car that is my grandfather’s.

This year, Shadow, as I like to call her, needed some patch work done on her seats. Leather is a resilient enough substance, but it will crack when it ages, and the leather with the car is over a hundred years old. So Grandpa had put the patches in the back seat, and there was one minor problem (well, the clamp wouldn’t work to hold the leather in place while gluing in the patch, but that was less minor, I guess.) The leather patch was brown, and Shadow’s seats are black.

The black leather was too thin for a proper patch. I asked Grandpa if he was going to paint the patch to match the rest of it, and he said I was.

After doing other prep work to get the car ready, Grandpa finished the patch on the back seat and turned to me, going, “okay, Rembrandt, your turn.” So, that was what I did yesterday, took leather dye and applied much like I might nail polish to the patchwork places and a few other areas that needed it on the doors.

I asked Grandpa if he was going to repair the front seat where it was just horsehair, and he said he’d tied it in so it wouldn’t come out. I just kind of looked at him. The car run is long, and I’m a bit thinking of my poor dresses getting snagged on the seat, and he relented and fixed the other seat, too, though with a great deal more frustration than the last one.

That was last night, and it had to wait to be glued, so this morning I got to do the larger patch and make it black. I ran out of the dye and think a bit too much of it ended up on my fingers and wouldn’t wash off.

It’s gone now, but then I had to resort to paint thinner because of the spray paint.

This is the part where I explain why paint and I don’t mix…

I got done with the painting and oiling the steering rods and tire rods and we loaded up the Maxwell after a few other disasters (um, no, not really kidding, either, the Maxwell got stuck and the winch didn’t want to work.)

Grandpa asked me to trim the hedge, which I did. Then he was looking around at other projects, and he asked me if I wanted to mow the lawn. I didn’t. In retrospect, maybe I should have, but my carpal tunnel was hating me for the hedge. I wanted a smaller project, so I chose the spray paint on the trailer, which seemed like it would be less strain on my hands.

Not so much, but then I’m getting ahead of myself… I was fighting some wonderful masking tape that didn’t want to be attached to the trailer and the paint didn’t seem to want to work. (I didn’t shake it enough, though I swear I shook it.) Finally got one can working, did the back of the trailer and one of the sides and ran out of paint. I went back one of the cans I’d tried earlier that didn’t work because the sprayer broke. I used the one from the empty can, and it seemed to work.

Key word being seemed.

I ended up having to repeat that process multiple times as I worked, and by the time I was done and out of paint again, my hands were white with paint. Sticky paint. I walked inside to wash it off only to have both bathrooms occupied at the time. So I waited, sticky hands and all, unable to do anything while I waited. Finally, space freed up, and I tried to wash it off, but it didn’t come off with regular soap. It didn’t come off with dish soap.

I had to go look for paint thinner. I couldn’t find paint thinner. I looked in the paint cupboard, missed it, and later went back only to find that bottle was empty. I made another attempt with dish soap and was told where to find paint thinner. So then I got to go into the shop and scrub my hands with the paint thinner, getting a little bit woozy from the fumes, and I swear, it took a good thirty minutes just to clean one hand, and even now there is still a bit of paint there.

On the bright side, the grease from yesterday and today is gone, but I’ve still got white paint on my nails and knuckles. Fun times.

Vacation Adventure Part Three: Culinary Adventures

I should talk a bit about some of the interesting things we’ve eaten thus far on our short little trip.

We used to eat at Runza a lot more when I was a kid, though after our move, we were more often getting Swartz’ krautburgers. It was kind of nice to stop at one enroute and discover that they had an order of Frings. Yes, half-fries, half-onion rings, this was perfect for us to share. Not really that adventurous, but I hadn’t known that existed, it being so long since we last went and all.

No, the truly adventurous part starts when we get to the lake. Well, hours after waking up there, at least. We were told we must try lots of my aunt’s friend Don’s homemade stuff. We didn’t get to the Raspberry Dandy, but we did have the homemade pesto bread with cheese, very delicious, and the burgers he made.

They introduced us to Skip and Go Nakeds, which is a drink made of lemonade, beer, and gin. Or vodka, if you’re out of gin, which they were by the third pitcher. Kathy says it tastes like summer. All I know is I couldn’t taste the beer, so it was good by me. I was tempted to put tea in one to see if an Arnold Palmer version was as good as the regular, but I didn’t.

Kathy made some chili chicken, which was not something I sampled as I’m not able to take really spicey stuff, but Mom liked it.

The real challenge was what we found at the grocery store: gummy bear brautwurst.

No, you did not read that wrong. They were real. I have pictures. We ate them. Well, we each tried half of one, much as Don protested. They were like regular brautwurst with just a bit of… gummy bears. It was interesting.

We continued our adventurous eating with a stop the next day to see my other uncle and aunt, who had us try Hub 41 in Detroit Lakes. There we had some new drinks, including beers (one had lemongrass) and I had something called a Birk. We had an appetizer made with korean pulled pork, tator tots, and bleu cheese dressing.

I got a Muffaletta sandwich, and that thing was surprisingly good, though I kept losing my olives and was too full to finish it. I should admit now that I had to look up a few things on the menu to know what they were, but it was all tasty and definitely part of our… adventure.

Vacation Adventure Part Two: The Possible Stalker Van-Trailer

I mentioned we got a late start in the last post. That becomes more of an issue later on in the drive, as anyone who road trips and drives straight through knows.

We had gone quite a ways since our button saga ended and most of that is uneventful driving that needs no real description. We encountered some road construction, not as bad as some years, though we noted that the same areas seemed to be under construction every year.

I had developed a bit of a headache, so Mom was doing the bulk of the driving, but she was tired, and so was I, as my attempts to sleep were interrupted. Every time I closed my eyes and started to settle, lights from across the interstate or the off-ramps woke me back up again. I got no real rest, though I tried.

I did take over driving since I apparently couldn’t sleep, and set out behind the wheel after Sioux Falls. I was driving along toward Fargo, but the headache and lack of sleep were catching up to me, and I was ready for a break far sooner than I should have been.

The first rest area along that stretch of my drive was closed, leaving me with the next one ninety-three miles away.
So, tired as I was, I steeled myself for a few more miles of driving. It was starting to get a little rough near the end, and it was time to stop and rest the eyes.

Especially with the car that was coming up fast behind me and not passing, that was a little frustrating.

I turned off with relief, ready to stop and rest.

Then the car behind me follows us off. And even though the rest area directions show to have the trailers go to the other side of the parking lot and building, they do not, following our little car over to the one side. I am now so disconcerted I almost park in the highway patrol slot and have to move.

After I park, four guys get out of the van, heading inside. From what we could tell, four more were waiting in the van. We’re both a little unsettled, so Mom and I go into the bathroom together. When we get out of there, one of the guys is still lingering inside the information section.

This may have been a very innocent thing, but it was rather unsettling. Neither of us were comfortable trying to sleep with them still there, but he didn’t seem to be leaving any time soon, even if it had seemed at first almost like he was waiting for us to come out.

I tried to make excuses for why we were lingering. I was cold, so I thought about changing into pants. I didn’t find them easy to access from my suitcase from where it was packed, plus the idea of changing while they lingered… not great.

He finally got back in his van with the others, and I waited, but they still didn’t go. I was getting a little bit unsettled again. Finally, I grabbed some food, started eating, and was thinking of giving them five minutes to leave, but Mom and I agreed we should just go to the next rest area.

We did, leaving the van behind. I was working on adrenaline and the influx of food, so I was okay driving again for a bit, but as the miles went on and that wore off, I was starting to fade again.

The next rest area came, and we got off to rest again. We parked the car near the end, away from the building, and I tried to settle into rest. I was still having trouble as the noise from the interstate was keeping me awake. Then I heard something behind us, rather loud, and a car was driving past us.

Not a car. A van and a trailer. The same van and trailer as before. For some reason, unknown to us, they had driven straight through the rest area parking lot like they were looking for someone.

Really disturbed by that thought, we went into the restroom again, together, and decided to leave as soon as we were done. I couldn’t drive any longer, adrenaline or no, and so Mom took over.

For a while afterward, we watched and waited, not sure if our potential stalkers would return. We saw a couple other vans, and they made us a little nervous. It’s strange what the mind does at late hours with a bit of odd behavior and overactive imaginations.

All of this stuff from them could have been very innocent. It just… didn’t feel like it at the time.

So we had a potential van of stalkers on our hands for a bit. I think we eluded them if we did, as they haven’t been spotted past Moorhead, but you never know.