I fell apart a bit.
I’ve said it before but this year has proven to me that the last 3 weeks of August (and the first week of September) are the hardest “month” of the year. That’s partly because of having my son home 24 hours a day without any respite, or break, or money to go out and do anything. His school year starts later than most; his first day back wasn’t until September 8, and by then, we were both ready for him to go.
We had to sit in our too-warm apartment all month — our landlord won’t let us put in an A/C unit — because it was too hot to be outside and at least we have some fans indoors. I still had to work as much as possible, and my hyperactive teen quickly became bored bored bored. With his special needs, I can’t send him out to play alone at the park, or go ride a bike, or any of the things I used to do to fill my summer days, all by myself as a kid. He’s an independent guy for the most part, wanting to play his video games or watch his favorite movies over and over for hours at a time. But even he gets tired of that much faster than I need if I’m going to put in a day’s work the way I can when he’s in school or camp.
The heat at the end of summer here is something I’m still getting used to. Growing up in California, we had heat. Hotter days. Lying out on the roof or in the grass that was dry and gone yellow, baking under the sun — my dog days of summer was late August dry heat, 100 degrees or more with no moisture in the air, and the utter joy of a sudden breeze. Here… it’s 90 degrees that feels like 95 because of 75% humidity and scattered rain every few afternoons that does nothing to cut the heat. I live in New York, but it feels like the summer I spent in Georgia, and like the bible school my aunt enrolled me in while I was there, I haven’t gotten used to it yet.
The best kid ever gets fidgety and then grumpy and then outright rebellious, given enough time trapped in a hot apartment with his mom who’s too busy and too poor to do much with him.
We did have one good adventure when I splurged on the gas on drove out to a Wal-Mart the next county over to do his back-to-school clothes shopping. Driving over the hills, the farms all green and growing, under a bright blue sky, the two of us played a game where we gave each other colors and picked out passing cars that matched. He got new clothes (not enough, but at least he wasn’t a shambles on his first day back), and a new haircut at the Wal-Mart salon (I didn’t even know they had those, did you?), and five whole dollars to spend in the arcade (I didn’t know Wal-Mart had those, either).
He was driving the Nascar game (of course) when a little girl sat at the Fast and Furious game next to him. She and her grandma couldn’t figure out how to get started, so Logan — silently — reached over and set it up so she could race the car she wanted, then went back to his game. Kid can barely speak, but he’s so smart and sweet and he didn’t just figure out what they were struggling with, but he wanted to help.
As hard as raising him is, and it is, a lot, my son always reminds me that he’s worth everything I do for him.
But part of what made the last 4+ weeks hard is that I lost all of my forward momentum. July was my best month in years — recovered from surgery, with the boy in summer school in the morning and camp in the afternoon, I had both the time and the energy to get back on track, and I jumped on it. I got a lot done. I felt better about myself. I had a plan and I attacked it.
Then my life ground to a stop. I started having problems, and making dumb mistakes (heat? frustration? pushing myself too hard?), and fell behind again. Bills going unpaid again. I got some things done, of course, but not nearly enough.
After a couple of years of feeling like I was constantly behind, whether I was or not, the month of getting things done was a sudden breeze I sorely needed. In August, the air turned into hot murderous molasses. I haven’t yet clawed my way back out.
So, what did I get done?
1. I wrote and posted 5 flash fiction stories, based on prompts given to me by readers and friends. They are:
- Flash Fiction Challenge #1: Visitation Of Irba
- Flash Fiction Challenge #2: Diplomatic Relations With Angry Rabbits
- Flash Fiction Challenge #3: Getting To Know You
- Flash Fiction Challenge #4: Dachshunds From Mars
- Flash Fiction Challenge #5: It’s Lovely, Under The Stars
2. I wrote about 10 Seemingly Polite (but Actually Racist As F*Ck) Things You Need To Stop Saying To People You’ve Just Met, and being stuck in the middle of two sides about this year’s World Fantasy Convention.
3. I moved my site hosting for my freelance business, and all of my domain names over to a new hosting company; I did the migration myself. (I also discovered that the old host had embedded some info in the backup that caused the DNS to flicker for more than a couple of days until I fixed it, but lost some email in the process.) I updated my editing site, and my rates and services, based on suggestion from fellow writers in SFWA. I love what I have now, and it’s my plan to redo all of the sites I own — including this one — to use WordPress .org structure instead of .com.
No more ads, all the control, and it’s cheaper! I’ll save more than $150 a year, once everything is finished. It’s also a lot of work, when I’m feeling behind on projects already, so it may take a month or more to do it all. (I’ll get it done. It’s on my list.)
4. I started using the Bullet Journal system. For me, it’s a rolling daily to do list, a log of what I accomplish, a list of things I want to do eventually, and monthly view of the most important thing that happened to me each day. Because I have ADHD, and work from home, my days often run together. It’s easy for me to get down on myself and start thinking that I’m slacking, that I never get anything done, that I’ve got too much to do to possibly track it all. Using this system of note taking — which requires no special tools or papers, just a pen and a notebook — is probably the only reason I’m not a lot more depressed about August than I am. I can see that I did do things. I really did. Even when it’s not enough, I know now that it’s not nothing, and that makes a difference.
5. I did another double red blood cell donation. It’s my first since January, because you can only do them every 6 months, and when I would have been allowed to do it again, I already knew I was anemic and getting ready for thyroid surgery. By the beginning of August, my doctor cleared me to donate, so I did. My blood was sent to two hospitals, one in Syracuse and one in Rochester, so maybe it’s helped someone already. If not, it will soon.
I don’t have a lot of time to donate toward saving the world, and no money. I can do this, though, and so can you.
6. I wrote news articles that appeared locally:
- “50th season of Bound for Glory free concerts kicks off this weekend” 14850 Today, August 27, 2016
- “Teens get financial tips in upcoming “Girls Mean Business” workshop” 14850 Today, August 15, 2016
- “FIGHT THE BITE: Mosquitoes still on the attack, despite drought“, Gannett Publication/Gannett Co. Inc. (Ithaca Journal, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Elmira Star-Gazette) August 8, 2016
- “3rd annual star-studded hockey game for Racker Centers will feature NHL & Olympics players and Cornell alums”14850 Today, August 5, 2016
- “As Summer Olympics begin, several Cornell and Ithaca College athletes hope for a strong showing” 14850 Today, August 5, 2016
I’m trying to get more freelance writing work to balance out the editing jobs. It’s just as fluid — I gotta pitch stories, which the papers/sites have to need at that moment, and aren’t already covered by their regular staff, in order to get the chance to write articles that still have to be accepted. All of mine have been so far, but it’s not guaranteed, and getting paid takes longer than with editing; the Ithaca Journal article, for example, was written and submitted in June, published in August, and I couldn’t invoice for it until this month, so I’ll get paid next month. For $100, I have to wait three months, after hustling to get the work in the first place, and every single article I sell will be the same.
7. I got pulled over for having a brake light out — no big surprise, since my car is 18 years old — but I fixed it myself and got it signed off on. Cost $6 for new bulbs and a couple of hours of my time; it was one more thing I didn’t need to have to deal with, but I’m thankful that I could do it myself.
8. I also created a handy flowchart to help you decide how to respond to a rejection.
9. And lastly, I decided that I couldn’t afford to go to college this semester. I can’t afford anything right now. I’m crushed about this and stuck it at the end of the list so we don’t have to talk about it right now. I’ll figure out what to say later.
I updated my Amazon wish list with some things that will help my life, if you like me enough to support me that way. You can also support me through my Patreon, which has been retooled so my readers now get pieces of longer work in progress, which will get closer to full stories or novel chapters as more people sign up. (I’ll write more about that, soon.)
The most direct way you can help is via PayPal. I have a direct donation page here if you’d like to send a little cash my way.
As always, thank you for listening, and for your support.
(The list of what I did in July is here.)