In the Summer of (a Writer’s) Life

I’ve been talking a lot lately about Kristen Lamb‘s Rise of the Machines. And I’m not likely to stop anytime soon because every time I get a minute to read a bit more I end up finding something I want to talk about. It’s just that good. 😀

Today I read a short chapter that invites us to establish which type of writer we are…Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter. Spring writers are the young ones with tons of time, almost no responsibilities, but not a lot of experience. Fall writers are older so they have lots of experience, and they have few responsibilities because their bills are probably paid off and their children are probably grown up. Winter writers are of advanced age, meaning they don’t have a lot of time left to make their writing dreams come true, but the time they do have can be 100% devoted to writing, and they have tons of experience.

I fall firmly into the category of Summer writer. In fact, I fall so firmly in this category that I found myself nodding enthusiastically as I was reading Kristen’s description. Summer writers are still fairly young, but they’re old enough to have gained a bit of worldly experience. At first it seems like an ideal time to be writing, but there are other problems. The biggest problem facing Summer writers is that they are in the most responsibility-laden era of their lives. Summer writers have day-jobs, children, mortgages, car payments, student loan payments, chores and errands that need doing. Summer writers can’t always find time to write because they have to dedicate many of their waking hours dealing with day-to-day career and family issues. Summer writers may be fatigued because they’re run off their asses by household requirements and children keeping them up at all hours of the night.

Summer writers, to put it succinctly, are bogged down with copious amounts of stress. They’re young, and they have experience, but they have no time.

Currently I am experiencing a slight reprieve, as my job out West recently finished and we’ve paid off enough debts that we don’t have to worry about money for a little while. Regardless, a lack of time is still my biggest complaint. On a daily basis, as the sun wanes in the West, I chastise myself for not writing more, and promise to do better the next day. But the next day I find a million other things to do, or the baby has a bad day, or I didn’t get any sleep that night so I’m completely knackered. And so when I do get a few moments when I could be writing, I instead find myself reading or playing video games or watching movies in bed (and trying not to drift off while doing so).

I’m not trying to give myself a pass or anything; I don’t get to just blame all my troubles on the fact that I’m at a particular period of life and I don’t get to whine that I can’t write because everything else is in the way. But I can say that there are challenges, and that I’m definitely not alone in having to deal with them.

No matter the season, all writers have struggles that they must work through, and as a Summer writer, I invite all other “Summers” to struggle with me. We have families and jobs and responsibilities, but we also have writing, and we have each other. We can do it, come hell or high water!

What season are you? What struggles do you fight with because of the time of life you happen to be in? Please share! I’d love to hear from you!

Buyer Beware

Let me tell you my tale of woe and mind-bending frustration.

My husband and I are currently in the market for a television stand for our living room. As our living room is one of the nicer rooms in our house, we thought we’d get one of those electric fireplace stands. We don’t need it for the heat, but we think they’re really nice looking, and our daughter would sit and stare at the fake flames all day, no joke.

The town where we live is not overwhelmed with places to shop, and even the places we do have are smaller than their other counterparts and rarely stock what we’re looking for, so last Friday we took a drive. We drove to New Glasgow, and there we visited their Canadian Tire store.

The fireplaces were on display when we first walked in the store and we began browsing. Almost immediately we were joined by an associate who turned out to be the hardware manager, we’ll call him P. P was very nice and helpful. He showed us that he had a couple of fireplaces on sale, and in particular he led us to the end of the display and pointed to a lovely little display with glass-door cupboards and a 1500 watt heater. P made sure to impress on us that this particular model was on sale, and pointed to the tag that was placed in front of the display…Odessa Fireplace: $399.

After a bit of deliberation my husband and I decided that, yes, we liked this particular model very much. Our only issue was how we were going to get it into our car. No problem, said P…if you take it out of the main box it comes in smaller chunks that will easily fit in any vehicle. “Alrighty then,” we said, “Let’s do it!” So P picked up the tag that was in front of our fireplace – the one that read Odessa: $399 – and used the product number to go into the stockroom and find the fireplace. We paid, P took the smaller component boxes out of the main box and loaded them in our car, and we drove all the way home, which (did I forget to mention?) is about a 90 minute drive.

It wasn’t until my husband was halfway through putting the shelving together that we realized something was amiss. “Wait a moment,” he said, “This is a completely different color than the one we picked out!” It was true…the fireplace we’d picked out was a darkish brown, but the one we were currently assembling was almost black. I immediately called the store to complain that we’d been sent home with the wrong color. This is where things got nice and confusing. I gave the girl on the phone the product number on our receipt and she looked it up… “Ma’am,” she said, “This product only comes in one color.” I argued for quite a while, telling her that I didn’t care what the computer said, the item we had in a dozen pieces on our living room floor was a completely different color than the one we’d picked out. It was during this argument that I began to realize something: when we’d been unpacking all the parts, I hadn’t seen any glass for the doors. Soon we realized the (even stupider) truth: we hadn’t been sent home with the wrong color…we’d been sent home with an entirely different fireplace. My husband looked on the Canadian Tire website and found the one we’d actually picked out…it was labeled Orleans: $799. The tag that had been in front of our fireplace, the one P, the hardware manager, had pointed to several times and used to find the product in the stockroom, belonged to a completely different item.

P had gone home for the day. We would have to call back in the morning.

When I got a hold of P in the morning, initially he was very apologetic. He told me that he would make the trip himself on Monday to drive down the fireplace we had actually picked out and swap it for the one we had taken home. Okay, fine. I could deal with that. But a few hours later, things changed significantly. P called me back and said he had bad news. He said that the fireplace we had actually picked out wasn’t on sale (uh…no sh*t…did you even bother to look at it before speaking to me?) and that he could make it on sale, but only as low as $499 and I would have to pay the $100 difference.

Now, maybe some people would have taken it. Maybe to some people $100 isn’t a big deal. Truly, it’s not that big a deal to us. But it was the principle of the thing. This man brought us to that fireplace, he showed us the sale price several times. He was the one who got the item out of the stockroom and failed to notice that the picture on the box was a completely different fireplace. Every step of the screw-ups that ended with us driving 90 minutes home with the wrong item was entirely his fault. And now he was telling us that we were going to have to pay extra to get the item we had originally picked out, the item that he himself assured us was on sale for $399.

We told him this was unacceptable and he told us that he would have to wait until Monday to talk with his district manager to see if the price could be lowered anymore. We found that unacceptable as well, but decided to deal with it and see what would happen. In the meantime I called the corporate hotline. The man who answered the phone listened to my tale, sympathized with me, and told me that, unfortunately, corporate can’t force an individual store to honor a price mix-up, but he would send a fax to the district manager suggesting that they do so.

Monday morning I gave them until 10 am to call me. No one did, so I called and asked for P. He told me the answer had been no. It took all my strength to say good-bye before hanging up on him. But the best part? About two hours later the district manager called…to tell me no again.

So, to reiterate: the hardware manager f*cked up six ways from Sunday, sent us home (a 90 minute drive) with the wrong item (which, just for the record, was ugly as sin), and then refused to honor the deal he had originally told us we were getting. The district manager then reiterated that they were refusing to honor the deal, because apparently Canadian Tire can’t afford to lose $100.

And that’s why my husband and I, after returning the ugly-ass thing they had sent us home with, have decided to boycott Canadian Tire. Because when a multibillion dollar corporation refuses to honor their own f*ck-ups over $100, that’s someone that I really, really don’t want to do business with.

Day 1, New Adventure

It has been a loooooong day.

I got up this morning at approximately 1 am. Never a good way to start the day, but there you have it. I grabbed a shower, and tossed my luggage in the car while my husband was (groggily) getting his shower. Together we went in to wake the baby, and were surprised by her happy acceptance at being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night. The little bugger.

Then we drove to Halifax, a three hour drive in the middle of the night. Always a good time. 😛

Waiting at the airport was the worst, because while I was waiting to head down to security all I could think about was saying good-bye to the baby, which just made me feel more and more ill as the time went on. Strangely, once I’d said my good-bye and gone through security I felt much better, but up to that point, I definitely wanted to barf. Luckily the baby took the good-bye well. Don’t know if that makes me happy or sad.

Going through security was fun. (Ha.) I ended up having to take off my boots because apparently they have metal in the heels. Huh.

On to the flight deck! I’ll tell you, the airplane was not what I was expecting. Maybe it’s because I’d only ever seen the inside of an airplane via Hollywood representation, but I was amazed at how small it was. I’ve heard all the usual complaints about cramped seats and lack of leg space, but just the overall size of the plane itself really surprised me. I felt like I was in a toy. Really.

The flight itself was reasonably enjoyable. Contrary to my previous beliefs that I would be struggling not to vomit everywhere, I actually really enjoyed the takeoff. It was neat watching the ground disappear beneath us, and when we hit the clouds it was like a sea of fluffy snow in every direction. I wish there had been less cloud on the overall journey because I didn’t get to see much else, but it was still pretty neat. My only real complaint about the entire flight was the descent…not because of turbulence or anything like that, but because my ears felt like they were being stabbed by a hundred screwdrivers. I expected my ears would probably pop, since they pop just going over Kelly’s Mountain (hint: it’s not a high mountain), but I wasn’t expecting the level of pain that I experienced. O.U.C.H.

So I landed in Toronto and did the whole thing over again, except the second flight was longer and I was seated next to an exceptionally overweight man. I don’t want to sound mean or anything, but the guy’s arm and side-fat were spilling over into my seat and making me very uncomfortable. I can only imagine how he must have felt, squeezed in a seat that is far too small for him. Because of this little issue, the second flight was not as enjoyable as the first, but I occupied myself by watching Deathly Hollows Part 2 and an episode of Just for Laughs. This time, when we were descending, I tried chewing gum to help with my ears. It didn’t help. Even now, 7 hours off the plane, my ears still hurt and feel like they’re full of cotton. I’m getting a shower after I finish this post and I’m praying the steam helps clear my head because goddammit, ouch!

The camp itself is definitely a bit of a culture shock for me. As I mentioned before, I’ve never had the dorm experience, so I’m going to have to get used to things. The room is small, but nice, and there’s a women-only exercise room that is well-stocked. The dining area made me a little uncomfortable, simply for the fact that I don’t know anyone and the tables are meant to seat 4-6. I ended up sitting at the only table for 2 and shoveling my food in as quick as possible so I could get out of there. I’m not one for eating by myself, but I’m also not the type who can just stroll up to a group of people and ask to eat with them. Double-edged sword. In any case, the food was pretty good. There were several choices of veggies, meats, deserts, etc., and there’s also a “bag-it” room where you can get things like pre-made sandwiches and wraps, fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt and pudding, etc etc. It shouldn’t be too hard to find things to eat each day, is what I’m saying.

And now I’m sitting in my room, wondering what to do with myself for the rest of the night. I’m pretty exhausted, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. The hot shower might help with that, I suppose, but it’s also still really light out. It’s hard to believe that back at home it’s almost 11 pm. I’ve been awake for 21 hours. Yikes. Maybe I will try to go to sleep. 😛

Tomorrow continues the adventure! Wish me luck!