Barnes and Noble Hide and Seek

“Hey, wanna play hide and seek?” is an odd question to ask a random adult in Barnes and Noble, but that didn’t stop four-year-old Olivia.

I was sitting there, reading books with my husband, when this Olivia kid came and sat next to me. She had bobbed brown hair and huge blue eyes. She wanted to know about my book, so I told her about it. Then I asked her about her book. Then, well…let me break it down for you:

Olivia: I love reading so much.

Hazel: Good! Reading is really good for you.

O: I can’t actually read, obviously. I look at lots of pictures. Wait! I can read some words. I can read “sam” and “top” and “tip.”

H: Wow, that’s great!

*we awkwardly both go back to reading for about three seconds*

O: Hey, do you wanna play hide and seek?

H: Ummm…we’re in a Barnes and Noble. You can’t play hide and seek in a Barnes and Noble.

O: Sure you can! You could hide behind that column, you could hide behind the trash can, you could hide under that chair…

H: Right, okay, yes. I understand that you CAN play hide and seek here, but it’s just that…ummm…people don’t.

O: We could.

H: Right. Uh….well…

At this point I looked at my husband, and he looked back at me like, “Are you seriously going to turn down little four-year-old Olivia?” I looked around for this kid’s parents, and I saw a haggard lady who looked like her grandma. She gave me a quasi-apologetic look that seemed to say, “Sorry…but at least she’s not bugging me for five minutes.”

So I played hide and seek with the kid.

I’m not joking.

She hid first (behind a display of stuffed animals), and then it was my turn. I asked how high she was going to count, and she said, “I can count all the way to TWENTY!” Whoa. Dream big. I’ll have time to hide in Madagascar with that kind of head start. I hid behind a case of books, but she said my coat gave me away.

Then it was her turn to hide. I said I would count again, but she turned to my husband and said, “I want HIM to count!” Picky picky. Andy asked how high he should count, and she said twenty. He looked sad and said, “But what if I’m not as smart as you? What if I can’t count to twenty?” Olivia channeled some major teenage sass, put her hand on her hip and said, “Seeeeriously?” in a way that clearly meant, “I know you can count to twenty. This is a very serious game of BN hide and seek. We don’t mess around.”

He backed off and said okay, that he would count to twenty. Then he did, but only after pretending not to know which number came next a couple of times. And then I couldn’t find her! Seriously! I was thinking, “Oh crap. I lost a kid. I lost a kid. This is very bad.” Finally I looked at the old grandma lady. She pointed under a low kids’ table, and I found Olivia there. Phewf!

After that, it was (thankfully) time for Andy and I to meet our friends for dinner. We laughed so hard all the way out of the store. I’m sure I looked like a total idiot, but I don’t care.  I think life is a little too serious sometimes; it is probably good to get dragged into an involuntary game once in a while.

Andy’s Sick, but We’re Buying Dinosaurs

My husband Andy is sick. He came home from work today and said he was feeling tired, so I told him to take a nap. He said he didn’t need one. He looked pale and exhausted, so finally he said he would “go lie down in bed for a little while.” (Ahem…that’s a nap)

I walked him upstairs and asked if he wanted any tea or a cold washcloth for his head or anything. He said no. I said I would leave him to his nap, but he said he wasn’t going to sleep (yeah, okay). He asked if I would stay and talk to him.

I talked to him for a couple minutes, but I could tell he was falling asleep. I started to leave, but he asked me to keep talking. Maybe he likes the sound of my voice? I have no idea. He clearly wasn’t paying attention to what I was saying.

Then I started having fun. I said, “I’m thinking we should order the triceratops before we order the pterodactyl, because shipping on the triceratops is going to be ridiculously expensive, but the pterodactyl could probably fly here and save us a lot of money. What do you think?”

He said yes, that he totally agreed.

Then I said, “And I’ve been giving some thought to the T-Rex…I don’t think we should buy that one after all. I mean, the sheer size of it means that it is going to be way more expensive than the others, and we only have a two-bedroom house. Where would we put it? So I think we should skip that one. Is that okay with you?”

At first he didn’t answer, so I tried again. “Andy? Is that okay?”

“Yes,” he said, “I already said yes. Great idea.”

I smiled and tried not to laugh. I knew he didn’t want me to leave, so I sat on the bed for a few more minutes to make sure he was fully asleep. I looked at him a couple of times, but I think watching someone while they’re sleeping is just about the creepiest thing possible.  I mostly picked at our comforter and got disgusted by how many dog hairs I found.

Finally, when I was sure he was sleeping, I gave him a kiss on the forehead and crept out of the bedroom. Now, and hour later, he’s still sleeping.

He was right – he definitely didn’t need a nap. *eyeroll*  Now where can I buy some dinosaurs?

They Don’t Like My *AHEM* “Voice”

Apparently I have a bad voice.

I’m not even sure how this is a thing.

It’s my writing voice that’s bad, by the way. I think my real voice is fine.

I won a writing competition a few weeks ago, and the prize was that agents could look at the winning entries and request the manuscripts. Eleven agents requested mine (for you writers out there…that’s kind of a big deal). I’ve written a novel with a bipolar protagonist, and…I think it doesn’t suck. I like it, anyway (but that’s like my mom saying I’m pretty, isn’t it? I created the characters. Of course I like them).

Three of the agents have gotten back to me with rejections. One was terse and gave me nothing, but the other two said that they simply “didn’t connect with the voice.” I once had someone in the publishing industry tell me that “I don’t connect with the voice” is a basic cop-out rejection because no one can really argue it. How can someone change their voice? It’s a catch-all when agents don’t want to give actual feedback (allegedly).

BUT WHAT IF MY VOICE ACTUALLY SUCKS?! WHAT DO I DOOOOOOO?!

I give up writing, I guess.

HA. Funny. Okay. Moving on.

Here are way more entertaining things that agents could say to reject me when they don’t like my voice (to the eight agents who still have my book…go ahead and copy and paste. Hand on heart, I won’t be offended. I gave you the responses. You’re welcome).

  1. Your protagonist’s voice was kind of bitchy, and I wanted to slap her by chapter two. I don’t like the violent tendencies your book has inspired in me, and so I don’t want to read any more. You are rejected.
  2. I actually fell asleep while reading your manuscript, and that’s impressive because I was at a parade at the time and I drank five red bulls that morning. That’s how monotonously boring your voice is. You are rejected.
  3. Your voice is a combination of Gwenyth Paltrow and Dora the Explorer. Oh, you don’t understand how that works? It’s because it doesn’t. You are rejected.
  4. Your voice reminds me of my college professor who had a terribly nasally voice, and he used to drone on and on. We had to act like we were paying attention, but I tried to tune him out to listen to buzzing flies because they were less annoying. That’s what your book is like. You are rejected.
  5. Your voice reminds me of this terrible blog, hazelhillboro.com. It’s abysmal. I am so disappointed in myself for ever wasting time on it. Go waste your time on it, because you sound like her and therefore will never get published. You are rejected.
  6. Your voice is like an opera singer who’s trying to get over laryngitis (but in a writing way, of course). It’s like there might have been talent there, but it can’t shine through the nasty. You are rejected.
  7. Your characters are trying too hard. You tried to make them cool, but it sounds like they’re all constipated. You basically need to coat the entire manuscript in ex-lax and get things flowing better. You are rejected.
  8. I didn’t connect with your voice because I have a hard time connecting with anyone. I’m seeing a therapist about this. Unfortunately, I haven’t made much progress yet. You are rejected.

See? There you go. Eight responses for the eight agents left. Now I’ve written the book and the rejections. Most compliant and helpful author ever? I think so. 🙂

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Mental Health Elitist

Sometimes I fear that I’m a mental health elitist.  I fully comprehend that this is a bitchy kind of person to be, so I’m working on it.  I wonder if any of y’all struggle with this, though?  Can I get a “me too”?

I noticed my elitism when my future sister-in-law posted something to facebook about high-functioning anxiety.  It was a video about how hard it is to live with this condition and how we should all feel bad for her because she has it.  The video said things such as, “high functioning anxiety means worrying about if people like you or not” and “it’s staying busy and struggling with perfectionism.”  To me this simply sounds like being a human.

What really got me is when the video said, “it’s silent panic attacks while you’re calm and smiling.”

Ummmm….  I’m no psychiatrist, so I am in no position to say that’s not legit.  HOWEVER – I am finding it very difficult to dig up sympathy for this girl for her silent panic attacks.  She says we should all feel bad for her for having this terrible disorder, but I wan’t to say, “Hi, yeah.  It’s me, Hazel, over here posting jokes and cat videos.  Sorry to interrupt your pity party, but I was wondering: have you ever had a panic attack where you asked someone to call 911 because you thought you were dying right that second?  Have you ever hyperventilated until you puked?  If you’ve ever experienced the sheer terror that comes with a true panic attack, then I’m sorry – you were not CALM AND SMILING.”

But that’s me being elitist, because maybe there are silent panic attacks.  If there are, I’m sure they suck.  I simply have a hard time feeling bad for her because, straight up?  I feel like I’m a lot worse off than her when it comes to mental health, and I’m annoyed with people when they want sympathy from me about it.  It’s like someone with strep throat going up to someone with throat cancer and being all, “Yeah, these throat problems…they really suck, amirite?”  Yes, they do…but you’re annoying and please go away.

I have friends with mental illnesses who can’t keep jobs…who can’t get out of bed in the morning…who have been hospitalized multiple times…who take on every day as a challenge to keep living.  I have so much respect for them and for the mountains they climb every single day, and I hate to see it cheapened by people who post to social media about needing sympathy for things that seem so-not-an-issue compared to what these people face.

I really have to get better about this.  Any sort of mental problems are awful, and I should feel compassion on anyone struggling.  I know this.  We’re all on the same team here, we’re just varying degrees of invested.  It’s like sports fans – some bought tickets off Criagslist the night before the game, and some have season passes, painted their faces, and decorated their houses in the team colors.  Despite how deep into fandom we are, we’re all on the same team. RAH RAH! WE HATE MENTAL ILLNESS! RAH! *cheerleader cartwheel*

Mental illness, no matter the severity, always sucks.  There are people who have it better than me, and there are people who have it worse. It’s not my job to decide if they deserve my sympathy or not.  Sometimes it’s tough to feel bad for someone when I would trade brain function with them in a second, but I need to do it anyway.  If they need help and compassion, it is not my job to hand out judgement.

Anyone else ever struggled with this?

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday!  I know that as people age they start not liking birthdays, but I sincerely doubt that will happen to me.  I LOVE my birthday! I think that to someone who has had a lot of health problems, a birthday feels kind of like a victory celebration:

My brain tumor didn’t kill me! Bipolar didn’t kill me! No other surprise things killed me! I lived for ANOTHER WHOLE YEAR! WHOO HOO!

bdaypug

No but really…I love my birthday. I love my whole birthday week. I wear a tiara to work on the day of my birthday. I go on a weekend trip to Northern Michigan every year where my friends come from all over the country to celebrate with me. I get every free birthday meal in town.

I keep waiting for a referee to come out, blow his whistle, and call a penalty on me for excessive celebration. It’s a bit over the top.  “Become mature” has been on my list of things to do for years, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

If I was on a therapy couch talking about my birthday, I would say, “It all started back when I was a little kid. My parents made the rule that I could do whatever I wanted on my birthday.”  Of course, when I was six, the biggest I could dream was, “I want ice cream before dinner, and I want to go to the store and pick whatever Barbie I want, and…umm…I will not make my bed! MUAHAHAHAHAHA!”  I was drunk with power.

I think my parents discontinued that rule the year that I tried to use my day of power to make a new family rule that I was also in charge on every other day.

What’s not to love about birthdays? People you never talk to post on your facebook wall, and you’re like, “Hey, for one second of your day, you thought about ME! How kind! How awesome!” And then you feel all fuzzy inside. I love some good old fashioned fuzzies.

Cheers to all you fine blog people who have made the past year of my life so much easier than any I’ve had before (except, like, when I was five, because any year of life where nap time is a thing is a good year). You’ve become my friends, my supporters, and a group of people for whom I have more respect than I can possibly say.  Thanks.

Here’s to next year.

An “All I Do Is Win” Kind of Day

Yesterday I won a writing competition where I thought I had absolutely no shot. Today I won a travel grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Tomorrow’s my birthday. THIS HAS BEEN A GOOD WEEK.

After school today I came home, changed into jeans and a sweatshirt, and then blasted “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled. I danced around my kitchen with my dog because no one else was home to celebrate with me. The beagle and I brought down the house, y’all. I even danced with a treat in my hand so that he would jump around with me until the song was over. When the lyrics would say “Everybody’s hands go up! And they stay there,” I held the treat right over his head so his paws would – you guessed it – go up and then stay there. He’s got some mad skills in the choreography department. We should go on tour.

I tried to find a picture of a dancing beagle to put with this post, maybe something like this…

beagle

But then I found this “dancing beagle sculpture” and you’re getting this picture too because, um, because LOOK AT IT:

beagle2

Life is a roller coaster of wins and losses, but it’s worth cherishing a win (or two) when you get it. Find a win today, and take a second to celebrate it. Dance with your dog/cat/goldfish/invisible friend. Here’s your soundtrack if you need it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGXzlRoNtHU

The Amazing Toilet Shower Combo (This Is Not as Gross as It Sounds)

To my European readers, and to those who have been to Europe – have you ever used the toilet while simultaneously showering?  Because I haven’t done this, but I’m wondering if it’s a thing.

I was at a very nice hotel last weekend for a work conference. The hotel is described on its website as having “a very European feel.”  The reviews on the hotel confirmed this, with multiple people claiming that, “Yes, it feels very European.”  I’m wondering if these people haven’t actually been to Europe, or if my travels to European countries have simply not prepared me for what “Europe” is actually like.

Side note: Last time I was in Europe was in Germany, and I got bags of Haribo gummy bears on my pillow every day.  This was awesome.  I hoped for gummy bears at this very European hotel, but no dice.  What I got instead of gummy bears was a piece of plywood and a freaky shower.

Our room seemed pretty standard until my friend went into the bathroom and said, “Whoa. What the…?!  What is that?” Obviously that means, “Something awesome and potentially blogworthy is lurking in the bathroom.”

I walked into the smallest hotel bathroom I’ve ever seen.  My friend and I couldn’t both stand in there without being vaguely snuggly, but we crunched in to look at the “shower.”  A shower head snaked out of the ceiling, but there were no walls.  There was an optional curtain that, when closed, took up most of the bathroom. I texted my husband and said, “Ummm…I’m going to have to shower in this.”

bathroom

He texted back, “I’m confused…you’re going to shower in the toilet??”

I said no and told him to look at the top of the picture.  Then he said that technically, I could shower while on the toilet if I wanted to because they’re practically on top of each other.  Also, the shower head can spray in whatever direction I’d like.

He’s right.  It made me wonder if time-strapped business people have ever done both at once in a gross multi-tasking initiative.  “Raise productivity, team!  Don’t take time to use the bathroom and a separate time to shower!  That’s archaic!”  Now if only phones were waterproof so they could check e-mails while also showering and pooping…ultimate productivity.

As if the shower wasn’t weird enough, a piece of wood was sticking out by the side of the sink.  I pulled it out and asked my friend if she knew what it was for.  She didn’t know.  We conjectured that possibly it was a handicap seat for the shower, but we couldn’t find anywhere to affix it.

So then I was standing there holding a wooden board in the bathroom/shower, and I couldn’t help but wonder what about this is “very European”?

Eventually we found a little white card (laminated so that it won’t get wet).  It said that the “wooden mat” is provided so that we can put it down by the sink after a shower and stand on it.  That way our feet won’t get wet on the tile.

I would have loved to be at the board meeting where someone said, “Yes, the soaking of the entire bathroom is an issue… I know!  We’ll give the guests wooden planks to stand on!  Problem solved.” I have to imagine that was at the end of the meeting, and everyone approved the idea just so they could go home at the end of a long day (and then shower in their normal showers).

This is the nicest hotel in town, and I had to put down a piece of wood by the sink in order to dry my hair? That doesn’t feel European to me. That feels…I have no idea what continent that feels like.  Possibly Antarctica, because I’ve never been there and I feel like their floors are probably really cold.  “Hey Joe, did you bring that mat with us?  I want to put it on the floor in here so my toes don’t freeze to the tile.”  Yes, that’s logical.

I’m going to leave a review on the hotel’s website that says, “My stay was very nice, but I found the decor and amenities to be more Antarctic than European.”

Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to appreciate the chic shower.  I guess I’m more of a good ol’ American Holiday Inn type of girl.

Gray

I haven’t seen the sun in weeks.  WEEKS.  I’m like a freaking hibernating bear, except I didn’t gain a bunch of weight before winter and I still have to pee every day.

Well, I did eat a lot of food at Thanksgiving… I might have gotten a little chunkier there… but since I’m still peeing, I’m not hibernating.  That is official.  So, since I’m not hibernating, WHERE IS THE SUN?!

Michigan winters are the worst.  The. worst.  There’s a permacloud that covers this state from November until around April, and at this point in time I am so over it.  There’s no snow right now, there’s no sun…it’s simply gray.  Everything’s gray.  The naked trees are black silhouettes against a dull sky, and spring is nowhere in sight.

This is why seasonal affective disorder is a thing, people.  Humans need the sun.  I distinctly remember the last time we had a somewhat sunny day – it was a couple weeks ago (WEEKS).  The sun peeked out from behind a cloud, and I literally stopped teaching, looked out my window, and said, “Amazing!  It DOES exist!  I had forgotten what it looked like!  It’s so….shiny.”  My class laughed, but I was only 98% joking.

It’s tough to keep my mood up when the weather is like this for weeks on end.  I don’t feel like going outside (it’s freezing and gray), but being inside makes me feel cooped up. I realized lately that I haven’t wanted to write, and that is concerning.  One of the first things that happens when I’m going into depression is that I stop wanting to do all of my favorite things.  I’ve taken naps for the last three days in a row.  I sleep sleep sleep and then wake up and think there’s really no point to getting out of bed anyway.  I noticed that my lesson plan book has started having blank spots again where I forgot to make lessons.  Eeeeeep!  I don’t want to be depressed, but I feel like I’m watching a movie where all of the color slowly fades out of a picture until it’s black and white.

Come back, colors!  I need you in my life!  I guess a black and white picture is still okay, but it’s dangerous because a deep depression is where that black and white picture fades totally to black.  Then I’m in serious trouble.

I keep telling myself it’s the weather.  It’s gotta be the weather, right?  I’ll be fine in spring.  I’ll just live life in black and white for a while.  It matches the landscape.  I’ve always been a fan of matching.

Except you know what?  I don’t LIKE black and white. I want my life to be colorful again.  I want to wake up every morning being happy that I’m alive and feeling like, “Okay, I can do this day!”  I don’t want to simply exist.  As I said, though, it’s like watching the color fade from a picture.  What can you do to get the color back?  It just gets paler and paler and then it’s gone.  I’m not entirely sure how to fight back here.

I wish I was a bear.  Those lucky  dudes get to skip winter altogether.

When Your Celebrities…Aren’t

I’ve covered in other posts like this one that my husband loves grouse hunting, and most people have no idea what that is.

Today he was listening to a podcast about grouse (because that is apparently a real podcast topic, people).  He got super excited and said, “Hazel!  You would not believe who this guy got as a guest speaker on his podcast show!  It’s a huge celebrity!”

I could not for the life of me think of a “huge celebrity” who has ever expressed a modicum of interest in upland bird hunting.  Well, I’m pretty sure the British royal family bird hunts in Scotland or something, but I sincerely doubted the QUEEN was a guest speaker on this dude’s podcast.  So I said, “Who, Andy?  Who’s the huge celebrity?”

His eyes got wide with excitement as he said, “The senior adviser to Dogtra!”

I said, “Wow!  That’s amazing!” because clearly that was the only appropriate response to that revelation.  In my head, however, I said, “Note to self: Google ‘Dogtra.’  Or did he say ‘Dogstra’?  Crap, I already forgot.  Figure this out.”

So then I Googled “dogtra” when he wasn’t looking, and I found pictures like this.  I’m still not sure what the company does.  Is that a shock collar?  Is it a GPS collar?  Is it something else totally different?  MY HUSBAND HAS THE WEIRDEST HOBBY.

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While looking at these pictures, I found myself thinking, “What does this senior adviser even do?  Does he advise on collar design?  Marketing?  Field testing these things on actual dogs?  What is this company, and why is this man a huge celebrity in the grouse hunting world?”

Then eventually I gave up because I think this is one of those things that my husband loves, but try as I might I don’t think I’m ever going to fully get it.  I don’t have to get it to be pumped that my husband heard a great podcast from the senior adviser to Dogrta!  I can probably get you the link if you want it.  This is clearly a big deal.

The Ugly Chair

As I type this, I’m sitting in the ugly chair.  The chair arrived in our living room as a practical joke over a month ago, and we’re going to get rid of it.  Really.  Probably soon.

…but it’s so comfy.

My husband brought it home because his parents were throwing it out (they wanted to get it out of their garage.  It has been living there instead of in their house because it is so very ugly).  He put it in our living room as a joke, and when I got home I did find it very funny.  It doesn’t match our living room furniture at all, and if it was ever in style (which I doubt), it probably peaked in around 1984.  Ha ha, very funny Andy, now get that chair outta here.

Except then I made the horrible mistake of sitting in the chair.

I would show you a picture of this chair, but I can’t do that because I am smart enough to know that the manufacturer probably made more than one.  There is someone on the internet somewhere in the world who has this chair.  Or someone’s very sweet Great-Aunt Nellie has this chair, and they would be offended if I besmirched their Great-Aunt Nellie’s taste.  Therefore, no picture of the chair.

I will tell you, though, that it is a slate blue recliner with brown wooden arms.  There is a weird stitching design on it that is tough to describe, but personally I think it looks like hundreds of hot dogs – little Barbie-sized hot dogs.  The stuffing in the chair is yellow.  I know this because there are a few places where it is peeking out around the hot dogs.

THIS CHAIR IS UGLY (no offense to your Great-Aunt Nellie).

I tried thinking of ways to make it less ugly.  There are so slip covers that would cover this odd shape, and having the chair reupholstered would cost way more than it’s worth.  Finally I decided to buy a throw blanket to try to distract from the chair’s, um, essence.  I thought if I could make it look more normal, maybe it could stay.  My new throw is very comfy and soft, but it didn’t do much for the chair.  It’s like trying to dress up an ostrich.  No matter what you put on it, it’s going to look ridiculous.

Now we’re entering dangerous territory.  We put the chair in a perfect corner of the room “just until we get rid of it.”  We brought over a lamp to give extra light “only until we get rid of it.”  Andy told me he’s bringing up an extra end table to put next to it “so that I can put my coffee there.  You know, just until we get rid of it.”

Y’all, I am seriously concerned that WE MIGHT KEEP THIS CHAIR.

Andy had one of his friends over the other day, and I almost apologized: “I am sorry about the chair in our living room…it was a practical joke that has gone awry.”  Then I thought that possibly the only thing weirder than having an ugly chair is bringing attention to the fact that yes, we know the chair is ugly, we both say we’re getting rid of it, but we both secretly love it.

Eh, it’s not like I was ever going to be in Better Homes and Gardens anyway.  Who cares if my living room looks a little bizarre?  The chair is, uh, a statement piece.  YES – a statement piece.  I’m not sure what the statement is, though…possibly “life was better in the eighties” or  “don’t conform to modern societal trends” or “eat more hot dogs.”  I guess it can be interpreted in a number of ways.  What a deep chair.

The chair can be a boost to my self-esteem, too.  When I look in the mirror and feel ugly, I can think, “Yes, but I’m not as ugly as that horrible chair.”  Then I can walk downstairs, look at the chair, and laugh.  Then I’ll feel better, because everyone knows that laughing is healthy.  This is a medicinal chair.

Have I made enough justifications yet?  Can I keep the chair?  (Better Homes and Gardens editors need not comment).

Excuse me while I take a nap in this comfy thing.