February Foibles or Learned Lessons 

The path to success is not a linear one. This road will be different for any why dare to cross it. It will be full of cliffs, valleys and peaks. You will find yourself running on ahead, stopping for a rest, or even backtracking over ground you already covered. Contrary to what all of the self-help and productivity books try to tell us,  there is no right or wrong path to follow. It’s a matter of grit and determination, of knowing when it is
time for you to surge ahead and when it is a time to fall back. We all have struggles to overcome, we all have strengths to uphold; we all walk different paths, even if our anticipated destination is the same. 
February was a month of learning and re-evaluating for me. Perhaps some would call it a failure- and if you look at the bare-bone numbers, perhaps they would be right. After all, I didn’t hit the well-defined goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I told myself that I would try to  publish four new posts to this blog every week, and as you can all certainly attest to, I came nowhere  near that number. I also decided to set a 50,000 word goal for the month, and I only managed to get to  about 22,000. For the first time in a semi-Nano event, I missed my mark and fell short. Like I  said, if you look at the quantifiable data for my February- you could call this past month a failure. But I, in good conscience, cannot. 

You see, I have always been the type of person who likes to learn my lessons the hard way. I tend to take the long way around to come to the same conclusion that others may quickly arrive at. I  have always been the type to go for the experience to learn my little bits of worldly wisdom. And in some ways, I think I am better for it. I am no different when it comes to my writing- I have to try all of  the wrong ways before I can settle on the right one.  

What this past month really boiled down to was a lack of preparation. I went into February expecting one thing and receiving something completely different. February was anticipated to be a  relatively relaxing month- I was going to have plenty of time to get everything done. But the month itself quickly proved that it would not settle for basic expectations. Instead of a slow plodding, it turned into 28 days filled to the brim with last-minute plans and engagements, emergency problems and issues that  required additional time and effort. To put it bluntly, things just went sideways and got a bit crazy. And my big problem was that I didn’t prepare myself for these contingencies. I am a firm believer in  Murphy’s Law- if something can go wrong, then it probably will. Which is why it was rather silly of me to  expect to get by on a hope and a prayer; it wasn’t a sustainable plan, in fact, I don’t think I can really call it  much of a plan at all. I tripped and I fell; and in the hustle and bustle of life, I just couldn’t quite get back  to my feet. 

The beautiful thing about these kinds of ‘failures’ boils down to the lessons that you learn from them; you have to be prepared and ready for whatever may be tossed at you. Because of the issues I  encountered in February, I’m changing the game plan, and I will be charging into March with a much stronger footing. The key to my success is going to come down to my planning. I was starting to get a bit lazy, a tad sloppy with my work. I wasn’t giving the words time to breath, I was pushing through to publishing posts before they had a chance to ruminate and be properly edited. I didn’t give them a  chance to live up to their potential. And that is my fault as their creator; they were only granted as much life as I was willing to give them. Which is why I have a whole new process in place, going back to my  regimented days that I used when I first started this blog; and you know what, it’s actually a bit liberating. I always felt like the strict schedules were stifling, but in truth, they gave me the freedom to really focus on one thing at a time instead of scrambling at the last minute. I have a weekly schedule in
place with the different topics I want to cover each week. I’ve given myself a bit of room for flexibility, after all, you never know when the passion will strike for a particular topic, and I feel it is important to  give myself a touch of creative license. But at least for the moment, I have a backbone, a plan in place  when I feel like I just don’t know what direction to take next. I can get ahead of the pack, so to speak,  and start getting some ideas down in advance- give them the proper amount of time for editing before
they get thrust out into the world for anyone to see. 

This planning will also help me find more time to work on my actual novels; I wont be scrambling for blog posts as often, so I can focus on the bigger project. Not only that, but I am  scheduling specific writing time- and my intent is to stick with it. Even if I wind up needing to cut the  time short just because of life- at least I can get in a bit of work time. I’m taking into account which days I can invest more time than others, and giving myself enough room to enjoy some of those little ‘extras,’ like my reading or crafty projects. It’s all about the balance.  

Not only that, but I was finally able to figure out a work-around for my chronic technological issues that have left me at a near-standstill with my writing. I’ve been having intermittent issues with my
laptop since Nano; I’ve been forced to write virtually all of my blog posts on my phone (which I am not a big fan of), and I’ve been occasionally blocked from my word processor- which effectively blocks me  from doing anything with my current WIPs. I wont get into the boring details on what is wrong with it,  but suffice it to say that my document back-ups have been intermittent at best. But this past week I have figured out a temporary patch for my system- something that, theoretically, should work long  enough for me to upload my WIPs to my different back-up avenues. I’ve pulled my old laptop out of  storage and, while it has its own issues, it will at least allow me to type and back-up my work- the bare  essentials of my programs still function just fine (though I have to buy a new charger because my current one has  exposed wires that are in constant danger of potentially catching something on fire). But it will do in a  pinch until I can save up the money to invest in something new. In the meantime, as a back-up to my  Plan B, I am setting up my tablet, just in case my old laptop decides that it preferred retirement. The  tablet isn’t particularly convenient, mainly because of formatting differences that turn editing into a bit of a tedious headache, but I will at least be able to get some work done. So now I have continugency  plans; I wont just be stuck, all dressed up with nowhere to go. 

Yes, it is true, some may say that February was an epic failure. But I am not one of those people. I have learned a lot, I am still figuring out my new routines and plans that will be best for me; and yes, I
still need to figure out how to add some fitness goals in here. But I’m trying. I’m getting organized so that I will be able to more easily take this one day at a time. I am setting myself up for success in March. I’ll get there eventually, I’m just going to take the scenic route along the way. 

Friday the 13th: the Myth, the Legend, the Legacy

Gloom, despair and agony on me

Deep dark depression, excessive misery

If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all

Gloom, despair and agony on me

In 1976, a New Yorker named Daz Baxter was reportedly so afraid of Friday the 13th that he opted to play it safe and stay in bed where no harm could befall him. That same day he was was killed when the floor of his apartment building collapsed. Coincidence, or is this date fated to truly exude the madness and mayhem of the unlucky?

In 1993 the British Medical Journal published an article aptly titled ‘Is Friday the 13th Bad for Your Heath?’ The goal of the researchers was to determine the relationship between health, behavior and superstition surrounding this particular day in the U.K. To do this they opted to review hospital admissions stemming from auto accidents, while taking into account the volume of traffic, on two different Fridays: the 6th and the 13th. Now, surprisingly, there were consistently fewer people who braved the roads on the 13th, and yet hospital admission for accidents was significantly higher, showing an increased risk of 52% when compared to the 6th. But is this a sign of the unlucky spirit of the day, or a simple matter of psychology where we believe we are unlucky, and therefore we fulfil our own prophecy?

There is a name for those who fear this day, a name that causes my soul to squirm and shiver when attempting to pronounce it: paraskevidekatriaphobia. Today I went on a quest to discover the origins of this little holiday that captures the imagination and inspires many horror films and scary stories. What I found was surprising, and perhaps a bit vague. So grab a drink and let’s break it down.

The infamous number 13:

The theories and negative associations surrounding this number are plentiful. If 13 people sit down to dine, the first to rise will be soon to die. The Turks had such a fear of this number that it became practically nonexistent in their language. It takes 13 witches to make up a full coven. If you have 13 letters in your name, then you have the devil’s luck. Want a few examples to think over after you have counted the letters in your own? Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, Albert De Salvo (the Boston stranger), Aileen Wuornos (murdered 7 men in one year and said she’d do it again), Saddam Hussein, Lavinia Fisher (the first American serial killer who poisoned guests at her boarding house), Osama bin Laden; I am sure the list goes on. The fear of 13 has even carried into our modern society; many cities do not have a 13th street or avenue, and many building don’t possess a 13th floor.

Now, not all cultures despise the number. The Chinese always regarded it as lucky, as did the Egyptians in the time of the pharaohs. Even today: I am a big fan of a baker’s dozen where I can get 13 tasty treats instead of 12. But why is there a general dislike of something as unassuming as a number across history and cultures?

To answer that in part, we have to take it back to the Egyptians. Remember how I said that they thought it was a lucky number? Egyptians believed that life itself was meant to be a quest for spiritual ascension, as do so many religions. They believed that this spiritual journey could be broken down into stages; 12 in this life and the 13th beyond, which they viewed as their eternal afterlife. As such, they associated 13 with death, but in their views it was meant as a desirable and glorious thing. As time passed and subsequent cultures rose and fell, the original association between the number thirteen and the nature of death remained strong. What weakened, however, was the light that it was viewed in. People forgot the spiritual context of a happy and glorious afterlife, and began to fill in that empty space with their internal fears of death itself. That fear bred a mistrust and general distaste for the number it was connected with.

Another theory centering around the vilification of the number 13, interestingly enough, ties into the ever raging battle of the sexes. The number 13 represented femininity and was revered within prehistoric worship. As an example, it can be seen in a Stone Age carving known as the earth mother of Laussel, found near the Lascaux caves in France and is often cited as an iconic matriarchal spirit. This carving depicts a female figure holding a crescent-shaped horn that bears 13 notches. The number 13 corresponds to the number of lunar (menstraul) cycles in a year. It is thought that the matriarchal number fell out of favor as many societies and religions found themselves leaning more towards a patriarchal viewpoint. 


The religious connotations related to the number 13 carry over into Christianity as well. The predominate story is centered around the Last Supper. There were thirteen in attendance. One of the disciples then betrayed Jesus Christ, leading to the crucifixion. To add an interesting twist, shall I mention the fact that the crucifixion itself was said to take place on a Friday? Ah yes, it appears that the plot thickens. Let us carry on with this thread.

The Fear of Friday:

Personally, I have never been afraid of Friday, nay, I revere and uphold this day as the oh-so-sacred end point of my working week, and my occasional day for lovely happy hours filled with hummus plates, cheesy tots and blue moons at my favorite Irish pub. But the love for this day has not always existed.

Old wives tales and general theory abound when it comes to this particular day of the week. It is said that if you change the bed on a Friday it will bring you bad dreams. Cutting your nails will lead to bad luck and sorrow. If you start a trip on a Friday you will encounter misfortune. Relating to this, ships that set sail on this day will encounter bad luck. There is even an urban myth stating that the Royal Navy once attempted to dispel this fear amongst their sailors so they created the H.M.S Friday. The story goes that they made a point to handle all major events on Fridays; they commissioned and named the ship, laid the keel, launched the vessel, selected the crew and captain, and embarked on its maiden voyage- all on separate Fridays just to prove the point that the superstitious fear was unfounded. The story concludes that, once it set sail, the ship was never seen or heard from again. This story survived under the guise of fact for many years and was spread through such notable publications as ‘The Reader’s Digest’ before additional research was done to conclude that the ship itself never actually existed. 

So once again, where does this fear stem from? Once again, there are deep ties to religion when it comes to the fear of a Friday. In terms of Christianity, Fridays were generally no-good, awful, very bad days. As I mentioned before, the crucifixion is said to have taken place on this day. It is also believed that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, the Great Flood, the tying of tongues at the Tower of Babel, the destruction of the Temple of Solomon; all took place on Fridays. 

It was also considered a sabbath day in many other pre-Christian religions. This meant that when Christianity took hold in many of these territories, that day became somewhat vilified by the father’s of the church due to its ‘heathen associations.’ In an attempt to discredit the day and ensure that fellow christians would not begin to follow the practice of a Friday sabbath, it was decried the ‘witch’s sabbath,’ a distasteful connotation in a superstitious era.

Another tie to the witchy word happens to stem from its very name. The word Friday is derived from a Norse deity who was worshipped on the 6th day. Depending on the story you read, she was either known as Frigga (the goddess of marriage and fertility), or Freya (the goddess of sex and fertility). These two dieties became intertwined with one another throughout the myths, and are still difficult to differentiate. The goddesses are associated with Venus, the Roman goddess of love. This association meant that those who believed in her felt that Friday was an especially lucky day to get married, as it was her day. Once again, this was to change when Christianity made it to the show. As I said earlier, it discredit the heathen practices. It was re-named the witch’s sabbath. During this vilification process, Freya herself was depicted as a witch. Alongside her, her sacred animal, the cat, was rebranded as the witch’s pet, an association that maintains to this day. From then on, Freya’s day of love was recast as a day of evil intentions and ill omens.

It was not just religion that cast a dark pallor over the day, however. These undertones existed in other cultures as well, thought wether by coincidence or design is yet unknown. It became a recognized day of death. In pagan Rome it was their execution day, which morphed into Hangman’s Day in Britain. The bloody stains could not be easily washed from the fabric of our beloved Friday.

What Brought Friday and the 13th Together at Last?

So we have two separate histories marked by fear and apprehension. But what brought these two together in solemn matrimony? That’s hard to tell, though theories abound. One, admittedly not my personal favorite, circles back to our undercurrent of religion. This concept has arisen in well-published novels, such as The DaVinci Code. The theory itself surrounds historical events, in the form of the decimation and mass arrests of the Knights Templar, which took place on Friday the 13th. Now, I’m not going to spend extensive time on this theory because I don’t find it particularly compelling or plausible. At the time, the events were not cast as a major event, and they would have had little effect over the superstitions and colloquial terminology of the day. While religion has a strong holding over the original superstitions of the two separately, I don’t think they can claim credit for the joining of the ideas.

Another belief stems from a book published in 1907, written by Thomas Lawson. It is simply titled ‘Friday, the Thirteenth,’ and is about dirty dealings in the stock market. It sold relatively well for its time, and some have attributed the origins of the real Friday the 13th to this book. Though in actuality, it appears unlikely that the author came up with the idea himself, as the context of the story nods to the idea of the unlucky day as being one already known in the public conscious. Though, there is a good likelihood that he helped spread its universality. So for that we can thank him (or curse him, depending on your personal beliefs).

Personally, I follow a simple theory, though far less romantic; that people noticed a similar thread between the two and noticed when they coincided on a calendar. Think about it; Friday’s have historically been viewed as unlucky. The 13th has been viewed in the same light. So it stands to reason that when you combine the two, you come up with unlucky multiplied by two. When viewing a calendar it would be easy to spot the anomaly, and given people’s perceptions of the two distinct ideas, it isn’t a far stretch to assume that they would then view the day as one to be doubly dreaded. After all, in the 1898 edition of the ‘Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’ there is no mention of Friday the 13th, though there are separate sections listed for each unlucky title. It wasn’t until later editions that they were combined under one heading. This seems to be a natural progression in the superstitious trends.

This year we will see two occassions to fear the day; the first is right here in January, and our next is nestled snugly in October, a rather fitting month if you ask me. So whether you are one to march boldly out your front door and dare the day to do its worst, or whether you prefer to roll up in bubble wrap and avoid public transportation for the intervening 24 hours, may you be safe and have fun. Just remember, our fears have only the amount of power we grant them. 

Things I Learned from my Dog

In honor of best friends day, I have a confession to make. You were bound to find out sooner or later, I would much rather be up front about it. I am one of ‘those’ pet people. There, it’s out! Wow, does it feel like a weight has been lifted or what? I will admit, I like putting Easter bunny ears or Santa hats on the dog when the correct season arrives. And there is a slight possibility that I have a picture of him sporting a human jersey for my favorite football team (I’ll leave the specific team anonymous for now- I think it’s best that I only throw one bombshell on you at a time). And really, he doesn’t seem to mind; after all, I do occasionally make him his very own cake (Okay- I’ve only done it once, and it was when he turned a year old- that doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me, I think I’m quite tame for a pet person). Now the cat- he’s the smart one, he’s managed to escape all of my photo sessions simply because, well, he has discovered how to use his claws. That’s a battle I only fought once- I learned my lesson. The cat rules our roost. But really, I’m not that bad. I just love my critters. In my mind, pets are a part of the family. A large part of the family.

When we brought home the little ball of fur that has since morphed into a 75 lbs mass of muscle and sloppy kisses, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I had expected that I would be teaching him; how to come, stay, roll over, don’t bark, eat the burglar, do not eat the mailman (no matter how tasty he looks). I never expected that I would be learning so many lessons from him. Here are just a few of them:

  • Always be excited to see your people. ALWAYS. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a rough day, or they didn’t change the toilet paper roll (or they moved the bone that you finally managed to hide in the perfect spot under the covers)- be excited to see them and you will brighten their day.
  • A walk will fix everything. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Link is always quick to give me a little yip when the sun is shining and I have spent too long working on my laptop. Sometimes all you need to push that reset button is a breath of fresh air and some sunshine.

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  • Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, because looks are often deceiving. Link is a German Shepherd- he is supposed to be tough and scary. But, as I’ve learned- sometimes it is the ‘toughest’ ones that actually have the biggest hearts. And sometimes those who give the appearace of being unusually serious are the biggest goofballs of all.
  • Respect the ‘little guy’: treat everyone equally, whether they are a Grate Dane or a little Chiuaua, treat them well. You’ll be much happier making friends than enemies.

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  • Just because someone barks at you, does not mean you have to bark back.
  • Down time is important. When you feel overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing you can do is find a quiet corner and chew on a bone
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive: It’s okay if the cat thinks its funny to bop your nose and run away when you want to nap. And if he gets you with his claws on accident, why not answer him with a big sloppy kiss instead of a nip. After all, he does let you chase him sometimes. He can’t be all bad.
  • Work time is for work, and play time is for play. You need both to feel happy and fulfilled.
  • When you are in a bad mood, sometimes all you need is a snack. And if a snack doesn’t work- a nap is usually the perfect trick.
  • When someone is sick or sad- cuddles are always the best medicine.
  • Never be embarrassed: who cares if you ran into the wall? You were busy staring at that suspicious squirrel on the fence.
  • It isn’t whether you win the game that counts, as long as you play. Missing the ball just means you get the added adventure of sniffing it out.
  • If it seems like the cat is doing something naughty- he is. Whine and alert the humans immediately.
  • Always be willing to make new friends, but be wary who you allow close to you (anything with shooting quills is usually a bad idea)
  • Always trust your intuition, it is usually right.
  • Be ambitious- why settle for a stick when you can take the whole log?

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  • Be curious about the world- there are so many new things to learn, taste, see, smell. You will never learn unless you try.
  • Be passionate- always. The world is an exciting place, if you are willing to embrace it.