Adjustments~~by John Nedwill

Just over three months ago, my daughter found herself a job. For the last four years – since leaving university, in fact – she had been looking for employment. Every day she would go through the same routine: winnowing the job alerts she had received in her email; logging onto the employment websites to see what was new. Every day she would apply for 10 jobs that she thought she could do. Ideally she wanted a job that reflected her skills and education; but, being realistic, she would also apply for other jobs. She would upload her CV, fill in the forms, push the ‘SUBMIT’ button, then wait.

Sometimes she would receive a reply thanking her for her application. Less often she would get an invitation for an interview. However, most of the time she was ignored. She would send off her details, then hear nothing more about it. It was a disheartening time for both of us. When COVID restrictions were brought in last year, the number of jobs available fell dramatically. Firms were not hiring new starters. Instead they were hunkering down and trying to weather the oncoming storm. But my daughter kept checking the internet, looking for work.

But, all things pass. As the COVID restrictions were lifted (we can debate the wisdom), the job market picked up again. My daughter sent off more applications and got offers of job interviews. Then, one day, while tapping away on my laptop, she called me.

“Hey, dad!”

I couldn’t read the tone of her voice over the tiny speaker, but it sounded like something important had happened. “What?” I asked her.

“I’ve got a job!”

My heart leapt. That night, the two of us had a small celebration. We ordered in pizza and toasted my daughter’s good fortune: me with a tumbler of whiskey, her with a bottle of milkshake. For the first time in months we felt good about the future.

And then reality hit. We had to get used to different arrangements. Mealtimes became fragmented. The house became too quiet during the day. We would maybe speak to each other for a quarter of an hour in the morning, then for an hour or so in the evening. It was very different from when we would go out for walks together in the afternoon, strolling along the path by the railway for our daily exercise. But we adjusted and established new habits.

Then, last week my daughter came to me. “Dad,” she asked. “How much are our household bills?”

“We’ve already discussed that,” I replied. “I’ve set your contribution.”

My daughter gave me that look that only children can give to their parents. “No, dad. How much do things cost?”

I took a deep breath. “Why?” But I knew the answer already. In the past we had both discussed the time when my daughter would eventually move out and become an independent adult. But that had been at some indeterminate time in the future. This conversation turned it from a possibility to an actuality.

I won’t pretend that I don’t have mixed feelings. In some ways I feel nervous, worried about the uncertainty of the future. In other ways I feel proud that my child has become her own person, confident enough to strike out on her own.

I’ll miss her. And she’ll miss me. But we’ll adjust.


OMP Admin Note:  John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #OneMillionProject Blogger.  His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Brain Health~~by Søvn Drake

The wife of my best friend from college is having a baby next week. Remembering what it was like to have a newborn, I can almost feel that gnawing pain of exhaustion between my eyes. I took three months’ leave after my son was born, but really I shouldn’t have been driving at three months post-partum, let alone going back to work. I love babies but babies are not good for your brain.

As writers we are acutely attuned to the state of our noggin. When it isn’t working, we aren’t writing. When we aren’t writing we aren’t happy. Then it becomes a chicken and an egg problem. If we aren’t happy it is hard to write. Then you are in the dreaded writer’s block situation. So today I thought I would talk a little bit about how to keep your brain healthy. A healthy brain equals a creative brain, one willing to write stories for you.

The information I’m going to share isn’t rocket science, it is advice your grandmother gave you. But there is good scientific evidence that taking certain measures may help your brain function properly well into old age.

Eat Your Vegetables

Our diet can affect our mood and cognition in numerous ways. A Mediterranean-style diet with plenty of green vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil and limited sweets and dairy may stave off dementia. I know when I make a colorful veggie stir fry it can pull me out of a funk. And while sugar makes me feel good at the moment, an hour later I’m lower than low.

Note to author: Don’t mention the tiramisu you are eating with your coffee while writing.

So don’t eat unhealthy foods (too often). Eat whole foods, nuts, berries, fish. Limit cheese and red meat. And alcohol? They say you can have one glass of red wine. Hmmm. Well, nobody’s perfect. Plus if you offset it by having a few with friends…

Note to author: You simultaneously digress, admit your weaknesses, and try to make excuses.

Do as I say, not as I do. Just try to drink less than your, er, friendly neighborhood doctor.

Move Your Body

Nobody needs to buy gym memberships. You can walk. With your feet. You should walk every day. Nothing helps me solidify plot lines like walking up a hill, and there are plenty of them here in Seattle. It’s almost as if when my heart beats faster and harder it moves the stagnant blood around my floundering brain cells. We were never meant to sit in front of computers all day. Our bodies were designed to play, hunt, and forage. On foot. Want to stay functional into old age? Walk. Every day.

Engage Your Brain

Sure, writing gives our brain a workout, but we need all types of mental stimulation. Social stimulation is as important as, if not more than, just doing puzzles and those cognitive stimulation apps on your phone which, despite their claims, have not been proven to prevent Alzheimer’s. So why not take a walk with a friend? Then you are doing two good things for your brain at once. If you really want to go for the trifecta, garden with a friend and grow and prepare some healthy vegetables.

Sleep

As I get older, sometimes it seems the world conspires to prevent me from getting a good night’s sleep. Or maybe I just didn’t care when I was younger. The good news/bad news is that when you exercise–especially outside with natural daylight to suppress your melatonin–and you eat healthy foods and you don’t drink too much, you sleep better. A lot of people get sleep apnea as they age. Get that treated. Having it can mimic symptoms of dementia and maybe lead to more permanent cognitive decline.

What Happens Next?

Our brains will age, just like the rest of our bodies. Cognitive aging is well documented and different for every individual. We may find it harder to assimilate new knowledge and it is easy to become a creature of habit. But science has shown humans can still flex their brains, learn, and even gain emotional intelligence well into their 80s. But if we want our brains to stay in shape, we have to treat them right and keep them engaged. Don’t succumb to your routines.

Change is the only certain constant after all. The world will change around us whether we like it or not. The only chance we have to keep up with it is by continuing to learn, meeting new people and trying new things. Otherwise we might find ourselves sitting in the corner shaking our fists at young people and their modern ways while the world passes us by.

Oh, and my dear old friend became a father at age 47 of a healthy baby boy during the three weeks it took me to finish this article. He and his wife are dreadfully tired and not thinking well at all. My initial intention was to conclude this article by telling people not to have babies in midlife, to preserve their brain health. However, I can see my friends are in love and have committed to a lifetime of connection and trying new things with the next generation. In the long run it was the right choice.


Søvn Drake is an emerging writer who can be found haunting coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. More about her and her writing can be found at: https://sovndrakestories.wordpress.com


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology

Gaps~~by Mark Huntley-James

Not too long ago, we watched a documentary on Japanese art, which highlighted negative space as one of the key concepts, the unmarked paper around the subject, enhancing and defining, creating detail from nothing.

Recent events and anniversaries have drawn my attention to some of the negative spaces in my life. Perhaps those gaps help to define me, and they are most certainly empty spaces left, but the are far from being unmarked paper.

As I write this, it is almost exactly twenty-nine years, to the hour, since Grandpa Stepney died, forty-four years since Grandpa James died, and almost twenty-four hours since our cat Oatmeal had to be euthanised by the vet.

There are plenty of gaps in my life, but those three will do for the moment.

It’s also eighty-one years since Grandpa Huntley died, but that was more than two decades before I was born, and leaves no sense of a defining gap.

Grandma and Grandpa James lived just around the corner when I was a kid, and were the go-to baby-sitters for myself and my sister, but Grandpa James was also the one who would take us to the park, and most importantly of all, he was the one who taught me how to ride a bicycle. Honestly, my memories of those times are patchy at best – ignoring the no cycling signs at the park, pedalling around the big concrete circle which I suspect was once the bandstand, and the magic moment when I no longer needed the training wheels. And then there was his tiny back lawn which he trimmed to create a road layout, with a junction and pole with three tin cans containing candles to be the traffic lights, blowing them out and lighting them as needed.

Grandpa James has been gone a long time, and the gap is small and faint, but it’s still there, outlining a part of my childhood.

Grandma and Grandpa Stepney lived in Sussex, a half a day’s drive away, and we would visit for Easter, and perhaps a week or two over the summer. Grandpa Stepney introduced me to his shed where he taught me how to solder and do basic wiring. I got to learn to use a drill and a file, although not quite to the exacting standards of his apprenticeship as a motor mechanic.

By the time Grandpa Stepney died, I already had my PhD in physics, in part due to him letting me loose in his shed to poke things around and understand how they worked.

As for Oatmeal, the gap is immediate and obvious. For the first half hour of the day I had a nagging sense that I had forgotten to do something, which was to give him his medication, and I am sure that it will be weeks or months until I stop checking before stepping round a corner in the house, because he always slept in the most inconvenient places – doorways, just around a corner, or perhaps on my shoes.

Now that Oatmeal is gone, I shall need something new to write about, because as my partner pointed out today, Oatmeal gets more entries in my blog than the other three cats combined. I’m not sure how exactly Oatmeal has defined and shaped me, aside from the physical impact of six kilos of cat, but the gap is there, wide and uncomfortable and unlikely to get shaded in any time soon.

I think perhaps those painful gaps in my life follow the style of the Japanese art in the documentary – you can pick out the spaces and try to identify what they mean, but that loses the totality of the picture.

My gaps have to be taken as a part of the whole, memories and experiences sketched in with the pencil of life, soft lines and hard shadows, variously blurred and faded with time.

As the automated voices on the London Underground will tell you, please mind the gap.


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third. His contribution to the One Million Project: Fantasy anthology is While We Were Sleeping.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


Our short story anthologies written by over 100 writers are now available (links below) with all proceeds being donated to the charity organizations our group supports.

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the complete anthology for FREE, and KU proceeds are donated along with the proceeds from the sale of our anthologies.

Our volunteer authors love to see reviews, and every review helps to make the One Million Project’s books more visible to Amazon customers, assisting us in our mission to raise One Million Pounds / Dollars for EMMAUS Homeless Programs and Cancer Research UK.

LINKS

myBook.to/OMPThriller

myBook.to/OMPFantasy

myBook.to/OMPFiction

myBook.to/OMPVarietyAnthology