Jesus Stopped My Vacation

Hey there, fellow reader mates!

Before I begin, let me just say I havenít written a regular blog since I was about sixteen. On my older sites, I used to keep a journal of my lifeówhat I was up to, what I was working on, what was the latest tragedy to hit my existence. I have to say I wasnít a fan of it. I found it to be a bit shallow, and I didnít feel there was enough focus on the projects I was working on. That being said, Iím not entirely sure what Iíd like to do with this blog. I donít want to give away too much of what Iím working on, but Iíd be more than happy to post about characters that youíre interested in, about my progress, maybe an interesting story about my life if it comes up. I figure we can start from there, and perhaps something might grow from it. I think a blog should have a little bit of everything. So letís start there.

The Personal Stuff

Plenty has been happening since the last time you heard from me. Iím in my early twenties now, and Iíve earned my Associate of Arts in General Transfer Studies. In other words, I have a general education degree. Iím about eight months away, at this point, from completing my Bachelorís degree in English at the University of MissourióSt. Louis. After I complete that program in spring of 2017, I may go on to pursue my Masters of Fine Arts. That, however, isnít a definite yet. I will have to see where life takes me. I now have three handsome nephews, Elijah, Evan, and Dominic. Eli is now eight years old and going into third grade. Last you all heard, I think he was probably in kindergarten, if that. Evan is almost two years old, and Dominic was just born in April of 2016. I still have my three dogs, Coley, Rizzo, and Cecilia. Coley and Rizzo are three years old now, and Cecilia is two years old. They are all still as spoiled as ever. You can see them on my Facebook page; they make a perfect cover photo. In addition, weíve also brought a kitten into the family. Long story short, we found him and his sibling outside of our garage in October of 2015. The sibling got away, but we were able to lure him into a cozy crate with some pieces of dog food and a fresh bowl of water. We took him to the vet and found out that he was a boy. He had to be treated for a mild outbreak of fleas and a moderate round worm infection, but he was otherwise healthy. For a week, I tried to give him away to friends, but in the end, heíd become so attached to us (and us to him) that we convinced my dad to cave. And now, Sebastian lives with us. He just turned one year old in July of 2016. He is the most mischievous, smug little kitten I have ever met, but he is also the sweetest, clumsiest, and smartest one too. When I find an apartment after I secure a day job, heíll be joining Cecilia and me. So while Iím no closer to engagement or marriage (though the relationship with Alex is going well and going on eight years in length), I have two fur-children. They keep me on my toes! Side note: Iím writing this in my dentistís office while I wait to get called backÖ. I have to have three or four cavities taken care of today. Donít ask me how that happened. Iím a hygienic freak. I suppose itís all the Pepsi.

The Professional Stuff

And now for the stuff you probably care more about: my writing progress! I would like to point out that my writing skills, in my opinion, have improved greatly. Of course, you, my readers, will be the ultimate judge, but what Iím writing now far surpasses that of ď2913Ē when it comes to the technical skill and craft. Letís blame years of practice, workshops, and writing prompts for that one. Thanks, educational system! As far as progress on novels goes, Iím lacking. Better than where I was last time we had a chat, but still lacking. ď2913Ē hasnít been touched yet. It is still sitting in my desk in its sad state of being. One of these days I will resurrect Joanna and Xavier and write them a fresh story (with the same basic plot) that does them justice. I promise itís on my list of projects to work on. Donít judge me. Instead Iíve been focusing on the monstrosity that is ďAleksanderís ArmyĒ. I would like to half ass apologize for the length of time this has taken (according to my Facebook, I started this project back in 2012). But as you know, novels canít be written in a year. Or even in five years, apparently.

To date, ďAleksanderís ArmyĒ has undergone four complete drafts and five complete edits. I still wasnít satisfied with it as of Halloween of 2015, so I decided to throw everything away and try again. So far, this fifth draft appears to be the ace in the hole. Everything is going smoothly, and my goal is to have this draft finished before January 1, 2017. How did I fix it, you ask? What did I change? Thatís easy. I picked up everything Iíd written for it thus far, and threw it into a metaphorical trash can, fire pit, whatever floats your boat. It wasnít the story that wasnít working, it was the plot structure. I started the story too soon, and I hadnít left enough time for the story to end. I decided to add a book in either direction: one before the war officially begun, and one that would bring the war to an end for this time period. Now the series is up to five books and one short story. Not a bad goal, I donít think. Especially for a debut series. I hear those tend to do better than singular novels (though had ď2913Ē taken off, I would have been more than ecstatic). So, thereís that. Iím sitting at about one third of the way to completion with this draft, and it has been completely outlined from beginning to end. Once I hit the half way mark, Iím going to start working on the outline for book two, which will be similar to the original format for book one. I hope you all stick with me for this journey. I promise you, this book will be epic. Iíve already had a few peer readers give me reviews and ask questions over what Iíve got down so far, and the reviews have been stellar. Hang in there, and I promise Iíll put out something worth waiting for (stop right there, you creepy people. That joke isnít allowed here. You know who you are. This is a professional site, for the love of Jesus. Sickos).

Story Time!

As it turns out, I do have a story for you all this time. Itís a magical story about a vacation I took with my family just a few weeks ago in July. Tell me if you find humor in this. I think Jesus was trying to tell me something.

The year is/was 2016, and my dad decided to take a weekís vacation in the middle of July. His birthday would be on that Saturday, and he wanted some down time leading up to it. In preparation for this week long vacation of Dad sitting in the house every day and doing whatever it is that dads do, my mom informed my brother and his wife that we would not be babysitting the boys that week. We would be in need of time off too. What we were going to do with that tie was uncertain. Maybe weíd go to the zoo, or the Black River. The goal was to get the hell out of dodge for a few days.

We ended up watching the boys for the first two days, but it wasnít a huge deal. Theyíre good kids, and theyíre all adorable. So, okay, thatís fine. That Wednesday, my mom decided to give this place in the Ozarks a call, Lodge of the Four Seasons. She and dad go there often for anniversary getaways, and they thought we might be interested in the wicked awesome indoor/outdoor pool and the little movie theater nearby. Unfortunately for us, there was only one room available: a small one bedroom room with two full size beds. Well, thatís not going to work for the price theyíre askingÖ Because there are four of us going, and my sister and I donít share the same air we breathe, much less a bed. I love her, butÖNo. So now what? Well, there are plenty of things that can be done in St. Louis. Thereís the river, the zoo, the science center, all that jazz. Letís do one of those things!

We woke up late on Thursday morning, so the Black River was out. Itís a two hour drive to get there from where I live, and when I say we woke up late, I donít mean we woke up at ten instead of eight. Try noon. Or one. So, whatís the next option? The zoo! My sister and I woke up and prepared for a day among the animals, cleaned the house, and ate a good breakfast of cinnamon rolls and Pepsi. My mom, however, had other plans. She made her way into the garage and started to do research on places to stay in the St. Louis area that had awesome events and activities. Surprise! Thereís this little place on the other side of the river in Grafton, Illinois called Pere Marquette, about forty five minutes away from my house. Itís a nature lodge that has winding trails, a giant chess board, an indoor heated pool, and a fancy restaurant. Nearby there are places to swim, go zip lining, eat homemade ice cream, and ride horses. Sounds great! And they have a room open! Pack your bags, feed your cat, and letís go! We throw a bunch of clothes in a bag, three days-worth or so, and head out. We open the garage? It starts stormingÖ

No matter. We drove all the way over to Grafton in the pouring rain despite the tornadic-looking clouds and flooding streets. We hit the sweet spot of Grafton where cell signal becomes a thing of the past, but the river view beside the road is beautiful (though hard to see in the rain, I must say). Finally, we pull into the lodge, get out of the car, walk inside, andÖ. They donít have power. The city of Grafton is as dead as that raccoon you saw on the side of the road yesterday. Despite this, we (Mom, especially) was determined to stay positive and make the best out of it. Maybe the power would come back on! So we check out the room (which was just as small as the one at Lodge of the Four SeasonsÖ *cringe*), and decide not to unpack. Instead we go out driving around Grafton and Godfry and Alton. We (and by ďweĒ I mean Dad and my sister) ate a late lunch at a small brewery with average food. Drove all the way back to the lodge andÖ.thereís no power.

At this point, weíd had an incredibly disappointing day, so we decided to turn around and make the forty five minute drive home. As weíre driving through the front edges of Grafton, all of the lights in the tiny houses came back on. Lovely! Weíd already cancelled the reservation! Do we go back, or do we go home? Ultimately we decided to go home and try again in the morning for a one-night stay instead, as the one person who was available to take care of the dogs and the cat was leaving to see our Georgia family the night after that.

Come to find out, when we got home, that while the city of Grafton had been restored, the lodge itself had not. We did eventually get to take our vacation. The power at the lodge came back on the next morning, and my mom was able to book a one-night stay in one of the fancy cabin suites, where my parents shared a queen bed and my sister and I were given bunk beds (I slept on the bottom bunk because I was too out of shape to climb to the top). We walked around Grafton, took several pictures, ate ice cream and bought some awesome Native American art pieces and souvenirs. My sister and I played a game of chess in the main lodge, and of course we went swimming. It was a wonderful vacation. And, courtesy of the restaurant located in the lodge, we discovered that their water heater for the kitchen had exploded through the wall going into two of the four public bathrooms! So, you might ask, was Jesus trying to keep us from going on vacation? Yes, it appears so. Because, had we been there when we were scheduled to be the first time, we would have been in that bathroom and possibly lost our legs. So thereís that!

Bonus content: the next morning when we left our little private paradise, we were excited and eager to come home and see our puppies and the kitten. We work ourselves up, walk in the door, the dogs are so excited. We let them go outside to go potty, and everything seems fine. I go to check on my kitten, who we leave locked in a comfortable little bed when we canít watch him (as I said, heís a disturber). AndÖ He urinated everywhere, and left me a giant pile of surprises in the back of his bed. Into the bath he went (and he was grateful for it too)! Apparently Sebastian isnít comfortable using the litter box for anyone but meÖ Did I mention I usually have to walk downstairs with him and stay nearby while he goes potty? Maybe itís because he was a stray, but he has odd little needs like that. It adds to his charm, I swear!

So, thereís the blog post Iíve been promising the lot of you since I was twenty years old. Hopefully Iíll be able to post on a regular basis. Fall semester starts on August 22, so if I fall off of the planet at any time, just trust that Iíll be back and that Iím drowning in finals or midterms. This was a joy to write, so I donít think keeping up with it will be too difficult.

Thank you so much for coming to hang out over here. I love and appreciate all of your support for my work. If you havenít explored the site yet, go check it out. Iíve turned the poetry section into a short fiction library, where my best short stories are available for you to read! Iím trusting you not to print them off and copy off of them. If that were to happen and I found out about it, I would have to find you, burn the copy, and sue you. And who wants that? I know I donít. Check back regularly for updates and cool stuff.

Best regards and a handful of lively puppies,

Kat Jenning // Shade Shadows

**Song of the month: Hello, Brooklyn -- All Time Low**

**pardon the lack of fanciness in the video. I wanted to use the official one from the band I chose**

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