In Defense of Daydreaming

People often ask writers where they get their ideas, a question I’ve always found interesting. What do you mean where do I get them? I don’t get them anywhere. They come to me. This isn’t to say they’re all generated by my mind from thin air. They’re a mix of day-to-day observations, knowledge gained from researching an interesting subject, and my own internal angst about something. But it usually starts with daydreaming.

As I was thinking about this post my mind began to wander. I went from daydreaming about being a bestselling author, to thinking about being Ernest Hemingway, to his quote about writing the truest sentence you know, to writing my own truest sentence in my head, to giving that sentence to a character. And now I have a book idea about a villainous puppeteer.

I wasn’t purposely looking for a new novel idea. It just came to me as I let my mind wander.

daydreaming meme

And it’s not just about coming up with book ideas. Here are some of my recent daydreams:

-Create YouTube channel with as many followers as John Green. Then sell as many books as him. Then be famous.

-Not only make a book trailer for my book, but also create a music video where I dance with the very famous actors who will star in the movie based on my book. (Don’t worry. I’ve got the choreography all figured out.)

-Open my own animal sanctuary and have hundreds of cats, squirrels, or whatever animal crawls/flies/swims its way into my heart.

-Learn to sail and then sail around the world. I’ve already envisioned what our boat will look like and what I’ll be wearing.

-Make dioramas of Chapstick tubes dressed to look like characters from movies and TV shows. This project is thoroughly sketched out, complete with caption ideas and props. I’ve got Jaws, The Breakfast Club, Poltergeist, Dexter, The Vampire Diaries… It’s going to be epic.

In some cases, I’ve taken the daydreaming a step further to actual planning and goal setting. But if we’re being honest, it’s likely I won’t actually accomplish all of these things.

So I think the next logical question is:

Well, if I’m not actually going to do all of these things, is it a waste of time to daydream about them?

I say no.

I believe daydreams help to shape my present and future. Maybe they provide me with tools I’ll use in the future, allow me to practice possible scenarios in my head, and identify possible tactics and solutions. They help me define my goals and figure out who I want to be in the future.

And for every handful of daydreams, I know I will make some of them come true:

-One day, I woke up and decided to write a book. I daydreamed about it, came up with a plan, and I actually did it.

-Logan realized that he loved woodworking. He daydreamed about it. I daydreamed about it for him (because I’m really good at it), and we decided he should quit his job and we should move to Maine so he could attend furniture-making school. We daydreamed, we planned, we moved. And here we are.

maine freeway sign

It was much warmer when we arrived…

And I know that while some daydreams won’t come true, they might lead to something else.

-Perhaps I never find the time to make my Chapstick dioramas, but maybe a character in one of my books does.

lip balm

I’ve already begun to collect them!

-Maybe I never have a hit music video with my famous actor friends, but I create a video of well choreographed dancing cats that I post to YouTube and use the proceeds to start that animal sanctuary.

cats sleeping

You guys better put your dancing shoes on.

So I say indulge in your daydreams–you never know what might come of it. And to the people who say daydreaming is a waste of time, I say pfft… where’s your story idea for a villainous puppeteer? Or more importantly, where’s your dancing cat video?

Lolita – The Loneliest Orca in the World and How I Failed Her

There once was a time I would roll out of bed, shower, get dressed, scarf down some breakfast, go to school, hang out with my friends and generally go about my day in blissful ignorance, fully unaware that my little society was anything but ideal.

It was a time when I actually believed that us modern day folk were more civilized, more humane than those who came before us. Sure there were those who did bad things, but they were usually caught and dealt with according to whatever law they violated.

I believed this for a long time even as cracks in the façade were revealed little by little. You mean the punishment for mutilating an animal is a mere slap on the wrist? You’re telling me the slaughter of animals for food is nothing like how my beloved dog is gently put to sleep?

As the years went on the cracks became huge chasms. I no longer live under the mass delusion that corporations and regulatory bodies do what is in my, or in any animal’s best interest. And yet, even with that realization, even with the huge chasm that has opened and allowed me to see how brutal our society really is, I’m still horrified on a weekly basis by some new act of animal cruelty–things like hog fighting and crush videos.

And today, I’ve realized that it’s more than the gut wrenching cruelty that makes me so upset.

-I’m upset because every time one of these stories breaks, I realize there is so much more out there that is still hidden, kept behind closed doors so the perpetrators can continue without backlash, without recourse.

-I’m upset because in many instances when these acts are brought to light, there is little anyone can or will do about them. Either the laws are inadequate, or the powers that be have no interest in upholding the law, or in making any real change.

-I’m upset because I believe most people want the delusion to continue. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to think about it. They don’t want to become angry about it, or feel like they should do something about it. I know I often feel this way. That’s why we all turn off the ASPCA commercials featuring Sarah McLachlan.

-I’m upset because no matter how much I love animals, and the fact that I would never hurt anything (all the spiders in my house are escorted outside, not squished), I realize that I am still complicit in their suffering, and I don’t think there will ever be a time when this won’t be true.

Even when I want to avoid products, services or industries that harm animals, the task feels insurmountable, it feels like everything is set up in favor of cruelty. From choosing shampoo, to medications and medical treatments, to clothing, to food, and entertainment, how do I monitor and track the companies to avoid, especially when the information is so hard to come by, and often misleading? How do I weed through the varying agendas to find the truth?

How do I help dogs, cats, horses, llamas, and elephants that are victims of negligence and abuse when the system is stacked against me? I donate when I can afford it, I tweet, I might post a Facebook message, but does this really do anything? I feel like there are so many problems, yet so few people who are both willing and able to do anything about it.

I fear the exploitation of animals is so deeply rooted and pervasive in our society that even if I am not an active participant, I will always be a participant nonetheless, as long as I continue to live and consume.

As most of my readers know, I’ve never blogged about such a serious topic. I’m usually blabbering on about potluck paranoia and why I can’t keep my house clean. But a story struck me a few weeks ago that I can’t let go.

It’s the story of Lolita, the orca who was stolen from the Puget Sound in 1970.

Lolita Miami Seaquarium

Miami Seaquarium by LEONARDO DASILVA via Flickr Creative Commons CC-BY-2.0

You can read her story here.

Her pod was targeted and attacked, so that the “collected” whales could be sold to aquariums for entertainment purposes. She was ripped away from her mother, along with seven other orca, and she is the only one of these orca still alive.

Lolita is now 20 feet long and lives in the smallest orca tank in North America, less than 60 x 80 ft. According to the federal Animal Welfare Act, the tank is illegal due to its small size, and it has no shade from the Miami sun; however, she remains there because the Seaquarium and its substandard tank have been grandfathered in.

Orca are highly sociable animals, living with relatives their entire lives, speaking a unique language that Lolita still understands. But Lolita is considered the loneliest orca in the world because her tank mate, Hugo, committed suicide in 1980, and she has lived without the company of another orca since then.

Lolita Miami Seaquarium

Miami Seaquarium by Ross Cobb via Flickr Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It’s been said that the City of Miami doesn’t want to do anything about it because of the revenue the Seaquarium generates for the city, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has yet to do anything to help Lolita (although that could be changing).

For decades activists have been trying to free her so that she can retire somewhere outside her fishbowl. In 2008, the documentary “Lolita, Slave to Entertainment,” was released to help further her cause. Multiple petitions have been created and signed, a rally was just held in Miami, calling for her release, and yet she remains wallowing in her whale puddle, the curator of the Seaquarium stating she will never be allowed to retire.

After reading Lolita’s story I immediately signed the petition on urging her release into a sea pen in her native waters (the full plan is here), just like I sign so many petitions on the website.

But after signing the petition and sharing on social media, I still couldn’t stop thinking about Lolita floating in her little fishbowl. Obviously, more outwardly brutal acts are committed every day, but there is something about that lone orca floating listlessly in a pool that really bothers me. Maybe it’s because she was stolen from her family for the sole purpose of doing tricks in a tiny pool, or maybe it’s because the people who claim to care for her are the ones committing this act of cruelty, or maybe it’s because the act is being committed in broad daylight–heck they’re charging admission for people to witness their cruelty first hand. So not only have they denied her her freedom and the ability to be with her pod, they’re profiting from it, and it’s being advertised in travel books. Maybe it bothers me because of the fact that we’ve let it go on for 40 years, completely oblivious to why this is wrong and taking no action to make it right. Lolita is the very example of American greed, consumerism, perhaps collusion, and how easy it is for a company, or an industry, to delude the public.

Although, what I really think bothers me about Lolita’s terrible tale is how well it illustrates my complicity in the mistreatment of animals, how as someone who claims to love animals, I failed her. How I allowed myself to be ignorant of her story and the stories of the other sea mammals “collected” from the wild. I’ve visited SeaWorld on multiple occasions without a second thought as to how the animals ended up there or what their lives might be like. And over the last few years or so, I’d heard rumblings about the sea parks and mistreatment of animals, but I looked away, not wanting to hear it.


Here I am in my 2011 souvenir photo.

But when I read about Lolita, I finally couldn’t turn away. I read about her capture, the protests, the hopes that one day she’ll be released. And I’ve read the Seaquarium’s statements against her release and I know this will not be an easy battle. I fear that just like with many other animal cruelty issues the law won’t be strong enough, or the organizations in power won’t take a stand. I fear that she’ll remain in that tiny pool, without another orca, until she dies. And while I think the odds are stacked against her, I have to try to do something, a small, but heartfelt effort to help.

So I decided to share her story, in hope of raising awareness, gaining support for her release, and, as I’ve realized while typing this, selfishly to feel like I’ve done something, while also coming to terms with my own shortcomings–an act of personal catharsis, knowing that even with this small action, I’ve likely still failed her.


If you want to speak up for Lolita, you can sign the petition here. You can also share her story on social media and boycott the Seaquarium and its sponsors.

For more information on the controversy surrounding the sea-park industry, you can watch the film, Blackfish, the story of Tilikum, a whale that was captured as a baby and has been involved in the death of three people while in captivity. For their side of the story you can read SeaWorld’s response to the film.

After writing this, I discovered there was another arguably even lonelier orca living in Canada. Her is name is Kiska and while Lolita has the company of dolphins (inadequate, but better than nothing), Kiska truly lives alone in a tank. If you want to help Kiska find a better living situation you can sign her petition here.

Living without a dishwasher (and how to cope with dish-dirtying aversion)

What is wrong with this kitchen? Look closely. Remember I am very lazy and messy. Your first thought might be that the kitchen is actually clean. And yes, that is quite the anomaly. But the real problem is (dun, dun, dun) the lack of a dishwasher.


I spent twenty minutes cleaning the kitchen just to take this picture … or maybe I just stuffed all the dishes in the oven … hmmmm… Perhaps one day the truth will be revealed.


Now I know many people don’t have dishwashers and they can be considered a luxury like fresh air and clean water. But I’ve pretty much had one my whole life and now I’m spoiled. And I’m already a messy person, so not having one just contributes to the ongoing messiness of the house.

See what I mean:


Maybe I just need more counter space to stack the dishes?

Because of the trauma that comes with seeing so many stacks of glass, porcelain, stoneware and plastic, and the trauma of having to spend minutes upon minutes with my hands immersed in warm water, furiously scrubbing last night’s mashed potatoes from each plate, I’ve developed what is considered a dish-dirtying aversion––I’m afraid of dirtying dishes. Every mug of tea, every bowl of cereal, every slice of pizza that is set on a plate equals (gasp) more time in front of the sink.

At first I tried to think of ways to fix the problem.

1. Not eat. Ha.
2. Use paper plates. Sigh. That would be bad for the environment.
3. Tape a sponge to MoJo the cat’s paw and set him to task. While the thought of making the cats finally earn their keep was enticing, I knew in the end it wouldn’t work. Their arms are too short and their work ethic is poor.

So I’ve developed a few coping strategies to minimize the dish-dirtying, and I will share in hopes of helping others who also suffer from dish-dirtying aversion.

1. I give you the “paper towel plate”

Anything that is stiff and dry works well on a paper towel plate. Think toast, bagels, cookies, crackers. Be warned that the paper towel plate is flimsy compared to the traditional plate and if not handled carefully crumbs can easily spill from the towel to the countertop or floor, thus creating a whole new mess and a potential floor-dirtying aversion.

2. Another solution I’ve used is the “plate repeat”

You see the same plate can be used more than once, especially if the same food item is being eaten each time. For example, when I make my husband a bagel sandwich for breakfast, I just wait for him to finish and then I plop my sandwich on the same plate. Ta da. Two meals, one plate. Your ability to implement this solution will be affected by the timing of meals (do you both want to eat at the same time?), the gooeyness of the meal (sometimes reusing a plate is just icky. Sometimes.) and your tolerance for pet hair (I’m not sure how it happens, but every used plate has at least one cat hair glued to it).

3. This is one of my favorites: “the package is plate”

By definition, “the package is plate” means the packaging that said food product comes in acts as the plate. It works with a can of chili (just dip the spoon right in), an apple pie still in its tin (put the pie on your lap and go to it), and leftovers from last night (just peel back the foil and dig in).

4. And lastly you can create a “mouth burrito”

This is an advanced move and should only be attempted by those who REALLY don’t want to do dishes. First you set out all your ingredients. Then pull off a small piece of tortilla and put it in your mouth, add a pinch of cheese, a spoonful of beans, and a squirt of hot sauce and then chew. Repeat as many times as needed to equal the consumption of a full burrito.

And there you have it. Jennifer Windram’s strategies for living in a non-dishwasher house. Any questions?

Our Holiday Decor Isn’t Perfect, Or Is It?

Last weekend we put up our Christmas décor and finally trimmed our tree. It was a casual affair, pajama pants and sweatshirts, leftovers and soda straight from the can. The guest list included the who’s who of the Maine Windrams: Me, my husband, and all three cats (yes, we got all three to attend).

We began with the décor we bought a few years ago, a time when we were inspired by magazine layouts, catalog ads and Lexus commercials. It was fresh, matching and super sparkly. All the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer–we spare no expense at the Windram house.

Matching garland went up above our windows, stuffed Santa’s and Snowmen on tabletops, festive towels in the kitchen.

Then I unpacked the hobby horse. Logan made it when he was eleven or twelve. When I look at it I can’t help but picture him wearing a Guns N’ Roses T-shirt, almost sawing his finger off.

Hobby Horse

One look at this and I knew Logan was destined to be a woodworker.

This, along with some of the other older, non-matching décor used to be displayed in their “own” part of the house, so they didn’t mess with the vibe of the sparkly new items from the big box store. But in our new place, there’s no room for that–it would all have to be displayed together.

Next, I unraveled a wad of newspaper and found these. They belonged to Logan’s grandmother. At first I thought they were angels because of the rings around their heads, but now I think they might be choirboys. Regardless, they come out every year, and while at first I thought they were weird (and they didn’t go with our store bought décor so they were put in the other part of the house), I’ve grown to really like them.


Don’t mind our macaroon shaped heads; baby, we were born this way.

After pausing to sit on the couch and eat half a deep-dish cookie, we trimmed the tree.

During our shopping frenzy a few years ago we also invested in boxes of matching ornaments, shiny new ones that gave our tree that designer, magazine look. Again, the best Target and Hobby Lobby had to offer.

Our older, non-matching, oddball (read lesser) ornaments were relegated to the smaller tree (yes, we have two trees, three actually), where they wouldn’t interfere with the perfection that was the big tree.

But this year, in an effort to keep our moving expenses low (Ha!), we only brought one tree with us. And in a moment of whimsy (I believe brought on by the deep-dish cookie) we decided to hang both the oddball and the perfect ornaments on the same tree.

And it was marvelous.

teddy bear ornament

A brown teddy bear ornament right next to a sparkly blue snowflake. The might even be touching–scandalous!

Moose ornament

A plush moose next to a blue and white, sparkly ornament. These two haven’t reached the touching phase of the relationship, but we’re working on it.

This “ornament” was made last year. I’d forgotten all about it until Logan hung it proudly on our tree.

Ornament fail

I might not be perfectly shaped, but I’m still made of styrofoam and yarn like the other wreaths.

It was supposed to look like this:

wreath ornament

And now as I sit here enjoying our festive décor, I’ve realized it’s the oddball, mismatched items that I like best. They make me smile, remember the past and get all nostalgic. And while our house no longer looks like it could be in a magazine, I think it looks better. And it comes with a partially eaten deep-dish cookie.

The Time I Had Botulism, Sort Of … Okay, Not Really

So botulism is this super scary disease caused by Clostridium botulinum spores that create a toxin when exposed to a low oxygen environment. When eaten, the toxin can cause blurred vision, weakness and paralysis, which can affect the respiratory muscles and result in death. It also has been known, in at least one case (mine), to cause an unprecedented level of paranoia. Here are the facts of my case:

A 37 y.o. female was exposed to a puffy pouch of Friskies Gravy Sensations on 11/13/14 at approximately 8:25 a.m.

Cat food

I think the food was tainted when MoJo got into the cupboard and bit through some of the pouches. I thought I threw them all away, but obviously not.


She reports that the pouch seemed a little puffier than normal, but proceeded to open it anyway because she likes to live with one toe on the wild side. Upon opening it, she noted the meaty chunks of chicken (read: all the less desirable parts of the chicken, and maybe a few bits of mouse too) appeared to be a little off, meaning the chunks were a paler version of the chunks poured from the non-puffy pouch, and they exuded a malodorous, well, odor.

Being the slightly paranoid individual that she is, she was already aware of the dangers of eating food from puffy and leaking cans. Sadly, before opening this pouch, she had not applied what she knew about cans to pouches. Now, the pouch was open, with undeniable evidence that it had been tainted.

Half of the pouch’s contents had already been poured into one of the cat’s bowls, mixing with the normal, untainted chunks of food (read: still filled with the sketchy parts of the chicken and probably peppered with bits of mouse, but slightly less malodorous and the chunks were still dyed to appear like real pieces of meat).

Being the very caring cat owner that she is, she immediately dumped the contents in the trash and gave the bowl a quick wipe down. A new, non-puffy, pouch was pulled from the cupboard and the cats were fed their breakfast.

That’s when things went terribly wrong. The woman proceeded to situate herself in front of the computer, with the internet browser open and ready to locate any and all articles that would evoke the level of fear and paranoia, that only sites like WebMD can evoke.

Today’s culprit turned out not to be WebMD, but the CDC. Now we all have been quite aware of the recent Ebola outbreak and the corresponding push by the CDC and other government agencies to quell any fear or panic that might erupt in the general population. Interestingly, the CDC has chosen a different route when it comes to the handling of food potentially contaminated with Botulism.

As example:

On the Consumer Information and Resources page, the CDC says Foodborne botulism is a rare, but serious illness.

Okay, rare was good. The woman could handle rare. But then the CDC took it to the next level.

“Even taking a small taste of food containing this toxin can be deadly.”

Hmmm. That sounded worse. Even a small taste can cause infection. Well, the woman knew she hadn’t eaten any of the cat food. She just dumped it in the trash, ran the bowl under the faucet and dried it with a paper towel. That couldn’t be a big deal, right?

To dispose of potentially contaminated foods, the CDC recommends the following:

“Put on rubber or latex gloves before handling open containers of food that you think might be contaminated.”

What???? Gloves? The woman was now in a state of panic. She didn’t wear gloves!

“Avoid splashing the contaminated food on your skin.”

Her mind flashed back to her sloppiness when doling out the food. The “gravy” dripping down the spoon, onto her fingers and landing on the counter. Then a quick wipe with a paper towel to clean it up. She was certain she hadn’t even washed her hands. Impending doom consumed her soul.

The CDC then says to “place the food or can in a sealable bag. Wrap another plastic bag around the sealable bag. Tape the bags shut tightly … Wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 2 minutes after handling food or containers that may be contaminated.”

Um, does it sound like touching contaminated food is like coming in contact with nuclear waste?

The CDC also includes a very detailed process for cleaning potentially contaminated counter tops, which involves bleach, 5-10 paper towels, soap and water, and at least 15 minutes of processing time for the decontamination to be complete.

Holy cow, the woman thought. Gloves, bleach, double bagging, a full two minutes of hand washing! All for slightly off cat food chunks. Of course, the woman had done none of these things prior to opening, handling and discarding the pouch of certain death.

A cleansing spree ensued, and the woman bleached everything including her cat’s tongues (not really, but it was considered), the trash was removed from the house, and she scrubbed her hands and face for four minutes each just to be safe.

And then the countdown began: 18 – 36 hours for the symptoms to appear. 18 – 36 hours of utter paranoia. Every itch, twitch, weird swallow meant the beginning of the end, or at least a trip to the ICU for a little time on the ventilator. A vigil was held for the cats as well. Were they walking normally? Scratching the couch with full gusto? Did one of them puke on the floor and not directly in her shoe? A little more research on the internet showed that for the most part cats were pretty much immune to botulism.

Black cat in box

Celebrating her immunity by sitting in a box.

At midnight that night, the woman woke herself to ensure she was still alive. When morning came she tested her cranial nerves.

As the day progressed, the paranoia lessened. The woman even forgot about her impending doom long enough to write a few thousand words. The next day she only thought about her botulism infection 20 or 30 times. And now a full week later it seems the botulism only infected her brain, causing great anxiety and mental paralysis, but never fully resulting in any muscular paralysis. And sadly, none of it made it to her face, where her crow’s feet and forehead wrinkles could use a little smoothing out.

By the way, I “won” NaNoWriMo. Over 52,000 words in 30 days!

Moving With Cats (or why has our whole world come crashing down around us?)

Today I’m going to use a few drawings to illustrate what it was like moving across the country with our three cats. Because my rendering of said cats will simultaneously make it appear that they all look the same, yet always a little different, I’ve gone ahead and given each cat its own identifier:

MoJo – He is the gray male cat. You will recognize him because he is wearing a top hat and his collar says, “Boy.”

Olive – She is the chubbier of the two female cats. You will be able to identify her by her round torso.

Lindie – She is the other female cat and is often considered my favorite. Shh. Don’t tell the others. She will have little hearts floating around her at all times to signify her status as the favorite.Cats

Okay, so now to the story. We began our preparation for the big move like any family would. For months we talked about all the things that needed to be done, created lists, and packing strategies. We then spent the final week essentially dumping the contents of all our drawers into boxes.

This was also the cats’ favorite part of the move. There were boxes to hide in. Human trinkets littered the floor and morphed into playthings to be batted under the couch.

Cats and boxes

Little did they know, all the trinkets would soon be in the boxes and they’d be left with a single blanket on the floor for them all to share.

empty house

They spent a lot of time fighting for the blanket and staring wide-eyed at the empty house.

At this point they thought they’d experienced the worst of it. But then their worst fears were realized: the rise of the carriers.

cats hate carriers

MoJo and Olive were placed side by side in the back seat. Lindie’s carrier was placed on top of Olive’s. Like this, but not really:

moving with cats

The one in the top hat wailed like a wounded child for about an hour and then they were silent. I assume this is because they were communicating telepathically.

traveling with cats

Once we arrived at the hotel, we let them explore their new world. See, kitties, it’s like an adventure. People travel to new and different places all the time. They actually do it for fun. Give it a try…

cats in hotel

cats in hotel

After two more days of driving, we arrived at our new abode. We set the kitties loose again, but this time the experience was much different.

cats in new home

And then a few months later…

cats in new home

was it just a dream


And a NaNoWriMo word count update: 21,586 words written so far! Not too bad for a lifelong procrastinator :)

It’s Not the Getting, It’s the Returning

I love to get things. I’ll happily go to the store and purchase a pair of fuzzy pajama bottoms or a new bathroom organizer that will do nothing but sit on the wall taunting me with its messy shelves and utter lack of organization.

The problem comes when something has to be returned. See. The getting is so easy, but the returning is soooo hard.

Overboard DVD

A DVD that was “borrowed” and never returned.


Clothes ordered online that didn’t quite fit right, but were never returned.

oil can

The oil can we borrowed from our landlord and have yet to return. She lives downstairs.

shower rod

The shower rod we bought for … I can’t remember why … and still haven’t returned.

Fault in Our Stars Book

The library book I’ve yet to return.

So what is it? Why am I so bad at returning things?

My best guess – The thrill of getting is way more powerful than my desire to sit on the couch. And there is no thrill in returning.

Cue the awkward segue: Is there anything else more powerful than my desire to sit on the couch?

Yes! NaNoWriMo.


I’m joining the band of crazy people who have decided it’s a good idea to write a novel in a month. That’s 50,000 words in 30 days folks. At the end of November I’ll have 50,000 words added to my novel. It will be glorious. And you know what else is glorious? I can do it while sitting on the couch!

If anyone wants to be writing buddies, let me know :-)