Tuesday, December 11, 2018

And Done...

Well that's that. The last piece I submitted this year was rejected. I reached my goal. Not rejection, but submissions. I set out to submit three pieces and I did. And all of them were summarily dismissed. Which I expected.

Though I am going to admit this one stings a little. I actually thought I had a shot with this one. When you do contests, or journal submissions you look at archives and see what type of stories they usually accept. Now, I rarely fit their niche. I still submit but I think what I've got fits their theme, or I really like it, or I just need to get three pieces out in to the world and this totally counts...but...usually I can see that my chances are not good.

Most of these places like literature. Things that you feel a little dumber while you are reading them because they are so fancy. Let's be honest here, pretentious pieces. It happens. There are a lot of books out there like that. A LOT. And they aren't my favorite. But they work for a lot of people, obviously, or they wouldn't be published. But I prefer the smaller stories. The characters. The quirky and the odd.

Which is where this latest submission came in. I read a few of their things and though I had some misgivings (I'll circle back) I really thought I had a shot. It's super flash fiction. Fewer than 250 words. Themed. And they were a quirky online journal. Now here is where my misgivings came in. There was a lot on there that seemed quirky for quirkies sake. And a lot that were really boho. I live in Portland, I grew up with the hippies of Albuquerque art scenes I know some boho...but it's not where I thrive. But I still thought, I've got a quirky little story that I think will work really well.

Submitted and waited. And waited. And waited. Now this gets me everytime it happens. A quick rejection is easier. No time to get your hopes up. And in the case of just straight up submitting for publishing (no contest or journal deadline) you sometimes get ZERO response at all which also sucks, but if it's a contest or a journal like this one and you don't hear back and don't hear back and it's getting closer and closer to the deadline you start to get your hopes up a little. Like surely they are passing me up the chain right now marvelling at their great fortune in finding such a new and shining talent!

But, alas, no...I got the rejection today. It was the sweetest rejection ever. Told me how brave I was to submit and how it wasn't me, it was them. See, my story just didn't fit their theme that was all.

Which made me laugh. Because of all the excuses you could give me that I would believe, that wasn't one of them. But oh well...at least it means I got another blog out of this and I think that puts me one away from my goal for this year so that's good.

Oh and their theme? Love letters.

And here is my piece:


Love Letters

She opened the letter and smiled. Then she pressed it against her heart and smiled again. “Someone is happy. What does it say?” Her friend reached out to take the note from her.  Reading it. Confused. “What does that mean?” 
She smiled even bigger.
When she was a child she used to make up stories in her head about everything around her. Numbers; 7 was in love with 8 but she was in love with the number 9 and would have nothing to do with him so he spent his whole life jealous not realizing that 5 was in love with him.  She realized that not everyone did this when she mentioned it in class one day and everyone laughed.  It didn’t stop her from making up the stories, but it did stop her from sharing them.
Until she told him that her favorite letters were B and W because they were b and v doubled and mirrored. Two letters that had loved each other so much that they had made themselves in to one letter to be together forever.
“I don’t get it.  Just the letter B with a question mark. B? What does that mean?”
“Everything.”
She wrote back that day. W!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

We Aren't Designed For This...

Brent and I went to a Christmas show today. It was okay, not great, not horrible, just okay. But part of it is probably one of my favorite theater experiences I've had in a long long time.

The show consisted of two parts, the first part was a recitation of a Truman Capote short story. It was well done. A one man show basically. Well acted, well performed. Moving story. If you like stories that are just slice of life sort of pieces, which I do, so it worked for me.

The second part was winter songs. Not necessarily holiday, but some holiday, but winter feeling songs. Songs about going home. Those sorts of things. And this part was one guy at the piano and two performers. The guy that did the Truman Capote story and a woman. They sang and told stories. Lovely voices. Stories that were memories of their lives and past holidays.

So one of these stories was from the guy. He talked about being in London when he was young. He was on his own and headed to a hostel for the evening. He had just gotten off the tube and was jostled in the crowd. Realized a few feet later that he hadn't been bumped, he'd been mugged. So the money he was going to spend at the hostel was gone. He was broke. There was a piano there from one of those "Art Everywhere" installations and he sat down to play. Put his hat down to collect some money, hopefully enough for his night in the hostel and maybe a beer. He sang the song he sang that day and talked about the hope in his heart at Christmas. Well he finished his song and turned to collect his take and...someone had stolen his hat. So now he is going to sleep in the train station. With zero money and the same amount of faith in his fellow man.

And he left the stage. Ended the story on that note.

The audience didn't know what to do with that. At all.

You could feel it. The AND?? reaction. They were waiting for the happy ending. They wanted him to say "and then the millionaire gave me tickets to fly home on his private jet" or "and that's the night I met the love of my life." To be perfectly honest, I was not. As soon as he said he put his hat down I thought, someone steals his hat. Because that's how I would write the story. I loved this moment in the theater. The waiting. The reaction from the audience. The waiting feeling for the "more" part. The happy ending. The ending that wasn't coming.

It's often how I write the story. There is no happy ending. Or even a tidy one. I leave things open ended. Or sad. Or awful. Because that's the way life works.

We are all programmed to look for that happy ending. Or that tidy one. The one where every problem can be solved in 20 minutes. Or if it's a feature film two hours.

I see it playing out in real life all of the time. It's part of why I have been couching my posts about the latest Trump revelations with "I don't think anything will come of this." We want there to be lines that are drawn. Good guys and bad guys. And we really want the bad guys to be punished. And that often doesn't happen in the real world. If the bad guys have enough money they don't ever face consequences. In this case the establishment that can bring about charges will most likely not because they need him. They want him just where he is so they can do what they want. He's useful to them so they don't care about right or wrong in this case. The ends justify the means.

It happens most of the time. You would think we would be used to it.

But we aren't.

We crave happy endings. Where the good guys are rewarded, the bad guys are punished and there are clear lines showing us who the good and bad guys are. Those are the stories we tell ourselves.

Except for you all. You who read my stories. Where there isn't always a tidy ending. Where a simple happy ending is a rare treat.

Just think of it as me preparing you for the world. You wouldn't sit in that audience and think AND?? Where is the rest of the story? You'd just be glad he didn't crush his fingers in the piano.

You're welcome.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Pre-Gaming...

Or pre-goaling as the case may be.

Starting to look at 2019 goal ideas. I have one new one so far. Have you heard of MasterClass?  Here's a link if you have and you want to sign up, I get three free months if use my code, full disclosure. :-) Click HERE if you decide to do it.

Anyway, so it's the first thing on my goals list. I signed up because they are going to have a course from Neil Gaiman and Brent convinced me I would regret not taking it. So anyway, when I decided to sign up I did the full year and figured I would get as much out of it as possible. So a class a month. BOOM! First goal.

Then this led to thinking maybe a themed year of goals? Maybe I spend a whole year just focusing on writing and education? Not sure yet. But it's an idea.

I'm also starting to look at last year's goals and figuring out what I've hit and what I've missed. I won't really get serious about that for a few weeks and of course I'll post the recap blog at the end of this month. But what the pre-review shows me is what I really cared about doing. The ones that were important to me I made a priority and finished. The others? Well...let's just say that living painting is STILL not done...

But in setting next year it helps to know what I cared about this year. Not every goal should be a comfort zone one, there needs to be stretching, but there is no point in setting goals I will never hit because I don't really care about them.

One of this year's big goals has actually helped in that area a lot. Sorting my old blogs gave me a chance to re-read them and see the areas where I've worked really hard in the past to convince myself I cared about certain things. The things I sort of feel like I should care about, or be better at but I just don't and I'm just not. So I think that might be a goal for next year as well. To let go of those things. To stop trying to convince myself that I really should do x, y or z.

I'm not sure yet.

I did actually have the November stretch, as I always seem to, where I seriously considered having zero goals for next year. No brass rings to reach for. No stars, no stickers, no lists. And as it always does, in November, it really sounded kind of cool. Then I remembered who I was and laughed and laughed and laughed. Let go of x, y or z, put that on a list!

So why am I writing this today? Surely not because I still need a handful of blogs to reach the 2018 goal...surely not that...Okay, maybe a little of that. But honestly if you are reading this tell me what you are going to work on for 2019. I'm curious and I'm not above stealing a good idea. So let me know, what do you want to accomplish in 2019?

So far I'm taking MasterClasses
I'm letting go of more of what I'm not (#fiftyisnifty)
I'm sticking with Daily Gratitude
I'm sticking with #selfiesaturday
And....hmmm...what else?




Friday, December 7, 2018

Planning Time!

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four


"There he is!" James gestured toward the door as Andrew rushed in to the bar to meet them.

"Sorry about that, I got held up."

Carrie nodded, "James said you were at the menorah lighting. No big deal."

"Except that was over like an hour ago..." James pointed out.

"Be nice."

"I am being nice. He's just late."

"Sorry, I know it. I do feel badly but I ran into someone there and I was just going to say hi but then we started talking and I totally lost track of time. I'm really sorry. But you have my full attention now."

Carrie looked at James and smiled a little, "Well actually now you have our full attention, who did you run into that was able to distract you for an hour?"

"Just someone..." Andrew could feel himself starting to blush. For some reason his brother's fiance could make him feel like a little kid again.

"Just someone..." Carrie smiled again, "Was she pretty?"

Andrew shook his head, "No. Stop it, it's not like that. I mean, it's not that she isn't pretty, she is, but we were just saying hello. I wasn't saying hello just because she's pretty, but she is pretty, but that isn't why."

James nodded, "Makes perfect sense."

"Stop it. Look, I'm late. I'm sorry. Let's move along, shall we?"

Carrie let her future brother-in-law off the hook. "Okay. For now."

James reached into his computer bag and pulled out a binder. "This is the last minute checklist for the wedding. It's all pretty much dialed in. Venue, time, minister, cake, all of it. Just need to do the follow ups."

"I still can't believe you guys are getting married on Christmas Eve."

"Just be glad I talked her out of Christmas Day."

Carrie beamed, "Christmas is my favorite. Why wouldn't I want to get married at Christmas? You knew that before you even asked me out, James, so really what did you expect?"

James laughed, it was true he had known about Carrie and Christmas for years before they finally decided to risk their friendship with a date. But he was glad he had talked her out of Christmas Day. And glad they found a place that would do a Christmas Eve wedding. And that their friends all agreed to give up a piece of their afternoon that day to come. It was going to be a beautiful wedding. He knew guys didn't normally get that excited about the wedding, but he really had loved all the planning, he was going to make this the perfect day for Carrie.

"Okay, so what all do you need me to do? It looks like it's all locked in?" Andrew was as impressed as ever with how organized his brother was.

"Just make some calls to double check everything and then next week we will go in for our tuxes. It's almost time."

Carrie looked at the list that James was giving to Andrew and smiled. It really was going to be perfect and everything was well in hand. "Okay, now tell us about the pretty girl who was so distracting."

Andrew smiled and shook his head, he should have known he wasn't going to get away that easily. "James, you remember the girl from Julianne's party?"

"The one that needed some more self esteem?"

Andrew kind of looked pained, "Yeah, that...seems she had a bunch I didn't know about."

--------------

Lauren walked home from the menorah lighting smiling to herself. She hadn't expected to run into anyone that she knew there but especially not Andrew. And she was pretty sure she hadn't imagined the look on his face when she talked about breaking up with Tyler. She'd have to give him a call after the new year and see about getting some coffee. Dating during the holidays was not on her list at all. But maybe the new year would bring new things.




It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...

The fog was especially thick. Two feet in front of your nose seemed a stretch. But they weren't worried. They had been through worse. Just trust and follow. The beacon of safety was glowing ahead. Leading them clearly. It was always an amazing thing to see.

When traveling through fog time takes on a twisted shape. Like it can't see its way through clearly either. You think no time at all has passed and then realize it's been hours. Or you think it's been hours and realize it's only been a few minutes. Time gets lost in the fog as easily as everything else.

But still how long had they been flying? It really did seem like they should be landing soon. And it was getting really cold. Shouldn't their first stop have taken them someplace warmer?

Rooftop? Did this feel like a rooftop? It feels like a cliff edge. And what is that sound? Wolves? Surely not wolves. There should be carolers. Maybe jingle bells. And the smell of freshly baked cookies. Not...what was this smell? Fear?

Blitzen felt the laxness in the line first. The lead had been unhooked.

"What's going on, buddy?" Nothing infront of him. Not even a glow.

Then they all saw it. The faint tinge of red in the fog and the clouds flying away. Leaving them stranded. No idea where they were. How to get out safely.

"Who's laughing now?"

---------

"HO! HO! HO!"

Rudolph shook his head clearing it of the daydream. Time to get to work.  But one day...one day they'd play his reindeer games.

Snowflakes...

So I'm sure you guys have seen it, those soft, candyass, easily insulted snowflakes are at it again. This time it's over a song and a kid's Christmas special. I swear to god they just take everything so fucking personally and try to ruin EVERYTHING.

Who the hell cares if a radio station you've never heard of won't play a song you probably don't even like? And honest to fuck when was the last time you even watched Rudolph? You seriously want to have a fit because someone else doesn't like these things? Really? In the season where people keep insisting that fruitcake is edible this is the hill you want to die on?

Oh...wait, you thought I'd be bitching about those damn millennials right? Yeah, no. And trust me when I say I get how ironic this blog is, because I don't care what other people like or don't like and I do not get the joy people take in getting offended at other people's offendedness. Seriously. Who the fuck cares?

First off the song, I like it. I've always liked it. My favorite version is probably the version with Ella Fitzgerald. It's been part of my Christmas playlist forever. I've always thought of it as kind of sexy and playful. When Christopher was in high school (or possibly first year of college) he questioned my love for it. Made me stop down and really listen to the lyrics again. It led to us having a discussion about changing norms. And how when the song came out, and even when I was growing up, it didn't seem problematic at all. I was raised in a situation where women were responsible for not only their own sexual desires but also the men around them remember, and the woman is the one facing the backlash to her reputation. She needed to "put up the fight." Christopher pointed out that that is part of our problem now. We've raised generations of boys to men who think that no means maybe.

And he's right.

In a modern context the song has real issues.

But historically it doesn't.

But he doesn't have that history. He was raised by a mom who told him no means no and to be extra careful when alcohol is involved because a tipsy yes the night before can turn into an oh no that's not what I wanted the next day. So for him, the fact that I love a song about getting drunk and saying no/yes was weird.

I get it.

I still like the song. But I get it. I understand why it's weird to him. And I understand why it's weird to other people in his generation. I'm not mad at him. I'm not insulted by them. I listened, I understood the issue he had, I will not make him listen to the song. But I'll still belt it out when he's not around.

That's the way it's supposed to work when you have different ideas. Listen to their whys and how comes and then make your own choices. The radio station (or stations as it spreads) that aren't playing the song anymore made their choice. Now you have to turn to the hundreds of versions that are out there in the world and listen to them on your own. Oh how horrible...

The TV show? Come on. You want to tell me that you never thought to yourself the same things? We watch a lot of Christmas movies and have our favorites. And though we love Yukon Cornelius and The Bumble and I have a soft spot for the Island of Misfit Toys we've always called this one the one where Santa is a dick. Because he is. And the whole message of Rudolph is that if you are different people are going to be assholes to you until they figure out that your difference is something they need, then they will celebrate you and act like they didn't shove you in a locker in 9th grade...

It's the geek fantasy in stop motion. You know the one, you've seen it in movies and read it in books and maybe lived it in your head. The one where the dork from high school goes on to make a million and show up at their high school reunion with the great car, the nice suit and the hot wife? Or the one where the awkward girl takes off her glasses and becomes a beauty queen? (yeah, let's delve into the problems with those later)

Rudolph is that story.

If you want your kids to watch that's up to you. If you take what Huffpo post in a video so seriously that you need to call liberals mentally ill you should probably take a bit of a media break, Tucker Carlson I'm side eyeing you right here.

Again, we watch it. Sometimes. But it's not our favorite. Because it's the one where Santa is a dick. We prefer Santa Claus is coming to town where Santa finds a hot wife and The Year Without a Santa Claus where The Heat Miser and Cold Miser sing wonderful songs while Santa's still hot, but older now, wife saves the fucking day because Santa got a cold and didn't want to get out of bed....

 So just stop. Stop buying in to the outrage machine. Just because someone doesn't like something you do you don't have to get mad. Just because someone else is offended by something doesn't mean you have to care. You can listen, try to see why they are bugged, that's polite, but you don't have to agree, and you surely don't have to find their offendedness so offensive that you have to get defensive about it.

Let it fucking go.

The millennials aren't ruining your Christmas by not liking Baby It's Cold Outside or Rudolph. They are only ruining your Christmas if they insist on bringing you fruitcake.



Monday, December 3, 2018

Civility Schmivility...

I just finished Ben Sasse's book Them: Why We Hate Each Other--And How to Heal. It was interesting in parts and very frustrating in others. Part of the frustration was directly due to the Why part. The whole we just do not see the world in the same way. Now, to be fair, he does own up to it a bit at the beginning of his book. He says that he's a conservative dude so his examples are from a conservative mindset.

It's part of why I wanted to read the book. And why I kept reading it even when I found it to be more frustrating than really helpful. I think Ben Sasse is a really reasonable guy. I think that he wants what is best for the country. I think he's got a good heart, and he's pretty smart as well. I always enjoy listening to him on radio programs and television shows. In fact the first time I heard him on NPR a few years ago I posted about him, that I might have finally found another old school style republican that I could vote for again. Because of all of that I've looked in to him a bit more and I've paid attention to him. I wouldn't vote for him. He's very conservative, I'm not. But I like him. I think he's genuine. Though we don't agree on policy or methods I think we would agree on a lot of other basic things.

But even with all that. Even thinking to myself that he's smart and concerned and a good guy he still did the blinders thing. While writing a book about how we need to get rid of the blinders. He used examples of outrages on the left that have been debunked. It makes me so frustrated when that happens. Because I cannot have an honest discussion with someone (or read their book with an open mind) if they are not willing to let go of ideas that have been proven false.

And yes, I know, the left does it too. Got it.

Which is, as you know, one of my BIGGEST pet peeves. Whataboutism. Even before I had ever heard the term Whataboutism or Bothsiderism I had been railing against it. It makes me crazy to see people excuse bad behavior because the other side has done it, or worse. What does that have to do with anything? You wouldn't accept that excuse from your child you shouldn't make it for your politicians.

But anyway...Ben Sasse had a little of that going on in his book and it made me read the rest with a healthy dose of side eye. That and his recommendations for how we fix our current problems seemed to be we all become conservative, religious, republicans...so umm...yeah...no. But he still sits on the bench with "Republicans I would be friends with." It used to be a pretty good sized bench, bleachers really. Now I wonder. But part of that is because a lot of the people that used to sit there moved to the "Independents" benches. They are waiting out the change in their party. I get that.

So speaking of that middle space...

While I was finishing up Ben Sasse (Sassypants as I am calling him, it's okay, he'd be fine with it, we could totally be friends) President Bush (the elder) died. First there was the traditional rest in peace posting. Then came the legacy posting. He had been ill for a long time so these were all pretty much ready to go. Which is slightly morbid on one hand, but also kind of nice on the other. He had enough of a legacy that people worked on them ahead of time to get the tone right. To cover what they felt was important to know. And then after those came the inevitable "OH NO! He's awful and here's why!" posts. It always happens with politicians. And often happens with anyone else. I mean Stan Lee got just over a day of mourning before the "here's all the awful stuff you are forgetting" posts. It makes me crazy. It's not the time nor the place. Give it a rest. Talking to C about it and he put it really well he said it's like people think if they don't get their correct the public record posts out right away the person who died will be cemented in history as perfect.

And that's not how it works. Not at all. There will be lots of histories written about George HW Bush. Lots of things that cover the whole of his life. The good and the bad. And there is plenty of both. How you feel about him depends entirely on what you focus on. I've always been a champion for him. He took the blame for Reagan's Voodoo Economics (even though that's his own term and he KNEW it wouldn't work, he still gets the blame for when it didn't work) and he doesn't get the credit for the things he did to stop the hemorrhaging and put back in some regulations and basically start us on the road to recovery which hit full force during Clinton's years so he get credit. (Whataboutism/Bothsiderism...right now the people trying to claim that Trump is fully responsible for the recovery last year and the year before are doing the same thing that people who tried to give Clinton all credit for Bush's work did. Trump and Clinton both added a few things, but both benefited from the previous administrations work) But I could just as easily find him to be the worst person ever because of how he handled (or didn't handle as the case may be) the AIDS crisis.

Considering how near and dear to my heart that is I could just put Bush in the irredeemable box and never look again. Which I haven't done. Because I feel like judging people from their 1980s stances on anything to do with homosexuality is a bad thing to do. Yes, there were people out there doing good things. Yes not everyone felt that being gay was a disease in and of itself. Yes, there were a lot of people on the right side of history as we like to say. But there were a lot who weren't as well. And that was the norm. And breaking out of societal norms is difficult and takes time. And we really need to have a path where we forgive the sins of the past and look at who people are now.

So...

I like President Bush (the elder). I liked the friendship he formed with President Clinton. I liked the good they did toward charity work. I give him credit for what he did as a president (Fiscal policy, international work that made the ending of the Cold War go a little smoother than it might have, ending Gulf War One on the terms that it was started) I didn't vote for him. I sure as hell didn't vote for his son. I wouldn't have agreed with him on a lot of policy things, but I did agree with him on others. There was a balance there.

And mostly I saw him as human. As a person. Not as a figurehead of REPUBLICAN SCUM WE MUST RAIL AGAINST!

And I think we need to look for those things more.

Now, the caveats. I do not view Trump that way. I find him to be awful and his R isn't why. I find the people that still stand by him and swear they are the good guys to be puzzling. I don't see the world the way they do, and to be perfectly frank, I never want to.

So I'm not expecting us all to just get along and be fine.

I'm not expecting you to ever just shush about the really important things just for the sake of getting along with each other.

I'm not expecting you to say that your neighbor is good at math so his confederate flag isn't that big of a deal.

There are true and actual things we should be upset about and never give an inch about.

But not everything is one of those things.

So try to find common ground with the basically good people who just disagree with you on some policy items. Try to keep your mouth shut when it's appropriate, and the days following someone's death are appropriate days for that. Try to understand that your signalling isn't more important than someone else's grief. Basically be better.

And try to help other people be better as well.

We need to all figure out how to do that to make sure this grand experiment keeps working.