Friday, December 13, 2013

I believe too...

Part One: I believe...

Part Two:

"Hi, I'm Bob, and I'm a drug addict."

"Hi, Bob."

"I always like that part." (laughter) "So first off, Merry Christmas. I would guess most of you are here because you really need a meeting today. I can understand that. I'm here because I run this meeting every year. Today is my anniversary. It's been 22 years since I last used cocaine." (applause) "Thank you. So today we're talking Step 3. Turning our lives over to god as we understand him. The higher power step. Now I'm going to tell you a little secret, we are in the place for that after all."(laughter) "My higher power is Santa Claus." (laughter) "No really. Santa Claus.

The last day, the bottom of the barrel day was Christmas 22 years ago. I had gone to midnight services with my family the night before and then ducked out to 'pick something up at the store'. They all knew that the odds of me coming back weren't good. And the odds of me coming back straight were slim to none. My mother pulled me over to the side and told me if I went out and got high to not come back to the house that day. She wouldn't have me around the rest of the family like that. She had to think of her grandchildren. Now this just set me off. My father had been an alcoholic the entire time I was growing up and she had never seemed concerned about him being around us, but now all of a sudden I wasn't good enough to be around her precious grandchildren? Well fuck that. I didn't need any of them anyway. So I went to a bar to get a quick drink to take the edge off. I would show her I was just fine. Logical right? Instead of getting high I would get drunk and that, that my friends would show her." (nods all around)

"So after a couple of drinks I decided that what difference did it matter anyway? I wasn't going back to my mother's house that day so I might as well do what I wanted. I headed downtown. Found a friend who was looking for a party. Hey I was also looking for a party so yeah, come on along!" (laughter) "My new friend knew someone that was selling, which was great because she and I used up the stash I had pretty quickly. She made a call and we set off to meet up with him. Now by this time it's Christmas morning. I'm feeling sorry for myself and getting a little anxious waiting for her dealer to show up. We are walking around waiting. And I'm doing the junkie math in my head. I've got $150 in my pocket. She was going to want to get paid, he was going to want to get paid and it was 6 days until pay day so I need something to live off of as well. Now you all know how junkie math works right? You take what you have subtract the money you need for drugs and then panic because you have nothing left and need more drugs." (laughter) "I knew we had some former math majors in here.

"So while my new friend and I are waiting I hear this little voice. It's a kid. She's sitting on the stoop of the rescue mission talking to herself. Then I realize she isn't talking to herself, she's talking to her doll. She is telling her doll how sorry she is. How she's sorry she said she wished she hadn't gotten the doll for Christmas but she had asked Santa for the money just so she and her mother would have a place to live. She telling the doll how sorry she is that she isn't good enough. How she couldn't stop her father from drinking or beating her mother but that she would be good to her doll. It's okay wipe your tears, we're all friends here. Right then I knew I had a bigger choice to make than how much I could spend on coke and the party girl and still eat tomorrow. I saw myself sitting out there. Nursing a black eye from dear old dad. And I thought, well nobody rescued me. And then I thought again. Nobody rescued me.

I looked over to my new friend thinking about how she was going to react when I told her what I was going to do and saw the tears in her eyes. I knew then that she would be on board.

We walked over to that darling angel and introduced ourselves as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. I gave her the money she had asked Santa for, along with a pretty good story as to why it was late, one thing we are good at is telling stories, right?" (laughter) "And then when she went inside to get her mother I came to my senses. A junkie and a hooker on your stoop on Christmas Day isn't really the miracle most people are looking for. We left a note for her and hid in the alley. Watching her mother break down and cry and hold that child...that was my turning point.

I did go to my mother's house that day, and she drove me to rehab that night. And every year I remember and I retell. Christmas miracles take a lot of forms. And your higher power can be what you need it to be. But for me, I believe in Santa Claus."

I believe...

"I am so glad that's over," James passed drinks around the table, "Is there anything worse than an office Christmas party?"

"Gee, thanks, we all liked hanging out with you as well!" Alice tossed a wadded up napkin at James.

"No, you know what I mean. I love you guys. This group right here, this is perfect. But having to be social with Mr. Patterson? And his wife? What do you even say to them?"

"Generally Merry Christmas, but that could just be me." Carrie deadpanned.

"I've worked for the company for 4 years and she still introduces herself to me every year. I'm never sure if I should say we've already met or just act like it's the first time. 'Hi, I'm Ed. Just like I was last year and the year before that, and the year before that.'"

Ed turned to Carrie, "You've been there 8 years, does she know you yet?"

"Sort of. She recognizes me, but she is pretty sure my name is Karen. I just roll with it. It's one night a year. And it's Christmas so why not just smile and be nice?"

"Whatever, I'm just glad it's over for another year. The only thing left to get through is Christmas Eve with Eric's family and Christmas Day with mine." Alice took a big drink, "And thanks to my friend here, I will make it through just fine."

"Here, here!" James raised his glass and the four friends and co-workers toasted. "Here's to another Christmas Party done!"

"God, I can't wait until January." Ed leaned back in his chair already looking exhausted.

"Not me, I like Christmas."

"Carrie believes in Santa Claus."

There was a pause at the table then Ed and Alice both started to laugh.

"No, really, she does. Tell them, Carrie."

"Thanks, James, for sharing that with everyone. Yes, I believe in Santa Claus."

"Holy shit, you're serious! Okay, spill, there has to be a story here." Alice drained her glass and signaled to the bartender for another round for the group.

"There isn't much of a story really. When I was five I met him. I've believed ever since."

"Oh  no, there is more to it than that. We all met the man when we were little. The trudge to the mall. What are you leaving out?"

"It was Christmas day, I was 5. We didn't have a lot growing up and that year we moved right before the holiday so it was even more spare than normal. I had asked Santa for something really specific and I didn't get it. So Christmas morning I was sitting outside on our steps telling my new doll that she shouldn't have hurt feelings that she wasn't my first choice for Christmas and that I would be a good doll mom. I wanted her to know that is wasn't her fault I hadn't been a good enough girl to get what I had asked for."


"Yes, yes, I was an adorable child. It's a fact. Anyway, while I was sitting outside talking to my new doll he showed up. He came over to me, introduced himself, apologized for missing my gift under the tree, but he hadn't gotten the message I had moved in time. It wasn't until he was back at the North Pole unpacking from the trip the he found out what the mix up was. He told me I had been on the good list, it was just that this was a busy time of year and though it didn't happen often, sometimes they made mistakes. Then he gave me the gift I had asked for and wished me a Merry Christmas and left. How can you not believe after that?"

James spread his hands out and leaned back, "See? She believes in Santa. And that is my Christmas gift to you."

Alice and Ed both smiled at Carrie. She gave them the half smirk half smile they were used to seeing at work, "I'm not embarrassed by it. I'm not ashamed. I don't generally tell people because they think I'm crazy. James heard the story a few Christmases ago when I had had a little more nog than usual and was feeling chatty. He loves to drop it on people to see their reactions."

"Well I think it's sweet."

"I think there is probably an explanation, like it was a friend of the family who knew what you wanted and your folks remembered at the last minute."

"Always practical, Ed. But nope. Couldn't have been. I never told anyone. The only person who knew was Santa. I wrote it in the letter and sent it myself. Look, it's fine, I know that it's odd for a grown woman to still believe but I do. And because I do, I love Christmas."

The friends sat together for a little while longer before calling it a night and heading home. As Carrie got ready for bed she thought back to her Santa story. She hadn't really lied to her friends but she hadn't really told them the whole truth either. Some things she just didn't share with anyone.

They had just moved, that was true. But it was to a shelter for abused women. On Thanksgiving her father had gotten even more drunk than usual, and he was usually pretty drunk, and had beaten her mother so badly she ended up in the emergency room. They had gone directly from the emergency room to the shelter. But the emergency shelter could only keep them for a month. Carrie had overheard her mother on the phone with her parents asking them for the $100 it would take to get them a room in a halfway house for January. She had a job and would be able to pay the rent after that, but she didn't have enough right now.

Carrie's grandparents had disapproved of her parent's marriage and had warned her mother if she left she was dead to them. Carrie had never even met them. So it wasn't much of a surprise when Carrie found her mother in tears by the phone. Carrie knew that they needed that money and since Christmas was coming she also knew exactly how to get it. She had written the letter that night and dropped it in the mail the next morning. All she wanted was $100. She knew that was a big gift but she had faith.

When Christmas morning came and the volunteers handed out Christmas presents all Carrie got was a doll. She asked if there was anything else, or if there had been a mix up with her gift and was quickly reprimanded by the woman who ran the shelter. She should be grateful for what she got and not be so greedy to ask for more.

Carrie had then taken the doll outside to the front steps of the shelter to apologize for not being good enough. Not good enough to keep her father from getting drunk and hitting her mother. Not being good enough to keep her mother safe. Not being good enough to get the gift from Santa that would make it possible for her and her mother to have someplace to live. She also promised her Christmas doll that she would be the best doll mommy she could and that nobody would ever hurt her.

While she had been talking to her doll a man and woman had walked over to her. He introduced himself as Santa Claus, she hadn't recognized him because he wasn't wearing his red suit and he had a clean shaven face. He explained that he and Mrs. Claus were on their way to take their annual post Christmas vacation and he always traveled incognito (at the time she had no idea what that meant and thought maybe it had something to do with walking, years later when she heard the word in school she almost shouted OH! out loud). He also told her how her letter had gotten delayed and that the elves were very sorry she didn't get her gift right away but he had it for her now. Then he handed her a $100 bill. He also gave her an extra $20 and told her that she could use that for anything she wanted. Because not only was she on the nice list, but she was at the very top.

Carrie had been stunned. He had come through for her. She wasn't a bad girl, she was on the nice list. She had Santa and Mrs. Claus wait for her on the steps while she ran in to get her mother so she could meet them as well. When she came back out they were gone. They left a note saying they had to run to catch a plane since the reindeer needed a vacation as well but to have a very Merry Christmas. She gave the money to her mother and explained everything that had happened. Her mother sat on the steps of the shelter with Carrie hugging her and crying and saying she was the best girl ever.

When she got older she came up with at least a half a dozen explanations for her encounter with Santa Claus but in the end decided that what she wanted was to believe. And so she did and still does.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Winner, winner, turkey dinner...

Since it's the last day of November I figure this is the time for the NaNo wrap up. For those of you that missed it, I did it. Oh wait, spoiler did it. Hit over 50K on Monday. I let out a little Whoop! of excitement, posted a picture and then started playing desperate catch up with other things that needed done. One of those being a nice tidy little wrap up blog. So here we are...

First off, I did it. I just want to say that again because that was really the main point for me. I wanted to do this. It was important to me to actually get through it and do it. And I did. So I'm pretty pleased. There were lessons along the way and things that I need to think about now, but before I get in to the weeds with that part I wanted to say again, I did it.

Okay, lessons, first off it wasn't easy. I write at 1,000 words per hour so really 50,000 words in a month should be easy right? But I write at 1,000 words per hour if the ideas are flowing. And on some days they aren't. I had banked on being able to write a lot while Brent was in Denver. What I didn't bank on was getting sick during that time. The good news was that there was only one really bad day. Bad enough that if a friend hadn't surprised me with lunch I wouldn't have eaten a hot meal that day. But only one really bad day. I didn't get as sick as Brent did the week before so though I didn't get the stellar numbers I had been hoping for, I did get some decent numbers in that week.

So a few lessons, the dual deadlines worked for me. I had been working all along toward being finished by November 22 instead of November 30. And even though I got sick and didn't make that first deadline I had a giant cushion to make the hard deadline of the 30th. I ended up crossing the number line on the 25th. Not terrible. But to really make that first deadline I needed to have not counted on the extra time while Brent was gone so much. I should have treated it like normal time and then I might have still made the original deadline. As it was I looked at that upcoming "free" time as an excuse to slack a few days.

Writing a long story for me was hard. I like short stories, I talked about that before, but I want to mention it again. I noticed as I was writing scenes where THINGS happened to my main characters that the readers wouldn't really care because I hadn't given them any reason to care about these people. A lot of things I can get away with in a short story I just can't in a longer one. It was a good exercise in stretching for me. Why should the reader care? What did I need to add in to this story to make them care? I did a lot of back and forth writing. At more than one point I could envision the 6 year old me on the playground calling the shots in a game of make believe, "No, let's say that you did this instead!"

I also got a big glimpse in to what a lazy writer I really am. I told you that I had friends with kids and jobs doing this as well right? And keeping pace with me? My job this month? Writing. Hell, Brent offered to get me a cleaning lady for the month so I could focus just on the writing. I am hugely supported in this endeavor and extremely lazy. That I can fix. Though 50,000 words just for the sake of words probably won't happen again the schedule that I came up with will most likely stick. Breakfast, workout, writing. That's a good morning. Leaves the afternoon for the other things I need to take care of to keep this joint running and I also have the flexibility to move things around on days that I need to have the morning free for something else. But I did it this month. A busy month. And I did it.

As for the story itself? I don't know what I am going to do with it. For right now I am letting it sit. I know it will need a lot of editing. A lot of rewrites. Possibly a whole new plot line. But for now it's just sitting. It served its purpose. One continual story over 50,000 words. What it eventually evolves in to I would guess I won't know until sometime next year. I still think there is potential there. I still like the mother and daughter. I am just not sure what I need their story to be. In fact right now I have two different paths I merged in to one story (on purpose) but I'm not sure that they should be one story. Maybe they are two separate short stories.

And speaking of short stories, I think I am going back to those. I do believe that I will try out my other idea of stringing a group together to make a novel length collection. Recurring characters and situations that might dovetail, but stand alone stories. Now that I know I can just sit my butt in the chair and write daily without the world falling apart I should find it easier to get that done. That's the plan anyway.

Will I do it again? Hmm...I don't think so. I did it. I won. I got the huzzahs, seriously on the website when you win they give you a huzzah. I don't see the reason to do it again next November. I know I can do it. And I know that I can do a lot more on a daily basis than I was so for now it served its purpose and that's good enough.

And the last thing, thank you all so much. The encouragement I got from all of you when I posted my daily word counts meant so much to me! I really felt like I would be letting you all down if I didn't finish so thank you for standing behind me and pushing my lazy ass over the finish line, even if you didn't realize that's what you were doing!

Now on to December! Now I only have to catch up on Christmas shopping, cards, the letter, decorating, blogging, editing, starting the short story series....

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Dread Writer Roberts...

So if all goes as planned and I meet my daily quota at the end of the day tomorrow I will be 1/3 of the way through the NaNo challenge. Which is right on track for me since I want to be mostly done if not all the way done by the time C comes home for Thanksgiving.

Because I am writing every day instead of waiting for a story to come to me and reworking it over and over in my head before committing it to the screen I'm having to write in a way that is different for me. Less thinking and mulling more writing. I'm also not reading, rewriting or revising. It's all just dumping out on the page. So I have no idea at this point if when I go back and read it all at the end it will work together in to a cohesive story. It should be interesting.

I'm also having to think on the fly. As I start my yoga in the morning I feel like I've stepped out of Princess Bride and the story is the farm boy. Well that was a good story but as I have nothing left to write I'll most likely kill it this morning. Then I do my yoga, then my cardio and while that is happening part of my brain is thinking well, what next? Should I talk about Aric some more? So I go back to Deidre? Do I write the scene where Cal dies or do I leave it as it stands? And by the time I finish the cool down and stretch out again I have an idea. Shower, dressed and back to writing. As you wish....

I have to say the greatest challenge (aside from doing it every day) has been in trying to do something different. When I write a short story, my comfort zone, I am giving you a window in to a life. Just the briefest glimpse of these people. One situation. One snapshot in time. They all have back stories, but they are in my head, I know them but you don't need to. You get pieces of them. The story I wrote recently about the couple in the coffee shop? You could piece together their back story with what I gave you, but there is a whole world there I left unsaid. And that's what I like about short story writing. You get to fill in the missing pieces and make the characters what you need them to be.

Now? I'm writing a long story. You need the background. You need to know who these people are and why they are doing what they are doing. Things that were vague ideas in my head when I wrote the first short story about them now have to be fleshed out. And that's tough. Because some of what I could leave up to you to figure out is now on me. And I don't know! I mean really, one of the ideas I had that is fairly central to the story I am having a hard time figuring out how to make work. Right now it's kind of water colored vague and I might just leave it like that. YOU figure it out.

But the good news is I am doing it. Every day. Workout, write. Small bites.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Okay, so today is the first day of the first full week of NaNo. Last week was the trial run for the schedule and it seems like it's a good fit. Though it was slightly harder to get motivated this morning than last Monday. And when I sat down in front of the computer to write the words were not so much fluently articulated. (or something like that)

Anyway...I powered through and did just over 3000 words for the day. I want to do around 11,000 more words by the end of the week so 2200 to 2700 words a day depending on if I am planning on writing on Saturday. Who knew there would be so much math involved?

I've already given up on writing linearly. I have certain scenes in my head and those are what I am writing. After I get those out then I will go back and write bridge chapters and filler to put them together. My biggest worry still is if I have 50,000 words to put to this story.  If I get to 30,000 and tap out I guess they can all take a wacky road trip someplace!

And as I am super competitive I am having to tell myself that my small bites of words are just fine. Even if Mel wrote over 10,000 words in two days. And she has a baby at home. How in the hell is she doing that? And Jen writing as much as I am on a daily basis but you know after her full day at work and brutal San Francisco commute home. But it's fine. Really. And Dana cranking out 1000 words while her daughter plays softball? No big deal. I mean I can do 1000 words too. As long as I'm home alone and don't have any distractions and...

Okay, yeah, so I have friends doing this who have jobs and little ones and other things and they are cranking out the numbers. It's motivating to say the least. I mean what in the world could my excuse be for not finishing? I broke a nail? The cat wanted attention? Both things that happened today, by the way, so I'm pretty sure I'm a hero for getting my word count in. Or something.

All right I just wanted to let you all know how it was going. Thanks again for the encouragement!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Words, language, tone, I would agree with you but you are an ass...

Okay, so the title to this blog is more of a list, but that's what you are in for right now.

I always pay attention to words, word choice, meaning, all of that good stuff. It's not a shock to you that I do this, it is part of who I am. And it also is the source of much frustration at times because I'm not sure why no one else is paying attention. For instance the word entitlement. Did you shudder? It's gotten a pretty bad rep from people on the conservative side of our (meaning the USA) political spectrum. Oh those entitlements! How dare people feel they are entitled to that! But did you know what an entitlement is? I'll give you a hint, its synonym is right. You have a right. It's your right. How would you feel if the Second Amendment fell under the Bill of Entitlements, would it change your thought process about it? A right is something you are legally or morally entitled to. Entitlements and Rights. Same thing, thought of completely differently. Just because of the tone people have used when saying one over the other.

Rights! This is my Right! And the angels sing and the inspirational music plays! I am entitled to this! This is my entitlement! And the wa waa sound is made and the crying baby is heard in the background. But they are the same thing. It's just how you've been conditioned to hear them.

And what happens if you are in a discussion with someone who doesn't hear things the way you do? I was listening to a story about coal transportation this week. Basically one group wants to be the port to ship coal to China for their use and one group opposes it. Job creation versus environmental protection is how it's being framed. If the port is set up for transportation then people will need to work there, but the concern is if the trains are running coal through the town and in to the port the resulting coal dust is going to be an issue. It's more complex than that but I'm not here to debate this point, I want to get to an argument I heard and the absolute confusion of the two people arguing. On one side was a woman who stated it was an issue with people being able to do what they want with their own land. On the other side was a man who said it wasn't her land to decide what to do with. Even though the tracks ran through part of land she owned.

So I thought, now that's a group that would never see eye to eye. Those that believe you can own the land and those that believe you cannot. Why do you own land? Because someone sold it to you. But how did they have the right to sell it to you? Because someone else sold it to them. And how did they have that right? And eventually you get back to to beginning of someone deciding that since they were there first it was theirs. Or the government saying you get this piece of land, now it's yours. But if you really believe that the land was here first and cannot be owned by someone, and really how ridiculous to think you can own the land you are sitting on, do you own the air you breath? The rain that falls on your head? The sunbeams? The wind? Land rights versus the sense of entitlement that because you were there first it's yours. (see what I did there with rights and entitlements) And I have to admit I would be in the I own it camp. Though I can see how silly it is for me to think that I do, when I die any land I own might be passed along to future generations but they will just be borrowing it as well.

So we have words and the fact that they mean things but we don't pay attention to what they really mean. We have concepts that mean one thing to you and another to me like ownership.

Oh and here is another one! What if you are talking to someone and they say something that they think is really negative but you think it's great? I had one of these the other day. A friend shared a status from someone else "What one generation tolerates the next accepts." What do you think of that? Is it positive or negative? It struck me as a good thing. My generation started down the path of tolerating gay people. C's generation accepts that sexual orientation has nothing to do with what sort of person you are. Toleration to acceptance in one generation. Woo hoo! This is excellent! But they looked at it as a negative. If you tolerate bad language in your generation then bad language is the accepted language in the next. And that sort of thing. Hmmm...okay. I can see that. But I viewed it as a positive progression instead of a negative one.

Oh! And there's another one, progressive. I had someone spit that at me like it was an insult. You are a progressive! Well thank you! I really do try. Much better than being regressive and preferable to being stuck. I also don't think it's insulting when people call me out on changing my mind on an issue. I have changed my mind on a lot of issues. When you know more your opinion should change. It can be more evidence that you were right in the first place so you feel on solid ground, or you might find out that you were wrong. It's the people who are resolute and never change that I worry about. What are they doing with all of the new information coming their way on a daily basis? It doesn't make you a hypocrite to change your mind. Being a hypocrite is saying one thing and doing another.

And what about tone? Or even accents? How does that add or subtract from your understanding of people? Brent and I were watching an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives the other night and they were in Albuquerque. The woman who owned the restaurant had a solid Albuquerque accent. Her sentences ended in a lilt, it's not a lilt like a Southern thing, but we almost sing the ends of sentences back home. It's not something I really noticed until I had been gone for awhile. And vowels are different. I turns into E. Instead of a Philly sandwich she made a Pheely. She did say sandwich instead of sangwich though...


I don't have much of an accent. I didn't even when we lived there. My parents are Midwestern, my siblings were older when they moved so their accents are more in line with my parents (warsh instead of wash). But when I was hanging out with my friends there were phrases that were just said with a certain intonation that is pure New Mexico. Eeeeee, orale, umbers...And phrases..I know, right? That's directly descendant of It's all bad, no? Those are the changes I've made over the years. I've dropped the all qualifier. I've changed no to right. Sometimes if I'm trying really hard you can hear the difference between pin and pen when I say them. But if I am home for any length of time my bags all become begs, my rights become nos and my Rs start to roll...

Okay, on to the last part of my random blog.

Voice. You've got your words and your tone and your meaning and your accents. What about voice? I mean this for writing specifically. When I write something I write in my voice. People that know me can actually hear me when they read. They know exactly how I sound and I write like I talk. My non-fiction voice is strongly my own voice.

I had three voice issues this week. One was in a fiction book. The author writes in first person. Which seems like it would be easy and it can be, except if you are switching between characters. This was the last book in a series and for the first two she wrote from one character's point of view. For the last she switched between two. She had a reason for it, I won't get in to that this isn't a book review, but it really bothered me. The reason was she hadn't given the second character a strong enough voice. He was the same as the other. So I would be reading along in a chapter and forget whose head I was in. They were too similar. If you are writing in first person your voice has to be strong. I can never forget who you are.

The second was a non-fiction group of essays. It was a closet book. These are books I have collected over the years that I am "getting" to. Finally this year I decided if they aren't read by January they are out of here, so I've made due diligence in clearing them out. Well anyway I'm reading this book and I don't like the author. He's spoiled. What is supposed to be amusing, I know it is, is coming across as pretentious. And I'm starting to wonder why in the heck I have this book of musings from someone I obviously don't like. Then as I was staring at the cover the author's name finally worked its way through my files and made the connection. David Rakoff.  David Rakoff. I love him. He was on This American Life. Very amusing, dry, funny. Okay, well now I have his voice in my head maybe I will like these essays more. I was obviously reading them with the wrong tone. But no, I could never capture the bemused, dry, witty, cadence he had in these writings. They still came across as pretentious and spoiled. I felt a little like I was betraying his memory, but his voice was just not there for me.

And then sometimes someone's voice is so strong you can't get past it to get to their message. There is a blogger/radio personality out there that drives me crazy because of this. I've read a lot of his posts because he appeals strongly to a demographic that is well represented on my friend list. And I try to make sure I am reading things people post, at least until I understand what I am going to see. If I know it's going to be something I won't be able to tolerate due to experience I skip it (Bill Maher and Ann Coulter for instance) and this guy is quickly falling in to this camp.  Because see, even when I agree with his main point I cannot bear his blog. His voice is that strong. And his voice is condescending asshole. He's pretty sure he has the world figured out (though he does the whole false modesty shit A LOT) and takes some pretty strong stances on things that are not as black and white as he would like them to be. He dismisses personal anecdotes from other people while holding his own experiences as infallible. It's hard to take.

Oh he's just snarky people say! Well, snark is tough. Trust me, I have experience here. (And all the readers go no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no...) The problem with snark is that if you present it as fact you come across as an ass. If you decide that you are right and any one who disagrees with you is obviously a brain dead sheep you are an ass. If you are completely unwilling to accept that the world is a complex place and there are very difficult things out there that people are dealing with because you are fine and you made it okay then you are an inconsiderate ass.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted a blog of his where he mentions in the blog he doesn't understand why strangers who read his work think he would be an ass in real life (paraphrasing). Umm, dude, read your blogs.

So this brings us to this week. He posted about something that if I had been given an outline of I would say, Yes! I agree with this person! But then I read the blog and could feel my jaw tightening. I had to tell another friend that I am glad that he is getting a message out there (basically we shouldn't look to medicate our kids for being kids, and being a little different than the crowd is a good thing) but I just wish it wasn't done in his way. Because I found myself tearing apart his argument by the end of the blog. And I agree with him! But the way he presented it? Too strong of a voice.

And how often does that happen in real life? I had a job once where I swore I needed to add interpreter to my job description. Because I would sit in our conference room while our owner would say one thing, another member of our staff would say the SAME thing just in a different way and they would argue over who was right. They couldn't hear each other over their tone, or voice, or preset thoughts. So I would have to say, well, I think that...blah, blah, blah is a great idea. And they would both recognize that blah, blah, blah was their own brilliant idea that I was backing and everyone would leave happy.  Well except for me who was left in the conference room pounding my head against the table...

And that brings us to the end of my list of random thoughts about communication that have been bouncing in my head all week. It's kind of amazing that we understand each other at all isn't it?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

T minus two and counting...

Quick NaNo update time!

Yesterday I spent a good chunk of time trying to figure out a new software system for writing. It sounds really great and I am sure it is, I just couldn't really figure out how to effectively use it. I think part of it was the tutorial was a bit overwhelming. A lot of information thrown at once. I will go back in tomorrow and see if I can make it work, and if I can't then I will just use Word like I had planned. But the main thing was while I was messing around with that I settled in on Practical Magic as the book I am going to write.

The other piece I decided on was to take the little short blog stories I have already written and expand them as the start of the book. The first one or maybe two will be the introduction chapter, then chapter one will start with Deeds at school. The first part of the book will lead back up to that first glimpse you get of her and Aska. I've already decided to make some changes and am treating those first stories as outlines.

The schedule thing seems to be a good plan. Though I didn't follow it today. Skipped the workout and messed around this morning, well if you can count the annual drape and scrape as messing around, but anyway I flipped the schedule, errands in the morning, writing in the afternoon a day off from working out. I don't plan on a lot of those in November, the days I have appointments are the end of the month and I am hoping to have reached goal by then so the schedule will be tweaked at that point anyway.

Workouts are good. Sitting still for a few hours at the computer is easier to do after a workout. I'm not so twitchy. Though I am at that tipping point of "why did I let myself get so out of shape? I will NEVER let this happen again!" and "holy shit I am so out of shape, everything hurts! I should NEVER workout again!" I'm pretty sure I'll tip the right way, but if I don't you have my blessing to push me.

Back to the schedule thing, writing in the morning is good as well. I've noticed as I sit here writing this blog and thinking about the other blog that I want to write I am MUCH more distracted than I have been. I think I just need to get the focus oriented things out of the way early in the day.

And that's that for the update portion of our day.  Tomorrow should be a straight up ranty/rambling/randomy blog. I have a lot of different ideas that sort of tie together in a theme so expect that. Then....dum dum dum....NaNo starts...  Eek!

Monday, October 28, 2013


And here we go. Day one of setting up new habits and schedules and such. NaNo starts on Friday but as I mentioned earlier starting something on a Friday just seems like a bad idea. Especially since I am not sure yet how much I will actually be writing on the weekends. So today was the start of setting up new schedules.

And me being me I decided since I was setting up a new schedule anyway and I need to get back in to a consistent work out routine again I wove the two together. So as of right now my mornings are breakfast, Brent to work, workout, shower, writing. When lunch time rolls around I will break for lunch and if I have put at least a few thousand words down I will move on to the rest of the day, chores and then reading or watching something on TiVo. If I haven't then after lunch I come back in and write more. Exercise, discipline then affection. Yep, I'm treating my new schedule the way Caesar Milan trains a dog. Because it amuses me. Well that and I'm not likely to push off reading but I will push off a workout. Do the harder stuff first so you have the treat waiting for you at the end.

The number count part will start on Friday, the first few days this week are still prep work. For instance this morning I re-read the Practical Magic story to see if I could really turn that in to a book. I have 3,000 words invested in it already do I have 50,000+ more? Also I started that story as a lark. Something to post only on the blog and only as the ideas came to me. If I use it for NaNo I will be taking it off the blog and putting it in to a book. Or at least trying to. But on the other hand if it works out that I write it and still don't think it's something to send to a publisher I will have weeks of things to post in the bank. I'm not completely settled on the idea of writing that story for NaNo but I'm leaning enough that I've added Aska to my spell-check.

The biggest habit to make (break?) will be not being online when I am writing. That's the discipline part. No Facebook or email running in the background. No quick dashes off to to read about something. Actually sitting down and focusing on my writing. So far I've made it 45 minutes without checking my notifications. Go me!

Right now I'm also deciding if I just give up on my inconsistent blog posting for November, knowing that you all understand I'm here, writing, I'm just not posting, or if I try to make sure that I fit in some time for some writing that doesn't count towards words and goals and is just head clearing or fun. Most likely I'll post here keeping everyone up to date on how it's going. I have a feeling I will need the head clearing. And the venting.

All in all I think that November will be good for me. Getting back in to a schedule will be fun, at least for awhile, and if I can get that workout ingrained again I will be a much happier camper. I'm always really happy when a workout is done.

Okay, off to take notes on PM and see if I can get a few more ideas for a few thousand more words!

Aska and Deeds and Cal await!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

So who thought this was a good idea anyway?

Okay, well, Friday is November 1st. That means NaNoWriMo is upon us. Or me. Or us. Or whatever. Words. Bah!

Yes, that's about where my brain is right now. The reality of what I am doing is sinking in. Schedules. Deadlines. Discipline. I'll take Things Denise Doesn't Like for $100, Alex.

So anyway as my brain is giving me 1000 reasons why I should bow out now I'm fighting back with the one main reason to keep doing it. To show that I can. Which, as most of you know, is usually my reason for doing anything challenging. I've got this.

Because Friday is a stupid day to start something (reason #478) I'm actually going to sort of start on Monday. Not writing the novel part, that would be cheating, but writing for a set amount of hours. So there will be a few blogs up next week. Probably nonfiction but maybe a little fiction might leak out. Only if I can't possibly turn it in to part of the story I will be writing for NaNo, but it might happen. That has been one of the main realizations I've had heading in to this challenge, my entire schedule needs to shift. To get the writing done as well as the other things I want to do I have to go back to managing my time. And for someone who hasn't worn a watch since C left for college that's saying a lot.

Here's the real kicker though, I'm still not sure what I'm going to write about in November. I had settled on an idea, the sort of short stories I do most of the time just all tied together with recurring characters. Those of you that have read this blog for awhile know I've had these people in my head for awhile and thought about doing this so this would be a good time. And to be honest I felt that would probably be the easiest. Those stories come to me fairly regularly. I could just fluff them up a bit and be on my way. So after spending a few weeks making notes and plans to do just that I thought... wait! maybe I want to go ahead and go back to that science fiction fantasy story I started on here ages ago and then just left to wait.

Blame Susan for putting that idea in my head.

But the sci/fi/fantasy story actually does have the makings of a real structured novel. Not just a thread of short stories tied together. So maybe I should go ahead and do that instead. But what if I don't get any more inspiration on that front? I know the story I want to tell there I just have never really been able to figure out how to get there. Maybe this is the kick I need to get that world out there?

Words. Bah.

So for the next few days that will be my challenge. Figuring out what I want to do for the real challenge. And calming down the gremlins in my brain. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

People let me tell you about my best friend...

Gary picked at the line down his pant leg. He wasn't sure why he had let the salesman at Men’s Wearhouse talk him in to the permanent crease. He didn't even like a crease normally. But he had heard the magic words, “It will make you look taller” and he had fallen for it. Which is ridiculous, how could a crease in his pants make him look taller when he would be sitting down most of the time while wearing them? Oh well, now he was stuck with the crease. First world problems right? Or as his friend Anne would tell him, “Take a spoonful of cement and harden the fuck up, princess.”

Gary closed his eyes for a minute. Deep breath. He could and would make it through today. He hated speaking in public. Hated it. Hated dressing up. Nothing good had ever followed when his mother told him to wear dress shoes. He still believed that to be true. Dress shoes meant endless church services, funerals, weddings, diners at fancy restaurants. All things his 12 year old self rebelled against. And as an adult you could add job interviews, meeting the parents and public speaking to the list. Nothing good ever followed putting on dress shoes, except maybe the time you could take them off again.

Driving across town Anne filled his thoughts again, which often happened when he needed to do something difficult. What would Anne do? They had met when they were 6. She had been in Mrs. Carter’s class and he was with Miss Angel but they were put together in the same reading group. They were Gold Star readers. He had been really proud of this; until Anne pointed out that he was a good reader because he had no friends to play with while she was a good reader because she was smart. Anne wasn't trying to be mean; she was just stating a fact. He hadn't had any friends and so spent all of his time reading and she was very smart. He liked that she told it like it was, not only to him, but to everyone, teachers included. From that day on they were best friends. And because of Anne he ended up with a lot of other friends. She drew people to her like moths to a flame.

It was hard to explain why exactly. She wasn't who you would picture when you thought of popular girls. Gary’s mother had said that she was the most sober-sided child she had ever met. And it’s true. She wasn't bubbly, or perky, or overly friendly. She didn't have any sort of sense of whimsy about her; clouds never looked like anything but clouds to her. But still, there was just something. She always had an idea of where to go, what to do. She had a strong sense of not only who she was but who you were as well. You couldn't hide from Anne. She would tell you exactly who you were if you tried. And Gary had relied on that strength for as long as he could remember.

When they were 8 they had decided that it would be a good idea to catch tadpoles for a “science experiment.” Basically the experiment was could they catch tadpoles but they still treated it very seriously. They spent a week gathering their equipment, scouting the perfect pond location, getting a crew of adventurers together and giving everyone their assigned parts. Of course it all fell apart once they got to the pond and the excitement of scooping up the swimmers in jars took over. Ten 8 year olds wading through the muck and mud with pant legs rolled up not quite far enough, gloves abandoned in the grass because wet gloves couldn't grip the slick mason jars. It was probably the best morning of his life so far. The plan was for each of them to have a jar of tadpoles and then watch them for a week and then release the frogs back out in to the pond. That was the plan anyway.

An hour later standing in Anne’s living room, dirty feet on a white rug, explaining to her mother that she was going to keep a jar of tadpoles, well two jars because Gary had a cat and they knew Sebastian would never leave the swimmers alone, two jars of tadpoles in her room for a week then they learned the one part of the plan they didn't have worked out. Parents. Calls were made and they all ended up back at the pond releasing their hard fought catches a little earlier than planned. And then Anne and Gary spent another hour cleaning up the footprints they had left on the carpet. But it had still been a great day.

And Anne learned from that mistake and from there on out plans were worked through with parents in mind.  Sometimes that meant swearing everyone to secrecy so they wouldn't find out, but parent’s likely reactions were always taken in to account.

Always a plan. And always the next plan percolating. When they were 24 they ran a marathon. It took a year of training for Gary to go from occasional runner (late for a train, maybe a game of touch football in the park) to marathon ready. Running in the heat, running in the rain, running when he wanted to do anything else but run. But he did it. They did it. Crossed the finish line with decent times and then she looked at him from the corner of her eye and said, “You know a 50K is only 5 miles longer.” He threw a glass of water at her.

Gary pulled in to the parking lot and took another deep breath. Showtime.

Standing in front of the group he smiled and then started his speech.

“I got two cards in the mail this morning.You know the type? The ones you buy because you have to? The off the rack type, where you go to the section you need and pull the card out, then you put a little personal note inside to make sure the person you are sending it to understands that you were really thinking of them. I’ll spare you the premade note and just share the personal touches. The first one said, ‘When you see a rainbow, think of Anne’ and the second one said ‘Cry me a fucking river, asshole.’ 

The second one was mailed two weeks ago and somehow took its sweet time getting to me. See, I had a cold and had been whining about it to my best friend. Because that’s what we do when we are sick and not feeling well, we whine to our friends. Of course when your best friend is dying from cancer you can see how she might respond to your complaints of a stuffy nose.

I thought at first that the second card must have gotten lost in the mail, but then I realized that more likely it was Anne’s plan that I would get it today. Her way of making sure I made it through this speech. Made it through this day. Just a little reminder that now it’s up to me to be the strong one. To be the one to tell people who point out rainbows,‘You know calling them rainbows is sort of dumb.They should be called refraction circles.’ I can hear from the laughter that some of you had that conversation with Anne. She was one of a kind.

Thank you all for coming today. Thank you for being here for each other as we try to figure out the what nexts without her.

As we remember her, as we mourn her, as we move on without her in our daily lives I want to leave you with another Anne story.

When we were in high school she and our 10th grade English teacher got off to a rocky start. You all know how Anne could be, she was smart, she knew it and you should know it as well. She was also easily bored. One day early in the semester Mrs. Gilbert tried to trip her up. ‘Anne, what are your two favorite words?’ Anne instantly came back with, ‘Priapism and defenestration.’  You could see the glee in Mrs. Gilbert’s eyes. ‘Use them in a sentence.’ See, she just knew that her smart aleck student was just tossing out words that she didn't know to look cool. She didn't know Anne. ‘He had always thought defenestration would be the worst thing that could happen to him, then he discovered priapism.’ Of course by this time we were all madly looking up both of those words. Anne won.

Anne almost always won. 

Almost always.“

Gary took another deep breath and walked back to his seat.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Write, write, write....

Okay, I did it, after much back and forth I signed up for NaNoWriMo. I first heard about it a few years ago, though I can't for the life of me remember who was trying it out. I thought at first it was my friend Shay but she said no, and then when I thought about it I realized no way would she do it, she would have to slow down her production too much. Last year I forgot about it until halfway through November and so that wasn't going to work. This year another friend was peer pressured in to signing up and posted about it so I thought...well...hmmm....maybe?

For those of you who don't have any clue what I'm talking about; NaNoWriMo is a little contest of sorts that happens every November. The challenge? Write a novel of 50,000 words in a month. You sign up, you submit your completed work at the end of the month and you win a...umm...a certificate I think? For me it's all about the "can I do it?" this is the biggest writing challenge I've ever given myself. You all know I do mini challenges on here from time to time, blog every day, write a certain number of fiction pieces, submit something to a publisher. But this will be the first time I commit to anything of that length.

And it terrifies me.

Because I have just about reconciled myself to the fact that short stories, micro stories practically, are really my sweet spot. That's how they come to me. That's how I write them down, one quick blergh all over the page and then move on. But yet...

There is still a part of me that wonders if the one or two longer story possibilities I have bouncing in my brain could come to fruition as a full length novel? Granted one of those ideas is really a series of short stories all tied together by the characters in them, but still, it's a long term concept. And maybe it's time to give it one last push.

November as a month to do this sucks. Thanksgiving, the boy is home for a week, but I have no other real time commitments so there is nothing to stop me from writing extra during the first three weeks and just finishing up that last week right? Fifty thousand words in a month breaks down to 1,666 a day if I wrote every day, 2,173 if I don't write for the 7 days C is home, 2,500 if I write 20 days out of the month (weekends off) and so on and so on... I've thought a lot about it. And about all the ways to talk myself out of it.

But a few things made me decide to give it a try. One when I first posted about it I drug my brilliant friend Dana in to the mix. And she's going to try. And she has two kids, a job outside the home AND still will find time to write so I can't really beg off on time. Second when I posted and drug Dana in I had other friends who decided to give it a try as well and seeing them give it a go makes me think I can. Third my friend Nadine put it very well when she saw me post about it and said, "Do it. It's time to stretch yourself and your abilities, woman." And then the last piece came when I started debating whether or not to try my friend and happiness guru Dr. Brian King posted the following as his status: "The only obstacle between you and change is the fact that it's hard. Are you that eager to admit defeat?" I always say when the universe starts talking to you, you should probably listen so...

Oh fine! Fine!! I will try it...

So what does this mean? Well it means that for the next few weeks I will be planning my November writing. I KNOW! So odd for me, I never outline and plan and shit, but if I am going to do this I feel like I really need to. I also will be shuffling through my schedule and doing some trial runs on how long it takes me to write a good chunk and still get things done I need to and want to. Schedules and planning and me. What could go wrong? But it's supposed to be a challenge right? And challenges are fun. Especially at the end when you get your gold star. I do love a gold star.

But still...right now 50,000 words is a bit daunting. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oh look it's a blog!

This morning as I worked my way through my Facebook feed I stopped to read a few blogs from friends. I have one friend who is off on a big adventure doing volunteer work in Thailand. Another who writes beautifully about the challenges of parenting, catch this post quick it's already going viral in a big way, you can say you were one of the first to read it. And another who is giving a sneak preview for his sermon on Sunday. Quite the collection, and this was just today.

I love reading what my friends write. I have a few people out there that write fiction. A few that write about specific topics, parenting, marketing, cooking. And even few who take my "totally random" approach. It's interesting to see. It's a great way for me to see how people I haven't seen for years are doing. And what they are doing. And how they are coping.

I also read a few professional bloggers. The Bloggess for instance. And the blogs from a few published writers. Those are interesting as well. But in a different way. Even though it's still insight in to what is happening and their view of the world there is that point of separation, it's not a personal connection. Though it does make you feel a little bit like you "know" the person writing. Which I imagine would be weird for them if they meet their readers in person...


I wonder when people stumble on my blog what they think. Especially the people that I knew when...

I know reading Kerry's blog (the aforementioned minister) I hear his voice. Or at least his 16 year old voice. Which amuses me. To imagine a 16 year old leading a congregation. But it fits. And I'm glad he is doing something he feels called to do. We grew up together, I'm a few years older( a FEW!) and I'm glad he still finds the comfort in the church that I didn't. Though I have to say, reading his blog I think his church would be a mighty fine one to attend.

Reading Amie's blog (adventure!) I see her and hear her. Our friendship is newer, has it really been 10 years?  But it's completely her to do this sort of thing. I have enjoyed reading about her vacations in the past and her sense of "what next?" and this is just a great next for her and her husband.

Donnie and I have been friends since middle school. Reading about his challenges day to day caring for his daughter India as well as maintaining a great relationship with his other children has been inspirational. As well as knowing that this great loving father that I read about isn't that much different than that rowdy kid I knew back then. He's still there, telling horrible jokes, being more than a bit off color, but still being the best dad facing the biggest challenges any of us could have imagined.

So what do others think of me? Am I presenting who I am to the world through my writing? I like to think so.

Last year I was talking with a friend and he said I can get a bit ranty. Just a bit. But that it always seems to come from a place of wanting people to understand a different point of view. So if his impression is correct then I'm giving you exactly who I am. A bit ranty with a different point of view.

And totally random but...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Step by step...

Grace walked slowly to the table. Jeremy was already there, fidgeting with the packets of sugar. Spinning them between his fingers like he always did when he was nervous. "Good," she thought, "let him be nervous."

When she reached the table he stood quickly and they both paused for a moment unsure what to do next. Shake hands? Hug? Nothing? She moved first and sat down at the table waving him back toward his empty chair.

They made small talk for a little while. A very little while. Grace knew why he had asked her here, friends had been calling her asking if she had her "meeting" yet. Telling her how theirs had gone. She had been expecting it ever since she had word from his sister that he had gone in to rehab. And that he seemed to be taking it seriously this time. 

Finally he took a deep breath and started his speech, "I know I've done horrible things to you. Treated you poorly. Damaged our relationship. I am working very hard at taking the blame for my actions and working to be a better man. I am here today to ask for your forgiveness." The whole time he had been saying his piece he had been looking down at the table, as soon as he finished he looked up in to her eyes and smiled. 

Grace smiled back. But it wasn't the warm welcoming smile he had been hoping for. It was the cold smile, the one where the light didn't quite meet her eyes.

"That's your standard apology right? From when you first started working your steps? What is this one? Eight? Nine? There is the one where you make a list of everything you did, then the next is to try and make amends. I am guessing that I'm almost last on your amends making rounds right? You started with the easy ones and worked your way down? Who is after me? Your sister? I think maybe that would be the last."

"No, you were the last on my list. Ellen was before you."

"So you figured I would be the hardest? Even more than her?"

"Ellen came to see me while I was in rehab. We talked in some family sessions. Started laying the ground work earlier. You and I don't, didn't...haven't..."

"We haven't spoken since I left. The last thing you said to me was, 'leave, bitch, you never loved me anyway, you don't even know what love is, you uptight cunt.' You know, in case that didn't make your list. I mean, it's been a few years so I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't remember."

"I understand you are still mad at me, I did and said awful things. But those are in the past and..."

"I'm going to cut you off there, Jeremy. I almost didn't come here today. I knew what you wanted to say. I've spoken with a few friends who you already met with and they all told me about your apology. What you said, how you said it. And it was the one I got. The same one. What did your list look like? Was it all hurt Bob's feelings. Said something mean to Jeanine? Was the list the same? Or did you really think and put effort in to what you did?"

Jeremy looked down at his hands, "I got as specific as I could. It's my list. I put in what I remembered. I would imagine you have a longer list you could write down and give to me." He was trying not to sound petulant about it but not quite succeeding.

Grace smiled again. "I could. You are right. Here's the thing, Jeremy, you wrote down what you remembered. The nights you would get completely blasted and then send me text after text about how horrible I am? How I don't care about anything or anyone? Or about the cute girl down the bar from you who was giving you the eye? See, the next morning you had a choice, you got to read the texts or delete them. Because you didn't remember sending them. And if you did read them you only read a few before you deleted, because you were drunk and hadn't meant anything by them. How many times have you already apologized to me for what you said while you were drunk?"

"I know I did. But I'm working on changing. I haven't had a drink in 6 months..."

She cut him off again, "I'm sorry I'm all out of applause and chips for you today. I need to tell you one more thing before I lose my nerve. You were my first true love. I had never let anyone get that close to me before. I had never felt so deeply about someone before. And when you started drinking and wouldn't stop? It crushed me. And then when you started taking it out on me? Every drink you had, every failure that it led to because you were drinking and nothing and nobody was important enough to you to stop? I left, not because I stopped loving you but because you were determined to crush that out of me.  If I hadn't gone when I did I knew I would lose that piece, that piece of my heart that was yours. And I didn't want that. I always want to be a little in love with you. In spite of what you've done to stop me. But the one luxury you have that I don't? I was always sober. I never had the option of not reading, of not remembering. Yes, Jeremy, my list is probably longer than yours. But that's my list. 

Now I would suggest you call your sponsor or hit up a meeting. Because though your steps encourage you to make amends, to give your apologies, they should mention that not everyone is going to accept them."

With that Grace got up from the table.

She took a few steps toward the door and then turned back around, "I'm not ready to forgive and forget, Jeremy, but I do wish you health and strength and success."

Then she walked out. 

The waitress came over to the table to offer Jeremy a refill, "Bad meeting?"

Jeremy gave her a half smile, "Better than I expected, actually." As the waitress walked away he opened his cell phone and punched up "Lifeline" on his autodial.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quick, quick, slow....

Later when she thought about it all again Jamie would be amazed at how fast the human mind works. How quickly it processes information and forms ideas. How fast she went from one idea to the next. But that would be later. Later when she was stuck in the bog where thoughts formed slowly and time didn't pass so much as plod. But that would be later.

Friday 5:15 PM
When she looked across the parking lot and saw Eric's truck the first thought she had was that he had come to surprise her with dinner out after her seminar.

But then she realized that she hadn't told him that she would be in this seminar today, it had slipped her mind when they talked last night about what they were working on.

Then she started to get a little mad. Had he followed her? His trust issues frustrated her to no end. He always wanted to know where she was, who she was with, when she would be home. They had argued about it and he had promised that he would back off. But now here he was.

But then she realized if he had followed her he would have been there since 8 this morning when she arrived. And if he had followed her in to the hotel then he would have seen her go in to the ballroom marked "Excel and You: Mastering the Tricks of the Spreadsheet"

Then she thought, maybe it's not Eric's truck after all. It could just look like it.

But then she saw her locket hanging from the rear view mirror and knew it was his.

Then she saw his assistant Eileen walking across the parking lot to the truck. Oh of course, she had just taken the truck to come scout the hotel for a location for a training seminar, or maybe the company Christmas party, it was early October, but Eileen was good about planning ahead.

But then after Eileen started the truck she slid over to the passenger side.

Then she saw Eric. Okay...he had come along to scout the location. Right? Or was there another meeting happening today that she had missed? Maybe they had both been there all day in adjoining ballrooms listening to different speakers and had no idea? That would make a funny story at dinner.

But then Eric looked around quickly and kissed Eileen as he slid behind the wheel.

5:18 PM

5:45 PM
Jamie realized that she had been staring at the empty parking space for almost a half hour since Eric and Eileen left.

6:10 PM
Jamie's cell phone rang...

"Hey, babe, when are you coming home? I was going to go for a quick run and didn't want you to worry if I was gone when you got here... Babe?... Babe? Are you there?"

"Yeah, no...go ahead. I'll probably be gone when you get back."

"Oh, I didn't know you were working late tonight. I wish you would have said something."

"Yes, I'm sorry I made you rush home for nothing."

"Are you okay? You sound a little tense."

"Just a long day. Bye."

6:15 PM
"Hey, Stacy? It's Jamie, I was wondering if I could crash on your couch tonight? Cool. Thanks, I'll see you soon."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What is your sense of self?

So even though this is my blog and it's a blog about self awareness I'm starting with someone else's words. This is the status update from my friend Nadine early this week:

"On the subject of self. Namely, today, self-esteem and self-confidence, in the words only I can have, as asked by a good friend of mine. My mother, with all of her flaws, had one quality that surpassed all others, as a mother. She knew how to instill self esteem in her offspring (me, and only me) Self esteem (God knows there are some people in this world who are still baffled and a bit pissed off I have so much of it) is knowing what you're worth. Knowing that you have value, knowing that you deserve to be loved, respected and considered. It's that part of you that will not stand to others abusing you, putting you down, and look down on you. Because YOU KNOW that you're worth more than that, and it allows you to ignore the influence of others on what you are, your own nature. It lets you not only accept yourself as you are, but to revel in your own self. You then deeply believe that you are beautiful, smart, creative and that everything you do, and make, is then valuable.

Self confidence will only come from self esteem. If you have low self esteem your levels of self confidence can't be very high.

Self confidence is the knowledge that you can accomplish anything, and gives you the power to go after what you want. It will enable you to believe that with the right tools, the right training, the right experience, you can do whatever you want, and everything will turn out just great. It drives you to take that class that will empower you to become a doctor, a lawyer, an opera singer, a dancer, a painter, etc. You know you can do it, because you'll take the means to get there. Self confidence allows you to take your dreams, and make them come true.

In essence, self esteem believing in yourself, in what you are. Self confidence is believing in what you can accomplish."

When she starts she talks about her abundance of self esteem, and it's true, she has a lot. When I first met her it was online and I thought there is no way she is truly this confident all of the time. Then I met her face to face and she just radiates it. Constantly. She knows who she is, where she is and what she's doing all the time. And it's awesome to be around. This is a picture of the two of us noticing that someone has picked up my camera and is taking a group shot (I cropped out most everyone else, they were all talking to each other looking away, Nadine and I were the only ones noticing the camera) and I want to show the difference in our reactions.

I'm turned a bit away, you can tell I'm saying something and Nadine is open and you can almost hear the Ta Da! That's Nadine. She owns a room when she walks in. And as someone who has more than a touch of impostor's syndrome I am in awe of that.

So it was really interesting for me to read her personal take on why she is the way she is. And then to think, how do the rest of us catch up? Because as she stated it was in her upbringing, she was always told she could do it all so why wouldn't she believe it? It's woven in to the very fabric of who she is. Me? Well, we've talked about it. My mother was pretty sure GOD had a plan for me. I had POTENTIAL and PURPOSE or I wouldn't have lived. But my primary caregiver for a few years was pretty sure I was nothing more than a burden on her life and should be told as often as possible that nothing I did, no way that I could look, nothing about me was good enough. Hell not even good enough but not worth anything. So I've had the war raging in my head for as long as I can remember.

I'm smart, I know that. I'm confident in that. Until I start to doubt myself and think, well I'm not as smart as a lot of people I know so I must not be very smart after all. You all know how I've struggled with body image. And with second guessing my creative talents. Constantly. I will talk the talk of the confident, I'm pretty, I'm smart, I'm talented, but the voice in my head is using "tone" and has an incredulous look going while I say it. I imagine the voice in Nadine's head is purring at her in French that she is absolutely right when she says good things about herself. How do we all get that voice? Not the French purr (which is awesome) but just the agreement? How do we get the voice in our head to agree with the confident front? Or even to get the confident front going at all if it's not there?

Well, let's see, for me the things I do are, I try not to argue my way out of a compliment. This is a hard one for me. Because I'm going to let you in on a little secret, if you say too many nice things about me I don't believe you. You can tell me that the dress I'm wearing is cute and I will say thank you and believe that to be true, it is a cute dress. But if you tell me that I have a great smile as well I am going to start to wonder what you want. And if you follow it up with I have a nice laugh I will know you are full of shit. Now I will still say thank you and smile or I will agree and tell you that you're right I am awesome. But that's recent. I used to tell people that they were nice for trying to make me feel better but I know my smile is too big and swallows my face and my laugh carries over three states so it's not that great but thanks. So my next step in my own self confidence evolution is to take the compliment and believe it. Not just take it, which I do now. But fully embrace it. Hard to do. But I'm working on it.

The next thing I'm working on is to stop arguing myself out of my own compliment. I am a big fake it until you make it believer. You want a change to happen, you need to feel a certain way, then act like you already do. So a few years ago I started to make sure I was giving myself plenty of positive chatter. You look nice today, your hair is shiny, that short story was really good. I tell my friends how much I like the way they are and dig the things they do so I need to tell myself right? So now I just need to get that voice in my head to stop arguing back with the yeah buts...My hair is shiny, yeah but wow, it's getting really gray. You look nice today, yeah but it's still not great. That short story was really good, yeah but you're still not anywhere close to having something that's worthy of publishing.

And then the last thing that I'm working on is learning to disregard the negative more. Now I'm all for constructive criticism. If I've written a piece and I get feedback that someone either doesn't like the flow of the story (for fiction) or doesn't like my opinion (non-fiction) those are things for me to consider. To look at. To use and take to heart or, and this is the big one for me to learn, not to. You don't like the story the way I've written it, let me look and see if it needs fixed, but sometimes it's just not your cup of tea. And I write a variety of things so this might not have worked for you but that doesn't mean it's bad. Just not for you. And as far as non-fiction just because you say I am a certain way doesn't mean I am. Your impression of me is just that, yours. And I don't have to take your negative reaction to me, or your assessment of my personality on as my issue. Which I tend to do now.

Nadine talked about it in her status, that there are people that are pissed at the level of self esteem she has. And it's true, I've seen it. I've seen people react to her by calling her cocky or elitist or any number of what should be negative things that they were trying to make her feel badly about herself with. She doesn't take it on as her burden. Her reaction falls more like this; Elite? If that means she holds herself to a high standard and only accepts certain behaviors from others? Then yes, she is elite thank you very much. Cocky? No, not cocky, cocky is all swagger no substance, she's confident. There is a there there. So to speak.

So, yeah, Nadine had a head start on a lot of us. She's already there. She is herself fully and completely and confidently. But we can all get there too. Find someone who is like that and watch them, understand them, and then understand yourself. I'm never going to own a room when I walk in like Nadine does. My energy (though high at times) is a quieter one than hers. I'm never going to purr at people in French and make them go dreamy eyed even when what I'm saying might be as simple as "Pay attention to me and pass the salt!" I'm not Nadine and I don't want to be Nadine. But I do want to be the most Denise Denise I can be. And being around Nadine has helped me along that path. And for those of you that don't have Nadine in your lives right now hopefully she just helped you as well. I'm going to leave you with two more pictures. One is a group shot from the gang that we hung out with the first weekend I met Nadine face to face. Just because it makes me happy to see them all and to remember how very freaking happy we all were just to be with each other in the same room.

The second shot is just my favorite picture of Nadine ever. Her husband is taking the shot and it just sums up her personality, her feelings for the man behind the camera and just HER to me so well that I love it. 

And I love her. 

So take stock in your self-esteem and your self-confidence. What needs bolstered? And how are you going to do it?

Me? I'm working on it. Maybe I should learn French....

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Obsessive much?

I've been playing Candy Crush. Obsessively. Which, from what I've gathered, is the only way to play it. You either don't play at all or you obsess. And I've gone through the stages with it as well. First was the, "oh this is fun!" stage. Where the matches are easy, the boards clear quickly and always with 3 stars. Let's call this "the first taste is free" stage...

Then it got challenging. Now there are easier ways to play than I am. You can buy extra lives or buy power-ups or link to your Facebook account so people can send you things. I've chosen to do it all without extras. Partly because I know that I tend to obsess about games and could easily drop more cash than I really should (let's not talk about how much I spent on fake cheese to catch virtual mice a few years ago). And partly to limit the time playing. If I linked to Facebook people could send me lives and unlock new areas quicker and I would just play more. This way I'm limited. Lives only refresh every 30 minutes. So I can only play that much. Oh, and when I kibitz on Brent's game when he is playing.

Okay, so back to the stages of play. In the challenging stage when you clear a level you feel like you've done something! Ta da! I'm a pattern recognizing GENIUS! I am pretty sure I must be the smartest candy crusher in the world! You are in "pure candy"; until that level hits that breaks you...

The junkie level. You are past the "first taste is free" past the soaring highs of "pure candy" and now you have to, HAVE to beat this level. And so you play. And you play. And you play. You post about it on Facebook only to have people tell you that they are HUNDREDS of levels beyond where you are. HUNDREDS. So you play more thinking, well if they did it surely I can. And then you do beat it. And instead of the Ta Da! moment of "pure candy" you get...well...more of a meh. You've been broken.

Know how I know I'm broken? Because that level came almost 40 levels ago. And I'm still playing. I clear a level now and I get no thrill. No rush. And yet I still play. The voice in my head urging me on to play just to see how far I can go without the power-ups and help. All the while Candy Crush pushes updates and now there are over 400 levels! Four hundred?? What the hell? And each time I clear the three quests that lead me in to a new area (because I refuse to link to Facebook where I could just ask someone to unlock the next level for me) I am introduced to a new challenge. Chocolates that block moves and regenerate constantly. Which you would totally think a never ending supply of chocolate would be a good thing right? It's not. Super whipped cream blockers that need to be cleared 3-4 times depending on if there is jelly under them. Candy bombs that have to be cleared in a certain number of moves or you lose. And yet I keep playing because well... I am firmly in to "grudge match" play.

Which gives me pause.

I spend a few minutes here and there through my entire day playing this game. This game that the only satisfaction I am getting out of it is that it's not beating me. I'm slogging along playing. Making the matches. Clearing the levels. Playing the game. But not really enjoying it. Or am I? I mean I must be or I wouldn't do it right? And I do love pattern games. I always have. I love matching games, I own three different versions of Bejeweled for goodness sake. But what flash of joy am I getting now? And I'm not getting an answer.

So I'm stopping. Really. I am. I mean it. No more obsessing about clearing that one more level, even though everyone else made it so much farther than I did and if I could just get the first fall of candy to go right I would totally have this board cleared and be on to the next and I'm only two levels away from the next area and...

Nope, stopped.

And it's not just because I'm on Level 123 and know me and numbers.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Truth or dare...

She stood in the shower the hot water mixing with the tears streaming down her face.

"It will be like rain in OUR shower!"
"It's $70, why do we need a $70 shower head when we could get this one for $25?"
"Rain shower. Seriously, you will love it! And there is room enough for two under here...."

He had been right, there had been room for two. And it was a wonderful shower. Just like standing in a spring rainstorm. When was the last time they had shared the shower? Three weeks ago? A month? She tried to pull the memory up but couldn't. The tears kept falling.

"I want to tell you something, it's important."
"Shhh...not right now, okay? You're tired, just rest. You can tell me later."

She had always taken dare in games of Truth or Dare. Everyone had thought she was the wild one. Not afraid of anything. But that had been the lie. She was more afraid of truth than she was of any silly dare that might be given. When other girls would take truth and have to answer the most personal of questions she would get uncomfortable.  Her mother's voice would ring in her head, "They are called secrets for a reason. Private things should be kept private." And she would always take the dare.

"You know I love you right?"
"Of course I know that. You don't have to ask. I love you, you love me. Always, right? Now just rest."

Had he known at that point that she already knew? Was he trying to explain or was he trying to warn her what was coming? It didn't matter. She wished she could have taken the dare.

How long could she stay in the shower? As the water cooled she heard her father's voice in her head. "Ignoring a problem doesn't make the problem go away. It just makes it a bigger problem." Shutting off her private rainstorm she got out of the shower and dressed.

"You two were a perfect match. I am so sorry."
"Thank you, I appreciate that."

Had everyone known? Had anyone known? Sorry could mean so many things.

Opening the laptop (slammed shut, unsee, unsee, unsee), logging in to his email account (we don't have passwords, why would we? I just need to get Arnie's phone number from his contacts, it will take me 10 seconds) there were 15 new messages. On top of the 10 from before. Each one the subject line more frantic. Hey! progressing to Are you there? on to Call Me, I'm worried! On to the worst one, I love you. Please call.

She picked the last one and opened it. Not reading the message. Just hitting reply. I don't want Truth, I'll take the Dare.

What should she say? What was there to say?  Should she introduce herself? Make small talk? "we seem to have a lot in common..." She clamped her hand over her mouth to keep the hysterical giggle from taking over. Was it funny? Maybe. Probably not. She didn't know anymore as the giggle dissolved in to tears. Opening a search window she opened up a link from the newspaper and attached it to the email. I'll take the Dare...Sending.

Grastin, James F. Age 37

James passed away September the 3rd from injuries sustained in an automobile accident August the 31st. James is survived by his wife....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mirror mirror...

Thinking a lot about mirrors right now. There is a short little fiction piece bopping around in my head and I think it's going to open with a woman looking in a mirror but instead of seeing herself as she is now looking back at her she sees herself from 15-20 years ago.Then that will lead to a flashback and that will tie to the current day and it will be awesome. Sort of. Maybe. If I can get it to work. Or even if I can't I will plug away and post it. Probably. Or maybe not.

So that's one mirror.

Then this morning I was reading a free form writing exercise by a friend and I loved it. LOVED IT. For a lot of reasons. First off because it was totally her. Her voice, her cadence, it was like sitting and talking to her and she is freaking hilarious so I was laughing out loud as I read it. Part of it was because she started the amen choir going in my head. She suffers some of the same doubts that I do. Am I a writer if all I write are little pieces? What if what I have are a lot of partway finished things and some super great ideas but nothing published, by a "real" publisher. Meaning one who sends me money. And does that matter? See, I can read her piece and say, "Are you kidding me? You are super talented. Everything you've written that I've read has been outstanding. Visceral writing. Moving stuff. Funny. Dark. Wonderful. OF COURSE you are a writer. Damn it girl, you make art!" But I can't always look in the mirror and say the same thing about myself.

Case in point. This weekend we were at lunch with friends and were talking about putting yourself out there for a crowd to judge. The real you, your art, your personality, the whole shebang. I said no way. The reaction? "You do it all the time with your writing!" Oh..well...that. But that's just my blog. It's not like it's real art. And the fact that I didn't even stop for a second to consider that this is my art. Even though I've said it over and over, I make things. I make whole worlds. I also make things with the non-fiction stuff. It might be waves, or boredom, or wonderment at how self-involved one person can be, but dammit I made that! But even when I say it I don't always believe it. (also as an aside, it always tickles me when I find out someone is reading my blog that I didn't know reads it so Hi! to everyone out there reading in stealth mode!)

So anyway...that's another mirror.

Mirrors in stories and mirrors in life.

What are you seeing reflecting back at you right now? Is it your kids doing something that you do? Good or bad, is that your mirror today? Is it the advice you give to a friend that you really need to be giving to yourself? And what are you going to do with it?

And then my last mirror. One of my stay happy tips. Did you know that a smile is a mirroring expression? It's one that when you see it you mirror it back on a subconscious level. And not only that but by smiling you can actually trigger happiness? The ultimate fake it until you make it. Smile to feel like smiling. So one of the things I try to do is always smile at myself when I look in a mirror. Last thing after I get my makeup on, a smile. When I'm trying on clothes at the store, a smile (this one is not always easy). If I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror at almost any point in time I try to smile. I figure that if I saw a friend on the street I would greet them with a smile so don't I deserve the same thing? Give it a try. If nothing else you will smile at yourself for being a big enough dork to smile at yourself in the mirror.

Now back to that story bouncing around in my head...Is it a bathroom mirror or one of those closet doors that are all mirrored? Hmmm......

Friday, September 6, 2013

Old Story, New Attitude...

Okay, after a few dreary blogs I figured it was time to get back on to my favorite subject, choosing happiness. One of the themes you see repeated over and over when people talk about choosing to be happy is gratitude. Finding the things in your life you are grateful for daily, yes, every day. All of them. Sometimes that's a little harder to do than others. But it really does help you keep your head in the happiness game.

Now, I'm not super formal about it, I don't keep a gratitude journal by my bed to write down three things I'm grateful for today or a gratitude jar to drop notes in and read when I'm not feeling it (both really good ideas, by the way, just not my style). I am an on the fly person. I see something and send a little Thanks out to the Universe. If you are a religious person a little Thank You prayer would be the same thing. Just taking the time to pause and appreciate what you are feeling or seeing or experiencing.  I know, I know if you aren't in the habit it sounds corny and forced. And honestly when you first start doing it, it can be a little forced. You are training your brain to see the world differently.

Some days are easy, today for instance.
I'm grateful for the nice night's sleep I got after three nights in a row with thunder it was great to have a quiet night.

I'm grateful that I live in a state where someone else pumps my gas so I didn't have to get out of the car in the pouring rain and take care of it.

I'm grateful that George holds still and relaxed when I trim his nails.

I'm grateful that C calls home on Fridays and even more grateful that we can talk for an hour and enjoy the conversation.

I'm grateful that I was able to see a friend who has struggled with addiction get a dream job because he fought for his sobriety and is winning that battle.

And that was all before noon. Like I said today was easy.

Yesterday? Not so much. Let's see after the third night in a row being woken up by thunder (see today's top gratitude item) I had reached the absolute end of my rope. That point where no matter what happens it just seems like too much to handle. Then the top popped off the coffee cup and I dumped a hot latte on my hand and arm and car seat and floor. It took three times for the girl in the window to understand that I didn't need a napkin or even two napkins but a STACK of napkins. And then there was holding it together while it all happened only to burst in to tears when I was telling Brent about it. I hate crying about things like that. It makes me feel silly. But I was exhausted and my hand hurt and I was exhausted and....did I mention exhausted? I can't really tell you what I did for the most part yesterday as it was spent in a funk. I knew I wasn't fit for human company so I kept to myself mostly.

Then when I was driving to pick up Brent and the clouds opened up and the rain dumped down I looked over to the car next to me at the light. His window was down. As he threw a trash bag over his shoulder I realized that his window was down because it won't roll up. I've had that car. The one where the windows won't always roll up or down when you need them to. The one that dies on the on ramp to the highway or the left turn lane of the busiest road in town. I didn't ever worry about my car in high school being stolen because not only would no one want poor Vinnie, if you didn't know how to work the manual choke you would never have been able to start him. I've been there. And I'm not any more. As I sat in my dry car and the guy with the garbage bag gave me the "what are you going to do?" shrug and smile I smiled back and thought, "Thank you." And then just because it was a good reminder I tossed out a thank you for the fact that Brent had let me cry without trying to "fix me" and let me ignore the fact that I was crying until I could get it back under control. Some days are harder but there is always something to be grateful for.

So as I was cleaning house this morning and thinking about this blog a memory popped in to my head. It's an old one and for awhile I wondered why I was thinking about it. Then I realized that sometimes you need a little gratitude for your past as well.

When Brent and I were first married he was going to school and I was working. Now school in the Navy is an all day affair and then there are watches and normal Navy type things as well added in there. Long hours. High grades expected. Stressful times. And we were discovering what it was going to be like being married. Which is a whole other ball of wax. And (as I've mentioned before) I was a piece of work. One of the things that we differ on is that he is a social introvert and I am not. Social introvert seems like an oxymoron doesn't it? But it's not, not really. He doesn't like large gatherings of strangers but going out with friends? He's cool with it. And we did it a lot. See his day was filled with classes and studying and other solitary type events. Mine was retail sales, talking to strangers and co-workers and smiling and being friendly to everyone. So for me what I really wanted to do on the weekend was nothing. And what he wanted to do was hang out with our friends and blow off steam. And since our friends wanted to hang out as well that's pretty much what we did.

Now, that sounds like Brent was forcing me to go out when I didn't want to and that's not right. We went out because that's what you did. We had friends who were social creatures and planned something every weekend so we did it. I hadn't even fully realized just yet that I needed the down time and the time away from people to feel my best. That came later. But what would happen is every once in awhile I would dig my heels in and just not want to go out. No reason, I wasn't sick, I wasn't pissed, I just wanted to stay home. One of these nights happened and Brent asked if I wanted him to stay as well. Now I did, but I didn't want to tell him to stay home I wanted him to want to stay home without me telling him so instead I told him to go, it was fine.

Look, I was 18, I hadn't yet figured out that Brent wasn't psychic and if I wanted something from him I was going to have to actually use my words to get my point across... I'm not proud of it and I've said over and over that he deserves a fucking medal for what I put him through those first few years...anyway...

So he went. Even though he already knew by that point that fine really didn't mean fine and that there was probably going to be an argument about going when he came back. A few hours later he came home and told me I needed to come with him back to our friend's place. I told him I didn't have any urge to go, hadn't we already covered this? And he said that one of our friends had had a lot to drink and he was concerned about her but didn't know what to do. So he came to get me. Fine...I'll go with you. I was pissed at this point. Not only did I not want to go in the first place now I was going and stone cold sober I was going to have to deal with a houseful of drunks.

We got there and...well....It was bad.  Two of our friends who were dating had both had too much to drink and after Brent had left they had gone to her room to spend some quality time together. When we got there she was on the floor of the bedroom on her back with vomit all over her face. While they had been fooling around she had passed out as I turned her on her side she started to vomit more. I'm a sympathy puker normally and I cannot believe I didn't add my own to mix as the story unfolded around me. See, she wasn't actually vomiting more at that point, the original vomit wasn't hers, it was his. I completely lost my shit. I yelled at all of them. How could they be so stupid as to let this happen? Why had they had so much to drink? Who the hell leaves someone on their BACK with puke in their face? What the fuck was wrong with them? I got her cleaned up and woken up enough to vomit up the rest of  her stomach. We probably all should have gone to the emergency room at that point but being underage and in the military (which he was) that's not a good idea.

Brent and I stayed for a few more hours getting everything cleaned up and people sobered up enough that I wasn't worried about people dying in their sleep and then we went home. Where I tried to get a few hours of sleep before opening shift the next day.

So why did this pop in to my head while I was thinking of gratitude? Because I have some delayed gratitude to share for this whole thing.

I'm grateful that Brent chose not to drink that night so he could drive and because he was sober he could tell something wasn't right.

I'm grateful that even though he knew I would be pissed as all get out he thought to come get me.

I'm grateful that I hadn't gone to the party that night. See it was my turn to drink (Brent and I have always taken turns so one of us could drive) and if I hadn't been sober I might not have been able to react like I did.

I'm grateful that nobody died. This is an obvious one, but looking back on that night for years I was always a little in shock at how badly it could have gone.

And I'm grateful that I had the good graces to tell Brent thank you  at the time. I believe it came out, "Thank you for not being a piece of shit and vomiting on me ever." But I think he understood what I meant.

So my point is that gratitude is there. Even in the worst of situations there is something be grateful for. Sometimes it's as simple as Thank you that I can roll of up my window. And sometimes it's as big as Thank you that nobody died.

And it's never too late to say it. Thank you.