Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Home for the Holidays

This year I wrote no Thanksgiving post--not, mind you, because I wasn't grateful.  But because I felt grateful for so many things that I wouldn't know where to start or where to end, and I wouldn't be entirely sure what would fill in the middle, either.

And even as I sit here drafting this Christmas post, I'm feeling mostly glad that I get to go home every Christmas.  My parents have lived in the same house for a while--a longer-than-I've-been-alive while--and I have a hard time imagining anyplace else will ever feel as comfortable.  It's the house equivalent of a favorite pair of jeans, except that's a terrible analogy because I don't associate jeans with everything I associate with my home.

On Christmas Eve, my brother and my parents and I opened our gifts from each other.  We figured we'd leave all the mayhem (a.k.a. the munchkins opening their presents) for the morning when we could just sit back and watch how they liked everything.  And then my brother, my mom, and I sat in a row on the couch while my dad read us the Nativity story.

From a picture book.  But with all the scriptural text, more or less, and the set-up was essential to all three of us being able to see the pictures.

My older sister and her family will not come in until a few days from now, so I like to think that we're to an extent having holidays the way hobbits eat: we've had first Christmas, and soon we'll have second Christmas.  And thanks to Skype, we still saw them today even if only for a few minutes.

And I suppose all of this is to say: I read a book a couple of weeks ago called The Man Who Invented Christmas.  It's the story behind Dickens writing A Christmas Carol (and I apologize to anyone to whom I've spouted random factoids from this book, but honestly, it's something I want to place into the hands of anyone who says books don't have the power to change anything...ahem...).  Anyway, it quotes Dickens as essentially saying that Christmas is family, and it should always be spent at home.

I must say I agree.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Music-Related Melancholia

Once upon a time, on Saturday, I attended Kurt Bestor's annual Christmas show with my little brother.  First things first: I loved it, and my little brother is officially the best.  Or was for at least a minute or two on Saturday. ;)  Second things second: these things always make me wistful.

I suppose I should specify: by 'these things,' I mean musical performances.  Some musical performances.  Mostly musical performances that involve a flute or a piano in pretty much any capacity.

It's not entirely untrue to say that I have a certain...overexaggerative....streak.  I am a queen of hyperbole.  And sometimes it's for comedy, but sometimes I actually mean it.  I honest-to-goodness mean whatever over-the-top thing I'm saying sometimes--not as often as I once did, but still.

This is where the wistfulness comes in, I suppose.

I took instrument lessons: piano, flute.  As I recall, I mostly behaved myself during my piano lessons but I often acted like a little terror in the course of my flute lessons.  I have since learned that karma's a very real thing.  A few years ago, I agreed to teach flute lessons to the younger sister of a high school friend--and darned if she wasn't as much a terror as I'd been back when!  Maybe more!


Lessons.  I took them.  And I used to imagine, I used to dream, that one day I'd be good enough I'd be famous.  But here's the thing: I never stuck with any one thing long enough to excel enough.  My attention span wavered, and while it's true I'm still a perfectly adequate piano player and that I still know which end of a flute is which... none of my big dreams ever came true.

I remember, 15 or so years ago, going into the Capitol Theatre with my parents for the first touring play I ever saw there: The King and I, with Hayley Mills.  (For the record, Ms. Mills is nice and all, but I'm pretty sure I would've preferred anyone else be Anna.)  Anyhow, I remember looking for the first few minutes into the pit, and thinking: "Someday I'll do that.  Someday I'll be good enough to play in the pit."

But I didn't, and I won't, and sometimes that makes me a little bit sad.

Yet mixed in with that sadness is an appreciation of what they're doing: I've taken lessons, I know it's not easy.  And I love good performances that much more (and also loathe terrible performances to distraction) because of those lessons.  I'm thankful I had parents who let me have them, thankful for growing up in an atmosphere that frequently involved music in the background.

Still sometimes I can't help but wonder if I make--aloud or internally--claims to myself that will never be fulfilled, claims that might result in more bittersweet experiences at some point in the future.  It's not even that I think I'd go back and apply myself more.  I don't think I'd be a better flute student.  I still think that counting out pesky rhythms before playing them on the piano is quite frequently a shame.  (So maybe I wasn't the greatest of piano students.  I remember an exasperated teacher who lamented not that I had no rhythm, but that I seemed to make the rhythm I preferred...)

But nevertheless, I had dreams.  Without any follow-through.

And all of a sudden, my pattern of flunking at something like Nanowrimo begins to make a lot of sense to me: I do this.  I'm in a pattern.  I've been in a pattern for a long, long time.  A pattern where I think big and then go small, when I need to dare to believe that I'm just as overexaggeratedly amazing as I claim to be.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Nanowrimo Redux: And I Flunked Again

Once upon a time, there was a writer whom we shall call Katie.  She decided to attempt writing a novel one year--we'll call it 2011--and she kind of flunked out rather earlier.  The following year--we'll call it 2012--she flunked again, but at least she flunked out after half the month had ended.

The first attempted novel is still saved to her computer, the twenty-ish pages that she created.  So too is the beginnings of a second project.  And yet...she's sadly lacking in motivation.  Honestly she knows that she wants to finish one of them but she can't bring herself to do it.

Sort of like tonight when it took her forever to make her dinner because for a great long while she just couldn't bring herself to clean that skillet.  Not that it took long at all to clean the skillet, but it was effort and she was tired.

Which is to say next year she might attempt Nanowrimo again, with the expectation she may perhaps get through three-quarters of the month and then be motivated to finish.

We'll see.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Tired of reading about my close encounters of the writing kind?  Well, if you are, then I won't be sad if you proceed to elsewhere on the Internet.  Okay, that's a lie.  I'll be a little bit sad about you proceeding to elsewhere on the Internet, but I'll get over it relatively quickly and I probably won't see it happening so I won't even be able to experience my brief moment of sadness real-time.

Something that occurred to me today when I got home and decided to do many things, none of which were working on my novel (because I did that a little at lunch before I got distracted by, you know, real people): I actually have to make a choice to write this thing.

I can come home, for example, and tidy up my room a little bit and dance around to whatever plays on my iTunes and maybe watch an episode of a TV show and find ways to generally fill time without writing this thing.

That's not to say that I'm quitting by any means, but I just had this sudden epiphany that I made an initial decision, but I have to keep making that decision again and again as the days march on.  I didn't make it once and poof! a novel appeared.

I think Nanowrimo has taught me a life lesson here.

Well played, Nanowrimo.  Well played.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In Which I Demonstrate the Extent to Which I Can Be Nerdy

I have this friend from work.  We'll call him Kevin, because that's his name.  And he's one of many people interested in what I'm creating while I do this crazy NaNoWriMo deal.  I feel as though I have much more support this time around, which is awesome, because I don't remember this many people last year saying: "Hey cool!  You're writing a book!"

In all fairness, that's not to say that I think these people mightn't have thought the same thing last year, if I had so obviously been writing a book and I knew some of these people last year... I write by hand, rather obviously, in places like the break room.  What else would they think I'd be writing aside from a book?  (...and I just realized I might not want to know the answer to that question)

Anyhow, he has made a specific request: that I not kill off my main character.  I've complied, because who kills off their main character?  (Okay, okay, I know it's happened, but I always feel betrayed.  Unless of course the characters has died-but-not, a la Harry Potter or Westley from The Princess Bride.)


In the course of a conversation last Friday, he'd asked about some plot point I can't remember and what I may or may not do with the book.

And I told him: "I can do anything I want.  I MAKE IT SO.  Like #2."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Question Answered

So I've mentioned to a few people that I'm trying to write a novel this month, and mostly people say they actually want to read it when it looks done.  Some of the truly brave people want to see it before it's even close to looking finished.  And that's great too.

And one someone memorably asked: "So you're writing a novel.  How do you go about doing that?"

I said: "I make it up as I go along."

(Is there any other way of doing it, really?)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In Which I Admit I've Fallen Behind

So here's the deal with Nanowrimo: it's probably best not to fall behind, as you probably achieve your goal better if you don't fall behind and then find you have to have bursts of writing energy that create extra words and story bits when if you would have just stuck with your 1667 words per day minimum, you'd have that novel by the end of the month.

I imagine it's sort of like finding yourself lagging in a marathon and finding yourself needing a burst of speed, although I have no idea because I really hate the idea of running and I'm sure that I'd hate actual running even more than I hate the idea of running.

Anyhow, logistically speaking, having sporadic bursts of writing energy over a few days seems better methodology than waiting till the end and trying to sprint my way to a finish.

I feel that this running analogy is weak, probably because I don't know squat about running.

But here's what I know about staying on track: it's probably better to stay better than on track to give yourself cushioning, good to stay as exactly on-track as possible, not terrible to fall behind if you know you can catch up, and downright lamentable to let yourself so fall behind that you can't catch up no matter how hard or fast you can go.

Possibly this applies not just to writing but to life.

But I'm too tired right now to think much more about it, as this burst of energy has just blown itself mostly out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In Which I Admit That I'll Be Super Glad When Today's Over, Whichever Way It Goes

... And I think that my subject line pretty much sums up my mentality.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Evil Perfectionism Gremlins

Day 3 of Nanowrimo, and I've already found myself procrastinating my writing time.  Which is silly because I have this idea, and I want to write it.  But the little perfectionism gremlin has come sneaking out to growl at me that my ideas are incomplete and I haven't done all my research and this won't turn out exactly the way it should or I want.

And you want to know something about that gremlin?  She's evil and she's wrong.  (And she must be a she because it's just far too creepy to think about male perfectionism gremlins living in my brain.)

Well, she's part wrong, anyway.  I don't expect this to get formulated according to some fully-thought-out plan because I avoided having one in order to allow for flexibility.  I didn't outline so that I could write whatever the heck I wanted and decide what to kill and what to keep later.

And yes, by that, I mean it's possible that in the course of my story characters my day.  But never fear: only fictional beings will be harmed in the creation of this tale.

Anyway, I'm just writing this in my blog as a way of saying: YOU'RE WRONG, GREMLIN.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have a novel to write.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Nanowrimo, You Will Not Defeat Me This Time!

Remember this time last year, when I was all gung-ho and convinced that I was going to conquer Nanowrimo in a fashion not entirely like Rome conquered...well, almost everywhere else back-when.  (What do you mean I don't have the best grasp on that whole situation?  I'd be offended if you weren't probably right.)


I've reconciled with Nanowrimo, who I quit a few days into November last year because like a petulant child I decided that I just didn't wanna and it was too hard and a litany of other excuses that amounted to: hey, this takes time and effort and I don't want to give it.

This time around I've come in with expectations that I can finish a novel in month, but only if I actually write every day and temporarily give up other things.  (Not Once Upon A Time, though.  I refuse to give up that show.)

And I've rediscovered something I already know: I flow better when I handwrite first and then transfer it to the laptop later.  There's nothing that makes my brain freeze quite as much as staring at a blank computer screen does.

Also, it helps to have positive reinforcement (bizarre-o, right?), as when you mention to people that you're attempting to write a book and then they almost beg you to let them be a first-wave reader and give you feedback to which you say yes because who DOESN'T want people to want to read and critique them?

More blogs forthcoming probably.  The more varieties of writing I'm doing, the better the juices flow.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

On Why I Dislike Halloween

Before I start, let it be noted that my dislike of Halloween does not extend to The Nightmare Before Christmas or It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  So for the record, there are at least two things about Halloween I like.  (In all fairness, though, they just prove that I like Tim Burton animated movies and Charlie Brown television specials.  Who doesn't love Charlie Brown television specials?)

This year, more than any other year, I feel that many people have been asking me about Halloween, particularly what costume I'd be wearing.  My answer: none.  I don't really like Halloween much.  Well, okay, that was the mellow answer.  Some people may have been treated to a more vehement response that may have involved the word 'hate.'

Every person who leapt to the defense of Halloween, every person!, had the same response: "But there's candy!"  

I'm not a candy hater.  But I don't feel like saying that candy is involved makes Halloween that great.  I'm an adult now, if I have the urge for a particular type of candy, I can go out to the store and buy it.

The older I get, the more I see a range of Halloween costumes for women and their female children that are just...utterly distasteful.  And that's putting it mildly.  I'm not a fan of leaving my house and seeing people wearing costumes that show me...too much of them.

While yes, I do enjoy some of Tim Burton's flicks, and a certain measure of creepy-fun, I find no joy in being scared.  There is absolutely nothing recreational about being frightened.  When I wake up on a day where I know I will have a lot of free time, I do not immediately think: "Oh, I think I'll scare myself today!"  I don't like feeling anxiety, I don't like when my heart beats more quickly than normal, and I don't like shaking.

Pumpkin carving and pumpkin painting bring me no joy, as they never turn out how I want and they  never last for very long.  Also, they quite frequently get smashed by ne'er-do-wells.  Pumpkin cookies are good, though I associate them more generally with fall-time and not Halloween.

Maybe one day, if I ever have a child, I'll remember what's it like to actually like this holiday.  But for now, I am content in my Halloween-grinchiness.

Monday, October 29, 2012

On My Struggles with Goal-Setting

A long, long time ago I listened to someone teach a class about goal-setting.  (It could've been Institute; it could've been church; it could've been school.  Honestly, I don't remember where I was.)  I'm rather sure, now that I think about it, that I've sat through more than one goal-setting lesson in my life--but that is neither here nor there.

What struck me on this particular occasion is that the teacher suggested that we need to analyze our goals a little more.  He/she suggested that our initial goals would be so large or broad as to seem grand but not entirely achievable, so we should break that initial goal down into smaller goals to accomplish to reach the broader purpose.

I thought it a brilliant idea.  Still do, really, except that it poses a problem when I can't figure out the big goal. Or the little goal.  Or any goals.

Or when my goal is Be Happy, well, I haven't quite figured out how to break that one down either. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

In the course of a recent phone conversation, I expressed to a good friend that I often feel that I'm not entirely sure about what I'm doing with myself.  Her near-immediate response went something like this: "Well, the way I figure it, you're too beautiful and you're too talented.  That means there are just too many things that you could do to choose from."

Let's just say that's not normally what I think of as the problem, but then I tend to look at things from my own point of view.  My point of view is that I just don't know what I want, and that might not be completely removed from her perspective.  (I'm not saying that I can do anything.  I'll never, for example, be a pilot or an astronaut.  But then those were never really on my mental to-do list, anyway.)

But then that's the tricky thing about perspective: sometimes we need a new one in order to really get a handle on things.

Recently I was thinking about my experience ten years or so ago with the woman who created my prosthetic.  She eventually became a little frustrated with trying to match the color of my functioning eye, because the color changed based on what I was wearing.  The changes were usually subtle, but I didn't know until then that my eye was actually several different colors: blue, green, brown, and even goldish yellow.

Prior to then when anyone asked my eye color, I'd shrug and say "Green" or "Hazel."  

It's a funny thing, because I look in the mirror every morning, which  means I see myself.  I'd seen that eye many, many times but I never registered that there were complexities to its color until someone else told me so.

You'd think that a half-blind girl would need fewer reminders than others about ways of seeing things clearly, but you'd be wrong.  Perspective matters.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nothing Can Come of Nothing

It's been a great long while since I've read King Lear.  A couple of years, really, since I've either read or watched anything Shakespearean at all.  But as I was mulling over some things I'm not entirely sure that I'm content with, this phrase popped into my head.

I frequently go through periods where I feel as though I get antsy with everyone and everything.  The antsy-ness may or may not be visible, I really don't know, but I sometimes find myself wishing that I could just run away from everything for a while until I get myself sorted out.

Sometimes it passes through, just a brief visitor reminding me that there's no such thing as feeling absolutely settled with everything.  And sometimes it stays for a while, prompting and re-prompting an assessment of things that I can change, that maybe I should change, that maybe I just need a longer reminder can be changed.  Sometimes it morphs into the winter, spring, summer, and fall of my discontent.

I've been known to ponder running away to escape this feeling, but I know that's patently ridiculous: anything internal would follow me.  It's a silly impulse since I've only discovered two ways of getting rid of this sensation--waiting it out and actually making a change.

And I'm starting to wonder about whether I should make a change, because Lear keeps popping into my brain.  Nothing can come of nothing, and I need to make some choices.  I need to take some actions or I need to choose not take some actions.

But in the meanwhile any time I encounter this feeling, I have a feeling this saying will be swimming around in my brain until I choose.  Doing nothing, choosing nothing, will result in nothing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

You're Know You're Kinda a Book Nerd When...

So I live down the street from Toad Hall.

No, really, there's an older and nicer and gated house at the end of my street that is called Toad Hall.

I have no idea who, if anyone, lives there.

So clearly, I picture Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows living there, because--hello!--it's Toad Hall.  And he just never comes out because he doesn't want to scare his neighbors.

And the Answer is, Clearly, Fairy Tales

So I've noticed lately that a lot of popular YA lit these days is purely dystopic in nature, and I've speculated about it.  But something had been nagging at me, and that something was this: what is popular--is there anything popular--that's at all anti-dystopic?  What, I thought, is the opposite of all this dystopia?  (Linguistically speaking, I know the answer is utopia...but for a little while I was stumped about how one would generically answer this question.)

And then it hit me as I watched the season 2 premiere of Once Upon a Time: duh, the answer is fairy tales.

They never fully go out of style; they get adapted and re-adapted; they almost always follow the same general plans.  They're stark: black and white, good and evil.  Hey look, this is the evil queen.  She's bad.  Hey look, this is Snow White.  She's good.  

No in between, only temporary unhappiness, and lots of happy ever after.  Most of the time.

And I guess I just had to write this up to reassure myself that not all of the popular books of the moment are about the world going to hell in a handbasket (or worse).

Monday, October 1, 2012

In Which I Tell You Why I Will Never Finish The Casual Vacancy

Life is too short, people.  It's too short to read books that you don't enjoy reading all the way through.

Which I suppose could be considered an odd perspective coming from someone who recently decided to re-read books that she read in school and positively and fearsomely hated, but I feel that's a different story.  Some of those books just weren't given a fair shake back then for whatever reason.

But here's the thing about J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, or at least the first one hundred pages or so of it: I just kept waiting for something to happen.  And nothing did.  (There's a joke in an episode of Gilmore Girls where the characters are making fun of The Donna Reed Show: remember that episode where the dad came home from work and was upset because dinner wasn't ready and nothing happened?  Remember when Donna tried to bake a cake and nothing happened?  That's what the first bit of this book felt like.)

Well, strictly speaking, that's not fair.  One major event happened, really the event that sparks the novel's title: someone dies.  So in all fairness I would describe the first bit of the book thus: someone dies, and then nothing happens, except that everyone somehow mostly internally reacts to the death and then there's some blahblahblah about local politics.

You might be thinking that I was unwilling to give this book a fair shake because it's not Harry Potter, but that's not even a little bit the case.  I don't like this book because it's dull.  Nothing that's going on in this first bit makes me want to keep reading.  As of where I stopped, there's only a whisper of a plot and I don't have any faith at all that it will ever reach normal speaking volume.

I could possibly, potentially, maybe get behind some of these characters--well, at least one that I can see--but nothing has given me reason to.  And I have no reason to carry on reading this book when I could be reading something else I'll enjoy more.

So that's my two cents, in the event you were debating whether to pick up this book.

(I didn't post this on the book blog as it seemed decidedly unfair to review a book without reading it all the way through.  And I didn't want to read the book all the way through to post an opinion.)

I somewhat recently read an interview where Rowling stated she's sure she'll find her way back into children's books.  I have great faith in what she might add to that particular genre, mostly because you don't find a lot of children's books where nothing much happens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Readwalking, or Why I'm Sometimes a Little Cowardly

Sometimes I wonder if I keep doing the same things I always do because there's a certain comfort to monotony.  Mind you, I'm not thinking right now "Oh, hey, I am going to write a blog that sings praises to boringness!" but I am thinking that there's a lot that I--and I'm sure other people--choose not to do because it's unknown.  And because there's a certain amount of safety in a pattern of routine.

Safety, I say, because I have become comfortable enough that I have started a practice that was much more common to myself when I lived at home with my parents: I now feel that I am familiar enough with my environment to walk home from Trax while still reading my book. 

I've lived in the same place for more than four years now, and it hasn't changed much at all, aside from someone finally finishing the renovation on a house on the corner of my street.  And, I guess, they are almost done with a new building that's kitty-corner from my Trax stop.  But the route home has become well-trodden now, and a few weeks ago I was very into my reading, and I just kept reading because I knew my feet would take me where I need to go.

Before you start worrying too much, please know that I'm not so dumb that I get so absorbed as to not pay attention to walk signals.  I'm more than glad to put the book down while I'm crossing streets.

As an added bonus, apparently I'm a source of entertainment as well.  The following day, as I walked home with my nose firmly stuck in my book, I passed an old man working in his yard.  He glanced at me, took a good look at what I was doing, and promptly burst into laughter.  Even better, after laughing, he just went back to work without trying to figure out anything else about me through conversation.

Of course, I don't know that you really have to have a conversation with someone who walks and reads to figure something out about them: you've already seen.

Anyway, the point of telling you about my readwalking is that I've reached a comfort level wherein I feel pretty safe with my current surroundings and circumstances. Some of them, anyway.  And I sometimes wonder if it's not to my detriment.  This is why: I don't like threatening my own safety.  So even though I may find that there are things I'm experiencing discomfort or unhappiness with, I don't want to change them, because changing them has the potential to change my safety zone and to make it much less safe.

I suppose it's self-preservational, but it's also an instinct I'm not entirely sure how to fight.  Growth involves change.  Progress implies movement.  And I'm not sure how much movement can come from within the safety of routine.

Every so often I invariably conclude I need to find a way to make a change, to shake up my life a little, or maybe to let someone else shake it up for me.  I just need to find a safe yet unsafe way to do it.

If anything such thing is possible.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Thoughts about Dystopia

Is it just me, or does the popular young adult literature of the moment all seem a little...less than idealistic?  Of course it's not just me.  Haven't you noticed?  Dystopia has been all the rage of late.  I'll readily grant that each individual novel I've read (the first few that pop into mind are The Hunger Games, Veronica Roth's Divergent, Ally Condie's Matched, and Caragh O'Brien's not-yet-fully-comple Birthmarked trilogy) has been differently dystopic.  But they're all dystopic nonetheless. 

And I find myself wondering: why dystopia?  Why now?  Why so many?  And again, more emphatically: why dystopia?

I often find myself wondering if this may be a way we content ourselves with the current state of the world: yes, we say to ourselves, it's bad.  But it's not this badA reassurance, if you will, that things could always be worse.  Perhaps reassurance is the wrong word; this would seem an instance where there's a world of difference between saying we see a bright side and saying that we see a less dark side.

It's also easy to look at these as morbid thought-experiments.  If society started restricted this, if we no longer could think of that, if somehow we managed to restructure everything completely...this fascinates me, because I feel as though utopias of any kind are also thought-experiments.  Cause and effect: if we caused this, what effects would it have?  Except that right now doesn't seem to be the time for speculating what would happen if we found a way to feed everyone or if a fountain of youth existed or any...happy...thought experiment.  Instead the thought experiment generally seems to be what if somehow the world ended, the apocalypse came, etc.

But then, and I suppose this might be the optimist in me peeking out, I wonder if these books aren't so popular because of the type of conflict that it allows a hero/heroine to rise above.  Could it be possible these concepts are idealism in cynicism's clothing, teaching us that any of us might rise to our potential in even the worst of times?

I find that I can't decide, and so I take the only rational approach I can think of: upon exiting dystopia, I choose a happier environment to lose myself in for a while.  I read a happier book.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On Being Patient

I don't like it.

But if that were all I were thinking about, this would be a short blog post.  I really don't like it.

And so I find myself learning it anyway.  Isn't it funny how life works that way?

If you spoke with anyone who knows me and who has had sustained interactions with me, I tend not to think this is a word often used to describe me.  I am many things, but I am not always the most patient person.  Once, when my mom told me she thought me to be patient, I questioned her realization she was speaking to the right child.  She then told me about specific ways in which she thought I'd been patient and I said, oh, ok, I guess that's true.  But here's the thing: none of those specific ways involved people.

So okay, I think, I'm good at being patient with things, but I'm unsure that's a helpful form of patience to have.

There's no need to go into any detail, but I'm learning more patience with people--with myself and with other people.  And I hate it, because you know how you end up learning more patience?  Any patience that you innately have gets tried.  And tried.  And then tried some more.  Ergo the hate.

And then what happens is that I find myself struggling to have patience with the process of gaining patience, which just adds insult to injury...but maybe helps with the whole process (even if it seems mean and meta.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Which I Remember How I Used To Compete with Myself

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I might find motivation if I could find a way to be contrary to myself.  You probably thought I was talking gibberish.  I was pretty sure I was talking gibberish.  (Gibberish and I have been very comfortable together for a very long time.)

But I remembered something.

Whenever I was supposed to get a task done quickly, I competed with myself.

Hm.  Is there any way to describe this that won't make me sound like I was slightly schizoid as a child...?  Probably not.

When I used to make my bed, I used to compete with myself to see who could make my bed faster...me or...me.  I used to imagine that there was, for lack of better terms, a parallel me in a different universe that was super speedy.  If I could make my bed faster than alternate-me made my bed, I won.  If I couldn't, I lost.

There was also a parallel me who took fast baths, who cleaned her room more quickly...  I recall beating her a few times.

Now if only I could find a similar--maybe less crazy--way to compete with myself.  (Parallel-me, I'm sure, has already written 3 novels by now...)

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Silly Things I Sometimes Ask the Internet

Sometimes, when I get bored or when I'm seeking out motivation, I google.

And in many instances, my friends, this is a very silly thing to do.

Just now, because I'm trying to work myself out of this armchair and over to my room to gather up dirty clothes and do my laundry, I googled "compelling reasons to do my laundry."  Hey, I thought, if anywhere can give me a REALLY compelling reason to do my laundry...

Try it.  You know you want to. 

It was super helpful, right?

As soon as I saw that lovely list of links, I thought: "Oh, you ridiculous person, you.  You have virtually no clean clothes left.  That is quite a compelling reason."

So now I'll do my laundry.

(But I guess I'm not entirely cured of my silliness if I blogged about it first.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Notebooks, Notebooks, Everywhere

I really, really need to start keeping a notebook right next to me when I go to bed.  It wouldn't be terribly hard at all.  After all, my desk is right next to my bed.  It's there, because that's where it fits.  There's a semi-permanent bruise on my left leg to prove my desk's location.  (Really, it's kind of pitiful.  I mean, I know my depth perception is abysmal, but it's kind of silly to keep running into the same edge of the desk over and over again.)


Sometimes as I'm falling asleep I have these ideas.  Ideas that I could turn into a story.  Ideas that, at least as I'm falling asleep, seem very workable indeed.  But that I don't fully remember when I wake up.

Last night's was something about...pets.  What about pets?  Well, what about pets indeed.  Pets seems to be the only part of the thought that stuck in my head.  (Perhaps I'm subconsciously already preparing to be that crazy old maid with a lot of cats, except I'm not a big cat person and I'm mildly allergic so I'd end up being the hamster lady or the gerbil lady or the bird lady...all of which, incidentally, I've been told sound much more creepy than being a cat lady.)

I have a notebook that lives in my purse, a small one, for scratching down thoughts during the day.  Why shouldn't I have a night-time notebook?

Except I'm really scared of how ridiculous the ideas might look in the morning.  But then, there's a fine, fine line between ridiculous and great.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Possibility of Motivation

Motivation seems to be a tricksy little hobbit these days.  For me, anyway.

I can think of plenty of things to do, but actually finding some oomph with which to do them proves fairly difficult sometimes.

A groundbreaking conclusion occurred to me recently: that's mostly my fault.

Well, okay, pretty much all my fault.

In pondering how I've managed to motivate myself in the past, I've come to realize that I have a certain streak of stubbornness that has lent itself in my favor.  Accompanying that, intertwined in much the same fashion as a vanilla-chocolate-twist cone, I also have a streak of contrariness.

There are a worrisome number of instances where I went ahead and did something because someone emphatically told me I couldn't do it.  It was impossible.  Wouldn't happen.  No go.

To which I said: well, you just watch me.  I don't care what you say!

Psychologists would, I'm sure, have something to say about this.  But then, psychologists would have something to say about most things.  That doesn't make them right.  It just makes them people who are able to have conversations. 

Anyhow.  These days I find that the one person to whom I will accede is, well, myself.  I would never listen to anyone else who told me that I couldn't learn the guitar or write a decent novel or be competitive enough for admission for yet another advanced degree.

It would seem the most ready solution to this problem would be to find a way to be a little, well, schizoid.  If I could convince myself to be contrary to...myself...I almost feel as though I'd be doing more.  Achieving more.

Or maybe not.  Maybe I'd just be that much more crazy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Due For a Change? I Can't Decide...

There are some days, more than others, where I can tell that I really miss being in school.

All of a sudden, in the middle of answering someone's question, I will realize that I have subconsciously been analyzing--the last movie I saw, the last book I read, something I read a while ago but have just suddenly had an ephiphany about.

And at these moments I miss school, because when you have these epiphanies, nobody looks at you as though you're utterly crazy.  If you dare voice these epiphanies, they nod along because even if they don't agree with the line of reasoning--they follow.

These days I don't voice these things aloud, because in an office environment, people tend to treat such behaviors as...well...crazy.

In all fairness: how many people stop, frozen, in the middle of their workdays because a sonnet is echoing in their heads.  Or because, as happened the other day while sitting in the midst of what felt a swarm of people who were all talking all at once, suddenly Walt Whitman made much more sense?

I'm willing to bet: not many.

This happens to be more and more frequently lately.  E.D. Hirsch pops up in my recreational reading.  It suddenly seems important to re-attempt The Great Gatsby.  (I didn't much care for it the first time around, but then, I was seventeen.  Maybe I'd like it now...although after reading This Side of Paradise, I'm pretty sure my original impression of Gatsby was pretty much spot-on: Fitzgerald writes wonderful prose, but I pretty much hate all of his characters.)  People are starting to resemble book characters, book characters are echoing elsewhere in the real world.

At the moment, I'm treating this as a cue to look back into Ph.D. programs.  We'll see if this time around I manage to stick out the whole process.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll find another way to silence the echoes.  Or at least quiet them a little.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Memory

Lately, one particular memory keeps coming to mind. It first popped in after I was thinking about being childlike, but it just keeps popping back into my head now and again.

And this is the memory.

A few years ago, I was staying for a couple of days with my sister and her family in Lehi. I believe my purpose in staying there had something to do with "helping" as I awaited hearing back about various job applications and, in general, tried not to be too maddened by my then-unemployed state.

I say "helping," because I'm never quite sure how much my presence helps. I mostly tended to distract the kids or talked to my sister once they'd gone to bed or I just helped herd them as she ran errands.

Anyway, one of the mornings I was there, I remember sitting at the counter. My niece (who would've have been, oh, two going on 3 or so at the time) was my breakfast companion. She had already aptly observed that my eye looked different, and I told her I hadn't yet put it in. She didn't know what to think of that comment until later when she watched me put in my prosthetic.

As we ate, she scrutinized my face in that way only a very small child can, then announced: "You have freckles, just like me." If she'd been older, I probably would have made a sarcastic comment about the wonders of genetics. Or maybe I wouldn't have, I don't know, because the way she pronounced the statement very much said: we're alike, we two, with our freckles. And because I've found a way that you are like me, I wholeheartedly accept you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Random Birthday Thoughts

Last weekend marked that most auspicious of occasions, yea verily, my birthday.

Except that I can't particularly claim to find any of my birthdays too terribly auspicious. That's the thing about time passing and becoming another year older: 28 doesn't feel different than 27; 27 didn't feel different than 26. I don't even think turning 30--when it happens in a couple of years--will be all that big a deal.

I could be wrong. We'll see.

The older I grow, the less I care about whether there are big celebrations. Except, of course, that I always love the time I get to spend with family. Particularly when I get to spend time watching one of the cutest little girls on the planet. (My niece, Abigail.)

I think I'm going to maintain that my birthday present to myself--which won't be gifted to me until later--is going to be having some kind of adventure. What kind of adventure? I don't know. But an adventure nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I've Done It Again!

I don't know how I manage it, but I have a tremendous knack for catastrophically injuring myself in the smallest of ways. Okay, perhaps this time it isn't catastrophic...or it is, but only relatively speaking.

I've sprained my ankle. Again. (Witnesses report that when this information was communicated to my family via word of mouth after I told my mother over the phone this weekend--prior to when they witnessed the watermelon-foot hybrid in all its glory--that my brother-in-law reported asked: "Did she fall off a Trax train again?")

No, indeed. This time I just...fell. On the way from my front door to my ride's car door. Apparently, the street and I aren't seeing...foot to ground. I had almost successfully reached the car when all of a sudden, I found myself not quite standing anymore. And with a decided pain in my foot.

But on the bright side: I now have something fascinating to watch. I'm intrigued by how swollen it gets. I'm intrigued by how many colors it turns. And I'm especially intrigued that I can press into the swollen part with my finger...and then watch the indentation stay for a few minutes.

Also, I'm glad this didn't happen while the weather was nice.

It's been four and a half years since I fell off the Trax train, so I suppose I might've been overdue for an injury. Here's hoping it will be another four and a half years before I break myself further.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What I Learned While Writing a Story for My Nephew

In my creative writing classes, they always told us to write with a specific audience in mind. I never quite knew what to do with that advice back then. Then--and now--I would dearly like to write a story that appeals to a wide audience. And I couldn't conceive of writing to one single person until I received a text from my sister the other day.

The text simply sent her new mailing address and indicated that my oldest nephew wanted mail for his birthday--letters, cards, and whatnot. I'm mailing him a package (books, of course, no surprise there), but I found myself taken with the idea of writing something to send to him. Except that when I thought about what type of letter I'd write to a seven-year-old boy...I found myself well and truly stumped.

My sister--my wise and wonderful older sister--suggested he would be delighted if I wrote him a silly story. The sillier the better, or so I hear. Apparently he has reached a phase in his life where not much is ever serious and where he cannot sustain a whole phone conversation with my mom or dad without doing something ridiculous.

Anyhow. I found it incredibly easy to write that story. And do you know why I found it so easy? I know him.

When I sit down and start writing a story for the innumerable and faceless masses, I find myself inevitably cringing and backing away from the computer screen. Nothing seems good enough. Nothing seems wide-reaching enough. Nothing seems as likeable as it should.

But when I'm writing for one little munchkin: it's easier to focus. I know how silly I can get. I know how serious I can get. And if the story arc isn't exactly perfect, well, it's okay. He'll forgive me. He's seven. He'll just be glad he got mail.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Enjoy the Smudgy

Lately, I'll readily admit that I've found myself wishing I lived in a fairy tale. Not, mind you, because I want to be some kind of powerless damsel-in-distress. Not, either, because I want a prince to happen by on his trusty steed and literally sweep me off my feet. Not because I have any problems with wardrobe, or with other people, or with anything else.

Sometimes I just wish that everything really were that simple. Good guys wear white. Bad guys wear black. No doubt as to who will be hero and who will be villain.

But really, what makes the world so interesting is that it's...smudgy.

I often find myself explaining to people that my favorite heroes are not those who are SO pure of heart and SO above it all that they manage to save the day. Those heroes: they aren't relatable. I'm not always pure of heart. And I'm certainly not above it all. If anything, most of us are always in the thick of it.

What, then, am I to like about someone who seems so much better than I am? (I inevitably end up hating the purest-hearted heroes. They're insufferable. And they're boring.)

The smudgy. I relate to the smudgy. They don't always have pure motivations, and they don't always know what they're doing, and dagnabit, they're fascinating.

I suppose the lesson must be: fairy tales are simple, and we like them that way. But we like them because we know they aren't real. Real=smudgy, smudgy=good.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

You Say You Want a Resolution?

I like the idea of New Year's resolutions. New year, new start, new beginnings, new ways...maybe even new you. And in theory, resolutions are great. They're wonderful at providing aims, at voicing accomplishments, at saying, "Hey, world, look here. This is what I'd dearly love to accomplish this year. And please try your best not to get in the way of my accomplishments, thank you very much."

Yes, indeed. The idea of resolutions is good.

But as is the case with almost everything in life--with the exception (in most instances) of how to put on one's pants--the idea and the practice are more than a little bit different.

My resolutions invariably become a laundry list of things I want to be better at and things I want to do better at. And all of a sudden, I find myself at some point in the middle of January wondering exactly what I like about myself. Perhaps that sounds a little extreme, but sometimes I make resolutions and realize I've done nothing but list what I feel are my failings in some strange, inverted way.

Last year I resolved to say yes to more stuff more often...and to be honest, I don't know if I've said no more in my life than I did in the past year. Some of it was necessary no-ing. But some of it...was just me kind of being a chicken.

It's that whole theory-and-practice quandary: yes, in theory, I'd love to be more outgoing. I'd love to be in the best shape of my life, to play the guitar, to travel outside the country, to write a novel, to actually list a publication. I'd love to be entirely reliable, to be always happy, to exercise all necessary follow-through to make all of these things I'd love to do and be come to life.

But it's hard. And yes, I suppose that's me whining a little bit. But it's nevertheless true. Change isn't as easy as putting on my pants. What's easy is gliding along comfortably in familiar patterns. I once said that I felt Anne-like, but these days, I'm afraid I go far too often without flying or thud.

So if I'm to make a resolution this year, I feel that the most honest one to make would be this: I resolve to actually make effort to change. And I permit failures. All sorts of failures.