I thought it might be time to add another post about my writing process. Not that anybody’s asked for it, but I think it’s interesting to know how other writers go about putting their stories down on paper. So, I figured someone else might be, too.
First things first: At this point I am totally hung up on short story writing. I like a story I can get down on paper (I write my first drafts in a handy-dandy composition book) in just one sitting; two if it’s on the longish side. I don’t have a great attention span, either, so short stories suit me that way, too. Mostly, though, I’m gonna blame it on my main characters. They never seem to need more than a couple of thousand words to tell their tales.
Which is probably the main point of this post in the first place. When I write a story, the days or hours before I sit down to it always go something like this: I’ll think of a really good opening line for a story. Maybe I’m in bed about to fall asleep, or in the shower, rinsing my hair. Once I read a non-fiction story and was so struck by an observation in it I immediately knew I had to use that line.
Having that opening line is crucial, for me, because it’s how I find my characters for the story. Who would say something like that? Why? Who would she say it to – another person, or maybe to herself?
Sometimes I have a vague idea of how the story will go, but usually not. Most days, I sit down and start writing and the character tells me what to write next. Not in a I hear voices in my head sort of way, though. The story just comes out of my pen.
My most recent story, about a fourteen year-old drug addict, happened this way. I knew she was a cocky kid named Darla when I sat down to write her story, but that’s about it. Turns out she has a big purple birthmark on the right side of her face and found herself in a rehab group for adults. Who knew?
Darla did. I learned it yesterday, and now you know it, too.
My question, at this point is: Are you interested in reading the story? I don’t like to technically publish my stories here because if I’m able to publish them anywhere for pay, it needs to be previously unpublished. However, if you’re interested in reading Darla’s story, leave a comment below. You’ll have to sign in with an email address, but then I can send you a link 🙂 Sweet!
Don’t get me wrong. I love to write, LOVE IT, but eventually I’d LOVE IT even better if I could make a living from it. While I’m working on that part, I sure would like your support and to start to grow a following. I’m not looking to get famous, really. I don’t think I’d like it, honestly. But a hardcore group of people who like reading my stuff as much as I like writing it? That would be awesome!
Today is the day we set aside to celebrate mothers. Let me tell you, we certainly are a group that deserves celebration. We form and grow the bodies our children inhabit for a lifetime. Which is just the beginning of it. True? Mothers are the driving force behind how we create who we become as human beings, citizens, heartful people into the rest of our lives. Mothers are not all powerful, but we’re as close to it as anyone can get.
To say that I am grateful to my mom says nothing of what she means to me. Without her, I am not. It’s a biological fact, sure, but it is also an emotional and mental fact, too. She rocked me until my tears stopped falling as a tiny baby, then again as a scrawny little girl, a self-conscious teen, and even now as a full-grown adult person. Then there’s the fact that I am stubbornly me because of my mom. Good, bad, or otherwise I wouldn’t have me any other way. I may not like myself every moment of every day, but I will never apologize for who I am; that would hint at a flaw of my mother’s. She’s never flawed, in my eyes, because my mom is as perfect a mother as I will ever need.
But this is the part where things get complicated. I love my mother dearly, but if she were the only role model I’d ever had as a woman, I wouldn’t be near to who I am. My other mother (some might call her a step) has taught me ways to be that I’d never learn from the woman I call Mom. The way I like to think of it is, if my mother forms the fabric of me, my other mother is the glittery thread shot through it. She adds a special dimension that I’d be a lesser person without.
What’s especially special this Mother’s Day is that my daughter will soon become a mother, too. <3 So along with celebrating my mothers, and my Rachel for making me one, I will soon get to celebrate her as a mother in her own right.
If I have one piece of advice for you, Rachel, it’s this: Don’t try to be “THE perfect mother.” Don’t worry about all those silly, little things parenting books and mother’s groups and friends, family, and even strangers tell you will cause irreparable harm. Most of the time it’s just a load of crap. Love that baby as hard as you can. Nothing, absolutely nothing in this world, is as important as that.
I got in a spat on Facebook this morning; a comment battle, some might call it, but it wasn’t quite that contentious. I hate when that happens, to be honest, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. I get sucked in by good intentions, then can’t stop myself because every now and then I want people to stop. Stop for just a second, and think. Think about something outside of their own four walls. Outside of their own struggles. Outside of their own little lives, and realize that some people live different ones; they have different priorities, needs, and desires.
The spat was about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The basic gist of it is this: There are a whole bunch of American workers up in arms because they currently make $15 an hour (or maybe even less) and have been working the same job for years. I get their point. I honestly do. For me, the real beef isn’t about minimum wage so much as it is about what’s fair.
These workers have years of job experience. Job experience is hugely valuable. If they have that much experience, it also means they do their job well enough, at least, to have kept that same job. Being good at the job you do is also hugely valuable. I trust that no one would disagree with either of those points.
But framing the minimum wage according to one’s personal situation, and that alone, isn’t fair. Here’s the thing, minimum wage was not meant to assist only entry level workers. That’s the argument people most commonly make, but that’s not true. It was meant to be a living wage. It was intended to create a country where no matter what your ability, a worker could make a decent living.
The argument always goes like this: well you shouldn’t expect to be able to live on what you can make as a cashier at McDonald’s because that’s just an entry level job. Maybe it was for you, but that’s not true for everyone. What if a person’s very top intellectual capacity is one that allows him to be a cashier and nothing more? What if no matter how hard a man works he can’t read or do math well enough to do a more sophisticated job than clean a restaurant or bag your groceries? Do you mean to tell me that man, who is the best damn cleaner you’ll ever meet, who shows up every single day to bag your groceries and help carry them to your car, who takes pride in a bright shiny floor after he’s done buffing it — You’re telling me he doesn’t deserve to live comfortably? Let me tell you something, bub, the current minimum wage doesn’t allow even that.
Here’s another thing. If you don’t want the minimum wage increased, then shut the hell up about about paying taxes for food stamps, and Medicaid, and any other federally funded program we have that protects the welfare of the poor. Because you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You have to pick one or the other.
After all that’s said and done, though, I think we have a much deeper problem in our country than what’s a fair minimum wage. Our bigger problem is we don’t respect a hard day’s work anymore. We don’t value a woman for doing a good job if it’s a job that won’t make her rich. Or at least buy her a nice new car. And we sure as hell don’t respect a woman who opts out of working a paying job to raise her children. And isn’t that sad?
When did we stop valuing a man for his best contribution? And don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I’m not talking communistic, we all share equally, kind of deal. All I’m saying is hard work = hard work regardless of whether you have the smarts, luck, or family ties to be the CEO, or not. Let’s be blunt here: if you read the studies on human perception, a lot of what makes a CEO a successful one, is how straight his teeth are or if she’s got good hair. So you go ahead and think this is some crazy, revolutionary idea if you want to, but that there is just not right.
We all get blue sometimes. Maybe it’s the weather, or a bad time of the year, or things just haven’t been going well lately and it’s got you down. That’s feeling blue. Yeah, that sucks, but it’s not depression. Depression is a change in your brain chemistry. It can be triggered by events, absolutely it can, but it’s different. Depression is: no matter what, you can’t shake off the feeling of low. Like, you could be in your very favorite place, with your most favorite people, eating or doing or drinking your favorite thing and feel completely numb to it all. At least, that’s what it’s like for me…
Buck up buttercup? No. That’s not fair, and it’s not that simple. I’m 50 now and for the past year or so I’ve struggled on and off with bouts of depression. Menopausal hormones suck. I’m fortunate though, that when I get depressed I don’t get so low as to feel totally hopeless or completely helpless or feel like it never will end. I am very lucky that’s not me.
But depression is a big struggle. It is for me, and I know it is for the people who love me. They don’t like to see me so low, any more than I like it. So today I’m offering a list to help them and you and anyone else who’s ever had to deal with depression:
Depression is hard. It’s not your job to make it easier, but it sure is a wonderful kindness to give it a try.
You don’t want to have to be politically correct anymore, huh? Well I don’t want to have to share 99% of my DNA with you anymore, either, so just give it back and we’ll both be happy. Problem solved.
I’m so sick of hearing why political correctness is a bad thing. Really sick and tired of it. I’m irritated every single day by people who tell me to quit being so offended. Or quit getting my panties in a bunch or being overly emotional about things. Really? Quit being offended?
Why should I? I want to live in a civil society. And surprise, surprise, that requires us to be CIVIL toward each other. So stop telling me that historically it was okay to use the word nigger, so you’re going to keep using it. There is no reason to continue to use terms (or symbols, for that matter) that cause other people heartache. It’s not that I expect you to be politically correct. I expect you to be civil. I’d honestly prefer you to be kind, in general, but if you can’t pull that one out, just be civil.
And while we’re at it, let me just say. Yes, I am tired of the ever-evolving terminology we have to use to not offend each other. Why call a janitor a building maintenance technician? I never heard of a janitor being offended by being called a janitor. Do you know why? I think it’s because somebody, somewhere, thought janitor didn’t sound important, or prestigious, enough. Well, I think that’s a wrong-headed assumption. Taking care of a place is noble and it’s a job done by good, hardworking people. When did we suddenly decide that good and hardworking wasn’t enough to be a proud American?
Same as with the terms homemaker, or gardener, or cashier, or cook, or teacher… Anyone who ends a day having worked earnestly and well is deserving of my respect. And yours, too. Not to mention, they’re worthy of pay that makes their lives livable. It’s simple.
So what if they have no further desire than to live a simple life in a simple place? Not everyone wants a big, expensive car. Not everyone needs a house with more rooms than he or she will use in a year to feel validated. Not everyone needs botox, hair dye, and designer clothes to feel worthwhile.
And also while we’re at it, I’m sick and tired of having to apologize because I am somewhat intelligent and use my brain to determine my opinions. When did it become a bad thing to be smart? Why is it wrong of me to consider things like poverty from all different angles? How is it wrong of me to say I understand why Middle Easterners feel righteous in their anger toward us? We need their oil, so we think we have some right to tell them how to run their politics, just so our oil supplies aren’t compromised? That’s like you coming to my house and turning the TV channel to your favorite show just because you’re there. No, man, it’s my TV. Maybe you should have DVRd your program at home before you left. Not my problem. And yes, I probably invited you to come to my house in the first place, but that doesn’t give you the right to take over.
I do think about issues that are important, to all of us. I think about how I feel about things, and why I feel that way. I mull things over, I chew them up and spit them out. And like when I was a kid and wasn’t done chewing a piece of gum, I might stick it on my bedpost so I can pop it back in my mouth the next day and chew on it some more. It bothers me when someone doesn’t take the time or the effort to think about things just because they’re complicated. So then what happens? We take the simplest route to gaining our opinion and call it good.
Here’s a good example: Illegal immigration. It’s not simple. It’s a refugee crisis, more like. Many (probably most) of the people coming over our border illegally are running from violence and poverty that we can’t imagine. Are you hard up enough to leave your home, your family, and everything you’ve ever known and travel thousands of miles, on foot, with just a few of your possessions in a sack? Are you doing that? No. You’re not. Do you know why? You don’t live in that level of fear or poverty. So tell me anyone who makes that trip doesn’t need our help and a little damn bit of civility? Come on. Nobody’s asking you to give them your home or your family. But the simple answer is to build a wall, to keep them out? That sounds like a good way to spend your tax dollars? Really?
And let me just add one more thing while I’m here. To those of you who over the years have called me, and others like me, overly emotional. I have just one thing to say: fuck you. I live a rich and fulfilling life. A big part of who I am is based on my emotionality. I feel things fully and deeply. I’m sorry if you can’t. Truly, I feel sorry for you. But just remember, I don’t go running around calling you a cold-hearted, unfeeling robotron, do I? Nope. I don’t. Just let me be me and I’ll let you be you. I never said you have to like me, anyway.
Is there a point to this rant, in the end? I guess the point is that I expect more from us. We can’t claim to live in a civilized society then refuse to be civil. We can’t claim the right to say anything we want, any way we want it, and then claim that no one has the right to react to it. We can’t claim to have compassion and not show it, or to have intelligence and not use it, and, in the very end, claim to be human and not be humane.
And last but not least, for those of you who want to run around saying horrible things then claim, “I was just kidding” or “It’s just a joke.” Stop. Just stop that. Because whether you were a kid on the giving end or the receiving end of that sort of thing, we both know the truth. “I was just kidding” is what you said when mom came along and caught you being an asshole, right? Am I right?
You know I am.
During a conversation yesterday, I was posed this question: Is violence in the ghetto justified? My answer to that, on face value, is No. I don’t think violence of any sort toward any body is justified, but I can understand how it feels justifiable.
No, I don’t see those as the same thing. I don’t believe violence solves any problem. We have to be smarter than that. I don’t believe anyone has a right to inflict bodily harm on anyone else. But I can fully understand how anger and outrage and frustration can build up inside a person for years and years and eventually bubble over in violent acts. We’re human, after all.
Let me offer an example and I’d like you, reader, to think (really sit back and consider) what it would be like for you to be in this situation. Here goes: Say you grew up in a family that had no permanent roof over your heads. Your parents worked hard, but never had more than the $50 a night it cost to live in a long-term hotel room. It happens. I’ve seen it. So then, let’s say we apply a little math to that situation and $50 x 30 days (a month’s worth) = $1,500 a month in “rent.” That’s a hell of a lot of money in rent for a shabby hotel room, isn’t it? But people grow up in that situation all over the country. Mom and Dad pay it out, day after day, because when you’re paying $1,500 a month for a hotel roof over your head it’s impossible to scrape together first month’s and last month’s rent plus a security deposit to rent a real apartment. So you remain homeless, as a kid. You don’t eat well because of the money thing, too, but also you don’t have a kitchen or a table for cooking and eating. You probably eat mac and cheese out of a styrofoam cup a lot of nights. It’s hard to study because, again, there’s no table to spread your books on. Plus Mom and Dad might have other more important things on their minds – like can we afford this shitty room again tomorrow, or am I gonna get fired because the car broke down and work is too far to walk? So checking homework and maybe just having an engaging conversation is too much to ask for. Maybe Dad died of diabetes complications because there was no money for the doctor or to treat it or to buy healthy foods.
So you have a family of children who grew up in a situation that was so difficult to climb out of that they were unable to do it. Then, some dude with a job and a house and plenty of food and his own bedroom with clean sheets and warm blankets on the bed and probably a flat screen TV in there; he comes along and says, “Why you mad, bro?”
Would you want to punch him?
I might. Because we are only human. Love and hate are equal sides of the same coin, aren’t they? What matters is what we do with them.
That’s why we admire Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. isn’t it? Because he saw the importance of rising above. He knew in his heart that even those kids who grow up in abject poverty need to have a dream. We all deserve a one. Every one of us.
I am hard-pressed to find anything in my heart but compassion for those affected by the bombings and other violence in Paris yesterday. It pushes any thoughts of hatred out. It makes no room for xenophobic ideas. I don’t worry that any one person’s religion inherently makes her/him good, bad, or otherwise. That job is up to the person.
What do I worry about? That our world has become so uncompassionate that I need to announce that I still am very much compassionate. Rose-colored glasses? Sure, I’ve got at least three pair lying around here somewhere. What of it? Why am I bad because I want, expect, dream of us at our best? Not bad? Okay, why would I be called silly, or unwise, or unthinking because I reach for my ideal life and expect others to do the same?
Are my ideals too unrealistic for you? Do they make you feel too small because of their largeness? I’m not sorry for you. I have only one life. I want to make mine as big in ideas and actions as I can. Don’t you?
I learn best when I get dirty. It’s true. That explains why I chose nursing as a career. It’s a dirtier job than you might expect; don’t let those bright colored scrubs and white shoes fool you. I’ve been, literally, up to my elbows in humanity as a nurse – physically, emotionally. It’s tough. But being hands on is the only way I know how to do.
I can listen to an interesting lecture for hours and be totally engaged. Problem is, by the time I get home and take off my coat I’ve forgotten probably ¾ of what was said. I’ll have the gist of it, but not much more. How frustrating, too, because in group settings there’s always one funny little story to be retold after and I forget them right along with everything else. I love telling funny little stories, too!
But if I’m working, hand-on, on a problem or project while listening to a lecture about it, I’ll have no trouble remembering it. Likewise, if I write notes during a lecture I’ll be more likely to remember what was said better.
There’s an old adage that says when you DO something you remember it, and I’m sure there’s truth to it. But, it’s also true that different people have different learning preferences. Some would rather watch a video because they’re visual learners. Some would really rather just listen. Me? I have to get in there and get dirty.
This type of learning is also referred to kinesthetic (meaning movement and muscle engagement) or experiential. It’s a sweet treat for me to think of learning as a whole body activity. Immersion in a subject is the best way to learn it, though, so it shouldn’t surprise me that I would find this pleasing. I also like the picture in my head of me diving into a pond filled with knowledge and just swimming through it, floating on it, splashing in it. How great would that be?
I suppose learning hands-on is another way that I hold onto my propensity to be child-like. Children learn with their whole bodies. They have to, right? At the moment of birth babies are plunged into this whole new world and can’t help but experience all those brand new sensations with their entire being. I try to imagine what that would be like as an adult. It sounds a little overwhelming, but that’s an experiment I’d definitely sign up for.
Now, having spent this bit of time writing about learning hands-on, I’m ready to run out into the woods and explore a fallen leaf or the crook of a tree. I guess I gotta get off this plane, first 😉
I try hard to be a thoughtful person. It seems easy for some people to do what’s thoughtful and just be that way all day, everyday. It’s not for me. I try, but I wish it were more automatic. So with that in mind, here are seven reminders for how I can work to be a more thoughtful person:
Which is a perfect place to end this list, because, well, I know darn well as hard as I try, some days I will be a thoughtless cur. And the best thing I can do at the end of those days is know that I have another chance to be the kind and thoughtful person I want to be tomorrow.
I am a tactile person. Or, if you prefer, touchy-feely. This is not to say I am a casual hugger. I don’t like when people think that because you’ve met you could be or should be friends that you surely will be and, so, a hug is in order. I don’t abide that sort of behavior. Though, that’s probably more a function of my definition of friend vs acquaintance than it is about whether or not I’m tactile.
I receive great pleasure in touch. I don’t mean sexual pleasure, although it is a bonus. It’s just that my tactile senses are hyper-aware, maybe. I’ve been scolded at more than one museum for touching the smooth, ancient marble of a sculpture – I just can’t contain myself. I MUST touch it. I experience things best through my sense of touch. And what better way to experience ancient art than to touch it?
As soon as I see a sign or hear a warning “Do Not Touch” I must. I need to know why. A waitress brings a plate and warns, “Don’t touch it, it’s super hot!” What is my reaction? I touch it to judge for myself, dammit. Of course I do.
I know that most people feel most deeply through their fingertips, but I adore using the palms of my hands. Maybe because they are used less often, so are more sensitive? Or maybe because when I use the palms of my hands I feel an emotional connection. And yes, I understand how odd that sounds. I might have an emotional connection to my table? Well, my table does a lot: It holds my coffee cup in the mornings. It holds all manner of clutter that land on it throughout the day, and without complaint mind you. It doesn’t complain if I forget to give it a good scrubbing. Plus, I like the feel of the bitty ridges of the laminate surface.
Beyond my table, though, my heightened tactile sense takes me to wonderful places. I touch the leaves and flowers and rocks of the forest. To touch nature is to touch the divine. I poke the sharp spines of the Acacia trees as I pass them by on a hike. They are a wicked form of protection. Then, there is the pleasure I get when I stroke the soft hair of my love’s forearm. What pure feelings of love and contentment, right there in the palm of my hand, and on the tips of my fingers. Intense and intimate, like sex, but appropriate in any setting.
I’m actually a little disappointed to think that others don’t have these same intense feelings when they touch things. But maybe, in the end, that’s not so bad. We’d be like a planetful of people rolling on X. How would we ever wage wars or hate people or —
Oh, wait. On second thought…