Sunday, December 26, 2010

Resolution time? Again? Ugh.

Yup, it’s that time of year. All the hustle and bustle of the Holidays has passed and we're all left with this... vacuum. For weeks you've been running around: buying this and planning that, shipping this and decorating that. Now what? To fill the void left in these last few days of the calendar year, our minds turn to thoughts of what didn't get done rather than celebrating those things we did accomplish. In this spirit, I offer these lists:

Things I accomplished this year:
1. Started my own website (have YOU visited it yet?)
2. Officially became a professional writer (I wrote + I got paid = pro)
3. Shook off the fear and submitted short stories to literary magazines

Things I could not have accomplished this year without the generosity of others:
1. gotten the kids outfitted for school & Christmas
2. stayed in the Garden choir
3. kept the house out of foreclosure

Things I keep saying I will do but haven't yet:
1. Forego Christmas Cards and send New Year's cards. No religious affiliations to worry about!
2. Finish that novel. Any novel.
3. Stop fearing the fallout and tell certain people how I really feel.

Now, the rest of you: make your lists. Pat yourself on the back a little, kick yourself in the ass a little. Make. Your. Lists.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Life as I know it

Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery.

Is that copyrighted? Probably. No harm intended! Don't sue me. I don't have jack so it would be for naught. Literally.

Anyhoo.... here I am "celebrating" the one year anniversary of losing my job. God, this blows. In all my working life I have never been out of work for more than a couple-three weeks. It is freaking depressing as hell! I have sent out umpteen resumes, applied for at least a couple hundred jobs, attended job fairs, cold called, asked for referrals. Ugh! I have had maybe half a dozen interviews and zero offers. When I follow up, I get no response. Having endured countless unreturned phone calls and unacknowledged e-mails, I don't what I'm supposed to do.

I went all summer with no unemployment benefits. Thanks to Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, my extension of benefits was stalled when Congress voted to not give a shit about the unemployed. We nearly lost our house. I was about a week away from getting my car repo'd. We had to scrape, beg, and borrow to keep a roof over our head. It was a delightful experience, let me tell ya. Got my benefits reinstated in September but now there is more talk of Congress giving the thumbs down to continued benefits. This morning? Nothing in my bank account to indicate that I've received my direct deposit this week. Merry Christmas!

But, before I shift completely into FML mode, I do have one idea. One possible, albeit challenging, saving grace.

I have been doing a bit of freelance writing, ghosting writing web content. It (literally) pays pennies per word but...maybe, just maybe, I can write enough to earn a living. I will have to punch out about 10 articles a day in order to make the equivalent of what I am drawing from unemployment. But, if I super glue my nose to the grindstone it might (aka might) be possible.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of hard work. What am I afraid of? Failure. Homelessness. Having to send my kids to live with relatives because I can't keep a roof over their head.

So. Not really much to think about, is there? Just time to get to work.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Summer of my discontent

This was an odd summer, one of challenges and charms. Pros: finally had that long awaited "Gathering of the Band Geeks", a reunion of the old gang from the high school marching band. [note: everyone says "let's get together" but until one brave soul actually picks a date and cracks the whip, it ain't gonna happen]. Cons: zero job offers coupled with my unemployment getting cut off which had led to serious financial difficulties. A big shout out to Ben Nelson (D: Nebraska) for blocking the vote to extend benefits! Yeah, I wrote him a letter but... I digress.

A couple of other unusual things came to light over this summer that bear review, or at least a "hmmmm".

1) No more breakouts
I was not a particularly pimply faced teen myself, but did suffer from adult acne. My throat and neck were the most plagued areas. But now? Nary a nasty bump. I do get the occasional wannabe zit around that time of the month but a quick zap with some Oxy 10 knocks them out before they get a chance to rear their ugly white heads.

2) No sniffles
No one in our little foursome had so much as a head cold this summer. The kids stayed home, rather than going to summer camp this year and unlike last year, when Little JT got the Swine Flu, everyone has enjoyed good health. I hope their immune systems are ready to handle being back in the germ lab, er, classroom.

3) Less chance of skin cancer?
I, though quite fair skinned, am not a big sunscreen user. Unless I am going to the beach or the pool or Universal Studios, I just don't think of it. As a result, I had what appeared to be a permanent sunburn on my chest in the shape of the v-neck tops I tend to favor. It was really red and kind of heinous. This year I have been more diligent about putting sunscreen on my blotchy chest and neck and, lo and behold! The burn has faded! I am still more freckled in this area than say, the underside of my chin, but everything is pretty even toned now. Looks way less like I need a trip to the dermatologist. Or oncologist.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A daily dose

Go to the bookstore or search online and you will find mounds of books, blogs, newsletters, websites, etc. offering advice on writing. One tidbit that bobs to the surface again and again is: write every day. An hour, a page; many experts recommend making writing as much a part of your everyday life as brushing your teeth.

The September issue of Writer's Digest magazine touches on this topic in several ways. While "The Big 10" issue is filled with Top 10 lists on a variety of subjects, let's focus on the topic of daily writing:

From "Top 10 Things Every Aspiring Writer Should Know" (Kirby Larson): "Debunk the myth that a writer should write only when she is moved or inspired. A piece of writing is created by sitting down each day and writing. You really can create on demand once you've decided not to be taken hostage by that part of your brain that's demanding you update your Facebook page, fold laundry, or answer an e-mail as it comes in."

From "Top 10 Essentials to a Writer's Life" (Erik Larson): "I set aside a minimum of three hours every morning, seven days a week, during which no one is allowed to disturb me except to report an incoming cruise missile."

From "Top 10 Things Every Writer Should Do" (Mary Higgins Clark): "Carve out a specific time to write virtually every day. 'When I get to it' means failure."

From "10 Experts Take on the Writer's Rule Book": John Dufresne agrees. "Writing is work. And you have to go to work every day. It's not a choice. If you don't punch in, you lose your job." Jason Scott Bell takes a different tack. "I used to do a daily count, but a little thing called life would interfere and I'd miss a day. Then I switched to a weekly quota and have used it ever since."

Writing every day (or close to it) is something that you'll have to train yourself to do. You may have to give up some other time wasting vice (no more LOL Cats!?) or at least cut down. Make yourself a space, even if it's just the corner table at the local coffee shop, and pet pen to paper, perhaps literally. Writing longhand is a surefire way to remove the distraction of updating your Twitter. Then you can do your second draft in Word.

Ya know, I think I may have to print this out and tape it up on the bathroom mirror, the fridge, the TV remote... because, yeah, I need that daily flick in the forehead too.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Divine Intervention

I am currently reading "Eat, Pray, Love". Yeah, I know. Just a wee bit behind the times. I can relate to the writer on many levels: who among us wouldn't love to travel and write about it? But, perhaps because of where my head is at this moment, perhaps out of sheer jealousy, I find myself very depressed reading this book. This book is making me regret the path my life has taken, making me feel that the decisions I've made have stranded me on the craggy shore of a bleak future. I'm sitting here alone with no one but myself to blame.

Last night, as I closed the book and turned out the light, I told myself that maybe it was time to give up on the writing. I would never be a "real" writer, would never have my book on any sort of best-seller list. As I drifted off to sleep... words and images began to fill my head. Beautifully descriptive prose that spoke to my very soul. I think it may have been the voice of God, telling me to not give up. Not yet. That's what I'm telling myself anyway. I guess I'm not ready to give up after all.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This is stoopid

Read this:

I'll wait.

dum de dum dum dum... finished?

Okay. This is the most ridiculous idea to come down the academic pike since... ever. I mean, really? I, for one, recall being very proud of my little self when I learned to spell "beautiful". Will there be no such sense of accomplishment for future generations? Here are a few more arguments against this inane proposal:

1) Take the word "foot" for example. If you spelled fruit phonetically, you would spell it f-r-o-o-t, right? Well, what about foot? Fut? No. Fet? No. Fit? Fat? No and no. Fute? Well, that's just silly. F-o-o-t is the only way to spell this word. In actuality we are all probably just pronouncing it wrong.

2) Imagine this actually happens. Fast forward two generations. My great-grandkid picks up "Tom Sawyer" or "Gone With the Wind" or "Twilight" and, guess what? They can't read it! The wurds r all speld funee!

3) If we change the English language, what of all the other languages of the world? Is everyone else supposed to relearn English just because some people are morons?

4) How will you differentiate between "so", "sow", and "sew"?

Now, don't get me wrong. Our language is a bit hinkey. One of my favorite "I Love Lucy" episodes is the one where Ricky is reading Little Ricky a bedtime story, and is exasperated by the words bough, rough, through, and cough. Hilarious! But, that is kind of the point. The English language is sometimes silly but it is an amalgam of many other languages. Our word origins predate most modern day countries. It is a tie to our history and to the very shaping of the world.

The dumbing down of the populace must stop! So what if it's spelled d-a-u-g-h-t-e-r instead of d-a-w-t-e-r? Or should it be d-a-h-t-e-r? See? There's another problem. Which version of misspelling will be considered correct? Oh, what a can of worms this would open! We'd have Northeast Spellings, Bible Belt Spellings, California Spellings (where every noun contains "dude"), Canadian spellings, eh. And, of course, New Jersey Spellings.

So, give it sum t'awt. Lemme no wut youse guys tink. Ahm gunna go faw a cawfee.

Next up: Invasion of the Grammar Police

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going Buggy

I went into my son's bedroom to put his clean clothes away and noticed a sock on his bed. A sock way too big for him. And really dirty to boot. What follows is the conversation that ensued. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Mommy: What is this?

Elroy: A sock.

Mommy: Yes, I know its a sock. Where did it come from?

Elroy: Please don't throw it away.

Mommy: But where did you get it?

Elroy: George gave it to me.

Mommy: George gave you a dirty sock?

Elroy: Yes.

Mommy: Why? And who is George?

Elroy: You know, George. Me and Freddy and George hang out at school.

Mommy: And why did George give you a dirty sock.

Elroy: We want to keep beetles.

Mommy: What?!

Elroy: We're all going to keep beetles.

Mommy: Are you telling me there are beetles in this sock?

Elroy: Yes.

We're not keeping the sock.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nicknames. It's been years since I've had one. I miss having a nickname. It's like being a part of a club, like being included.

My first nickname was a rather unflattering one: a play on my name which, granted, does bear a resemblance to a certain aquatic creature of Scottish legend. Nickname number two? A combination of my initials which, when put together, rhymes with turtle. Then came the real nicknames:

Girl Achi (long story)
Battle Bitch (longer story)
Bass Baby
Mumbles (shouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure that one out)

Okay, I guess Clancy was actually my first nickname. Dad called me that when I was a small, young thing with pigtails and skinned knees. Years later, someone else picked it up again. Nicknames tie us to a time and place. They ground our memories.

They are generally better given than chosen but if I were to choose my own nickname, it might be... Nans? Ray? (Short for Teresa. That's TeRAYsa, not Tereesa). Or, perhaps something more indicative of my personality. Like... whats another word for indecisive, procrastinating dreamer?

Just don't call me Missy. Ever. Unless you want to find out how "Battle Bitch" came into being.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Habitually trying to change my habits

A wise woman once told me that it takes two weeks for your brain to accept new behavior. The real problem is that it takes way longer for the brain to un-learn the old. Old habits die hard, they come back unbidden, they flick the new habit on the nose and send it retreating to the corner. Oh, cruel habits! (not to be confused with cruel Hobbittses) And that old behavior is so ingrained that you don't even notice it at first!

Old habits can not be ignored. It takes a concentrated effort to push them down, step on their neck, and keep the pressure up until they are no longer moving. Then keep stepping a little more just to make sure the habit isn't faking it. Cause they will totally do that. At long last, when your leg is quivering from the effort and you think you've won, wait... just a little bit more... there! Done. Old habit dead. Phew! But watch your back. Old habits, like Alexander Godunov in "Die Hard", have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. Be vigilant. Be persistent. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some old behaviour to un-learn.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Focus on the long term

Fear. It can paralyze you. It can throw you into a constant state of inaction.
Imagine yourself walking into the garage. Your mission: to clean it out. Now, if you're like most people, the very thought of such an undertaking will stop you dead in your tracks. That's how I feel pretty much every day. Gotta clean the house, gotta find a job, gotta get the bills paid, gotta keep the kids fed, gotta keep the lights on, gotta write. Screeeeeeeeeech! Deer in the headlights time. Next thing you know it's 2 PM and all I've managed to do is check my e-mail and the want ads, maybe applied for a job or two if I am fortunate enough to find a good listing. Ugh...

Took a walk today to clear my head, to gain some focus. Priority One: take care of the kids. Get them up, fed, off to school. Priority Two: take care of yourself. Get some exercise; a great way to clear the mind and get energized for the day. Priority Three: take care of business. Get writing! The housework can wait. The job listings can wait. In fact, you'll get fresh postings at the end of the day and you'll be among the first responders. Bonus points!

So... new priorities set, new paths ahead. See you on the other side.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When it rains...

I finally have time to write. Still looking for a job, taking time to write in the meanwhile. But, as per usual, it seems like I'm cursed.

Exhibit A) I wrote a short story about a priest who has some difficulties because he's in love with one of his parishioners. About three months later, the news broke about the infamous Father Cutie (pronounced coot-ee-ay, not "cutie", BTW) getting caught smooching his girlfriend on the beach. Priest with a girlfriend? Done been done.

Exhibit B) I write another short story in which the pivotal scene of the story takes place near the Lake Eola fountain in Orlando. As I'm putting the finishing touches on the story, lightning strikes said fountain and knocks it out of commission.

Exhibit C) I have a long history of family members falling ill whenever I tell myself I am going to be really serious about my writing. This trend is continuing as I have not just one but two in-laws who were recently hospitalized. The Curse! Or potentially just bad genes.

Coincidence? Remember that show "Wings" with the cello playing lunch-counter girl, Helen? Helen had given up on her music when an amazing opportunity lands in her lap. She'd thought her days as a musician were over but now she grabs her cello and boards a plane to Boston (with the whole cast, natch) to make her debut with the Boston Symphony. And.... the plane crashes. Of course! I can really relate to her.

But, I have to put superstition aside and press on. If everyone can please stay healthy, I would really, really appreciate it.
Oh, and, sorry about that whole fountain thing, Orlando. Maybe a kiss from Tim Daly will lift the curse.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jazz on a summers day

It would seem that Drum Corps Melancholy is setting in early this year. I was out in the yard raking, pulled a new trash bag out of the box and shook it out to open it. The wind caught it and it fluttered in the breeze... and suddenly I wasn't in my front yard anymore. I was on a field in Somewhere, USA in mid-July, waiting for the command to back it up and run the opener again. I was in Pembroke Pines, Florida standing on the sun drenched practice field at a Saturday camp. I could almost hear the distant call of bugles, the snap of a flag tossed into the air, the beckoning rap of a stick on a snare. But, no, just my front yard, wind chimes tinkling like mallets on a vibraphone. Is it June yet?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Brave New World

This week I am taking my first steps into an unfamiliar world. The world of... the housewife.

Disclaimer: I am not disparaging the housewife. Women who are patient-or-wealthy-or-self sacrificing-or-smart-or-crazy enough to do it have my respect. It's probably the hardest and least appreciated job there is. That, or hotel maid during Spring Break. My problem is that I have been a full time working professional since 1990. Now unemployed, I find myself unable to let go of old habits. Housecleaning is to be done on Saturday. Laundry on Sunday. Dinner is at 7:30. This was my world for nearly twenty years and I am finding it exeedingly difficult to break out of this routine.

My days thus far have been spent scouring want ads, sending out feelers, attending job fairs, networking. I have polished my resume until its reflection can be seen from space. Other than that, I have felt disorganized, unfocused. Twitchy. If the last few months of job-seeking are any indication, I am not soon to be back in the 9-5 world. I may even be (gulp) unemployable. I have the experience but not the education. "Eleven years in an office? Great! Where's your BA? Don't have one? Oh. Well, thanks anyway."

So... I have applied for financial aid, applied to the local community college and sent off a copy of my high school transcript. Hope someone at the college can read Arameic. If all goes well I will be sitting in a classroom come May. In the meantime, I might as well take the opportunity to make a new routine. With one eye on the bank account I am now attempting to get my Donna Reed on.

I am working on a business venture and am in the design phase of my new website. Once launched, this venture will take up most of my "free" time. The money is the only thing that worries me. Hubby is a subcontractor so we never know how much is coming in. Or when. For now, we are holding steady. If worse comes, we can trim some things. If really bad comes, well... I don't like to think about that too much. Hopefully my venture will take flight and pay off. It will. It must!

So it would seem that I now have time to clean, time to cook a decent meal (or at least try), time to enjoy the great outdoors. Gee... other than the looming threat of financial disaster, I think I might like this housewife thing just fine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The verdict is... you're a douche.

Since I'm home during daylight hours of late, I have been watching a lot of those "court" shows. You know, People's Court, Judge Judy, et al. They are educational. For example, I have learned to always get things in writing, and to not look for roommates on Craigslist. Today I saw a defense so unique and original that I just can't keep it's awesomeness to myself.
It was another one of those "your pit bull attacked my dog" cases. This one was not as tragic as some. Victim Doggie survived the attack and is pretty much fine now (often not the case). The plaintiff made her case, and the judge turned to the defendant to give the man a chance to explain why he is not responsible for Victim Doggie's medical bills. His defense was multi layered consisting of the following elements:

1) I've never seen this woman before.

2) What was she doing there on this particular day and time?

3) The fact that, when I arrived on the scene, my wife told me that our dog attacked Victim Doggie and then ran off is irrelevant.
4) Her dog looked okay to me.

Lack of veterinary skills aside, apparently in this gentleman's mind, "I don't know you" is a viable option when defending yourself against a lawsuit. It was hilarious. The guy was so belligerent that he actually got a contempt of court fine tacked on to the damages when he (SPOILER ALERT) lost the case.
See? Educational!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rainy Day Creation

Sitting lakeside in Winter Garden, enjoying the view of Lake Apopka. This once polluted, now recovering, waterway always offers serenity. And a WiFi connection apparently, which may prove distracting.

Today I came to shrug off my housebound habits and get some writing done. There is a chill in the air, a grey sky day. Perfect weather for me to begin the new Gothic Revival Romance piece I have been mulling over. The soft click of crow's feet on the tin roof over my head are no dissuasion. Then it begins: a misting rain. The far away shorelines of Mount Dora and Tangerine vanish in the soft wash of water from the sky. Goose pimples burst forth on my arms as the temperature drops about fifteen degrees in as many seconds. I spy a low-riding motorboat plowing across the water towards the boat ramp, a fisherman abandoning his quest for the day.

The lake is a slate expanse of ripples stretching as far as the eye can see. Only in the boat basin is the water calm. The crows and their avian compatriots take flight, departing this place for drier ground. But, there, a kestrel hovers in the stiffening breeze. Just hovers, flapping his wings now and again but holding his place in the sky. Static. What is he looking at? He dives! Nope... false alarm. I think he toys with me, this dull, earthbound creature.

The wind grows, it gets colder. I must move further under cover or risk getting wet. Didn't bring a jacket. I do love a storm. I hope that darn lightning warning buzzer, the one they use to make people get away from the nearby town pool, doesn't go off and scare the shit out of me. Despite the wind driven cold, I think I could stay here forever. It is nearly silent, the only sounds the falling rain and rushing air, the flapping of a nearby flag, the rustling of the palm fronds. Calm and peaceful in my head at last.