NaNoWriMo

No, this isn’t some strange gobbledygook.  It stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it runs November 1-30.

The goal is to write 50,000 of your novel during this month.  It doesn’t have to be good, it’s all about quantity.  You can go back later and clean it up.

Since I have a love of reading, I think the urge to write came naturally.  I’ve written little stories ever since I could remember.  Sadly, except for a couple of school publications, I have nothing to hang my hat on.

Last year I decided to try something new.  Rather than trying to start at the beginning, writing through to the end, then stopping, I started writing what I call “snippets.”  These are basically jigsaw pieces that I can fit together later.  It takes the pressure off of writer’s block, because I can just move on to another snippet.  I’ve found my foreshadowing is improving and the story seems to be coalescing.

I don’t think I’ll hit 50,000 words this month.  Work, home, and the gym take up chunks of my time.  But I am committed to spending more time with my characters, to see if I have something worth editing by the time I’m through.

I’ve included a “snippet,” from a novel I’m calling Nameless for now, although I’m sure that will change.  I’m not happy with my opening either…rather dull.  Still, by working on pieces rather than the whole thing at once, I can go back and switch things up or around or out.  It’s like playing with Legos.

She was nine when her grandmother came down with winter fever. Her mother told her she was ready, and she spent a week nursing her grandmother with salves and detoctions, making her comfortable, cleaning her, feeding her broth and bread. Her mother stood in the doorway of her grandmother’s room, saying nothing, watching.

Nyondele knew enough not to ask for advice. This was the test. If her grandmother survived, she would begin to learn the secret magic of the Shadow Witches, the potions that maimed and killed and burned and froze and destroyed. If her grandmother died, her younger sister Nandalia would learn the Shadow Witch ways. She would only advance to Whisper Witch, respected, but not nearly as much as a Shadow Witch. It was her mother’s dream both of her daughters would be Shadow Witches.

Her grandmother, a Shadow Witch herself, knew the consequences of submitting her health to a child. But going back seven generations, the Witches knew and learned and gathered more knowledge, and she had faith in her daughter’s ability to teach her granddaughter. In any event, all Shadow Witches had to submit themselves to the ministrations of an apprentice, affectionately known as a Root Witchling. It was the test that proved who could learn and who could not. She was willing to die to prevent an unqualified Root Witchling from advancing.

Her grandmother survived. Nyondele had been experimenting with a different concentration of firethorn root, and was able to provide relief to her grandmother’s frozen joints in addition to curing her winter fever Her grandmother nodded to her mother as Nyondele rubbed the ointment into her grandmother’s gnarled hands, more flexible now than three moons ago. This one was ready.

 

 

 

Decision Time

Early voting begins in Florida on October 24.  This election has been difficult for me.  I find both major party candidates repulsive and do not believe any of the third party candidates bring anything meaningful to the table.

Both major party candidates have high unfavorable ratings.  It seems neither candidate is popular with the voters.

So what’s a voter to do?  Is it a matter of voting to make sure the other candidate doesn’t win?  When was the last time you voted FOR a candidate instead of AGAINST the other guy?

I think at this time, when many of us will have to take a long hot shower, complete with bleach, after filling out our ballot, we have to look past the candidate and look at the policies.  Which candidate fits most clearly with the dream you have for this country?  Which one do you think will move the USA in the direction you think it needs to go?

It may be stomach-churning, but we have to look beyond the person and vote for the plan.  Preferably with the adult beverage of your choice.

 

Groping

After the audio tape was released of Donald Trump making lewd comments about making unwanted sexual advances on women, Canadian writer Kelly Oxford invited women to tweet their stories of being groped.

To her shock, the response was overwhelming.  She received 50 tweets a minute for 14 hours.  I’ll do the math for you..that’s 42,000 tweets in less than a day.  She’s received more than ten million tweets since.

This news story brought up a few memories for me.  Yes, I have been groped.  I was in junior high when a boy I liked came up and touched me between my butt cheeks, not once, but on several occasions.  I told him to cut it out, but he grinned and kept doing it.  I was in high school working as a cashier at a grocery store when one of the bagboys reached out and twisted my breasts.  I was working at a television station in Charleston, South Carolina, bending over to get some paper for the copier, when a male co-worker came up behind me and smacked me on the butt.  Hard.  

I don’t consider myself a victim of sexual assault.  These are things that happened, annoying and distressing at the time, but I moved on.  I hadn’t even remembered that they occured until Ms. Oxford’s tweet.  It made me wonder. Why would I dismiss these events as no big deal?  In the grand scheme of things, they aren’t.  There are women and men and children who have suffered horrendous sexual abuse.  A butt grope, a titty-grab, and an ass-smack don’t even rate.  

I told my husband about these incidents and he immediately went all Knight in Shining Armour, “Who, When, Where was I?”  He never knew, even though we’ve been together for nearly thirty years, because I didn’t think they were worthy to be mentioned.  I have been touched without my consent because I lacked a Y chromosome, ho-hum.  I told him it’s quite likely his sisters and his daughter have been groped too.  I’m sure my female friends have been touched inappropriately too, and if you feel comfortable sharing I welcome you to the discussion.  Stand up and realize we don’t have to accept it just because of our gender.

This news is opening up a bigger conversation, beyond just Donald-Trump-is-a-Pig.  Women are realizing they’re not alone and that it’s okay to speak up.  Men are realizing that this is the norm rather than an aberration. Understanding there’s an issue is the first step to fixing it.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman.  Speak up. We can shame this nonsense, whether it’s a clueless prank or predatory behavior.

Hurricane Matthew

Living in Central Florida, I am no stranger to hurricanes.  Fortunately, we do not live on the coast, so for the most part we are spared the brunt of most of these storms.

In 2004, we were hit with Charley, Frances, and Ivan.  We lost power during all three, the longest being about 18 hours.  Some of my co-workers were not so lucky.  They lost power for more than a week.

Hurricane Matthew skirted the coast of Florida this past week.  We accelerated at work, and I am so proud of how the entire office pulled together to Get Things Done.  Even my boss came in on her vacation to pitch in.  We worked with the outer offices and completed our extra work in plenty of time for me to release the staff early on Thursday so they make their own preparations.

We were lucky at our house.  Lots of wind and rain but no flooding and just a few small branches breaking off. We never lost electricity, but my folks lost internet and cable, and other friends lost power.

The death toll in the United States as of this writing is 17.  In Haiti is is near 900.  This is a storm that will go down in the history books.

Some are saying the media and government overhyped the danger, whether for ratings or to further a climate change agenda.  Listening to Governor Scott and other Florida officials, I believe they made the right call.  Mandatory evacuations keep residents safe, especially if first responders cannot get out.  In such high winds and potential flooding, it is unsafe to send out EMTs and firefighters.  As Governor Scott stated again and again, if choose not to evacuate and have an emergency, you’re on your own.  They simply cannot send out anyone to help you.

I hope Hurricane Matthew is the last big storm we have for a while.  What those of us who live in the paths of these storms have to understand is that the first and best line of defense is ourselves.  Whether it means boarding up windows or evacuating to a shelter, prepare so you don’t have to rely on others to rescue you.

The Power of the Introvert

in·tro·vert

ˈintrəˌvərt/

noun

  1. a shy, reticent person

I’ve always been shy.  Meeting new people was hard for me, and selling Girl Scout cookies door to door was pure torture.  I was eight when we moved to a new house, and I barely remember third grade.  I knew no one, was too shy to make friends, and I barely made a sound.  This was back when classes were in “pods,” four or five classrooms in one big space.  I didn’t dare move from pod to pod when classes changed, and I don’t think the teachers noticed for several weeks.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten over my shyness..somewhat.  Toastmasters helped me with public speaking and addressing a crowd, being a manager has helped me coach and mentor.  I can chat with people I don’t know and make friends.  But unknown situations still make me nervous.  

Shy isn’t the correct term now.  Introvert is.  I have learned to embrace my introvertism.  It’s a strength, not a weakness.

Introvert simply means someone who is energized by alone time, as opposed to extrovert, which is someone who is energized by being with others.  I used to feel guilty when my husband would take the children out and leave me alone in the house.  I enjoyed the peace and quiet.  I thought that made me a bad mother…that I would enjoy being away from my family.  

It doesn’t.  It just means that quiet time is precious to me.  Not having to answer to anyone, to do anything, to go anywhere I didn’t want to.  Knowing that no one is going to make a demand on me for a few hours recharges my batteries.  I enjoy hanging out with friends and family, but at the end of the day, a good book, a glass of wine, and my knitting are just as relaxing.  

Introverts treasure alone time, but it also means we are harder to get out of our shells.  Be patient with us.  You’ll find us witty, kind, good listeners.  We’re happy to meet you for a party or an outing, but we need advance notice so we can prepare ourselves for the demand on our psyche.  We’re not stuck up or snobbish.  We just need a little time and space to be alone and recharge our batteries.

One place where it works nicely is when you pair an extrovert with an introvert.  You have someone who can bring the introvert out of their shell, and someone who can ground the extrovert when their flights of fancy reach too far.  Whether in the workplace or a marriage, introverts and extroverts can balance each other to achieve spectacular goals.  It doesn’t mean one is better than the other.  It means one has strengths the other does not.  Understanding that balance can make the relationship stronger.

The Girl Who Wrote Her Own Restraining Order

The internet is abuzz with this HILARIOUS note a girl wrote to a boy who wouldn’t stop bothering her.

I do not find it hilarious.  I find it concerning.  This is a young girl who is apparently being harassed by a young boy and had to resort to writing a note outlining exactly how he needs to leave her alone.

Boys and girls need to learn at an early age that No Means No.  Parents can be at fault with this.  Certainly I’ve given in after saying no because my children kept pestering me.  That was a failing on my part.  No is a complete sentence.  The sooner children learn that the better.

I give a high five to the young lady for standing up for herself, but it dismays me she had to go this far.  I hope the young man quickly learns what “Stop” means.  I hope the adults around these children stop laughing at how “cute” and “droll” this is and see the deeper meaning.  It should not be dismissed as “boys will be boys,” which is thankfully falling out of favor, or “kids these days.”  

One “Leave me alone” should be enough, no matter your gender.

Preventive Maintenance

We get the oil changed in our car.  We get our septic tanks pumped.  We have the air conditioning guy come out to check our handler.

We perform routine maintenance on many of our belongings to keep them running.  How many of us do the same thing for ourselves?

If you are a woman, when was the last time you had a mammogram or a Pap smear?  If you are a man, when was the last time you had a prostate exam?  Have you had your blood work done?  Have you had a colonoscopy?

Many of us don’t go to the doctor unless we’re sick.  But if the doctor doesn’t have a baseline on our health, they can’t know when something appears off.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2008 after a routine mammogram.  I had the mammogram because I’d seen my doctor for my annual physical.  She said it’d been three years, time for another squishing.

If I hadn’t gone, if I’d blown it off because I was busy or didn’t take it seriously, I’d still have cancer.  I just wouldn’t know it.  But they caught it early, I had my treatment, and I’ve been fine ever since.  The scary thing was, I didn’t feel sick.  If I’d ignored it until I did feel sick, I’d be in a worse situation.  I think having cancer has trained me not to ignore symptoms.  Something feels off, I get it looked at quickly instead of waiting for it to go away.

I recently blackmailed my husband into getting a colonoscopy.  He needed to have it, since he is past 50 and there’s a history of colon cancer in his family.  He asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day.  I smiled and said, “I want you to get a colonoscopy.”  He hung his head.  I’d trapped him.  Quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

The doctor found two benign polyps and snipped them out.  These polyps can turn into cancer.  But now they’re gone.

This preventative maintenance on our bodies takes just a little time out of our lives.  But isn’t it better to take a little time now, while we’re healthy, rather than take a lot of time later, when we get sick?

We recently lost a family member to advanced cancer.  She was older and came from the generation where doctors are for when you get sick.  I often wonder if she’d had her annual check ups, would they have caught the illness sooner?  Could they have treated it?  Would she still be with us today?

Preventive maintenance.  A little goes a long way, whether you’re talking about cars or colons.