A Little (lot?) Sunday Night Thought

So I’m taking a class. A couple of classes actually. Almost to the end of my (counts on fingers and toes) 13 year long journey to my Bachelor’s degree.

Hard to believe it’s almost here. When I started I was a young mother, and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, aside from set an example that I felt was good enough to get the kids to do it much earlier than I did.

I dabbled with administration, I thought I’d work my way into management, spent some time in hospitality. I eventually fell (almost literally) into computer security. I was pretty good at it too. So good, I finished my Associate’s and took time off from school to focus on what I saw as my future career.

[Record scratch]

What’s that? I need to be technically savvy to keep surviving in the fast paced world of software hacks and database breeches. Hmmmm … well, now, that’s not what I thought I signed up for.

See, originally, when I stepped foot into the awe-inspiring career of security (and the kind that deals with computers) I was kind of under the impression I’d be doing a lot of reading. Like lots. And providing feedback.

Sure, it was technical documentation. And lots of it. But I was able to understand what the documents spoke to. I wasn’t writing them. And now. All these years later. I am.

And not just writing them. But creating the ideas that get you to the writing of the processes that tells someone how to do what it is our requirements tell us we have to do.

Sure, that makes perfect sense.

Except.

I like writing about things. Even technical things. When someone else provides the details. I don’t exactly do well having to come up with the details. I CAN do it.

I’m just NOT actually comfortable with any of that. I mentally hyperventilate into imaginary paper bags when I think about it.

So anyway … I got myself back into school studying something that had potential to be in line with my current comfort zone. And now I’m so close to the end I can taste it.

And as a result I’m doing more reading, which is what I love. And it’s helping inspire me to write more on this blog. And I’m working on the outline for my novel.

And I’m starting an awful lot of sentences with the word and …

Then we come back to my dreaded nemesis … Technology.

I want this blog to be as awesome as it can be … and I’m tweaking, and adjusting, and battling against my own incompetence when it comes to how the back end works. I think it’s turning out okay.

And then … now we’re coming to my thoughts from when I started this post … I goof up on one of the most important things about maintaining a good blog.

I don’t maintain my consistency.

Somehow, I just completely lost track of a day. And not even in any way that makes sense. I downright spaced a blog post on Friday night. I remembered the 100’s (yep, big time exaggeration here) of things I had to do earlier in the day and for the next day. But instead of writing my latest post on the newest day of my lineup I went to sleep.

SLEEP?!

So … although the technical side is important. And the researching side is important. It’s the consistent schedule and following through on the regular posts that matters.

Sooooo …. keep your eyes peeled for me to actually follow through next week.

Remember When(sdays)

This week it’s all about my book picks from the 1990’s – what books do you think of when you think of the 90’s?

Remember when in 1990 …

It was the time of parachute pants, Vanilla Ice, and day glo everything everywhere.

1990: Dr. Seuss has melted hearts for generations, and one of the most purchased books for graduates is his Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was published in 1990 – interestingly enough I “graduated” kindergarten this year. Also – because I couldn’t pick just one book! – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s collaborative novel Good Omens is published – and goes on to be the positively fantastic series a couple decades later.

1991: My favorite book of all time is published (this is a hard title to have, because I basically love every book ever, but hands down this one takes the cake). Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a novel that has pushed boundaries and refuses to fit into any box (neatly, or otherwise). This novel is read by men, women, doesn’t fit into a single genre, and has been made into a pretty awesome (so I’ve heard, still need to sit down and watch the whole thing) television series. Diana … so many thanks for putting this one into the world.

1992: Anne Rice regales us with The Tale of the Body Thief. Daniel Quinn introduces the world to Ishmael and we fall simultaneously in love with a gorilla, and out of love with humanity (ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – but this one definitely makes you think about more than what is comfortable – maybe don’t make this one the warm fuzzy book you snuggle up to before bed).

1993: The very first Chicken Soup for the Soul was introduced to the world this year – and Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen gave both readers and amateur writers something to look forward to, while opening the self-help book industry into something more than the how to be better – it showed real people living real inspirational messages. (Not gonna lie, these are a treat I enjoy flitting through when I just want to think positive.)

1994: Janet Evanovich’s spunky Stephanie Plum jumped off the pages in One for the Money, strangely making New Jersey seem … less New Jersey? I have to admit I’ve never been to Jersey outside of Newark International, but we’ve all heard of the Jersey Devil (among other … interesting … stories).

1995: I love Alice Hoffman. This author makes everything she touches magic … and it’s still incredibly believable. Practical Magic is what I can only describe as a realistic fairy tale (long before realistic fairy tales hit the height of their career). Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman were pretty great in the film version in 1998 as well.

1996: This is one of those years where I had a hard time making a choice. Helen Fielding published Bridget Jones’s Diary, and the world got a modern Mr. Darcy to drool over (thank you Colin Firth, for every faithful portrayal of every Mr. Darcy, we owe you a debt of gratitude). Chuck Palahniuk inspired (perhaps a little too well, in fact) his readers to eschew capitalism and look deeper into existential beliefs, Fight Club really made the public start to question – what is life really about? Where are we really going? And … why … just why? (And the film, those visuals really vaulted this one to cult classic ahead of its time). And last, but not least for 1996, George R. R. Martin introduced us all to A Game of Thrones, and the history buffs swooned at the re-imagining of the War of the Roses. The television show started pretty faithfully too – although I have to admit I was more of a die hard book fan, I let the shows fall to the wayside.

1997: The late 90’s are filled with books that have some kind of special note in my mental vault, but 1997 should be dedicated to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. J. K. Rowling touched on a bit of magic with Harry – and regardless of similarities with other series, shows, characters of other decades, Harry holds a special place for all of us – because both Harry and his creator make us realize we all have something special if we just keep powering through.

1998: I borrowed a book from a classmate many many years ago that introduced me to my love of fantasy. Kristen Britain’s Green Rider is just a yes – magic, check. Blossoms into a larger series, check. Ghosts? Check. And the best part? Double checking on the publication dates gave me the best news ever – the series has grown since the last time I dipped my toe into that particular stream – I’m going to nerd out this weekend.

1999: Stephen Chbosky wrote The Perks of Being a Wallflower – this book is not for the faint of heart, and I made the mistake of diving into it the first time via audio book at my desk at work. Hard to pound out data entry and system security reviews while having your heart mangled through Charlie’s story. Not easy, but worth the effort.

Honorable mentions: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (and the musical it inspired), the teacher, Erin Gruwell’s collaborative project The Freedom Writer’s Diary (And the film – Hilary Swank does a marvelous job) are all books that should definitely be remembered. Any I missed that need a special shout out? I know, there are so many more, but which ones are special to you?

Next week? 2000’s get their turn at the pass, too.

Stop Procrastinating, Start Doing

Have you ever found you have so much you want to say that you end up speechless as a result? The thoughts tripping over themselves in their hurry to be the first one out, but the collision course results in nothing being said? That is the feeling I woke up to today.

Sundays are partially lazy days, and partially crazy days – on one hand it’s lazy because the family and I spend Sunday mornings in our beds either sleeping late or staring at electronic screens until we are either hungry or the desire for companionship overtakes us. Then, when we finally come together all the things that Sunday means become real.

Last minute laundry, checking the lunch supplies for the week, homework review, and for me – organizing my thoughts for the blog post. Normally pretty straightforward. Except not this week.

This week each time I sat down to the keyboard I found myself easily distracted by household chores – my cabinets now shine and smell like lemons. Then I noticed I forgot to charge my computer – which is strange because I normally am pretty adamant about keeping it on the charger (even though that’s not the best thing, technologically speaking). And by the time I booted the computer back up, well it seemed like all my thoughts didn’t quite fit for this week’s post.

So I took some more time to consider what it was I really wanted to say. And I realized that my post from Friday I talked to the etymology of procrastination. And the internet is filled with memes about writers being distracted by anything from housework to mobile games to the sudden and immediate need to shred old tax documents … and I wonder what it is that drives us to put off the one thing that we also burn to do.

Why do we allow our fears of what comes next stop us from doing anything?

And if I really think about my personal reasons, I guess it comes down to this – in our current state we can believe the story we tell ourselves. That we have nothing but potential. That someday we’ll complete the project we’re working on and become full-time writers and make enough to live on while we write the next thing.

But if we let ourselves dive too deep into the statistics, that only so many writers actually make it to that magical point … well we’d give up. So we put it off, because then we won’t be that statistic.

Except, here’s the thing … we already are that statistic if we refuse to power through beyond what scares us. And other than failure, what do we really have to lose by powering through?

So I’m done letting myself get hung up on the what comes next – because what comes next is the potential for amazing. And the only thing standing in my way between now and amazing is me.

 

Friday I Learned …

Today I chewed on my pencil and surfed the internet.

Then made a snack.

I remembered I needed to pay some bills and after that I looked over at the web page and today was the Friday I learned that web pages need some TLC too. So I updated some things and then thought about watching paint dry. (Due to the lack of wet paint available, I opted for a little research instead.)

Which led me to learning that January 1st is Public Domain Day – the day when the list of things that will enter the Public Domain for the current year is released. If you’re looking to work with anything published in 1924 they are entering public domain this year (note, works published prior to 1924 entered the public domain January 1, 2019).

There is a lot of interesting things I learned about Public Domain, but I found myself a little carried away as I dug deeper and deeper into tidbits about the different countries public domain rules, and then realized that I’d never get it all organized in time for tonight’s post. Want to read more about it now? Check out the Public Domain Review 

Soooo … In lieu of that post, did you know that the term procrastination comes from the Latin terms “pro” and “crastinus”? Pro meaning forward, and crastinus meaning of tomorrow – combined to make the term “procrastinus”, and ultimately evolved to our modern procrastinate. (Information verified courtesy of Merriam Webster).

Next week? A rundown on Public Domain as translated through my brain.

Remember When(sdays)

It’s always exciting, starting something new. A new relationship, a new career, and even a new decade. What does this new decade mean to you?

For me it has been an inspiration of sorts. I’ve been thinking about where we have come over the decades in terms of the creative works that have been released into the world. Books, movies, music, and so much more. As a result I started making a list of books that hold special memories for me that have been released since the decade I came into existence (because what better place to start than the beginning of my own story). As I started putting this list together I thought it might be fun to put it here and see where those stories have come together for this decade – some have inspired movies, or television shows, some have new books that are being released still, and some just hold a special place in our hearts.

For some this will be before your story begins, and others well into the second or third chapter. Either way I hope you enjoy my version of a throwback Wednesday.

Remember When in 1980 –

Imagine for a moment – bright lights, big hair, synthwave, and steampunk culture. Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum – big names on the paperback racks.

For me, it’s hard to pick a top 10 list, so how about a personal top selection?

1980: Douglas Adams’ second book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe came out this year on the tail of his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – and while the number of movies and shows haven’t exactly been tripping over each other to get produced, it would make me a very bad sci-fi nerd to not call out the importance of this author.

1981: The book of this year that called to me the most is Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Alvin Schwartz). Also, you might remember the movie that came out last year – although fairly polarizing because for a lot of people (I include myself in this group) it felt like a steaming pile of shut the front door on our childhood. Some people enjoyed the fun movie, and I don’t blame them … but it certainly wasn’t the beloved scary stories that you couldn’t believe you found in your school library.

1982: This is a hard year to pick … I narrowed it down to two books. One that is near and dear to my love of fiction, and one that is near and dear to my love of what literature is. Stephen King’s The Gunslinger was released and we were in love. This same year Alice Walker published The Color Purple – which, if you haven’t read any of Alice Walker’s work … stop what you are doing, please go look her up – she’s amazing, and I really need to write a blog post strictly to focus on my love for her as an author, it could be titled “My Love Letter to Alice Walker” … it’s a working title.

1983: Hands down, The Witches wins my pick for this year … not only is Roald Dahl just the best when it comes to children’s literature, but the movies based on his work have done an amazing job of emblazoning themselves onto our brains.

1984: There are a number of choices for books this year, yet oddly enough the one I can’t help but zero in on is What to Expect When You’re Expecting – I never actually read this book, but somehow I had at least five used copies somehow find their way to my coffee tables and book shelves, and night stand during my first pregnancy 20 years after it was initially published. That is longevity right there.

1985 – This is another of those years where I have a hard time picking a book that hits the marks … because there are too many. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was published this year, and getting ready for season four of the show summer 2020. And my absolute, hands down, favorite book of all time (no, I don’t care that I’m well into my 30’s Tabitha, it’s my favorite!) is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie – partially because this book is just endearing, and the fact that it inspired a series of lovable debates with my now husband about which is better – If you … Give a Mouse a Cookie or Give a Moose a Muffin. My vote – the mouse, hands down.

1986 – How many people didn’t want to ride the magic school bus or have Ms. Frizzle as their teacher (or as an adult wish they could find where she buys her dresses)? This is the year that The Magic School Bus #1 came out – and yes so many other books came out this year, but again – near and dear to my heart, this one is.

1987 – Stephen King was all over 1987 (mind you, he was all over the 80’s in general, but this year especially) with four books that I do enjoy – immensely, but he gets bumped because Toni Morrison also released a pretty amazing book this year … Beloved – and in 1998 Oprah Winfrey did a pretty spectacular job in the film adaptation, but we’re not done with the 80’s yet, so the film has to wait until another day …the novel uses some amazing literary techniques to tell its story, and keep you emotionally invested to the end.

1988 – Roald Dahl’s telekinetic, brainy (and well-read) little girl who could fit in very well with the X-Men was introduced in his book Matilda this year. (Also, I learned that in 2010 there was a musical … a MUSICAL!! … which is now in my must see list).

1989 – I am rounding out the end of the decade with three books – because it was just so hard to narrow it down (and even still was hard to narrow it down to just these three). Ken Follett’s historical fiction The Pillars of the Earth – which has had a video game, a television miniseries, and two sequels … and certainly did a great job of ripping any romantic notions I had about the middle ages right out of my brain (I’m ever grateful for this, in fact). Next – Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club which speaks to the mother-daughter relationships of Chinese immigrant women and their American born daughters and also had a movie released in 1993 (I cried when I read the book, and again when I watched the movie, even though I knew what to expect … yes I cry a lot, but seriously this story is a tearjerker). (Separate side note – Amy Tan and Stephen King were in a little band of literary types called The RockBottom Remainders for awhile … I missed out on ever seeing them live, but check them out on YouTube … one of those neat random facts you never know when it might come in handy). Last … but not least … R.L. Stine published the first book in a series that both gave me nightmares and daymares but also helped me to appreciate family trees in the beginning of books (although that didn’t really kick in until somewhere around book 20) … The New Girl: Fear Street #1. Maybe someday there will be a movie of these – after all, how many Goosebumps movies are there now??

A few honorable mentions …  The Babysitters Club, American Girl, and Sweet Valley High series’ began coming out in the 80’s. Anne Rice’s Vampires Chronicles picked up steam during this decade after the success of Interview in 1976. Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently was introduced to us in the 80’s (also, there is a pretty great series from BBC). And of course, Robert Ludlum, Stephen King, Frank Herbert, and Tom Clancy basically owned the 1980’s.

What do you think? Did I hit or miss the mark? Any you think would have made better picks? What are your thoughts on the 1990’s? I plan to do a similar list next week focusing on the 90’s – any and all thoughts welcome!

 

 

 

Another Decade, Another Beginning

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I took a month off from writing, from blogging, from social media. I used this time to step back and take a breath, and get perspective.

I looked at the stars, I read some cheesy books, binged a lot of television. I watched my kids do kid things. I tried to ignore the very scary things going on in the world. I made it a priority to say I love you and hug and kiss those that are very dear to me.

Whether you believe it’s the only go round, or that there are many times through, I realized that we only get so much time on this one, and I need to make sure I’m making the most of it. Because of that, I’m starting some new adventures this year. Over the next 56 days I’ll be sharing more of that, and what that journey will look like.

Not like I’m counting or anything.

As for right now, I want to share news about immediate changes.

This week I am starting a new blog schedule. The regular Sunday Night Thoughts will continue, as always, right on time. But I’m adding two additional posts to the week’s lineup. Wednesday and Friday evenings will start to be filled with new posts about all things creative.

I’m very excited, and hope that these new posts will help me reach the point where I can post nightly. A long term goal I’ve had in mind for awhile, and I feel like that is still a ways off, but the possibility is becoming real enough I feel like it’s only a matter of time before I can touch it … or read it.

In just shy of two months we will celebrate two years of this blog. I’m looking forward to all of what that means.

 

Until Next Year …

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Me: Say Goodbye, 2019.

2019: “Goodbye 2019.”

See what I did there [I’m winking, since you can’t see me as I type this post].

My calendar this morning reminded me that there are only “10 days until Christmas”. Which means that there are also only 17 days remaining until the lights go out on 2019 and come on for 2020. What kind of plans have you got for the new year? Are there any lessons learned from 2019 to carry with you?

I’m looking forward to a fresh start as well as seeing through some plans that I have been hatching during the second half of this year. Which seems like I just started working on yesterday.

And then I’m reminded of childhood, hearing the adults go on about how fast time flies. Some would say “Time flies when you’re having fun!” while others would complain about how fast the months go by now that they have kids/are over 21/insert some other arbitrary statement here. And I realize it’s true. Time flies so fast compared to when I was young when the days seemed to crawl by in spite of my wishing it would go faster.

With the speed of time in mind, I’m thinking about how many things I planned for this past year, how many got done, and how many other things got added to the list instead and which items fell off of that same list. That’s how things go.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. 

We have to remember to be flexible.

Plan the things you can, sure. But accept that the best laid plans might just go awry.

And know that that’s okay.

So take some time now to just be. Don’t fret over what you didn’t do. There are still tomorrows to make those tasks up.

Take a deep breath. Enjoy the moment – be it with family, or just by yourself in quiet retrospect – and step forward into whatever comes next.

I’m going to be stepping forward with you.

In the meantime, I’m taking off the rest of 2019. See you on the other side of mid-January.

I Need to Eat, Too.

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So a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to provide my rates for inputs for a directory of sorts.

I filled out the form with my rates and roles, then didn’t let myself think anymore about what I was typing and clicked submit. Just hit the button to send the form off into the digital ether.

Immediately I began to fret. Maybe my rates were too high. Maybe they’d not include my information, astounded by my audacity.

Two weeks later and I am still finding myself wringing my hands.

Why?

Why am I not willing to accept that my worth could be those numbers? Why am I convinced that I shouldn’t ask for my value to be high enough to sustain my work?

And when I look out at the things other writers (and creatives in general, for that matter) say about their rates I am seeing that same feeling reflected over and over.

Now, I know I’m not a rocket scientist or brain surgeon and certainly don’t mean to imply anything one way or another with my next statement, so bear with me a moment.

Specialists, brain surgeons, subject matter experts, highly skilled engineers (and so on) don’t hesitate for a moment when providing the cost to employ them. They know their skill set is valuable and they ask for their worth.

And they get paid what they ask for.

As a creative we are highly skilled individuals in our specific areas. There are people who prefer a skilled creative to write the words, design the logos, build the websites, rather than do it themselves. Sometimes it’s even just a matter of convenience and other times it is because they just need a specific skill set they don’t otherwise have available.

But the point is that those creative skills are needed.

And … AND … you have a right to charge your worth to pay your bills.

Because, hey, starving artists should be an outdated concept.

Comfortably eating and having a roof over your head should be the new rage.

After Too Much Tryptophan and Not Enough Family Time

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The holiday weekend is coming to a close and I don’t know about you all, but I feel like while I got lots of good eats I didn’t get nearly enough of that good family time. If you did I’m green with envy (and also incredibly happy for you). In the meantime I’m going to try to soak up a few more hours of quality time before the week turns me into a pod person. In the words of our favorite Terminator, “I’ll be back” – for my regularly scheduled blog post next week. In the meantime check out this short story from last fall: Strange Pair, a short story and I hope you have a great week!

Where Do You Find Your Muse?

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Take a moment and consider what things we spend money on over and over again. And not the daily necessities. The things we don’t need, but are convinced we should spend that five, ten, or 15 dollars (or more) on over and over again.

The books. The movies. The games. The poster of that one movie you can’t actually remember seeing but it has a special place in your heart (and now also the back of your closet).

Maybe these items inspire you. They add to your creativity like a muse come to whisper the sweet nothings of ideas into your ear. Maybe instead it’s a reminder that things we love do exist and we can create something that aspires to that (or even surpasses it).

Perhaps it’s the 15 copies of American Gods, or yet another edition (this one has editor’s footnotes, I swear!) of Pride and Prejudice. Either way, these have some kind of significance to you, to who you are as a creator, to who you identify with as a person.

Love that dog eared paperback (even though your grandma told you that was book abuse – and you know she was right!), enjoy another viewing of your favorite movie (this time on blue ray), and lose yourself into another round of that video game. A creator somewhere was hit by a muse, and will appreciate you as the customer – but you can appreciate it so much more knowing where your own creativity was birthed.

On that note, I’m off to go make a cup of something hot and dive into a good story – maybe the muse will strike hard and fast (and so will the incoming snow) and I’ll find myself creating something of my own.