Words from the Wise Bard, Kenny Rogers

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

This is especially important advice in today’s world of social media. I was involved in a long Facebook post this morning about a prickly subject. There were a lot of calm, civil comments with a lot of points of view, and the poster very kindly clarified her stance at least three times. Two of the commenters didn’t get it, and they kept getting more passionate about their point, which wasn’t really even relevant to the conversation. I tried to lighten things up with a “what if” scenario, and they turned on me. That’s when I realized I had a choice: I could try to clarify my point, or I could hide the post. Hold ’em, or run?

Here’s the thing. You can have a valid, well-thought-out view on any subject. As soon as you express it, your opinion bumps up against your listener’s paradigm and is filtered through their experiences and prejudices. You can control what you say and how you say it, but you can’t control how it’s heard. It’s even harder with written communication because we can’t write sarcasm. (Personally, I think it’s a travesty that in 2017 there is not a universally recognized sarcasm font. Or Rosie The Robot, but that’s a subject for another day.)

In the end, I turned off notifications and hid the post. It was heading south at an alarming rate, and there was nothing else I could say, even when I pointed out they’d made my point for me. Sometimes people need to vent. Allowing a stranger to vent on me is a boundary I’m not willing to relax. Some people can do it and let it roll off their backs. I’m not one of them. That stranger would still be living rent-free in my head this weekend.

Standing up for your beliefs is admirable. But sometimes, you have to know when to run.

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After pictures

The Piazza is finally (mostly) finished. We have some clean-up to do and a couple more plants on their way, but the worst is done. I won’t say it was a painless process, but it could have been worse. The schedule was delayed almost a week when the guys found the reason we lost power to our garage a few months ago. Turns out, the wire was buried in the yard, and the stump grinder cut it when they took out the spruce tree. Now the hard part is keeping everything watered. We’re still trying to find a sprinkler configuration that gets all of it so when we leave town for the weekend we can set a timer and not come home to dead plants. The proper set-up has eluded me so far. Hopefully Eric and I can figure it out tonight. Here’s what it looks like!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rabble Rousing

For those of you under the age of 50, or who don’t read Historical fiction, rabble rousing is defined as “an instance or the practice of stirring up the passions or prejudices of the public.” Back in the olden days, before the internet, rabble rousers worked crowds while standing on a crate on a street corner. Often they could be found at political rallies. Now we have online access and the 24-hour news cycle, and they’re everywhere.

Let me tell you let me tell you a little something about rabble rousers. They want you scared. They want you to react without thinking. They want you to join Chicken Little in running aimlessly and screaming out, “The sky is falling!” They feed on your tears, your hand-wringing, your mindless terror.

Friends, the sky isn’t falling. The circumstances have varied, but if you stop and do five minutes of research, you’ll find that things really aren’t that different than they were in decades past. Despite the best efforts of civil rights leaders in the last 60 years, we still have racism. (This, IMHO, is due to rabble rousers in civil rights leader clothing.) It’s the same hatred, fear, and bigotry in an updated wardrobe.

The events in the news are heart-breaking. Is anger over Charlottesville justified? You bet. If you’re not angry, you might be part of the problem. This is a time to join together in lament. If you wail, it should be for the lives lost, for the hard hearts that caused this, and the pain that will be endured in the community for months and years to come.

You can’t change anyone’s actions through sheer force of will. You can’t stop evil single-handedly. The problem is beyond all of us, it’s bigger than we can manage. That doesn’t mean wailing and hand-wringing is the only answer. Facebook memes aren’t going to fix it. In fact, Facebook memes are often rabble rousers.

You can only do one thing: Examine your life, and change the things that need to be changed. Really look at your attitudes and weed out any hint of fear, hate, bigotry. Do something nice for a person who doesn’t look like you. It doesn’t have to be big. You can turn someone’s day around by complimenting a piece of their clothing. If you try to do something nice and the other person reacts with fear or distrust, that’s on them. It’s not your problem. The only way to change society is to change ourselves, and to teach our children to be better people than we are. That’s how we fix it, a generation at a time.

 

Record Keeping

Ever have one of those days? You’re especially tired, or a deadline creeps up on you? Maybe you have another in what seems like a long line of headaches? Or your pants won’t stay up, and you realize you’ve dropped five pounds? (Me neither, but I hear it happens to some lucky people.)

I’m not naturally gifted when it comes to record keeping. I tend to overthink things and gravitate toward the complicated systems that will be a pain to keep up. And really, what’s the point?

Easy. Accumulation of empirical data.

Case in point: My family jokes that I’m solar powered. When it gets dark early in the winter, I’m ready to go to bed shortly after dinner and sometimes fall asleep on the couch. In the summer, when it’s light 16 hours a day, I can’t sleep unless I go to great lengths to darken my bedroom. Until recently it was a theory. Last February, I got a new Fitbit and it tracks my sleep. The amount of sleep I get has dropped steadily since May, so now I have definitive proof. To say I’m looking forward to the shorter days of fall is an understatement.

I’ve amped up my writing records, too. I used to track just word count. That’s the important number, really, but not the only number. I think it was Tim Grahl who gave me the idea to track word count and time as well as the location, project, and applicable notes. Since then I’ve discovered I do my best writing in my office, but sometimes I need a change of scenery. I plot better in coffee shops. Hotels are also productive as long as I’m not in a place where I want to go forth and see things. That’s why Vegas works for me. I’m looking forward to finding out how the new back yard affects productivity. (More on that next week, I hope. For now, I’ll just say I’ve renamed it The Piazza.)

The real beauty is when you take empirical data from multiple sources to reach a conclusion. If you look at my word counts over the last few summers, they’re lower than the rest of the year on average. I thought it was because summers are full of distractions, and they can be, but now I realize a lot of it has to do with the lack of sleep. If I can’t sleep, I can’t think, and therefore can’t write. Now that I have a concrete reason and I know it’s not just me being crazy or lazy, I can take steps to fix it. Or try to, anyway.

Like maybe by buying a hammock for The Piazza.

Record keeping. It’s your friend.

Run-by posting

It’s been a busy week. Since getting back from Vegas, I’ve done some writing. It’s been more about laundry and cleaning, though. I have family in again this weekend, and we’re going back to the Bristol Ren Faire. It will be the first time all of us have gone together, and we hope to run into friends from St Louis.

I may have mentioned we are having our back yard turned into a patio oasis. If I haven’t, we are. It hasn’t been without drama. Last spring, around the time we had our spruce tree taken out, one of the utility companies was doing work in our alley. During that time, we lost power to our garage. We didn’t know where to start to get it fixed, so between one thing and another, we put it off. Turns out the tree guys were the culprits. Unbeknownst to any of us, the power line ran underground next to the tree, and they cut it when they ground the stump out. The landscaping crew found it, and thankfully were able to fix it. It’s done right now, running through conduit like it should have been in the first place.

That set the project back a couple of days, so it’s not close to done. I had hoped it would be, what with family being here and all, but it’s fine. We have too much to do to lollygag in the back yard. We’re doing Official Author Photos tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll have some to post soon!

End of July Report

We got back from Vegas last night. My beloved had to go for a work conference, and he doesn’t fly without me, so I had a writer’s retreat. Nope, I didn’t gamble, didn’t see any shows, shoot, I only went outside twice, and the second time it was so hot we got about 100 feet and retreated to the air conditioning. I did a lot of writing, shopped some, and ate some really good (and some really not good) food. It’s not the traditional Vegas experience, but it worked for me.

The month didn’t have a great start. Early July never does since we always have company about that time. Mid-month it picked up a bit since I knew I had my retreat coming up. I got back on the wagon with some world building rather than jumping right back into the WIP, and it paid off. By the time we were settled into the Mandalay Bay Resort And Hotel, I had a clear picture of what I needed to do.

It wasn’t without drama. My laptop died last year, and since I only work remotely a few weeks a year, I write on my iPad with a wireless keyboard. It’s bare bones, but it travels light. This time, I arrived not realizing that while the Word and Excel apps are free, you need a subscription to actually use them. Not only that, but I didn’t have the current version of  my WIP, even though I specifically remember saving it in the right place.

Whatever.

I busted out a new Google Doc and worked from memory. Amazingly, it only required the sacrifice of 38 words when I got home. I’d started with basically what I ended with in Scrivener, but I wrote it better, so the old words got cut. I’m not heartbroken.

Here are the numbers for those of you keeping score:

July time: 32.4 hours

YTD time: 199.67 hours

July words: 12,981

YTD words: 101,227

Yes, that’s right! I broke 100k! Today, as a matter of fact. I haven’t gone back through my old spreadsheets to see if and when the last time was, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t in July. I have a lofty plan to average 25,000 words a month for the rest of the year so I can break another 100k. I know, the numbers don’t match, but I’ve got a good month’s worth of activities (excluding Christmas, because I don’t know what we’re doing yet) that will keep me away from Balphrahn, so that will carry me right up to the new year. If I plan 25,000 and only hit 20,000 I might not end up too much behind.

In the meantime, the book 1 draft is done, and the book 2 draft is started. I call that a win.

Birthday Boy Redux

I ran across this today and decided to share it again for Alex’s birthday. Some of it has changed. He now has a masters degree, full time job, apartment, and fiancée. We won’t celebrate his birthday in person. In fact, his birthday cards will be late and I texted him at work.

I’m a little torn today because while I’m glad he has built himself the start of a grown-up life, my mommy heart misses him. I’m told this is how it’s supposed to be, and that it won’t ever change much, so I’m going with it.

I hope you enjoy the blast from the past and I’ll see you next week.

——-

He’s never really been small; we took him home from the hospital in a 3 month onesie. All the newborn clothes I’d picked up at yard sales got packed back up for the next baby.

At 5, he had a life plan worked out. At 7, he was a theologian. About 10, his strong sense of moral outrage kicked in, but he’s never let it override logic, and he’s good at trying to see other sides of issues. He would make a good lawyer, but that’s not even on his radar.

I’ve watched him grow from the cutest little butterball baby and toddler you could ever want to see, through the ornery gangly teen years, into manhood. He still has a plan for his life, but it’s a little different than it was at 5. He’s still planning on being in the military; that hasn’t changed. He’s always been interested in the military. He’s my itchy foot kid; travel light and don’t stay anywhere too long.

I don’t know how it’s possible, but he turns 21 today. He didn’t want a party, and presents are optional. He just wants to go to dinner somewhere that he can order a beer. I expect he’ll have his party next month when he goes back to school, which isn’t too surprising. It’s more fun to celebrate with frat brothers!

Every birthday is a little more bittersweet. Every year they move away from Eric and me a little bit more. Our roles have changed from disciplinary to advisory. Pretty soon they’ll both be off on their own and birthdays will be celebrated via mail and telephone. Not this one, though. For this one, we’ll still have a birthday cake at home.

Happy 21st birthday, Alex!