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Monday, December 22, 2014

Did I Write Feminist Literature?

I've always heard that you should write what you know. I'm not entirely certain how that translated to writing a fantasy novel, but it was something that I kept in mind when writing character's reactions in certain scenes. One big thing that I noticed about half-way through NaNoWriMo was that my story was populated with lots of women. Lots of them...especially when you contrast with other books within the fantasy genre that tend to be very male dominated.

I have female protagonists and antagonists. There are female warriors, healers, mages, rulers, mentors...you name it, my universe has it. And they're not fighting for their rights as women, either. I didn't purposely go about creating a world where men and women respected each other in this way, it just happened. I suppose I created an idealistic world.

Including all of these females characters was a way of playing to my strengths. I am a woman. I know women. It only makes sense that I populate my story with them. I have men in the story. Rough estimate is about half of my characters are men. Isn't that more realistic? Half the people in the world are women, after all, and I don't think that's a recent occurrence.

It makes me wonder if I accidentally wrote feminist literature. If that means there's an audience for my writing, that's fine. I didn't set about to write for any particular audience. (As a side note, I might should warn you that the next story is a bit more "classic" in that it involves a male antagonist and protagonist.) I write what I know, and what pops into my head.

One challenge with my NaNoWriMo novel was the fact that I had a female warrior and a male healer. I wanted to avoid the cliche of the male character becoming a damsel in distress. I preferred to have them working together, and occasionally saving each other. Isn't that closer to real life, anyways? I've seen enough couples where the woman can be strong without emasculating the man, and the man doesn't have to put the woman "in her place" to be manly.

Did I write feminist literature? I'm not sure. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic!


Want to read more about my 2014 NaNoWriMo project?
NaNoWriMo Editing Plans
What I Did To Silence My Inner Editor
NaNo Is Over. Now What?

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Friday, December 19, 2014

I Hugged a Stranger

I was hugged today by a stranger today. And I was OK with it. I participated in the hug, even. Bizarre, I know. I'm usually very reserved with strangers, but let me back up.

I was on my way home from the wonderful experience that is Walmart the week before Christmas and I decided to stop by a little health food store that I've noticed. The owner is a lady in her 70s that looks and acts like she's in her 50s. Seriously. I was shocked when she told me how old she was.

What drew me into the store was the advertisement for coffee and tea on the window. I was hoping for a local source for loose-leaf tea that wasn't Lipton. Alas, no such luck, but I did find an hour long conversation that had me leaving feeling better about the world and just generally encouraged.

This is what makes the idea that introverts are shy so ridiculous. I'm not shy. Shy and introverted are not even close to the same thing. I was fascinated by this new person that answered my questions with far more information than most people would desire. I'm not most people, so hearing about the history of homeopathy made me feel almost as excited about a conversation about physics with my dad.

The next thing I knew I was sharing some of my personal beliefs with her, then she's telling me about a motorcycle accident she had had. Somewhere around the point in the conversation where we were discussing church doctrines being Biblically based I started feeling like I wanted to hug her before I left. There was a connection there that I wanted to affirm physically I guess.

I was in a quandary on how to do it, though. I am not naturally touchy-feely with virtual strangers. The lady dispelled the awkwardness I felt when she initiated the hug herself. It was nice, and it seems strange to me now that it did. This is not a normal reaction for me. It felt natural at the time, though, so I feel that it was the right thing.

I doubt this will become a habit, though. It's much easier to just smile at strangers. It's less exhausting, too. As much as I enjoyed our conversation, I needed some down-time to process afterward. So I had some coffee and a book like a good little introvert.


Want to read more about my introverted misadventures?
Check out these posts:

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Talking To Myself
Shhhh...I'm Introverting

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Shopping Online

Last night I was browsing Amazon, intending to finally purchase a copy of The Lord of the Rings. I've always wanted a set of my own, and I had some Christmas money to use to buy it. The experience made me realize just how picky I can be about the books I buy, particularly if it's a book that I care about. This is one of them. I actually did not purchase any copy as I finally decided this one was too important to not buy in a bookstore and physically handle the books before making the purchase.

The first thing that I want in any book that I anticipate being read repeatedly is a hardback cover. Paperbacks just don't hold up well. I don't know how libraries manage with the decline in quality books. Achieving this desire is complicated by multiple collector's editions that were purported to be leather covers. That sounds like a decoration piece to me, not something intended to be well-read and well-loved. I want hardback. End of discussion.

Binding. This is where my nerdiness really starts taking monstrous form. I'm actually picky about binding. Or I would be if the manufacturers actually made books with sewn binding. That's right. Sewn. Not glued. The vast majority of books these days have glued binding, and it falls apart after three to five readings. Not something you want in a book that you would one day like to pass down to your children and grandchildren. Most Bibles still have sewn binding in anticipation of being read often. It's another quality in manufacturing that I'm sure librarians around the country are constantly bemoaning. Or at least the ones in my old home-town library were.

A few years back, someone decided to make a movie--or rather a trilogy of movies--based on my beloved childhood tale. I'm not saying it was an awful idea, but there's one thing that this spawns that I absolutely cannot stand. They print books with covers with movie art. I don't want Elijah Wood's face on my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. Nothing against him personally, I just don't like it. It was extremely hard to tell online if the books had movie art on them, so it was another factor to me deciding to simply buy in person.

The online reviews were a nightmare. They were very helpful in a way. One of them specifically warned about an edition that was riddled with typographical errors, definitely something I would try to avoid purchasing. The problem was that I was finding the exact same reviews on multiple editions of the same book. How was I supposed to know which one they were talking about? It was highly frustrating.

In the end I decided that I haven't been inside a bookshop in quite a while and it would probably be good therapy to hold new books again in the near future. I can judge for myself the cover, binding, and illustrations, and hopefully make sure I don't get a copy full of misspelled words. Now to see what bookstores are in my area...

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What I Did To Silence My Inner Editor

NaNoWriMo places an emphasis on writing. Just writing. No editing. As someone that usually edits as they write, this was a challenge to get into the right spirit. I'm the kind of writer that pauses when I have trouble thinking of the exact word I want, or reads back to make sure I'm staying in the right verb tense and point of view. To really succeed at NaNo, I had to throw those habits out the window and write, write, write!

I eventually did pretty good at it, but during the first week I tried two interesting tricks to help silence that inner editor. The first thing I did was turned off automatic spell check. My eye is naturally drawn to misspelled words, usually, and my OCD insists that they are corrected immediately. Getting rid of those red squiggly lines really helped me ignore some of those mistakes and typos and simply continue typing away.

The second thing I did was turned my font white. I literally could not see what I had written. I could still check my word count, so it was ok, but to check what had been already written, I had to manually change the font back to black so I could read it. It was an interesting day to say the least.

The most extreme thing I saw suggested was one that I did not try. I couldn't make myself even contemplate it. Someone said to disable your backspace key. Apparently you can change keyboard settings and make certain keys no longer work. (If you already knew this, stop laughing. I know I'm more than a bit tech illiterate.) I just couldn't do it. I could not bear the thought of not having my backspace. So maybe I'll try that next year, if I'm brave.

I really enjoyed letting go during NaNoWriMo and just writing. Not worrying about if my story made sense or if I was staying in the right point of view was very freeing. I feel like it let my imagination run wild, which in this stage of writing is a very good thing. It was permission to write badly and explore ideas that I might not have otherwise explored. Some things turned out well, others didn't. The important thing is that I know more about them for having tried, and for that I needed to just write. Editing can always come later.

Want to read more about my 2014 NaNoWriMo project?
NaNoWriMo Editing Plans
Did I Write Feminist Literature?
NaNo Is Over. Now What?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ideal Cynicism

I have a personality type that has been described as being both idealistic and cynical. When I first read this, I was in a bit of shock at having someone actually understand part of how my brain works. In the past I had considered these two traits to be mutually exclusive, and had been anticipating my brain imploding due to its inner conflict.

For a long time, part of my Facebook profile read: The optimist sees the glass as half full. The pessimist sees the glass as half empty. The realist measures the amount of water. The idealist measures the capacity of the glass. The cynic looks at it and says it's probably poisoned.

Using this as an example, you can see that I do not view pessimism and cynicism as the same thing. Nor are idealism and cynicism actually mutually exclusive. In fact, according to this example, you could have an optimistic cynic that sees the glass as half-full of delightful poison.

Another way I have explained the differences is as follows:

The optimist says, "Things are wonderful!"

The pessimist says, "No, things are awful."

The idealist says, "Things could be wonderful."

The realist says, "But (set criteria) would have to happen first."

The cynic says, "And you wouldn't like it even if it did."

Yes, there's our wonderful little cynic, ruining everything. Perhaps not all cynics have my sarcastic sense of humor, but I think that is more likely that they do. My cynical side says delightful little things like, "Life is hard, and then you die."

Then I laugh, because I only half mean that statement, because life isn't as awful as my cynical side would have you to believe. Occasionally, life is really wonderful, and my idealistic side gloats while the cynic mutters in a dark corner.

I want to change the world for the better, and at the same time I believe it is impossible to do so. For some reason, though, the cynical side never gains too much control. Otherwise I would simply become a hermit and let the world do what it wants so long as it leaves me alone. I can't make myself do that.

At the end of the day, I will smile at a stranger, try to encourage a friend, do some small thing that makes the world around me a better place. I have an intense desire that the world be better off because I was born, and the cynical side of me can't squash it. I'm not even sure it wants to. Truthfully, my idealism and cynicism balance each other out, the one keeps me trying while the other keeps me from being too disappointed when things don't turn out the way I dreamed.

I wouldn't recommend cynicism by itself to anyone. That would send even the best of us spiraling into a vortex of dark thoughts and depression. But paired with a healthy dose of idealism, it's not so bad.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Distance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

I love my friends. Really I do. It's probably easier to tell when I am actually with them, though. Since most of my friends live at a distance from me, you would think that I talk with them on the phone, or text to keep in touch. I'll be honest. I don't. Not even my best friends will override my intense dislike of phone calls. The most they might get is a text. Usually not even that.

Fortunately, they don't seem to mind. We just wait until we are back together and then spend the next eight hours catching up on everything. Let me tell you, talking for that long will wear your voice out.

It does make me wonder, though. I know that I myself am a low-maintenance friend. I don't require a great deal of time and effort to feel secure that we are still friends. What I question is if I somehow managed to collect a circle of friends that are the same way, or if this is maybe not as unusual as I might have once thought. Maybe it's a combination of the two factors.

Or maybe these friends feel that I am extremely fickle and are simply far too polite to complain about my apparent neglect.

I used to email a couple of good friends on a fairly regular basis. This was back when people would actually print out emails to save them. I probably still have them in a folder somewhere among my childhood things. While I don't feel quite as close to one of these friends due to no longer keeping in constant contact, I still feel that old bond, and were she to suddenly call or want to hang out, I'd be all over it. After I got over my anxiety from an unexpected phone call, that is.

Email seems to have gone out of fashion, though. Instead we have texting and Facebook. I'm finding Facebook more and more impersonal, and I don't really think I like it. I've gotten to the point that I share very few pictures and even fewer statuses updating my friends about my life. I have been using it to post links to the blog, though. Maybe that will satisfy someone.

The one and only reason I can come up with for why I do not text my friends--unless I don't have their phone number--is that I am terrified that I will text at an inconvenient time. I realize, logically, that that is exactly what texting is for. They can read and reply later if I send at an inconvenient time. But there you have it. I'm paralyzed because I don't want to make someone else uncomfortable. I really need to work on that.

So...more social anxiety from me, and I think I've said enough for now about my love/hate relationship with communicating via cellphone.


Want to read more about my introverted misadventures?
Check out these posts:

I Hugged a Stranger
Talking To Myself
Shhhh...I'm Introverting

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Random Ramblings

I had a nice little blog post typed up last night. Then my phone ate it. I was far too tired to be bothered with trying to remember what I had written to attempt rewriting it…so I went to sleep.

Now I find myself floundering to find a topic to write about tonight. I have yet to reach the point of tired where the weird ideas start appearing, but I wish I was. Or if I were planning to write tonight and edit tomorrow, I'd wish I was. Last time I wrote while super tired with no clear ideas I wound up with magical koi that feed off excess energy. The scary part is that two days later, that actually made sense in my story arc. NaNoWriMo simultaneously brings out the best and the worst about my subconscious.

My apologies if I keep changing verb tense. I should go back and edit, but while I am not yet so funny that everything is tired, I am a bit worn out.

At this point I consider the phrase "brain dump" to describe what I'm currently doing with this blog post. Stream of consciousness might be another description. Except I'm actually bothering to use punctuation.

Welcome to weird me. I use proper capitalization, punctuation, and grammar at all times. Or at least I try to. The occasional snafu does slip past me. But I cannot stand chat speak. If u typ lik ths, or 1f u typ3 u51ng numb3r5 4 l3773r5 nd w0rd5… Seriously, I'm cringing at that right now, contemplating changing it and making it right. 

OCD. Honestly, I know people who have it far worse than I do. I've just arranged my bookshelf by author and title. I've only contemplated looking up the Dewey Decimal system for my non-fiction books to designate their order on the shelf. I haven't actually done it. At this point I doubt I ever will. Babies keep you busy. 

I think that is quite enough rambling for tonight. Hopefully tomorrow I will come up with something a bit more coherent. I will satisfy myself by leaving the gentle reminder that the point of this blog was to keep writing every day. And I have. Even yesterday, when my phone ate my blog post. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Walking and Talking

This post is dedicated to my first best friend, Zachery.

remember sandy blonde hair.
I remember your smile. 
I think your eyes were blue,
But maybe they were gray.
What does a five-year-old notice?

I remember just walking around the playground. 
Talking. 
We must have done that a lot.

What did we talk about?
I wish I could remember that. 

We must have been a strange pair. 
I don't remember playing with the other children. 
Just the two of us walking. 
And talking.

You were my first best friend. 
I still think about you sometimes.
It's been twenty years.
I wonder how things might have been different.

I don't remember how I reacted to the news. 
I remember going to the visitation.
I remember your mother.

I remember driving by the cross at the intersection. 
Every day on the way to school.
It's still there.
It still looks nice. 
Sometimes there's a teddy bear. 
Sometimes there's flowers.

I wonder how you would react to me now.
I got to grow up.
I have a little boy of my own. 

I heard you had a little brother.
He'd be older than you now.
Does that make you feel weird?
No. You're probably just laughing about it.

I look forward to seeing you again. 
I'm sure you've already found the best places to just walk.
We have a lot to talk about.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Weird Tea Moods

I am a chronic tea drinker. I would no longer call it an obsession, it's more of a debilitating habit--without the debilitating part. I can actually survive without it. I just prefer not to.

My favorite teas are unflavored black teas. Occasionally I drink some herbal tisanes, but not as a habit. White teas are okay, and green teas are something I have yet to acquire a taste for after 10+ years of habitual tea drinking.

But my cupboards are filled with more than just my morning, afternoon, and evening unflavored black teas. Yes, I have different kinds for different times of the day. That's very important. I have some flavored teas as well. Now, I know you're thinking that these are reserved for guests, and you are partially right. I do serve my guests the flavored teas if that is what they desire, but they're also for me.

I drink flavored teas when I am in weird moods. Cinnamon is for when I'm sick. Chocolate mint is for when I'm feeling romantic...don't ask. Earl Grey is for when I'm feeling a bit down and weird at the same time.

Then there's Darjeeling. I know, it's not technically a flavored tea. It's just so different. I can't say that I actually like it, but there are times when I want it for some inexplicable reason. When I get the reason figured out, I'll tell you. I suspect it has something to do with being simultaneously tired and hyperactive.

Just keep the green teas away from me. I have yet to be in a weird enough mood to actually want one of those.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Talking To Myself

I have a confession to make. I have a habit that developed in childhood that seems to have only gotten worse as I age. Sweetie finally said something about it last week, and called it creepy. I've tried to stop, really I have. It really seems impossible. I know I'm not the only one that does this, but...

I talk to myself.

A lot.

I think this behavior falls into one of three categories. Either I'm thinking out loud, running through scenes for stories out loud, or I'm practicing conversations for the future.

I'm pretty sure that most people at some point in their lives have spoken their thoughts aloud. There's benefits to hearing something spoken. It can sound just fine in your head, but once it actually hits your ears, you realize how stupid it is. These are cases when talking aloud by yourself is a huge benefit. No one else needs to know that you were contemplating writing a musical about dancing flamingos in spandex pantsuits.

I've had the story I worked on for NaNo developing in my head for about four years now. There are four different stories within the story arc. That's a lot of scenes and quite a few characters. But I have other stories with other characters, too. That's a lot of people crowding up my thinking, and sometimes I just need an outlet. So, I talk to them; they talk back. It's fine until someone overhears you. I may need to put a Bluetooth headset in my ear permanently for when this happens in public.

That would actually help with the last one, too. I practice conversations before they happen. Maybe it's part of my introversion. Maybe it's unrelated social anxiety, but there are times when I feel more prepared for dealing with someone if I have practiced the conversation a few times to get a feel for how it is likely to go. Sometimes I know the conversation is inevitable, other times I'm practicing an unlikely-to-occur event for the fun of it--I've actually used those once or twice.

But then you get caught. I have been caught. It's embarrassing. Even though I'm not doing a single thing wrong, just a little weird. Should it really be called creepy, though. If I'm mumbling about killing someone, ok, yes. But simply complaining aloud about a talking cat that is too smug for his whiskers? That's not creepy…at least I hope it's not.

I am sincerely trying to at least be more aware of what I'm doing when I talk to myself. I've become hyper aware of just how much I do it. But I don't really want to quit because, let's face it, it's fun.


Want to read more about my introverted misadventures?
Check out these posts:

I Hugged a Stranger
Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Shhhh...I'm Introverting

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shhhh... I'm Introverting

I'm an introvert. There is no denying it. Some people are somewhere between extrovert and introvert--I believe it is called ambiversion, but I am firmly on the side of introversion. I come from a family of introverts, so it's sometimes hard for me to remember that other people do not function the same way I do.

Rather than explain what introversion is, I want to tell you what it means to me personally. You can find all kinds of information on introversion, what it is, and how introverts behave on average. That's not what I want to do today.

I don't dislike people. I do dislike crowds. They make me nervous.

I don't actually dislike interacting with other people, even strangers. Today, I purposely went inside the bank and Starbucks rather than the drive thru. I even avoided self check-out at Walmart. It is possible that I prefer face-to-face interaction when I know dealing with other people is unavoidable. I have fewer screw-ups going inside than using the drive thru. But I can guarantee that none of these people knew I was an introvert. I'm as friendly as you could wish. I even smile.

Unfortunately, if I am forced to be constantly in the company of other people--even people I like--for days on end, I'm going to start feeling claustrophobic. If I spend a weekend at social events, come Monday, I need another weekend to recover from my weekend.

Even at parties that I'm enjoying I will be very aware of the exits, possible retreats from all the noise (a bathroom or hallway), and what time I am planning to leave. It's nothing against my host or my friends. I just can't handle extended periods of high noise levels well.

Small talk bores me. Almost nothing annoyed me more as a teenager than to be asked how I was doing by someone that I knew perfectly well did not want an honest answer. This was especially true if I didn't think it was any of their business. I nearly insulted a dear friend when I complained about it, and he pointed out that he did care, and it was his business since he was my friend. I'm glad he called me out on it, but if he had not been a true friend, I would not have agreed with his sentiment.

If at all possible, text me. If a phone call is warranted, I would love dearly to have a text as a warning first, but I know that's not going to happen. Phone calls give me anxiety like you would not believe, unless you suffer from it yourself. Even making phone calls is difficult, which is why my sister and grandmother occasionally complain that they don't hear from me often enough. I love talking to my friends, but I hate phones. Phones are evil.

So...comment, text me, tweet me, email me, message me, post on my Facebook wall, but for the love of biscuits and gravy, don't call me about this blog post!

Want to read more about my introverted misadventures?
Check out these posts:

I Hugged a Stranger
Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Talking To Myself

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Phone Call

I got a phone call yesterday afternoon. I was just sitting in Braum's talking with the family over drinks when I felt the buzzing in my pocket. I pulled it out and checked who it was. It was myself. 

I don't have a home number anymore, and it listed the number of the phone I was holding. I stared at the screen in disbelief before I swiped the bar and answered the call. 

"Hello?"

Silence. 

I was a bit unnerved, so I hung up. Everyone at the table was giving me funny looks. How do you explain that you just prank called yourself? We all laughed it off and picked up our conversation, but I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that would not go away.

I got a text message that evening from the same number. My number. It was blank. I'm not even sure how to send a blank message. It had me really creeped out, and I was starting to feel nauseated. Deja vu is normal, and I'm used to that. This is weird. Disconcerting, even. 

I know my phone is old, maybe it's malfunctioning. That's it. I must just need a new one.

Except when I checked my email this morning, I had an email. From myself. That I didn't send. I do email myself occasionally to remind me of something, but this one is blank, except for the signature at the bottom.

I drove to our local AT&T store in a panic. I knew they would think I was crazy, so all I told the salesman was that I needed a new phone. Mine was old, it even had a crack in the back from where I had dropped it once. Just to be sure, I had them change the phone number, too.

I sighed with relief as I drove home with my new phone. I left the old one at the store. I don't care if they recycle it or throw it away. I got home and began setting up the new phone how I want it. 

I got another message. From my new number. This one isn't blank. 

"Took you long enough."

I stared at the message in disbelief. I tried to swallow the lump in my throat as I typed out a reply. 

"Who are you?"

I half expected the same message to show up in my inbox. It didn't. 

"I think you know. Or at least you suspect who I am."

Mind games. Perfect. At least they don't use chat speak. 

"What do you want?"

I was a little scared to ask that question. 


I stared at those ellipses for over a minute as my tormentor typed a reply. 

"I'll let you know when I have that figured out."

That was the only reply I got. I tried texting, calling, even emailing myself trying to get answers. I haven't gotten any response. I kept pinching myself, trying to wake up from this nightmare. That hasn't worked, either.

Am I contacting myself from the future somehow? If so, why? My stomach still hasn't settled down. I couldn't eat much supper tonight. I'm keeping my phone handy, though. Just in case. 

Disclaimer:
This is a work of fiction inspired by a true event. I did get a phone call from myself. It was weird. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Choice of Love

Sometimes the English language is wonderful for supplying us with a myriad of words with similar meanings, but different nuances. Then it does something stupid. Like the word "love."

We "love" our spouse, family, friends, and bacon. That just seems wrong somehow, using the same word when we mean something completely different. If you love your spouse the same way you love bacon, I'm going to recommend counseling. The Greeks had at least four different words for different kinds of love. We use one four letter word that seems to have lost a lot of meaning these days. 

We speak of being in love and loving someone as if it is the same thing. It's not. "In love" is something that happens to you, sometimes in spite of your best efforts. "Love" is a choice you make when the feel-good fuzzy feelings have gone away and the person you were "in love" with does something incredibly stupid. Love is an action verb, and it is time society woke up to that fact.

I've read that being "in love" lasts about three years, maximum. This partially explains why the divorce rate is as high as it is. Personally, I place a lot of blame on Hollywood for giving society unrealistic expectations of what love is. They are good at portraying "in love," but they rarely even attempt portraying real love.

Don't get me wrong. Being in love is real, and it's natural. It's wonderful while it lasts. It just doesn't last indefinitely, and it's unrealistic to expect it to do so. That's why I said love is an action verb. It's not passive. It's work. Hard work. Whether it's worth it or not is up to you.

The week before my wedding, I was getting the oil changed in my car. I was talking to the shop owner, and my impending marriage came up. He told me that he'd been married 20+ years, and that marriage was hard. I kept waiting for him to follow up with the statement that it was still wonderful, that it was worth it…something. He finally just walked away. Either he had the weirdest sense of humor that I have ever encountered, or one of the saddest marriages. 

In the past year, I've always remembered that encounter when love got a little hard. I hope to always remember that. Leaving that anticipated statement unsaid drives home the point that it's up to me. Each time, I have to answer the question: Is it worth it? Yes. Yes, it is. 

This is as much a reminder for myself as for anyone else. I know I'm young. I know I'm inexperienced, but I want to succeed. I want my marriage to last because it has a solid foundation on God and love, not because I believe divorce is wrong. I want my love to grow stronger with each time I choose love even when it's not the easy route. By God's grace, it will. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Bacon

We had bacon for breakfast this morning. Grilled. Conecuh. Bacon. Imagine how good normal bacon tastes, now imagine adding a hickory smoked flavor to it and intensifying it tenfold. You are now coming close to what we had for breakfast. It's good. Very, very good. My family even commented on the expression of ecstasy on my face. Like they had room to talk when they have the same reaction. 

I'll be honest. I love food. I love good food, and I've had quite a bit of exposure to good food. I come from a family of good cooks. But there are certain foods that taste like they were made by angels in Heaven's main kitchens. Grilled Conecuh bacon is one of them.

I don't really know why I have such a reaction to certain foods. I never want to have them often so that they remain special. I could eat that grilled bacon and never get tired of it, though. It would be special every morning. I can just hear the old childhood chant: "Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!" Good times. Good times.

It may be something of a Southern thing. Bacon grease (or lard if you can get your hands on it) is a common seasoning for everything from green beans to cornbread. Vegans should beware, our cooking is rarely even vegetarian friendly. Although I find the same influence in Oklahoma as well. My great grandmother had a diner in Guthrie, and people still remember her fried chicken. They would ask her for the recipe, and she would give it to them. Then they'd come back saying that it never did taste as good as hers did. She never did tell people that she fried it in lard. It was her secret.

But I'm sharing the secret of grilled bacon. Even if you can't get Conecuh bacon. Grill some bacon the next time you grill hamburgers or hot dogs. You--and your taste buds--can just thank me later. 

Disclaimer:
I have been informed since posting this that it was Wright bacon, not Conecuh. We did have Conecuh sausage. Conecuh bacon does exist, and I have had it grilled. It is wonderful, as well, but I cannot say which I might like better unless I were to try them simultaneously.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Traditions

We had our family Christmas for my side of the family this morning. Early, I know, but as my sister and I grew older, got married, and moved away it's become harder to get together. We do it when we can, where we can. Last year we rented a cabin in Broken Bow, OK. This year we are at my grandmother's house in Alabama. 

We had some additions this year. I think Mammie really enjoyed being with us, and Baby enjoyed opening some of his first Christmas presents. I think he was more fascinated with the bows, though.

We're missing D--my brother-in-law. He's working such long hours on night shift that he couldn't get away. It feels weird to not have him here. Everyone misses him. We'll send his present back with Sissy, but it's just not the same.

Holidays to us are about family and food. The food is somewhat different this year as well as the family. Mom usually makes ham and cheese croissants for breakfast before we opened our stockings. This year, Dad picked up Dunkin' Donuts instead. I miss my croissant, but a chocolate cake donut is good, too.

We still had our usual dinner. Instead of a ham or turkey, each person has their own Cornish hen. We always have cranberry sauce from a can and stovetop stuffing (weird family preferences), but the other sides change from year to year. Funnily enough, I can't think of any traditional desserts that we have for Christmas.

Now that I have my own family, it makes me think of what traditions I want to continue, both from my family and Sweetie's family. I also want some traditions that are solely things that we create. I think it's part of what makes holidays special, and something that the children will look forward to. 

Oh, who am I kidding? I look forward to holiday traditions as much as anyone. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Remembering

"There's things that I've forgotten that I loved about the man." (Daddy's Hands)



I first heard this song at my grandfather's funeral. He died a year ago today. In some ways it seems like been longer than a year, and in other ways it seems shorter. 

I can still hear his voice calling, "It's the girls!" when my sister and I came in the door. Or "It's the guys!" when it was my cousins. He was Daddio to us. While he was not an overly demonstrative man, we all knew he loved us.

I still can't play "Last Date" on the piano and not think of him. Especially because the piano I have now is the one they had at his house. He never said much about it, but I know he enjoyed hearing my sister and me play the piano.

I was expecting my baby when he died, and my son's middle name is Daddio's first name. I know he's up there shaking his finger at me for doing it…in between fishing trips. You can't tell me there is no fishing in Heaven.

Daddio loved to fish and hunt. Quite a few of my memories with him are of fishing trips. Floating the Black Warrior River. Trout fishing at the dam. Watching him and Dad fly fishing. 

Baby even has a few mannerisms that are pure Daddio. The way he will hold his head when he's tired especially reminds us of him. 

Something that I explored while writing for NaNo was that those that have passed on are still with us in our memories. This feels especially true with Daddio's passing. Maybe it's because I'm no longer living in Alabama, and not constantly around things that remind me that he's gone, but a lot of times it feels like he's still here.

I still have a wreath that Daddio made, a model car he have me once, and a little baseball bat he whittled. Mementos to remind me, because I do not want to forget. The memories are bittersweet, because I know I can no longer make more of them with Daddio, but that's ok. That's life. And it's ok. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Adulting

Sometimes I like to pretend that I'm just pretending to be an adult. Then the baby screams and shatters that fantasy.

I think my first clue that I was irrevocably an adult was when I noticed that I was eating oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning for a couple of months. It should be noted that I hated oatmeal as a child and refused to so much as touch it. Almost all of my childhood food aversions have actually become foods I love. Except liver, that stuff is nasty. 

I've always been the type that was only as mature and responsible as I had to be. If I could get away with goofing off, I would. When there was work to be done, that was fine, too. My dad somehow didn't pick up on this trait, and really worried about me when I moved out on my own. Mom, on the other hand, laughed and told him that I would be fine. And I was.

I never was in a hurry to grow up as a child. It just happened naturally and one day I'm eating oatmeal while working on the budget with Baby playing in the floor. What's more, I like the oatmeal, budgets, and my baby. Even if it does mean that I don't get uninterrupted sleep anymore.

Sometimes I do miss the time in my life when the thing I worried over the most was a chemistry test, but I wouldn't return to it now for anything. I'm sure not searching for the receipt to return my little son, moon, and stars. I'll take adulthood as it comes, and let my children take it naturally, too. 

When I'm old and gray, though, I'm looking forward to scandalizing my grandchildren by blowing my straw wrappers at them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Yes or No? Purple Bananas!

Have you ever met someone that could not give a straight answer to a yes or no question? If you were to ask me that exact question, I would likely make a comment on a seemingly unrelated topic instead of actually answering the question. You would either infer my answer from my ramblings or give up in frustration.

My mother recently pointed this trait of mine out to me. If you asked me if I want steak for dinner, I might respond that I had sweet potatoes for dinner the night before. If you asked me if I like the shirt you're holding up in a store, I would likely make a comment about what color dominates my closet. I am apparently completely incapable of answering a yes or no question with a simple "yes" or "no." The closest I come is, "I don't know."

Since it was pointed out, I've started noticing this trait for myself…usually after the fact. I have to laugh at myself, really. It should not be that hard, yet for some reason for me it is. A few times I've caught myself beforehand, or even during my answer, and try to simply answer with "yes" or "no." I can barely manage to do it. It's liked brain resists anything that appears too simple.

Since becoming aware of it, I have noticed a pattern in my responses to these kinda of questions. I tend to attempt to give the person asking the information they would need to come up with my answer themselves. Unfortunately, my mind will take things off on a tangent, and that somehow does not get translated when I attempt communicating verbally. In my mind, sweet potatoes are related to steak; I almost always order them together at a restaurant. However, unless you already knew this, you would need more information to understand what I was trying to say.

Or it's possible that I'm trying to be too honest. I refuse to commit to something if I cannot account for extenuating circumstances. I know people are understanding when something comes up that you have no control over, but the fact that this is a remote possibility somehow keeps me from simply saying "yes."

I'm going to have to address this issue when my children are old enough to ask me questions. I doubt I'll have a problem saying, "No," when my child asks for a candy bar at the check-out line, but what about other questions? Now that I am aware of it, I know I need wisdom to learn to deal with this in a way that will not frustrate my children every time they ask me a question. 

Does anyone else have this problem? Or do you find yourself identifying with it? How do you make yourself answer simply when your brain is demanding complexity?

Monday, December 1, 2014

NaNo is over. Now what?

December is upon us. Once again I find myself wondering where the year went...and why I'm not more excited about Christmas. Seriously, have I grown up that much? November went by much too quickly, but that I understand. I was busy during November. Writing.

Yeah, I was one of those crazies that attempted NaNoWriMo. Short for National Novel Writing Month for those that don't know. It's a challenge...emphasis on challenge...to write a 50,000+ word work of fiction during the thirty days of November. I actually finished a day early. Yay me!

What will I do with my rough draft? I'm sitting on it for the month of December. Not literally sitting, it's on my laptop, and I have it on good authority that sitting on my precious computer would be hazardous for its health.

I have yet to decide if I will do revisions in January or not. It's chronologically the first of four stories, but it might make a bit more sense to go ahead and write the next two rough drafts at least so that I have a cohesive whole. I've asked my brain why it can't come up with anything simple, but I didn't understand the answer.

So...since I decided that writing is fun, and a good habit for me to have, I thought, "Why not start a blog?" I've done the journal thing off and on since I was a kid, and I always worry that someone will find it and read what I've written. Solution: post it for the world to see as a reminder not to write anything I wouldn't want to be read.

I make no promises to be interesting. I think I'm interesting, but that's good since I have to live with my own thoughts day in and day out. It's a useful exercise to empty some of those random thoughts. Somehow they don't feel the same if I've got them on paper--or computer screen. Will I do NaNoWriMo next year? Who knows? I'll probably always have a story to tell.


Want to read more about my 2014 NaNoWriMo project?
NaNoWriMo Editing Plans
Did I Write Feminist Literature?
What I Did To Silence My Inner Editor

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