Camoflauge

Without any forethought or planning, I took last week off from posting, and just spent the time quietly enjoying the holiday weekend with my son. To say that nothing spectacular happened at our place would be the understatement of the year. I texted my mom late morning to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, to which there was no reply, and later in the afternoon I received the customary “Happy Thanksgiving” text from my daughter (I replied, and we had a short back-and-forth text conversation about her younger brother’s “hibernation” habits and how they were interfering with my brunch menu). Outside of that, no other texts, phone calls, emails, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, singing telegrams, nothing – just a deafeningly quiet day at home. Is this odd? Well, seeing as how I have five brothers who are all, for the most part, adequately versed in cell phone operation, and that Thanksgiving was historically the primary family holiday, yes, experiencing complete “radio silence” was chilling – almost “Twilight Zone” worthy… As if having five brothers who were mysteriously absent on Thanksgiving wasn’t odd enough, coupled with the cold shoulder my text was receiving from my mom, my three rather “social” sisters who also know how to rapid-fire group text messages were freakishly missing too! No “hi”, “howdy”, or “hey” from any of them! (And, for the record, almost a week later, still no response from mom…)

I guess that’s what happens when you live several states away; you’re not an everyday voice, and not an everyday face, so eventually the memory of you becomes blurred, faded, and erased.

Ironically, the flip side of that happens on the job – at least for me! Being so consistently reliable and reliably consistent has made my face and my voice as commonplace as the torchiere lamp in the reception area of our office. Everyone just takes that lamp for granted; the lamp has been in the office for years and years, dutifully greeting clients with warmth and cheer, nary being thanked or extended a word or gesture of gratitude because, after all, it’s only doing its job… If, for some reason, the light was left off though, everyone’s day would be slightly askew – grumblings in the office corridors about the uneasiness in the air. Why? The lamp is not lit. What lamp? The lamp in the reception area. Never noticed a lamp in the reception area. Never noticed it because it’s always lit. The lamp isn’t lit today. Why? The lamp should be lit; that way it’s not noticed…

I stepped out for lunch one afternoon. Seems harmless; most people do it on a daily basis. One particular individual – let’s just refer to this person as the “helicopter pilot” – came around looking for me while I was out running some errands on my lunch hour (and to reassure any and all, I was within that one hour timeframe!) and was totally taken aback when it was discovered that I had the audacity to step out of the office for lunch (read: the lamp was not lit)! The helicopter pilot even stated, “but she never goes to lunch!” and began to “joke” that such departure from normalcy required ‘disciplinary action’; the company wanted consistent reliability and reliable consistency, not “free thinking”, and they didn’t want to have to come up with a contingency plan in the event something – anything! – should happen in my brief absence that would require someone else to do anything outside their scope of ‘job function’, such as say hello to a client…

~ sigh ~

Regardless, either case seems to be extreme, but yet truth. My large, usually tight-knit family seems to be lost to the four winds, my phone as silent as the grave, while the office staff, in particular the helicopter pilot, content in knowing that I will be at my post, day in and day out, all the way up through quitting time the day before a national holiday, because I have no better place to be (read: she lives hundreds and thousands of miles from any family, so she doesn’t need to go home early to prepare for guests – she won’t be having any guests at her place – and her son can just wait for her to get home; he’s old enough to be by himself until she gets there). An old, faded, barely distinguishable memory, not even noticed as missing to some, while to others, simply not noticed at all, blending in with the rest of the surrounding décor, almost as if just another light fixture…

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Quantity vs. Quality

I’m stealing a few moments to compose this post… Why, you ask? Because I absolutely lost track of the days this week! I know, right? Not that anything in particular has been happening…  Trust me when I say nothing special – absotively, posilutely, N.O.T.H.I.N.G.   S.P.E.C.I.A.L. – has been going on this week; one beige-tinted day bleeding into the next… With that, I’ve just lost track of which boring-blah, “do I really have to do this again?!” day it was, and missed my typical Wednesday evening post…

I am proud to report my son’s face still sports some pretty spiffy stubble, for those with super-sharp vision! He complains about it every other day, as he rubs his hand across his chin. I just chuckle and urge him to carry on the brave fight! I think for his birthday – well, more an early birthday gift – I’ll get him a nice set of blades and a razor handle, from one of those mail order men’s shave vendors. I think he’ll enjoy that; it’ll appear much more “manly” than the, umm, planetary-named blade of blush tone he currently has resting on the sink in his bathroom…

I, on the other hand, have come to the conclusion that attempting to rush from a 40,000-plus word-count, 8-week semester in school that ended in late October right into NaNoWriMo was definitely ill-fated, at minimum. Both the excruciating physical pain in my hand due to arthritis in my lower thumb joint coupled with the emotional stress of pushing – nay, bullying – myself into such an undertaking has left me feeling even more drained, and with that, the fibro flares and tumor headaches have become more frequent instead of the exact opposite – enjoying the idea of not being in school right now, relaxing, taking in all the life has to offer, spending time with friends and family, and foregoing the stress of a rigid non-work-related schedule. It is apparent that I needed more than 10 days to recuperate from the school term, and I didn’t allow myself that time.

On the bright side, I did come up with a new story line, and I will pursue it! If everything works out well, I will actually COMPLETE this project! (I do go to bed every night thinking up both dialog and scene progression, so that’s good!) I just won’t continue to force myself to meet some unattainable – unattainable for me, anyway, and at this particular juncture in my life, extremely unrealistic – timeline for the sake of what, saying “I did it”? I’d rather say “I did it!” when I know saying so will go hand-in-hand with presenting something worth reading, and won’t land my toosh in a hospital bed!

Here’s to growing wise in my old age, and appreciating the difference between quantity and quality.

Anything You Can Do…

So, the Goose Egg has been sufficiently cracked, liberally scrambled and riotously consumed!

What on earth am I referring to?

NaNoWriMo… (see my previous blog post, “November“)

My previous attempts (five or so years ago, and thus far this year) have produced nothing more than flamboyant nullity with regards to word count.

However, I am happy to report, I have finally shaken off the cloak of Anxiety – I still may have a shawl on, just for familiarity and comfort, but I’m definitely not allowing Anxiety and Fear to smother me anymore – and I’ve started this new tale!

I’m only 800 words into it, but I’ve also only had the opportunity to invest about 4 hours, including a smidge of research, so I’m feeling good! Besides, 800 words is better than what I had 5 hours ago!

I want to thank my son for motivating me, even though he’s completely oblivious to the fact that he’s the reason I’m writing again! (Last night, as we drove to the ballot drop box, I told him about the “November” blog post and how he was definitely outpacing me in his November challenge. He asked what the story line was for my latest project, and I explained the bare bones of it; he didn’t tune me out, which I took as a sign that it wasn’t a complete bore.) Because he has so bravely (translation: reluctantly) refrained from excavating his meager whiskers from his chin and upper lip, I felt it only fair that I open my laptop and at least attempt to write a paragraph or two… Hopefully the remainder of the week will see the multiplication of this miniscule word count into an explosion of literary greatness!

 

A tidbit for your entertainment:

Ennie had known nothing but urban living. She was raised in a traditional suburb with its tract homes, four-way stops, carefully manicured front yards, driveways with basketball hoops, and sidewalks dotted with tricycles, skateboards, and discarded baseball mitts, miles from the skyscrapers of the downtown jungle, but near enough that light pollution made wishing on evening stars merely a Hollywood movie set ploy.  She had skipped along those tree-lined avenues with girlfriends on her way to and from elementary and middle school, and learned to drive her father’s old pickup truck in the large parking lot behind the neighborhood shopping mall, early on Saturday mornings before the six-screen theatre opened its doors, flooding the perimeter with the intoxicating aroma of fresh popcorn, ready to tantalize the rush of moviegoers and hold them captive with a lightshow larger than life. Longtime residents watched the pudgy, freckle-faced tomboy graduate from tearing up her mother’s rose garden in search of worms and isopods, holding them captive in glass jars, to a daredevil strapped atop a pair of roller skates, blazing down the east hill with reckless abandon, and absolutely no concern for cross traffic or the consequences of bodily harm. The younger kids in the neighborhood had the pleasure of her company in the absence of their parents, as she swiftly became the neighborhood’s most reliable and trusted babysitter. She introduced different genres of music to the children she had the opportunity to interact with, as she always had some song lifting her spirit, causing her to dance and twirl. She also took the time to teach some of the kids that wanted to learn – and even some who begrudgingly protested but peered over folded arms and past furrowed brows – different skills, including cooking and baking, photography, crocheting and embroidery, and even took the time to write stories with those select families she watched on a regular basis.  Fingernails and toenails were often of differing colors, and she gladly shared her flare for the eclectic with anyone who asked – or asked mom and dad’s permission. Her smile was more of a city trademark than the city’s seal itself, and Ennie made it her personal mission to greet as many individuals a day with a gracious smile and a joyous “hello”.

November

Two note-worthy events happen during the month of November: “Movember” and “NaNoWriMo”. For those that unfamiliar with these events, allow me to introduce you to them.

Movember – when gentlemen forgo the ritual of shaving their facial hair and instead “grow a mo’” – mustache – to both bring awareness to, and, hopefully, commit to raising donations that benefit men’s health (which include prostate and testicular cancer and suicide prevention) by participating as a “walking, talking billboard in honor of men’s health” during the entire month and joining in or hosting fund-raising run/walks or other events.

NaNoWriMo – according to their website (www.nanowrimo.org), this event is for anyone who has ever aspired to writing a novel – which I’m sure is a passion most here have either dealt with , are dealing with, or don’t want to admit to, for fear of awakening a beast too rebellious to contain… The goal of NaNoWriMo (for those not “in the know” stands for National Novel Writing Month) is to complete a 50,000-word novel, written between November 1st and 11:59 PM November 30th.

 

 

Okay, now that we’ve all become properly acquainted, let’s move forward, shall we?

 

 

My young son asked me the other day if I had ever heard of “Movember” or “No Shave November”, to which I informed him I had, indeed, heard of it, and understood it to be in place to help bring awareness to men’s health (as it is, indeed)… We briefly discussed the topic, and I jokingly urged him to participate. Now, of course, I don’t know that he’ll be able to actively raise any funds for the cause; however, I’ve been wanting to see what type of facial carpet he could attain if he would just step away from the razor blade for a little while! He’s still so young – I forget sometimes that he shaves, he’s that young – and most of his facial hair comes in tawny-colored so it blends in with his complexion. However, ever since the first time he put the blade to his face and removed the three or four hairs that took residence between his nose and top lip, he’s been obsessed with the smooth skin feeling – stubble of any sort drives him bonkers!

And then there’s me… (Oh, I could almost hear the collective sigh from the universe…) I’ve wanted to complete a novel for SSSOOOOOOO long, it’s nearly pathetic at this stage – almost like that sweet four-year-old girl who, when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, replies “a mermaid!” and you just don’t have the heart to tell her it’s well, out of this world, never going to happen in a million, billion, trillion years, simply impossible… Well, yeah, that’s me. I want to be a novelist – or for goodness’ sake, simply a writer by trade! – however, it’s beginning to seem like an impossible achievement. Alas, I still (figuratively lay my head down and) dream! I know writing is something I can do, when tasked – I’ve been a student on several occasions, and have therefore been tasked with numerous written requirements. Thousands upon thousands of words, carefully chosen and with the precision of a craftsman, delicately positioned to convey and entertain, educate and persuade the reader while demonstrating a knowledge and understanding, a passion and compassion, not only for the subject matter, but also for the art form of writing itself. I know that I can write… So, why is it that my mermaid’s tail remains an impossibility?

As of the composition of this post, 1/6th of the month has come and gone. Kudos to my son, who has resisted the urge to shave – not that you can tell by looking at him, but he claims there are whiskers there that are driving him mad, and the sheer unevenness of his mustache stubble is simply unruly (ooooookay, if you say so…). As for me, surprisingly, over the past 24 or 36 hours (I don’t know when it all started, truly, and it really doesn’t make that much difference in the long run!) I began crafting a brand new story line, with twists and turns, surprises and secrets I had never envisioned before! Although I have two in-process works that constantly tug at those guilt strings, desperate to inch forward in progress, remorsefully staring at me like malnourished pups begging table-side, I thought a new creative path might stir up the desire for exploration and journey. Thus far, as fate would have it, my word count toward the famed 50k NaNoWriMo word count is sitting at a nice, symmetrical goose egg.

I can’t begin to explain the anxiety! Even writing about writing causes anxiety! Why? The fear of the unknown – what if writing something brilliant actually leads to the fulfillment of a dream? What then?? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself! And would I be able to replicate such a feat? I mean, really, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Hemingway, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling – whomever you fancy! – they were, and are, blessed with abundant talent that surpasses any general conception of talent! And until one can earn enough through writing – which is a feat in itself – there’s the drain on time and energy of the dreaded “day job” (which right now, is my total “Stockholm Syndrome” – but more on that later!)… If I were to tell you that in writing this blog post alone, I’ve stopped and walked away from it on three separate occasions, you’d think me mad! (Okay, so I guess I just admitted to it anyway, and you’re free to think whatever you want – it doesn’t change the facts…) In the interim, I’ve cleaned my kitchen, washed the dishes, made popcorn – because, hey, whole grains, right? – and almost purchased a new desk for my son, all to avoid the thought of finishing this blog post and maybe, possibly being faced with the anxiety-inducing thought of starting my NaNoWriMo manuscript… Agh!

Dang it! If my son can persevere despite the savage tortures of microscopic uneven and unruly mustache stubble, I should be able to boldly face the blinding white of the blank computer screen and toss a few unassuming lines of dialogue and understory much like Bob Ross with his simplistic “even if you’ve never painted before, this one you can do” brush strokes and, voila, just like those famed ‘happy trees’, my story would just miraculously unfold upon the canvas!

Wish me luck!

 

 

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.” – Bob Ross, from “The Joy of Painting”

am i merely beige?

Have you ever felt like you’ve been given a 120-count box of crayons and a beautiful coloring book full of intricate, scenic pictures, and for some reason you haphazardly yet thoroughly scribble over each and every page with the same beige stick of wax?

I thought I entertained a talent. I thought I possessed a gift. But lately, all I notice is a hole in my heart – a dark space, a void, where once there was a spark. It became a passion – a drive – early in my life. Some may even equate it to a drug; it offered a way for me to experience a high. The rush of adrenaline and the euphoria of tactile “creation” were unmatched. It ushered me into another realm from which I could escape whatever sinister chiasms of reality threatened to devour my spirit. I became quite dependent on the tantalizing notion of being able to bend reality to suit my mood. However, the unwavering tick of the clock proved not as forgiving, and I had to slink away, nary a moment to sip from the pool of cathartic verbiage to poetize.

Desperate for tangible evidences of creativity, I found less potent “soul-narcotics”, and began spinning yarns (literally, yarn projects – crocheting, knitting, anything to experience “creation” again). But alas, days dripped into weeks, which poured into months, which flooded into years, cascading to this, my breaking point, where I can no longer deny this overwhelming desire to dive – full-body, wholeheartedly – back into the throes of addiction; to once again toil over the expression of hopes and desires and to feel the exhilaration of exquisitely executed alliteration. Of course, breaking free of my captor, Monsieur Obligatoire, was no easy task; the complete success of my escape still remains to be seen. Until I am dragged, kicking and screaming, back to the dungeon of dreary academia expository dribble, I will satiate my lust for imagination activity by hacking away at long-slumbering story lines and plodding plot schemes in hopes of developing some delectable morsels adequate and suitable for consumption.

Forlornly, I long for the days of effortless prose, uninhibited wanderings of whimsy and intriguing exploration beyond the concrete and gray… Is there a way back to the garden? Is there a way back along the dry and unforgiving path to where the thick twisted tree branches bow and sway under the weight of vibrant song-filled fantastical birds and the yellow-pink air, swirling sweet with fruit and fresh rain? Will I again triumphantly return and know the joy of simple and profound inspiration, nestled peacefully between passion’s flame and the tangible side of imagination? That is my hope.

Managing to hike up through the brambles and weeds, over the rocky, worn path, and past the dilapidated fencing, I stand before the rather large, somewhat intimidating door… Without preparation, without thorough planning, without unabashed confidence, I now seem to lack the strength – more precisely, the courage – to push beyond the barrier; truth be told, I can’t even bring myself to humbly knock and beg passage. Trying with all that is left within me to muster up the fortitude and resume my journey despite the dark raging storms, the tempests of deepest doubt and the gusts of insecurity that berate my spirit, I dig my heel into the sandy soil, draw a breath from my right pinky toe, exhale with the exuberance of a teenager at the dentist’s office, and forge on.

Prelude to “The Kiss”

“Mom, can you believe some people’s luck?” he began with such exasperation. “I’m so jealous!”

Okay, before we get any further with this, allow me to roll this story back about five months, to the middle of May 2016, and the start of summer semester in school – human resources management.

               Relevance, you ask? Hold on, I’m getting there!

So, while digging deeper into the required assignments, and doing research to help construct the foundation of my mock HR policy manual, I happened across a wonderful piece of, well let’s just call it “literature” for the sake of tidiness. It was a pilfered, several-years-old handbook for new employees, chock-full of unconventional tips for the corporate newbie, offering a hand to help guide said-tenderfoot through the maze of job assignments, coffee pot etiquette, and even how to not to freak out about the availability of dartboards and massage tables, but to get suspicious in the event of catered lunches with caviar… I know, I started thinking to myself: how do I land a job at THIS place? Dartboards and massages? Yes, please!

Here’s where things start to get interesting…

Reading further, I start to realize what type of company this is – I was genuinely unfamiliar with the organization’s name because the line of work they’re involved in is just not up my alley. However…

“Son, have you ever heard of XYZ Company?” I asked of my youngest, not sure what type of response to expect. His dead-pan expression made it seem as if I had asked him if he had ever heard of a big gaseous ball in the outer reaches of space, bursting forth with an unsurpassed brightness, often referred to as THE SUN. He went on – in small words, so that I was sure to understand the extent of my error and simple-mindedness – to explain the vastness of this company’s reach in their field of expertise. I flipped my laptop around to show him the, umm, illustrations (reminiscent of the Dick and Jane series fame, circa 1930s), and for hours, he and I discussed this XYZ Company in great detail. It was a wonderful bonding moment for us –bringing together one of his passions alongside one of my school obligations, and cemented the idea that education isn’t necessarily droll. The highlight: finding out that XYZ Company resided in our own backyard! At that point, my son decided he wanted to gear his upcoming studies toward nearing his feet to their front door. Goals are a good thing!

So, fast forward back to Saturday afternoon…

No! Wait, not that far! (No, no – hear me out! If I skip this bit, nothing will make sense, trust me!!)

So, THURSDAY, at work, one of my clients sends over some last minute documentation for filing; I make a quick comment to him about something I notice regarding, yep, XYZ Company, and he says “Oh yeah! Did some this-and-that for them; great bunch of folks!” I throw in a “my son would be so jealous” comment, mentioning it’s his aspiration to work there in the future, and get hit with a “my friend so-and-so works there full-time, how about I see if he can hook you guys up with a tour?” Umm, yes, please! Emails start flying Thursday, and by the end of day on Friday, I’m in touch with “the friend” at XYZ Company, who’s helping to secure my nomination for “Mom of the Year” award! Get this: I’m asked if we’d prefer being put on the list for the ‘group tour’, or if we’d rather just tag alongside “the friend” on a personal exploration… Seriously?! I can’t breathe!! And I can’t tell my son; I’m keeping this a secret!

Okay – NOW on to Saturday!

Completely – and I do mean completely!! – out the blue, he’s talking about how he’s jealous of his buddy, and I’m clamoring to find out why. (He doesn’t seem to be “upset” in this jealous rage; it’s more of an exuberant jealousy, which I’m guessing is a good thing…) As the story goes, his friend has posted pictures he took – wait for it!!! – while. on. a. tour. of. XYZ Company headquarters! Really?? I had to know: a group tour?? How did he score a deal like THAT?? My son didn’t have the answers, and based on the dates the pictures were originally uploaded to his social media page, the tour was over two years ago. Still, it was genuinely something to be excited about. Me? I felt as if an elephant was standing on my chest as I tried to share in my son’s covetousness, full-knowing what adventures lay just around the corner!

I wanted to say something! Oh, it took everything within me to keep that secret bottled up; to not blow my cork and say something foreshadowing like “just wait a week” or “you’re a pretty lucky kid, too, you know?” Oooohhhh! The suspense, people!

 

          (side bar: this will actually be the THIRD ‘big-reveal’ secret I’ve been involved with this year – first, flying down with my two children to surprise my mother for her birthday/Mother’s Day; second, flying my mother and one of my nephews up to my area and surprising my daughter on her birthday by having her Grandma at her birthday dinner; and now, this! I KNOW what I want the next surprise to be; the details just haven’t panned out yet…)

 

It’s Tuesday, and this spectacular event is slated to take place on Thursday. I’m hoping my heart can hold out for two more days!

Giddy… can’t breathe!

Devour

Have you ever heard the question: “How do you eat an elephant?”

 

Those that haven’t might seem a bit perplexed by such an odd question; those that have, and have been presented with its oddly profound and yet remarkably simplistic answer may understand where I’m going with this…

 

A mere 13 days ago (eek! That’s not even a full two weeks – time flies, doesn’t it?!), I published my very first blog post, WET PAINT ( https://smudgedblogblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/18/wet-paint ). From there, two more posts: TIME TO DREAM ( https://smudgedblogblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/time-to-dream-time-for-dreams ) and POWER THROUGH THE PAIN ( https://smudgedblogblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/power-through-the-pain ). It hasn’t been too drastically long since my last post; however, I also find that due to persistent lack of sleep (four hours a night really is not adequate, folks!), the days are beginning to blend together in a heap of overcast haze dotted by trepidation about the upcoming fall semester.

 

Several weeks ago, I was anxious, in a good sort of way – if that’s even possible. Enrollment was set for my final two classes in pursuit of my MBA. Books were ordered, and now it was just a matter of time before the official start date. A week before, I was able to log on and download the course requirements, getting a firsthand look at the assignments in detail, and having the opportunity to mentally prepare myself for the task ahead…

 

Oh. My.

 

Not that I’m an analytical person by any means (that’s a satirical joke; you’ll catch on…), I started adding up the anticipated word counts on the assignments due for each of the two classes… In comparison to a standard fiction/mystery novel (80,000 words), in total, these classes will have me writing the equivalent of nearly half a novel – in eight weeks’ time! And trust me when I say the subject matter is anything but page-turning! 38,000 words… on operations management, and strategy in global competition. Yep, that’s right! Look at me, doing the ‘happy dance’, knowing that for the next two months, I’ll be spending my non-working waking hours researching outputs, functionality, mass customization, core capabilities, service gaps, and AFI frameworks, crafting SWOT and supply chain management analyses, describing strategic implementation practices, and generally trying not to write myself into a glassy-eyed stupor! 38,000 words! An average of 703 words a day, for the next 54 days… And that’s just the writing assignments! Three separate textbooks, each with at least 12 chapters – also to be read within those eight weeks, along with all the research necessary to complete the 38,000 words of writing!

 

So, I return to the question: “How do you eat an elephant?”

 

The answer: One bite at a time…

 

Simple, I know. Simple, and profound.

 

These two classes – my last two classes – are proving to be behemoths; however, as with any plate, piled high with all the makings of a monumental feast, I dive in, fork and knife firmly in grasp. And if my next few posts arrive late, please forgive me: my mother taught me to chew quietly, chew thoroughly, and not to talk with my mouth full!