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”

Heart of Gold

He said humbly, “I’m sure jealousy had a bit to do with my attitude tonight…”

What fourteen-year-old thinks this way?

Okay, first, I have to get this out of the way before I have a whole battalion of Grammar Police knocking at my wee little Blog-dom door front: in a “perfect world”, he should have said ‘envy’ and not ‘jealousy’ – as there is a striking difference in the two terms, one being a fear of losing one’s position or situation to someone else, especially in an intimate relationship whereas the other implies the feeling of wanting what someone else has – and I understood what he meant, which was the important part! So, now, moving on…

What fourteen-year-old has the wherewithal and groundedness, the sheer levelheadedness, to understand and realize his behavior and motivation came not from anger, or sadness, or any other random combination of fatigue and cold pizza indigestion, but in fact from envy? He wasn’t rude about it – to his friends, or to me; he just stated it plainly, and quite humbly. This wasn’t the first time he’d mentioned this growing trend within his close-knit group of friends; however, I could hear – nay, I could feel – the heaviness of his heart as he spoke solemnly during the brief drive home.

First, there was the Homecoming Dance itself. He looked very sharp! (I know, as ‘mom’, my opinion is quite biased; however, he DID look very handsome!) Towering at nearly 6-foot-tall, decked out in slim-fitting dark grey slacks, a crisp white shirt with French cuffs, a black suede vest with antiqued silver pocket watch, and a black neck tie with gold, silver and bronze accents, not to mention bleached blonde shoulder-length tresses and a genuinely sincere smile, it was hard to say he was anything BUT eye-catching! As fate would have it, though, he was ‘the seventh wheel’, and “melancholy” was the overarching mood of the evening… Apparently his three buddies paired off with the three accompanying young ladies (two couples were already well-established, and one couple just decided to start their dating relationship days prior to the dance), supplanting my son along the dance’s outer perimeter, solo, as they meandered in differing directions. Oh yes, the proverbial “Wall Flower”; that was my boy… (In my not-so-subtle and humorous way, I reminded him that he was a tall, bright, beautiful sunflower and not just some measly lil’ garden variety wall flower – I’m not sure that it helped overall, but he did smile for a brief moment…)

The following weekend, after a friend’s birthday party, on the drive home, he mentioned to me, “You know Mom, I’m the only one of my friends that’s not part of a couple… I’m the only one that doesn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend…”

::sigh::

“…distractions…” was all I could think to tell him… “All they are right now, honey, are distractions…”

“I know, Mom; but, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be distracted from time to time…”

                    Gaw! Who raised this kid?! He’s too smart for his own good!

          And what hurts me the most?? I know his pain! I long for the same “distraction”… I long for the feeling of knowing that someone, somewhere is distracted, thinking of me… I long for that companionship that’s been missing in my life for so many years…

          How could I tell him honestly that it’s wrong to not yearn for that type of friendship, companionship, when my heart cries out for it too?

I just drew in a slow, deep breath, smiled a mom’s loving smile and told him: “Honey, the day’s going to come when these girls are going to figure out how wonderful you truly are, and good laurdy, you’re gonna have to beat them away with a stick! They’ll be lined up around the block! I kid you not, Hon! You have a heart of GOLD, and I’ve been sayin’ that for YEARS! Being in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship isn’t good – and you know that! It’ll lead to hurt feelings and bitterness – for both of you! Better that the two of you find each other and the relationship be built on a solid foundation. Give it time, honey! Don’t “settle”. Don’t try to be like everyone else – you’re not everyone else! Just be you and it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen – remember: it’s all in the details; details matter! I have faith it won’t be long! You’re quite a catch, and I KNOW your heart is true!”

I know he heard some of it, and some of it he chalked up to “mom-talk”. But I’ve never wavered from telling him that’s he’s got a good, true heart, and that “details matter!” He knows that…

This past weekend, after trying to endure an evening watching some friends, umm, “over display” their affection for one another while at a group event, his admission of being envious showed his maturity – he wasn’t angry with them, or bitter; he knew he was envious. But, at the same time, he was able to poke fun at the situation (suggesting that next time, he arm himself with a spray bottle and use it as one would when training cats to stay off the counter tops, or to trigger a “cooling down” session between the two ‘lovebirds’ while in public), and carry on with life.

I hope he gets the opportunity to show his genuine kindness, respect, humor, and wittiness in the days, weeks, and months to come. He’s somewhat introverted, which makes finding “love” difficult; however, stranger things have happened! Besides, he’s still young, still very handsome, and still completely loved by his mom!

(…as for his mom’s chances of finding love – good laurdy!)

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!

A cog in THE MACHINE

I do see, acknowledge, ponder, and even (mentally) respond to some of those “one word” or “two word” writing prompts that pop up from time to time; however, recently, I haven’t had a lot of free time to pen out long, thought-provoking chronicles, or even insightfully toasty chestnuts of wisdom to share with the masses (school will do that to a person’s cache of unobligated minutes – note previous post, “6,810”…). That’s not to say that I ignore the prompts entirely either, avoiding any version of “eye contact”, as one would, trying to escape the shopping store without being accosted by the newspaper vendor offering a free Sunday issue, the cable/dish t.v. service vendor trying to make small talk, or those adorable Capitalists-in-training, with their boxes and tubs of chocolate, popcorn, and cookies. No, I admit, while most of them I give only a passing glance, gnaw on the concept for a fleeting moment or two to see if it’s flavorful, and usually expel before any ache takes form in my jaw or head, some of them get stuck in my teeth, forcing me to wrestle with them for longer than a hiccup, and darn if unsolicited ideas don’t start to form like dastardly rain clouds over a long-awaited beach party.

One such prompt was the single word, “Melody”. I’m sure there are a million different directions a ripe mind could take this term. I think, however, when I happened across it, my mind was beyond ripe, and the term steam-rolled right over me, spewing creative juices and seeds of introspection throughout the entirety of my conscious. The hardest part about the whole experience was finding the time to make something coherent out of it – whether there were enough logical pieces to dice up, throw together with peppery bits, emotional, tear-inducing slivers, zingy one-liners, and serve it all with a big bowl of corniness, or whether I’d just have to scoop up the remnants, continue to grind away and just make a saucy pulp out of it.

Now, most people know what a melody is, but in case there are any doubts, let me just state the basics: a melody is the succession of single tones in musical compositions, producing a distinct musical phrase or idea, and is considered the principal part in a harmonic composition (thank you Dictionary.com). That was easy enough. So why all the fuss? Why did this word hit like a drum line before kick-off at the Homecoming Game? Because after giving a moment’s thought to “melody”, I began to consider its partner, “harmony”. And, well, there’s been a serious lacking of “harmony” in my life lately.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a good friend the day before my classes began this term, and she and I got on the topic of employment (ugh… that can be as painful as slicing open your finger with the edge of paper, and drowning that cut in a vat of salty lemon juice! But, I digress…). She is wise, this friend of mine; wise, loving, patient, and encouraging! Knowing that I’ve wrestled from time to time with my choice to forego personal pursuits for the tediousness of “obligation” and valiantly wearing the mask of “responsibility”, she assured me that hope was not lost, and that the opportunity may still exist to shake off the dust of corporate society and rekindle the fiery passion I once coddled like a iridescent soap bubble whimsically dancing on the breeze just above the death-spikes of the spring lawn. But, alas, I explained to her my years and years of “conditioning”, my submission to conformity, and my subsequent fashioning into the perfect corporate “cog”. She just smiled, gave me a hug, and told me I was not “a cog”! Bless her!

What that conversation made me realize was that much of my life – especially recently – lacked depth. I submitted early to the idea that creativity was unacceptable and that conformity was essential for survival (find a career path that was sustainable regardless of economic and geographical circumstances). I carried that ideology from my youth, through my young adulthood, and into my later years. My life-song was pure melody; there was no acceptance of random, complementary high and low notes, lofty imaginativeness, intoxicating fervor, vision, talent, and originality, despite my admiration of such occurrences in others’ lives. I hid “symptoms” of inspiration, knowing that one could not sing both melody and harmony simultaneously, and I knew it was wrong to abandon the “principal parts” in life. Therefore, I would stick to the melody, and allow my song to be flat, monotonous.

That’s all and well – for me. However, I have children. And I feel that I’ve done them a terrible disservice! By carrying this philosophy of “conformity” and “obligation”, I fear that I may have strangled the creativity out of their spirits – just as was done to me when I was younger. Not having much of an advocate to help foster ingenious and innovative thinking, colorful and charismatic dreaming, and fanciful and flagrant cavorting, I did not know how to be such an advocate for my children – at least not wholeheartedly. I hope I may have slipped from time to time, and said something encouraging back before the weight of the world came crashing in on them; I pray that they still harbor flames of inspiration within their souls, and coax it out to at least toast a marshmallow or two! If nothing else, I openly say at this time I am deeply sorry if my “cog”-iness was more desert than your pools of enchantment could endure. My wish for you, my dear children (and for anyone on the brink of suspended animation) is to pursue what makes your heart soar! Live for your dreams, and never allow yourself to become a cog of the system – conditioned and effectively lifeless. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand out.

As the reader-board in front of the physical therapy clinic put it so succinctly:

‘Be a flamingo in a flock of pigeons.’