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”

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!

On. Fire.

This girl is ON. FIRE.

Before you start waving disproportionately large foam fingers and flapping poster-board banners amid chants and cheers in rousing support, let me drizzle a damper on your enthusiasm… I know, right – nobody’s questioning anymore why I’m at home, writing a blog on the weekends and not out hooping and hollering and creating a general ferfuffle of mayhem with a group of scantily-clad lady-friends, tipping our frou-frou drinks as we climb up on tables to dance and sing and… Ah, who am I kidding? I’m not even sure I watch movies where the main characters do that! Anyway, back to the “fire” and “extinguisher”…

Last week, I hit mid-point in my classes – YAY! (Okay, foam fingers and poster-board banners accepted HERE!) However, in order to do so, I pushed myself to limits that were extreme. Let me see if I can put this into perspective: this past Monday – just a couple days ago – was the first time in 10 days that I went to bed before it was “tomorrow”, and I’m not talking about a leisurely stroll across the PM/AM threshold! Most “nights” ended around 3am, with dry, scratchy eyes, clenched jaw, a crabby dog chasing a bewildered cat on a trek from the laptop to the bed. From there, I’d muster enough energy to pet/lecture the bellowing feline from upstairs (yes, I have one cat that’s afraid to come downstairs, but at the same time suffers from separation anxiety – go figure!) to remove himself from my bathroom sink long enough to afford me a swipe with the toothbrush, drop my frame onto the mattress, only to start the process again at 6am. Lucky for me exhaustion helped induce rapid sleep – most “nights” I couldn’t recall five minutes after pressing my head to the pillow… But, after a while, a routine like that catches up with you. *Spoiler alert: I don’t run very fast!*

The vicious one-two-three pounding of Thursday, Friday and Saturday were definitely my undoing. There was a HUGE group project due in one class, and one quarter of our group was M.I.A. There were fourteen parts to the assignment, and 8 of those fourteen parts had over 5 parts to them. So, in essence, the project actually had over 60 parts to it, and we were a man down! I couldn’t spare any time at the office, because, well, I had work to do there (duh!), and even had an obligation to be present one evening at a school function for my youngest child. I forewent the concept of eating to save time, stretched minutes into hours in front of the computer, compiling data, analyzing ratios and forecasts, formatting spreadsheets, and composing technical mumbo-jumbo to coincide with the charts and graphs that would comprise our group project. I managed two and a half hours of sleep Thursday “night” before heading out the door for a full day at the office. Friday night quickly became Saturday morning, and the sun was up before I went down! I stole five and half hours’ sleep that morning, but repeated the process that next night – teetering off to bed Sunday morning about 5am, and returning to the glow of the computer screen at 9:30 that morning. All of the week’s assignments were due by 9pm local time. Oh, yes, I guess I failed to mention that besides the group project, I had FOUR other individual assignments to complete that week! Luckily, two were done already (the smallest of all the assignments that week), but the other two required a colossal amount of reading – not my forte! 200 pages in one book, and 15 peer-reviewed articles for the other assignment. Ugh. With six minutes to spare, I had all my homework turned in! (Again, foam fingers and poster-board banners…)

That’s when the stress level lowered, and the auto-immune triggers started their pyrotechnic display!

I was reluctant to head to bed early Sunday night (that’s its own blog post, trust me!) and so I kept with tradition, and meandered toward my room around 1am (relatively early for me)… Halfway through the night, I woke to immense pain. My legs ached and my skin felt as if it was on fire! The mere contact of one foot against the other and my right calf resting atop my left calf as I lay curled on my left side created sparks throughout my nerve endings. I slowly reached my arm to brush the blanket away from my legs, and struggled through the stiffness in my shoulder. Wow! I. Was. A. Mess.

By the time 6am rolled around, I was cognizant of the leg pain, the resurgence of the right shoulder ache, and was presented with tenderness and aching in the left elbow, additional “fiery” skin sensation along the mid and lower back, and non-stop pain in my left thigh and right thumb (two pains that I was aware of and have been dealing with for some time now – at least the left thigh… see Power Through the Pain). In as long as I’ve had fibromyalgia, this was quite possibly the worst flare-up I’d ever experienced! My wily schedule had definitely caught up with me, and I was paying a hefty price!

For two days, I quietly endured the “fiery” flesh at work; however, Tuesday was coupled with a few other ailments – most likely because I took a low-dose muscle relaxant Monday evening on my way to a full seven hours of sleep! (The muscle relaxants do their job wonderfully; however, they and my stomach don’t always have such a complaisant relationship…) I had to rein myself in, contact the appropriate personnel, and eventually just leave my poor, wrecked body in bed for hour upon hour.

I’m happy to report that the “fire” has scaled back tremendously; my left thigh, left elbow, right shoulder, and right thumb are still giving me fits, but at least I’m not writhing in agony if my legs touch, anything! Rejoice in the little victories, my friends!

          Speaking of little victories, twenty-three days left of school! Then I can actually get to writing my stories again! No more 12-page research reports! Woo-hoo!

Reverse Psychology

I know I’m not the best parent that ever lived. Heck, I doubt I’m even the best parent on our block! Probably not even the best parent in our triplex, and Brandy and Steve haven’t even been parents for a full year yet… That’s not to say I don’t try, though!

And despite having a completely overloaded schedule, I still allowed my childhood companion, high school counselor, lifelong roomie, and long-time nemesis, Guilty Conscience, to whisper in my ear, “What kid is going to remember that you did this or that task for ‘their benefit’? What they’re going to remember is whether you took the time to spend time with them!” Gee, thanks, GC! You’re brilliant!

So, at the request of my 14-year-old, who oddly enough, broke character and rambled on in the kitchen for over 40 minutes (he’s a two – to – three sentence kind of kid, usually) about this new television program he happened upon, all while I prepared our dinner, I set aside the school books, and agreed to watch the pilot episode with him (thank you, Netflix, for your diverse library of programming). I did, so rudely, though, preface my response with the explanation that it could only be one episode on this particular evening, as I did need to continue on with my homework assignments – obligations are obligations, after all, and even in showing my propensity for taking time for quality time, I needed to also demonstrate that I was a responsible person!

The show was as interesting as he described, and it opened the opportunity for some informed and thought-provoking conversation between the two of us. I promised him we would re-visit the show as time allowed. Unfortunately, he didn’t like the idea of having to wait – although I didn’t exactly ask him to. By the time he invited me to join him in watching the program, he was already at Episode Five (proof positive that he didn’t have to wait for me), and wanted to advance forward. He learned quickly that I was not going to sit and binge-watch with him this time! Sorry, kiddo!

Okay, so here’s where things get complicated…

Remember, I already admitted my failure at “perfect parenting”, so no finger-wagging!

There are those times – definitely not right now, in the midst of these two heavy-homework-laden courses in school, but believe me when I say instances have presented themselves – when I have NOTHING better to do than to let my brain rot away, watching rerun after rerun of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, and my beloved 14-year-old cannot divert his eyes from whatever electronic device holds him prisoner, not even long enough to acknowledge my existence. Do I say something? No. Do I unplug said device? No. Do I restrict future screen time? (I know I probably should, but please refer to previously posted disclaimer) No…

I think the most “reckless” thing I’ve done in such an instance was refuse to cook dinner when I couldn’t get a response to what he wanted to eat that evening. I called – TWICE! – on my way home from the office. I texted and asked for a return phone call. No response to anything. So I came home. And when he continued to stare at the computer screen, I simply curled up on the sofa with the hyper pup, a ginger beer and the tv remote. Was I worried about his nutritional well-being? Not really. He knows how to cook soup, eggs, pizza, potatoes, pasta… And if he wanted to be lazy but still indulge his taste buds, there was microwave popcorn, a variety of cereals available, as well as fixings for black bean nachos. I knew he wouldn’t starve. I just refused to put forth the effort myself since he wasn’t going to acknowledge my existence. On that same night, I even went up to bed without so much as a word to him (it was a Friday night). He didn’t stop to say “hi” or “hey” or “Delilah chewed up another soda bottle cap” (our dog; don’t ask!) Not a word. So I responded in-kind.

However, it seems without fail, the moment I mention I have a cascading mountain of assignments to attend to, and I beg for him to respect my need for quiet time, he all of a sudden becomes a social butterfly, or is absolutely compelled to find the loudest, most obnoxious, disruptive television programming the satellite dish in our yard can siphon from the cosmos. Really?! We have ONE television in our domicile, so it’s not as if he’s holed up in his room, channel-surfing. No, he’s sprawled out on the sofa, bag of potato chips rustling under the weight of his scavenging fist, making sure to ignore the passage of time and continue to fill the air with static noise. And because of the less-than-ideal wi-fi service offered in our area (only one provider, so it’s not like I can shop around for another provider – the only other option is paying 3 times as much to the same provider for “upgraded” speeds…), I’m trapped down in the adjacent dining room area, feverishly working on my laptop.

Not only that, but he’ll decide that on the weekend when I’m utterly slammed with research papers and exams, that he will simply die if he can’t have his long-time buddy come hang out at the house. What drives me up a wall is that despite MY need for solitary time in order to accomplish tasks, I end up having to be the chauffeur, the chef, the entertainment director, the moderator, the maid, and still manage to take care of my own checklist. “You do understand, I have a lot of homework to get done…” The empty promises of silence and respect for my work time; why do I fall for it?? I want my son to be social, to interact with his friends – to have a life away from the computer screen! I just don’t understand why he always seems to choose solitude and YouTube when there are no prerequisites on my time, but when I need a few hours of silence to devour the concept of balanced scorecards and product innovation, he can’t help but ponder, “I wonder how many episodes of this preposterous program I can watch before the sun comes up?”

I think I need to start using reverse psychology with him again, like when he was 4 or 5 years old. Please, make all the noise you want! Why don’t you invite your friends over? You don’t want to just sit there and stare at the computer screen all day, do you? Maybe then he’ll hunker down and not acknowledge my existence, allowing me ample quiet time (aside of the dog’s crazed barking fits, and the cat’s bellowing from the landing upstairs) to complete my assignments! Four and half more weeks to go!

Thirty days, and counting…

Challenge: ACCEPTED!

Oh dear, what treacherous unscripted suicidal plot have I unearthed?!

Sure, challenges help build character, and testing limits often brings to light unsubstantiated boundaries.

But this? Chainsaws! High octane, rip-roaring, mauling “metal teeth of fury” chainsaws!

I’m concurrently skipping around with hula-hoops encircling my ankles, running up and down forty miles of highway daily, to and from the office, performing like a circus monkey for the corporate hierarchy while simultaneously monitoring the parade of cavorting high-school-aged monkeys and  tossing baked peanuts and other protein-rich snacks their direction – to fend off “h-anger” attacks. I’ve already got the spinning plates of Master’s classes, piled high with research reports, group projects, and computerized tests, delicately balanced so that their coinciding due dates match perfectly with governmental filing deadlines.

This is just throwing chainsaws into the mix!

Maybe chainsaws and raw eggs…

… chainsaws and feather pillows …

(no, wait! I think I’m just overly tired – note to self: must get more than 13 hours sleep over the course of 4 nights)

Sorry about that!

So, where were we? Oh, yes! Chainsaws and raw eggs… I think that’s the best I can do right now. I could go down the lines of juggling chainsaws in yellow rain slickers, since after all, the concept is ‘preparing for a rainy day’, but that would be a bit absurd, don’t you think?

While perusing another blogger’s site, I came across this 30-day challenge, and who doesn’t love a challenge, right? (…me! I hate challenges… oh, wait, rhetorical question… sorry…) The task: “Blog Ahead”! Now, what does that mean exactly? The concept is to carve out time during this challenge period, preceded only by a budget-breaking jaunt to the nearest Costco to stockpile every tasty packaged carbohydrate, gallons of your preferred caffeinated “go-juice”, and perhaps the obligatory fruit, vegetable, and theatre-box of chocolatey confections, hermit yourself away from the outside world, draped in your trusty flannel camp shirt (you know the one – with the singed hole in the pocket where the hot ember from the popping log burrowed its way to a quick death) and tie-waist knit pants that mop the floor with each step, and simply because you’ve committed yourself to this challenge, release the floodgates of unsurpassed inspiration, harmonious word synergy, and captivating musings without nary a hiccup or belch, and emerge after 30 days, with a surplus of 30 “stockpiled” blog posts, for those times when inspiration is as fleeting as a bargain price on gasoline, or when, you know, life.

For someone such as myself – one who has chosen to post once a week as opposed to every day (please refer to ‘note to self’ earlier in this post…) – the end result would be to have 30 blog posts in addition to the (*ahem* conceivably already written *insert laugh here*) four blog posts for the month of October (there being four Tuesday/Wednesdays in the month of October in 2016), for a total of 34 blog posts, from which I could pick and choose as circumstances dictate.

That seems all well and good. But for anyone who has read my posts (this one included), it is obvious I’m not a “pre-written blog post” kind of poster. And why is that? Because it’s not in my character – usually. However what I do find intriguing about this challenge (aside of the host site’s name – seriously! “Herding Cats & Burning Soup”! I just had to join, on that name alone!!), is the incentive to spend some time at least cultivating post ideas, AND massaging those ideas that have already manifested themselves over the past several weeks, but that I’ve neglected due to other hula-hoops, toasted peanuts, cavorting monkeys, and spinning plates…

So, before any chainsaws get thrown into the mix, I’m heading to Costco for a silo of Pepsi and a box of four-cheese rice crackers (don’t judge!), I’m ramping up my research skills so that final reports are nothing shy of technical “blog posts”, and alerting my circle… triangle (??)… of friends that I’ll be off the radar until after the Great Pumpkin visits with Linus in the pumpkin patch.

Anyone else up for chainsaws and eggs?? Here’s a link to sign up for the fun challenge!

http://www.herdingcats-burningsoup.com/2016/08/Blog-Ahead-Sign-Up-2016.html#more

Next on the menu: …peanut butter severed monkey finger omelets… or, feather pillows…

“6,810”

Have you ever found yourself feeling both exhilarated and exhausted at the same time? I’m starting to believe those two emotions are conjoined twins – opposite sides of the same coin! The likelihood that you’ve encountered one side of that coin toss, staring face up, almost guarantees that the other is resting itself peacefully against the palm of your hand. And no sooner do you exhale, whether it be the flutter of exuberant delight or a sigh of dilapidated effort, than find that coin flip-flop like a cornered politician.

I have successfully completed my first week of school this semester, and may I just say, I’m ready to raise the white flag and simply walk away … before finding a suitable jumping point. These are the last two classes in my master’s program, so it’s not as if I haven’t endured the pleasure of taking two classes at one time; as a matter of record, this is the fifth time I’ve accomplished such a task. And in the previous ten courses completed, I can’t say that there are any that I recall as being anything above mildly inauspicious; at best, they were all dismal. However, I don’t know that business courses aspire to anything more than that… These courses are holding true to their initial impressions, and have taken quite a substantial chunk (of time, of inspiration, of research, of sacrifice) to complete. Whereas I was able to successfully submit all assignments on time, and even display an ounce of post-‘posting’ jubilation at the fact that I did so with 35 minutes to spare, that’s not to say it did not come without a price.

Several nights last week blurred into early morning before my bunned-up hair and burning corneas found solace far away from the computer screen, even if it was to only rest my head on the pillow for 3 meager hours… Luckily the true fall schedule hadn’t kicked in yet, and I was afforded the luxury of stealing an extra half-hour of shut-eye, not playing slave to the school bus… However, as of tomorrow (well, looking at the clock, technically, it would today), it’s all hands on deck at 6:20 am, and rumps out the door by 6:55 am! No more snooze… And as my youngest child agonized and whimpered over the thought of beginning a new school year, I sneered and snorted, and growled “six thousand, eight hundred and ten” with the sting of venom. A smirk was the response I received. “6,810”.

6,810 is the word count for my first week at school. With a total of seven written assignments due this initial week, the culminating word count was 6,810 words. For a writer, whose typical goal is 500 words per day, I had definitely blown that “average” out of the water! Unfortunately none of what was written is of any interest to anyone who isn’t studying operational management or strategy in global competition (at least I think those are the course titles – I don’t remember; at this point, they’re all blending together). A daily average word count of 973 words! Whew! And that’s not even taking into consideration the 7 chapters of reading in two different (yawn!) textbooks, plus searching, researching, reading and annotating 10 or 12 (peer-reviewed) articles in order to write said words, and a chapter quiz to boot! Oh yes, then there’s the whole “job” thing, and the “parent” thing, and the … well, you get the picture… so, it wasn’t with undue pride that I celebrated my victorious accomplishment – 35 minutes still “on the clock” was a mini-miracle!

Already entrenched in Week Two, I’ve completed two of the four writing assignments; granted, they are the easier ones of the bunch. This week’s word count is already at 935, and I’m anticipating a total by week’s end of nearly 4,200. Five peer-reviewed articles have already been devoured en route to accomplishing the writing assignments completed thus far; the remainder of my reading this week will be all textbook – 5 more chapters (insert a sigh of dilapidated effort). Here’s the flip side, though: as I inhaled, straightening myself in front of the computer keyboard, poised to attack the required assignments of Week Two, a sobering thought turned my exhaustion into exhilaration… Seven more weeks…

That’s it, folks.           Seven. More. Weeks.

It’s hard not to relish in that thought! 45 short days, and this will all be over. So, yes, I may have my sought out a white flag after a grueling first week, and I’m not sure I’m ready to see it dance in the breeze just yet, or am I apt to relinquish my tender grasp on it either. I think for now I shall wrap it around myself like a shawl or sarong, ever so close, but with the playfulness of a summer day.

Until next time…

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!

Power Through the Pain

I’m in the most ridiculous place I’ve ever been in my life:  having the opportunity to write – classes haven’t started up again, so I’m not bogged down with homework or research assignments – and there really isn’t anything that is absolutely vying for my attention. However, I’m finding it difficult to find the motivation and concentration to write, falling victim to both boredom and, sadly, pain. The headaches have been a part of life for the past 8 years – the lovely side effect of playing host to my resident benign brain tumor; usually, I don’t let them slow me down. Today, though, the combination of gentle, dull pain throughout the left side of my sinuses and this new, deep ache in my left thigh that’s developed over the past month or so has me a bit agitated, restless, and distracted. I have several different pieces of “inspiration” for my story/stories, and I know I’ve got to get some of them on the page before I lose them to the “I’m not as young as I used to be” broken webs in my memory vault.

Aside of the brain tumor – this current one (alluding to the fact that this is NOT the only one I’ve had!) is one that was discovered in late 2008, and deemed inoperable because of its positioning around the internal carotid artery – I also dance a delicate ballet with fibromyalgia, able to leap, pirouette, and spin some days, while other days, full-on solo “Fish dive”! But wait! There’s more! (As a kid during the rise of the original “infomercial” and the coveted Ginsu knives, I’ve always wanted to say that!) Because I also carefully manage hypothyroidism, gout, and hypokalemia, the pain in my left thigh could stem from so many different things. I’ve been jumping around so much lately at home (summertime lawn maintenance, a whirlwind weekend trip to Los Angeles to celebrate Mother’s Day and a milestone birthday for my beautiful mom – during which I also sustained a right rotator cuff injury – entertaining family members from out of town with a four-day trip to Canada, keeping up with my 14-year-old son and his “band of brothers”, not to mention the dog and two cats) and working extended hours at the office, I’m not sure I know where this pain is coming from. I’m trying to maintain a decent balance of electrolytes and proteins to make sure my muscles aren’t “starving”, including plenty of potassium. I’ve suffered through potassium infusions in the past, and do not wish that torture even on the most belligerent politician.

I could roll up in a ball somewhere in the house, whether on the sofa or on my bed, and attempt to take a nap – I’m sure some parts of my body would audibly thank me if they could! At the same time, I believe the pain in my thigh would keep me from actually falling asleep, and I would be just as restless in the supine position as I am sitting here in front of my computer… And far too often, I start “writing” in my head as I recline just prior to drifting off to sleep, wrinkling my nose in disdain for not having spent more time actually writing! So, I say ‘power through the pain’ – a life motto, of sorts – and at bare minimum, kick out this monologue. If I can get borrow my mom’s classic philosophy, and maybe slam my thumb with a hammer to divert my attention from the pain in my head and thigh, I may be able to make some headway on these stories… Wish me luck!

….

p.s. Kudos to all of you out there who make it through each day! It can be a challenge, and rarely do we have a cheering section, carrying us upon their raised voices when our energy, strength, and hope falter. Kudos to you!

Time to Dream… Time for Dreams…

So, wow! Here I am… Here it is… It’s real! I guess I’ve always dreamed of something like this, but never expected it to become reality. Not that realizing your dreams isn’t possible – if that were the case, shows like “American Idol” would not exist, no athlete would stand on the top pedestal and proudly sing his or her country’s national anthem while clutching that disk of gold around their neck, and you crafty tailors and seamstresses can forget about it! If Elias Howe ignored his dream – literally! – there would be no sewing machines with which to stitch and sew your artful masterpieces. No, for me, it wasn’t a “this will never happen” sort of impossibility; it was more of a “will you ever find the time?” type of improbability.

“Spare time”. Now there’s something I wish I could bottle and sell! You know that’s something everyone is going to need at some point, whether they need it today, in the future, yesterday, or a continuous IV drip. I used to joke, “I need some more spare time, but I can’t seem to find it on the shelf at the local mega-mart. And even if they did stock it, I don’t have any spare time to get to the store to buy any!” Truer words were never uttered. Well, that was before I took on parenting alone, spiced it up with some health “hurdles”, and eventually tossed in advanced-level online courses, on my way to a master’s degree. Sure, why not, right? Who needs sleep?

Logically I thought, in the midst of all this “fun”, why not tackle one more behemoth, and start an online forum… There’s time for that, right? A full-time job that eats up nearly 12 hours of each (week)day, 3 to 5 hours of studying and homework every night, the blessed job of motherhood – not to mention dishes, laundry, cat boxes, lawn maintenance, grocery shopping, and other ad hoc duties as assigned – church, and the occasional attempt at having a social life (insert laugh track here) – apparently isn’t enough for this, umm, what’s the right word here… *cough*  masochistic psychopath *cough, cough*; I need Superman to take a few reverse laps around this beautiful blue marble for me so that I can catch up!

Let’s be honest, I haven’t figured out the secret to slowing down the earth’s rotation. I haven’t been able to miraculously add hours to the end of the day by stealing them from the beginning of the day – that’s not to say I haven’t tried, and successfully proven that it is an unsuccessful endeavor! I don’t own a T.A.R.D.I.S. (nor am I personally acquainted with any medical personnel who may have indefinitely “borrowed” one). What I have figured out is waiting for the day when you have “spare time” will leave you waiting for an eternity! It’s late  – a malicious, “slap in the face” kind of late – and my rather loud wristwatch is ticking down each minute of sleep I’m not getting; but it’s Saturday night, so I don’t have to worry about a dreadful alarm blasting some ridiculously annoying screech in the morning (one of the reasons I love going to church on Saturday evenings). However, this – THIS! – has waited long enough, and I can no longer turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the cries of my own heart! Time, you thief of dreams! You irksome tormentor, with your unstoppable “tick tick” beat, devoid of a heart’s warmth and patient spirit, have proven a worthy opponent, and I am through with your taunting; I accept your challenge!

Writing has been a passion of mine since the second grade – God bless Mrs. Imhof for her encouragement; I will never forget it. And although not all of this may be scribing novels or penning poetry, it is allowing me the opportunity to express thought, stretch my creative wings, and even dabble in entertaining (hopefully!), using my penchant and zeal for the written word. Bursting with excitement, trepidation, and indeterminate hope, I am about to transform a part of who I am and turn it into a vessel, poised and ready to not only capture life as I see it, but allow it to mix, mingle, marinade, penetrate, percolate and cavort fantastically with new and exciting ideas, thoughts, and discussions and spill out onto the virtual page in a smearing and smudging of all that, well, IS!