Beams of Heaven, As She Goes

Hoyt and Martha Allen, circa 1970.

“I’ve always loved this picture of my parents. The looks of joy and happiness on their faces is what I imagine today. Gentle souls who enjoyed all that life had to offer together. Always together. Beams of heaven, for sure.” -Susan Allen Grady

I miss you, Mom. Give Daddy a hug from me.

Here I go again, on my own…

It’s another Camp Nano, y’all, and I’m heading out into the metaphorical wilderness with my shiny copy of Scrivener for organization (that I’m not supposed to be doing but since I’m already a panster here we are) and my tried and true Google Docs for actual writing. This month’s foray into madness is the next (and probably last, really) in the Clobberpaws series, and is about our Ciaragh. More wordcounts and general angst can be found over on my Twitter page, but for now, I’m still sorting out the already planned material (which is none) and working on the first chapters (always the hardest).

This will also include a special character, Roxanne, whose mom won the right to have her Bridge Angel included by winning an auction. The funds raised support the Greyhound Health Initiative, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. So far I am loving getting to know Roxanne through her mom and working her into the story. So much fun! Clicking on the picture above will take you to a page where you can follow my wordcount progress if you are so inclined.

In the meantime, an admission:  Yeah, I stole the title from S4Ep10 of the Magicians, “All That Hard, Glossy Armor,” or, as our DVR explained, “Margot hits her step count.” No spoilers but HOLY MOLY that was another amazing musical episode and I only love this show more.

 Speaking of which…

And here y’all thought I was going to complain…

Not today.

Okay, earlier today, but not now, even though the sun is creeping up and into the window I’m sitting in front of and making it darned near impossible to work because I CAN’T SEE…

Nope, still not complaining. I am instead starting a new way of working – may or may not have asked permission or cleared it with the higherups but you know, sometimes, to quote Christine Kane, you have to “leap and the net will appear.” At least I hope there will be a net.

This is a time of change in my office. Great change. But only for me. After seven years of sitting at a certain desk in a certain office within our suite, I am being relocated. At first, I was angry. I have been here the longest! Why am I having to move? But now, I’m starting to look at this arrangement as a new way to work – semi-digital semi-nomad life, here I come.

So I was going to get myself all worked up over having to be out of my office today, but I’m not – I’m in my office now wherever I am. It’s a scary thing for someone that had needed the stability of a 9-5 job for most of my life, but it’s turning out to be more okay than I thought.

More time for writing when I’m not chained to a desk. More time to sit in a comfy chair and read my prep materials. More time to be me, rather than the poor team player that I always seem to end up being. More time, less office. Yeah. I think the net is appearing.

Hey, I just noticed the purple and orange in the photo up there. Huh. Coincidence?

New Year, New You? Nope.

So how many of you (admittedly, 5-6) Lettuce Readers have already given up on the New Year’s Resolutions that you made a few weeks ago? Yeah, me too. The difference is that my resolutions were actually achievable this time – set out your clothes for work the night before, make sure that the coffee pot is ready to go before you come stumbling in for some liquid courage at 6:55am (wow, that might have been a little more disclosure than I meant to have this early in a blog post), make time to write every day and the time in between lunch and class doesn’t count.
I’m writing this having just polished off two lovely vegetarian sliders with Palmetto Cheese on top, and I’ve come to work in a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans if that tells you anything.
Before the end of 2018, I started listening to a podcast by my sister-of-choice, Elizabeth Dunne. It’s called #FLAW3D and it is brilliant, insightful, and funny, just like she is in person. I swear. But as with everything that occurred after 12 April of 2018, I was going through the motions with her podcasts and other content under the #FLAW3D brand. In fact – I will admit this if you swear not to tell her I said so – I am embarrassed to say that while listening to her podcasts on the bus on the way to work, I fell asleep. Every time. That has more to do with my level of exhaustion and nothing to do with her content, I swear. My life for most of last year could be represented by the photo above – a long hard slog down a cobbled road devoid of all color.
I also listened to them out of order, because I had started doing that with another podcast I am addicted to listening to called And That’s Why We Drink, a Paranormal and True Crime Podcast. The personal information that MUST BE LISTENED TO IN THE ORDER IT WAS RELEASED SO THAT YOU CAN CREEP ON THE LIVES OF THE PODCASTERS is not the point of the podcast there. But with Elizabeth’s podcast, it is.
I mean not the creeping part. I would never. I’m having too much trouble remembering to call her Elizabeth rather than ‘liz, as I have known her since uni, so there’s no way I’ve got an ulterior motive here. Plus, she is the mother of my eldest niece, so I am versed in the real Elizabeth.
And y’all, if you will just listen to #FLAW3D you will hear the real Elizabeth. She is unabashedly open about everything that she chooses to share – and what she doesn’t.
Anyway! So I listened to the first episode of #FLAW3D today – the topic was becoming a digital nomad and working with your spouse – and it was terribly relevant to me not because Hubs is going to quit his job and we are going to open up THE NEXT BEST BIG THING anytime soon. It was terribly relevant because it was just the dose of, “You want to do that? Well, why not?” that I needed. Yesterday was a hard day in the universe of my day job – so bad, in fact, that I couldn’t even bring myself to escape to Orana like I normally do when the waters get rocky. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next Clobberpaws, but that was it. One chapter.
Did I mention that I started said chapter LAST NOVEMBER? Yeah. Not my best day as a writer.
But this morning’s listen left me with feelings. All the feelings. Why not give up my cushy 37.5 hr/week job where I know what I’m doing and how to do it…if others would just stay out of my lane and let me do it. Why not just keep writing as a hobby and sort-of side gig…even though seeing that three of my books sold all in one day makes me so happy that I literally cried for a few minutes. Why not do what I love, rather than working at a place that I don’t love as much as I used to do so that I can afford to do what I love? Things to ponder.
The best bit was probably when her guests, Erin Booth and Tannia Suarez (co-founders of efftheoffice.com) talked to Elizabeth about how for couples that both work jobs outside the home, they have only a few precious hours in the evening to spend time together. Then on weekends they are planning to spend time together but are either too exhausted or want to pursue things that make their individual souls happy – cue the entrance of guilt and resentment.
Hubs and I do that very thing. We get home late. We struggle over what to eat for our tea. We struggle over when to eat or to actually eat at all. We collapse on the sofas and watch an hour or two of television and then go to bed. That is not a life well lived.
So while I’m still processing episode one and moving on to episode two, let me again recommend that you go to FLAW3D.com and check out the podcast and Elizabeth. You won’t be sorry. Now if you will excuse me, I need to completely rethink my entire life. New Year, New Me? Nope. Just New Me – a work in forever ongoing progress.

How to avoid Whamhalla and other Holiday Fun

What do you mean we have to leave this warm house? – Ciaragh

Oh, y’all. It has been a DAY already, and it isn’t even 1pm yet (almost, though). Let me just recap the past few days for you, my Lettuce Readers.

Last week we heard that there was snow moving into the area over the weekend. Yucky and cold and wet Saturday, snow and sleet on Sunday, and moving away by Monday. Great! Now, normally I like a snow day as much as anyone else does, but not this week. This is final exams week at work and that is a schedule that shall not be interrupted.

For those that weren’t sure, that was the point at which Mother Nature asked the southeast to hold her adult beverage.  Sure enough, the cold/wet/freezing happened on Saturday and snow overnight Saturday/into Sunday. What also happened was that at 5am on Sunday morning, Simon woke me up to tell me the power had gone out.

If you were not raised in the South or you haven’t lived here long, what happens here rather than a “snow event” is an ice storm, where layers and layers of ice coat everything that it can find – including trees and power lines. (Do NOT get me started on a country as rich as the US that can’t seem to understand the UNIVERSAL benefit of burying power lines.) So anyway, the freezing rain and sleet make ice that coats the trees and causes them to bend and sometimes break. It also coats the power lines and poles, making them so heavy that they too sometimes bend and break. If you can avoid that horrific combination, watch out for the ground which will also be covered with – you guessed it, ICE. That makes walking and driving very dangerous.

Let me just take a moment here to ask those that want to make fun of southerners for not being able to “drive in the snow.” Just shut it, okay? This is not the snow you are accustomed to – I can drive in that, and did when I lived in West Virginia. This is trying to drive on a sheet of ice that is masquerading as a road. It is very dangerous and while most of us down here are taught to drive on it safely back in driver’s ed, we are also taught that it is smarter and safer not to attempt it at all.

Right. So anyway, back to me.

5am Sunday, the power goes out. By 5:19am on Sunday I have reported the outage to Duke Energy. I got back a canned response that they were assessing damage. Groovy. Tuck in the duvet and try to go back to sleep. By 3pm Sunday when it was getting a little chilly in the house, I checked the webpage for Duke Energy again. The little triangle by our street still said Assessing Damage an hour prior while another similar one about two streets over said On Site. But this time, the one a few streets over said On Site still and ours said Enroute. Fantastic! This is the service we are paying so much to have.

Well, not so much. Nothing happened by 4pm, or by 8pm Sunday. We were still not freezing but it was getting uncomfortable, so we decided to go to bed around 10. I checked a few more times before I fell asleep and nothing. It was still Enroute. From where? Roanoke?

On Monday I called into work and Simon and I decided to formulate a plan – buy a non-electric heater or a small generator and a small heater to get warm – buy a camp stove so that we can have coffee and warm food. Surely when we decide to do something like that, the power will come on, right?

Not hardly. It was still Enroute until late last night when they sent another text message that said that it would be fixed by 11pm tonight. So we did what any normal people would do – we gave up on the generator and heater and crashed at a friend’s house.

But what did we learn – and are still learning, because I’m not expecting that power to be back on until 11pm on the dot – from this experience? Several things.

  1. We are keeping the camp stove even though we did not use it. Just the thought that we could make tea in a pot on that little stove brought spirits up.
  2. We have amazing and wonderful friends. Callie brought us THE BEST pumpkin oatmeal I have ever tasted in my life along with some coffee from Starbucks yesterday morning. I could have floated up to the shops after that. Anne and Damien let us sleep in their guest room last night, along with our rowdy and ridiculous girls (who think they are on the vacation of a lifetime right now). Last but most DEFINITELY not least, Robin and Laze are keeping our girls today so that they didn’t have to be tucked into their crates in a cold house while we went to work. And all of the FB messenger and text messages that I am still getting asking after us are so welcome and appreciated. It is easy to think you are literally alone out in the cold when you have no electricity or heat in December. We are not.
  3. We have so much more than we need and are far better off than so many. Sure, it was cold, but we have a roof and lots of clothes to pile on and blankets. So many folks affected by this cold have none of those things and it truly gives me pause when I complain.
So if you were affected by Winter Storm Diego (Carmen San’s wayward brother), I’m thinking of you and holding you close and hoping that you have power and heat…and that you aren’t staring down the total cleaning out of a refrigerator and freezer. Ick. But I haven’t heard the Wham song, and I am in my warm office with heat and internet so this holiday season may get on track sooner rather than later. I just hope it isn’t sooner that our power coming back on…

Well, that escalated quickly.

[Disclaimer: Nothing like that, no books were harmed in the making of this post. It’s just that my nano has taken off again, rather like a house – or, in this case, book – on fire. Book burning is still awful and closed-minded and useless. Don’t do it. Read. There we go.]

So for a few days, I was stuck – horribly stuck – at best, my nano word count was falling behind. At worst, I had lost my voice as a novelist and all of Orana had abandoned me. Same thing, really, if you throw a panic attack in the middle over a poorly elbow in your dominant hand when both of the things that define you (interpreting and writing) involve the pain-free movement of your right hand and arm.

I did what any rational adult in my shoes staring at a blank page would do – I hit the panic button and freaked WAY the heck out for a little while, and then I started thinking about my support system as a writer. You may think that we sit at our IKEA desks all alone in our writing sheds, surrounded by lovely greenery and sipping a mug of tea as the ideas just flow out of our heads into our novels, but I am here to tell you this: if that is the truth, I’m not sure what it is that I am doing because it involves sitting on my worn leather couch, laptop on my knees, wolfhounds clambering about on clobberpaws and crying. Lots of crying. Anyway!

I have recently gotten to know someone that I’m fairly certain I already knew from another time in my life – a fellow novelist who attended the same college I did in the mountains of northern Georgia. So after all the crying and panicking, I sent him a simple text that said that I was struggling to find an antagonist and that my protagonist was stuck, sitting on a horse in the Outlands and watching someone ride toward her. For two days, I literally did not know who it was that was riding toward her. His responses led me to my antagonist, and to the rider who is merely the catalyst for the main story arc. Since then, I have written more than 10,000 words, and even though I am not at my daily wordcount target it is in sight. I still am not sure what the antagonist’s story is, but at least I’m back heading in the right direction.

So writers, lean on each other. It doesn’t mean that you don’t know how to write or that you are a phony (impostor syndrome, anyone?), it means that you are using the community we find among like-minded individuals. You are doing the work, and you do not have to do it alone. Now, get your characters off those lonely roads and into some good plot points!

(Not actually on the) Bus Poetry v4

Dismantled

Piece by piece
I’m taken apart
The sum of my parts
Weighed. Measured. Found wanting.
Not enough
Never enough
The parts don’t matter
Until they add up to respect
The sum of the parts is a colleague, an equal.
The sum of the parts commands respect.
I’m being dismantled.
First go the desks and then the walls
The shelves and the drawers
The kettle
The tea towel
All taken apart
Because they were never enough
I am never enough
Before I am even dismantled.