Pensive Ponderings-Election 2016

I left my voting booth today feeling empty. I didn’t like the choices and I felt that the campaigns had been nothing more than mud slinging contests. I’m forty-seven years old and I’m not sure where my country is headed.

My family made it through the housing crash of 2006. Over the years, our small family owned manufacturing business struggled until finally in 2015  it was sold.  Health insurance reform didn’t help, neither did the many new taxes and fees that were implemented by my state. Over the years, each increase chipped away at the company’s profitability. Not in an obvious way, but in that way that bills have of creeping up on you. We’re paying what to the state for unemployment? Job Development fund? They doubled the fee to file your business tax return. Vehicle registration increased. Your liability insurance went up because they reclassified your work environment.   So did Worker’s Compensation Insurance.  And , oh yeah, worker’s comp is mandatory and if you don’t have it we’ll shut you down. Did you pay the property taxes? Need a line of credit to help tide you over, forget about it. The banks didn’t lend a dime after the housing crash.

Hmm..business friendly.

Really, I’m not complaining or whining.  I don’t want you to think that. Just venting a bit.  The business was great to us. We had some really good years, but sustainability is made even harder when the government has its hand out.

I keep waiting for the recovery that economists keep talking about. Then, just last week a friend was laid off, along with many many others, after over twenty-five years on the job.

Business in America isn’t pretty.

I want America to be great again. No wait, not great, strong. Having the experience I did running a manufacturing company, even a small scale operation, filled me with tremendous satisfaction. Someone needs something, and you make it for them. Someone needs something that doesn’t exist, and you design and make it for them. You create a product out of thin air. You engage all your abilities, from creation all the way through planning and execution. And if there is a problem, you solve it. And if there is a better way of doing it you implement it.

And the best part, you learn as you go.

I like working with my hands, but I also like trying out different systems. Paper flow managment. Kinda neat. We were never able to go paperless in my work environment.  In the shipping and packing department, I would lay out the most efficient way to pack the product. You would be surprised at how different people try to tackle a job. In some cases employees would be tripping over themselves to pack a job. I would move tape machines, tables, skids of boxes for a smoother more efficient layout.  I would eliminate footsteps so employees didn’t have to walk so far to get boxes- cut down on fatigue and time- and adjust table height-ergonomics. I did a lot of it out of common sense. My husband also had that same ability to streamline an operation. He taught me about time studies, and how material and labor costs were calculated.

You want to hear something surprising and sad at the same time. I was outperforming people at least ten years younger than me when physically packing product. (What does that say about the workforce in general?)

And we were small. Minute in the big scheme of things. Under ten employees.

And we were small and when the economy crashed, we felt it. And when the banks became “unfriendly” we struggled.

Add a cycle or two of lackluster sales…and …well…

There are two kinds of America in this country. The one presented to you in the media, on television and radio advertisements, and the real one where jobs are hard to come by, and education and housing are expensive, and where your neighbors would love to help you, if only they could help themselves.

The highly polished uber friendly emotionally stirring advertisements would have you believe that anything is possible here. Just the word America stirs up feelings of possibility. It has for generations. And the marketing gurus capitalize on that. But  I’m tired of the hype. Because that’s what it is right now. Hype.

I just wish I had seen through it sooner.

The big push in this country right now is education. University or college level. Multiple degrees would be even better. It’s all about tech and medical. But what if your not suited for that?

When I was in high school in the eighties, some of the kids supplemented their education with vocational technical training or vo-tech for short.  These were the kids, mostly boys, who took automotive class, or carpentry, metal working, mechanical drawing and I’m sure there were many other options. These boys had natural mechanical abilities but maybe they didn’t do well in a traditional classroom.

What do these kids do now? I not sure, but I don’t think this program exists at the high school level any more.

My husband, who I feel is a pretty smart guy, did well in high school, but he wanted to take automotive. His guidance counselor advised him against it, but he took it anyway. (They thought it would look bad on his college transcript. Can you see the blatant stereotyping, here?)

There is an entire population of men and woman who are under utilized because we don’t manufacture here. Their natural aptitude discounted in a world that relies on test scores to qualify intelligence, and where it’s intimated that if you have a degree you will automatically get a job as a highly paid chief not a lowly indian. (Try to hold in your laughter.)

I’ve heard stories from parents whose college educated children refused good paying entry level jobs because “they’re not paying me what I’m worth.”  (So go flip burgers while you wait for that CEO job and keep wondering why your dates never call you back once you reveal you live in mom and dad’s basement.) Too much pride, or not enough. I’m shaking my head here.

I only half jest.

I’m not sure what staid Hilary or blustery Donald can do this for country. I don’t even know what their platforms are. I probably shouldn’t have even bothered voting. One’s a career politician the other a wealthy businessman. Neither candidate has shown me their worth.  I think the next four years are going to be very telling. I’m concerned that the democrats will continue to burden taxpayers with welfare programs. I’m just as concerned that the republicans will pass laws that will only benefit the wealthy.

The chasm between the parties has grown too big. Instead of two groups with differing views that share common ground they have evolved into adversaries with diametrically opposing  views.   It’s heartbreaking and bad for America.

My polling station is located in my child’s elementary school. As many elections as I’ve participated in, I always find it ironic that I cast my vote in an environment filled with child size everything, from tables and chairs, to bathroom fixtures.

Boy, doesn’t that just speak volumes.

As I walk down the hallway to leave, I see walls covered in small handprints. Maybe this will be the generation to get it right. I sure hope so.

NaNo is here!! NaNo is here!! Yay!!

Limited time for blogging folks. It’s November 1st and NaNoWriMo is on!! Whoo hoo!!

For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is National Novel Writing Month. Yes, you have the 30 days of November to complete your 50,000 word novel. Check out the web site NaNoWriMo.org and join in. It’s a blast! (I’ll do my best to keep you updated as the month continues.) Maybe I’ll see you at a write in. Wish me luck!!

Pensive Ponderings #2 Self-Reliance

I was talking with some other moms and we were talking about what chores our 10 year old sons are responsible for. Right now, my son makes his bed, sorts his clothes and brings the basket downstairs to the washer, and makes his own breakfast. For granted, he’s limited to a few quick things. He can toast waffles, make a cup of instant oatmeal in the microwave, and prepare a bowl of cold cereal.

But I already have a plan forming. When he’s a little taller I’ll teach him how to load the the washing machine. And when he’s a little older he’ll get his first cooking lesson on the many ways to prepare eggs. I figure if he can make eggs, he’ll never starve, right?

I’m teaching him to be self-reliant, I tell myself. I’m not pushing him to grow up, too fast. I’m not asking him to do meaningless tasks, I’m expecting him to be able to take care of himself. There’s a certain amount of pride that goes along with taking care of oneself, of being self-reliant.  I think it’s important that psychologically he understand the difference between “chores” and the things we do that may seem like work but instill confidence and competancy.

But self-reliance does not mean excluding others.I want him to be thoughtful and helpful of others. And here’s the thing, he does try to help others in school. He’s good at math and when a classmate is stuck on a problem he likes to help them. Sometimes the teacher appoints him class tutor during math. He comes home and tells me all about it. He’s all lit up inside. He’s thrilled the teacher picked him and he feels good helping others.

So, how do I instill that same feeling in him when I need him to clean his room? Or fold his laundry? (Yes, I started in on that chore.)

Good question, Bert.

Perhaps, I could tackle it from an organizational and planning standpoint. Knowing that our things have been put in their designated spot is helpful, a tidy room is calming, and knowing our favorite shirt is clean and in the drawer is always reassuring.

I could try to instill a feeling of… preparedness. (yeah, right!)

I have to laugh. My son is great at being prepared for things he wants to do. If he’s going to a baseball game the next day, his backpack is packed the day before.

I guess there are some things he is going to have to do regardless if he wants to or not. And that’s an important life lesson, right?

 

 

Good Mojo Monday!!

weekly-calendar-1-copyBecause writing is hard and the successes few and far between, I am going to use Mondays to encourage and celebrate the success of fellow writers.

Today I would like to give a shout out to my friend Louise Allan, who has secured a publisher for her manuscript.  Yay!  Visit Louise’s facebook page to read all about it.   Louise is also contributing an essay to the anthology “Writing the Dream” which will be published in November.  You can read all about it here on Louise’s blog.

I would also like to say congratulations to my friend and fellow writing group member, Bennett  North, who has recently had a short story published in “Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine”.

Check it ooouutt!!

Here’s a quick link to Amazon.

fantasy

smooth-stones

 

 

Let’s all keep the good mojo flowing!

 

Pensive Ponderings #1 – Write in the Moment, Live In the Heart

I love to learn. I wish I knew more. I’m endlessly curious about life and people and how we express ourselves.

But at the same time, I take issue with the very nature of classifying the human experience, breaking it down and labeling it according to data reviewed and assimilated based on a theoretical model or viewpoint. By extracting the principle, we lose all the intricacies, exceptions, and delicacies that make life interesting, vibrant and arresting.

Maybe I’m oversimplifying. We need to classify and categorize the things in our world. We have names for everything; book, apple, car, and labels for concepts like emotion; happy, sad, mad, afraid. (We do need a universal way to communicate.)

Then there are the big guns of philosophy. 

Philosophy-Greek, literally “love of wisdom” the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and language.

How many different ways are there to think about and interpret the way we perceive and understand each other and the world? Take a minute and visit Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and peruse the extensive alphabetical list of learned men and woman who have spent lifetimes writing and recording on paper (and parchment) their detailed analysis of our very existence.

Sometimes I think these brilliant men and woman are in thrall to an intoxicating theoretical model that can never truly be understood but only expands into an infinity of thought like our universe expands into an infinity of space.

(How do we determine which theory is most relevant, if it can fall out of favor when challenged by the next more plausible argument?)

Philosophy demands critical thinking and constant questioning. The end result of which has established the big picture of our world. It has led us to define and clarify concepts such as ethics and morals, and implement a justice system and its applicable laws. It has created an entire framework for a civilized world to operate in.

As a writer, I’ve learned that everyone has a viewpoint about how the world works based on their life experiences and that no two are the same. While philosophers search for the universal in all of us, writers celebrate the uniqueness in each of us. We write in the moment.

Because the truth is, we live and breathe in worlds defined by what is close, immediate and relevant to us…we live in the heart.

Don’t believe me?

Think about kids playing baseball. Now think about your son or daughter playing baseball and how hard they practiced fielding grounders, sliding, and learning the proper way to bat. (Feel free to substitute any sport or activity.) Think about all the times you held your breath when they were batting, and all the silent prayers you made hoping for that hit. Remember the deflated feeling when they stuck out but you smiled and clapped and yelled “good try”.

You wanted it for them as badly as they wanted it for themselves.

You were emotionally invested in the outcome even though nothing was at stake for you.

We live in the heart.

Maybe that’s my point. ( You never know where a pondering will take you.) Philosophy has painted the bigger picture for us, but the human experience needs to be engaged and explored on a small immediate level, one that we need to feel in order for it to resonate.

Yeah, write in the moment, live in the heart. 

I like that.

If you’re a writer, you better read “Romance”

image     Don’t sigh and roll your eyes. I’m serious. The romance genre gets a bad rap. Want to write stronger emotional scenes? Read romance. Want to understand body language like it’s nobody’s business? Read romance. Want to master emotional nuance? Read romance. Want to build a strong emotional vocabulary? Read Romance

Romance novels are chock full of emotional conflict, and we know that these emotional conflicts stem from the beliefs that the characters hold. (Sound familiar?)

In my own writing, I always seem to struggle with the degree of emotion. Either my characters are calm and in control or extremely angry, sad or happy. What I have to master is emotional degrees. (My term here)  Most people don’t just flip out at the slightest provocation, they may simmer or stew, maybe even let it go. If a person repeatedly pushes their buttons, they may become irritated but not truly angry. Sometimes it takes a build up of repeated slights until a person feels insulted, then we land in angry territory.

I know in writing we are allowed to dramatize the characters and that many characters may do or say things in a book that we would never do or say in real life. I get that. But a false emotional response always stands out in a book. She said what?

How many romance novels have I read? A lot. And I’m still learning from them. Yes, I get sucked right in. How many times can I read about falling in love? A billion. Ahhh, the first meeting, the awareness, the chemistry, the banter, the anticipation, the trepidation, the chances taken, the risk, the fear, the payoff. Over and over again I read these stories in different settings with different social mores. Why?

Because falling in love is a fabulous hope-filled experience. It’s something we yearn to feel again. Its a rollercoaster of sensation that for a brief sparkling time, coats the world in rose colored glasses.  A skilled author will have the butterflies in your stomach fluttering and your heart skipping a beat right along with the characters’.

But hard to execute. Try it. It ain’t easy, my friends.

So now I read romance with an eye toward emotional execution. I want my characters emotional responses to ring true. Romance authors are great at executing a full range of emotional responses, not just the ones that have to do with falling in love.

And, oh yeah, if you want to see how internal monologue effectively drives a story…you know what I’m going to say…read romance.

I hope as a writer you won’t write off the romance genre as a waste of time. There are many incredible authors and many categories to choose from; suspense, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, historical, etc. (and their sub-genres)

Give these books a chance, if you haven’t already. You may learn something and enjoy yourself along the way.

Submission Alert!

Yep, I submitted a piece of written work to a magazine for consideration. I don’t know any sane person who wopanic-pacific-cbt3uld put themselves through this kind of torture.  I’m excited and afraid, hopeful and doubtful, and just a little bit proud for taking a chance on myself.

I’m already trying to frame my rejection in the best possible light, because you and I both know the probability of rejection is high. So, this is what I’m telling myself;

If I’m lucky, I’ll get genuine feedback on my work and not just a form letter.  A note shows interest, right? I can work with that.

If it flat out gets rejected, I’m going to have to rework it and send it back to my beta readers.

Okay, good I have a plan.  I have mentally steeled myself for the worst.  But really, I’m not so sure this pep talk is going to work. There are too many butterflies swarming in my stomach. Plus, I know I could have tweaked that story some more, put some more polish on it, probably rearranged whole sections. (Thank God for deadlines or I’d never submit.)

I know, it’s crazy that my happiness depends on strangers thousands of miles away from me who will read my story, form an opinion, and say yay or nay in like five point two seconds. But, what are you going to do? That’s the writer’s life. I should have some type of response in six weeks or so. I’ll keep you guys posted.

A Visit to the Book Store

I have to be careful when I go to the book store. It’s way to easy for me to get distracted. I pick up books off the nearest display tables devouring the blurbs on the jackets, curious about the story but also curious about what prompted the author to write this story. What drove them to want to write about a faded picture of a young girl from 1862 who as it turns out is intrinsic to the current day dilemma facing our young twenty-something protagonist? So clever, I think as I put that book down and pick up the next one. 

There are stories about betrayal, about friendships lost, marriages deteriorating, and revenge. I glance up and see a whole rack dedicated to mystery. Across from me are new romance novels and to my left a whole section filled with literary fiction. I could stay here all day, I think, with a little internal squeal of delight. And that smell, that heavenly smell of paper and ink. It’s there all right. It might be faint but it’s there.

If Yankee Candle created a scent called “Fresh Paper and Ink” I’d be the first in line to get it.

The best thing about the book store is the endless possibility inside. I can travel to another place or time, or solve the murder, or foil the villain, or make a new friend, or experience first love all over again. (sigh)

The worst thing about the book store, besides the fact that I lose copious amounts of time there, is that to a struggling writer it looks very intimidating. 

Look at all these authors, I think, I’ll never get published. On a good day this is followed up with, look at all these authors, if they got published I can too.

I also don’t know if I’ll ever get away from wanting to hold a book. Yes, I have an e-reader and I do use it. As a matter of a fact I’ve discovered some great books in the digital world especially among self-published authors. But holding a book, turning the pages-I just dig it, especially at night, in bed before I go to sleep,  my  book light focusing all my attention on the pages before me. Ahhhh…just thinking about it makes me want to go snuggle under the covers with my latest read. You know what, I think I’ll do just that. 

Announcement!

I am pleased to announce that my personal essay “Back in the Saddle” has been published on Louise-Allan.com.  Louise, a fellow writer and good friend who lives in Australia, (don’t you love the internet) had a call for submissions and accepted my essay. This is my first published piece and I’m thrilled to be a part of her blog. I hope you will stop by and check it out.

What it Means to be a Writer #4—Back in the Saddle