The President Elect and the crazy uncle at the table.

Clearly, I should have known that in much the same way traveling can interfere with the simplest goals, the “staycation” we planned for this Fall has effectively proven that a significant change in my daily routine leaves me floundering. Best intentions to get back into writing petered out after a weak four days. To compound the problem, the election was held yesterday, and I think we’re all processing the results on any number of levels, whether pleased or not.

I’m most decidedly in the not camp. But my wits are about me this afternoon thanks to the ruminating I immediately engage in when something is bothering me. I read. I read, and question, search for understanding, and spend long periods of time fighting with myself over issues I’d prefer not to. Issues of a very personal nature which involve people I’m related to in one way or another.

More than once, I’ve seen memes fly past in my newsfeed referencing the dysfunctional aspect of certain family members — the crazy uncle who must be tolerated at holiday dinners, for example. It’s presented as a joke, as something many of us can relate to, and it’s easy to laugh it off until you realize that for too long, you’ve really had to deal with this and you’re tired of it.

I’m tired of it. But I’m working through frustration and general disillusionment by considering the winner of yesterday’s election in the role of that dysfunctional family member. He may be President Elect, but I don’t have to tolerate him. I don’t have to invite him into my house, or to sit at my table. But he will have my complete and undivided attention because I will choose to stay tuned in, to research anything unclear, to question, and relentlessly challenge with as much grace as I can muster. Sticking my head in the sand will solve nothing. Giving in to those who choose not to engage, who complain that they’re tired of it all, and plead for a return to the innocuous sharing of puppies and cats, cupcakes and jokes exclusively is not an option for me.

Nor should it be for anyone.

The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men — Plato

“Here is what Donald Trump wants to do in his first 100 days”  I’ve read through this list several times making sure not to get caught up by the repetitive use of “I will” and “direct,” “cancel,” or “suspend.” It’s more important to understand the list and to research what he has the authority to actually do. It’s also important to consider what on that list directly or indirectly affects you and your family.

“Statement from the PRA (Political Research Associates) on the 2016 election”   It’s a sobering read that addresses much of what is on the list above, and what we should do about it.

“The Populists” It’s an older piece, but a Populist is a Populist. Or is he? I need to understand.

This was an eye-opener. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort

And then there is this: “The ruthlessly effective rebranding of Europe’s new far right” To say it makes me uncomfortable would be a gross understatement. She couldn’t be more thrilled that Trump has paved the way for her and others.

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all. — John F. Kennedy

Ignorance, indeed.

 

The effect of a cat on motivation and routine

<alt img="Controlling Cat"/>

If deciding at the last minute to take on a reasonable facsimile of NaNoWriMo was to serve a purpose, it has only taken two days to realize it. Before I was out of bed this morning, mind habitually processing what the day would entail, I recognized the spark of emotion related to motivation. An excuse to ignore everything and with coffee in hand, park myself in front of my Mac. This had to be a good thing.

But something happened on the way to the kitchen. My cat happened. This is not unusual. In fact, it’s routine. Her morning greeting is urgent and gains volume as I approach the front door. She wants out, and it never seems to matter that my husband has been up and about, and has already let her out. She always returns for the ceremonial exercise that only she and I engage in.

I open the door and she grumbles as she passes over the threshold, stopping just before she’s completely outside. I wait, she looks at me, grumbles once more before leaning her posterior against the door. I decide I’ll wait until the third or fourth time we’ve completed the round to go out onto the porch and scratch the furry belly wantonly displayed for just that purpose. Priorities. I need to make coffee.

Once the Bialetti is on, I fill the dishwasher, rinse the sinks, prepare a large bowl of cold, sudsy water for quick wash ups during the day, and assess the rest of the kitchen. It’s good enough to give the impression it’s clean, but more importantly, won’t distract me from the day’s mission: writing.

Before the coffee begins to well up in the moka pot, I can hear the cat scratching at the front door. She’ll want in, I’ll have a cat food can in hand, ask her if she’d like to eat and pop the lid to get her attention.

It works every time. She stands as close to the threshold as possible without actually touching it, licking her lips, yelling simultaneously. I know I’ll have to go out onto the porch, and nudge her inside before the game is over. She will be satisfied for a time knowing her food is where it should be, in her bowl. All will be well in her world.

Coffee now burnt, I tell myself more milk will help, though I know it won’t. That spark of motivation felt earlier has now turned to an annoyance. I recall how long I worked on the piece I wrote yesterday, fiddling with photos, making attempts to write something meaningful when what I set out to do was just write.

Something occurrs to me. If I was going to spend the better part of a day fussing over a blog post, why wouldn’t I spend that time organizing manuscript revisions? Why, indeed.

November stretches ahead in my mind, its interruptions now in full focus. Thanksgiving aside, I have a trip booked immediately following and will be gone for a week. And then there is the “staycation” we thought we were so smart to decide upon which officially begins tomorrow.

I tell myself I’ll have so much to write about.  Stay calm and carry on! And I will. But it has only taken two days to remind myself of a lesson I seem never to learn. I don’t have to commit to an event to engage in an activity, or to change a behavior. To take on a new interest, or rekindle motivation in those once beloved. There isn’t a magic date on a calendar, a finish line, a set of guidelines or rules.

There is just me, and whatever it is I set out to do. I have to decide whether that matters or not. The problems is, far too many things matter.

My coffee is now cold, and the cat is sitting just at my office door, yelling. When I get up to reheat my coffee, she will scurry down the stairs ahead of me, grumbling all the way out the back door where I will be expected to give her a morning brushing, and then find tender shoots of grass for her to chew on.

Routine is what we make of it — or what it makes of us.

Day 3, check.

NaNoWriMo minus the novel

 

Whenever November 1st comes around, I think of NaNoWriMo. You may think it odd, but once committed to a month of writing nearly 1800 words each day, expecting to complete a novel, you remember. If you’re unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it’s National November Writing Month. The goal in participating is that participants complete a novel in 30 days.

I’m not writing a novel this time, but I’ve spent the better part of the last three years working on one I began the last time I participated. I’ve fallen out of practice writing casually, so I’m hoping that if I commit to 30 days of writing for the sake of writing, I’ll find my rhythm once more.

I’ll write. I’ll sit down, make the commitment, and write. If I’m organized, then I’ll have a plan about what to write. If not, then I’ll fit into the “by the seat of my pants” category. That’s not an awful place to be until it’s time to revise and then “nightmare” is a more fitting description of the predicament I’ll find myself in. Still, I believe strongly in simply putting words to page. The exercise is always interesting, and often helps uncover ideas that otherwise may remain buried. Ideas that may or may not want surface area attention. Like disturbing current day events.

Times are distracting, and it’s difficult to avoid the lure of angry opinions, or baiting from people once cared for who seem no longer to have anything in common with me. Disturbing, indeed.

Yet there is much to divert because life is diverting on most days if I allow it. It includes what’s “over the wall,” when one’s home seems to be planted on a postage stamp, and the Suburbiana it’s a part of. It includes people watching and listening, caring or no longer caring. Learning. Aging. Existing in places long outgrown, or never belonged to begin with.

NaNoWriMo is a perfect outlet. If you’re interested, and even if you’re not, I’ll write here every other day beginning today, alternating with sass & veracity, my alter ego. Food may or may not be involved. Travel may.

And for what it’s worth, beyond this haphazard post, I plan to be thoughtful.

Promises, promises.

Day One.

Check.

 

 

 

Thinking about Process

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I haven’t been writing anything, anywhere. And it isn’t because I’m not motivated, I tell myself, smirking as I think it each time I see my notebooks stacked just to the left of my keyboard. It’s the photos of our recent trip I’ve been working through, trying to learn new Photoshop techniques to make them stand out in some way, worthy of what I remember seeing when my eye wasn’t peering through the viewfinder of my camera.

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On Birthdays and Learning

Happy Face

Yesterday was my 58th birthday.

I have never been someone who could not wait until her birthday arrived, thinking its timing coinciding with Back to School made it convenient to ignore. The worry of wearing scratchy, too warm clothes the first day of school coupled with concerns about whether I’d like my teacher(s), and outright paranoia about the moment that teacher called out my name in class during attendance always seemed to take precedence over celebrating the day I was born. When I think back over the years, unsurprisingly, not many of my birthdays stand out. Other than the good memories that remain of a few adolescent slumber parties, I remember my 20th because it seemed a milestone to no longer have teen attached to my age. My 40th stands out because in defiance of the impending school year, I told my husband I wanted to go to Las Vegas. The significance of this is probably lost on anyone who hasn’t taught school and can’t imagine the potential terror of going away for three days just before school begins, minus lesson plan books and teaching resources, to relax and have fun.  It remains one of my best memories because it was a spontaneous decision.  My 50th will always be remembered because my husband and very best friend organized a lovely dinner party for me at her home. Family and friends attended, waiters passed with trays of tasty tidbits, and dinner was enjoyed outside under a late August evening sky.

Continue reading “On Birthdays and Learning”

A battle of wills

Wanda

The single bark that has wakened me at 3 am five mornings in the last week sounded again this morning.  I never hesitate when I hear it and roll from bed, feel around in the dark for my sweater and pull it over my head just before heading down the stairs, feeling my way against the wall as I go.  I say nothing as I open the door of Wanda’s crate and hear her snuffling behind me as I head out to the chilly patio so she can take care of her business.  The night is quiet.  Stars glimmer in their places in a clear sky.  Even in winter, I can hear crickets in the distance.  I will admit I enjoy this aspect of a routine I want to keep from going any farther.  Getting up this early is not something I want to look forward to on a regular basis.

Continue reading “A battle of wills”

What was I thinking? Round Two.

Last year as response to a request from a friend, I committed myself to 30 days of writing my first novel during National November Writing Month, lovingly referred to as NaNoWriMo.  Fifty-thousand words written in 30 days qualifies anyone as a winner and outside of being diligent enough to actually write those words, the resulting manuscript file must also be uploaded to qualify your effort.

Check to all of the above and I was a certified winner last year.  I wrote my 50,000+ words with only a few hitches in my giddy up:  we visited our son in San Francisco for Thanksgiving and were stuck there for two additional nights due to heavy fog up and down the coast.  We love San Francisco and visit frequently, but this was not one of our best travel memories.  Nevertheless, I did write during our delay, then after arriving home, pounded out the rest of the required word count.

Of course I wasn’t finished.

Continue reading “What was I thinking? Round Two.”