Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting ready for November

Hi. I'm updating my blog because I've been travelling around the personal finance, simplicity and minimalist blogs leaving comments this week and I wanted anyone who tracked back to me to see that I really am a going concern.:~)

National Novel Writing Month starts in about 10 days and I'm getting ready for it. I've got a title: "The Distancing Effect of September," which was inspired by photography by Laura at Rabbit Hole Says Hello. I've got a theme: personal morality and ethics. I've got a tone: pretty dark, but with the intellectual humor that I cannot help but include. I have time: the temporary job did not work out as a permanent one; the interviewed job went to someone else; I have to be around at home for the first half of November to expedite Child 2's drama troupe performance and the second half of the month to receive out-of-town visitors.

Until tax season starts in January, I am planning on focusing on writing, spending no money and getting rid of more stuff from my house. More on all of these subjects later as I have to go get the Princess from rehearsal now. (Have I mentioned how much I like to write? Damn it, I need to do this more often.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What I'm doing

Hello to you if you found my blog through Facebook. I go back and forth about how public I want to be with my opinions and writing and right now "more public" is on an upswing, based a lot on the experiences I've had with comments re: President Obama's speech to the kids and before that the idea of basic healthcare being available to everyone, inexpensively.

I have been at home, collecting unemployment (which yes, the IRS defines as unearned, but taxable, income) since December 1, 2008. I've been diligently job searching: job boards, recruiters, networking activities, etc., but I have not yet been offered a position that comes anywhere close to my previous pay or even to the weekly unemployment check - I'm at the state maximum and that's about a third of what I was making before. So, since there is no incentive to go get a minimum wage job until some time in mid-October when the stimulus unemployment benefits run out (I am an example of that being useful - both the income and the significantly reduced COBRA prices), I have been working mostly at home on the aforementioned job search and other personal projects.

I've been doing some bookkeeping for a few small clients (note to GA DOL: I haven't been working for pay; I'll start getting paid when the unemployment runs out). I'm now taking the H&R Block tax course and its attendant homework. I'm closely monitoring the homework and grades of my children.

I've been working on the neverending process of getting my house to a more minimalist condition. (Hold on: I had to stop to laugh out loud. I have a pre-teen, a teen and a husband with extensive collections of media. It's a dream, but a persistent one.) I'm trying to manage my household, laundry and dishes never end, and my health, which has been a little turbulent this summer and fall. I've been writing, but not enough, although here you are witness to some more progress.

Lately, I've been reading, which is really the best part of this whole deal. I had been feeling so guilty about not getting a job that I didn't read much for the first six months or so after I got laid off. This summer, I finally got over that. I've got a ton of time in my day, way more than the conventional working eight hours, now that I don't commute anywhere or take a lunch break. Even after I do every possible thing in the above activities, there are still large expanses of free time in my week. I've started reading or re-reading the books in my collection to see if I want to keep them or sell or donate them. I've been reading suggested books out of the library, too, mainly that I find suggested on the several blogs I follow. I'm afraid I may not get a chance like this again and I'm trying to exploit it for all it's worth.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Letter to Editor re: Obama's speech on 9/8

I am MAD! Following is an email I sent to the Cobb County School Commissioner and the principal of my childrens' middle school, then on to the editorial page of the Atlanta Journal-Constition - my first letter to the editor EVER.

Dear Dr. Sanderson and Principal:

I am the parent of two children at a middle school in Cobb County.

I writing to express my extreme disappointment that my children will not get to participate in the live, national broadcast of President Obama's speech to school children next week. Their opportunity to hear the speech in school, with their peers and teachers available for discussion, seems to me an excellent chance for our children to participate in civil, public discourse as practice for one day becoming responsible citizens of our country.

Based on the rhetoric flying around the social media sites, I believe this decision was based on a few loud, panicked parents who somehow got the idea that this was going to be an "indoctrination" message from the White House. Unless you know of some new technology to make children behave (and if so, can I use it to get additional help around the house?) and/or influence their parents' behavior, this is clearly a lot of sound and fury about what should be a special event that brings all Americans together for discussion. Instead, it has become some sort of "mental safety" issue and completely without merit.

This level of irrational rhetoric did not surround any of the Inaugurations that my children watched in school in previous years, nor national addresses from Presidents Bush and Reagan in the past. When 9/11 happened, the children watched or discussed this issue in school as well - as appropriate to their ages - and there was no question about "opting out" about discussing this important event.

Will this be a new trend, that if a small, vocal group does not want their children to hear about a period of our national history, or some aspect of math or language arts, that the parents can "opt out" of it for their children? The answer is, yes, they can choose not to participate in the public schools by making other arrangements for schooling. For the rest of us, who participate in the schools by sending our children to the schools and participating as parents and citizens of Cobb County, this is a failure of leadership and thoughtful consideration for the education and welfare of all our children.

~Noelle Davis

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Giving the kids some space

I posted this as a comment over on Becoming Minimalist and, since it was a pretty long comment, I decided it could become my own blog post. Of course, I've edited it a little, because the writing is never finished. :~)

My kids are 13 and 11 and I've purged their rooms about once a year for their lives to date, including twice for moves where I've gotten rid of multiple Hefty bags of stuff. Amazingly, stuff keeps accumulating.

I recently read a quote somewhere about letting kids have some freedom of expression in how they live, including a messy space if they want it, so this year I've decided to let them live in their own space with these caveats:

1. No food in bedrooms. Also, no old food wrappers that were left in pockets. If bugs might like it, it cannot come upstairs.

2. I only do laundry that is in hampers (I will *not* pick things up off the floor or go searching for dirty clothes). So, if you want it for school, get it in a hamper or wash it yourself.

The fact that I still do their laundry is mighty nice, I know, although I didn't start doing most of my laundry until college (thanks, Mom). This niceness may end if I get back to work full time.

3. The floor must be *completely* clear once every two weeks for the cleaning lady so she can vacuum, dust and make beds. I don't care where it goes, but the stuff has to be hidden. :~)

I tried living without Patricia for a few months, but I find I just do not have the physical ability (ask me sometime about my early menopause and my lousy back) to do serious housework anymore. Serious planning went into making budget room for her. After Scott, she is the number one person I want to make happy.

4. I just remembered another: Homework is done downstairs in the common area so that I can monitor it being done and watch it go back into backpacks, which also live downstairs. This will probably work as both are in middle school now, plus they both prefer to have company while doing almost *everything*.

To implement the above, I went through and cleared all the floors in their rooms by putting everything in clear bins and stacking them up in the closet and around the edge of the rooms. I offered to help them sort any time they want, but I warned them that my style is to toss A LOT a la Peter Walsh, so no one has taken me up on this offer yet.

I don't know yet how this social experiment is going to work. It's been almost two weeks and I have to just close the doors to their rooms (especially the girl with clothes EVERYWHERE) to avoid looking at the mess. I didn’t come to a simplified life until my late 20’s and minimalism until my late 30’s, so it may take a while until they drink the kool aid with me.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Some of the thrill is gone

Warning: possible triggering content follows.

Chips Ahoy! cookies (insert trademark symbol somewhere here) do not taste as good as they used to.

I had thought this the last time I bought them - maybe two months ago - and I reconfirmed it today when I broke into the new bag that I bought yesterday. The "base" of the cookie - not the chocolate chip part, the main cookie part - has an odd "fake" taste that I don't remember - like the sugar or the flour have been substituted for, which I'm sure it has since this is a mass-produced and -marketed product, but it tastes worse than I remember.

And before you say anything, I don't think it's a function of maturity and knowing how "real" food tastes. Even when I lived with Sharlys the Amazing, who cooked great stuff from scratch, I still enjoyed Chips Ahoy! (love the exclamation mark, makes me feel like a pirate) cookies on their own merits.

And they're thinner than they used to be, based on my recollection from about 1989 when I used to methodically consume one or two entire sleeves - a half or whole package - on a lazy Sunday afternoon with a book in my dorm room at college. I think I probably continued the tradition until my late 20's, until the time when what and how I ate became politicized (sp?) at my house.

Now that the pressure to eat "right" is gone, I tried bringing the Chips Ahoys! back, but it's not the same. There is nothing I can do about this decline in food quality and taste, other than stop buying them, but that prospect makes me a little sad and nostalgic for the old habit.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Separating the art from the artist

This idea has been in my head since I watched a "Penn Says" on Crackle (if I get around to it, I'll add the link) where, in a story about how he was having to shill his "Bullshit" show on a Chicago radio station the same day that the news about Michael Jackson broke. And Penn Jillette, who I admire but don't always agree with, mentioned that he was okay with the mourning of MJ because he separated the art from the artist.

This made me think that I have a very difficult time doing that: two examples that come to mind immediately are James Brown, wife-beater, and Mel Gibson, crazy religion conspiracy nut. A less severe case is Harrison Ford who, after I heard him sound just dumb as a stump doing an interview, is a lot harder for me to take seriously when I see him in a serious role. I guess he's a little different because I can think of him as a blank slate who "becomes" his role. But what about Mel? This guy is in maybe my favorite movie of all time, "Payback," but actively supports (supported? maybe he's changed) a wacko-Catholic, anti-Jewish agenda.

As liberal as I am, I am still a supporter of capitalism and I hate the idea of "voting with my dollars" for people I don't want to enrich. And what if they are dead, as James Brown is? If I acknowledge that I want to dance to his music, am I adding to his legacy of rock greatness and ignoring his bad behavior?

It's not about politics: I'm still all about Tom Selleck because when he's expressed his conservative political views they seem thought out and rational (for him) to me.

Another example: Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Scientology is crazy and dangerous and I'm not going to modulate my position on that at all. How much of what I spend at the theatre is going to end up in the coffers of that brainwashing machine?

This is all kind of tricky for me. I'd like to think of myself as a live and let live sort of person, but I think I'm moving toward judgemental or at least protectivist (is that a word?) against letting the more errant members of society, especially the ones with a large public platform, have a long leash if any.

I'm happy to have written my 500 words today and vented about this, but I didn't actually resolve anything. Guess I'll have to write some more. LOL.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Update on blog status

Hi, faithful blog readers. You may not have noticed (because you are on the approved list), but I have made this blog private for the time being. With the job search going on and possibly the new job at the very conservative place as a real possibility (second interview Tuesday afternoon), I thought it would be better to keep some of my more interesting posts under wraps. Plus, I want to be able to write here unrestrictedly (is that a word?) - in an unrestricted fashion. If you find someone else who you think should read along, let me know and I'll invite them in.

So that's what's up. I owe Joe an addition to the story in the comments and I'll work on that after this interview excitement is over. Other topics to be covered: separating the art from the artist; civility in modern times, or "same as it ever was;" mommy-lit; and other subjects to considered later.


Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Resisting and ranting

Wow, I have been resisting writing like you would not believe. The last thing I wrote was a very short response to Joe's contribution to the fiction piece (see down a few entries). I have no good reason why. I'm going to speculate that having both kids here, as I did last week, makes it hard for me to concentrate on *anything* other than just getting through the day. (Interestingly, I sleep a LOT more when they are both here - I am definitely avoiding.) And the weekend was a complete boondoggle with Thing One getting sick and missing camping and Thing Two needing to be in Athens on Sunday and X being obtuse and stubborn about picking up and dropping off.

X: When you were being so damn clever finding a reasonably priced house near the highway, did you just not consider AT ALL that it was 15-20 minutes away from your kids and your parents? Did you not consider that you are a lazy fuck and that you would not want to get home from work, or stop working around the house, and come get and/or drop your kids off, as per your legal agreement? Do you see your parents less also, because you don't want to make the trek? There are hundreds of places to live nearby, but you choose to live just a few minutes farther away and now every visit with the kids requires negotiation with you. Do you think they won't notice? There is no chance they'll want to live with you permanently: you live too far from their friends and they KNOW THAT YOU ARE TOO LAZY TO TAKE THEM WHERE THEY WANT TO GO, namely, over *here* near the rest of their lives. You are a moron. /Rant

Okay, that's all for now. I think I feel better now.


Update: I resisted the resisting and added something to the piece with Joe. It's starting to go down a path that I've started (and stopped and stalled in) before and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I think I've got an idea now and it's *Joe's* turn to move the story along.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Writing Manifesto

I have often considered that the books I want to write have already been written. I was devastated when Bridget Jones's Diary came out because I had that exact kind of book in mind. (Not that I had the book written or anything, just the idea that I would write *that* book.) When I was an early graduate student, I was preparing a book proposal on the importance of teaching kids to learn cursive writing and found a number of books on the subject had already been written. It's been about nine years since that class and I just found another on the subject on Amazon. I had a third example in mind when thinking about this subject last week, but it's escaped me. If I think of it, I'll update this post.

My point here is that even if my book ideas have already been written, it doesn't matter. Someone feel free to help me attribute this paraphrased quote, but all the ideas/stories have already been written. There are no new ideas, just different ways of expressing them. So, I have mentally, and I here typographically, uttered a manifesto that I can write the book(s) I want, even if others have gone before. What, did I think I was going to have the first original idea for a novel ever? More than one, actually? That I was going to break through with some great pedagological insights? Not without going to graduate school and writing a PhD thesis, I wasn't, and those tend to be reflections of what's gone before, is my impression.

I started a fiction piece yesterday that ties in to the concept I wanted to do for my first NaNoWriMo (incomplete) and that got subsumed into the second one (officially complete at 50,000 words, but not a coherent finished project). I'm sure something like The Common Senses has been done before, but that is not going to be an excuse for me to stop working on my own stuff.

Okay, enough said. I am mentally exhausted from supervising 4-5 kids today and the prospect of 4 tomorrow. Off to play solitaire now.

~N. 06/20/09

Friday, June 19, 2009

Some fiction for Joe

At Joe's request, the beginning of a fiction piece:

I woke up this morning and I couldn't feel my feet. They weren't tingling like they were asleep, I just couldn't feel anything below my ankles. And it wasn't an uncomfortable or worrisome feeling. I woke up and thought, Huh, no feet. I didn't try to wiggle them or anything. Why would I? I didn't have feet.

As I lay there in the groggy state of early morning wake-up, I considered how my day was going to go with no feet. I could hobble over to the bathroom probably or even crawl, like I did that one time when I threw out my back and couldn't walk. I could scoot myself on my butt to the stairs and scooch down them like a toddler. Once I got down though, how would I get around? We had a rolling office chair down in the den. I could lever myself up into that and push myself around in that. Problem solved. I faded back to sleep for a few minutes, content with that solution.

I woke up again twenty-two minutes later, rolled to the side, stepped out of bed and shuffled off to the bathroom. It wasn't until I was standing at the sink washing my hands and looking for skin imperfections on my face that I remembered the no feet scenario. "Wacko," I said to myself in the mirror. "What?" Jack called from the other room. "Nothing," I said, "Just talking to myself." I turned away from the mirror and turned on the shower to preheat. I turned off the bathroom light and went to lie down next to Jack to wait for the shower to be ready. "Is everything okay?" he asked, using his own groggy morning voice. "Oh, yeah," I said. "Just thinking about waking up with no feet." He settled lower into his pillow and pulled me in closer. "Wacko," he said, tickling my ear with his breath. "Right," I said, snuggling into him, "Just what I was saying."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's beyond my control

I like routine. I like simple routines with plenty of padding on either side to get things done and without bad consequences. I like those routines to *not* be dependent on the whims or needs or actions of others. Based on this, I guess I should be Emily Dickinson, home alone upstairs in my room with my little writings and occasionally coming down for tea.

Instead, I have to deal with kid schedules and needs, which are mostly planned out by me but can have a wrench thrown into them by illness or a certain ex-husband; plus today doctor's appointments, which may be scheduled by me but are most certainly not controlled by me; plus the unexpected malfunction of a car, making getting all of the above coordinated a mighty effort.

My car didn't start yesterday morning. No problem, I borrowed the neighbor's car to get the girl to camp and rescheduled my dentist appointment. The car started later in the morning and again in the afternoon, so no worries. This morning, the car did not start. I borrowed the neighbor and her car to get girl to camp and me to the rental car place and onto the doctor, because it would be crazy impossible to reschedule the endocrinologist. I got to the doctor's office and waited a long time with the result that we are going to do more testing, but probably to no new conclusions. Oh, and I have to make a different appointment for tomorrow and collect my pee for 24 hours, yay, so I'll be back at the doc's again on Friday.

After giving blood, eating breakfast at 1:30 pm (had been fasting because I knew there would be blood work today) and picking up girl, I get home to rest briefly until I have to take malfunctioning car to shop (of course, it starts this time). I then get ride home from SO to get kids to take to dinner because the plan was for two of us to get dinner out, but father of children is "busy at work" so now we are four. And I am announcing here that I do not intend to take them out to a restaurant meal again until at least July 3rd. The novelty of eating out is gone so they aren't stunned into happy silence. They can't seem to sit and talk without arguing, so we let them bring electronics. Watching them be electronically sedated makes me crazy. So, I'm spending money to have them play video games and pick at their food. Forget it; they can do that at home for much less money, plus I can leave the room when I don't want to see them.

I have found a silver lining, though, if you'd like to hear it. I found The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood at the library last week. I forgotten how much I FUCKING LOVE her writing. I am in the process of reading it now and letting the more recent stuff fade away to the background while I get totally engrossed in this. Life does not totally suck.

~N. 06/17/09

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Parenting Whine

And the chain is broken...It's been four days since I posted and I can tell you the number one and two reasons why - Thing One and Thing Two.

I'm still working through why the kids sap me of energy and purpose, but I guess the overreaching reason is that when they are here, I spend most of my mental energy worrying about them or planning for them or their needs or recovering from expending said mental energy. Saturday we took the girl to lunch, then dropped her off at her dad's, hung out for a while, then took an hour-plus drive to get the boy from Boy Scout camp (and back again). Got up on Sunday, took boy to lunch, retrieved girl, then back home to...goof off mainly, although there was laundry and dinner. Monday, up early to get girl to camp, back home to actually get some bookkeeping done, pick up girl, go bra shopping, make dinner, go to Boy Scouts, come home, watch TV and collapse.

I often ask myself where I think I'd get the energy to go back to work, when just dealing with these domestic issues exhausts me.

The other thing I've considered is that when they are here, my house is not a haven. And the SO feels this way, too. He talks about hiding out in our bedroom when they are both downstairs using the TV and computers and gaming systems. I know, I know, we need to assert ourselves as the adults to take control of the space. Part of the problem, as noted by Joe (Hi, Joe), is that every room (except the kid's bedrooms) has media of some kind - TVs, computers, gaming systems. The kitchen doesn't have anything, true, but it's open to the main rooms that do and the sound certainly intrudes. So at any time any of the three main electronics users can and usually are located in front of a sound-and-light-producing device. And I have to stop whining here, because I alone have an office that no one else is allowed into without permission. I guess what I don't like is the feeling that I've been chased into and trapped in my office by the minions that I supposedly rule. *rueful grin*

Oh well. The preceding post is really just a recap of some bitching I did earlier today, but now I get writing credit for putting it here. Ha. I'll try to think of something more gratifying or uplifting for tomorrow.

~N. 06/16/09

Friday, June 12, 2009

Keeping the chain alive

This post should be about writing, or HAES, or some other compelling topic to keep me writing and you reading, but tonight it's about the specific idea of keeping the chain going.

This is an idea from various self-improvement guides - I think Leo at Zen Habits mentions it and it's one of the visuals from Joe's Goals (both sites I highly recommend for their simple but effective guidance). The idea is to pick a habit and track it visually such that you want to keep the chain of consecutive achievements going, whether it be red "x"'s on a calendar or little green circles with checks at Joe's.

I am having a great time with my reading habit - no surprise; my exercise habit - which I'm just restarting; and my writing habit - see the posts this month. I really want to keep the chain going, which is the motivational point and why these words are here for you tonight. Leo, and others whose names escape me right this minute, suggest just one goal at a time, maybe for a month to get it really ingrained and get it to stick. I, of course, will not do exactly as told so I am trying for exercise (walking or swimming) and writing since I think these two are separate enough activities to not get in the way of each other, other than allocating time for them both. And, if I can't get time to write 500 words and exercise for 30 minutes a day when I'm mostly unemployed with few kid responsibilities, how do I think I'm going to jimmy time in later this fall when I *have* to be working somewhere and we've got school commitments?

There you go. I've written on Friday night, three days in row and seven days in June. I've been to the pool five times plus had several days of walking that should count because it's more than my usual downstairs, upstairs, downstairs that makes up the day. I've feeling pretty good about this. Talk to you tomorrow.

~N. 06/12/09

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Do I Already Own a Vacation Home? Doh!

While sitting in front of the computer today, reading a lot of feminist and fat acceptance blogs (that's the mood I happen to be in today), I have been thinking about the life the SO and I want to live. Part of that thought process currently involves mulling our financial situation here, which includes credit card debt, student loan debt, mortgage debt on an vacant condo and mortgage debt on our personal house. Since all of those debts are projected to be with us for a least a few years, I was trying to consider what other use we could put our assets to. One of the things the SO and I talk about is having a cabin in the mountains, projected to be sometime after we are out of debt with the cool loft in the city.

It occurred to me in a brain flash that we *have* a place out in the relative middle of nowhere - the condo. It's been unoccupied since December and seems likely to be that way for a few more months. I was just talking to the leasing agent about making the condo furnished or partly so as a way to move some of the furniture out of the main house here. Why not make it a place the SO and I can get away to? (Or maybe, a place where I can go write, if he has plans on a weekend with the BIL?) It's got a pool that we can use all summer. It's got membership rights to the country club next door if we want to go to dinner. The electricity is already turned on for the alarm system. We'd have to turn the water and gas on, but the rates would be pretty low if only used them occasionally. If we did this soon, I could take one or both kids there as a trip away from home, even.

I am now going to spend the weekend working out how much extra we would spend for basic utilities (no cable, I think) to keep it active all the time. And I'll have to talk to the leasing woman about the process of transition to renters if she gets us one. I am psyched about this. I like the idea of getting to *use* this big empty space. Also, I guess I'm a little aggravated that this did not occur to me sooner. More updates to follow to see if this is really a viable plan.

~N. 06/11/09

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fuck MGCC Part I

At Scott's request, I am now going to start a series of posts on what I think about those jerks at MGCC letting me go.

I am not sure about the stages of grief, and I don't want to research it, but I think it's something like denial, anger, grief and acceptance. Possibly there is a fifth element (ha, inside movie joke coming...), but it definitely isn't love.

I did denial briefly, for most of the first month, when I pretended to myself that I *wanted* to take off the month of December, which the severance check covered, so it was practically a paid vacation, right? Sure, it sucked missing the big company party at the Hard Rock with the staff and superintendents - most of whom I had helped get started at the company, being myself one of the longest employees; and going down to the unemployment office on my BIRTHDAY; and not getting to do any of the goof around the office, eat cookies and treats the vendors send, and drink mimosas on the last day before the holiday (which is making me tear up right now, because that was sort of an in-joke with me and Dickhead #1 who let me go).

See, every time I think I might be angry, I get sad instead. They hurt my feelings letting me go. And it's fucked up that my feelings are still hurt. I get the business rationale. I understand that I was lucky to get a severance check and that the people let go after me probably didn't get as good a deal. I'm fortunate that President Obama got me the supplemental unemployment, and the extra 20 weeks, since I still haven't found anything comparable, and a break on my COBRA payments for a few months. There are still people working for those assholes who have had their hours and pay cut and they are stuck.

But my feelings are still hurt that I was first - I was the top of the list, quickest, most over-valued (overpaid?) person to go. Fuck you for stomping on me like that and fuck you for never really understanding what I did there. Looking for a new controller on Monster? That's because you morons never really understood the value of the non-field staff that support your company and pay for your trips to Vegas and Alaska and Chile and your boats and RVs, all of that I am *sure* you did not sacrifice while I am cutting my expenses to the bone to not go backwards financially. Fuck you, in case I did not state that clearly enough.

~Noelle 06/10/09

Friday, June 05, 2009

What about Twitter?

I am conflicted about Twitter. One the pro side: I get to dip my toes into other people's lives (including Facebook friends because I use Tweetdeck to see both) to see what's up without having to commit to a dialogue back and forth; similarly, I get to make quick (clever?) comments out into the ether with very little retaliation (so far); unlike Facebook, I can follow people I'm not friends with, like Penn Jillette, and get to see a little bit of what they're up to; it's quick with the 140 character limit. Cons: is this quick, non-relational, impersonal, text-based "conversation" really a good idea?

I think the value is that for the people I don't know very well or aren't as close to getting a glimpse of what they want to share, including the ones that are mainly promotional in nature, is enough to make me feel like I'm in touch with people outside my daily circle. It's not useful for the people I really want to communicate with, because there is no back and forth. Interestingly, in my world, those particular people (and you know who you are) are not really active on these sites, preferring the personal interaction of the phone. Maybe that's why we get along so well, we call each other to talk when we've got something to say. And for everyone else, I can satisfy my need to know what's going on by following everyone else remotely via the social networking site(s).

Conclusion: I'm going to keep checking the Twitter (and Facebook) on a regular basis, but I don't think I'm ever going to become one of those really successful social networking marketers.

(The other possible force at work here is that my husband may be succeeding in his plan to make me as anti-social as himself, but I'm fighting that. After all, I am the one who got him into the habit of talking to me up to TWO HOURS A DAY on the phone - LOL - which continued even after we were living together and could talk all night - and sometimes I keep him up doing just that. Love you, honey.)

~N. 06/05/09

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Richard Dean Anderson

The SO and I just finished watching an episode of Stargate: SG-1. We are about mid-way into season 6 (of 10, plus 4? 6? more of Stargate: Atlantis). Sometimes the writing annoys me, as they tend to want to wrap up the immediate conflict/storyline in 44 minutes, which means the resolution happens pretty quickly and/or someone gets the revelation how to fix the big planet-ending catastrophe amazingly fast. It's not much different from how Star Trek or any other of this type show operates, but watching it in big chunks like we do, two or three at a time, highlights this TV writing quirk.

As for the title of the post: we got the first disk of MacGyver from Netflix to show the kids. There is a show coming on tomorrow called Royal Pains that specifically references MacGyver. The original show is from the mid-80's and I don't know how long it lasted, but I think the reference in the new show indicates that the writers are my age or older, because if you are mid-twenties, as the new show is probably targeted for, do you know the reference? Or is it like cultural knowledge that was passed on from your parents?

The original MacGyver is not that great in terms of writing - I watched the whole pilot but tapped out about 10 minutes into episode two. Again, probably par for the course for that kind of show since I don't recall The A-Team having great dialogue and coherent plots either. More of the style of a long conflict build up with introduction to sympathetic characters, meeting the bad guys, calling in the good guys, a plan, a reversal, a new plan, a quick resolution that depends on everything going right with the new plan and a minute of reflection/humor to wrap it up.

I think this maybe why networks went to nighttime shows that were more like extended soap operas with action sequences - Hill Street Blues, ER, Third Watch, NYPD Blue. Some action for the action folks, but extended, not-easy-to-resolve-in-one-episode storylines. Let the writers stretch out the conflict, make it more like the real emotional train wrecks people really have. And 24 is probably the ultimate in this extension of the story across multiple episodes. Jack Bauer and everyone who spends a day with him go on the biggest emotional rollercoaster EVER that day.

It's late and I'm going to wrap up, so let me just say that RDA is still *wicked* cute. In fact, I think he's probably sexier as the older action figure, like Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington. Nice.

~Noelle 06/03/09

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Hockey mania

There are three big people and two small people in my living room cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins - in vain I fear as I suspect the Redwings are going to take Game 3 tonight and Game 5 on Saturday to wrap it up. I have escaped up to my office where it is cool and quiet. It's not that I don't appreciate watching, it just got too crowded for me and kind of warm with all those bodies in that little room.

So I am here instead to provide the word count for the evening. I had no new writing or reading revelations today. Today was mainly a bookkeeping (the thing I do for money) day, plus my first day at aquarobics. I've been on the waiting list since last year some time (July? September?) and I was psyched to go. I had been to a similar class way back in '90 or '91 when I visited my mom in Chicago. (Wow, that was my early twenties.) The class tonight was about thirty people, mostly women, from mid-twenties to late-sixties in ages I would guess. It was about 60 minutes in the water, about half at a higher heart rate.

I managed to get out of the pool, get to the locker room, change, discuss my tattoos with a woman in her fifties who was very interested, get to the car, get home, get upstairs and flop on the bed with Scott, who had gotten home right before me. I was not able to get off the bed. LOL. Well, I knew I could if I needed to, but there seemed to be some sort of gravity well holding me there. In the words of Scott, I'm going to sleep GREAT tonight - that is after I get all these people out of my house.

I'm off to see the third period and hope for the best.

~Noelle 06/02/09

Monday, June 01, 2009

Something to write about

I was worried about coming up with ideas to write about in this blog. Ideas that I think are interesting enough to spend about 30 minutes writing and then are interesting enough to read later (or better, to have my future audience and/or agent read). I was worried about this on a low level all day today, because I really wanted to have a fresh start on the first day of the month and start blogging regularly. After percolating all day, something appeared. Yay.

Since my salaried job ended in December, not by my choice, I have been working slash hanging out at home. I have been doing some bookkeeping and house maintenance and kid maintenance, so I haven't been slacking too much. However, I am pretty much able to make my own schedule such that I don't usually go out if the weather is not pleasing. Like rainy or hot. And yesterday and today were wicked hot, so I managed to stay in until about six o'clock tonight when I had to go to Scouts to help with stuff.

It was not too hot when I left since it was getting into the early evening, plus I have A/C running as soon as I exit the garage. I went to Wendy's for a quick dinner, on to Scouts, then I drove my son to his dad's house where said son is spending the night until his dad's "vacation" with them ends tomorrow.

It might have been annoying to drive son 20 minutes in the opposite direction of my house to drop him off and then come all the way back again, but it was okay. I got to talk to son about his DC vacation and the plans for the week. I got to see daughter to say goodnight. And I had a leisurely drive home just after twilight, jamming to Stairway to Heaven.

It got me to thinking about this personal schedule I've developed going to bed late and getting up relatively late in the morning. I considered what it would be like to be on a more nocturnal schedule, where I would be at my most peppy and productive when other people are winding down. This idea got me thinking about the Stephen King book Cell that my best-husband-ever got for me in hardcover when it first came out. I'd started the book, but put it down about a third of the way through when I knew there was a large, dramatic, violent scene coming and I just wasn't ready at the time to read that. Now I'm thinking that I'd like to read the book, starting over from the beginning so I can recapture the story.

I'm in a good now because my night has been a success: got big brownie points for helping at Scouts; got to hang with my son; got a journalling/blogging idea; rediscovered and remembered a book I have on the shelf to read; and knocked out about 500 words, my goal for the day. Excellent.

~Noelle 06/01/2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

From the Archive - A few more

I've collected most of my old blog posts all together here, now, except for the Health at Every Size ones that are sitting over on "Noelle is Fat and Happy." I'm planning to keep that blog up for the time being, since a bunch of my comments over the last few months include a link there.

Also, those posts have a different tenor than the one I think I want to cultivate here. The writing that I discovered I enjoyed the most was the positive-toned stuff I was doing about writing. That's what I want to do more of and be able to refer to here, so I am just leaving the link above if I want to get back over to look at the stuff on the other site.

Now I need to actually *write* a writing post. LOL. I'll go gear myself up to do that, then. (I hear Terence Stamp's voice in my head with that last sentence. I just watched "The Hit" with him in it; it was cool but odd - much like Terence.)


Thursday, May 21, 2009

From the Archive - No more weight loss woes

Warning: LONG POST. Following are my last four entries to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. Being so into Fat Acceptance and HAES, I am uncomfortable with some of these writings now, but want to keep them all together on this blog, so I am going to create this one, last weight loss blog post and move on.

It's DASH, but it's not quick 08/17/08

As I end my first day on the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for people (me) with high blood pressure, I am reminded why so many of these diets are flops so quickly. They are too much work. I have to make a meal plan with the special guidelines. I have to go to the grocery story and buy the foods for the plan. And, since I have not been eating all this healthy, multi-grain, low-fat, good for me stuff, it takes over an hour in the damn store to find everything. Then I have to come home and put it all away. That’s exhausting.

Then, a couple hours later, I have to prepare dinner to include sensible protein, a starch, vegetables (frozen is easiest) and a salad. I didn’t plan very well, because after I got everything cleaned up and put away, I realized I had to pull it all back out to prep my lunch for tomorrow. Don’t think the Kraft mac and cheese wasn’t calling me, with its fifteen minute preparation time from putting the water on to boil to eating the artificial orange food yumminess.

I have to present the counterpoint, of course – Optifast, which can be done with zero food preparation time, has been a diet failure for me, too, but for different reasons, although missing real food was one of them. Where is the diet with the right balance of food preparation, which can definitely be an enjoyable experience and usually leads to healthier eating, and convenience, which every tired, stressed one of us needs?

Just stop eating! 08/24/08

There are a variety of starvation diets. I remember one from my childhood in the 70's where people would have their jaws wired shut so that they could only drink liquids. People were highlighted having their meals made into shakes - a Caesar salad frappe, anyone?

What a horrible idea - it reminds me of Inquisition-type tactics. Why not just manacle yourself into your bedroom for a week? You'll definitely lose weight - until you start eating again, which is where these programs always seem to fall down.

Of course, for me the prospect of not be able to TALK for months actually seemed like the hardship, but any sort of voluntary medical intervention seems like a really extreme measure to take, although I have to admit I've considered bariatic surgery more than once.

I got to do a mini-version of this diet last week when I cracked a tooth over the weekend. I couldn't chew anything hard at all and only soft things on the right side or I experienced excrutiating pain. It felt like I was chewing tinfoil. I couldn't drink anything, at any temperature, without wimpering or even yelling.

By the time the dentist got me fixed up Monday afternoon, I'd lost at least two pounds. Sorry, this is one diet plan I'm not willing to recreate for anything.

Starve a cold? 08/31/08

Sometimes, the only redeeming part of being sick is that you get to lose weight with no extra effort. It's something we brag about, "Yeah, I was so sick that I couldn't even get out of bed. I lost like five pounds!" This is not a good plan.

I have been dealing with a bad tooth (root canal coming next week, I'll probably lose a couple pounds not eating for a few days - lol) and some sort of stomach bug that my boss was nice enough to pass around last week. Consequently, I feel like crap and I don't want to eat, because there are bad consequences every time I do. So, I try not to eat, but then I get starving and eat whatever is around. Or I feel crummy and try to go for the comfort food and very few things on my comfort food list are good for me.

Fortunately for me, I had packed all healthy lunches last week (still doing the DASH diet, down about 5 pounds in about 2 weeks), so when I went to grab the nearest thing because I had to eat *something*, it always turned out to be my stupid health lunch and snacks. And, this long weekend I am home with my husband, who is actively dieting and exercising to avoid going on insulin, so I am not willing to make really bad food choices in front of him because I don't want to mess him up.

Turns out there could be something to the ideas of "plan ahead" and "get support."

Free food fandango 10/16/08

Why, as adults, can we still be bribed with food?

Our insurance agent came by today to check in, see how we are doing, answer any questions, just basically remind us that his company loves ours. He brought muffins. And not some skinny little muffins like your mom used to make in the 12-cup muffin tins, but huge, gooey, multi-thousand calorie muffins that are really small cakes. People were lining up in the breakroom to get some. Luckily, the things were so damn big we had to cut them in half, so there was plenty for everyone.

Why are we like that? None of us are starving. All of us could afford to go buy a similar treat for ourselves (or something healthier or more appropriate), but we all go crazy for free food brought in by a vendor. And we think well of them for bringing us this stuff that is really not good for any of us. Granted, we also like it when they bring us calendars and pens and other desk accessories, but nothing turns us into cavemen like food.

This is something I've had to make a deliberate effort to stay away from, so I think I'm a little resentful, too. I have an eating plan and big muffins aren't on it. I have to be one of those people who declines the original offer PLUS has to stiff-arm all the office people who want to encourage me to partake in the bounty. There is no polite way to say, "No, thanks, I'd rather those calories were on your thighs, not mine." The winter holidays are coming and this free food phenomenon is only going to get worse.

From the Archive - Jenny Craig, Part I (1990)

This was part of my contribution to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. It's also an interesting (to me) look into my mindset before HAES.

The first time I tried Jenny Craig, I liked it. I tried it on the suggestion of a new acquaintance at work who could not say enough good things about it. At the time, I had been married for about 15 months and had gained about 40 pounds since the wedding. I was approaching 200 pounds, which seemed like an impossibly large number (ah, youth!). Looking back, I wonder about the circumstances that caused a 20 year old to gain that much weight that quickly, but I put it down to eating out with the new hubby, getting through the last year of college, taking on the responsibilities of an apartment and almost full time job, etc.

Things went well for about six months. At the time, I think they gave you a 1200-calorie eating plan with 90% their food and a few things you bought – fruit, lettuce for salad, some veggies, milk. It cost about $75 a week for the food. You had to meet with a counselor once a week to weigh in, talk a little and get next week’s food. You were also supposed to attend a small group session – usually a video and discussion led by a counselor – preferably on a different day. The idea was that you were in the center at least twice a week for encouragement and reinforcement.

It worked while everything in my life was going well. I had graduated college and was in a job I enjoyed. I had friends at work that I liked and a gym in the office building that was convenient and fun. My husband was supportive – he was preparing his own meals and we were not going out to eat.

At some point though, things started to fall apart personally and the diet fell apart with them. I switched departments at work for more money and began working for a guy that I discovered I truly could not stand. Even all the other great friends I made in the department could not mitigate the awfulness of the man. The husband got tired of taking care of himself and wanted me to cook and/or for us to eat out more. We had a higher income – a move I made to help get us out of debt – but it was getting burned up on dinners out and buying extra crap for the new, bigger apartment we took on.

I started eating an entire fast food meal in the car on the way home at night, stopping at a gas station to toss the trash, then coming home and making dinner or going out to eat. Of course I stopped losing weight. When I wasn’t visibly making progress at weight loss, the husband announced that we were wasting money at J.C. (not knowing what else was going on since I wouldn’t tell him and risk getting criticized for being a fuck-up). I agreed, embarrassed to talk to the counselor about my inability to lose weight and unable or unwilling to talk to my husband about my unhappiness. So, I cancelled a few weekly meetings and just stopped going.

~Noelle 08/13/08

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From the Archive - The sword swallower and me

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I just reread my last post and I'm feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle. It's only been a week since I posted, but it feels a lot longer. And I wish I could have told you that I went ahead and took the week off work to sleep, but instead it feels like I just slept-walked through the past seven days.

Actually it wasn’t all bad, although early in the week I got into my tired-everything-sucks-and-I-suck-with-it death spiral of despair because 1) I was tired (see most of my posts re: lack of sleep) and 2) I have children who are smart, annoying, messy, annoying, clueless, annoying and exhausting. But I pulled out of the dive, got everyone to their respective camps and home again with no real incidents. Work didn’t suck and I got a lot done. Then all of a sudden it was the weekend and the kids were gone off to their dad’s house for two weeks and I had a long weekend to spend with my honey – which was great and ended much too quickly and BAM, it’s Monday again.

This ramble reminds me of the sword swallower we saw at the Renaissance Festival in June. We had seen him the previous year, so his shtick was familiar. He stands up front and makes a few jokes. He comments on people coming in late, asks how they are doing, etc. He talks a little about how he got started in clown school. He reminds the kids, “Do not try this at home.” Basically, he does a lot of what seems like warm-up patter. However, and this is the part I forgot until now, right before he gets started on the main event, he says, “I try to see how long I can go into the show before I actually have to swallow a sword.” He is good at what he does, but it’s physically difficult and he doesn’t mind delaying it for some banter with the audience. He said his best stall ever was 22 minutes, but we’d gotten him to 18 this time, so he was okay with that.

So far my stall has been about 350 words. I really didn’t have a topic to write on, or an insight into writing, but I’d like to get 500 words on the page, so if I have to stall and talk about taking my kids to see funny may who swallows knives, swords and balloons, I don’t have any false pride about just rambling on until I hit my goal. I’m no Ray Bradbury, writing 1000 words a day when he was twelve, but I believe that if I can just keep producing coherent sentences every day, eventually I will have something really great to show the audience and they will want to hand me five dollar bills at the back of the auditorium – or buy my books for $24.95 hardcover, $14.95 trade paperback at Barnes & Noble.

I’ve only got to compose another sentence or two and then I can escape to bed and try to rest up for another fun-filled day.

Whew, made it.

~Noelle 07/21/08

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From the Archive - Cream Cheese

This was part of my contribution to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. It's also an interesting (to me) look into my mindset before HAES.

Sometimes weight loss gets couched in other terms so it sounds more holistic and healthy. I once tried a system "cleanse" that involved basically fasting for three days by eating only 5 ounces of either cream cheese or ripe olives. Not both – one or the other. I think the idea was that your body would get some minimum amount of calories and fat to barely exist on for three days and it would "jump start," a favorite diet phrase, your body for the stringent plan that would follow. And you'd probably actually be looking forward to even a tightly regimented plan after eating practically nothing for the three days before. I don't remember a lot of the details of the eating plan, because I didn't make it there.

On the morning of day one of the fast, I opened up a sixteen-ounce package of cream cheese and carefully weighed out five ounces of the white gold. I cut it up into five pieces so I could spread my intake out over the day. I wrapped the rest up and put it back in the refrigerator for the next two days. It was hard eating the first piece of cream cheese. It was thick and stuck to the roof of my mouth. I actually thought that I might not be able to eat the rest of it across that day, that I'd rather just skip eating instead. Three hours later, I did have to force myself to each the next piece. I was a little hungry, but still not looking forward to eating a chunk of bagel spread. Three hours more though, and I was counting down the minutes to the next piece. This was repeated twice more the first day, including in the evening when I served dinner to the family but didn't eat any myself. Whew, it was hard, but I made it through.

On the morning of day two, I pulled the opened cream cheese package out of the fridge and considered it. There were eleven ounces left. Wouldn't it just be easier to split the remainder in half? How different were five ounces from five and a half, really? I eyeballed it, cut about half off – it might have been a bit more than half, but who was counting – divided it up into the five servings for the day and put the rest back. Serving one was immediately, no problem. Servings two and three, okay. Serving four was supposed to occur about four o'clock as I was getting ready to leave the office. I am usually in a hurry to go because I am on a deadline to pick up my kids after school, so I decided to just have that serving as I was driving home. Somehow, my car ended up in the drive-through lane at the first fast food restaurant in my path. Not for a whole meal, though, just for some chicken nuggets and a Diet Coke. As I was driving home, I told myself that it was a slip-up, they happen, but that I would get back on plan and have cream cheese number five instead of dinner. That idea lasted until I got home and started cooking. I rationalized myself into just having a salad while the family was eating - the dressing could be the fat substitute for the cream cheese and I even threw some ripe olives on there. I don't know if I even bother tried rationalizing this next part, but I know I offered to clean the table so I could eat the leftovers off everyone's plates as I was washing the dishes.

On the morning of day three, some autonomic part of my brain, the part that wants to make me happy and/or keep me from starving, took over. I got dressed, got the kids out the door to school, got in the car and drove right to Burger King for my usual breakfast. God as my witness, I did not even remember about the cream cheese diet until I was on my second croissanwich. As soon as I got to work, I looked up information on starvation diets so I could reassure myself that it was a dangerous plan and the effects on my metabolism could be very destructive. Clearly, I had dodged a bullet with that plan and was much safer on my two-fast-food-meals, one-big-home-cooked-meal plan, which I went right back to with relief.

A final note: I did not waste the remaining cream cheese. It did end up on a big, toasted, "everything" bagel the next weekend.

~N. 07/16/08

From the Archive - Noelle's intro

This was part of my contribution to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. It's also an interesting (to me) look into my mindset before HAES.

Here's where the idea for this project came from: I have been dieting for 19 years, since two months before my first wedding at age 20, and I have doubled in size across about two decades. How is this possible? How can a person attempt to lose weight, a lot of times and in a lot of different ways, and yet manage to turn into the equivalent of two of herself? Let me be mostly truthful here: I weigh (about) 300 pounds. Since I am 5'5'' this means that I am at least twice what the height-weight charts and the BMI charts say I should be.

I don't have a graph for you – I'll make one if you really want – but the trend is my weight stair-stepping up across the years. The first year I was married, I gained about 40 pounds. Then I went on a high cost, we-feed-you plan and lost 50 pounds in a year. Then I got into a lousy job situation and gained back 60 in the next year. Then I stayed the same for a long time, probably six years, even while working in a restaurant. Then I got pregnant, gained 60 pounds, had the kid, lost 25 pounds, got pregnant again, gained another 60, had the second kid and never really lost any more. I stayed at the new higher weight for about eight years, went on a low carb diet, lost 35 pounds in 6 months and gained it back in 3 months, all while doing the hardest workouts of my life in the martial arts. I got divorced, gained 65 pounds due to: lack of exercise, getting a full time job for the first time since having kids, going out to eat with the new boyfriend, and acquiring sleep apnea. Last year, I tried a liquid diet, lost 30 pounds, stressed out and ate real food, and gained the 30 back.

I only hit the highlights, but in the midst of the big weight loss attempts, probably once every other month, I try a new plan and generally fizzle out. And every time I think, "Okay, my body has to stop here, this is really the most I can be," but I often manage to add some more weight. Holy cow!

And feel free to laugh, because I do. We've got to laugh at the crazy things we do to lost weight and the seeming futility of most of the plans we all have tried. Colette and I – and you if you'll share – would like to tell our stories of trying to fight the weight loss battle and (usually) losing. We'd like to commiserate about what doesn't work, so maybe we can all laugh a little and try not to worry so much about our slip-ups as we keep trying to get to our magic number, be it pounds or pants size.

I know there are people who have actually succeeded at losing weight and maintaining it. I'm sure you have advice for us. The advice probably has to do with portion control and overcoming emotional eating, right? Okay, share that advice. Let's have a discussion about what's worked for you and what hasn't, because the first diet is not the one that works. Nor is the second, third, or fourth, if I had to speculate, but maybe you finally got to your magic number and can stay there. Let us hear from you, too, because with weight loss, hope springs eternal.

~N. 07/15/08

Thursday, May 14, 2009

From the Archive - Sleep, benefits of

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I have discovered another crucial ingredient to the excellent writing surge - plenty of rest and mental space to think.

When I was doing my happy dance in print last night, it really did not occur to me that yesterday was Sunday and I was at my most rested of the week, having Friday and Saturday nights to get the full eight hours (more like ten), plus the little naps during the day on Saturday and Sunday and a very light work load (just laundry, really). Tonight, I feel like I've been beaten with a tired and stupid stick and that's because: only seven hours sleep, a long commute, a loooong work day, a long commute back, dinner for children, visit to car repair shop, various house responsibilities and some pretty but pointless television watching. I'm surprised I'm still upright and typing - well, I am kind of slouching.

I'm worried, too, because Monday is usually a pretty good day for me (see note above re: being well rested) and from there the week kind of slides into apathy. I'm surprised I get out of bed on Friday mornings, being so far behind on rest and underwater on caring about almost anything; I have a long list of worries to buoy me that includes work, household maintenance, my children's social skills, global warming and China's lousy human rights policies. The way I feel now, I may have to quit my job on Wednesday to stay home and nap (and yes, I'm kidding, but I don't want to be).

I am off to bed now to try to get to seven and a half hours at least before starting on day two of the weekday cycle. I feel like there should be a Wagner joke in here, something about cycles and multiple days, but I'm too tired to think of it. Maybe tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/14/08

From the Archive - The New Project

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I am about to toot my own horn, so cover your ears if it’s too much.

Colette and I have been talking about working on a new project, the one I alluded to in an earlier post. Well, it's up and going and called "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" and its link is here:

Here is the horn tooting part: as my contribution, I have just sent in an intro and a short piece on one of my MANY dieting attempts and failures, to the tune of 1300 words combined. It is quite possible that I actually wrote too much and Colette may have to edit for space and readability, but the part where I sat down for an hour and a half and cranked the words out really has really got me feeling good. Compared to other evenings when it has felt like I was low crawling through machine gun fire to get any words on the page, tonight feels like I am rolling over the writing terrain in a Sherman tank.

What a great feeling, to get a hit off that writing high. Of course, now I’m just going to get the munchies… Ooh, maybe I can use that for the new blog, too. Ha! This is very exciting for me and I can only hope that some of my enthusiasm can come through on the page to you. It is incredible to be a writer, to really feel like that writing is a part of who you are, who you have to be. That’s the place that I feel like I’m in tonight and I hope that you get to come hang out in the club, too, because the doorman is in a good mood and feeling like anyone with two good words to rub together gets to come in and boogie.

Write on.

~Noelle 07/13/08

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From the Archive - In under the wire

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I took last night off from blogging, mainly to sleep. I was checking my email at 9:45 and falling asleep at the screen, so I decided it would be best if I just went to bed. (If you got a blank email from me, it's because I was nodding off and clicking the mouse as I went out - very funny.) I had already been at work all day, then home to get my daughter, off to dinner with the husband and brother-in-law and it had been a long day.

Today, I was up again early to get daughter gone to her dad's house then running an errand into town – Scott needed new sneakers and I needed two pairs of new work shoes – and picking up the son from a week away at camp, then lunch, another errand, back to the house to hand son off to father, over to get brother-in-law to go see Hancock (great movie, btw, more later if I think of it), dinner, then home to veg and watch Cloverfield with the hubby (an okay movie, it was what it advertised it was). All I'm saying is, it's been a crowded day of supposedly chilling for a day because it's the weekend.

What does this have to do with writing and being a writer? Well, I’d like to think my devotion to this project, by coming upstairs tonight at eleven p.m. to get it done, shows some resolve. I hope it means I gaining some self-awareness of myself and how/when/if I really want to be a writer as an avocation. I knew I took last night off. I did it deliberately as I was putting myself to bed. I wasn’t pretending that I forgot or that I would get up later and do it. I also decided that one night off was all I was going to allow.

There was a discussion here about taking weekends off from writing. Based on what I’ve read of the authors I admire, I don’t think that’s a plan that can work. As far as I can tell, and I welcome differing opinions to get a discussion going, writers write every day. Okay, or think about writing, or talk about writing, or try to sell their writing, every day.

I think being a writer needs to fall into the category of behaviors that include addictions. Possibly this is because I have the addictive personality type and would love to be able to use the power for good instead of evil. But possibly because writing, as an advanced civilization form of storytelling, can get right down to the lower brain part of us that drives compulsion and addiction and crazy-got-to-do-it behavior. And how great to be able to tap into that part of our psyche that spurs an all-consuming drive to act.

Yes, I am sounding a little maniacal. If I do an Agatha Christie – lose my memory, check into a fancy spa – use this material to confirm that I am a complete nut job, get my Social Security disability, and leave me at home with a day nurse, a spiral notebook and a pencil. Wait, maybe that was my plan all along…

Got to go. The midnight deadline approaches.

~Noelle 07/12/08

Monday, May 11, 2009

From the Archive - My evening's plot

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I’ve been reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I started it a few weeks ago, then picked it up tonight as part of my campaign to do more of what I like – reading, reading, reading, writing, cross stitch and napping. The book was recommended to me by a person who I otherwise think of as pretty flaky, but who seems to have the same taste in books as me, as she also got me started on Neil Gaiman, who is part of my personal pantheon of best writers ever.

Chabon does an amazing thing with description and well-paced action that pulls you along through the story. I’m still close to the beginning, so we are meeting the various characters, the main ones to root for, the bad ones to despise and the supporting cast to walk along with, and getting to like the protagonists. Soon, though, there is going to be a reversal in fortunes for one or the other of them and I am going to be upset on their behalf.

Sometimes I stop reading when I get to that point, because so many authors are so heavy handed with the stumbling blocks that plot requires be put in front of their characters for conflict and resolution. In writing classes Tony Grooms used to say, and he was not the first, that conflict made a story. No conflict, no story. So my protagonists, who I am getting attached to, cannot just be born into a comfortable situation, live carefree lives and stroll off into the sunset being naturally healthy, wealthy and wise. I know the two main characters live to be successful, so they personally will be okay, but I am not looking forward to what Chabon does to the people around them.

I hated having to tear myself away from the book, but I made a deal with myself for 45 minutes of reading, then 30 minutes of writing. I actually read for closer to 55 minutes, but I had to end at a chapter or at least a logical break in the story flow. The writing is actually happening quite a bit later, because I was balancing my checkbook online, then I had a date to watch Penn & Teller Bullshit, then I got distracted by miscellaneous stuff on the television. (I told Scott that when he and his BFF Eric are off on vacation next year, I am turning off the cable – and I might really mean it.)

Distractions notwithstanding, I am back here writing, which is the key part of this story. I was going along good with the reading of actual literature and good intentions of writing, got sidetracked and almost waylaid by the demons of the computer and television, but then was able get myself off the couch and back up here to get the words down on paper. No one died, there were no explosions, and no hot guys showed us their abs, biceps or pecs, but still a successful story for me when it’s all done – which is now so I can go to bed and start over tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/10/08

From the Archive - An office decluttering post

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

Whoops, I almost went to bed without posting. The main reason is that it is Wednesday night and I had to clear space for the cleaning people. Please, save your jokes about cleaning for the cleaning people. The issue is that they clean surfaces - sinks, toilets, floors, etc. - and if they cannot reach a surface, they don't clean it. They do a certain amount of stacking things up and making them neat, but I want them to do the real scrubbing that I don't want to do. Plus, I own too much stuff and leave it around too much anyway, so getting rid of trash, emptying and loading the dishwasher and putting away the clean laundry is something I should be doing on a regular basis. It's just that Wednesday nights give me the kick in the ass I need to get it done.

I have been thinking since my rant the other night about my DWP (designated writing place) and I think I’ve got a game plan for clearing some mental space to write by clearing some physical space. My goal is to take one box (the kind copier paper comes in) of stuff out of my office every day. Tonight, I threw away a bunch of miscellaneous junk that was piled on my reading chair – a comfy Queen Anne chair and ottoman from my previous life - including a power cord to a printer that is long gone, a pair of jeans that have seen better days, and an old kid Halloween costume. There is no good reason for the last two items to even be in here, but there they were, keeping the chair from its primary mission of giving me a place to hang and read, or do cross stitch, or just close my eyes for ten minutes.

I also jettisoned office organizers that just encourage piling stuff up on the desk – a little one for envelopes (because I have so many letters going out every day) and a big vertical stacking one. In fact, I took the same kind off my desk at work today, too, because it was just encouraging me to keep stuff “just in case” on my desk, when what I want to do is just look at one project at a time. Back in the home office, I cleared off a shelf of loose pictures and memory stuff from trips and piled it up in a box in my closet on a shelving unit I put in there a few months ago to hold all this stuff I don’t want to look at. Eventually, I will get those pictures in albums, or not, but I needed that shelf to put some of the many journals (see earlier post, below, concerning the many, many journals) that were hanging around on my desk.

Just now, I moved the speakers down off the top of the desk, too, and put up just the beehive ginger jar Scott got me for my birthday. Wow, it’s like having a whole new piece of furniture, the kind I wanted when I saw the display at the store.

Sorry, I know this wasn’t really a writing post, but sometimes the process is about getting to the place where one can write. Now I need to see about getting a new chair. This one is killing my butt.

~Noelle 07/09/08

Friday, May 08, 2009

From the Archive - The desk as a stumbling block

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I’m thinking that my designated writing place (DWP) is not really the best place to write. My DWP is my office, which is my sole domain – people and children are only allowed in with permission – but it occurs to me that once I get in here, I don’t get a lot of writing done.

For one thing, the chair I’m using is my son’s old desk chair. I set it at its highest setting, but within 15 minutes it has lowered itself way down, so that I am looking up at my computer screen instead of facing it directly. And screws keep coming out of the bottom, so I’m not sure what is even holding the seat onto the frame. Every once in a while I flip the chair over and replace the screws, but they just pop out again – about one per week. And it’s not that comfortable a chair anyway. I’m using it because my desk chair died about a year and a half ago and I haven’t gotten around to getting a new one.

My desk, which I bought specially at Wal-Mart and put together, is a cute little cherry number. However, the graceful lines and subdued styling are obscured by the junk I have piled all over it – kid photographs, bills to be paid, miscellaneous pieces of paper I think I need to act on but need to read again, program CD’s, two old cell phones I need to get the pictures off of, etc. My desk is a standing to-do list that distracts and stresses me.

I’ve been working on clearing the desk off, but it’s slow going. In order to clean it off, I have to find a place for everything, and the room has other clutter issues, like a bookcase that is overfull of graduate school writings, books I got from my mom that I haven’t weeded out yet and a whole shelf of photos to go into albums; four boxes of junk from my daughter’s room when we cleared her some space, plus her writing table and doll house; and two filing cabinets, one in daily use, the other just hanging around. I have been telling myself that this room needs to be cleaned up, but putting all this down on (electronic) paper just fires me up to get it all gone and out of sight. I did get rid of the collectable dolls that had been stored in a moving box for the last ten years, so that is progress. Now I need to clear some more space and get all the non-writing stuff out of sight.

The other non-writing issue I have is that I like to sit down at this, the writing computer, and surf the ‘Net, download my checking account info and generally goof off. So far my bedtime deadline has kept me writing the blog, but I’m going to need a longer-term solution for the personal writing. I think the proposed solutions for that are going to have to wait for another blog. One thing at a time so my brain doesn’t explode.

Look, 500 words. Excellent. Talk to you tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/08/08

From the Archive - Tired, not rested

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

This is a rant. Prepare yourself.

My daughter will not shut up. She will not be quiet watching a movie. She will not be quiet when she’s getting ready for bed. She will not be quiet after she is in a darkened room and supposedly falling asleep. She is 45 minutes past her bedtime and has just appeared with a story about blood coming up out of her throat into her nose. Since I completely refused to give this story any credence, she gave up and went back to bed. Holy crap.

I was letting her sleep in my bed because we had thunderstorms going on and I know they upset her. My plan was to goof around on the computer in the office next door and wait for her to go to bed to start writing. Except she never SHUT UP. “Mom, can I turn the fan on?” “Mom, can I get a drink of water?” “Mom, what does punctual mean?” This last one is apparently a reference to a line in the Disney movie Aladdin. The girl cannot remember to turn the light off after she leaves the bathroom but she can remember movie lines for days. I finally had to kick her out of my room and back to hers, then make her turn off the High School Musical soundtrack she wanted to play for ambiance.

So now I am feeling beaten up and tired. I probably would have felt tired anyway since it’s almost my bedtime, but after dealing with the girl I just want to flop on the bed on my back with my mouth open and fall asleep snoring. Forget writing, or reading, or brushing my teeth, or anything. And to think I was a little miffed when she decided to stay at her dad’s last night.

That’s all I’ve got tonight. Some whining and moaning about being tired and being a parent. I’m going to go lie down in a cool, dark room and think quiet, non-Disney thoughts.

Talk to you tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/07/08

Thursday, May 07, 2009

From the Archive - Day six - Is tomorrow a day of rest?

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I was riding a wave yesterday, feeling good about blogging and writing and just on top of the world. I don’t have a good surfing metaphor here, but I guess you could say I wiped out today.

I don’t know if it was the restless sleep last night, or having to get up early to send one child away to overnight camp or the melancholy of being without my kids tonight (the other one is staying with her dad), but I am really not feeling it tonight. However, I do have the Tony Crisafulli genes, so that means that if I come up with an extreme, prescriptive behavior that I am the sole enforcer for, I am going to do it. So here I am, on the sixth night of July, writing my sixth blog of this series, damn it.


Okay, you couldn’t tell, but I went off to read some inspirational blogs to help myself get motivated to write. It didn’t really help, but I’ve killed thirty minutes doing it and now I have about fifteen more until I want to go to bed, so I have a deadline, which is motivating in its own way.

This is the kind of evening that worries me when I fantasize about being a professional writer and living off my writing. I worry that the writing will dry up and I’ll be penniless and homeless. Granted, I probably wouldn’t run out of money right away – I’ve got an okay balance in the checking account and some socked away in the savings account, plus the little retirement account – but what if I tap all that and still the writing doesn’t come? Note to self: go find this section in The Courage to Write. I’m sure he’s got a chapter on this.

And I’ve been self-employed before, so I know the drill. Have a plan. Write it down. Follow it. Have back up plans. Keep going. Remember the country music quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” Consider other sources of income. Reduce expenses. Marry a millionaire. Marry a multi-millionaire because with your crappy writing habits, you are going to blow through all his money pretty fast. Okay, I feel a little better now. Nothing like some hyperbole and exaggeration to take the edge off.

And it’s not like I don’t have skills to fall back on. Bookkeeping and payroll gigs are going to be around until we flick the IRS off our shoulders like the unwanted governmental dandruff it is, so I have that. Plus, the two decades of business and life experience, etc., etc., etc. I believe that what I fear is the lack of a steady paycheck. What a wimp. What a chance for me to break out of the constraints I’m in and find something that really gives me – and I hesitate to say it because it sounds so New Age and silly – joy.

I thought I wasn’t feeling it, but sometimes I just have to push through the requirement and, lo, I think I can come back and fight on. I put the 500 words down here, as required by me and now I’m feeling pretty good about me. *Pats self on back.*

Okay, one more day down. Let’s go again tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/06/08

From the Archive - Here I am, again

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I would like to make a confession here: I almost forgot to blog tonight. I got home from a holiday cookout about six o’clock and just did not feel like writing, so I wandered downstairs and helped my son pack for a camping trip, made some dinner, and watched Resident Evil: Extinction. Blogspot just completely disappeared from short-term memory once I got to the lower level.

What is extra bad about this is I watched it on a high-def channel and used the DVR’s pause feature to catch the whole thing while I was in the kitchen cooking macaroni and cheese, all the while recording another movie for Scott and the kids to watch next weekend – this from someone who keeps campaigning to get rid of the DVR and the cable service and to stop stocking the pantry with complete junk food. Yeah, I fell way out of my ivory tower.

Then, I got caught up watching another movie, one I’d already seen. If Scott hadn’t gotten home in a timely manner from his visit with the Alabama contingent, I’d still be down there watching Bruce Willis save America from Timothy Olyphant and his evil computers. And that would be okay, if that was my intention for the evening. But my intention really is to write every single day, apparently about eleven o’clock at night, and post here.

Now that we are at five consecutive writing days, I am starting to feel some momentum. I still don’t really have anything coherent to write about – I just start to ramble as I sit here – but I’m feeling like I could do this again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. So far I’ve been able to write on three nights after work and two days after using up the whole day doing activities out of the house. What is going to be possible when I start opening up chunks of time my simplifying my personal commitments and house maintenance – as I plan to do as I work through the Zen Habits principles?

One of the reasons I got finished with NaNoWriMo last year was that I was able to take off the entire Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend to write. I woke up about nine, confirmed that everyone had eaten some sort of breakfast, then sat down in front of my computer, in my cute jammies, and started to write. I probably took a lunch break, I don’t think I did dinner, but I definitely wrote until after dark and I put 10,000 words down on the screen. I don’t think I could do that all the time, but what an amazing feeling to have done it then and to know that, having done it once, I can do it again. I’ll use another of my favorite examples: after I broke a board the first time, I never doubted that I could do it again. Sometimes I would miss and hit it wrong and have to redo it, but I had done it before, I could do it again. And again. And again.

Here is to another good night. See you again tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/05/08

From the Archive - Tired and a little grumpy

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I am wicked tired. I don't know why exactly, but I would guess that a day of eating, movie, more eating, another movie, yet more eating and finally surfing around on the 'Net is probably to blame. It is amazing how a whole day of nothing can just wear you out.

I shared about the tiredness so I could solicit some props for writing this entry. I really, really, really do not feel like writing. I actually have no problem with the physicality of typing, that's no problem, but the effort of stringing together words into coherent thoughts just feels like some Herculean sort of effort. If I could expand yesterday's running metaphor: today I feel like I am trying to run in sand, or through mud. Every word I push forward into my consciousness to replicate on the screen here is hard.

My wrist has decided to act up, too, giving my some little twinges. I have to say, my body is good about producing psychosomatic symptoms. If there is something I really feel like I don't want to do, I can find a pain or an ache to use to put it off. And this was true even before I got quite so fat and old and things actually started to mis-fire without some hypochondriatic prodding. When I was younger and in better shape, I was better about pushing through my aches and pains to accomplish things.

PSA: I have stopped my above rant/whine to produce what I feel is an important Public Service Announcement. Twice in two days (yesterday and today), I have lost my draft post off Blogspot. Yesterday it was because I was testing an internal link in the post and lost my draft when I came back. Today, in my tiredness I hit some wrong combination of keys and kicked myself off the Internet altogether. The lesson here is to compose in the word processing program of your choice and copy it into the blog. Luckily for me, I had been copying and pasting my blogs into Word so I could check the word count and therefore was able to retain almost all my text. (I lost the last 15 minutes of work yesterday. It was a good post, but I think it could have been better, but that little bit of inspiration had already gone by.)

Okay, message sent to any random person reading this. If I can save just one other person from the heartache of lost writing, my job is done. I was pretty upset last night about maybe losing my work. I had really enjoyed the whole running metaphor, plus the humorous bit about the blazer, and I feared that I was not going to be able to recreate it before midnight came and turned the blog into a pumpkin.

I wonder, if I had not been able to get the draft of that blog yesterday back, would I have given up on the daily blogging process, being defeated by a little bit of technology? This calls to mind The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes, required reading the first semester of graduate writing school. There are so many things that could abort the writing process – being afraid of messing up, being afraid of notoriety, being afraid of looking fat on morning talk show while promoting your book (I actually considered this stumbling block to my writing career). So many of us feel compelled to write, but there seem to be an awful lot of factors that can derail us. It makes me mad at myself to think I would have let the inadvertent deletion of 500-some words stop me in my tracks. I am going to try to keep that righteous indignation in mind for later in the month when I feel like blogging is too much trouble, or I’m tired, or I just don’t feel like it.

So, more to come this month. Stay tuned.

~Noelle 07/04/08

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

From the Archive - Happy to be here

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

Today, I have been looking forward to sitting down and writing here. I don't really have a subject, other than eagerly anticipating writing, but I think that's a good place to start. As I mentioned in my first post, I have a consistent pattern of writing for a while, then stopping and not picking it up for a loooong time. I'd like to make this the month that writing every day, even if it's only 500 words, becomes a habit.

(It would also be great if I could develop the exercise habit, and the eating less habit, and the washing the dishes after every meal so the kitchen stays clean habit, but I just going to work on one thing at a time.)

I'd like to talk about one of my favorite events as an adult and that was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I tried it in 2006 and didn't get too far, but I busted it wide open in 2007 and got all 50,000 words written, 45,000 of them in the last eleven days of the month. Being able to be that prolific with the words was an amazing feeling. I use that month as a touchstone to remind myself that I can do crazy, mentally and physically challenging feats. Before NaNoWriMo, I used to use getting my black belt as my reminder about taking on the big challenge, and sometimes I'd refer to graduate school. But the black belt took almost 2 years and the grad degree took six, so they didn't have the same urgency, until near the end, that writing the novel from scratch did.

A quick tangent: all of the above life accomplishments happened in my 30's. I just want to mention to my friend, Colette, who is promoting her manuscript for 30 Isn't Old at, that not only is 30 not old, it's really just the beginning of making one's mark as an adult. Sure, there are some people who make their mark young - prodigies who in their late teens get exposure for brilliance - but I think that people who make a splash in their 20's are just destined to either fade into obscurity, because they've still got six decades left to go, or have to reinvent their success in their 30's or 40's, because it's too soon.

As a separate point, I think the age of majority in this country should be 25, because you are stupid until then about almost everything, plus your personality is still developing. And I've thought this since my 20's, which I spent a lot of feeling like an immature doofus.

So, back to my point: I love the idea of NaNoWriMo and I'm still tickled that I got to participate and "win" by getting all 50,000 words written. I am already looking forward to this year. I plan to stay up to midnight on October 31st so that I can get started as fast as possible. I want to have that feeling again of being at the starting line in a huge field of marathoners, all of us doing that stretching, jogging in place thing while we wait for the event to start, then stopping and looking up as we hear the P.A. system kick on and, even though we cannot really hear what the elderly gentleman in the blazer is saying - and they always seem to wear blazers to officiate marathons, it must be in the marathon code whereas the Greeks all ran naked we will wear evening dress - we all get in start position, keeping our eyes on the man with the starting pistol, leaning forward and then, BANG, we're off. Some of us darting ahead to get some distance, some going immediately into their steady race pace to try to sustain for the whole race, and the people all the way in back, the unseeded runners, not even running yet but mentally pushing the field of runners ahead of them along so that everyone can get across the start line and really begin to race.

Right now, I think of this as practice for NaNoWriMo and "the project to be named later," that I'll be blogging about in the near future in another forum. My goal here is about 500 words a day, which is little less than a third of what I'll need every day in November, but the key thing is developing writing as a daily habit that will carry me forward for all the writing projects that I envision creating and completing.

Wow, what a great night.

~Noelle 07/03/08

From the Archive - The very next day

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

Okay, I have to ask - where do daily bloggers get their material? Because the thought of sitting down here again to write is worrying me. Yesterday, I was full of good ideas - well, idea - and I somehow thought that was going to sustain me for the rest of the month. (And I had to pick a 31 day month, couldn't do February, noooo.) But here we are again, blank page ahead.

Where do writers get their ideas? I love science fiction and fantasy, but I have trouble conceiving of how those writers make up worlds out of whole cloth. Future technologies, distant planets, exotic aliens. That's a lot to have to create as concepts before even getting it out on paper. And don't get me started on Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett or Stephen King. Those are some guys with freakishly crazy and huge imaginations. I love their stuff, I eat it up, but I'm afraid that I would fail miserably if I tried to emulate them. Yes, yes, I know I am just starting and they have been writing for a long time, but it's hard to close one of their books and then take a look at my amateur efforts. (Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine, thank you.)

Thinking about it, I realize that my writing ideas tend to come from the every day experiences around me, which I'm sure is where almost all writers begin. My personal foibles get a lot of play. Crazy people around me, especially in traffic, seem to ask to have their stories told. My family - children, parents, grandparents, cousins near and far - all stoke my fire. My ex-husband is the source of a lot of the darker, meaner side of my storytelling. I am game for retelling a version of almost any story I'm told, as long as I can embellish it to make it funny.

I like funny, the kind of funny that is clever and surprising. I like crafting an anecdote to keep some suspense in, keep the ending from being too obvious. If I can get not just a laugh but a snort when I've finished, I feel really successful. This need to get the zingers in means that I have a harder time sustaining a long story, and I get distracted by my need to get the good punchlines in, to the detriment of the story that could be developing.

I think I may have just achieved a breakthrough here, on day two. (Do I have to keep going for days three to thirty-one? Yes, I guess so.) I've got to be willing to tell the story the whole way through, not just run ahead to the funny. Because I don't think a dearth of ideas is really the problem. I think the problem is taking the idea, any idea of the dozens careening around in my head at any one time, and fully developing it without trying to wrap it up too soon and without trying to force the funny or the over-emotive in general. Easier to edit things out than edit things in - one of the things they tried to get us to understand in grad school.

Tomorrow, I think a discussion on going off on tangents, not always in a good way.

~Noelle 07/02/08

From the Archive - July 1, 2008 (Clever title, eh?)

This started as my contribution to The Group, a July 2008 mostly daily blog, but I re-read some of it and think it's good stuff, so I'm going to write more.

I own a lot of journals. I own a lot of really nice, fabric covered journals. I own a lot of really nice, fabric covered, linen paged journals with notes on the first few pages and nothing after that. They are in various sizes from pocket-size to full letter size. I also own a whole bunch of spiral-bound notebooks, cute teenage girl ones in bright colors and some of the sensible single subject kind from college, and several faux-marble-covered composition books, too.

I love the potential of an empty journal. I like holding it, riffling the empty pages, imagining myself Ralph Waldo Emerson (I just read a blog post today about him at or some other brilliant person, stopping in the middle of my day to write a random, insightful thought, or sitting in Starbucks (one of the ones with the big comfy chairs), chai tea latte on the table next to me, scribbling away creating the genesis of my next novel.

I fantasize about a lot of things I'd like to have happen, or things I'd like to go back and change, but that vision of me writing - and I mean real writing with plot, theme, allusion, conflict, resolution, denouement, the whole shebang - in the journal is probably my strongest, most long lasting one.

I still have the journal from 1976 (I was 7, you do the math to figure out how old I am now) when I first got the bug to write in a diary. I got two pages in and stopped. The next journal I have is from the early '80s. Every few years, I start again. There have been years when I bought multiple journals, thinking I'd do several journals - a food journal, a fiction journal, a self-improvement journal. Ha. Just more pretty bound books for the shelf, those became.

My longest sustained journaling period was the 12 months or so before I got divorced, when I was in graduate writing school and trying to emulate The Writer's Way and write 30 minutes every morning. The multiple stresses of small children, failing marriage, self-employment and graduate school gave me plenty to emote about every morning. It wasn't the amazing production of genius writing I imagined, but I assumed that once I'd cleared the dead leaves away, fresh new growth would appear. Instead, it just sort of fizzled out, like the previous attempts.

This, of course, is another in the systematic attempts to get the engine started and keep it running. I know this can work. I've had long sustained writing bouts: the aforementioned morning writing; the thesis project for the writing degree; and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And all those previous journaling forays have presumably led me to here, the way that my failed 16-year marriage, house in the suburbs and bickering pre-teenage children got me to the love of my life (hi, honey). So, let's just hope I've learned some kind of lesson, developed some kind of writing muscle memory, and see if this can be the consistent effort that leads to the real writing.

~N. 07/01/08