Now that I’ve had some time to process this election…

Now that I’ve had some time to process this election, I have some (conflicting) thoughts and I feel the need to share.

First: I was a Hillary supporter. Not because I am a capital-D Democrat (although, in general, I do favor the party’s policy positions on most issues) or because I’m against Republicans. I didn’t support her because I LOVED her, and I didn’t oppose Trump on the basis of the fact that he is a reality TV star with no public service experience.

I supported Hillary because I opposed Trump’s rhetoric. His hate filled, agitating, bullying, “Build a wall”, “Grab them by the pussy”, “Knock the shit out of ’em”, rhetoric. Because he is a man who thinks inciting violence is okay. Because he didn’t renounce the KKK immediately. Because he thinks it’s constitutional to ban an entire religion of people fleeing for their lives from coming to our country. (As if it’s our (white people’s) country in the first place. I mean, let’s be real here. If anyone has a leg to stand on in the “Make America Great Again” argument, it’s the Native tribes that we’ve effectively decimated, not us white folks.)

I don’t know where Trump stands on most issues because, honestly, I stopped listening. You speak the way he did and I shut you off. I didn’t watch the last two debates, I read about them the next day. Hillary lied some, Donald lied a lot. There was no point in watching live, reading the fact-checked versions seemed to be a better use of my time.

But now we’re here. Donald Trump has been elected to be the next President of the United States. And we are freaking the f*** out. Lifelong friendships, family relationships that were otherwise fine, are over. Hate and fear have been flying from both sides all week, although, finally, in the last two days, I’m starting to see people try to understand.

I have family that (I assume, we don’t talk about it because we want to be able to still like each other) voted for Trump. They voted to get jobs back. They voted to kick out the powerful political elite. They voted for him despite his rhetoric, not because of it. (I believe that James Comey’s last minute announcement of new investigations unfairly influenced the election. But, honestly, I don’t know if anything can be done about that at this point.) What it really comes down to is: Just as I was able to overlook the flaws in Hillary that they couldn’t get past, many Trump voters were able to overlook what I couldn’t.

And just as I would have made my voice heard on the issues that I disagree with Hillary on, I trust that they would make their voices heard in opposition to the hate rhetoric.

I signed the change.org petition to get the electoral college to vote Hillary instead of Trump, in reflection of the actual popular vote rather than the state EC vote breakdown.  But now, I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do. Removing Trump from an office he won through– at least what appears to be– legal means would disenfranchise the other 50% of the country. It wouldn’t end the protests/rioting/hate that has filled our country since Tuesday, it would only increase it. Putting Hillary in office would not make Muslims/Women/Disabled/Trans/LGBTQ/Latinx etc people safe, I believe it would put them in more danger. Right now, hate groups feel validated. If we did somehow switch the election, hate groups would feel vindictive. Ready for vigilante justice.

Trump needs to come out and denounce the hate (not the protesters) immediately. He needs to address the concerns the protesters have. He needs to MAN UP (because, really, this whole post could be about why the country would rather have this MAN than that WOMAN) but that’s a whole other issue) and admit he was wrong to say the things he said. He needs to immediately surround himself with advisers from these disenfranchised groups (not his supporters that meet these demographics. Actual people who disagree with him on rhetoric and policy.) He needs to STEP IN, DENOUNCE and DEESCALATE the actions of his supporters who have seen this victory as a call to arms. He’s got until December 19, when the electoral college, casts their ballots to prove that he really is going to President of all of us. If he does it, I think we have to give him a chance. If he doesn’t, my daughter and I may be in Washington to protest the inauguration.

Should I write it?

13494838_10208736082412111_1473795034649199179_nOur awesome summer nanny had today off, so I took PTO to hang out with the kids. Turns out, they like me more as a chauffeur than a playmate 🙂 While they ran and climbed at Chutes and Ladders this morning, and now during a program they’re doing at the library, I had enough time to finally re-outline my book. That one; the one I’ve written 18 million drafts of already, that I’ve called “almost done,” that even went out to beta readers (many of whom said publish it!)

This round, I’m making minor-yet-major changes to character circumstances. Updating technology and lifestyles (a lot has changed in the last six years). I’m at the point now where I should open a new file and start writing.

And yet.

Should I keep struggling with this one story? Is it worth the hard drive space on my computer and in my brain to keep going? Or should I do something else? Something new?

I want to do something new.

“Setting aside” this story, letting it “marinate,” is how I got both Ruby Slippers books written.

But this character has never left me.

I wrote a short story for one of my MFA classes about a character that had basically come alive for an author, physically haunting her. It’s not quite to that level (the protagonist in that story was probably diagnosable– she was having conversations with someone she made up) but character always seems to be there. For the past two years, every time I’ve tried to write something else (including daily journaling) my character has been there. It’s like she’s sitting in a corner, waiting.

I don’t know if it’s because I feel a need to finish (according to Gretchen Rubin, I am a finisher), or if it’s because this story really needs to be written and I’m the one to write it.

I guess, really, the reason doesn’t matter. Maybe this is one of those “the only way over is through” situations.

2015 Recap

 

2015 Dream

Achievement

2016 Plan

Publish another book Completed drafts of two new books and completed outline/began draft of third I am not going to rush the publication process. These books have lived with me a long time, we’ll get along as long as we need to until they’re ready to survive on their own.
“Do” two short stories a month (one drafted, one completed) One short story published & one award won! I removed this goal from my 2015 plan, and I’m not bringing it back. I like writing from prompts sometimes, and sometimes those become short stories. If it happens in 2016, great.
Draft two more novels Completed 2 and started a third! Rewrites for Home and Clouded, continue to work on Reality
Read at least 96 books Oh geez. This is one that I need a swift kick in the pants with. I’ve finished 20. 2 books a week is too many for me. So, I’m revising it down to 78 (1.5 per week.) Even with this, I’m 10 behind. But I’ll make it. Summer is coming.
Complete 12 new paintings Finished 4 paintings I’m incredibly proud of. With everything else I have going on, painting has fallen by the wayside. I’m okay with that. When I want to paint, I will. But I’m not going to force it.
Get Spiraling Forward Jewelry into 3-5 boutiques Sold Spiraling Forward at my favorite boutique for about six months. I won’t be making jewelry to sell, at least for the time being. However, I will continue to make it as I want it.
15-20 gym visits/month Averaged 15.5 for the year! Continuing. This is going to be a bit harder this year because we no longer have the accountability of an insurance credit for gym attendance. But my body craves it.
4+ yoga/Pilates classes/month Discovered the POWER of Hot Vinyasa, the grace of Slow Burn and the mindfulness of Yin Yoga. Continue attending at least three classes a month. I love it.
One vegetarian day/week Discovered ways I can make mushrooms so everyone in my family will eat them. Modified a favorite childhood recipe to be vegetarian. Lily’s favorite food is now “Salad.” Continue to focus on plant-based nutrition for my family while also offering meat occasionally from farms I trust. (Yay meat CSA!)
Speak at 2 conferences I spoke at UtopYA conference in July and did an Author Talk at Hennepin History Museum. I will continue to look for natural connections where I can teach, but I won’t be spending time actively seeking them out.
Continue to reduce clutter I’m really proud of the simplicity we’ve been able too create in our house. Removing. It’s not trackable, but we’ve been doing really good with it and I don’t need a monthly reminder.
1 artist date I didn’t do this most months I struggle with this, because I feel that it is important to refill my creative well, but for some reason I feel a lot of pressure around this goal.
Attend 2 book/writing events I let this one get away from me in the last few months of new job craziness. This is my artist date– going to events like this. I’m going to not focus on that and instead focus on making this happen.
1 real date with hubby Hooray for Parent’s Night Out! This is important

Do you take time to recap your year? What did you find? How does it effect your plans for 2016?

Happy New Year (I can still say that, right? It’s not too late, is it?)

It’s my first blog post of the year—and in several months. Those of you that are on my email list haven’t gotten anything either.

There’s been a lot of (good, but hard) changes here. The biggest is that I took a position in the Sales Operations Department of Capstone Publishers. I work with the Classroom team, supporting the creation and sales of some pretty amazing curriculum products. I’m really enjoying the job, but it’s been a big adjustment.

First, we had to get used to the fact that I now have to GET UP and GO to work every day, rather than getting up and starting to work immediately at the dining room table or kitchen counter. The days are now more structured, with more order and rhythm. It’s a rigidity that I am both happy about and struggling with.

Second, while my duties at NoiseTrade have shifted somewhat, I’m still running the Books platform (some very exciting things happening there), so it’s been an adventure to fit all of my duties there into my new schedule.

Finally, we weren’t happy with the options for after school programming for the kids this semester, so we have chosen to not put them in after school—which means, beginning next week, we’ll need to be adjusting our evening routine to ensure Chris gets enough work time (luckily, the kids are pretty self-sufficient at this point—both like to come home and unwind for an hour or so, so it won’t drastically reduce his productivity.)

I just finished Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, all about strategies for creating habits. A few of the habits I want to cultivate/continue in 2016 are:

  • Daily journaling (including SOAP)
  • Logging my food
  • 12-15 gym visits a month
  • 3-4 yoga classes a month
  • Monthly date with Chris
  • Monthly game night with the kids
  • Monthly friend date
  • At least 3 walks a week with Picasso (but only if the air temp is above 0. I have my limits.)
  • Update blog regularly*
  • Print photos*
  • Send regular emails to subscribers*
  • Write*

*I’m learning from Better than Before that these are too vague, so I will, at some point, have an update for you with more of a plan for these areas. One of the things Gretchen talks about how sometimes it’s actually easier to do something every day rather than a few times a week, so I may try that for the blog. But I’m not ready to make that commitment yet.

Here’s what I’ve got coming up in the near future, in terms of blog posts:

  • 2015 Year in Review—I shared with you my goals, I’m also going to share the review
  • 2015 Year in Books—I didn’t meet my (slightly insane) reading goal, but I read a crap ton of books. I’m going to share what I liked the most.
  • “The Easy One”—a short essay I wrote was published by a literary/medical journal, and I received a “Best Prose” award. It’s basically my cancer story. I’m going to post it either here or on NoiseTrade for you to read.

There’s much more to say about what I’ve been processing these last few months, but it will come in time. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

I thought it would get easier

Two years ago today, we had been back in Minneapolis for just exactly a month, and the Whole Foods Store I’d transferred here to help open was only, officially, four days old.

I already knew that I couldn’t stay at the store.

My job at Whole Foods in Franklin (the store on McEwan Drive, I still love them) had been a God-send. I was incredibly unhappy at my previous position, and WFM offered insurance, even for part-time employees. I was able to drop down, give Chris the freedom he needed to get his job done, help take care of the kids, and not be worried about the possibility of a medical bankruptcy if my cancer came back. And then it became so much more than I expected. I became a supervisor, I started looking into Whole Foods careers, it was awesome.

We got the opportunity to sell our house, something we’d been waiting years for, and I could transfer stores. I expected the amazingness of WFM to transfer with me.

The store here wasn’t bad, it was just different. I wasn’t used to the corporateness of the company, and I had a very hard time adjusting. Plus, Austin and Lily were not thriving in their new schools. When we got confirmation that we could buy health insurance through Obama Care (I could be a spokesperson for why Obama Care is really amazing) I put my notice in. I would be home more for the kids, and I would write. We pulled Austin out of the daycare that he didn’t like (and, quite honestly, I’m not sure how much they liked him) and switched Lily from a charter to our neighborhood school. I wrote a book, got accepted into the MFA program at Hamline, and, the next summer, wrote another book.

Tonight, I’m sitting in the cafe of a little restaurant, waiting to head over to hear the amazing Elizabeth Gilbert speak about creativity. I would have gone anyway, because I freaking love her, but I’m especially excited to hear her talk about this Big Magic. Because, quite honestly, right now, it doesn’t feel like magic.

I’ve taken a couple of freelance jobs (that I absolutely love) to help make ends meet, but they cut into my writing time. Today, I took the whole afternoon off as a type of extended “artist date.” My only goal was to do whatever I felt like doing.

All I wanted to do was write.

I’ve been writing, not counting this blog post, for about three hours.

I’ve written 2,000 words.

On a project I’ve been working on for 5 years.

I used to be able to do 2500 words an hour.

3 hours. 2,000 words.

I’m not trying to complain (although it is a little tempting.) Really, I’m just trying to put out there, before I go see Liz and she makes all right with the world– I’ve always thought creativity would get easier the longer I did it. That, eventually, the words would flow through my fingers, regardless of where I was or what I was doing. I would open the laptop and go.

This has not been my case. The book I’m working on now, the one I’ve been working on for SO LONG, feels SO IMPORTANT to me. I’ve read half a dozen books just to try to learn how to make this one right. This is like the twenty fourth draft, and, with it, I started over. It’s not from scratch, because I know these characters like they’re real people, but I started with a blank document. I have the outline I created from the last finished draft with the scenes that need to happen highlighted and the others crossed out. When I get really stuck, I look to see about where I am in the story and make sure I haven’t missed anything essential. But, in general, I’m writing this cold turkey.

But there’s something about this draft that feels different. Yes, it’s taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R., and I’m breaking every rule of “writing fast” and IT IS HARD EVERY SINGLE DAY, but I think, I hope, I pray, that what I’m creating is what I’ve been writing around for the last five years. That rather than skirting the perimeter, this time, I’m going to go straight through the middle.

Only time, a lot of it, apparently, will tell.

Book of the Week: The Signature of All Things

Book of the Week for September 27 – October 3

The Signature of All Things

signature_page_03

Why it’s interesting:

This is going to be blasphemous, but I’m going to say it anyway. I am not, in general, a fan of “Classics.” Quite honestly, I find them a bit long and boring. I’ve never read Great Expectations (I gave up on the audiobook when it felt like nothing was happening for days on end), I haven’t read anything from Jane Austin that I found particularly amazing (Pride and Prejudice was, for me, just okay) and I was slightly relieved when Anna Karenina was hit by the train (until I realized it was suicide, because that felt to me like the author gave up on finding resolution.) But I love me some Liz Gilbert, and the prose in this book was just so gorgeous when she read from it at the reading I was at last fall, so I thought I’d give it a try. The audio version.

I LOVED it. It is long. And sometimes tedious, but in the best “this is life” kind of way. I was so sad when it was over.

It makes me want to try those old classics again…maybe I just needed to grow up?

The blurb:
A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed.

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

What are you reading right now?

Book of the Week: Brooklyn Burning

After taking the summer off, then having a false start this fall (that first week of school I was Super Woman) I’m finally into a good rhythm and will be cranking out Book of the Week selections on a regular basis. Thanks for your patience through the change of seasons! I’ve got a ton of material to share, and with the recent cancelation of both Netflix and Hulu, will be adding to it quickly!

Book of the Week for September 20-26

Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brenzenoff

BrooklynBurning_C

Why it’s interesting:

Full disclosure, Steve is my neighbor and our kids play together. But this book is one of the best YA books I’ve read in years. The main character is gender neutral, which seems, on the surface, like it could be a stumbling block for the reader to really become attached, but that wasn’t my experience at all. From a reader perspective, I loved Kid and became completely immersed in the story. From a writer perspective, this was one of those books that I finished and went “Holy crap. How’d he do that?” I’ll definitely read it again.

The blurb:

When you’re sixteen and no one understands who you are, sometimes the only choice left is to run. If you’re lucky, you find a place that accepts you, no questions asked. And if you’re really lucky, that place has a drum set, a place to practice, and a place to sleep. For Kid, the streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are that place. Over the course of two scorching summers, Kid falls hopelessly in love and then loses nearly everything and everyone worth caring about. But as summer draws to a close, Kid finally finds someone who can last beyond the sunset.

Have you ever read a book with a gender neutral (or gender fluid) main character? Did it make you change the way you think? What are you reading right now?

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

I am writing this with the caveat that, while I technically have a minor in Biblical Studies from the time I spent at a Christian College, it wasn’t on my diploma when I graduated. I spent a lot of time leading Bible studies and doing small group sermons once upon a time. I don’t do that anymore.

The church I attend, Jacobs Well, has this really doable Bible study program called SOAP. I started SOAPing this summer, stopped, and recently started again. SOAP stands for Select, Observe, Apply, and Pray. Yesterday’s reading was Acts 2:1-14.

Before I say this, let me just preface (once more) with: I understand that you shouldn’t take any section of the Bible completely out of context. I don’t feel like I’m doing that here, as I have studied the Bible extensively, and while I’m going to talk about a specific passage, I’m not disregarding the rest of the Bible in any way, shape, or form.

The verse I selected was:

“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”

This was my observation: Do our churches speak in a language people can understand these days?

I’m going to say, in general, no. We don’t. The King James English isn’t often used anymore, and the words may be words everyone knows, but they’re so often spoken in a way that’s completely un-relatable for people who don’t already follow Jesus. The flip side is, when we do use relatable language, it’s not often done to describe God’s mighty works.

Even though it’s not always our intention (sometimes I think it absolutely is) we, as Christians, like to use language that separates us from the world. Language like that isn’t welcoming new people to the church. When a service starts with Father God Jehovah, we exalt your might name. Descend your holy fire on us this morning. it may feel good for the faithful in the room, but how do you think it feels to the person who didn’t grow up in church? (I’ll tell you: to them, it feels, at best, weird, at worst, like you’re crazy or scary. You want Jehovah’s witnesses to burn the church down?) That might be an extreme example, but I don’t think it’s that far out in left field. I have visited A LOT of churches and something along those lines happens at the beginning of most Evangelical/Pentecostal services.

 

There’s a lot of ways to take this wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray out loud in church. We absolutely should. But maybe in a way that someone who hasn’t drank the Kool-Aid yet can maybe understand, and maybe even want to try at home.

I’m not saying if If flowery, formal language is how you connect with God, there’s no place for it. There is. You can pray that way privately, or with the small group of believers you meet with each week.

I’m just saying: maybe we need to think more about what our language sounds like to the ears of the listeners rather than to our own ears.

The apostles didn’t continue to speak their own languages and get mad when the Jews didn’t understand what they were saying. God gave them the ability to speak in the language of the people they were trying to speak to, to describe His mighty works in language they would understand. I think he’s given us that ability to. We just need to use it.

The Genius Bar Made Me Cry

Today, for the second time ever, I got bad service at Apple’s Genius Bar. And, for the second time, I cried about it.

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t cry easily. I’ve been treated poorly by customer service people before, and I never cry about it. But I’m batting 1000 with the Apple Store. A bad experience = tears.

So now I’m thinking about how I respond to customer service. Why do I react so strongly to Apple? Is it because I have such high standards for the Apple Store that it’s harder to stomach when it’s not good?  Have I grown so used to being treated badly other places that it just doesn’t bother me as much?

I think it’s a bit of both, and it’s sad. Both that I hold the Apple Store to such high standards (seriously, people mess up. It sucks, but tears? Come on!) but also that I have such low standards in other situations that this would have urked me, but I wouldn’t have been that mad about it.

In case you’re not familiar, the Genius Bar is really not a bar at all anymore, but a group of Apple employees that are there simply to help you with your products. They trouble shoot, do little maintenance things, and handhold. All for the low low price of nothing. Zilch. Even if your machine is out of warranty and four years old (in computer years, that’s like 150) they’ll help you out. Even if you’re still rocking the original iPod. If it can be fixed, they’ll do their darnedest to make it happen.

Except when they don’t.

The first time I cried at the Genius Bar was in Nashville. Austin was two weeks old (he’d spent the first week in the NICU, so he’d only been home for a week) and I had to start working again. Remotely, but still, I had to be available to serve my clients. And the monitor of my Macbook laptop had died for the second time. The computer was still under warranty. When the screen died the first time they told me if it happened again the computer would need to be replaced. That day, though, I was told the computer needed to be sent in for repair that could take up to two weeks.

The man went in the back, I put my head down on the counter and cried. (To be fair, it was mostly because I was exhausted and stressed about going back to work, and not so much about the computer.) When he saw me, he said, “Be right back” and came back with a new machine that he kindly swapped out. It was kind of like crying to get out of a ticket, except I didn’t do it on purpose, I was just genuinely sad.

Today it was much less dramatic. Last week I took my computer to the Genius Bar because it was shutting itself off (super fun) and the only solution was to wipe it. Rather than being able to restore from a backup, I had to manually rebuild it because there was no way to tell what program had been causing the problems. Then I could pull the few things I needed (Microsoft Office and My Documents) from my backup disk. Except today, when I plugged in my backup disk, it wouldn’t let me pull anything, so I made an appointment and headed to the store.

I’m not going to go into everything that happened, because, honestly, it’s boring and doesn’t matter. The gist is, they were short handed, someone who didn’t know what he was doing told me to do something (and, because I was at The Genius Bar, I listened) and it caused my computer to be wiped clean again. So now I’m looking forward to an evening of re-setting up my computer from scratch, again. (There’s no backup of the new system because I was afraid to overwrite old backups.) I don’t think the person that “helped” me was purposefully rude or condescending, but he was. He was the keeper of the schedule, and he had the actual Geniuses skip me. He told me, in so many words, to suck it up and re-buy Office because “it’s not that expensive.” And through it all, he never once apologized.

I talked to the manager, but there’s really nothing that can be done. I don’t want the poor guy fired or anything. There’s no fee to be refunded, there’s nothing they can do to make the setup faster. I came home, and started working on setting up the new computer. Then something came up for work, and the idea of trying to find all my passwords and get into what I needed to  do was too much. I started crying.