I mean, is there any better feeling? I’ve got some useful websites for beginner writers and an online writing conference to share details about.
Just found this awesome app called the Hemmingway app: and it does exactly what you think it does – highlight text that is clunky or wordy or too confusing. Where has this been all my life? Only issue is that it isn’t integrated into the Word docs like Grammerly – you need to copy and paste into it if you’ve already got a word doc on the go. If you’re starting fresh have at it!
Thesaurus Online: I do have a hard copy thesaurus, a couple actually and of course there is google but this is online and free, and is giving me more reliable results faster. (Also I often write early in the morning so turning on a light might wake up the littles).
My boss at DIY MFA.com and champion of writers everywhere is offering an online summit of sci-fi and fantasy author panel – sign-up is free but only for the next few days. Interviews will drop Nov 30th and replays will be available for seven days after as long as you’ve registered.
Someone asked me recently what this blog was for. I thought I knew the answer to that until I was asked directly. This blog started as a way to communicate what I’ve been doing in Texas to my friends and family back home in Canada.
Time saver: I’m still doing yoga and hanging with my dogs and my kids:
The longer I have been here the farther away from that original impulse I’ve gotten. Plus – who does blogs anymore am I right?
If you run around putting out fires and handling ‘urgent’ issues you never have time for the important things. Like working out three times a week, like yoga or meditation or prayer. If you want a healthy, fulfilled life – you’ve got to plan for it.
Also, if you haven’t found Yoga with Adriene where have you been hiding? Free 20-30 minutes yoga sessions on Youtube. This 30 day yoga challenge will have you feeling back on top in no time. I’m currently doing my second round of this challenge and it’s made a big difference for me. (And Duke.)
Flu shots are good. I got mine last night and although I’ve heard the stats too (30% effective at times) if you do still get the flu – your body is like, oh, cool, no we’ve seen this it’s all good everyone, and you don’t get it as bad. Make sense. Flu shot = less severe illness or none at all. I had my kids watch me get mine so when they get theirs next week they’re not as anxious.
The fiction book I love right now:
The book of two ways by Jodi Picoult (Be prepared to laugh, then cry, then laugh again.) Quantum Mechanics, two plane crashes, a messy love story, an ancient Egyptian tomb? Sign me up please.
This episode on Brené Brown’s new podcast ‘Unlocking Us’ – who led me to my new favorite non-fiction book that is currently blowing my mind:
Did you know you can’t control your emotions. (Whaaaat? I’ve been stuffing those down or years, of course you can!)
No. You’ve been IGNORING them, but they are there, hanging out, waiting to be able to finish the cycle. For my children’s sake – I need to figure this stuff out, am I right? Adulting…if it were easy there would be no need for Amazon and ice cream.
So that’s my blog entry for today – hopefully some of this was useful to you.
Autumn, how I’ve missed you. Is there anything more lovely to look forward to after a brutally hot summer? The promise of cozy sweaters and cool sheets. The anticipation of sitting in front of a roaring fire (or a picture of one on your TV) with a book and a mug of hot (Irish) chocolate?
Autumn has historically been linked with the growing cycle – of ripeness, abundance, of gathering and storing food for the long, dark winter ahead. It has been a time of transformations both personal and environmental.
It is in this vein I would like to draw your attention from the blooming roses already dying on the vine, to the crisp leaves crunching under foot. It is a time to cast off what hasn’t been working for you, stride forward with what is, and become a new creature. Let’s do it together.
For me this new creature means establishing a consistent writing practice. It means paying attention to my body and what it needs, and to how I’m feeling, even when it isn’t pleasant. It also means taking a look at how I relate and interact with the world around me.
Shame and guilt have not been working for me, neither to motivate me to do better, nor to creatively discover new solutions to old problems. So, bye-bye.
Speaking of shame and guilt I have been wondering lately about the nature of redemption. (As one does while imagining sitting in front of a roaring fire or a picture of one on the TV.)
What transformation is possible without the soothing council of forgiveness? As many of you know, I have a PHD in ‘looking on the bright side.’ If you’ve hurt my feelings or betrayed my trust in some way, I’ve probably already found a way to forgive you for it. My thought has been, in general, humanity could use more second chances, some more ‘forgive and forget.’
I propose this is no longer working for me either. Although it is in my nature to forgive (who wants to be all bitter and useless?) I will no longer be forgetting.
My ability to obliterate past injuries is like my superpower. For the most part this has served me well, and I used to pride myself on being able to get along with anyone, anytime.
However, as I get older (holding steady at 34) there are times, and some relationships, where this has not served me. In fact, my good nature has caused me to be taken advantage of.
Sometimes I’ve been manipulated in small ways, someone borrowing money and not repaying, pretending to be my friend to get to someone else (usually a boy). There are times when it has cut much deeper, and I have been taken advantage of in the cruelest ways possible. And I owe it to myself, and my children, to role model a healthy way of dealing with these kinds of interactions.
The first step? Admitting I have a problem. The goal is to be honest with myself, and to be a better human and mom today, than I was yesterday. And that means not forgetting how bad that person made me feel. It means choosing my peace of mind over their feelings.
“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.”– John Burrows
Where is your focus today? To be honest, I have taken pride in my ability to multitask, multi-focus. I’m working two jobs while studying for a third. And writing my second fantasy novel. Oh, and I’m raising two toddlers. So…mountains are not being moved, needless to say. Unless you count the laundry, every two weeks in an all day marathon I have dubbed ‘Operation Clean Shorts.’
I’m not proud anymore, in fact, I’m pretty sure I have a problem. Life is lived in these small ‘bubble’ moments. The kind that take your breath away, like the birth of a child or when that child has a near-miss with a patch of concrete, or an alligator. And I don’t want to miss even one.
Wait – what? Did I just say Alligator? Yes, alligator. My husband wanted an adventure on Labor day. I voted to stay home in my pajamas and work on my novel but the kids wanted a family day, so off I trudged to drag on my hiking boots, throw in my water shoes, and google ‘how clean is Lake Livingston?’ Turns out, not very. And while alligator mating season has been over for two months, the responsible parent would do well do watch out for them, especially if you’ve got snack sized toddlers splashing in the murky water.
On the bright side, we all survived and I have this blog entry about it so…all in all not a total loss of a day. I did not move mountains on Monday, it’s true but I did re-plant the Jasmine bush that was root bound in an enormous, cracked clay pot.
If you’ve ever tried to dig a hole in Texas clay – I mean soil – you know how tough it is. It’s like digging a hole in wet cement. Slow. Going. But I was shoveling mud into a pail, and just when I’d stop for a break and groan about the measly half an inch I managed, I’d look over at the full bucket, amazed. I had dug a lot, it just didn’t LOOK like it. Every pail I filled gave me more motivation to keep doing, and faster than I’d ever done before, I had a nice wide place to plant my Jasmine. If that’s how you feel about your life – you are definitely not alone. I’m here working really hard and feeling like I’ve not budged an inch. Once I stop to keep track of the mud I’ve been slinging, it’s actually quite an impressive pile.
But – did I MOVE MOUNTAINS this week? No. I filled a bucket with mud. But maybe mountains are moved one bucket of mud at a time. Maybe if I can take Steven Jobs advice and focus, keep it simple, maybe those buckets can turn into mountains.
Also – happy grandparents day! Sept 13th everyone hug a grammie and grampie for us, okay? Miss you Nana and Papa!
Moonflowers, their large, soft white petals open only in response to the soft touch of moon glow. In the glaring heat of day they are closed up tight, locked away against the indignity of the harsh Texas sun.
There aren’t a lot of plants that flower at night – they’re a bit of an aberration. I suppose that’s why I love them. Feeling a bit like an aberration myself I like that nature herself appreciates a good weirdo too.
So this year has felt like one humongous aberration am I right? It’s felt too real, too fake, too horrible, too depressing, too dark. People are dying. I mean, people are always dying but now they’re dying more – and horribly – alone in hospital rooms with only nurses able to hold their hands. And we all, all of us, have this terrible burden of knowledge that we could have done more, as a country, to both prevent and mitigate these losses.
People are being oppressed and marginalized and pushed down. People are always being oppressed and marginalized and pushed down but now white people like me are going….Oh.No. This has been happening right under my nose. The whole time. THE WHOLE TIME I’ve been alive systematic racism has been happening globally but more harshly here in the USA. And it makes me feel scared. I’m scared when I encounter it, and I’m scared when I say something, and I’m scared when I write about it.
Fighting With A Hand Outstretched
I want to fight it. I want to fight ignorance and injustice while staying true to my natural positivity and assumption that people are, at their heart, good. All people. All Americans. All Canadians. All global citizens. All humans. At their heart, decent people only trying to do what they think is best for them and their children.
And then I remember moonflowers. Those aberrations whose flourish and purpose is by moon glow. When all seems darkest, they turn their faces to the moon and open.
There is strength, and beauty to be found in these dark times. I can see it in the young white kid in Alabama, the only one in his neighborhood who stood at the end of his street and held a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign and was threatened, and ridiculed, mocked and dismissed. On video. I refuse to pay attention to the worst of humanity showing the worst of itself and instead focus on this bright light of a kid who is shining despite the censure. I see it in the methodical outlining of the disparity of American incarceration rates in Michelle Alexander’s book ‘The New Jim Crow’.
I see it in our former first lady Michelle Obama whose authentic and generous sharing of her thoughts and feelings about this president and our current times has moved me to action.
I see it in the ‘Moms of Portland’ who are standing up to misguided private militia sanctioned by the president. In pink bike helmets and a fierceness only a woman would recognize.
I see it in every young black and person of color who refuses to let current circumstances diminish their fire and grit.
We’re living in a time when we’re told truth is not truth, when we’re lied to and pushed around and our fears are being capitalized on by a sociopathic mad man.
And yet…there is hope.
And still, if you look around, there are moonflowers out there blooming like fireworks on the darkest night of the year. These are the everyday people doing everyday things like delivering mail, making supper for their families, working two jobs so their kids can have a chance at a better life. They’re nurses like my friends Kirsten and Tina, they’re teachers like me and my friends Sarah and Natalie.
They’re the kids who say no to the negativity and despair pumping out of Washington right now like a sewer line that’s never been flushed.
They’re the people you and I know, who are refusing to be brought low, and are banking on ‘going high’ like it’s the last train to redemption. Because it might be.
For those who know me, you know I’ve got an honorary PH.D in Positivity. No matter what happens, even if initially I’m devastated or bummed or just ticked off, eventually I come around to the belief that I’m better off because of it. Maybe not richer, or younger, or cooler, but deeper, more compassionate.
And then the year 2020 fell on all of us like a kid who pooped in the public swimming pool. We’re all there trying to learn how to swim and have fun and now we all have to get out of the water and walk home wondering if we have poo particles in our hair. How far do the particles go when they’re in water?
So I’m here stuck at home again in Texas because we’ve got over almost 6,000 active cases of confirmed COVID19 in my county alone with 65 confirmed deaths and a whopping 138 new cases just yesterday.
It all came into perspective yesterday when my three year old wailed that he hadn’t been to the ball pit at IGI Playground in TWO DAYS! I was like…sweetie it’s been 5 months. It has been five months since my kids have seen the inside of an indoor play park, the mall, an outdoor concert, Target, or a StarBucks. We take them to the outdoor parks when it’s open, and we escaped to Rockport (6 active cases) beach a few weeks ago.
And you know what they’re doing right now? Playing tea party together. For some reason Benji is the dog, I’ll try not to read too much into that. The point is, they’re making the best of the situation. They’ve grown closer together, they never complain about missing crowds, and they’ve grown three inches. We have Netflix and clean water and lots of ice cream.
Despite all this, and I don’t want to come across as whiny but….I DO miss the crowds. I miss shopping in person without feeling embarrassed I’m risking my life to buy those cool new stripped socks I saw from the window. I had to cancel a trip home this summer. I just miss people being happy, too, I think. People are scared. And the angry anti-mask people are the most scared of us all.
I don’t need to get political. That’s what a facebook rant is all about, am I right? (You know I love you!)
Point is – we’re all feeling that big, heavy poo in the middle of our really clean pool. And taking the turd out of the pool in November is only the first step. We need to clean the water, too, before we can jump back in.
That means taking a good, hard look at ourselves. Are we actively searching out ways to be a better ancestor? Are we detoxing ourselves from the turd-particulates? What are we doing to keep ourselves coping in a healthy way? Do you even know when you’re off balance? (Hint – taking a pic of the license plate of the rude person who gunned their engine and roared around you dangerously to cut in front of you in line at the Starbucks drivethru and then posting it on Instagram is funny and feels good in the moment, but also probably a sign you need to do some anti-stress work.) Yes. I am talking about me. What? You thought I was perfect? Come-on, Man! We’re all human.
Look, there’s a turd in the pool right now but it doesn’t mean we can’t clean it up, be that neighbor and friend we’ve always wanted to be, and make the world a better place. As Peter Jackson said in ‘The Hobbit’ – Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found it is the small things. Everyday deeds from ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.
My only advice on this would be, don’t wait around for someone else to clean up their corner of the pool. We all have to pitch in. In that spirit, I will remove the Instagram post. I will try to be better tomorrow than I was today. If we all did that – it’d be a really cool world to live in.
Vacationing during a global pandemic is not for the faint of heart. Having said that, I am aware how very lucky I am to still have a job, and have the financial resources to have a little get-away. These are blessings I do not take for granted.
Now – onto the tonnage of Nervous Nancy and Judging Judy’s rumbling down on me for traveling during a pandemic, let me explain.
First – and I can’t stress this enough – this is not going away people. The 1918 Flu lasted three years. Do I think we’ll have a vaccine ready and available widely enough to make a difference? All signs point to…maybe…probably eventually, possibly by next summer.
Second – we had over 4,800 people with COVID19 in my county alone. the day before we left. Where we booked a little weekend getaway? Four at the time we planned it – six by the time we got there three weeks later.
If anything, they shouldn’t have let us come. All I can say is, we were respectful of the opportunity to get away and followed all the requirements asked of us by our hosts. It was the very least we can do. Stop The Spread, eh?
So – How We Managed It:
We planned it around the kids natural ‘down-time’ in the early afternoon and Benji slept most of the way. We ended up having to stop once for potty but it was close enough to our journey’s end I felt comfortable there weren’t too many cases around. Still, the kids wore masks in and they weren’t allowed to go touching chip bags and fondling the stuffy/tourist item racks like they normally do. In. Out.
When we first arrived we sanitized with a lysol spray sanitizer and as per hotel requirements, we didn’t have housekeeping in the room changing beds and cleaning while we were here. If we needed new towels or sheets we’d leave the old ones outside the room and let them know. All staff wore masks.
We wore masks (even my three and six year old) inside the hotel and in public areas. You may be wondering what kind of crazy overprotective mom does that to a kid – well, me.
They’re home-made with fun designs and not only do they not mind wearing them they often forget to take them off. If they were fighting me on it, that would be another story so no judgement, none at all, if you can’t get your 4 year old to keep one on! This be a judgement free zone here people! Unless you’re an adult and you’re not wearing the mask – RUDE. Rude play my friends. Just put it on. Unless you forget it, I’ll try to remember this is a judgement free zone.
In any case, we took them off in the room. I carried hand sanitizer wherever we went and we washed our hands when we got back to the room.
We alternated our eating and swim times for when there would be less people. Luckily our two young children wake up at the crack of dawn so we were down at the pool at 9:01am when it opened. We had the pool to ourselves for a good three hours before anyone else showed up. And then we left.
We were able to plan our weekend getaway to extend over a ‘work-day’ and went to the beach on Monday morning, avoiding the weekend crowds and again as soon as they opened. We spent the morning frolicking in the ocean, totally alone until around 11am when people starting coming. Once our 10-15 foot bubble was broken we left – quite happily as it was almost 2pm and we’d been there since 9am.
What about restaurants, you may ask? Most were take-out or eat outside (which was lovely as we were on the beach). The ones that were eat-in we made a judgement call – if we couldn’t eat outside or if there were more than three other couples we left and found a restaurant with less people.
If it sounds like a lot of work…it wasn’t. We behaved the same way there (even though there are far less cases of COVID19) as we did back home. If we needed an HEB run, one of us would go and one of us would stay with the kids so we didn’t have to bring them in with us. Having two parents during a pandemic is another blessing I am acutely aware of. Don’t judge moms in the HEB with kids people – she may have no one to leave them with.
To sum up – wearing a mask didn’t impede my joy or diminish my freedom – it allowed me to do what I want while still being respectful of others. I could have COVID19 and have no symptoms – and I don’t want to risk getting an elderly person sick or potentially ending up in an ICU alone. I don’t need that on my conscience thank you!
In any case, there are a few simple things I can do while I live my life as (mostly) normally as I always do. Wear a Mask. Wash my Hands. Wind Down At Home. (Unless you’re on vacation, then Wind Down In Your Room By The Beach).
Once we got back – we notified friends and family where we’d been and left it up to them if they wanted to stay away from us for 14 days to be safe. Some did, some didn’t, but they all appreciated the heads up. It just comes down to respect for others.
Really lastly – I feel like we all just need to get comfortable with the changes this pandemic has brought us – it isn’t permanent and it’s the smart thing to do. Life is not the same right now. And that’s okay – we count our blessings and like Dory says ‘…just keep swimming, just keep swimming…’
Next time let’s talk about school re-openings – that should be fun, right?
I’ll start with a quote I like from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Your goodness must have some edge to it. Else it is none.”
There are times to speak and times to stay still. I haven’t said much publicly, at least not here, about the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd in particular. Both because there are smarter, better, (black) voices we need to be listening to first. And still. And always. As a white person the only reason to take up the limelight here is to shine it on the people who are struggling and hurting right now.
I have also been waiting for my outrage and hurt to harden into resolve. I’ve been waiting for this hot mess inside my heart to sharpen into a will I can use to carve out practical, concrete steps to ensure this kind of thing never happens again on my watch.
All mothers, everywhere, you have been called. When George Floyd begged for his mama because he couldn’t breathe…my heart, your heart, broke. Every motherin the world needs to answer that call. It is time. We have stood by in neutrality because we’re raised polite. We’re raised to assume everyone has an opinion they are allowed to shout at the rooftops while we bend over backward to soften the edges and quiet down the controversy.
Our job is to make sure no more non-white boys and girls need to be scared they’re going to be the next one to be murdered in public. If that feels strong to you, it should. This is a problem that has gone on for hundreds of years. It isn’t okay. It’s never been okay, and it needs to stop. https://time.com/5851855/systemic-racism-america/
Here are the concrete ways we can stop this:
Move Money – We don’t need to call a police officer carrying a gun for a homeless man outside a Wendy’s, or a person who may or may not have known he was carrying a counterfeit $20 bill. We don’t need to pay police less – we need less police crack down on minor crimes. No one deserves to die for a broken headlight, vagrancy, or ‘attitude’. There are social programs who can deal with mental health, vagrancy, and other minor, non violent crimes. If we can find the money to fund them properly.
As an aside – I’ve seen a police car exactly once in my neighborhood in the 5 years I’ve lived here – and you know when that was? When we had a door-to-door (black) man selling books for his university. The police car pulled up to my driveway and he called from the car ‘You Okay Ma’am?’ Yes. Please carry on. And what were you saying about white privilege my friends? FYI it doesn’t mean you were born rich – it means you were born white.
Black neighborhoods are disproportionally over policed while their social and community programs are gutted in congress and fail for lack of support and funding.
Move Legislation – There are way smarter people than me talking about how we can make lasting changes to the laws in our land. From barring choke holds to reducing prison sentences for minor crimes to introducing rehabilitation programs to giving the Fair Housing and Equal Credit laws upgrades.
The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander) Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.
Lastly – we may not ever be able to convince the Karen’s of the world that black and people of color’s lives matter but we can confront our own inherent racism. Once you accept you are a part of a system of oppression that has hurt millions of people, only then you can start to make things better for everyone. This isn’t just a Black Lives Matter movement – this is a Human Rights Movement and until all of our children are safe, none of our children are safe.
Really lastly but certainly not least, we can speak up when we see racisim in others. Because avoiding a confrontation over race and racism? Yeah – we’re not doing that anymore.
Ah…Morning Glories. They really ARE glorious, aren’t they? I’m kind of in love with them. There has been a resurgence of heirloom varieties of flower and plants, and with it, some new problems.
Apparently there have been issues with teenagers getting high on the seeds. I KNOW. Teenagers, is there anything you won’t do to kill those brain cells your mama worked so hard to grow? Inside the seeds there are high levels of lysergic acid amide (LSA), an ingredient in the seeds that is similar chemically to LSD.
Who knew my beautiful morning glories propagate by shedding their little felony-class seeds all over the place?
I love heirloom flowers. I mean, I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t like I was walking around one day and was like…daisies? BAH. Fugetaboutit. I want me some HEIRLOOM flowers. None of this pansy new-pansies for this lady.
No. That’s crazy talk. And everyone who knows me knows I don’t follow trends, or even notice them, although that doesn’t mean I’m not affected by these trends. I’m sure because of other people being all ‘with it’ in the gardening world my local store starting stocking them. Did you know the Aztecs used them? The Chinese too, to the tune of about 3,000 years ago for their medicinal properties (laxative, not LSD although you never know).
I digress. I saw them on the packet and threw them in my cart. I didn’t even know if I could grow them. But I DID. And they come back, every year, and I can’t tell you how much THAT makes me happy. (Very. Very happy). You see, at heart I am a lazy gardener and anything that says…’you chill out Ange – I got this. We’ll see you next season and you don’t have to do a thing’ will always get my attention.
So, they are beautiful, they come back every year without me lifting a finger, and if I ever need to test my man-hood with an LCD inspired dream journey, I’m set! (I’m kidding, please don’t do this). Also, I’m not a man so there’s no need to test things.
In any case, that’s all folks, my little interlude, have a good weekend, eh? And don’t be eating those morning glory seeds…
So, everything quit on my this week. My phone is buggy, this new website is giving me trouble (did I lose all my old posts? Noooooooo!) And Corona-life is past ‘fraying at the edges’ and is full-on crises. But a slow crises. Slow-drip crazy is happening globally and the worst part is, we have no idea when things will start to get better. My usual, customary, no-fail optimism is at critical breaking point. I know. It’s an issue.
So, tears in my tea this morning. Tears of frustration from Benji (we weathered another epic tantrum the cause if which I am still not sure of). Even the SKY is crying today. At one point during the tantrum Benji was screaming, Ellie was crying/screaming, Bill was arguing with me about the best way to handle it, and the DOGS were yowling.
So what do you do when everyone around you has completely lost their mind, and nothing is working the way it is supposed to? (Also, it’s way too loud and you haven’t had your coffee yet?)
The crazier it feels, the deeper you have to go to find that calm and strength inside you. And if you can’t find the calm (and you can’t even find the coffee!) take a time-out. Remove yourself from the situation until you can get a grip on your own emotions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and as long as (if its a baby) they’re in the crib or a safe place, it’s better to go take a couple deep breaths, get a handle on your own emotions, then you can jump back into the fray a calmer, more level-headed person.
Times are stressful people, for everyone. Some people are dealing with tragedies the likes of which I think will only start to come out as the months and years go by.
Have compassion for yourself. When you feel like your emotional stock-piles are getting pulled on, make sure you put some back in. And you do that by taking care of yourself. Go watch a kitten video, cuddle your dog, and for goodness sakes go get some coffee!
“It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed. Doe Zantamata