Archive for November, 2009

One of the carrots I dangled in front of myself during NaNoWriMo–besides the warm-fuzzy of self-discipline and focus–was that when I was done I could dive into Susan WiggsLakeshore Christmas on my Kindle. Her books are always my go-to reading when I either need complete escape or total reward. I figured that after the November I had I’d need both. So I actually bought the book weeks ago and watched it taunt and tease me all month.

Then today, surfing the web in the joy of having finished at last I saw this:

It seems that even Amazon was in on my master plan, pushing me to make my goal.

I’d be a little creeped out if I weren’t so highly amused.

(Yes, my ego is officially out of bounds.)

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This is a blog post I should not be writing, but my brain needs to take a break.

I have really had less than no patience with this whole War On Christmas business for the last couple of years. Over on Facebook I have gotten a slap dozen requests asking me to join this or that Keep Christ In Christmas group. Like a Facebook group can dictate the comings and goings of Christ.

The whole thing has seemed to me to be yet another pool table situation where some folks are manufacturing outrage to sell books.

But then tonight I sat down to watch a movie on OnDemand with my fellows. While we were flipping through the offerings in search of something watchable (seriously, Cable, can’t you do better with the selection?) the nattering heads in the upper right hand corner were going on about the Holiday Movies on offer. And it suddenly struck me.

It would be nice to hear someone say “Christmas” once in awhile. Of course the movies themselves had “Christmas” in the title in many cases. But the wrap-around patter was all about Holidays. I know the writers are really just trying to be all-inclusive, and I do like the notion of this time of year being so festive that we acknowledge there are several holidays going on. I just wouldn’t mind if I could see signs in stores that actually said what the Holidays were. You know–“Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Good Kwanza”, that kind of thing.

And then there’s that GAP commercial, which is another story altogether. I didn’t realise until just now when I searched for a link that other people were ticked off about it, too. That’s what I get for having TiVo and not actually seeing the commercial until today.

It’s just rude. Downright smack-an-old-lady-in-the-face, kick-your-son-in-the-junk RUDE.

As a libertarian I actually get behind the basic message behind it, which is that everyone keeps the holidays in his own way, whether you’re Ebenezer, Fred or observing another holiday altogether.

But to many people–granted not all, but many–those holidays are sacred times. Regardless of its origins as a pagan festival, Christmas has become one of the most precious times in the life cycle of a Christian. It is when we acknowledge the awesome light and humbling humility of God’s sacrifice in the attempt to reclaim the soul of man.

The Gap Ad seemed to shout at me from the TV “Get out of here with your Christmas. It isn’t special. It isn’t anything. We don’t care about it any more than we care about plastic trees.”

The writers may not have meant that, but it’s hard to not have a visceral reaction when a bunch of people in clashy clothes are yelling “Go, Christmas” at you. They can claim it’s a version of “yay, Christmas” but to me it sounds an awful lot like “Christmas, Begone.”

Especially since the rest of the commercial talks about 86ing the rules and doing what you feel. Now don’t get me wrong. If you don’t want to be a Christian, then don’t. It’s your business. But Christianity is not about “doing what feels right” and “86ing the rules.” It’s really a slap in the face to talk about celebrating the birth of the man who said “turn the other cheek” by downtalking the essence of that message.

It’s kind of like bringing a ham to Hannukah or celebrating Kwanza with a mock slave auction.

And I’ve now written 577 words of this, which really should have been in my novel. I have 24 hours left. Why am I wasting it on Gap commercials?

UPDATE: We were talking about it in the comments. So I figured I’d put it here. I still think it’s a joke. It has to be. They can’t be serious. Can they?

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If I had to list my worst traits, right at the top of that long recounting you would see “poor self-discipline.”

When I was a kid I was the sort of nerdy awful child who got As in school without trying. Until about sixth grade, when I started to hit classes that required the dreaded Self-Discipline skill. My mother maintains that since I never needed to learn how to study when I was small I never grew that muscle. She’s probably right.

My inability to “buckle down” has haunted me for most of my adult life. Half-finished knitting projects, crochet projects and letters to my mother-in-law litter this house. I won’t even tell you how many half-finished blog posts are in my Saved Drafts folder on the WordPress server.

But I’m working on it. I’m working on being better at following through on things. That’s why I committed to National Novel Writing Month this year, and that’s why I am bound and determined that I WILL finish my fifty thousand words by 11:59pm on 11/30/09. For me, making that goal is something like an alcoholic achieving thirty days sobriety. It’s a testament to overcoming the worst in myself.

It’s very easy for me to come up with excuses. I’ve got many good ones. Just this month alone I was in the hospital twice, at the doctor’s once, bedridden for nine days and barely able to move for many additional days beyond that. Plus there was a big holiday in there somewhere.

But I keep seeing other writers–published ones, who make money from it–talking about how there is no good time to write. But you have to write anyway. And any idiot knows that the only books which get published* are the ones that are finished.

I am never going to finish if I don’t stop making excuses. I am not going to let my illness control me; it already dictates too many parameters as is.

So all of this to say I have two more days to write just over nine thousand words. And if there is one thing my lack of self-discipline and college taught me it is that I excel at cramming.

I will get this done.

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It’s technically Thanksgiving when I write this, but I don’t want anyone to stumble on here and get mad at me for posting such self-serving weirdness (different from every other day how?) on the holiday, so I’m post-dating it.

After the fiasco with Rapunzel’s off-putting photo from the other day I’m not posting any of the pictures I took.

But I happened to have my iPhone with me so I did take pictures for my doctor.

Of my foot, swollen from the arthritis and spasming so bad from the pain that it was twisted at a 90+degree angle from leg. All the toes were collapsed against each other.

It’s the first time in awhile that anything with my disease has freaked me out. And it did freak me out. And hurt like a son of a bitch. A son of a bitch on crack.

I actually took the pictures because I was honestly thinking to myself in the midst of all of it…”Wow. I didn’t know feet could do that if they didn’t work for a circus.” But yes, yes they can. Oh, and I really need a pedicure.

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I’ve been ripping on book trailers lately. Because they’re odd. Really.

But this? This is a thing of unparalleled beauty.

Check it out.

Hat Tip: Gizmodo by way of my quasi-anonymous-on-the-web spouse.

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As I said on Twitter, I do my best thinking in the shower. But I usually take baths. Anyway, today I was in the shower and I was mulling over the one verse in the Bible that always gives me trouble when it comes to Calvinism. If you wanna read more, jump on in. If not, well, who can blame you? (more…)

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Since I’m three thousand words behind on NaNo, this is going to be a quick post.

I was going to write the standard ‘things I’m thankful for’ post, but in all reality if I started to list the things for which I am thankful it would be like that one television commercial where they guy is trying to tell a girl everything on his mp3 player and takes the rest of their shared lives to do it.

I’m thankful for the good things, because they’re, well, good. It’s nice to have good things happen. Good things around. Good people and good food.

I’m thankful for the bad things. Bad things and bad experiences end up teaching me more about myself and how to best go about this business of living in the world. If there were no bad things I would not have to reach deeper within my self or farther outside my comfort zone to overcome the obstacles.

I’m thankful for all of the people I’ve come in contact with. I can’t honestly separate those into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. The older I get the more obvious it is that everyone does some good things and some bad things. I think that most people want to do good and generally only do bad out of misunderstanding or preoccupation or an inner struggle of their own that acts as a roadblock in how they treat other people. And the very few people I’ve met (I can count them on one hand) who are genuinely awful through and through make me realise that sadness and meanspiritedness and smallness are the worst things that can happen to a person. I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to have those people cross my path as a cautionary tale. I’m also thankful there were so few of them. I’m thankful for how their meanness has held a mirror up to the meanness within me, teaching me to root it out while it’s small so that I don’t become that source of pain to someone else.

I’m thankful for all the people who’ve had to put up with my bad days and snappiness and rudeness and arrogance and cruelty. None of them have killed me, although I suppose I might have given them good cause.

I’m thankful for all the people who are open about their own lives and struggles. They serve as touchstones for the journey. Reminders that I’m not the only one who gets sick or frustrated. I’m not the only one who doesn’t always have it all figured out.

I’m thankful for the people who, for whatever reason take time out of their lives to join with my life by reading what I write. Time is the most precious gift we have. The fact that anyone would spend some of their most valuable commodity on consuming my thoughts is awe-inducing and very humbling.

I’m thankful for you.

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Ooooh, Shiny!

1. I called and reported the nurse. Now every time I go back I’m gonna get roundly abused. Oh well.

2. Yes, I’m supposed to be writing. And while this is writing, it’s not Writing writing. Eh.

3. Meet my lovely pet Rapunzel. (warning: She’s a spider) (more…)

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1. Jonathan Safron Foer can kiss my meat-fed butt. But I will give him credit for ONE thing. He has been able to artfully combine TWO types of people that make me wish I could still pull a trigger with ease. You know that post I just wrote about demystifying The Book? Well, JSF is one of these authors who never did that. It seems that he has become one of these writers who thinks he is The Hot S–t for getting books published. Even though his books have the second-ugliest jacket design in the world. (Sorry, Michael Chabon. You take first place, buddy.) So not only is he all “Ah’m Uh WRYYYYTER” arrogant, he’s now bringing that special brand of arrogance to veganism.

See, I don’t mind if you want to be vegetarian. Or vegan. That’s cool. However you want to live your life, as long as it doesn’t harm me or mine, is your business. But when you start in with yelling at me for my choices you become as misguided, annoying and controversial as the people who stand outside abortion clinics with giant pictures of disgustingness. You are, in fact, the same people. So if you wanna eat ‘nothing that has a face’, go right ahead. But if you persist in telling me about it you may be able to eat yourself because I will most likely rip your face off.

2. There is no way on this planet–no matter how hot Viggo was in G.I. Jane–that I will see The Road. I’m not gonna read it either. I collect and love post-apocalyptic literature ::waves at The Stand:: but the key to good post-apocalyptica is that you not be a total downer. PA fiction is about rediscovering yourself in a new landscape. The self you rediscover is not supposed to need Prozac.

It is ridiculous that they are trying to sell this movie to Christians. That right there should tell you how much it sucks. Because ever since Gibson’s movie the church is the go-to crowd for movies that are less than great. I had to laugh when EW wrote an article about it a couple of weeks ago. The marketing ‘genius’ who came up with this idea said that this was a lock because of “[how many times] the Bible deals with the apocalypse.” Uh…three. And that’s counting the couple of verses in (if I recall correctly) Matthew. It’s not like all sixty-six books of the Protestant/Anabaptist Canon are rife with the End of the World.

It makes me want to find Jenkins and LaHaye and throw them in a pit with Safron Foer to be Arroganced to death.

3. When I was in the hospital this weekend, my nurse diverted a half-syringe of morphine. Both my husband and I watched her do it. She injected the first half and then said “I’m going to wait a while before giving you the rest of this. I think patients are more comfortable if they don’t get it all right away.” She then pocketed the syringe and left the room. She never gave me the second half, which I had to have in order to have the work done I’d gone there for. So four hours later–when I was still in grave pain–the doctor ordered a full second dose of morphine. She gave me all of it that time, because I think she realised I needed the full thing and she couldn’t get away with it. Sad to say, I’m not opiate-naive so I can’t get my pain squelched on a half-dose. I’m debating about whether or not I should report it to her superiors. It’s the holidays. And of all the things that go wrong in this world I don’t know if one nurse diverting half a syringe of morphine constitutes the end of the world.

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If there’s one thing this month has taught me, it’s that I’ve spent too much of my life idolizing books. Not in the “Oh, I really like books” way, but in the “books are EVERYTHING to me” way that is the road to danger.

Not only does the idolising of books really screw up my priorities, it has really screwed me up as a writer. Instead of seeing a book as an enjoyable commodity like a pizza or a movie or a massage I have viewed them as a sort of paragon of becoming.

And so I’ve never been able to finish writing one. I have started more really poor and really mediocre novels over the last 20 years than they sell on the racks at Kroger. I’ve even started two or three very good ones. None of them are finished. Because I can’t bring myself to that natural next step of having my stuff turned into AN ACTUAL BOOK.

Now, I know this sounds arrogant. As though all it will take for me to get a book published is to finish writing one. I know for sure that’s not the case. But I do also know without a doubt that no unfinished book of mine is going to get published. I’m not Dead Charles Dickens, Dead Michael Crichton or Dead And Fake Carolyn Keene.

That’s what NaNoWriMo has done for me. It’s shown me that novels get written one day at a time. But they do get written if you keep at it day after day. And they are not mystical unicorns impossible to seize. I’m starting to view writing fiction in the same way I’ve come to view writing my blog. Some days will have great output, some days won’t have any. Some things I say may really engage one, two or five or a thousand people. Some things may fall flat. But they’re really just words. And like making dinner or making love, it is what it is. Great or awkward, steamy or burned, it’s never a total loss. And there’s always next time. All you have to do is keep showing up.

And practice.

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