Writing 101, Day Nineteen

Day 19, freewrite 400 words

Well, that’s not hard.  I am famous for not being able to shut up, not having a problem starting.

So, let’s see.  Right now I’m sitting at my awesome desk, with my daughter’s rats on my shoulder.  She’s cleaning their cage, and needed sitting.  I guess this will be funny in like twenty years when I’m babysitting for her.

It’s the same desk in the picture of my rough draft.  Man, I’m still proud about that.  Took me so long to finish Starting Chains, when the rough draft of the first book took no longer than six weeks.

To be fair, nothing was going right or going on when I wrote Patterns.  Starting Chains was written after PBW was in full swing, and I had a bunch of other story telling opportunities in the making.  Looking back, I think I’m going to shut everything else down when I write the rough draft of the next book.  Maybe write all my articles for a month in advance, and work just on the draft.  Really pour ever bit of my creative energy on that one project for just as long as it takes.

Maybe.  As much as I’d like to think my brain works that way, I’d probably get bored.  No matter how many projects I have in motion, I always want to do something new.  I’ve got a ton going on, now I want to take a day off to learn about ways to boost my twitter following.  I have so many plans, so many ideas, that I can’t ever really focus on one long enough.

Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve managed to write two books in the same series already.  Except for the fact that it’s the series that saved me.

In September of 2013, something really bad happened to my family.  I’d made an outline for Broken Patterns, and made maybe a token effort at writing it.  Then, my whole world flipped over.  Nothing was going right in my life, and it all got worse for the next few months.  The only thing that was going right, that made me feel in control, was my writing.  I finished the last 500 pages in two weeks.  As we went through a nightmare that included my husband nearly dying, a horrible custody fight, and a less than congenial parting of the ways with my old day job, my writing was my escape.  My safety net after days and days of tears and torture.

Writing 101, Day 15

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

So, this is ironic, because there’s a chance that’s actually going to happen this year in my town.

My favorite season is fall.  I know, that’s not a normal season to be someone’s favorite, but it’s mine.  I love all things pumpkin flavored, Halloween is my favorite holiday, fall leaves are beautiful here in Western PA, cinnamon is my favorite thing ever, and I really don’t like to shave my legs.

There’s this great fall festival in town, and we look forward to it every year.  There are games, and carny food, and live bands.  My kids get their faces painted, and their hair colored.  We make sand art, and play awful games.  We also take the opportunity to donate to some of our favorite local charities, like VOICE, and our local chapter of GLAD.

One big part of the Fall Festival that lots of people like but I think is rather boring is the car show.  There are actually two other car shoes downtown every year, Cruisaplouza and the Jeep festival.  Did you know that the Jeep was invented in Butler?  People come from all over America for the event every year, if you can believe that.

The problem is, the fall festival isn’t being as well funded as we might like.  In fact, we’re being told that this might be the very last year for it.  My older daughter and I have been going for the past ten years, and my whole family for five.  Last year my daughter wouldn’t let us paint her face, and she was flirting with some boy on the bungee jump.  I’m literally gauging them growing up by the pictures I take of them every year.  I honestly don’t know what we’ll do if this is the last year.

Writing 101, day 14

Today’s Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.

The closest book to me was Zen Inspirations.  The first word I saw on page 29 was kind.

Dear Dr. Sanders,

I have tried to be kind, at least as much as I could have been in this situation.  Really, I have.  It’s not always been easy, but I have tried.

You, sadly, have not returned this kindness, have you now?  In the months that I have wasted, seeking a peaceful resolution to this sad situation, you have been anything but kind.  I have tried to send you letters, which you’ve returned unopened.  I call, and you’re receptionist says that you are too busy to come to the phone.  Surely, she will call you back, he informed me over and over.  But do you?  No, you do not.  Surely it wouldn’t take more than a moment for you to call, and set my mind at ease over this whole situation.  This messy, awful situation that you, Madam, started.

I was finally forced to come to your offices myself, and speak with you.  Again, though, I was told that you were too busy to spare a moment for me.  Me, who you have so terribly wronged.  You couldn’t come speak to me.  I waited, in the office.  I was patient.  I didn’t make a scene, nore did I do anything to earn the looks of discomfort that I received from your staff.  Even so, you didn’t come out to speak to me.  I know that you think I didn’t see you sneaking out the back door to avoid me.  But I saw you.  Oh yes, I saw you.

So now, I’m afraid I have come to the end of my kindness.  If you will not speak to me to resolve this injustice, if you will not give me back what is rightfully mine, then I will have to take it by force.  I will be in your office Monday morning, Doctor, and if you do not put my reproductive organs back where they were, I will be forced to mark the entire office as my personal territory.  As I’m sure you know, it’s a very hard thing to remove cat urine smell.  Consider your next move wisely.

Sincerely,

Socks.

Writing 101, Day 13

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

So, I’m supposed to relate this post to the one in which I lost something, which can be found here.

Alright, I lost that very important box of things the day that my husband and I moved into that crappy little apartment.  Except that was before we were married.  So then he was just my boyfriend, and we were moving in together on a strictly temporary basis.  He was looking for a place for just him and our younger daughter, who was then just his daughter.  I just wanted out of this terrible apartment complex I’d been living in up until then.

There were obvious issues with my first apartment.  It was too small, the walls were so thin I could hear my neighbors shaving.  The landlady was a control freak that conducted inspections and threatened to evict people if their house wasn’t as clean as ‘she’ wanted it to be.  It was like living in a college dorm, with the housemother Hell kicked out for being too much of a bitch to the sinners.

It was also not an apartment that I chose.  I moved out on my own within one month of turning eighteen.  I wanted to stay in my mom’s place for another year, because I had a three month old and another year of high school.  I wanted to have a job, and a way to support myself.  Instead, my mom walked me by the hand down to apply for welfare benefits, and get an apartment of my own in the HUD sponsored housing that we were already living in.  I was still with my evil ex at the time, and he even got a job for a month or two.  My mom offered to watch my older daughter while I was in school, (if I paid her).  I thought everything would work out fine, because ‘smarter people than me’ had told me what to do, and I had listened to them.

Nothing turned out right.  My ex’s job didn’t last, and I couldn’t handle going to school, and raising a baby, and keeping a home of my own with no forethought as to how that actually worked.  The people that had been so quick to tell me what I should do with my life were equally as quick to not help me at all once I’d listened to them.  So there I was, in an apartment I hated, with no income at all, holding a baby that depended on me for everything, when I didn’t have anyone to depend on at all.

Now we get to the part where I found something.  My strength, and my spine.  I got a job, a really crappy one.  I sorted trash, washed cars, washed dishes.  Eventually I got a job at a local health food store, which helped me get a job at GNC, where I rose to the rank of manager.  That let me get a better management job at a shoe store.  Along the way, I kicked my ex out, and met my current husband.  And, I started writing again, like I’d wanted to when I was a kid.

When we moved into that first apartment together, it was just supposed to be me and my older daughter.  We thought we weren’t ready to be a family yet.  We both wanted to make sure we were okay on our own before we committed to being okay as one family.

Well, that didn’t work.  We found that it was really nice having the other person there when we woke up.  We got a cat, Harper, the one from my picture last week.  There was a pregnancy scare that didn’t really scare us so bad, and was a real disappointment when we found out it wasn’t real.  The girls went from ‘your kid,’ and ‘my kid,’ to ‘our kids.’  I found my voice, my strength.  I spent a lot of time deciding what sort of woman I wanted to be.  Then, my family sort of built itself around that.

We moved again a few years after that.  This time, we picked the home together.  We’re still there.  Three bedrooms, a bathroom I fell in love with on sight.  This fluffy shag carpet that I hated until I took my shoes off and walked around on it barefoot.

I lost so much of my past in the last ten years.  Most of it’s better off gone, but not all of it.  What I’ve found instead, is my place in the greater scheme of things, and my family.

Writing 101, Day 12

Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.

So, I might have mentioned this before, but there’s not one, but two great little coffee shops on Main Street in my town.  One is this quaint little place that’s been there since forever.  The other’s very new, very posh, and serves Starbucks.  I love them both.

It was in the newer of the two that I seem to run into the best conversations, though.  It seems to be the meeting place of some different groups that are just fascinating to listen to.  Lawyers hang out there, and judges.  It’s just a block from the courthouse, you see.

A wonderful group of pastors also meet there once a week.  I love to got write while they’re there.

I’ve never had a very good opinion of organized faith, you see.  I’m a Christian, but anything that smacks of someone having authority over other people and saying it’s in the name of God makes my skin crawl.  I think it’s something about all the arguing over religious dogma, and the constant infighting that always seem to go with it.

But these pastors, they meet, and they talk shop.  They talk about writing their talks, and helping their congregation.  They put all differences aside, and talk to each other like brothers and sisters.  You know, the way we’re supposed to treat each other.

I sneezed once, and they all blessed me.  It was kind of cool.

Writing 101, Day 11

Today’s Prompt: Where did you live when you were 12 years old? Which town, city, and country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

Can I be honest?  I’m not totally sure I remember where we were living that year.  We moved around a lot when I was young, and by a lot I mean once or twice a year.  I realize now, as a grown woman, that my mom must have had some sort of good reason for this constant moving around.  Surely she wouldn’t have put me through the incessant packing, uprooting me from school after school, constantly leaving people places and sometimes pets behind without good reason.

But maybe she didn’t.  If there was ever a reason, she never shared it with me.

What resulted was a very fluid childhood, in which there were very few constants.  Except the town.  I was born in Connecticut, and we spent a year in North Carolina.  But the rest of my life, I’ve lived in Butler, Pennsylvania.

For someone who spent most of her childhood either packing or unpacking boxes, there’s a comfort in this.  I can see the hospital where my daughter was born from my bedroom window.  My first job is here, and so is my first good job.  People know me here.  Some people even like me here.  I take my kids to the coffee shop I used to stop at after school with my friends.  I walk down Main Street, where there’s still a Burger Hut that my mom used to work at.  We lived right above it, in this crappy little apartment.

We lived in a different crappy little apartment on Main Street when my mom managed a greek restaurant for her boyfriend, that’s now a chinese restaurant where I took my older daughter for her fourth birthday.  (After taking her to the Carnegie Science Center, of course.  No four year old wants to go to a chinese place for her birthday.)

I walk past the junior high I went to when I was twelve, every day on my way to work.  It’s across from the Catholic church my great grandmother attended.  The only time I was ever in it was for her funeral.

So, where was I living when I was twelve?  In Butler, and that’s all that really matters.

Writing 101, Day 10

Today’s Prompt: Tell us something about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

So, food.  There wasn’t a real celebration food in my house growing up.  My mom wasn’t a very good cook, and never wanted to be bothered with it, really.  I can’t really think of anything my grandmother made that was particularly memorable, either.

It’s my grandma June that I talk about the most when talking about food.

Grandma June was particular.  Near the end of her life she didn’t eat or drink anything but oranges and diet, caffeine free Pepsi out of a can with a straw.  But the whole time I had her in my life, she always had white tic tacs with her, wherever she was.

She had a little garden in the back yard, and she’d grow tomatoes.  Then she’d slice them, and make tomato sandwiches with mayonnaise, salt and pepper, on bakery bread.  She’d never buy pre-cut bread, my great grandma.  She always went to the bakery, and bought rye bread there.

Then, there was the stuffed cabbage she made.  It was the best thing ever, and she’d make it any time I was coming over to stay the night.  She’s also the one who taught me to make cookies from scratch, and not out of a box.

The best thing, the closest thing to a traditional seasonal meal, would have had to been her pork and sour krout, every New Years Eve.

But the thing I remember most is the tomatoes.  Even to this day, I can’t bite into a tomato without thinking of my Grandma June.

Writing 101 Day 8

Today’s Prompt: Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.

Ironically, I went somewhere today that is right out of my childhood memories, but I didn’t remember until my husband pointed it out.

Our kids don’t go to normal school, they attend cyber school.  This means they attend live classes online, in my living room.  This is great fun, because it means we get to chime in on all their lessons.  It also means that they have to go somewhere else to take there standardized tests, known here as the PSSA’s.

This year, they’re taking them at the local Days Inn.  It just so happened to be the same place I’d had my ROTC ball in high school.

Of course, I didn’t remember.  Of course he did.  And of course, since we’d both attended the ball, just at different times, we had to go see it.

There was a business fair today, but I could still see how it had looked that night.  I wore a gold gown, petite white gloves, and more make up than I had ever had before that day.  And I went with my best friend, instead of a guy.

There were chandeliers, and a terrible catered dinner.  But the best moment of the night?  I got a medal.

it was the first time I remember getting awarded for doing something.  We’d had a big national inspection a week before, and it was discovered that not all of our Class A uniforms had a required patch on their arm.  I came in early armed with thread and needles, ready to baste stitch as many of these jackets as humanly possible.  A few other cadets joined in, and we got it done.  I mean, some of them were sort of crooked, but damn it, they were there!

I got to walk up and get my medal, which I then got to wear on my class A uniforms every time we wore them.  Now, it wasn’t as cool as the cadet who had preformed cpr on a lady and kept her breathing until the ambulance got there.  No, that was way, way cooler.  But I got a medal for doing something I was good at, and volunteering.  It also set a precedent for the rest of my life.  I was a girl, in ROTC, and I sewed.  I was and am, exactly who I am, and my gender has not a thing to do with it.

All of that from walking into a ball room I hadn’t been in for over a decade.

Writing 101, Day 6

Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Wow, just one person?  No way, can’t do it.

See, here’s the thing.  I work in tech support and billing, which means I have the amazing opportunity to talk to brand new people all day long.  Here’s the thing, though, I never see any of them.  All I have is their voices, and their stories.  Oh, and let me tell you, the stories!

For some reason, people want to open up to someone when they’re stressed, and the tech chick on the other side of the phone is really non threatening.  So I get to hear all about what’s going on in their life today.

There was one woman, though, that stuck out in my mind.  After I fixed her tech problem we just talked for awhile, because she seemed like she needed someone to talk to.

Her husband had died a year before, but when he was alive they owned a Cesna, and she told me all about flying it all over America.  They’d started out working class, just like me and probably you.  But they’d invested so carefully and faithfully over the years, that they retired early and spent their retirement flying all over visiting their family.  She kept me on the phone for half an hour, and encouraged me to invest.  (I’m trying.)

People who are getting divorced, getting married, kids are about to leave for college, college kids just starting out on their own.  Every one of them has a story to tell, and sometimes they tell them to me.  And I love to listen.

I hear about the great new jobs, and I love that.  I had a gentleman call me to cancel his account with my company because he was moving into hospice, and it made me cry.  If you don’t know, hospice is the end of life portion of the hospital.  I talk to baby sitters who managed to break something, and moms who don’t know how to unhook the game system so they can watch their shows.

If you’re an aspiring writer, and you’ve got to have a day job, try to have one where you’ve got to handle people.  Because if you’re friendly, and ready to listen, you will hear more stories than you ever thought were there.

Writing 101- Day 4

Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

So, the loss that I’m going to talk about today might not seem like a very big one at first, but it’s honestly something that I am impacted by on almost a weekly bases, even though the loss of the actual thing occurred many years ago now.

My husband and I were moving into our very first apartment together.  My goodness, it was so small and crappy.  There were four rooms; two ‘bedrooms’ a bathroom the size of a closet, and a living room/kitchen area.  You had to walk through our daughters’ room to get to our bedroom, and you had to walk through both to get to the bathroom.  Did I mention it was small?

We didn’t care, though.  It was our first place together, we could afford it, and we could have a cat.

On moving day, there was this one box that I’d backed from my old living room.  I wanted everyone to be very careful with it, because it had my whole dvd collection.  Some of my regular readers will remember that I am a huge geek, so when I say dvd collection, I mean a huge collection. I mean all five seasons of Angel, Firefly, The Critic (most people haven’t even heard of the critic), the first three seasons of Psych, all the Charlie Brown Holiday specials, both Scary Godmother movies, first three seasons of Dexter and a limited edition version of Nightmare Before Christmas.

Like a fool, I wrote ‘DVDs’ on the side.  I wanted everyone to be careful with the box, you see.

Of course, being a cheap and small apartment, it was also an apartment in a bad neighborhood.  Not like a ‘don’t go out at night, lock the damn door, keep a crowbar by your bed’ neighborhood.  More like a, ‘stupid downstairs neighbor’s smoking up again, and there are the cops for the third time this week,’ bad neighborhood.  Needless to say, my dvd box got stolen.

Here’s the real problem, though.  There was more in that box than just my collection.

There was also a quilt, with three mountains, three trees and a river.  My grandmother made it for her twin boys, who left it behind when they moved out on their own.  She was going to throw it away, and I took it instead.  I loved that quilt.  It made me think of my grandma’s house after church on Sundays.  It made me think of watching Star Trek and X-Files with her on nights my mom worked. (I come by the geek gene honestly, even if it did skip a generation.)

There was also a little brass turtle.  You could take his shell off, and put things in him.  He belonged to my great grandma.  When I was little, I used him as a pretend tea set.  I played with him every New Years Eve when we’d go there and play Penny Poker.  My mom and Grandma June would smoke, and I’d drink diet Pepsi out of a can with a straw.  When she passed away, our family went through her house and put things in keep, toss, donate piles.  The little brass turtle came home with me.  My daughter played with him.

Now, I’ve rebuilt my collection of dvd’s.  It took time, and money.  But my quilt and my turtle, which the thief probably tossed without another thought, those things I miss.

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