December 28, 2001
If I Can Just Survive January...
I am having a minor stress attack right now. See, I happened to look at the schedule for next week here at work, and I discovered that I am scheduled (along with everyone else) for 11-hour days after New Year's. Right before I move. I'm already starting to feel like work is sucking my life away. I keep telling myself, it's really only for January. Once January is past and people finish up their W2s and such, my life will get much calmer.
But still... gah!
Isn't there someone out there who would be willing to just pay me to be me? Or, you know, just hand me an enormous sum of money merely because I exist? Don't I deserve that much? Feh.
So, I'm in the middle of this whole "balancing work and the rest of my life" thing. The good news is, I've gotten some packing done at home, and even better, my mom's been helping me. The bad news is, I'm somehow supposed to write most of a book in January, and I have no idea how I'm going to do it. And oh yeah, wasn't I writing a novel somewhere around here?
I've decided not to go to school this semester. Between working overtime for the first half of the semester and having this book contract, I don't think I could manage even a single class. I'm a little nervous about stepping away from school, mostly because I'm afraid I won't go back. I will go back though. I have to. I just... can't right now.
I'll confess, I haven't seen my grades for this past semester, but I suspect I did very poorly. I burned out near the end of the semester, and started blowing things off. A lot. I won't, in all honesty, be surprised if I have to retake the classes I took this semester. I hate that. I hate feeling like a failure. It makes me even MORE nervous about not going back this semester, because it fits the pattern of all the times I tried to go to school before.
Ugh. I don't know where this sudden attack of doubt is coming from, but just sitting here writing this, everything seems like a bad idea now: moving, school, writing... everything. I think I'm just going to go crawl into a hole for a couple of weeks now...
December 27, 2001
Blame EverQuest. S'all I'm sayin'.
Blame EverQuest. S'all I'm sayin'.
Well, that and I did some packing today too.
December 26, 2001
So yeah. No entry today.
So yeah. No entry today. Blame Dawn and Jason, who got me started playing EverQuest tonight. It was fun. Made me nostalgic for my old MUDding days. My first character is a wood elf ranger (duh). I even had an excuse to say "Let's hunt some orc." Teehee. I'm easily amused. And tired.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. My hobbit name is Ruby Boffin of Whitfurrows. Shut up.
December 25, 2001
Christmas 2001 is nearly over, for me at least. It's been a long, busy day, and even though it's not even 7pm, I'm ready to go to sleep.
It was a good day though, with all of the requisite family and food and fun. I spent the early part of the morning with my mom and stepfather, opening presents and watching the Today Show (one of my secret, shameful holiday traditions, I admit). Presents aren't an enormous deal in my family anymore. Mom asks what I want each year, and I get one precise thing I asked for, plus some clothes. There's usually not much in the way of surprises. This year was a little different. In addition to the one item (this year, a DVD player, yay!) and the clothes, I have a new unicorn music box, two in fact, because I got one at the family gathering as well. I've collected unicorns haphazardly for several years -- when someone collects something, it makes for an easy Christmas present, right? (Hm, should I let it be known that I've moved on to seals?) In any case, I haven't actually opened anything but the clothes. Since I'm moving in two weeks, there doesn't seem to be much point. Besides, I don't have any DVDs yet.
At about 10am, my mom and stepfather went to my stepsister's house to open presents there. I had some wonderful alone time, spent watching "A Christmas Story", one of the best Christmas movies ever made. Then about noon I went over to my aunt's house for the family dinner. Because we're all from hillbilly stock, dinner takes place at about 1 in the afternoon. This year was different from any year I can remember. Instead of my aunts and uncles and cousins, there were my aunt's and uncle's (and mom's) cousins. They're good people though. I got to know them when my grandma died back in August. Also present was my Uncle Elmer's daughter and her partner.
The fact that Elmer was married before he married my mom's sister Vera makes some folks in the family a little uncomfortable, even though his kids by that first wife are grandparents themselves by now. I'd never met Judy and Bill before, who are refreshingly un-redneck, to the point of being a little intimidating. Bill owns a book publishing company (I think he owns it -- don't think I didn't get a little antsy when mom told him I was a published writer) -- although the company tends to publish, as far as I can tell, big photography books on different aspects of Americana. They own an enormous, beautiful Southwestern home in New Mexico. I've seen the pictures numerous times. It's hard to picture someone that... well, wealthy, for one thing, but... cosmopolitan? connected to my family at all. I mean, Judy's father is the same uncle who has a tradition of wearing torn shirts to family reunions and who thinks weenies and homemade chili sauce is some powerful eatin'. (I tease because I love -- Elmer is without a doubt my favorite uncle. Always has been. He also is the only living person in the world that can get away with calling me "Wheezie". My dad was the other one.)
So we ate tons of unhealthy Southern cooking (someone made homemade pecan pie, oh my), opened what few presents were there, and then either played Rook, watched people playing Rook, watched home movies, or played with Bill's dog. Doesn't sound like much, writing it all out, but it was nice. I think we're all still missing Grandma, along with the aunts and uncle who've died. I miss Aunt Eula, passing out the presents every year and fussing over cleaning up the wrapping paper. I miss Uncle Eddie, just making everyone howl with funny stories (somewhere on videotape, I have him and my Uncle Elmer extolling the virtues of an electric letter opener my mom got Eddie that year -- to hear them tell it, that letter opener could do everything from mow the lawn to keep your beer cold). I miss Grandma, too. I miss her sitting in the corner, quietly watching over her family, and then being the one absolutely buried in Christmas presents -- no matter what, everybody got a present for Grandma.
I think it's going to take a couple of years for us to settle into new traditions and new ways of being a family, but I think we're off to a good start.
December 24, 2001
I'm sitting here listening to what is arguably my most favorite Christmas carol ever:
O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Emmanuel shall come to thee
O come, Desire of Nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our self-division cease
And be Thyself our King of Peace
Emmanuel shall come to thee
I felt holiness outside tonight. It was there, in the air with the snow and the wind. Everything was quiet, but I could hear a church bell ringing off in the distance, and the wind blowing over the snow. There is snow, finally. After an unseasonable winter, it's snowed just enough to cover the grass. All day it came down in big, fluffy, picturesque flakes.
The sky outside is still a little bit cloudy, just enough of a break to show a half-moon through a tattered veil and to let a star peek through here and there. I stood out there as long as the wind would let me, and watched the sky and watched the lake.
This is a difficult Christmas for me. I'm being pulled in a lot of directions and trying to stay true to myself, even while I try (again) to figure out what 'true to myself' means. But tonight there was, at least in my little corner of the world, some peace. Heavenly peace, you might even say.
I wish the same for all of you, even if only for a moment. Merry Christmas.
Presents wrapped and under the
Presents wrapped and under the tree. Time for this elf to go to bed.
Come now my child, you
Come now my child, you didn't really believe I would spend the evening sitting in church listening to teenagers squeak through carols, did you?
I could spend Christmas Eve
I could spend Christmas Eve at church, or I could go to the movies again. Somehow I feel more of a pull to spend Christmas Eve in Middle Earth than I do sitting in a Methodist church. This is me, waffling. *wafflewafflewaffle*
December 23, 2001
I may never see daylight again. As I was Christmas shopping this afternoon, the gleeful, greedy little gnomes inside my head waited until I was in the computer games aisle (yes, I was shopping for a present there, really), then jumped out and spotted both Baldur's Gate and EverQuest -- both games I've been marginally interested in for some time. The gnomes threw both games into my shopping cart. Really they did. The Sims has lost me for the time being, life online has been too quiet of late, and I'm in need of a new time sink.
May the gaming gods have mercy on my soul.
As I write this, I am waiting for EQ to finish downloading patches so I can actually log on and see what this thing is all about -- so far the process has taken about an hour, as I keep getting bumped offline. This is not an auspicious beginning. I'm in an odd frame of mind right now. The Christmas bug nipped at me today as I was shopping. I cried in the car while listening to "Silent Night" on the radio. "Silent Night" is the one carol that always makes me cry. Always. I don't know why. It just does. Now I'm sitting here at my computer watching it snow outside.
I feel both alone and at peace. And cranky. Don't ask me how it's possible to feel at peace and cranky at the same time. I'm managing it.
The aloneness and the peace are intertwined, I think. Aloneness is something I've come to terms with just lately. It's something I've not only come to accept, but to cherish. (Remind me of this, when spring fever hits in a few months and I decide that what I need more than anything else is a SO.) I heard a bit on the radio today (I think it was Garrison Keillor, actually) talking about the peace of Christmas, that moment on Christmas Eve when you step outside and just breath the air. There is a specialness in that moment. I've felt it. I feel a little bit of it tonight. Silent night, holy night.
Even that sacred quality though, stirs the crankiness in me. It is when I feel the touch of something divine, that I feel irritated, wanting to believe in something, some system, some religion, some philosophy -- but I don't know what. The spirit in me moves at random times. Nature stirs me. Music stirs me. Sometimes different aspects of various religions stir me. I just haven't yet managed to synthesize all of those things into a single belief structure that works for me. Now, at this intensely spiritual time of year, that bothers me. It makes me restless.
I suppose that what I term "crankiness" is really more just restlessness. Ready to move, ready to go on, but stuck waiting. That's true of many aspects of my life right now. There is so much inside of me at times, so much that I don't know how to touch. Writing helps, a little. Sometimes that restlessness grows so intense though, that I can only hang on, dull it with distraction, with food, with sleep, and wait for it to quiet again.
Or I suppose I could find out where it would take me if I let it. That idea's a little frightening. Maybe this time, maybe with the return of the light coinciding with the return of my solitude, I can let go and just ride.
It's snowing outside, just starting
It's snowing outside, just starting to cover the roads. I finished my Christmas shopping today with a minimum of stress. I heard "Silent Night" on the radio this afternoon and I cried. I think it's finally Christmas.
Note to self: Don't ever,
Note to self: Don't ever, EVER drink mocha at 8pm again, especially after sleeping all day. Grar.
The worst part about this is, there's nobody online. Everybody's off being holiday-y. I'm randomly surfing webpages and wishing someone would post at one of the forums I frequent or wishing that Solitaire or Minesweeper could hold my interest right now. Shoot me. Preferably with a shot of Valium or something. Jeez.
December 22, 2001
I was going to go
I was going to go to bed early tonight, but I went to Starbucks and ended up drinking a mocha at about 8pm. So I'm still awake. At least I got some writing done... :P
Plans of Mice and Men
I have been absolutely useless today. I had the best of intentions. I was going to finish up my Christmas shopping, I was going to clean my room and start packing some things up, I was going to write scads and scads on my novel. I was at least going to finish reading The Abduction Enigma. Instead I've read through two journal archives, took a colossal nap after sleeping late, and just generally farted around on the web.
It's been wonderful.
I can get stuck in a rut with days like this, but every once in a while, it's good to have one and to (try) not to feel guilty about it. (And the great thing about living alone, is that no one will give me the fisheye for staying in my nightgown until 3pm.)
Now I'm just trying to decide what I want to do with the rest of the evening. I'm half-afraid to try to go back to writing my novel. I've lost a good bit of momentum there, it's true. I also lost some of my good NaNoWriMo habits, and I've found myself stalling while writing, instead of just blazing ahead. I really want to finish the first draft by the end of December -- which gives me about nine days now. Nine days and moving to work around. I don't know how realistic that goal is. Come January, though, I have another project that I have to get started on, a Tribe 8 book due late February.
Of course, part of me insists that since I stayed home all day, I should go out tonight. Going out will no doubt involve ending up seeing Fellowship of the Ring for the third time. Right now, I'm refusing to be THAT geeky. I also haven't been to Starbucks in about a week, maybe I'll go there and write, without the distractions of the web and email to keep me from focusing. Saturday night, the good seats by the fireplace shouldn't be too crowded. Who wants to go study or read in Starbucks on a Saturday night on a holiday weekend? (Well, except for me, that is.)
It's funny. I don't remember always being a loner. I certainly wasn't in college (the first time). The only time I stayed in my dorm room was when I was sleeping, sick, or depressed. Or if it was after curfew. (Yes, we had a curfew. Yes, it was enforced. 11:30 on weeknights and 12 on weekends.) I guess it started when I got married, and really learned what depression was all about. Still, when I first moved back here to Michigan, and first got involved with the SCA, I was a social butterfly again.
Then came living with Hollingsworth, who's also a bit of a loner. Or was, last I knew. We definitely didn't go out with a group much, and we spent a lot of time at home. I don't know. Somewhere in there I decided staying home alone was better than being out and about with strangers and friends. Of course, the fact that most of my friends live an inconvenient distance away could be a factor here.
I'm rambling again, I know. I like my life right now. I'm largely content with it. I guess I'm just puzzled to see how it evolved into what it is. Am I the only one who looks back periodically, and sees specific moments where life took a left turn and things changed? I mean, I've spent far too much time over the past several years realizing where my choices got me. Fortunately, I'm happy with where they got me, but still... do other people spend so much time analyzing?
Part of it is because where I've ended up is so, so far away from where I ever saw myself being. After high school, I would have said that when I was thirty, I would be a high school English teacher, probably married with kids. When I got married, I would have said that at thirty I would be a high school choir director, or maybe a stay-at-home mom, depending on how Gary's career was going. I don't even try to predict where I'll end up now. Sure, I have dreams, but I've stopped saying, "By this age, I want to do this." Nothing in my life has turned out the way I planned it. This is not a bad thing. I've just learned not to plan too far in advance.
Ooh, my computer right now
Ooh, my computer right now is a veritable LOTR shrine, what with an Aragorn desktop picture and screensavers for Legolas, Boromir, and Aragorn (all from LordoftheRings.net). Is there anything more pitiful than an almost 30 year old woman with a movie obsession? Hey, I promised a review at some point, didn't I? Hm, maybe later today...
Right now I'm wondering if I'll make it through the rest of the weekend without going to see it again. I'm sick. I really think I am.
December 21, 2001
More Christmas Pondering
I'm so glad to have a four-day weekend. In fact, so far what Christmas means to me this year is a four day weekend. Does that sound horribly cynical? It's a little bit of an exaggeration. I mean, I'm looking forward to spending time with my family, but... I don't know. I've got so much going on right now. I'm moving right after New Year's, for one thing. I just learned that today. And I'm just... distracted, I guess. Busy with work, busy with school, busy with writing. The fact that I haven't really done much Christmas shopping probably doesn't help matters, either. (Yeah, guess what's on my to-do list for tomorrow?)
I don't know. I've always envied people who bake Christmas cookies and do all sorts of crafts and make a big deal out of Christmas. I mean, I baked Christmas cookies last year and passed them out at work, and that was pretty neat, but... I dunno. Just didn't have the time or the inclination this year.
So, I guess I keep hoping maybe I'll have a Christmas Eve conversion, like Scrooge or something. (Not, mind you, that I'm asking for visits from any ghosts that night.) A couple of years ago I went to a Christmas Eve service just down the street, and it was a wonderful thing. I'm hoping to do that again this year. I'm not sure what our family's plans are that night, however.
That's a whole other part of my Christmas 'enh'. I'm not even completely sure what the family plans are for the holiday. At all. Last year I ended up going to the family dinner alone, and discovered I was the only one really who'd bought Christmas presents. I was more than a little disappointed, especially since last year was the first year I'd actually gotten a bit of Christmas spirit. Maybe I'm holding out to avoid that disappointment again this year.
The family situation is a little tense right now, as well. While I'm certain that my stepfather is more than happy to see me moving back out on my own, my mother is less so. We've had several discussions where she's tried to talk me out of moving. While I know moving is the right thing for me to do, I still feel incredibly conflicted. I mean, I'm supposed to do what my mother tells me to do, right? It's been a very tense time for both of us. We've gotten really close over the past year, and I know she's worried that we'll lose that when I move. It's happened before.
So... I don't know. It's Christmas. Maybe by the end of the weekend I'll be a little more into it, but right now, it's four days off and a chance to sleep in. Of course, if I experience a major conversion to the Christmas way of thinking sometime in the next few days, I'll be sure to write about it.
I am so afraid of
I am so afraid of people who don't know how to use email. So afraid. It's like they come from another planet.
I have to relate a
I have to relate a conversation I overheard at the theatre last night that made me chuckle. Sitting next to me were two geek couples who got into an involved discussion as soon as the credits started to roll. In fact, the first words out of one of the women's mouth was "A YEAR?" So anyway, the same woman related how she and her mother used to use two 10 point scales to judge men's appeal, one for handsomeness, and the other for sexiness.
Her: So, Dean Cain [the guy who played Superman on "Lois and Clark"] is about a 10 on handsome, but only a 5 on sexy.
Her SO: Okay...
Her: A young Jack Nicholson, on the other hand, was about a 4 for handsome, but an 8 for sexy.
The woman next to her went, "Ugh." I agreed.
Her: Now, Aragorn... he's only about a 5 for handsome, but he's like a 15 for sexy.
Her SO: Okay, so I should grow a scruffy beard, then?
Her: No, it wouldn't work on you.
I gotta disagree with the 5, but I'll go with the 15. The look on his face when he leaves Frodo at the end to go fight orcs. That's all I'm sayin'. At last someone to knock Ewan McGregor out of my fangrrl brain -- at least until I buy Moulin Rouge.
This journal will stop being about LOTR eventually, I promise.
December 20, 2001
I think I may have discovered why I'm single.
Fantasy has ruined my expectations of real life. It's sad but true. How can being with a normal human being, day in and day out, doing laundry and washing dishes and being stinky sometimes and being grouchy sometimes compare with a fantastical Hero with hair that at least always looks dramatic and who always has something interesting going on and never has to do laundry or go to the bathroom or worry about much of anything except defeating the villains and saving the world?
I've always ended up in one long-distance relationship or another -- probably for the same reason. It's so easy to idealize someone that you see once in a blue moon. It's easy to have a perfect relationship without having to deal with the other person's imperfections up close and personal all the time.
I don't like this about myself. I've known for some time that I was a perfectionist, but I didn't think it went this deep. I mean, I'm certainly not perfect, and I wouldn't want to live with someone who wanted me to be.
But how can Joe Blow from down the street compete with dreams of Aragorn and Josua Lackhand and (damn you, Brand) Elathan and Arthur and Gawaine and countless other heroes? It's not that I would want to live with idealized perfection. I really wouldn't. But when you're already half-infatuated with fictional characters, it's harder to be completely charmed by real people.
I wonder if that's why so many sci-fi/fantasy geeks are loners?
I'm really bothered by this. It's not that I don't know the difference between fantasy and reality, it's just that I prefer fantasy.
December 19, 2001
Oh, I'm such a geek.
Oh, I'm such a geek. Such, such a geek. I run the risk of becoming a fangrrl. So, yeah, I managed to go see Fellowship of the Rings tonight. I don't have the right words. I'm going to go see it again tomorrow night (since I already had tickets, really!) to see if I can come up with words.
In short, I was blown away. I got home three hours ago, and I can't sleep. I'm still too wound up, and I don't think it's from the Mountain Dew I drank at the theatre. Such images, my god. I want to go find the hobbits and cuddle them. And I understand now the whole notion of the beauty of the sidhe. It needs to be Christmas 2002 RIGHT NOW. God, I'm a geek. I'm going to go try and sleep now.
So naturally, the big talk around the office today is all about "The Fellowship of the Ring". One of the guys in the cube kitty-corner to mine went and saw it last night at midnight. You better believe he had bragging rights this morning. When I got in, I could hear several people over at his desk talking about movies. I wandered over and said, "Really, there's only one movie you could be talking about today."
He raved about it. So has everyone else I've come across who's seen it. I'm antsy. I have tickets to go see it tomorrow, but I don't want to wait that long. I may see if I can snag a ticket for a showing tonight after my history final. Probably not likely, but I can dream, right?
This has been such a pivotal movie month for geeks. I mean really. First "Harry Potter" and now this. I may be one of the only geeks in the world who didn't read the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a child. I somehow managed to miss them until I was an adult. Oddly, reading the books was almost anti-climactic for me. For a lot of people, the LOTR trilogy may be the first real fantasy they read. It's their introduction into the genre of epic fantasy quest stories -- and that's fitting, because really LOTR defined the genre. With no LOTR, there would be no D&D (although, that means there would have been no D&D movie, so it's not all bad), no David Eddings (again, maybe not a bad thing), maybe even no fantasy genre of literature as we know it -- hell, no Star Wars. Without LOTR, what on earth would us geeks have to fixate on? It's a little scary to contemplate.
But anyway, like I said, my first reading of the LOTR books was a little anti-climactic. I'd already read a ton of fantasy, and been a roleplayer for years. I knew the genre. Ironically, LOTR seemed a little tired and cliche to me by the time I read it -- until I stopped to realize that Tolkien had pretty much created what later became cliche. He made the idea of the fantasy trilogy (well, trilogy unless you're Robert Jordan and can't shut up) a staple in the business.
For that reason alone, he should be as well-loved as he still is. On top of that, he created a pretty amazing world. I've never read all of the additional books, like the Simarillion, but the depth of the world astounds me, right down to the various languages he developed (not so surprising, Tolkien was a linguist). And if all that weren't enough, he told a pretty interesting story. (I've my own beef with some of his actual writing, but that's a story for another day.)
I guess, what I'm really trying to say is, I'm geeked beyond belief about this movie. It's like someone made a movie out of the fantasy Bible -- not like, someone DID make a movie out of the fantasy Bible. From everything I've heard, it's a movie worthy of the book it came from. I'll be sure to report my own thoughts on the subject after I see it. Tomorrow.
Unless I can squeeze in a theatre tonight. ;)
Yes, it's true. It's another
Yes, it's true. It's another new entry. What else could I be talking about today?
Also, go check out the reviews of LOTR at RottenTomatoes.Com. Yes, I'm fixated. Deal with it.
December 18, 2001
Last night I told Brand that I thought I was becoming a fundamentally selfish person. I don't really want any kids right now. I adore kids, and I love spending time with my friends' kids, but I don't want any of my own. To my surprise, I've discovered that I don't really want a romantic relationship right now, either. I dated for a little while, and it was fun, but I found that I really resented having to 'owe' part of my time to someone else. I got very tired of spending time with someone for the express purpose of 'getting to know them' as opposed to just, you know, hanging out. Too structured. Too tiring. I have too much else to do with my time.
I never ever thought you'd hear me honestly, rationally say, "No, I don't want romance right now." I mean, I've said it before, but usually only when I knew there was no chance in hell of it happening. Sort of a "well those grapes are probably sour anyway" thing. Now I know the grapes aren't sour at all -- but I don't want any more grapes, thank you. I have never, in my life, liked someone, known that they've liked me, but then stepped away from a relationship because that wasn't what I wanted. I've always had this feeling that I'd better grab it while I could, because who knew when the next sucker would come along.
The same thing with kids. I've always thought of having kids with this pained, wistful feeling, worried that I would never be able to have them, worried that I'd never have a baby of my own. I don't feel that anymore. (Well, not this week, at least.) I get to watch some great little ones grow up, and I even get to help with them a little, but at the end of the day, I get to go home, and they get to go home, and I'm done. The only person who makes demands on my time is me. Well okay, me and the large corporate entity I work for.
I'm discovering that I really and truly am my own person. And to my surprise, I like it. A lot. Most of the tension I've felt this past fall has come from feeling like I should do this, I should call this person, I should go here, I should... do a lot of things. And it wasn't even that I didn't want to do those things, but that I hated feeling obligated. Right now I don't want to be obligated to someone every single day. Except me.
Friends are different. Friends I can talk to everyday, interact on really important levels, even -- but when I need to, and when I want to, I can back off. I can go home. I can retreat. There isn't a feeling of obligation, because they know I'll be back, and they know they can reach me if they need me. A budding romance, just as an utterly random example, doesn't allow for that. There's an awkwardness in trying to find space, and trying to say, "Hey, I like you, but I don't want to see you." There's a fear of hurting someone, which creates an obligation all its own.
So, I'm a little selfish right now. At this point in time, I think it's true, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. I've spent huge portions of my life devoted to other people: what they thought of me, what they expected of me, what they needed from me. It feels oddly liberating to be able to step back and say, "Okay, this is me and my space. Entry by invitation only." -- and mean it.
Maybe I'm just learning about my own independence. Or maybe I'm becoming something of a loner. Whatever it is, it feels right. It feels like this is where I need to be. I am content with my life this fall in a way that I don't know I've ever really felt before.
Now if I could just stop feeling guilty about it.
December 17, 2001
Mondays are always interesting days. I think people are stupider on Mondays. Seriously. If I were a psychologist, I would run an experiment. Give people IQ tests on different days of the week, and see how the scores run. I wonder if someone's already done that? (A quick web search turned up nothing.)
Still, it is my unscientific opinion that people are dumber on Monday. I know I am. Give me a problem to solve on Monday and I guarantee it will take me longer and cause me more frustration. This is not a good thing, considering that my job now consists of simply solving other people's problems. It's nice to know that I'm not the only one, however. Except when the other ones are calling me on the phone.
Let me preface this by saying, I love my job. I really do. However, there are just some days... and today is one of those days. A man called me today telling me that his shortcut to the program didn't work. I spent twenty minutes talking with him and trying to find the program. "Find files" turned nothing up. Looking through Windows Explorer turned nothing up. Finally he asked if it made a difference if he had uninstalled the program last week. Uh. Yes. Here's the lesson for y'all: if you uninstall a program, the file that runs that program is not on your computer anymore, and your desktop shortcut won't work anymore. Think about that before you hit "uninstall".
Another man I talked to today had some serious problems understanding English, apparently. Usually I can deal well with this, but he also had a serious problem following directions. This, I do not deal so well with. I'd tell him to click on the button labeled "Indent", to which he would respond, "I clicked on this button called "Insert Row" and it didn't work!" And then he kept sighing in my ear as if I were the one with the problem. This went on for an hour. Then he sent emailed me the data he was having a problem with, and I fixed it in five minutes. Needless to say, I took a long walk after that call was over.
Come to think of it, the most frustrating call I ever had was on a Monday too. This sweet little old lady (who also didn't speak English very well) called in to get help installing the program. Now, normally installing the program is an easy five or ten minute call. Not with this woman. I kept asking her to insert the disk, meaning the floppy disk that holds the licenses. "It's in there," she said. So I had her run the setup command. "It says it can't read the disk!" So I ask her to take out the disk to look at it, and sure enough, I hear her CD drive open. I carefully explained to her that the floppy disk is the square thing, and the CD is the round thing. She was quiet for a moment, then asked, "Does the metal part go in first?" After a stunned moment, I said that yes, the metal part of the floppy disk does go in first. "And does the label go in face up?" Yes, that sounded right. After forty minutes, we managed to get the program installed, during which time she asked me to help her uninstall programs on her computer. I gently deferred her to her hardware technician, to which she replied, "I don't have one. I'm just a little bird learning to fly on my own." Well... you ever wonder about those dead baby birds you see lying on the ground, if maybe they fell out of the nest or tried to fly before they're ready? Yeah. I know what happened to them now. They tried to install software without knowing the first thing about computers.
There's a good side to things too though. I've had people tell me they love me, they want to leave me in their will, I'm the most fabulous person they've ever talked to. And that's a real ego trip. It's hard not to puff up a little bit when you managed to save someone's data, or managed to fix a problem they've been working on for days in just a few minutes.
And believe me, I gave the woman who wanted to leave me in her will my full name. Almost gave her my social security number and address too. But these people never call me on Mondays. Especially not this Monday.
Are people really stupider on Mondays? I don't honestly know for sure. Ask anyone in the service industry though, and they're likely to give you a resounding, "HELL YES!"
And I'd be the loudest one of all.
December 16, 2001
The Christmas spirit is slow in coming this year. Don't get me wrong, I'm not Scrooge again this year, as I have been in years past, but neither am I weeping at every Christmas carol I hear, like last year. Of course, this could be because the new Christmas CD I bought this year is absolutely horrid. There should never ever be an upbeat, swingin' jazz version of "What Child is This?" This is what I get for buying my Christmas music at a gas station, I suppose.
Mom and I put up the Christmas tree together this year, and that was nice. Everytime I drive past the church on the corner, I wonder if maybe I'll go to a Christmas Eve service again this year. That was nice too. I think that sums up this Christmas season so far for me, actually. Nice. Not especially stirring, but not especially grouchy, either.
I know, I know. Not every Christmas can be rife with symbolism and emotion and holiday goodness, and this year I definitely have reason to be subdued. Between current events and losing Grandma this year, I suppose I should be grateful for 'nice'. And I am, but in all truth, this year Christmas means time off from work and an end to a stressful semester at school. Oh, and it means New Year's Eve is coming, which means it's time for my annual New Year's roleplaying party with Dawn and Jason and Alex and Heidi. (How is this different from our usual roleplaying get togethers? More food, less kids, basically.)
Part of it, too, is that there's a fair amount of tension around here right now too. While I think certain members of the household are more than happy to see me moving out next month, certain members (read: my mom) are considerably less than happy to see me moving out. She's worried about me living alone again, and she's worried about my finances, and really, she just doesn't want me to leave. It's been good for us to live together again. My mom and I had gotten a little distant from each other before I came here. That's mostly my fault. Now, with everything that's happened, we're close again. Maybe a little too close. I think she's afraid we'll drift again once I'm away. I don't want that, and we've talked about ways to prevent it. I keep reminding her, half-jokingly, that I'm not moving across the country.
So yeah. It's Christmas. I haven't done much shopping and I'm distracted as hell. Who knows? Maybe I'll settle down Christmas weekend and build up a month's worth of Christmas spirit all at once.
December 15, 2001
I guess one woman's trendy corporate empire is another's mystical focal point.
I started going to Starbucks when school started this semester. The second week of class I really wanted some coffee before class, and the idea of getting it from a vending machine at school made me feel nauseous. So I left home early at stopped at Starbucks.
I've always tried to understand why people would sit for hours in a coffeeshop, either studying or doing homework or working, with laptops and notebooks and books scattered hither and yon. What possessed them? Why leave a perfectly comfortable home, office, dormroom, whatever, to sit in hard wooden chairs or scrabble for the few upholstered seats? I envied them the comfort they had in just sprawling across their workspace, no matter that it was a public space.
Then came (you knew this was coming, right?) NaNoWriMo. I bought a keyboard for my Palm Pilot so I could write anywhere, and one day I ended up sitting in Starbucks in one of the comfy chairs, my Palm and keyboard and notebooks sprawled comfortably across my table.
It was a revelation. Hanging out and working in Starbucks was cool! You got to people watch, sometimes hear some pretty good music, and you had easy access to caffeine and goodies. Plus, sometimes just getting away from the usual surroundings made for a nice change.
It wasn't until I'd been writing there for a couple of weeks that I learned the truth about Starbucks: The entire world passes through their doors, making them a focus for much weirdness and eerie happenings. First, I noticed that if a certain employee was there, a pretty Arabic girl with an eyebrow piercing and a hijab, I would have a good writing day. If she wasn't there, I couldn't write for shit. Coincidence? Well, before you say so, read on.
One afternoon when I was writing there, a girl came and sat next to me and started drawing in a sketchbook. We exchanged greetings, but nothing more. Then she asked me about my Palm keyboard -- lots of people have done this. It's a pretty nifty-looking little gizmo. Out of the blue, she asked if I was writing a book. I explained that I was, and we started talking. Turns out she's a writer too. We talked about how we'd tried to find a writing group in town and failed. Then her friend came in, and turned out to be a gamer. We had a jolly old time chatting, and then before they left, she and I exchanged email addresses. We're still trying to get together to do some reading and critiquing.
The next case is even more eerie. A few months ago, I placed a Yahoo personal ad. I received a few responses, and the most intriguing one came from a 47 year old -- let's call him David. I was a little leery about possibly dating someone that much older than me, but we emailed back and forth several times. He found out where I worked and called me there. That was my first uneasy feeling, but I was flattered and let it go.
Then we exchanged home numbers. He called me one night, and we talked for almost two hours. He was... interesting. He said over and over again how youthful-looking and -acting he was. He told me stories about being a hippie, about living in New Mexico, he told me about his twenty-something son. David also told me about his job. ALL about his job. If David did something interesting, like say, taught school or wrestled bears or tracked down criminals with his super powers, this might have been cool. David sells benefit packages to local employers. He's an insurance salesman. I got hear about how Pfizer is the largest employer in the county. David also talks. A lot. During our conversation I barely got a word in edgewise. We got off the phone and I went on with my night -- then after 11 pm, when I was already in bed, he called again, "just to say goodnight". My stalker alarms went off, and I never spoke to him or heard from him again.
What does this have to do with Starbucks? Read on. I was sitting there one evening after work, trying to work on my novel. Next to me was a couple having an animated conversation about aura-reading. I glance over to see a skinny middle-aged balding man dressed in a dress shirt and slacks and a large woman in a painted sweatshirt. He was excitedly telling her about his aura colors, and how they mean he likes to make money. She looked politely bored and a little unsure of herself. I sat there, trying to write, but their conversation just kept boring into my concetration. The man's voice was irritating the hell out of me. I just wanted him to shut up and go away. I could not understand why I felt such antagonism for the man. It wasn't hard to figure out that they were on a blind date of some sort, and based on the references to emails, I figured they'd met online.
Then I heard him say, "You know, Pfizer is the largest employer in the county..." Then I heard her call him David. Then I realized why his voice irritated me so badly.
I sat there for several stunned minutes, debating whether or not to tell him who I was. Then when he leaned over to ask me about my Palm keyboard, I was afraid to speak out loud for fear that he would recognize my voice. Laura said later I should have caught the woman's eye and given her the international sign for "run like fuck". (This sign apparently consists of waving your arms and mouthing "run like fuck".)
(Later that night I overheard a priest telling his parishoner that he was exercising with a personal trainer to get a washboard stomach. In a lisp that would make a stereotypical gay man green with envy. But that's another story for another day.)
Finally, today I was there again. While I sat there writing, I heard someone say, "Hi, Lisa!" I looked up, and there was an old friend I haven't seen in years. Last I'd heard she was thinking about moving off to another part of the country. Turns out she's still in town, going to one of the universities around, and working in computers, like me. We spent several minutes catching up, swapping gossip about our old circle of friends and ex-boyfriends, and when we exchanged contact information, we marveled at having found each other again in Starbucks of all places.
I could have told her that Starbucks is a nexus, where world and worlds pass through on their way to caffeinated bliss.
December 14, 2001
The following message was posted
The following message was posted on the internal bulletin board here at work, under the title "Physics Reminder":
For whoever left two cans of soda in one of the building 1 refrigerators:
1) Soda is mostly water.
2) Water expands when it freezes.
3) The pop-top was invented many years ago, and all soda cans have them. The pop-top is a built-in weakness that does not affect the can's integrity under "normal" conditions.
4) As far as soda is concerned, living in the freezer ain't a normal condition.
Therefore, when the soda in the can freezes it expands and finds the pop-top weakness and - voila!- instant slimy foamy slushy frozen mess in the freezer.
I shouldn't be awake right now. I know I shouldn't. I partly wanted to test out this whole journaling script thing, but I also wanted to talk about the other side of what's going on lately.
I'm moving soon. Again. I think I should get discount rates with my movers, because they get so damn much business from me. So I've been apartment hunting. I'm getting very good at apartment hunting in Ann Arbor, really. You might even say I'm an expert. So I started rounding up the usual suspects, and I went off to look at apartments.
Complex A was very nice five years ago, when Hollingsworth and I looked at it. Very quiet, very clean. Plus, they were having a great special. So I applied. Then they turned into the Scary Stalker Apartment Complex. They had about thirty-three point two apartments that were exactly what I was looking for, wouldn't I please please move in? Please? They called me every other day. I went back last weekend, and they showed me the apartments I had to choose from. Not only did they look nothing like the model apartment I'd seen, but they were smaller. And scarier. I finally decided that I didn't want an apartment complex that wanted me more than I wanted them.
Enter Complex B. Complex B was recommended by a friend of mine. I visited it last week as well, and absolutely fell in love with their apartments. So I applied there too. There it was the opposite of Complex A. "Well, we need to speak to you about your application." And, "The apartment manager wants to interview you." Ugh. I don't want an apartment complex that wants me to jump through firey hoops, either.
So, on to Complex C. Complex C is quiet and wooded and I was sure it would be out of my price range. It was when I visited it several years ago with Hollingsworth. To my surprise, it was right within my price range. So... once again, I applied. The application process went mostly smoothly (but not TOO smoothly), and I was told they expected to have an apartment available as of March. A little later than I wanted, but bearable. Then yesterday they called me at work. Would I be interested in an apartment opening up at the end of the month? Hell yes! So they give me the address, and we set a tentative move-in date. Last night I drove by the complex in the misty, rainy dark, and found my building. I pulled into the parking lot in front of my front door. There, off to one side, was a sign from god.
About ten feet from my front door is a small children's play area, complete with a sand pit and a few climbing toys shaped like animal statues. Right out front, and silhouetted by a street lamp, gleaming out of the dark, was a large, frolicking, concrete seal. A seal. I felt like god reached down and thumped me between the eyes with a forefinger. I suppose he/she did.
So I'm moving. Expect more moving goodness to come soon.
December 12, 2001
Okay, so I haven't posted
Okay, so I haven't posted my journal entry yet, but I can at least post MUSH conversations again, right?
Paige says "I had to make Josh put the Hanukkah fabric down. I wouldn't let him make his Christmas stocking out of spinning dreidles and Stars of David."I cut the part about pinching Josh's butt. I didn't think you needed to see that.
Cinderella says "I love Josh."
Paige grins, "A lady over heard our "discussion" and had a giggle at us, too."
Cinderella would have loved to have heard that discussion.
Paige says "Except that he kept going /back/ to it and singing the dreidle song to the tune of Jingle Bells."
Paige says "It went a lot like:
Laura: Hon, what'er you doing?
Josh: Pick'n my fabric out!
Laura: But Josh, that's for Hanukkah.
Josh: Yeah! Isn't it great? Drei-eh-eh-dle! Drei-eh-eh-dle! Dreidle every day! (sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells")
Laura: Josh, put the fabric down. I'm not going to sew you a /Christmas/ stocking out of Hanukkah fabric.
Josh: *pouts and clutches it to his chest*
Laura: Look, you're going to confuse Santa if you do that."
Florinda says "That merely reinforces my notion that you NEVER take a guy shopping in a fabric store."
December 10, 2001
So, at about 10:50 am
So, at about 10:50 am this morning, some wisenheimer decides to cut a wire in Ann Arbor. Too bad it was a fiber optic cable that provided about nine hundred phone lines in the area, including ours. Our phones have been off at work for eight hours. Eight hours of no phones, no net, no email, no nothing. Why is this a problem? My job consists of answering and returning phone calls. Which means we sat around on our behinds all day. Did we close? No! Of course not! So I wrote. And wrote. I actually wrote a journal entry, don't faint. I'll post it when I get home, if I can get everything all HTML-ized and spiffy. Whee!
All of the phones are down at work for who knows how long. All of the internet connections are down too. So what am I doing? Writing a journal entry, of course! There are so many things I could write about, but I think the biggest thing that's happened to be lately has to be NaNoWriMo.
When I first heard about it, I thought, 'Wow, what a great idea. I wish I could do that.' The idea, for anyone who hasn't been paying attention, was to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. The idea behind this is that novel writing is a "one day" job -- as in, "one day I'll write a novel". That was me, all over. I've had a novel idea for over a year now, but I was never able to sit down and really work it. Heck, I have tons of short stories I haven't been able to finish. Yet when I've had a deadline, like for Tribe 8, I've been able to finish things, and finish them quickly. So I thought NaNoWriMo was a cool idea, but I didn't sign up.
Then Julie mentioned in her writing journal that she'd signed up and that she wanted a writing buddy. Well, Julie lives near me and we've emailed back and forth, so I thought 'what the hell'. So I signed up. I was absolutely terrified. I was certain I'd never be able to finish the 50,000 words, and that NaNoWriMo would be just another item on my list of unfinished writing projects.
I got sucked into the NaNo internet subculture. I found myself signing up for every email list and club I could find that was even remotely related to NaNoWriMo. Then I got email from none other than Chris Baty himself (NaNoWriMo founder and looney-in-chief) telling me that I'd been randomly selected to be one of the month's "Wrimo of the Day". That was it. I was in this for the long haul. I admit, from then on, it was all downhill. I was obsessed.
Halloween night, October 31st, I stayed up until midnight so I could write my first couple paragraphs. I ended up writing over 1,000 words in an hour. It was a drug. I don't know how else to describe it. The feeling of heedlessly, giddily writing at a furious pace made me high. So The Host was born.
The first week was a breeze. I wrote like the wind, uncaring of how good or how bad my story was, or of how much sleep I was missing every night. Characters appeared out of nowhere and started taking over the story. One character, Sara, originally mentioned in passing as part of another character's backstory, showed up and ended up nearly stealing the show from everyone else. The second week I started to lag a little. I never really questioned my story -- there wasn't time for that -- but I did get tired, and I did start getting behind on my writing. I became the queen of procrastination. While Sara and A.J. and all their cohorts languished, I designed an elaborate spreadsheet to calculate how many words I had written per writing session, per day, and total. Then I compared my totals to my goals, and calculated how far off I was (or how far ahead I was) from those goals. This spreadsheet was a masterful work of procrastination. I even, later in the month, added a line that calculated the average number of words I'd written per day.
But, back to the writing. School suffered. Work suffered. My friends, god how they suffered. Everything that came out of my mouth was all "novel, novel, novel!" This was not a healthy relationship. I didn't care, though, because I was still high from the words that came out of my fingers. I have never, ever had a writing experience like this. Normally I stop, I pause, I agonize over what words I'm writing. I deliberate extensively over what my characters should do next, whether it's about going off to kill a villain or just sitting down to drink a cup of coffee. With The Host, I could not do that. I couldn't. I just had to hang on and keep writing. Eventually, the characters told me what should happen next. They started doing things and making decisions on their own. They created the story seemingly without me.
I've heard writers talk about this phenomenon, and I've heard non-writers scoff at the notion. There really is no other way to describe it. Maybe all it means is that the writer has secured a pipeline to their own subconscious, so they write without ego or conscious thought interfering. Maybe it means that the writer is serving as a scribe to some higher power -- acting as the mouthpiece for some universal muse. As wacky as that sounds, I can imagine that -- often at the end of a writing session I would almost wake up, feeling a little bit used by something beyond my control. It's not as bad a feeling as you might think. It's pretty exhilirating. I can understand why the guys who wrote the Bible attributed their words to God -- whether or not that's true I won't debate, because I don't know -- because there is something holy about the process.
And that's what I sounded like all month: a new religious convert. But I lapsed during the month, and by the time Thanksgiving Weekend rolled around, I was 7,500 words behind schedule. So between helpings of turkey and trips to visit friends, I wrote. My god, how I wrote. On Sunday, November 25, I wrote 7,261 words. I wrote like a fuckin' hurricane. Nothing could stop me, not even a turkey-induced coma. I ended the weekend 1,300 words ahead of schedule. From Wednesday night to Sunday night, I wrote almost 16,000 words, a third of my required word count.
Then on the 27th came the crash. I had been a serious brat online the night before, and some of my friends had gotten good and tired of my obsession. Brand politely smacked me down, and pointed out that my novel was the most important thing in the world to me, as it should be, but it was not the most important thing to the rest of the world. He let me know what was going on in the outside world that I'd ignored during the month of November. I was stunned. And hurt. And pissed -- mostly at myself. I crashed hard. November 27th was easily the darkest day of the month. I was 5,000 words from my goal, and I didn't care if I made it or not. I spent the day not writing, and sulked.
Then that night he and I had a long talk, and in the process of resolving the whole issue of me ignoring people, we started talking about my story. And again, like absolute magic, the whole thing crystallized for me, beginning to end. All the disparate threads that had introduced themselves came together into one whole cloth and I saw the whole picture clearly. I was ecstatic in the truest sense of the word. I got off the phone with Brand at about 1 am, and promptly got up and started writing again, after scribbling a hasty note in my writing journal so I wouldn't forget the vision I'd had of the story. Now I know how Samuel Taylor Coleridge must have felt when the whole of "Kubla Khan" came to him. Unlike Sam, however, I wrote down bits of my vision before anybody could come knocking at my door. (Please note, I am in no way comparing The Host to any of Coleridge's poetry, writers are writers, and the process works regardless of talent.)
I crossed 50,000 words the next day. As of this writing, The Host is not a finished first draft. Right now I'm at 51,672 words, and I'm still plugging away at it. I've lost some of my NaNoWriMo momentum, but with finals coming up and with me trying to make up for all of the things I neglected during November, that's to be expected. Or so I keep telling myself. I want to finish it this month, then take January away from it (to work on some other writing projects I've got simmering, including one paying project for Tribe 8). Then in February, perhaps, I'll settle in with the whole draft and a red pen (or in my case, maybe a green or purple pen) and get back to work. I do want to submit this. I do think it's publishable, or will be.
When I got the contract to write Harvest of Thorns, my self-image went through a change. I was able to call myself a writer without flinching. It was a liberating, heady feeling. Now with about two-thirds of a finished novel under my belt, that same sort of sea change is happening again. Now I can say that I am not just a writer, I am an author (and there is a difference) -- I am a novelist, by god. It's an amazing feeling, and I'm trying not to let my head swell too much from it.
I don't know what all that means for this journal. I admit, right now my focus is completely on writing. I don't want to end things around here, but updates may be sporadic -- er, not that they weren't already. I feel like a brand-new door is open in front of me and I'm stepping through it. There's just no way I can not take you all through it with me.