Posted in Life

Things You Can’t Do With Fake Nails

I went on a job interview recently. I really wanted this job and I was nervous, so I put way too much into getting ready. Then I made the worst mistake. I had my nails done.

(Disclosure: I’m a horrid photographer and not particularly handy with photo-editing software either. So, after about twenty some odd tries to get a good picture, I finally settled on a stock image. I have no idea whose nails those are!)

But my nails are these gorgeous pink-tipped acrylics. They looked great when I explained my writing career and expounded on how I would be a great addition to the PR firm. They also look super good when I swipe through my phone, or walk around the mall with the overpriced Guess bag that I managed to get an amazing deal on. But, when it comes to real life…FAKE NAILS SUCK!

Things You Can’t Do With Fake Nails

  1. Type. When I was a receptionist, and all I had do was push “Hold,” and “Transfer,” acrylic nails looked super sexy. When I was a retail sales associate, they looked great as I swiped debit cards and explained the difference between Max Lucado and Philip Yancey. (Not much, if I recall). When I was a nanny, I knew better. But, now, as a writer… well, do you know how long it took to type that paragraph?! I feel like I should take a coffee break before I start the next one!
  2. Open a Coke Can. Don’t even try. You’ll need a pen cap or a quarter. But, don’t even bother doing it yourself.
  3. Wash dishes. There is no way you’ll scrub the grease and grime off the pot with these plastic nubs. And without breaking them? Yeah right. I guess this is sort of the point to fake nails. “I’m so dainty and spoiled, I don’t have to do housework.” Bularky.
  4. Scratch…anything. You would think with these long nails, you’d have some super-scratch power. Not so. There’s nothing worse than trying to scratch an annoying itch with nothing but blunted plastic. You eventually just settle for a vigorous rub.
  5. Carry anything moderately heavy. I’m not a super lifter, but I won’t shy away from carrying a heavy box, or dragging a piece of furniture across the room if necessary. But, now my fingertips wince in pain at the idea. I never thought I’d be one of those girls– “I don’t want to break a nail!” But they were expensive, and they are only supposed to last about two weeks anyway. I want my full two-week’s worth!
  6. Handwrite. During the interview, they had me fill out some paperwork. When I turned it in, I’m sure they wondered if I was half-literate with my chicken scrawl.
  7. Peel an Orange. This was a last minute addition to the list, and yes, it was painful.
  8. Keep them clean. Everything from food particles to lotion, to God-Knows-What gets stuck under there. You have to constantly keep washing them.

Things You Can Do With Fake Nails:

  1. Look Dainty and Sit Pretty.  Oh my vapors, where is Gloria Steinem when you need her?!  The whole Damsel in Distress thing is so overrated. Knights in Shining Armor don’t take money, but they aren’t free either.

I know I probably could have articulated this better. But, typing this was hard enough. All you’re getting is a rough draft today. Sorry. Just take my advice and don’t get your nails done.

Posted in God

On Hypocrisy and Grace

We all know those people. Their Facebook statuses read things like, “To God be the glory,” and “Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, Prayer Meme.” But, if you know them beyond their Facebook, or whatever other public image they project, you find their personal lives are a bit…well…lacking.

On the one hand, you want to call them a hypocrite. But, then on the other, what makes them so different from the rest of us? Fallible humans in need of grace.

Certainly I have my faults. I don’t always walk in the grace that I should, and at times, I can deliver a sharp tongued blow, leaving one of God’s creatures reeling in agony. Does that make me a hypocrite? I would like to say not. I would like to say it makes me a fallible human. But, theoretically, how does that make me different, than say the girl who is having an affair with her married co-worker, yet goes to church every week?

The Bible tells us that only the sick need a doctor, and my all-time favorite Christian songwriter Steve Taylor put it aptly by writing, “Jesus is for losers. I’m off about a hundred degrees.” We are only ready to accept Christ when we realize we are fallen, and there is nothing we can do about it.

So, if said woman, confused, and trapped in sin, holds to the Bible because her life leaves her empty, does that make her wrong? Of course not. It makes her the prime candidate for grace.

But, when does it become hypocrisy? When are we slaves entrapped by sin, thirsting for grace, and when are we just plain abusers of the cross?

And, how do we relate to such people? When do we say simply, “Jesus love you just the way you are.” Versus, when do we tack on the last clause, “But he loves you too much to let you stay that way.”

The messy politics of grace.

Posted in Writing

Tools of the Trade: The Writer’s Computer

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about writing and taking in a lot of advice from others writers.  There is a lot of it out there. They all say things like, “Get a website,” and “Write every day or you’re not a writer,” or “Journal to get the juices flowing.” This is all great advice.

But not many write about the basic building block of our careers and our shared passion: the writer’s computer. We build elaborate writing rooms, with spacious desks and overflowing bookshelves and busts of Rodin’s Thinker. But at the center of this, is that small piece of technology that makes everything we do, or at least say we do, possible. So, for anyone looking to become a writer, or for the unfortunate supporting a broke writer, here is what to look for when buying a writer’s computer.

  1. Nix the PC or Mac Debate.

Who cares?! With writers, technology quality and software package are less important than say, a graphic designer. Homer etched the Odyssey in stone tablets and Shakespeare wrote on parchment with quills. To my knowledge, none of the publishing houses featured in the latest edition of Writer’s Market accept submissions on stone or parchment. So, yes, a good computer, preferably a laptop, is a necessity of the modern writer.

But whether this computer comes from “Bad Billy,” or the late Steve Jobs, is ultimately immaterial. A Mac may be a bit more fashionable, but PC’s are generally more affordable and more accessible on a beginning writer’s budget. Now, if you are doing your own publication with layout and design, ad creation, etc., then that’s a different matter. You probably do need a Mac. And you also need to think about things like graphics capability, memory size and processor speed—all things that make my eyes glaze over. But, for the rest of us, the decision is less technical.

  1. Keyboard Layout

This may seem like a small thing, but it actually matters…a lot. A writer needs a good well-spaced keyboard. Internet-focused laptops have cramped keyboard spaces, leaving the most room for scrolling and clicking. But a good writer’s keyboard allows the hands to be comfortably positioned and freely move about the space.

The keys must also be responsive, lightweight, and feel good to the touch. You will spend thousands of hours each month running your fingers over and over and over those keys. Spend a few minutes in the store running your fingers over the keys. Which one do your fingertips prefer?

Maybe I’m a bit of a Luddite, but speech recognition software is great for grocery lists, parking space notation, and simple phone-based web searches. But, I wouldn’t trust Siri to write my novel. You just can’t get around a good keyboard.

(But, don’t go overboard and get those silly ergonomic ones with the split in the middle. Those are ridiculous).

  1. Word Processor

Word processing, once the default function of a computer, doesn’t even come standard with brand new computers anymore. A new Windows machine will usually come with a trial version of Microsoft Office. After about 90 days, you have to fork over another couple hundred dollars or you’re on your own. I’ve never been fortunate enough to buy a Mac, but from what I understand, it’s the same thing. So, if you can, ask for the upgrade for a full upgrade to Microsoft Office in the beginning, and get it out of the way.

If you can’t, there are a lot of other word processors on the market. Some writers can actually get a bit snobby about their chosen software. Although, for every successful writer who calls MS Word amateurish, there are two more who simply shrug and say, “I just use Word.” Most other word processors are cheaper than Word and many are even free. Open Office, for example, is a very popular free knockoff of MS Office. The word processor, called Writer, looks, feels and works just like Word 2003.

Although, my favorite word processor, is an application called Scrivener. Created specifically with the needs of novel writers in mind, Scrivener is essentially an interface that links an infinite number of text documents together for one-click navigation. Scrivener looks a bit like iTunes, with all of your scenes listed on the sidebar, neatly organized by chapter. Each scene of your novel can be viewed or manipulated as a separate piece, or as part of a whole. The scenes can also be viewed together in a storyboard format, and even moved around within the whole. At any time, a few clicks can produce a professionally formatted Word document ready for submission. The whole thing costs a whopping $32. It also does a whole lot more, but that’s a post for another day.

Whatever word processor you use on a daily basis, it is agreed you must at least have Word. Microsoft Word is the industry standard among publishers and editors. When you send work back and forth to them, they will want to deal in that format. But for a beginning writer who doesn’t have Word, don’t despair. There are many free web services that will convert other file types into Word documents that you can send to your editor. But, once you get serious, you’ll need to get Word.

  1. Good Internet Capability

Writers don’t particularly need lightning fast Internet, but you will be surprised at how much web based research they will do. Settings, occupations, historical data, phone numbers and “Exactly how did that famous quote go…?” all must be within a finger’s reach. A computer without good online capability can frustrate a writer.

Not to mention, for many writers, music helps the process. I like to stream music on YouTube because I’m cheap, but others may prefer paid services like Pandora, or at least iTunes. Most new computers these days come with adequate memory, but older or refurbished models may be harder to work with. You will need to be able to have several windows and tabs open, and switch seamlessly between them.

 5. Portability

Creativity is fickle, and every writer has their own opinion, usually very strong, about where and how they need to write. I personally like to write in a variety of settings. I find that if I use one place too much, it’s like I dry out the creative energy in the place. I can’t write there for a while until the creative energies have time to replenish. I write in Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, my desk, the couch, the dining table, the front porch, in a notebook at the mall food court…Wherever I can find a place to sit and think. My laptop is a true road warrior.

As such, a writer needs a laptop that is durable and fairly lightweight. Tablets, while scoring a perfect ten in portability, are not good for serious typing. Even the external keyboards seem to be too small and cramped for the heavy use that writing will require. Unless you are a power tablet user already, the learning curve for extensive tablet use also can be counterproductive. But, that’s a matter of opinion. A dedicated iPad writer may strenuously disagree with me.

 

Ultimately, writing is the least technical function done on a computer. As long as you have a good computer, you’ll be fine. My philosophy has always been never to spend more time and energy talking about writing, than actually writing.

As a matter of fact, experienced writers will tell you that’s how you spot an amateur. They’re running their mouths instead of hitting the keys. So, don’t get caught up in the details. Find a good computer that feels comfortable, and then smile and start typing. Once the paychecks start rolling in, you’ll have enough experience to decide what you really need.

Posted in Life

The Story of Sae Sae

In honor of my beautiful niece Selah Lynn Whitmore, (Sae Sae) on her first birthday.

The Story of Sae Sae

 One clear summer day, when the sun was high in the sky, and the bluebirds sang in the big oak tree outside the living room window, Mommy and Daddy learned they were going to have a baby. They were so excited and went to the doctor right away.

“Yep,” they said. “It’s true. You’re going to have a baby!”

The lady at the doctor’s office gave Mommy some tiny socks to celebrate.“But I only have pink,” she said. “So, I hope it’s a girl.”

Mommy was so excited she smiled the whole way home. She hung the tiny socks on the wall in the baby’s room. Mommy and Daddy had never had a baby before, so they were a little bit scared. But mostly, they were excited and they started to get ready for the baby to come.

“Soon,” they said. “But not yet. She still has to grow in Mommy’s tummy.”

It was a brisk Sunday afternoon, when the first hints of spring began warming the cool winter winds, that there was a big party for Sae Sae at Grandma’s house. Aunt Lacy made lots of snacks, and everybody came and brought presents for Sae Sae. Everyone said, “We’re so excited that Sae Sae is going to come! Soon, but not yet.”

The next morning, Mommy called Grandma and said, “I have to go see the doctor about this baby.” So, Mommy and Daddy and Grandma all went to the doctor.

And the doctor said, “OH MY GOODNESS! WE GOTTA GET THIS BABY OUT RIGHT NOW!”

Mommy and Daddy and Grandma looked at each other, “Right now?!” They asked. “It’s not time yet! It’s too soon.”

“Sorry,” the doctor said. “This baby has to come right now!”

They all began to worry–especially Mommy. “Oh no!” She thought. “Sae Sae still needs time to grow in my tummy. What if she gets sick cause she came out too soon?”

They took Mommy into the hospital and told her to lay in the bed while the doctors got ready. Some men were working next door, and it was very noisy. Mommy couldn’t sleep.

Mommy told Daddy, “Tell those men to be quiet! I can’t get any sleep!”

So Daddy did, but it didn’t help. They were still noisy.  Mommy and Daddy waited a long time, and finally, doctors came and got Sae Sae out of Mommy’s tummy. And Sae Sae said, “WAAAH! WAAAH!”

And Mommy and Daddy and Grandma were so excited that Sae Sae had come that they cried too. Especially Mommy who was so excited she cried almost as hard as Sae Sae. Daddy was so happy, he told everyone on the computer, “Sae Sae is here!”

Grandma called Aunt Lacy and Uncle Michael right away and they came to the hospital to see Sae Sae. Aunt Lacy loved Sae Sae so much, she told Uncle Chase, “I want to take this baby to come live at our house!”

Meanwhile, Aunt Layla was at home, working on her computer and saw what Daddy wrote. And she was so excited, she jumped up out of her chair so fast she almost knocked it over.  She ran straight outside to find Grandpa and didn’t even put on her shoes. And she said, “Did you hear the news?! Sae Sae is born!”

Grandpa was outside working, and he smiled and said, “I heard the news!”

The next day, Grandma and Grandpa and  Aunt Layla, and Uncle Michael and Aunt Lacy and Uncle Chase all went to the hospital to see Sae Sae and Mommy and Daddy.

And they all held Sae Sae and saw how great she was. And Mommy and Daddy told them all about the noisy workmen and how they couldn’t sleep. The next day, Mommy and Daddy took Sae Sae home from the hospital to see her new home, and her room and the special crib that Aunt Lacy gave her. And Sae Sae was just fine and never got sick from coming out too soon.

THE END!

 

 

Posted in Life

My Love/Hate Relationship with Television

I have this sort of love/hate relationship with television. I haven’t owned one about a decade. Well, I’ve occasionally had one for a few months here and there, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. So I put flowers on top of it so it would look pretty. (True story).

Growing up, we didn’t really have one. When I was six, my parents read some sort of book denouncing the television as a gateway to depravity and moral decline and a tool of Illuminati propaganda. Their eyes got big and they promptly dragged it out to the dumpster.

I sort of missed my cartoons and my after-school ritual of watching General Hospital with mom. (I never did find out if they got out of the underground cave, and who the father of that baby was).  But mainly, I just went back to reading Baby Sitter’s Club and that was the end of that. We got one again when I was about seventeen, but between work and high school activities, it never really became part of my life again.

I guess it has to do with the passive nature of TV. You are just sitting there, for hours, immersing yourself in a figment of someone else’s imagination. Granted, fiction is much the same, but there is something productive to reading. You are imagining, developing vocabulary, and sharpening your reading skills. Books, at least the great ones, are written with plot devices and literary techniques that sharpen your critical thinking skills. They can often be written to say something about society or humanity.

Television can do that too, but it is frequently at a lower level. They have thirty to ninety minutes to introduce characters, tell an entire story, keep you engaged and…then throw their point in there. That’s a lot. Most of the time they spell it out for you. Novels have 80,000 to 120,000 words to do all that.

But I think my reasons for hating television are a lot more self-serving. As a writer, television makes me mad. Not because I analyze the writing. Although, I do drive people crazy when I watch things with them. I spend half the time pointing out the literary devices the screenwriters are using, ruining the movie for everyone.

But, TV makes me mad because behind the actors, and the sets and the exploding cars, or pining lovers, there is a writer. Usually several of them. And they are WAY more successful than me. I imagine that they loved their English classes, just like me. I imagine they would write poetry of adolescent angst, just like me. I imagine they wrote stories and plays growing up, just like me. But, somewhere after the mortarboards and commencement speeches, something happened. Somehow, they got it right. And I have to admit, they are better writers than me. Instead I throw things at the TV and then go shopping. That always helps.

Not only that, I find that if I watch a lot of television, my writing defaults to formula plots and characters. “He’s a rich guy, but he feels trapped by his wealth.” Have I ever met anyone like this? No. If I did, I’d slap them over the head and tell them what they can do with their wealth.

“Well, they have to get back together in the end.” Do they? How many complicated break-ups have you seen in real life that never got back together? Plenty. So no, they don’t have to do anything….

But, on the other hand, there is something magical about TV. Maybe it’s some sort of hypnotic effect. There is nothing that calms your brain after a long day like television. Somehow sitting in front of the warm glow of the television, all your stress, anxiety, unsolvable problems, fade away. Life is just life, and you will figure out something, you think. For a few hours, you can just…be. Exist. This is extremely important, I have found. It also fills up a room and calms a restless spirit. Alone, in an empty house, television can keep you company and help you feel centered.

Television has gone through an incredible revolution in the last decade, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. People don’t watch TV as much, they watch it online more. I did Netflix for a while, although in my experience, Netflix is where bad scripts go to die. But, I’ll latch on to a few shows like Downton Abbey or Nashville via my all-time favorite, the free site, Couch Tuner.

I’ve found that beyond the philosophical reasons against television, there is some good to it. Sometimes you just need to watch a movie. At least I think this right now. Ask me again in six months. Johnny Cash used to say, “Don’t tell anyone my opinion on anything unless I’ve told you in the last fifteen minutes.” That’s about how I feel about television.

 

Posted in Life

Short is the New Black

So, while at…ahem…well, full adulthood, let’s say…I stand at a proud four foot ten, or at least that’s what I think. I don’t know. I don’t care about my height. But, it seems, everyone else in the world does seem to care….about my height. This is confusing to me. If I don’t care what my height is, what’s it to you?

I’ve never known what to say to people who seem so preoccupied with my height. I have found you have to respond, or they don’t shut up. The last time I tried the ignore trick, I was stuck in a line in Starbucks with this woman who just went on and on about my height. The line was about ten people long and I had to listen to this woman the whole time. She finally asked me if I even spoke English. So, suddenly, because I don’t respond to your comments about my body, I must not speak English?

Typically I say something polite like, “Dynamite come in small packages,” or “Thank you,” #smileandblush. But I’ve tried other responses. (“And you have black hair/glasses/a green shirt…. What’s your point?”)

Then there was the redneck-stoner skinhead type who I almost got into a confrontation with during my three day career waitressing at an IHOP. When said fellow waiter commented that I was short, I decided to try a new tactic…political correctness.

“It’s an ethnic trait,” I said in a mildly corrective tone.

His chest flared out and his head whipped around, “Are you saying I’m not ethnic?” he bellowed.

“No,” I recovered quickly. “I was referring to a specific trait inherent to my own ethnicity.”

He calmed to a mild simmer and wandered off. He never talked to me again.

Then there was the museum guard at the Smithsonian. As I perused the Jackson Pollocks, I noticed him eyeing me with a certain attention. I smiled politely and headed to the next exhibit. He stopped me. “How tall are you?” he asked curiously. I smiled my tight lipped, you-just-pissed-me-off smile, and countered. “How tall are YOU?” His eyes narrowed and he tensed up as if I had just told him a bomb joke. He stared me down for an answer. Whatever. I told him. He shook his head and smirked as I walked on.

Then there was the day I was in the library writing, when an actual midget approached me, and asked if I wanted to be an actor in his elf-group at the Renaissance Fair. I politely told him I’d be out of town, but thanks anyway.

Then there was the guy in a drug store aisle who stopped me to tell me I was short. I gave him my newly-formulated response inspired by the movie 50 First Dates. “Are you from another culture where it’s appropriate to walk up to a random woman and ask highly specific questions about her body?” He just stared at me dumbfounded and the stammered some sort of nonsensical response before wandering off.

Not that I am a rude person. I’m really not. It’s just, I’ve dealt with this crap for decades. Standing in line at Starbucks, trying to buy groceries, comments in workplaces when I naturally reach for a stools and or a chair to complete a task….I’ve just run out of ways to deal with it—the constant harassment that is. Yes, it is constant.

I don’t notice my height, until people point it out to me. Other than that, I just don’t think about it. I think about…

My career or lack thereof. My job and the various office dynamics and if I’m handling things right. My writing. My blog. Should I monetize it and if so how should I do it? Theology of art. Philosophy or at least that I wish I had more time for philosophical books. What I’m currently reading and how I could incorporate the structure into this piece I’m writing. If I should buy that book on writing or do I have enough books on writing and should just stop reading about it and write already. What I need to buy (new socks). What I want to buy (cool flavored coffees and a fun tea set at Teavana). The sales at Macy’s (and the nifty teapot on clearance). My latest home decorating project and how I should use it as an excuse to go to Ikea. How much I wish I was Julia Child and could make really cool recipes. My nieces and nephew and if I will be a “cool aunt,” or just a plain old aunt. The photo book I was going to do for niece’s first birthday and haven’t done. How much I wish I had a boyfriend, but how my most recent experience to that effect shows that I actually don’t want one. Am I getting too old for a first marriage? Am I ever going to make it as a writer? What should I do with that first chapter of my book? It just slows the whole thing down and needs to be restructured. Maybe if I make this character do this, and then insert this whole section from this other file into this one, and then connect them, it will restructure properly. Could I do something totally avante-garde with the book and give it several layers of plot. How would that work? I would have to build-in a whole layer above this…

And then some strange person interrupts the reverie with, “You’re so short.”

And I’m just like, “Huh?…What’s…what’s…your point?” I want to slap them for interrupting with such a banal and useless observation. I don’t get it. What do you want me to do with that comment? Why do you feel strongly enough about it that you need to bother me with it?

I’m all for free speech. My degree was in journalism. (And free speech doesn’t actually exist by the way). But, I’ve even done research to find out if I can start slapping people with lawsuits under the sexual harassment clause. Because, conceptually, how is what people are doing to me, any different than stopping a woman on the street and making comments about her breasts, or her bottom or what have you? In this way, I sympathize with you particularly well-bosomed women who deal with the same issue.

In an age of political correctness, have we lost the basic social sense of good manners? Or are we so accustomed to nanny-government and anti-bullying propaganda that we can only hear etiquette when it is legislated or litigated?

Or maybe I’m just an angry little elf. I should have taken the gig at the Renaissance Fair. Then I could have bought me a double cheeseburger and fries and been happy in my pointy little elf shoes.