Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Moving Day

Well, friends, it's moving day. The boxes are packed, the truck is loaded, the new place is spit-shined and polished up, waiting for me to deposit all my crap.

After nearly ten years here at blogger, I have secured my own URL. There are tons of reasons for this and I won't bore you, but I do hope you like it. I'm not entirely set on the design yet, but since I'm a cheapskate skinflint and I'm not a web developer, I'm a little stuck with my options right now. Eh, it'll do the trick for awhile and I can always update later. The main thing is that I did it, I pulled the trigger and I jumped in and I threw something at the wall to see if it will stick. How's that for mixing metaphors?

I am definitely nervous about this, because it's incredibly personal. I mean more personal than all the usual stuff I share here with you in that it's my name. It is 100% attached to me, not just some random Amy in St. Louis. If someone googles my name, that site will come up. Eventually, you know, when google figures out that I'm out here. While I realize that yes, this is a good thing and that I do need to self promote for my writing and that millions of people do this all the time, my heart is wary. What if I put myself out there for everyone to see, and... (fill in the blank with any number of personal disasters)? That's it, really. That's the crux. You don't even need to fill in the blank. What if I put myself out there?

Ohmygosh I put myself out there.

Part of me wants to celebrate. The other part of me wants to vomit. That's pretty normal, right?

There's not much there yet. I still have to unpack. Come visit, won't you? (My new address is my first and last name, for those of you who know me know me. The rest of you...well, just leave a comment and I might forward you on.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

As the bell tolls

I just had a management meeting where a topic of discussion was the Angelus bell not ringing properly at noon each day. This meeting is made up of four monks and five lay people, and it's held in the rather dimly-lit monastery board room at a heavy wooden table at 3:15 p.m. on Mondays. This is a very serious meeting in a very serious location. (I'm just setting the stage here, people.) We discuss any number of things, including student activities, maintenance issues, accidents, upcoming events, recaps of past events, and ideas for improvements. I usually pick up a task or two in these meetings; today I volunteered to be the Sign Czar. (Because I am stupid.) I never know what's going to come up at these meetings, and usually something makes me laugh, despite this being a very serious meeting in a very serious location. Today it was the Angelus bell. Only because I got to hear a monk describe the misbehaving bell much like how people experiencing car troubles talk to their mechanics.

"It bongs and then it doesn't. I mean, it's supposed to bong three times, but it stops after the first bong. And then it's supposed to peal. After three sets of the bongs. And it's not pealing. It's not swinging. The pealing is when the bell swings back and forth, as opposed to being hit by the hammer for the bong. Well, the whole sequence is supposed to go bong bong bong, rest, bong bong bong, rest, bong bong bong, rest, swinger."

I gave up trying to be an adult, burst out laughing, and laid my head on my notebook. The principal, sitting next to me, was only slightly more successful at maintaining his composure, but I lost it again when I saw that he had written "bongs and swingers" at the top of his notebook. He told me later that when he retires after selling his sitcom idea for millions of dollars, he knows that the title of this particular episode will be "Bongs and Swingers." I told him that's the title of chapter 52 in my best-selling book.

The principal just walked past my office window, stopped, backed up, and mouthed "Bong bong bong" to me through the glass. And then the church bell started ringing. Of course.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Highlights. And laundry.

A volleyball match, a football game, Mass, laundry, and a new writin' machine. That was today.

Highlights:
  • Zoe made an incredible return that caused me to scream like a caveman. I don't know where that came from. My screaming, not her play. She plays awesome. M was pretty pleased, too. We took two of the three sets and the match. All three of us were pretty pumped after that.
  • Sitting in the football stadium of my alma mater on a gorgeous fall day watching my adorable nephew play. And then getting to see him after the game. That part was really the highlight.
  • The little boy in the pew in front of us at Mass was out of control. I had a choice: be completely annoyed or sympathize with his grandmother who was desperately trying to get him to behave and failing miserably. He was a cute kid, and when he launched his Nerf rocket about halfway through Mass I gave up trying to be annoyed. A few minutes later he scooted under the pew and was hanging out next to me, while his poor grandma tried to figure first where he want and then how to get him back. He went back under the pew. I tried to suppress the giggles. I failed.
  • Laundry. No highlights. Because laundry.
  • A new writin' machine. Yep. M and I went to look at the laptops today and then I went back and bought one. He told me it's my anniversary/Christmas/birthday present. I am negotiating that it's anniversary and Christmas, but no way is it birthday. There's a statue of limitations on gift credit. Since it's our anniversary next week and Christmas is only two months away, I'll go ahead and credit the writin' machine to those. And also from here on out the official gift for 18 year anniversaries is MacBook. Not turquoise (traditional) or porcelain (modern).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

But I neeeeed it

At open mic the other night, I was chatting with a fellow writer when lo! I was asked to join a weekly writing group.

You have no idea how exciting this is.

I have found my people. My tribe. My posse. People who love to write and who think debating the use of the Oxford comma is a great way to spend an evening. And where does this group meet? A coffee house. Of course. I have discovered Mecca.

I have been steadily peppering my poor husband with requests for a laptop for several months now. He has a wide range of reactions, ranging from "How's the budget looking?" when he knows I haven't updated it in a few months, to simply shaking his head and walking away. Sometimes he points out that I have a giganto iMac sitting in My Room at home, whereby I point out that it's giganto and weights a trillion pounds and requires an outlet. Then he shakes his head and walks away, while I follow behind, doggedly explaining that the iMac is my photography machine and the laptop would be my writing machine. I know he is convinced that my favorite hobby is sitting around trying to figure out ways to drain our bank accounts.

Now, though, it's all different. I have some really, really good reasons for getting a laptop:
  1. I can't drag the iMac to the writing group every week.
  2. I'm embarking on this NaNoWriMo thing and it'd be nice to not be tied to the house. I'm attending at least one write-in that I know of, with more on the horizon. Again, can't haul out the iMac.
  3. There's inexpensive software I'd like to download for writing. It has a boatload of features I won't bore you with, but again, it needs to be on a mobile device. Clarification: a mobile device with a keyboard and a screen larger than my cell phone.
  4. I have devised all sorts of clever ways to pay for it without really paying for it, which is really just accounting practices I've gleaned from Enron and Goldman Sachs and other upstanding companies who have exhibited creative financial trickery. "Hey, look, we have this nice rebate from the window treatments!" "Hey, I found some money through a health insurance deductible reimbursement deal at work." It's like free money! Only it's not when you really think about it so let's not.
  5. I want it.
The poor boy is working his butt off in Shanghai this week, and has been the recipient of countless text messages regarding my quest to procure a laptop before NaNoWriMo. I have sprinkled in text messages about other, less important topics, such as Daughter Updates, and he responds to those so I know he's getting/reading them. He's become quite adept at completely ignoring the laptop missives. He's due home tomorrow night, though, and then the real onslaught will start. Mission MacBook commences for real in about 30 hours.

Wish me luck.

(Editor's note: an addendum has been added to the post below, required due to new information learned today. You may want to check it out. Then again, given the subject of that post, perhaps not.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Junk Patrol

Today at work I had to inform the new Director of Student Life that I was putting him on Junk Patrol. This week is Spirit Week, designed to get students pumped up for Homecoming Saturday. Student Council typically assigns a theme to each day of Spirit Week, which is really just a blatant attempt to get as many dress-down days as possible. Yesterday was Hawaiian Shirt Day. Friday will be School Spirit Day. Today, however, was Lumberjack Day. Everyone was to wear their finest flannel, and many obliged. Even faculty and staff got into the spirit. This place was a walking LL Bean catalog.

By 9:30 a.m., though, I had four people stop by my office to ask if I had yet seen a certain, notorious senior. I had not. I came straight in, did not pass Go, did not collect $200, and got to work, as is my M.O. I save my distractions for later in the day, when I need a break, and I prefer to just start tackling the to-do list as soon as humanly possible.

The folks who stopped by my office let me know that this senior was indeed wearing his flannel shirt, but had also apparently co-opted his younger sister's denim overall shorts. And by "younger" I mean "five sizes smaller." I'm still not entirely sure what he was hoping to accomplish, but later I heard that he was bragging about his ability to pass as an exotic dancer. One of the faculty used the term "male ballerina" to describe the, ahem, graphic nature of the overalls. There was very little left to the imagination. Another staffer used her hand to show on her own leg just how high the shorts went. Let's just say there are few people who can pull off short shorts like that, and none of them work or go to school here.

After the fourth person dropped by to talk about it (all were consistent: their mouths hung open in aghast, eyes glazed from the damage, heads wagging in disbelief), I popped by the poor Director of Student Life's office. I'm positive this is not what he had in mind when he accepted his recent promotion to this position. He had not seen the offending, um, package, and laughed nervously when I announced that he was on Junk Patrol. "You gotta go out there, find him, and say something." I didn't know whether he would actually do it, but huge props...he did. He had what has got to be one of the most uncomfortable conversations in his life. I do not envy him. However, he has a helluva story to share now, which is pretty kick-ass.

I had managed to avoid a sighting myself, until after lunch. I was headed to a different part of campus for a meeting and was almost down the main hall in the high school when something - a tragic sixth sense, if you will - made me turn around. There it he was, coming straight down the middle of the hall, walking towards me. The descriptions I had received were entirely accurate. Bleach is not strong enough to clean out my eyes, people. Oh, the humanity.

Every day I work here I experience something new. Every single day. And most of it? You can't make this stuff up. This is the Best Job Ever.

LATE ADDITION: It's now two days later. Today's theme is Jersey Day. People around here are sporting their favorite team jerseys. I've seen Blues, Cardinals, school jerseys, etc. Me? I'm showing off my new NaNoWriMo hoodie, which is like a team sport for writing geeks. Because writing is a sport, dammit. Anyway. It has come to my attention that a senior, different than the one profiled above, has chosen to wear his cycling jersey. Cool. I'm down with that. However, he is also wearing his cycling shorts. Once again, we have little left to the imagination, and someone's gotta go on Junk Patrol. I am recommending that next year, we designate one day as Junk Day, on which I and the rest of the female staffers will call in sick.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

I'm famous now

My alma mater emailed me today, which is nothing special because the J-School is nothing if not adept at steady communications. This time, though, I was surprised to find myself right there in the headline photo! Check it out!


There I am! Can you see me? I'm meeting the new Dean of the J-School, David Kurpius! Here, maybe this will help:

I used my mad Photoshop skillz to pull that off. Meaning, I farted around for 10 minutes until I figured it out.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

NaNoWriMo

Last year I wrote here about NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month. Basically, it's a whole bunch of word wranglers from around the world getting together and committing to put 50,000 words down in one month. 50,000 words is the average length of a novel. I couldn't commit back then, having never even attempted to write a whole book. Now, I've attempted it, and I think I'd like to attempt some more. I am maybe halfway through my middle-grade novel, and although I feel a bit stuck I would like to tackle something new. Maybe flush out the ol' pipes. I have a few ideas for this new work, and should probably get an outline going. I didn't outline the first book, and wonder if that's where I got into trouble. I waded into the tall grass and couldn't see my way out. I was, with that book, for lack of a better term, a pantser. That's what writers call those who write by the seat of their pants, sans outline. This works well for me with the blog, but I can see the benefits of being a plotter when it comes to a whole book.

I digress.

Last year when I learned about NaNoWriMo and knew I couldn't commit, I instead created an alternate goal for myself. I attempted to write short story fiction and then I put it out there. Turned out the writing part was the easier of the two. Sending my work out into the world was hard. I was fortunate enough to receive remarkable feedback, though, by winning the St. Louis Writers Guild Short Story Contest. I still can't quite believe that happened, but it was a huge boost to the confidence. It gave me the guts to start the middle grade novel, and to start writing much more consistently again. I even submitted to an online literary journal I love and was honorably rejected, so starting the string of rejections every writers bears as a badge of honor. You know you're a writer when you get rejected.

This year I've joined the other Wrimos (that's apparently what we call ourselves, as horrific as that sounds) and registered, and ordered a cool hoodie and this year's t-shirt and a fun travel mug that says "Good to the last plot," so I'm all set, right? Well. We'll see.

I think in order to do this, to really do it well, there are a couple things that need to happen:
  • I need to outline the book.
  • I need to carve out specific time.
Last night, after we did dinner and Scrabble and reading, after washing my face and brushing my teeth, I went into my little room. I had every intention of being all creative like. However, I saw the pile of paperwork and bills, and I can't just turn my back on that shit (I wish I could). So I balanced the checkbook and wrote a bazillion more checks (Zoe's school is killing me with the checks) and paid bills online and stapled and hole-punched and filed. This all took over two hours, and I was even more tired by the end of it, plus by then it was time for bed anyway. Absolutely nothing creative happened last night. And I realized that there is no way on earth I can crank out 50,000 words in a month when I have nights like that. Many, many nights like that.

I am considering using some of my vacation days (accrued over the summer thanks to not going anywhere/having any fun because of two foot surgeries) in November. Random Mondays or Wednesdays, devoted strictly to writing. This is the only way I can see having any chance of hitting that goal. I also read that putting your goal in writing is meaningful when it comes to actually attaining it. People who write out their goals are much more likely to achieve them than those who don't.

So, here's my goal: 50,000 words in one month. They may not be the right words, and the plot may be full of holes, but that's what December is for.