Friday, April 27, 2007

What Are You Afraid Of?

Okay, so maybe reading The Secret (or at least skimming it) will lead me to a breakthrough after all. Or not.

I continue to ponder my role in this world. I haven't found my place in the workforce yet, and I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I know, "Join the club," you say. We're all trying to find that magical blend of challenging, meaningful and financially rewarding work.

But I think about it. A lot. And I'm still hedging when asked the question, "If you could do anything, what would it be?"

My first response is nothing. The only reason I work is to make money. If that weren't an issue, I would not work. Period. Of course let's talk about your definition of "work." It's not work if you love what you are doing, right?

So what do I want to be? And why am I afraid to admit it - to myself and others?

I was pressed on that question last night, and I finally said "I want to be a writer."

There. Was that so hard?

"Then why don't you do it? I've read some of the things you've written - you are a good writer."

And that's where I started with the excuses. I'm used to earning a living wage; I'm afraid that I couldn't earn enough to maintain my lifestyle. Of course that's a copout. What is really behind that excuse is this - I'm afraid that no one will care what I have to say. Or worse - that my writing will be criticized.

And so I’ve allowed this fear to keep me from doing what I want to do. I have ideas for stories, novels. But I’ve never totally fleshed them out. I’ve never put together that finished piece and tried to do something with it. In some ways, this blog is my book. You know the adage that if you want to write, you should write every day. That’s what I do here. Sometimes more often than others. Sometimes more eloquently than others.

I think I’ve run out of excuses. If writing is my passion (and it’s just about the only thing that I’ve ever even considered attaching that label to) then I need to do it. I need to put together a finished product and go with it. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be a book. I could start out small with an article or a short story.

Maybe I’ll get paid to write, and maybe it’s just an outlet for me. Maybe I’ll never earn more than the $150 I made two years again when I wrote those silly society columns for the local newspaper.

Or I could just end this sentence and hit the “publish” button.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Learning how to say "no."

Last night I had a meltdown in the middle of Barnes and Noble's cafe. It had been eleven months in the making.

Eleven months ago, I let my self be coaxed, cajoled and pressured into working on a collaborative project with my neighbor Celia. A person I thought was turning into a friend at long last.

Years ago when we first moved here, my first impression of Celia was that she was a condescending know-it-all. I stood firm in that belief for a good 4-5 years. But then she invited me over for pool parties and coffee and she seemed sort of fun and I thought, "At long last, a friend!" My loneliness and need for adult relationships overshadowed my initial instincts when it came to Celia.

Celia discovered that not only could I write, I wrote very well. She latched onto me, like a parasite onto its host, deciding I could be most useful to her. She pressured me into writing a children's book with her even though the tiny voice in my head (the voice I refused to listen to!) screamed, "I'm not interested in writing children's books now! I don't want to write with a partner! I don't really like Celia all that much!"

For the next eleven months, denial and excuses became my modus operandi. As work progressed on the book, the sheer accumulation of words necessitated that I stick with it, despite that tiny, ineffectual voice inside me fighting to be heard as she tried to tell me, "This writing sucks!"

Celia wanted my writing abilities but as we work, she rejects my ideas and suggestions. She sits at the helm, in control, typing her words. My purpose? Was to inspire and motivate her, apparently. Celia's writing style is to take an ordinary object or action and describe it to death. A flashlight hidden on a ledge in a cave becomes an intricately described grooved metal cylinder. And to what end? Purely to pad word count and reach "The End" faster. Celia operates under the delusion that writing makes money and the faster you do it, the faster you get those royalty checks.

I've been writing for publication since 2000 and I'll tell you right now I've made a grand total of about $90 for my writing.

There's so much more I could say about Celia. Anyone who read my blog regularly knows what a struggle I've been through and you're probably nodding your head vigorously now as I admit I was in denial that there was a problem. And you're probably shouting, "YES, FINALLY, SHE GETS IT!" when I say that Celia is an obnoxious pushy bully that I should never have gotten so deeply involved with.

So this meltdown had been building. Recent events leading up to it: I asked Celia for a current copy of our book so I could look it over, begin editing it on my own to try to make it interesting and possibly salable. But I looked at that first page and Celia had listed her name first even though alphabetically mine should naturally come first. Right there - those simple three lines of text symbolized my struggle. When she had first set down those lines and I asked her why her name was first (I can't even remember her reason), that should have been when I bowed out.

But I figured if the thing was ever published, an editor would fix that right up. So I continued editing and as I looked over that first page, I felt ill. My voice wasn't there at all. It was written completely in Celia's dull, klunky, over-detailed style. It was pure crap.

Eleven months and 112 pages of pure crap.

And every Tuesday and Friday morning I'm supposed to head to her house, my mind races for ways out.

So last night, in my writers' group, with my two closest critique partners, I had a meltdown which they watched unfold without surprise. They knew it was coming. And they told me only this:
Celia's got to go.

I spent hours with them trying to teach me how to say "no." And then I came home and spent another few hours with my husband teaching me how to say "no."

No. No more. I'm done. I'm out. No. No. No. NO!

There's nothing wrong with telling people no. If you don't want to do it, if your instincts are saying one thing, don't say another. Just say no. My husband said the only person who can say "no" to look out for you is YOU.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Suddenly, Spring - Part II

I had the BEST weekend.

Even though Saturday wasn't my own, I made the best of it. Volunteered for a group helping to rehab a home 12 miles out of town. They were siding, building decks, adding gutters, installing a new hot water tank, painting the living room and kitchen and installing new kitchen cabinets. I was good for painting and that was the extent of it. But I did it with some of the gals from my women's group and we all went out for a drink afterwards and did a little bonding.

Then up the mountain to spend the night with The Man. He threw a few steaks on the grill and we settled in to watch my latest Netflix movie, Stranger Than Fiction. I must have had great big gulps of fresh air because I was asleep on the couch by 9:00.

The Man and I had agreed to go for a bike ride on Sunday, so around 10:30 we hit the road. It was a picture perfect day. Not too hot, not too cool - the temperature was just right. It's still a little early for bugs, so we were pest-free the entire way. We zoomed down hills and raced back up. We went down dirt roads and paused beside the river. We came upon an old cemetary and went in to view the names. It was indeed an old cemetary - everyone was born in the 18th or 19th century. There were war heros buried there. Octegenarians and young children.

We made a big loop around the mountain, got some ice cream at the general store and then walked up the steep part of the hill leading back to The Man's place. Along the way we talked and just had the best time ever. We both enjoyed it, and we're already talking about doing it again.

It's nice when you have a great weekend!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Seen on a big yellow Hummer. Yeah, I would have left the asshole too.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Suddenly, Spring

So the Nor'easter has passed and suddenly it's Spring.

I still have a waist high pile of snow on the north side of the house, hidden by the overhang of the porch, but it is melting more and more rapidly. The forecast is for high 60s and into the 70s over the weekend and into Monday, so it's bound to disappear quickly.

I heard the birds singing when I woke up this morning. I really hadn't heard them before this. Patty and I had lunch and walked through the park and we bumped into Amy. It was so nice being out and about.

Tomorrow I'm volunteering on a house rehab project, so I hustled to do as much yard work as I could after work tonight. I won't get a chance tomorrow, and right after the project I'll be headed up to the mountains to spend the night with The Man. I'm taking my bike and we're going to go for a ride on Sunday. It will feel good to be out stretching our legs.

I'm waiting for the second load of laundry to finish in the washer so I can throw it in the dryer. I'm going to need the jeans for tomorrow. I was hoping to get to bed a bit earlier, but oh well. Kind of a slow, boring end to an event filled week.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech has been on my mind all week. I didn't hear about it until about 8:00 on Monday night and I was just stunned. It's all so senseless. I was wondering when we would hear from the shooter's family, and I see that they did finally issue a statement through a representative earlier today. I feel for them. It wasn't anything they did or didn't do. He was just a horribly sick young man.

My mother called last night to say that some sort of threat had been called into her school, and they were going to be in total lockdown today. She was pretty sure it was a prank, and sure enough, it was. Classes were held and no one was hurt. I don't know how many parents kept their kids home, but that was just what the prankster wanted. I believe in taking precautions, but you can't always protect yourself. When these things happen, they happen. When your time is up, it's up.

So live life to the fullest, close your eyes and breathe. Lift your face to the sun and smile. Sounds like a plan to me!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Only Four Left!

So I've been getting these CareerBuilder job postings for truck driver jobs. First it was 12 jobs available, and then it dropped to ten. Now I see that there are only four positions left. I hope they fill them soon so I stop getting those emails.

It's snowing. Again. Still. A Noreaster they say. As much as running is a part of John's life, I think it's a good thing he isn't competing in the Boston Marathon this year.

The pork roast is cooking in the crock pot. We're going to have an early dinner so I can get home before the storm gets too bad.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


In the past 30 days my gmail account has accumulated 1,863 pieces of spam.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Adoption Rights

I recently read about a woman who was given up for adoption, found out who her biological mother was, and is now asking for a part of her multi-million dollar estate. My first thought was, of course she's entitled to a part of the estate. And then I thought about it a little more. I don't think my opinion has changed, but the issue does open up a whole can of worms.

Children who are adopted are considered legal heirs to their adopted parents estates, aren't they? So why shouldn't biological children have the same rights even if they were given up for adoption? Here's where it gets sticky - what about all those children conceived via sperm donations? Would allowing an adopted but biological child to make claim on an estate open up the door for sperm donor babies to go after Donor # 709?

I'm sure that there are tons of forms and papers and legal documents that the mothers sign waiving any and all rights for themselves and their potential children before they are ever allowed to make a withdrawal, but someday, don't you think someone is going to try to test that?

I'm already waiting for sperm donor kids to grow up, go out and multiply with each other. Seriously. I mean, they had all these sperm donor babies on the news together. All these women who used Sperm Donor # 401 - basically their children are all half-siblings to each other. Is there going to come a day when these kids grow up, start dating, and have to tell their potential mates "Hey, just so you know, my father is Donor # 401 from the Fairfax Cryobank. Who is your father?"

I don't know. Wacky world we live in, isn't it? Here's an interesting story at Slate with lots of other links. Something to think about.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Being the gutter gal I am, I thought it said "rowdy sex girl" but The Man figured out it probably means "Red Sox Girl."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Loose Ends

Trying to tie up some loose ends this weekend.

* Sent job posting to Greg
* Emailed John to say hello
* Paid my phone bill which somehow I neglected to pay last month
* Picked up a new supply of aspirin for my once a day heart healthy routine
* Finished putting together a birthday basket for The Man
* Pulled two garbage cans from out back and picked up the large sticks in the yard
* Made carrot raisin salad for tomorrow's easter brunch
* Taxes ... ugh.
* Laundry
* Dishes

The crocus' are blooming and the daylilies and tulips are coming up even though the ground is still frozen. Or at least refrozen. It got cold again and I actually had to wear my winter coat to work yesterday.

Today is The Man's birthday and we're going out with the gang tonight. So I guess I'd better get a move on and hop in the shower so I'm ready when he gets here. Later!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Every Which Way But Loose

Just did some catching up on my bloglines. I don't think it shows in my blogroll, but once upon a time I subscribed to ProBlogger. I had high hopes that I might become the next Fish or Washingtonienne or Tequila Mockingbird (interestingly enough, when I went to find her blog I discovered that she had just posted today for the first time in over a year!) or something like that.

So far - not.

I haven't found my niche. I'm not linking enough. I'm not commenting enough. I'm not populating my posts with links. I'm just too scattered. I keep saying I want to focus on this, but then I come home at the end of the day and the last thing I want to do is sit in front of the computer. Ah, blogging On Company Time ... those were the days!

These days I'm too busy to blog. Pilates on Monday. Yoga on Tuesday. Pilates again on Wednesday (except for those nights when it conflicts with my women's group meetings). Dinner with The Man on Thursday, followed by Survivor with Mary. Friday? Happy Hour. Last week it was $4 cosmos with Phil; this week it's $7 cosmos with Denise. Saturday it's run around, pick up the house and then go over to spend the night with The Man. On Sunday, crock pot dinners and then back home to start all over again.

And what's new with you?

Monday, April 02, 2007


Am I the last to know that postage is going up again? I'm still working through my holiday stamps, thank you very much. Speaking of which - I need to remember to send a birthday card to my friend Diane.

Made corn and cod chowder for the last time this season on Saturday. Once spring and summer hit, it's just not the kind of meal you crave, you know?

Watched Casino Royale and didn't hate the new Bond.

Did my taxes over the weekend. Looks like I only owe $200 instead of $400, so that makes me MUCH happier. I feel like I just 'found' $200!

One of the women over in accounting who walks past my cubicle six times a day to go outside and smoke a cigarette? Said she won $4,000 at the casino over the weekend. On the same machine that doled out $2,700 to her a few months back. Some people have all the luck!

Actually, if I'm to believe The Secret, we all have the luck - it's just some of us know how to better cultivate it. I'm trying. Thinking positive thoughts and trying to attract positive outcomes to me.

Hard to do when you follow up on a job lead to find out that you aren't even getting an interview. But then you come home and hit the job boards once again and see a training position that might be a fit and you happen to know the executive director so you email him to get more info.

'Cause if it doesn't pay at least what you're making now, there's no sense wasting that $0.39 stamp.

Wanted to tweak my template and was actually looking to use the lovely drag and drop feature that New Blogger has. Except the Layout option seems to have disappeared. It's like I've gone back to the dark ages again. And I really don't want to sit here and go through the whole transfer process again and I don't think I should have to - other New elements (such as tags) are showing up. Why is it that I seem to have simply lost the layout feature - just when I wanted it.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Is it worth it?

I am taking advantage of Kenna's open invitation to be a guest blogger. I have had the pleasure of meeting her in Boston the past two years. I won't get to Boston this year to run the marathon, so I will have to settle for posting on her blog. Not quite the same, but it is a rendezvous of sorts anyway.

This topic is inspired by a frequent reader / guest blogger of this very site: Sally

John StrainI was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout. My brother was too. My sister was a Blue Bird and a Campfire Girl. My dad was a scout master and my mother was a den mother for Cub Scouts and a leader for Blue Birds and Campfire Girls.

As a kid, I breezed through my scouting adventures oblivious to the hard work and sacrifice my father made. I am sure my brother and sister would say the same thing. Our parents were involved and it cost them time and effort.

With my family at the Grand Canyon
At the Grand Canyon wearing a Boy Scout T-shirt

If you have read Sally's writings about her Girl Scout leader adventures, you get a pretty good idea of what is involved. There are lots of meetings and trainings to attend, there are difficult people to work with, and there are issues that come up with your own child to workout. One does not always know "the answer" and there are loads of challenges, costs, and insecurities to handle.

From time to time, such leaders must ask themselves, "Is it worth it?"

Is it worth giving up weekday evenings and various weekends to be exposed to people you would rather avoid than do volunteer work with?

Is it worth being the "heavy" because it is the right thing to do and having all of the kids hate you?

Is it worth the certain occasional issues that come up trying to balance being a parent to your child and treating them like an equal in the group? You will be accused of playing favorites by some kids and their parents, and you will field protests from your own child that you aren't being fair to them.

I suppose each leader has to answer these questions. These are the things that don't appear in the leadership recruitment brochures.

When adults volunteer to help their children in a group, whether it is scouts or sports, they have a vision in their mind. They have an idealized, Norman Rockwell scene playing in their mind's eye. Then the reality of the setting slaps them awake, but by then it is too late to retreat.

I love the scene in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin was a baseball coach and he encouraged / made his son of about 8 or 9 play second base. Suddenly, the batter popped up a pitch and it was headed for his son. As the ball flew through the air awaiting the catch, the viewer was given a glimpse inside Steve Martin’s head. It was in the future and his son was receiving a college degree. The son was making a speech and he said, “I want to thank my Dad, for making me play second base.”

Back to reality, the ball came down in his son’s glove, but he couldn’t hold it. They lost the game and his son was the goat. Again, we were given a glimpse inside Steve Martin’s head. This time, it was an emergency scene. One heard gunshots and people were taking cover. “He’s in the tower,” someone said. Then the camera panned over and you heard someone “obviously the son” shouting from the tower, “You made me play second base.”

We imagine one thing but get another.

I can relate to this. I coached baseball and basketball. There were times I really did not want to go to the field or the gym on a Friday night or a Saturday morning or afternoon. It seemed such a sacrifice. My grass needed to be cut. My shed needed to be cleaned out. I had to pay my bills.

I always told myself, "Someday, you will want to see John play basketball and you won't be able to. This is temporary." I was right. John is 22 now. I don't have to go to anymore games. But you know what? My grass still needs to be cut, my shed still needs to be cleaned, and I still have bills to pay.

I know my parents both grew from their experience as leaders. To this day, they both spout words of wisdom taken straight from the leadership seminars or scout manuals. My mother would tell all of us at times things like, "Always finish what you begin." I think that is some sort of Blue Bird motto.

Scouting drilled good values into my head. We recited the scout pledge and the scout laws at each meeting. We took off our hats, placed our hand over our heart and said the pledge of allegiance at every meeting. We learned respect and patriotism.

It meant a lot to have my parents involved as leaders. I was proud of them and they provided another level of security that I enjoyed.

Now that I have grown up and had my shot at enjoying the sacrifice others made for me and making the sacrifice myself, I have no regrets. I think it was because my parents led by example that I felt a certain obligation to step up when it was my turn.

The value of volunteering is immeasurable. It pays dividends from now until the end of your days. I profited as a child experiencing scouts and enjoying the sacrifice my parents made. As an adult, my leadership ability was enhanced by my earlier experiences and I persevered because I had a good example from which to learn.

So is it all worth it? It was for me.

Until the next time
John Strain