Confession of a Moody Writer

I learned something new about myself and my writing habits over the last few weeks.

I’m a moody writer. That doesn’t mean drama and sudden mood swings are necessary for me to create my best work. Nope, because that would be too easy. If a little bit of drama was all it took to glue my butt to my writing chair, I could have written my books YEARS ago.

When I’m moody, I don’t write. At all. Nothing. Not even a shopping list. My butt doesn’t even see the writing chair.

And there’s been a lot of mood going around lately.

It’s mostly stress I bring on myself – working full-time and going to school can be a challenge by itself. Add to that my grandpa leaving this world. And my friend’s cousin. And another friend’s dad. I’m also terrified about the state of our country, no matter who wins the upcoming election.  We now have feral kittens living in our backyard and I worry about their fate. I want to save them, but they won’t let us near them. There’s been so much floating around in my head that my characters can’t get a word in edgewise. My brain has curled up in a fetal position in the back of my head and it refuses to get involved in my life.

Even if my butt does hit the writing chair, I’m not able to focus on much more than the view out my window.

It’s a nice view, but still….

 

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Distractions of Olympic Proportions

I love the Olympics. Not in a stay home from work and watch from morning till night kind of way, but I’ll happily give up my evenings for two solid weeks to watch gymnastics (or figure skating, depending on the time of year).

This morning I watched an interview on Facebook with the Magnificent Seven. I remember like it was yesterday…Shannon Miller, the most decorated U.S. gymnast…Kerry Strug, clinching the title on the vault, wrecked ankle and all. Before 1996 we had a powerhouse in Mary Lou Retton. Since then, I’ve held my breath while Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin worked their way across the balance beam.   I’m excited to watch Gabby Douglas compete again for gold.

I’ve always loved gymnastics. Maybe because I’m such a tall, gangly girl whose entire gymnastic repertoire was a back bend (you know…bending backwards to touch my hands to the ground with my belly button arched to the sky).

Gymnasts seemed to always be petite, but powerful. They seemed fragile but determined. Their strength always amazed me, both in the routines they performed as well as their ability to handle what must have been crazy amounts of pressure.

Certainly the same could be said for many Olympic sports. The sacrifices made by athletes to compete at the top-level of their sport. Having a goal and being in it, heart and soul, putting in the work and then enjoying the glory of reaching your dream and competing against all the other bests in the world. And if you came out the other side on the podium…what a powerful moment. I’ve spent many years living vicariously through our U.S. gymnasts, cheering their success and mourning their losses.

It’s almost time to sit in my living room and share their adventure again.

I don’t follow gymnastics enough to know the ladies on the team this year. I know only that Gabby will return along with Aly Raisman. But by the time the all-around champion is crowned, I’ll feel like I’ve known these women since they were babies. Great Olympic coverage has always let you into their lives and created a sense of family for me. These are “our” athletes. The best the United States has to offer. Our sons and daughters. In a world turned upside down, maybe more than ever, our Olympic athletes make me proud to be an American.

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No Central Air = No Writing

My grandpa died early Sunday morning. Even if I had gone to Wisconsin with my husband on Saturday, I wouldn’t have made it in time to see him. (Hubby went to see his family while I stayed home to keep our fur babies from burning the house down.) I had every intention of spending these four days doing so much writing that my fingers would be worn off at the first knuckle. Sunday I lost to the bad news. Rest in peace, Grandpa. I know you are happier reunited with your favorite girl (Grandma) but the world is a sadder place for those you have left behind.

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As if that wasn’t enough, sometime Sunday night, the air conditioning stopped working. Not a huge problem in other parts of the country, but in the South in July…well…it’s so hot you sweat while taking a cold shower. The temps have been in the 90s and the heat index sometimes puts us into triple digits. I’m pretty sure I saw my computer desk sweating.

On the plus side, it’s keeping feline skirmishes down to zero. Ralphie doesn’t have it in him to expend his energy picking on his housemates. So that’s a win. I shudder to imagine what will happen once it’s comfortable in the house again. So much pent-up energy…so few worthy housemates to put him in his place.

Anyway, I’m on day two with no air and I don’t feel like doing a damn thing. For two days, I haven’t written, I haven’t crafted, I haven’t cooked, and I haven’t slept. It’s too warm to sit or lay down and it’s definitely too hot to turn on the stove. The cats are sprawled out all over the linoleum floor in the kitchen or directly under the ceiling fans. I’ve made them some catnip & tuna ice cubes so they can lick something nice and cool in hopes they don’t get too overheated.

I just got the call that the heating and cooling repairman is on the way. Thank God. I have one day left of my 4 day staycation and I want to make the most of it.

 

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The Culture of Hate

No great progress was made on the book this last week. There has been little news on my grandpa. He’s still with us, but getting worse daily, and I’m still spending my days letting the memories flow over everything else I’m doing. I’m not concentrating much on work, school, writing…not even Ralphie is getting the attention necessary to keep him from behaving like a bull in a china shop.

On top of my own crises, a friend of mine’s cousin was killed by a cop. He wasn’t in the act of committing any crime. He was sitting in his car. He did have a gun, but the police have not been sharing much else. It would seem no aggressive behavior was exhibited. How does this happen? Wouldn’t the office have spoken to him first? Asked questions? Even if something did seem suspicious, arrest him, don’t kill him. I know police have to make split second decisions and we weren’t there, but there is so much mistrust between the police and some of the communities they serve that sometimes, you don’t know who to believe. And this isn’t just about deadly force – what about the sex scandal with the Oakland Police Department? I respect our police departments – they are out there, putting their lives on the line every day, but some days, you can’t help but question everything.

Certainly our world has been going crazy these days. There have been more mass shootings and hate crimes than I can ever remember. When 9-11 happened, it was especially shocking in how unusual it was for something like this to happen in our backyards. Now, it’s almost like we are going from one tragedy to the next and instead of asking How or Why, we are only asking When.  When is the next one? Because we all know it’s coming.

We need to get back to asking How and Why, because those are the only questions that are going to help us solve this epidemic of violence. Many people want to look at an easy solution – ban guns. I believe this is a copout – it’s easy to say ban guns because that requires little investment of time from any of us. Just pass a law and it will all magically be better and we didn’t have to participate in our community at all. We didn’t have to get our hands dirty by trying to find the REAL solution. I’m just as much to blame. My husband and I didn’t walk the bridge with the community after the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church although we grieved for the families. We don’t volunteer – although we do give money to charity. Generally, we are just as disengaged as most people. This is part of what we need to figure out – how do we get people involved in their communities? Because it’s through involvement that you meet other people who may not be just like you but then you discover they really ARE just like you and a bond can be created. Maybe it’s not this simple, but we need a place to start.

While I can see, in some instances, perhaps tougher gun laws might have prevented a few of the tragedies we find every day in our newspapers, we all know it’s not going to solve them all. For every one criminal that gets their gun legally, many more do not. Do you think gang members and drug dealers walk into their neighborhood gun store and process the necessary paperwork for a background check? I think not. However illegal we make guns in this country, criminals will find a way to get them. Cocaine and heroin are illegal and yet they are everywhere.

How did it become OK to kill people when you are angry or upset? How did we become so full of hate that taking someone’s life is the go-to response? I’ve disagreed with people, hated people who have betrayed me, and wished neighbors would move away. Never was my response to cause anyone harm. I felt guilty for days after accidentally killing a bug while spraying for weeds. The weed spray went down into a little hole in the dirt and this poor bug comes running up out of the hole and I could see he was struggling for life. It was a terrible feeling.

Why would someone throw a kitten out a car window onto a busy highway? Why would someone shoot up a nightclub or a church? Why would someone kill their own children or their neighbor’s dog? What is it about our society today that has filled everyone with so much rage? I don’t have the answers, but we need to figure out where the hate is coming from and how we can stop it. And we need to do it soon, because it seems to me that right now, if we don’t, it’s only going to get worse.

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Time Flies

I forgot to bring my lunch to work with me today. I remembered it about 20 miles into my commute so there was no way I could go back for it. I’m back on Weight Watchers, so I can’t just go to McDonald’s without doing myself a serious disservice (I’ve lost 13 pounds so far). I was so mad at myself, I almost cried.

I’m not usually this wishy-washy. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know my grandma died last June. I adored her – she was my favorite person in the world. In the last couple of weeks, my grandpa has been ill. The doctors discovered he has cancer and it is everywhere…colon, liver, lungs…they aren’t giving him much time. And I can’t get up there to see him.

It’s disheartening that you can get time off work to go to a funeral, but you can’t get time off to go see someone before they die. I know some companies are more flexible with this…in fact, my previous company would go out of their way to shuffle staff around to allow an employee the opportunity to go see their loved one before they pass.  Now, I only get 3 days to attend the funeral.

This is the one thing that makes being so far away a major inconvenience. I feel obligated to be there to help my mom and aunt with these last days and all the work that will be ahead of them once grandpa is gone. The funeral is already planned and paid for, but there will be a house to empty out and sell. There will be hugs and support to share. There will be piles of paperwork and stories to tell.

I can’t get there, so Mom has to make the four-hour drive to his home by herself. My aunt has been there with him the last couple of weeks and it’s Mom’s turn. Tag, you’re it. I know she can do it, but I also understand how scared she is. My aunt had her husband for moral support, my mom will be there alone. It tears me up that I can’t drop everything and be her moral support.

I don’t want to disappoint grandpa that I am unable to get there. I know he understands and he wouldn’t want me to jeopardize my job to come up, but I feel like I’m letting him down. I feel like I’m letting my mom and aunt down.

On top of all this is the realization that my grandparents will be gone. No more vacations to their home on the lake, no more playing marbles at the kitchen table into the night, no more Christmases spent eating cookies and playing with our new toys, no more hugs, no more encouragement, no more making them laugh with stories of my adventures. One of the best parts of my life will be gone. I cherish every memory, but my heart breaks to know we won’t be able to make any more of them.

It makes me contemplate my mortality. My mom’s. The pace at which life feels like it has flown by scares me. I want to slam on the brakes and throw everything in reverse. I was planning to go up and see Grandpa next summer….you always think you have more time.

Instead, I try to pay attention to my responsibilities and I wait for the dreaded phone call. I jump each time the phone rings, willing it to be anyone but my mom calling to tell me it’s all over.

 

 

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Foiled by Traffic

I knew as soon as I opened my mouth, something would happen. No writing this morning – well, this blog post, but that’s it. An accident on the expressway turned my 30 minute commute into over an hour commute. Of course I don’t mean to make light of the fact there was an accident. I don’t want any harm to come to anyone, but it’s a little bit of human nature to finally get to the site of the accident, see everyone walking around and seeming to be OK, and being annoyed at the delay.

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Clker.com, shared by Alexander Roberge

The problem with living along the coast of South Carolina – as with many coastal areas, I imagine – is the water. I love the water. The ocean is a large part of the reason I moved here. But when you are trying to drive a car somewhere, the water is no longer your friend.

Because of the way Charleston is situated – a peninsula surrounded by water on three sizes – a bridge is necessary to get there. Because the surrounding areas are cut apart by either the Cooper or Ashley rivers and the various marsh areas, bridges are required to get through most of the other communities at some point or another as well. When you put it all together, you get a maze of curvy roads that all must come together at the bridges. Where I’m from in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, if an accident has turned the expressway into a parking lot, you find one of any number of other surface streets that will take you into downtown. That doesn’t work where water and bridges abound. If the expressway is a parking lot, it sucks to be you, because you will have to wait it out. You can get off the expressway, but the only way to get where you are going is to get back on it somewhere further down the line because you have to get on the bridge to cross the river.

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So, this morning, I inched along with everyone else for about 10 miles, watching the clock on the dashboard tick away the minutes I could have spent writing. My character’s home just burned down courtesy of the KKK. I have to get back to my keyboard and save her. Or rather, she needs to tell me how she plans on saving herself, because we all know our characters are their own person. You don’t tell them, they tell you. My character is pretty strong, so I know she’ll be OK, but I need to write it. It’s a bit like she is patting me on my head, “It’s OK, Julie. I’ve got this. See? Everything will be just fine.”

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Writing Schedule Mastered

I think I’ve come up with a writing plan that fits comfortably into my day along with my school plan. I’ve given up my gym time in the morning before work. Actually, I gave that up over three months ago because the construction at my job took away the spare bathroom. But, instead of sleeping later or spending my writing time at home acting as referee for feline skirmishes, I’m using the quiet time at work to get words on paper.

So far, it’s working out well. I only missed one day last week because I wasn’t feeling well and I came to work and took a nap before we opened instead. It’s easier than it sounds. Most of the old apartment is still there, so it’s not like sleeping at my desk.

Writing in the morning means I can spend the evening studying when I get home from work. The two days a week I’m off work, I take off from both school and writing. This way I can recharge and not get sick of either activity, but I can also spend those days working on scrapbooking, running errands and relaxing in front of the TV.

AND, you won’t believe it ~ today I found the research materials I lost! They were in an accordion file, right in my desk drawer. Quite literally, right under my nose the whole time. Of course, I would NEVER think to look in the most obvious place. Ha!

So, considering the fact that I’m at work and my computer battery is almost dead (of course, I didn’t bring the plug), I’m having a pretty good Monday.

 

 

WORD COUNT: 18,639

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