Wil Wheaton on Bullying, Compassion & Being a Nerd

“When a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s not about what you said. It’s not about what you did. It’s not about what you love. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad.”

Wil Wheaton, you are a credit to nerds everywhere. I salute you.

Empathy – An Essential Tool in Life & Writing

This video is aimed at professionals in the health care industry, but I think it’s a wonderful reminder for each and every one of us. Fair warning: It makes me cry every time I watch it.

I’m posting this video for two reasons:

  1. The world always needs love…and more empathy!
    • Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if everyone looked at their fellow humans this way. What if that grocery store clerk who seemed rude is actually fighting through a migraine headache? What if that guy who cut you off on the highway is actually rushing to the hospital to hold his newborn for the first time? What if that waiter who messed up your order just learned his fiance is cheating on him with his best friend? Most of the mundane stresses and annoyances that suck the joy out of our daily experiences would pretty much disappear with a liberal dose of empathy.
  2. This video perfectly depicts my favorite way to build fictional characters; it’s how I walk around looking at the world every day.

Which is not to say I’m some omniscient being who casts my eyes upon mere mortals and immediately KNOWS what is happening in their lives. Nope. I make it all up. Walking through life in my little writerly, Walter Mitty-esque bubble, I assign the most outrageous, twisted, heart-wrenching stories from the darkest depths of my imagination to perfect strangers.

Some people might believe this practice to be rather sick and wrong. I believe it’s the perfect way to build a huge arsenal of complex characters.

What do you think? Am I the only one who does this? Or is there anyone else out there who endures a long checkout line by dreaming up weird and wild stories for everyone else in the line?

Help! Pre-Surgical Jitters

Excuse me while I freak out for a moment…
Freak Out KittyAs I have been mentioning all over the Internets in every place where I normally post personal things about myself for the whole world to see, my right knee is badly damaged and in need of surgical repair. Surgery is scheduled for Thursday 1/23/14. And that is a good thing.

Whenever people notice me hobbling around on my crutch with a crooked leg and ask how I’m doing, I tell them I’ll be much better after my surgery. Every person who hears about the surgery responds in a way that tells me they think having surgery is about the worst possible thing aside from dying. It’s not. The worst possible thing aside from dying would be to hobble around on a twisted leg, in pain, with no hope of repair. Surgery is a blessing, folks.

To tell the truth, my knee has been wonky (a.k.a. unstable) for YEARS and this surgery is going to make it better than it has been since 1993. Seriously. A good thing this surgery is. (Picture me squinting and nodding with Yoda-like certainty.)

So…why am I freaking out?

1 – The beloved Man Pillow has a cold. He is shuffling around in his bathrobe, speaking in a voice that is a full octave lower than normal, drinking pots of tea, making chicken soup and coughing. Which is a polite way of saying he is spewing nasty germs all over MY living space. ARGH! When he told me he was sick, I cursed. Loudly. I was a flat-out, selfish, unsympathetic meanie. I seriously considered tying a bandana over my nose and mouth.

The poor man is miserable and I should be taking care of him. I should be making the soup and brewing the tea. I should be massaging his back lovingly with no selfish thoughts about my own health. I swear, this would be the way I would normally behave. But I’m not. Instead, I am hiding in the spare room. Why? Because I NEED this surgery.

When the medical scheduler called me, she tried to schedule surgery for mid-February and I unleashed some serious freak out on her. The words “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for me to take a bath like this?” came out of my mouth. (Side Note: If you are now or have ever considered a career as a Medical Scheduler, reconsider. Know that you will be dealing with a segment of the public that is coming to you damaged, upset, and possibly in pain. You will be verbally abused. On a daily basis.)

Long story short, I practically twisted off that poor woman’s ear to get this surgery scheduled for this week. Now I’m afraid they may have to postpone it if I get a cold.

Is that true? Does anyone know if you can get knee surgery with a cold? Or will my surgeon have to postpone if I catch this [bleep]-ing illness that has invaded my home?

2 – Honey responded to my terror of infection by doing some research. Then he proudly told me I may not have to be put under general anesthesia for the surgery. I may even (he told me with an excited look in his eyes) be able to WATCH my surgery on a TV while it is happening.

Uh…what the WHAT?!?!?! Who thinks that is a good thing?!?! Not me. I have no (zip, zero, nada) interest in watching a sharp instrument cut into my flesh nor in seeing foreign objects rooting around inside my body. EEEWWWWWW!!!!

Both my mother and I think he is wrong about this. We think they will put me OUT like a light. But the very thought that they may not put me out is like this giant monster zombie chewing on my brain. And I won’t be able to ask my surgeon until Tuesday when I see him for my pre-op appointment. Hence this desperate plea for information.

Has anyone out there had knee surgery to repair the ACL? If so, did your surgery use general anesthesia or local? Please post in the comments or on Facebook or email me.

photo credit: macwagen via photopin cc

2014 Resolution #1: Accentuate the Positive

Let’s start with the amazing, brilliant & endlessly buoyant John Green blasting just the sort of positive news needed to muster new hope for the new year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUhA6fjgnLY

Woo hoo! You go, John! Sometimes it feels like rampant negativity is a modern disease more virulent and destructive than any influenza pandemic. The talking heads on TV are always screaming, “It’s the end of the world as we know it and no one feels fine!” Every time I log on to check my email, I’m assaulted by horrible news feeds depicting death, disease, despair and other tragedies. Even speaking to friends and loved ones can quickly devolve into a detailed discussion of all the “bad things” that plague our daily lives.

So, this year, I’m going to accentuate the positive. No, really. I am. The glass is now officially half full.

I resolve to write down 3 things that make me feel grateful every night before I go to sleep.

A list of 3 seems quick, easy and doable, doesn’t it? What actions will you take to accentuate the positive in 2014? Or do you think this is a woo-woo waste of time?

A Confession…

I’m having an illicit affair.

His name is Sr. Rossi. His eyes are the color of the Caribbean Sea at sunset…and perfectly crossed. His body is a creamy buff, but his ears, face, toes and tail are a delicious shade of coconut brown. Every time I get close to him, he turns somersaults and purrs thunderously.

20131105-113623.jpgI am in LOVE! Don’t tell Zoey.

Alas, he is not mine. When I leave this beautiful place, I’ll be forced to leave my love behind.

And I must admit, after watching him frolic along the seashore with his lawful owner, he seems very content in his current relationship. He shadows her as she strolls through the waves, happily pouncing after the tiny scuttling crabs, never more than 20 feet from her side. Sigh.

20131105-114449.jpg

stalkerish photo of my fantasy feline and his owner taken from our balcony.

Star Wars – Not Your Typical Ghost Story

Hello everybody. I had a wee tiny little mental health breakdown that required a short vacation from the internet and blogging. Nothing serious. Don’t be concerned. Just a small bout of the writerly working girl blues. It happens. But I’m MUCH better now.

So let’s get back to Haunted October! And Star Wars!
Ghost Peeps and StormtroopersHuh? Ghosts and Star Wars? The original Star Wars trilogy has been called many things – the most elaborate, most expensive, most beautiful movie serial ever made (The New York Times), a spectacular intergalactic joyride (The Washington Post), the greatest space fantasy of all! (Marvel Comics) – but I don’t believe anyone ever refers to the original trilogy as a ghost story.

Well I’m here to change that. Remember this guy?
Ghost of ObiWan on Hoth

“You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

-Obi-Wan Kenobi

Ah, Obi-Wan! My favorite fictional ghost of all time. Who could not love the crazy old wizard who turns out to be a wise and fearless Jedi master; calmly accepting death so that others may live? [Sigh] And yet, even death could not stop Obi-Wan from mentoring and encouraging the callow youth destined to save the galaxy. Obi-Wan is so awesome in ghostly form, he even has a ghostly action figure.

Ghost Obi Wan Action FigureBut seriously, Obi-Wan’s ghost gave me my first glimpse of a deceased person who CHOSE to hang around in ghostly form to do some good. Aside from the Holy Spirit, I had never heard of a good ghost. I’d never even imagined a ghostly mentor willing to show up with just the right advice at just the right times. Think about it. Most fictional ghosts are depicted as vengeful victims (Hamlet’s father), or wretched penitents (Jacob Marley), or dangerous entities unleashed by evil deeds (Poltergeist) or pathetic lost souls who can’t seem to find The Light (any episode of Ghost Whisperer).

Obi-Wan depicted a hopeful, powerful, enlightened, comforting ghostly image. And this was very important to me. VERY important.

Grandpa Eldon died in March of 1980. He was the only man I ever called Daddy, my best friend and the light of my life. (Sorry, Mom. I know that makes you cry, but it’s true.) He suffered a massive heart attack in the middle of the night and I was not allowed to visit him in the hospital during the final days of his life. We didn’t have the chance to say goodbye.

Or so I thought.

Three months later, my grandmother took me to see The Empire Strikes Back. There were many reasons why that movie changed my life. Among those reasons, Obi-Wan’s ghost along with Yoda’s teachings (“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”) were far greater comfort to me than any of the Biblical passages that were muttered over the cold, square hole in the ground when we buried my Grandpa.

Not long after seeing ESB, my beloved grandfather came to see me in my dreams. That first night, he walked me through our house. Each room was decorated for a different holiday; it was Christmas in the front room, Halloween in the TV room, Thanksgiving in the kitchen and Easter in the front yard where he had hidden a rainbow of plastic eggs for me to find. Overjoyed to see him, I asked my Grandpa why everyone had lied to me and told me he was dead. He just smiled and told me he would always be with me. Always. Through every season and every holiday.

OK – all you skeptics and amateur psychologists out there might be tempted to point out that Grandpa Eldon’s message echoes Obi-Wan’s final line in A New Hope and that might lead you to the conclusion that this deeply spiritual and powerful experience from my childhood was just a case of wishful thinking. To you I say, pthththththth! It was real.

Grandpa continued to visit me in my dreams as I grew up. When my dog Pom Pom died, she started scampering through those dreams. In my late 20′s, after many years of not seeing him, Grandpa brought my recently departed kitty Charlie to say goodbye. Even though Charlie was very ill and suffering when I made the decision to let him go, I was plagued with debilitating grief and self-loathing for days after the vet carried him away. Grandpa assured me I’d done the right thing, taken the most compassionate action, and he was proud of me. Charlie was free from all pain and suffering now. I woke up after that dream, locked myself in the bathroom and cried. Oh how I cried! But it was a really good cry.

Whether anyone other than me believes that these dreams were real visitations doesn’t matter to me one wit. I don’t believe, I KNOW. My grandfather helped raise me from beyond the grave. Just like Obi-Wan helped train Luke from beyond the grave.

Recently, a sudden realization hit me; an epiphany of sorts.

I believe that the fictional depiction of Obi-Wan in ghostly form opened a door in my mind…a door that my grandfather walked through. And so, for me, my love of Star Wars and my fascination with ghost stories will always be intertwined. And perhaps I’m not the only one…

Ghost & Fett PumpkinsWhat about you? Have you ever had a loved one guide and comfort you from beyond the grave? Would you welcome a ghostly mentor? Or, like Scrooge, would you try to dismiss the encounter as “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato”?

photo credit: ShellyS via photopin cc, JD Hancock via photopin cc, thepollen via photopin cc & Simon Davison via photopin cc

Ghosts of Octobers Past

Just 5 more days until October is upon us. Woo hoo!!Ghost in the Autumn Leaves

As mentioned previously in this post, October is my most favoritest month of the year. Unfortunately, I keep failing at October. Are you wondering, how on Earth does one FAIL at October? Check out My Halloween Score Card for 2011 to learn more. The Ghosts of Octobers Past are rattling their chains and demanding a little more fun in 2013.

This year I have a plan. Which is to say I have a better plan than I had back in 2011 and a way, way, WAY better plan than 2012. This year there will be more ghosts. More hauntings. More movies. More writing. And, most importantly, more October-themed posting on this blog. This time I double, triple pinky swear.

In preparation, Mike and I just loaded up our Netflix queue with the most delicious mix of classic and recent movies that are filled with mystery, suspense and/or things that go bump in the night:

  • The Awakening (2011)
  • The Innocents (1961)
  • The Trouble with Harry (1955)
  • The Woman in Black (2012)
  • House of Voices (2004)
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
  • Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
  • Spellbound (1945)
  • Dial M for Murder (1954)
  • Vertigo (1958)

There’s more in our queue, but we probably won’t manage to get through that lot. We tried to choose movies that one or both of us have never seen…or don’t remember very well.

I’m also very excited to report that the Holly Theater is staging Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap in October. (SO excited!)

What about you? What are you planning for this October? Or do you prefer to save your excitement for other, less spooky months of the year?

15 Minutes of Reclaim

Hello Everybody. Welcome to my 15 minutes of writing allotment for today. Let me explain…

I’m still recovering from Dragon*Con (more about that experience coming soon) and struggling to recuperate from a brief vacation on Edisto Island, SC…which shall heretofore be known as the Vacation From Hell (or VFH).

Beach Freak OutWhy was it the vacation from hell? you may ask. Well, honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It was my mood and my attitude that magnified every minor issue into a calamity of unbearable proportions. Have you ever noticed how the worse it gets, the worse it gets? Yes, well, I have some strong beliefs about that. Beliefs that most people would consider weird, kooky woo woo stuff. But seriously, this vacation was like a case study on the power of negative thinking. A few highlights:

  • A television that turned itself on and off randomly
  • Lights that flickered on and off every 3-5 minutes
  • Eternally running toilets
  • “Clean” utensils/dishes in the drawers/cabinets crusted with old cheese
  • Swarms of insects
  • Suspected food poisoning (for Mike)
  • Sore throat/cold (for me)
  • My first jellyfish sting (down the back of my right calf)

So…at a relatively calm, peaceful, pleasant break in the bad stuff, Mike and I sat together on the beach taking deep breaths and trying to dissect my current plethora of mental health issues. I tried to explain to him…well, everything. My escalating job pressures. My crazy, marathon schedule. My berserk stress levels. My writing goals. My marketing goals. My disappointments. My failures. My grief.

Mike listened thoughtfully, as he always listens, then confessed that he has been observing me over the past few months (Shall we say since May?) and he is worried. Either I’m going to explode into a thousand million pieces that no one will ever be able to put together again OR I am going to collapse into myself until I am the human equivalent of a sucking black hole.

As cautious as Pi approaching that man-eating tiger, Mike asked me to seriously consider a suggestion.

Stop. Just stop.

Stop doing everything extra outside my core job responsibilities and focus on my health – both mental & physical – for the next two months. Exclusively.

Wait! Stop everything?

Yes, everything. No writing. No blogging. No marketing. Just stop. Not forever. Just for two months. Channel all creativity and focus into health and well-being.

Whoa! This was a horrifying request/suggestion. Especially that part about not writing at all. What the WHAT?!?! That will make me even crazier. Unused creativity is NOT benign. It will eat me up inside! (Note: My sweetheart is not a fiction writer with that incurable need to create stories.) Still, I did promise to take a day or two to consider what he was suggesting.

The next morning, while catching up on my favorite author blogs, I saw this post from one of my favorite authors – Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s time for her 6th annual Write Fifteen Minutes A Day (WFMAD) Challenge.

My first reaction: Heh…how sad that some aspiring writers find it challenging to write for ONLY 15 minutes every day. I am so beyond that.

Second reaction: Wait! this could be the perfect compromise/test for Mike’s proposal. I will allow myself 15 minutes and ONLY 15 minutes to write each day. Blog posts, journal entries, new fiction. I can use my 15 minutes however I want, but I can only spend 15 minutes each day. For one month. Then I will re-evaluate.

I submitted my counter idea to Mike and he seemed quite pleased and proud of me. And now, we have an agreement.

So…you have just read my 15 minutes for today (Oops! 17 minutes. Don’t tell my honey.) Tomorrow will be my first day working on a first draft for only 15 minutes (gulp).

photo credit: Amy McTigue via photopin cc

Fiction Writing Challenge Starts 8/19/13

I can’t ever seem to get anything done without a clear and looming deadline hanging over my head…or a challenge. I’m a sucker for a writing challenge.
Writing ChallengeCase in point…Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away started its journey to full-grown published novel status as 50,000 words written for National Novel Writing Month. (It was my second NaNoWriMo novel…some day, that first novel will also find its way to publication.) Unfortunately, NaNoWriMo 2013 is over two months away and I need to stop neglecting my fiction writing addiction now, immediately, pronto!

That’s why I’m going to participate in a Free 5-Day Fiction Writers Online Intensive with Ezra & Beth Barany that kicks off on Monday 8/19/13 (click here if you are interested in learning more). Last week I participated in their Writers Boot Camp in order to focus on creating a new and improved marketing plan for NSLA. I accomplished what I set out to do during that challenge, but I’m tired or writing about marketing my writing and now I’m ready and eager to jump back into my first/true love – writing new fiction. So…I’m now getting psyched up to write some fresh new fiction next week.

Need to decide what my challenge is going to be…possibly 5000 words in 5 days? Also need to decide what I’m going to write. Hmmm…maybe I’ll put a poll here or on my Facebook author page to ask for votes.

(Note: This free online resource/challenge is being offered to publicize Ezra & Beth Barany’s author coach business…which is an excellent/creative piece of marketing in my opinion. That said, I’m not in a position to comment on &/or rate &/or recommend their skills as author coaches. But they do run a great online challenge!)
photo credit: Dia™ via photopin cc

Mark Hamill and I

Quote

I’m afraid we might have something in common….

“You know how there are some stars out there who know how to market themselves? I don’t have that.”

 - Mark Hamill 

Skywalker Action Figure

…but I’m totally focused on overcoming this minor character flaw. Or is it really a flaw? Yes, yes it’s definitely a flaw if you want to be a successful author. So it must be overcome. Right? BAH! Do you see how ambivalent I am about this?