Manners: Pictures

Millennials hate getting their pictures taken.  I know this isn’t 100% true but the number of my peers who say “I hate getting pictures taken of myself” seems to vastly outnumber those who get excited (or hell even tolerate it).

I have no idea if there are actual statistics on this.  I know I get to see all kinds of articles about narcissistic millennials obsessed with selfies.  But 1 person taking 10,000 selfies is not the same as all 80 million millennials taking them “all the time.”  If all millennials were really that narcissistic it would be even worse.  Really.  People were obsessed with their own image hundreds of years before my generation.

Anywho.  Back to my point about “most millennials” hating getting their pictures taken.  I have decided this is because of poor manners.  Not bad manners, but certainly not good manners either.

I realized sometime between high school and college that the picture wasn’t about me.  Even when I was the only person in the picture – it wasn’t for me and it wasn’t even about me.  Pictures capture the emotion of that moment.  Think about the best pictures you have seen – did they invoke emotion?

They did for me. And looking at pictures of friends, I would realize how much I loved seeing their smiles and how much I appreciated them allowing me to capture that moment. And over time I realized I was denying my friends and family the same joy.

I hate myself in pictures. I hate that I’m overweight. I hate how unflattering the camera makes me feel.  But you know, there are pictures now that my mom pulls up on FB memories and I  look at myself and cringe – but it does evoke the memory of that day and the fun and the laughter…

This picture was taken in 2011 – it is completely not flattering, but you know – I remember the day my whole family helped my parents build those raised planting beds and put in dirt and fertilizer.  And I don’t care I looked awful and was a mess and literally ankle deep in dirt.  It’s an awesome memory and I’m glad I wasn’t hiding from the camera anymore.

I don’t know what memories from High School I have lost because I hid.  I don’t know which friends will have forgotten me because I hid. But I can say that now – I don’t hide.  I won’t hide from my friends and I won’t hide from the camera.  Because it isn’t about me. It isn’t about me looking good.

Pictures are about allowing yourself to participate.  Pictures are about allowing others a piece of you.  That old superstition about camera stealing your soul?  You know – I think there might be truth there.  They steal a little bit of you, but it isn’t a bad thing.  It preserves that piece and you can come back to it whenever you need a renewal.  Your friends and family and children can come and see that shining, wonderful piece of you.  And they will feel the joy they felt the day they held the camera.  You will share that joy with them again every time they see it.

So stop hiding from the camera.  When others want to snap your picture – let them.  This is like Jesus’s loaves and fishes – the more you give away; somehow, you end up with more yourself.



Life Events: Announcement!

I have literally composed and re-composed this post at least three times.  I don’t know how to say this.  It’s much more “personal” than I usually post, but it’s too big not to post (and might impact posts down the line) so….


Yeah. That’s mine.  Right now it’s tiny. Hell, in 7 more months it will still be “tiny” compared to me, BUT…. yeah I’m not ready to think about that yet.

So firstly – thank you.  Whatever version of “OMG you lost your mind” or “Congratulations” you have – thank you. Secondly, I want to share some of the jokes which already surround this:

So there are two jokes here.  The first is an old wive’s tale my grandmother used to tell.  It goes “If you want to get pregnant, get a puppy.  Bringing one small thing in the house encourages another.”

Don’t ask me how she came to this. But damnit, less than 2 months after adopting Riley, I totally found out I was pregnant! (did you notice that’s the first time in this post I actually used that word?)

The second is “Guess what” – which my husband didn’t know about before this all went down. He learned this when I called my parents and said, “There’s only one right answer to this question. Guess What.” (no, there was not a question mark there. It wasn’t really a question!)

My mom gasped and my husband said, “They aren’t going to understand that!”

I looked at him dumbfounded and said to the phone, “Do you know the answer?”

“Yes. I got it.” My mother said.  My father agreed as well and then my husband looked baffled. Apparently, because he never had sisters his parents didn’t pull this on him and his brother.  My parents pulled it on myself, my sister, and my brother.

“Guess what” gets answered with “you’re pregnant”

It was hilarious when I was seven. Embarrassing when I was thirteen and dropped out of lingo by the time I went to college – it wasn’t funny any more since it felt like it was becoming a real possibility. (I was bringing home boys!).

So…. yeah if things get spotty here over the next year, I’m sorry.  I’m going to try to be super-duper good and keep up… but!  I am building a human and it will be a demanding little parasite for awhile.

Review: Shopping eShakti

So this is NOT a book review – it’s a review of an online shopping site called eShakti.  I have looong avoided buying clothes online.  My luck with places like Wish or Amazon or even “traditional” stores like Macy’s or JCPenny was awful.  Mostly misses and rarely hits.  And returns…. ugh!

So when my Facebook began showing me super-cute dresses from this site called eShakti I was wary.  To say the least.  But one of them was just too perfect and so I took the risk.  I used my credit card I trusted would allow me to refute the charges if I did end up in some kind of fight and ordered 2 dresses (there was a Buy One, Get one 1/2 off).

So the huge boon to eShakti is for $9.95 ($10) they customize size, sleeves, length – whatever.  Even without $10 they demand your height and hem it accordingly.  I put the $10 on each dress and ended up at $82.75 – which at ~$40 per dress is at least as good as I would buy at a Macy’s or JCPEnny or Kohl’s (normally).  Yes, I love finding dresses on sale for $20, but let’s be honest – decent dresses run $39.99 on sale.

So I get the two dresses in July.  One of them I am in love with.  It’s a great green and has a POCKET – like a real pocket.  Like my 5″ phone disappears and doesn’t even screw up the line sized POCKET.  OMG.  It’s a great jersey-knit cotton that doesn’t wrinkle easily and I am obsessed.  I would wear it pretty much every day if I could.

The second dress did not meet my approval.  I had thought I was buying something casual, but when I got it – well the material was more “formal” of a polyester.  More of a chiffon than a cotton.  Fortunately, this gave me the perfect opportunity to make a return.  They say it’s easy but…

Well, it was.  They automatically include a return label and all I had to do was print off my return information from the website and mail the box.  It took about 2 weeks and they offered me either store credit or to return to the cost to my card.  I went ahead and took the credit and ordered another dress – another one I’m in love with.

So eShakti isn’t the cheapest – but between their $10 customization and constant sales, promotions & deals… They are running about the cost of a “professional” dress at most of the major stores around me AND they have real pockets.

Politics: Memorial to McCain

I didn’t want to post while the emotions raged, but I DO want to talk about John McCain.

For as long as I can remember – and as long as I’ve been voting (2004 was my first Presidential election), John McCain has been on my list of Senators I respect – even when I don’t like everything he says/does.

In 2008 if he had chosen a better running mate, he might have been able to sway might vote.  It would have been hard because voting for the first black president was kind of amazing and special. And honestly, between the two I thought we needed Obama in the WH more – I wanted McCain to stay in the senate (my same argument why I don’t want Elizabeth Warren in 2020 -I want her right where she is doing what she’s amazing at doing).

Anyway.  I won’t say I like everything he ever voted for or ever said. I didn’t.  Sometime I vehemently opposed things he supported .  He was pro-life and I am strongly pro-choice.  He voted against the Lily Ledbetter Act in 2009 (*growl*)  which helps protect workers to sue for pay discrimination.  Just some examples, but let’s say I’m glad he wasn’t my senator ’cause I would have been calling his office regularly to tell him how I felt about him (just ask my current Senators).

But at the end of the day – I respected him.  I listened to his speeches and might disagree with his methodology, but I didn’t always disagree on his conclusions.  I remember listening to him talk about Israel having as much right to self-defense as the US and thinking, “that makes sense.”  Now, how they self-defend… I will admit that’s not my area of expertise.

He served this country in Vietnam – he wasn’t drafted either.  He went to the Naval Academy (volunteered) at a time when that was NOT a popular choice socially.  If he planned to go into politics at that point (which I doubt, but anywho) he probably was being told it was political suicide.  He did it anyway.  He was decorated for his service.  He suffered as a POW – was tortured – and had permanent mobility loss because of it.  He paid for my respect on that front if no other.  And his service is something he could hold up the rest of his life and I would bow my head and say “thank you.”  No matter anything else – he believed in the freedom America fought for.

I think it speaks highly that Joe Biden – another long-time Washington “insider” – and John McCain were good friends.  They are diametrically opposed on a lot of issues, but outside the state house they could be friends.

Here’s the thing.  I’ve heard McCain talk about healthcare costs being the issue – not insurance.  I agree.  I disagree a “tax credit” is the solution (ah, moneyed priviledge thou art adorable).  He struggled (voted both ways at various times) about banking regulations and I think he learned/evolved over time that stupid+money=bad (and greedy=stupid).  Which meant stupid tended to clutter the banking/Wall Street industries.  I don’t remember specifics, but I do know I tended to lean more in favor of his statements with banking than I did with most GOP reps.

He was a bit of warhawk which bothered me, but at the same time I know that he has access to intel I don’t have and frankly, he has much better frame of reference for what that war would entail in the cost of time, money, and lives.  Hell, honestly if he thinks the cost is “worth it” I trusted his analysis better than most politicians because he understood there was a high likelihood of others being treated the way he was – and he still thought it was worth that cost. That gave him credibility I can’t give to a lot of the politicians on capital hill right now.

Basically, my “relationship” with McCain as a national figure was always “it’s complicated” because I respected him.  A Lot. Like, a hell of lot.  He also did some really dumb things (*cough*Palin*cough*) and he was firmly entrenched in the GOP while it has been setting itself on fire and giggling maniacally about “lies” that can be utterly debunked with very simple statistics.  He also appeared to really struggle with how to help this country tackle the difficult issues it faces without compromising some of his firmly held beliefs (whether religious or economic).  He believed in capitalism.  He wanted so badly for it to be the ultimate, best solution. And he tried damn hard to make solutions that solved problems like monopolies work within that belief-set.

Respect even when I disagree.

History: Labor Day

I grew up being told Labor Day was started to honor workers and the rights fought for.  This isn’t 100% true and I didn’t know this until relatively recently.  In one my searches to argue with someone on the internet I ended up looking at and finding out that probably isn’t true.

So the holiday was passed nationally in 1894.  In 1882 there was the first “labor day” in New York was actually a day of strike:

This was before there were protections in place for unions and strikes – this was a scary thing for workers to participate.  It wasn’t until 1935 when FDR got the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 passed that there was an actual law that guaranteed every employee the right to unionize.  This is over 40 years in which the country celebrated “workers” but not necessarily worker’s RIGHTS.

Now, that said – I don’t think it’s an accident it passed on June 26, 1894.  For those that don’t remember, this is middle of the Pullman Strike – this is the strike where Grover Cleveland sent in the US Army to break up striking workers. Over the course of the strike at least 30 union members were killed.  Now, they weren’t necessarily innocent of all wrong-doing, sometimes the striking workers attacked the train yards and set fires.  Cleveland actually sent in the military because of public pressure (people were upset the trains weren’t running smoothly).  So it’s possible that Cleveland was trying to appease the striking workers (it was like 150,000 people on strike – no small number) by giving a holiday in “honor” of them.

So, since this is the day after Labor Day – be aware that in our current climate of fighting labor vs. corporation – there is a LOT of history behind us.  People have literally sacrificed their lives in order to gain and protect 40 hrs a week, no child labor, anti-trust laws, and medical leave protection.

Writing: Novel in Progress Part 3

Chapter 2

Talia looked around the room where she waited while Goodla checked the other rooms for dangers and traps.  She wandered, looking at the furnishings – so unlike anything she was used to.  The multi-legged ogalla rarely bothered with furniture anything like this.  As Goodla checked each room he checked in with her, Safe.  Clear. Weird but not dangerous.

Of course it’s weird. It’s alien.

Once Goodla cleared the rooms and rejoined her she lifted a hand.  He held it against his head and she closed her eyes, an old concentration trick as he connected to the ogalla commander on the ship.  There was the instantaneous bonding between the two ogalla and then Talia was allowed in, but she could not reach the depth they did.  Emotions seeped in, but to be clear she had to use the language, We are in a safe room.  We have been welcomed.

Could you establish any contact with another like you? the question wasn’t entirely words, there was depth of hope and fear and disgust that the commander could never quite remove when he spoke to her.  Talia sent a negative and for a moment the depth between Goodla and the commander was out of her reach.

Disgust. You are only acceptable for this mission to find a suitable alternative.

Talia felt water against her eyelashes, an instinctive reaction she hated.  Goodla was so intertwined with the commander that Talia sensed their sparks of disagreement – even if she couldn’t follow the “conversation” that had in the instant.

I shall send along to the princess. the commander cut Goodla off sharply, sending twinges of pain across the ogalla’s sensative nerve cluster.  Talia was shielded from that abrupt departure.

Don’t let him discourage you. The king and the princess ordered this mission for a peace treaty.

But if I can’t prove others are capabable of intelligence…

Goodla smacked his minor arms down to become a six-footed ogalla and made a noise through the cavaties along his spine.  It was a rude gesture and noise, but made Talia smile.  Yes, Goodla was right.  There was a change since the science teams had learned that the noises Talia made watching human vids correlated to her thoughts.  It took a long time to figure out the language in a way that was natural, and the ogalla were still trying to figure out ways to communicate without Talia’s talent for hearing them.

You will be fine.

Talia nodded with false confidence. She knew she was leaking her doubts all over the cabin, but she still did not have the individualism that an orgalla child could manage.  Goodla settled on the floor in the main room on several cushions and soon his thoughts faded into dream mutters.

In the room clearly designated for her own sleep, Talia looked around curiously.  She had been able to see some things like this in the vids the orgalla had on humans, but this was her first time exploring them herself.  Slowly she explored the drawers, pulling them out and watching them slide back and click closed.  It took her a few tries to figure out how to use the waste disposal, and it wasn’t worse than what the orgalla had figured out based on the few vids they found where it was referenced.

The desk was plain and simple.  Talia tapped its top like she watched humans in vids and it sprang to life.  Even knowing that was supposed to happen, she jumped back from it.  So many human vids were false, she had wondered which of these things might be real and which were the falsehoods.  The orgalla were fascinated and horrified by the human ability to tell lies.  Apparently, when she was very, very small Talia had tried it, but her thought process always gave her away.  She didn’t remember it, but her mother loved to tell the story to new acquaintences.

The rotating image was speaking aloud, “Welcome to the galaxy starship Sunburst’s entertainment and studies library.  As an ambassadorial guest you will have limited information on the layout or operations of the ship at this time.  We certainly hope as our friendship grows, we will be permitted to grant you greater access.  Please input or speak for preferences.  Welcome to the galaxy starship….”

When it had repeated twice, Talia tapped the top of the desk twice and it vanished.  She looked around with a surprising guilt at the curiosity she felt to learn more about human culture.  The orgalla had given her access the thousands of educational, ambassadorial, and even military classified documents, vids, and programs to help her learn more about her own species.  As she had learned more about the audible language, the orgalla had been fascinated.  As a child she had sometimes been seated in front of vids and as she watched and listened, the orgalla rode intrusively on her mind.  The benefit was that when she grew petulant and wanted something fun her mother knew instantly and could demand they allow her one of the recreational vids instead of military.

Sitting down in front of the desk, Talia tentatively tapped it’s surface again.  It sprang up and she asked her first question for humanity, “Who are my parents?”

Writing: Agency

I was trolling through YouTube and stumbled across this video about Phantom Menance and because I love burning buildings, I watched it:

Here’s the thing, it does a GREAT job of breaking down the plot issue that plagues this disaster of a movie.  My mind (ever narcissistic) went “whew, glad don’t do that!”

And then I realized I did.

I have a novel I finished and I like the world and the characters- but I hated my plot.  Oh, it’s not the shit-show Lucas put out.  But I also never put it out.

But my main character sucks at agency.  She does have her own dreams and ambitions, and she is constantly having to balance her personal desires with the needs of her role as a Duchess and a political creature.  But I rarely allow her to drive the plot- the plot kind of manipulates her.

And rewriting the plot is going to be hard.  It might require some pretty significant tweaks to the character, her family, and even the world itself. I can’t just have her suddenly say, “I want to be the ambassador!” when that hasn’t been her dream.  I’m going to have to do some test scenes to figure out who she needs to be to drive her own choices instead of being driven by them.

Even in the 2 days since I watched, chewing on this thought, I’ve got some ideas I’m going to try out.

This is going to be a huge rewrite.  I was planning on doing it anyway because I just knew something was wrong, but since I didn’t know what was bothering me – I’ve just had it sitting in the back of my head festering with all the other half-finished or finished novels I knew had glaring issues.  Granted, most of the plot issues I have are “shit, I just tried to redeem my villain and now I don’t have a villain. Well… shit.”

Now I have at least something I feel like I can fix and just playing with it in my own my mind I can’t help but go, “Yeah, I think this IS the plot wound I’ve been sniffing in this particular book. YAY.”

Because honestly, I do think this is one of the better stories I wrote world-wise, character-wise, and there are definitely big elements of the plot I like – but Faline really needs to drive her own story instead of just reacting to people telling her what she needs to do.  I mean, hell – she has the option of becoming Queen and she just huffs and puffs about how that wouldn’t let her go into the underbelly of the capital and heal poor people. She’s a damn duchess. Yeah, even I think she’s whining.  I can fix that!