#WaukeshaStrong

Many of you are aware of the tragedy that happened in Waukesha, Wisconsin on November 21. If not, someone drove an SUV through our Christmas parade. This person struck one of our local high school marching bands, a children’s dance troupe, and a group of grandmothers known as the “Dancing Grannies,” among others. As of this writing, six people have died; the most recent victim is a child. The innocent lives taken from us are:

Willem Hospel, 81

Virginia Sorenson, 79

LeAnna Owen, 71

Tamara Durand, 52

Jane Kulich, 52

Jackson Sparks, 8

I’m talking about this because I live in Waukesha.  The route the parade took is a street I frequent often. Two of my favorite coffee shops are there. My favorite book store is there. As far as I know, every single business on Main Street is locally owned.

So let me tell you a little bit about Waukesha.

We’re a small town in atmosphere and character, if maybe not in number so much anymore.  Milwaukee isn’t that far away, but honestly, Milwaukee doesn’t offer much that Waukesha doesn’t already have.

We are a diverse people. There is a large Hispanic community here. My neighbors are White, Indian, and Black. The two houses at the end of my block are inhabited by an ex-military conservative next to a dedicated liberal. While the conversations are frequently what you might call animated, if someone loses their cool they will apologize, and they are there for each other when the need calls for it. When BLM held their protests after George Floyd’s death, Waukesha made sure the marchers had water bottles, etc. We enjoy groups like “The Dancing Grannies.”

This is who we are.  Are we perfect? Of course not.  Do we deserve the push back we’ve received?

Let me think…. no. Wait…. let me think…. NO.

We all know about the disgusting tweets from the former political activist in Illinois. If not, let me fill you in. This former activist essentially said we deserved it. All of us, even the children.

I want you to think about that for a minute. According to this person the youngest hospitalized victim, just three years old, deserved this. Think about one other thing- how do you get to be a Dancing Grannie? By having grand children. Who are now devastated by what happened. And of course, a different activist is now hoping this is just the start of a much larger war.

I dipped a toe into twitter, and saw people arguing whether it was a Christmas parade or a Holiday parade, with all the name calling that such important discussions usually entail. People have died, and they’re arguing over a title.

I would hope that any reader of mine will find these views as repugnant as I do. Seriously who feels these things, much less says them?

I think it’s important to recognize that we all have the capability of great hatred. Human beings are a broken, messed up species.  We’ve all said things in anger that we later regret. This level of hatred, however, just takes things to a whole new level. What on earth could a three year old do to deserve blame for what happened?

I fully understand that racial tensions have to be addressed. Inequality runs deep in our nation. But they aren’t going to be addressed by name calling, blaming the innocent, or justifying murderous acts. As humans, we MUST have more empathy for our fellow humans.  

I come from the Christian faith.  We are called to love our neighbors, not engage in any of the above behaviors.  I encourage you – regardless of your faith or lack thereof- to do the same. We need to focus our minds, our hearts and our ears. We need to listen to each other and empathize with them. Remember that just because someone has access to the same facts that you do, they may not see those facts the way you do. Part of that is due to how different news outlets cover things, and part of that is due to natural biases. Don’t check your mind or your voice at the door, but check your anger and hatred. God will judge, He doesn’t need us getting in the way of that.

One last thing, my friends. If you are hurting, reach out to someone. Not to a bottle, or a needle, but to someone who can help you permanently address this pain.  My entire city is paying a terrible price for the anger and hatred of one man, and others are rubbing salt in our fresh wounds. We are hurting but we aren’t hurting alone. Find a professional, a friend, work through your pain and grief in whatever way works for you. Just don’t let it fester.

If you have been affected by this tragedy, or any other, and have suggestions for your fellow readers, please share them in the comments section.

I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.  May God bless us all.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy in Star Trek

There’s this wonderful little scene in Star Trek IV- The Voyage Home. After the entire crew time travels to the 1980’s, Chekov is injured and lands in the hospital. Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and local whale specialist Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks) infiltrate the hospital to rescue him. During the rescue, McCoy, who is not subtle in his opinion of 20th century medicine, encounters an older woman groaning in pain. “What’s the matter with you?” (Great beside manner there, Bones.) When she tells him she’s undergoing kidney dialysis, he gives her a pill he very conveniently has with him, then leaves her to complete the rescue. As they make their escape we see our little old lady flying around in a wheel chair shouting, “Doctor gave me a pill, and I grew a new kidney! Doctor gave me a pill, and I grew a new kidney!” You can actually watch the scene here.

Why do I remind you of this scene? Well, I have a doctor who gave me a new knee. Dr. McCoy with his magical medical pill was nowhere to be found so I had to go the traditional route. Bones! Where are you when I need you? Probably off sipping Romulan Ale with Captain Kirk somewhere. Ah… the life of a fictional character.

It’s been a long several months while I’ve worked through this. Prior to surgery I tried a number of things which did nothing for the pain and only delayed the inevitable. The day of surgery everything went well. The night of surgery? Yeah. Not so much.

Long story short, I fell- landing on the brand new surgical site. This was probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

Duh.

Of course the stitches popped open and I started bleeding. And then I bled some more. Within a matter of minutes, our kitchen floor looked like a murder scene. We called 911 and I had a lovely ambulance ride to the hospital where I proceeded to bleed even more for the ER staff. They admitted me and I bled some more up in my room for my lovely nursing staff. Several vampires caught my scent and lined up thinking it was an all you can eat buffet. 

Thankfully, the implant was fine; the damage from my fall was superficial, if embarrassing. A second surgery and three days later I was home and resting.

As of this writing, I am five weeks post-surgery. While my physical therapist assures me that I’m a rock star, I have been struggling with pain management. Now, in case you were wondering where all this HIPAA protected medical information was headed, let me say that none of this is conducive to writing.

So as of today, here is the state of things.

Flash Fictions – I’ve kept the pictures from the last five weeks with plans to catch up. But for as fun as those are, they will not get me where I want to go. So, I’m leaving those behind and picking up this week again. You can read that here.

I’m editing a superhero story that will be gifted to a private group. I’m contracting with an artist to create a comic-book like cover for it just as soon as I settle on the final title. I will absolutely share that cover with you when I get it! I wish I could share the whole story with you; I may share excerpts of it.  

I wrote a dystopian techno-punk story I wrote for a contest that I had no hope of winning.

You may have noticed a change to the website. Yup, I’ve splurged and now have my own domain. How cool is that? I’ll be updating it as I figure stuff out.

NaNoWriMo: November is coming at us really fast. I should think about that at some point. How about I let you decide what I write this year. Any requests?

Oh yeah, I’ve undergone a slight name change too, which is a long story for another time.

I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.  

Marshmallow Grace

They say that God works in mysterious ways. I think they’re right.

The last couple of weeks have been challenging. I month or so ago, I made a personal decision that I knew was emotionally risky.  It was also very secret, which has its own complications, such as the inability to seek out wiser voices. But one of those voices I did seek out was my pastor’s wife, who is one of the wisest women I know.  Do you remember those corporate trust exercises where you had to fall backwards and trust your companions to catch you? Now, hang on for a moment, because we’re going for a bit of a weird ride here.

As part of our discussion, she mentioned that I’ve been sad lately, and she’s been praying for me. During one of these prayers, she had a vision of me, hands raised in victory, falling back like the exercise I list above. So here’s where we get weird. 

Instead of landing in my fellow believers in the faith, or in the hands of God or anything spiritual like that, in her vision I landed in a giant marshmallow.

A. Giant. Marshmallow.

I took that home, wondering about God’s weird sense of humor.  I have a little spot in our yard where I go to meditate. I tried to picture this whole thing, which wasn’t too hard on a literal level, we’ve all seen videos of this exercise, both when it works and when it goes horribly wrong. If God is indeed God, God wouldn’t let it go wrong.

I began smiling, which turned to a chuckle, then outright laughter. This thought of me letting go of my emotional turmoil and landing in the belly of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man let me laugh for the first time in a month.

I’ve hardly stopped smiling since, which feels good. I have a new inner joy that fights back the questions and the lack of answers. It’s even motivating me to get off my bum knee and go write something.

So whatever’s bothering you today, let go of it and drop into the soft landing of Marshmallow Grace offered to you by friends, family, or God. And don’t forget to share your experience. After all, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is big enough to share and makes a heck of a s’more.

I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.  

Experimental Writing

Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

I tried an experiment with last week’s Friday Flash; you’ll have to let me know how I did. (You can read it here.) I saw an ad from Jim Butcher (Dresden Files, Codex Alera, Cinder Spires novels) for Mythulu Creation Cards. Near as I could tell, they were a random character generator laid out sort of like a tarot deck. Or at least what I imagine a tarot deck to be; I’ve never used one.

You can look on the website (here) for instructions, and some very helpful videos. The thing that interested me was how the demonstrator would take a card and pull it in unexpected directions. Particularly, what she does with the “traitor” as a co-pilot. So, I gathered my coins and bought the creation cards.

A little back-story here: when I first get the picture for the Friday flash, I inevitably have a single thought. “What the heck am I going to do with this?” Last Friday, before the picture posted, I decided that I was going to pull out the creation cards and give it a go.

There are 6 categories of cards in the deck and pull from differing amounts of cards from different categories depending on what you are creating. Are you creating an illness? Pull one element and one relationship. Are you creating an animal? Pull two textures, one element, one character and 1-2 habitats. Etc. How you use them all is in the instructions. So I decided to pull a regular basic plain old monster. This is what I drew:

Character: The scavenger (picture of a vulture): Symbolizes poverty of mind, lives on the leftovers of greatness because they are unable to create something new.

Habitat: Mountain. Physical space for exploring the internal soul, Holy mountains are meant to be hard to climb.

Textures: Vibrating. (An adorable picture of a kitten) A gentle resonant rumble. Usually felt when some kind of energy if flowing freely, whether sound, electricity, or emotion.

Textures (2): Sigil. Symbols that have power to force or bind. Used in communities to rally groups together.

Elements: Ice. Vital element in state of life-threatening extreme. Symbol of imbalance.  Unsustainable, but in short term can provide rest.

In one way or another, I wanted to put all of those things into my Friday flash. The mountain became the camera itself; the sigil became the “I have the ability to steal part of your soul” idea. Ice was used in both a life-threatening soul steal, and the main character’s need to keep moving around lest he be found out.  The kitten? Hopefully in the flow of the soul fragment from one place to another.  After drafting it, I decided it was too dark, so I also used the adorable little kitten purring as a direction to lighten it up a bit (hopefully I don’t get sued by the Kardashian clan).

If you’re a creator and you are stuck, or at the very beginning of your creation phase, no matter what you’re creating, I think this is a great tool and worth the cost. It gives you a basic framework but allows you to create within that framework as you see fit.  And, of course, if you really hate the card you drew you can always throw that combination out and start over. 

In the end, I’m really glad I bought the cards. I’m not sure I’d do for the weekly Friday Flash. When working with the Friday prompt, the picture already gives me a framework. My job became to fit the two frames together into a cohesive story. That’s tough with a 250 word limit; I’ll let you decide how successful I was.

What would be another cool experiment, and what we talked about in writing group this week, is to give everyone the same cards and ask them to write a short story. Because if you give six writers the exact same prompt, you will end up with six completely different stories. The possibilities for creation are endless.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an awful lot of fun.

I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.

Missed Opportunities

I do not know who created this, I’ve owned it for years. If you do, would you please let me know? They deserve credit.

~

A friend of mine once told me a story about an old woman during a flood. She prayed and prayed and prayed to the Lord for help. Soon after this a big truck with wheels high enough to get through the flood waters came by. The woman refused to get in saying, “The Lord will provide!”

The flood waters came, and the woman had to evacuate to the upper level of her house. A boat came by, but she refused to get in. “The Lord will provide!”


The flood waters kept rising and the woman had to climb out the window to her roof. A helicopter came by, but she refused again. “The Lord will provide!”

Eventually, the flood waters swept the woman off the roof and she drowned.


She arrived at the pearly gates and she said, “Lord, I don’t understand what happened. I prayed and prayed. Why didn’t you provide for me?”

“My darling child,” He said as He placed a tender arm around her and ushered her into heaven. “Who do you think sent you the truck, the boat, and the helicopter?”


I tell you this story because I missed a BIG opportunity this week. I’ve been cleaning up a short story that I had intended to sell to a specific magazine. This magazine loves giving writers their first publishing credit and helping them get on their way. Based on the other work I see in it, my story would have a real shot at getting in, and it would be my first paid writing credit. I’ve finished the story, except for two to three hours for a final pass, then it goes on to my editor. Once she gets it, it will be 6-8 weeks until it’s ready to pitch.

I haven’t finished it for the worst of reasons: something called completion fear. Completion fear keeps me from finishing a project because when I do complete it, I make myself available for judgment. The logic is that if I don’t finish it, I can’t be judged. The fallacy in that logic aside, the idea that I might pass whatever judgement is out there never sinks in beyond the superficial logical level into my heart.

I don’t know when Completion Fear first hit me, looking back, the first time I remember experiencing it was in High School. I was a leader in the high school band, but I was afraid of practicing where *anyone* else could hear me because practicing opened me up to judgement. Now days, I suppose they call it other fancy names, but at its heart, it is the fear of judgement and of found wanting. I have allowed it to cripple me and cripple my writing.

Now that I’ve realized what’s holding me back, and I’ve determined to finish the work, I’ve also received word that the magazine is closing up shop. I missed my opportunity. Now, I can blame this on my ADD, or my unhappy childhood, or the state of politics today, or the color of my socks. But the result is the same: I delayed and lost out. Rather than waiting for the Lord like our hypothetical woman above, I let completion fear get the better of me. But both of us lost for the same reason; the Lord provided, and we let that opportunity go by.

Now that I’ve identified the Completion Fear, sometimes called Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (common in people with ADD), I’m going to face that fear and fight it head on, right?

Wrong. I’m a Ravenclaw, not a Gryffindor.

I’m going to do an end-run around it. In finishing the story and sending it to my editor, I’m not taking the step of having it judged, I know and trust my editor as a person. When that step finishes, then I can face the judgment of publishers with a solid edit standing in support of my efforts.

So much of life is accomplished in the small steps we take. Identifying this fear or figuring out how to deal with it is one, but it is just the first. You may have noticed that I’m starting to put some of my older works online in addition to the Friday Flash Fictions. Opening up in this blog is another small step to sneak around the monster. I’m not big enough to attract trolls, so this is safe. At least I hope it is.

So much of life is accomplished in the small steps we take. Step one- figure out what’s wrong, step two, sneak past it. Would somebody please do a stealth check on my ability to sneak around the monster of completion fear? I’d prefer to not roll for initiative on this one.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What holds you back and what can you do to either push through it or sneak around it?

I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature. 

Mother’s Day

Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

It’s been a crazy week. No writing done. At all. Sorry about missing the Friday flash fiction, I have something in progress, but I won’t have time to finish it until tomorrow.

I do have a few thoughts I would like to share.  As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with some knee issues lately. I was feeling much better last week, So I put the walking stick down, took off the brace, and went into the busiest weekend I’ve had since the pandemic began.

Can you say, “big mistake?” I knew you could. It was one step forward, three steps back.  Calling the doctor was on today’s list, but it looks like it will have to be tomorrow.

I want to tell you about what I got for Mother’s Day because it’s super cool.

Now, you have to understand something: Mother’s Day is a complicated holiday for me. My relationship with my mother is, well, complicated. Far more complicated than most.  So, when I found out that my husband and I were hosting her alone (as in the rest of my family was conveniently unavailable), I readied myself for what I knew would be a challenging day.

So imagine my irritation and grumbling when my husband asked me to make a béarnaise sauce for the steaks he was planning to grill.  My whining went something along the lines of “I’ve never even made a hollandaise, you want me to make something more complicated? On a day I’m supposed to have off?” I said it to myself a whole bunch, I said it to him once. Oops.

After I apologized for being an entitled jerk, I agreed to attempting a hollandaise with a lemon butter back-up plan.  If you don’t know, hollandaise sauce is that stuff you put over Eggs Benedict. (If you don’t love a good Eggs Benedict, I’m not sure we can be friends. At the very least, I’m never taking you to brunch.)

As a proud Ravenclaw, the first thing I do is research, research, research. Or at least find a recipe. Clarified butter? Something else I’ve never done before. It can’t be that hard to do, you just melt it and…. strain it through FOUR layers of cheese cloth? What am I, Alton Brown? Ok, don’t find a recipe, find a beginner’s recipe. Boil it for a while and remove the fat with a spoon. I can do this. Grumble, grumble.

There I was, stressing out over having my mother over, unduly irked at having to put forth fifteen minutes of effort on “my day,” and facing my new role as the family saucier chef. I apologized for whining again and loaded the dog into the car for a trip to the grocery store. Bum-knee walking in a grocery store. More grumbling. At least with my face mask on people couldn’t see my judgmentally pursed lips.

Thank heaven I bought a dozen eggs and not the six I was originally planning on. My first batch failed when I put all the lemon juice instead of reserving some of it for the back-up lemon butter.  Speaking of pursed lips! Wow. The second batch was so salty that my tongue shriveled up and screamed out in protest. The third batch?

The third batch was worthy of gracing my gravy bowl. If I’d been served that at a restaurant I wouldn’t have complained (at least not to the waiter). My mother and husband paid me compliments. Given my attitude, I’m not sure I deserved them, but I sure appreciated them.

With mother safely back home, the dishwasher running, and a glass of wine in my hand that was… shall we say…. healthy…. My daughter who lives an entire time zone away called a second time so we could talk some more. We joked about the difference between judging a restaurant based on a properly emulsified hollandaise sauce and making a properly emulsified hollandaise sauce. The next time we go to visit her I have a standing order for homemade eggs benedict.

Oh boy…. Now I need to learn how to properly poach an egg so that the yolk is perfect, and it doesn’t have fly away threads of egg-white making it look like an alien invasion.

I know, I know. I told you I wanted to talk about what I got for Mother’s Day. Did you catch it in there? No?

Thanks to my husband’s insistence, I got a new ability. Thanks to perseverance (ok, fear of judgment), I got affirmation. And thanks to my daughter, I have a new adventure ahead of me.   

That, my friends, is a wonderful Mother’s Day.

I hope you are navigating these most difficult of times with faith, love, and good literature.