Competing for Time…..

This was going to be a busy week anyway. Multiple commitments, a friend coming into town, and some critical tasks as I am involved in preparing for two different fundraisers for two of the boards I sit on. So, a carefully orchestrated event was severely impacted by Mother Nature with only hours in which to respond. Several phone calls and quite a bit of scrambling, FB messages, and emails flying about that day and the next in setting up a new date. That, of course meant me being unable to attend an already scheduled event on the new day, but we’ll split, and Hubby will go to the function before he joins me at the rescheduled one.

The out of town friend in for a visit comes with the usual tasks of cleaning in prep, etc., and a couple of bedtimes later than usual, which doesn’t actually help with my insomnia. Related to dining out, I’m trying to decide how to creatively use some of the leftovers. Not a big deal, simply something to think through.

Next we have a crisis develop in another non-profit I work with, and it’s too complicated to get into, plus at the moment, we appear to have only bad choices. This is never a situation I like to find myself in, and yet, it’s not the first time either. Experience in such matters does help. I can delay things for a short while and hope a better solution falls from the sky or whatever.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no way I need to be concerned about getting bored. And to put things into perspective, two different friends have asked for prayers as members of their respective families have been entered into hospice and another friend is giving updates on the state of her daughter (several years younger than me) who is recovering from a stroke.

Missing Writers Conference…..

One of the things I do miss about the Washington, D.C. area is the annual writers conference in May. In actuality, the organization I belonged to was forced to finally fold due to the common problem with non-profits not being able to financially sustain in a high cost of living city. I gather another group has revived the conference. The timing was such that I was able on one occasion after we moved to attend the conference and one of son’s dance performances and perhaps the same can apply next year.

There is an energy to be had among writers even though for someone like me who has not been a commercial success, I do have to thicken my skin to hear how others have “made it”. There are always plenty of writers, however, who are still fairly new and can use experiences of those of us who have been around a while to perhaps help them along their way.I usually picked up a few good tips as well. The two conferences in this area have formats I simply don’t care for. There was talk several years ago about trying to have one here. Once the individuals involved looked at the kind of resources required, they realized it wasn’t practical. The small writers’ group has persevered over the years thanks to a couple of hard-working people. The main drawback is a lack of somewhere to meet and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in the near term. No, I don’t belong to the writers’ group for reasons I don’t intend to go into.

There are conferences in GA, NC, and TN I may look into for next year because the timing this year probably won’t work with the trip I always make to Louisiana around Daddy’s birthday, plus this is the year for the big dive show in Orlando in November. (The show rotates between Las Vegas and Orlando) Ah well, I’ll keep an eye out.

 

 

Summers on the Farm….

One of the writers on Twitter sent put a request for folks to also exchange Facebook info and I did. This morning, she posted about hay in their barn and that did bring up the memory of the hayloft in my paternal grandparents’ barn. I have previously posted about my sympathy for the economic plight of family farms balanced by my recognition of why corporate farming is what actually feeds the country. Anyway, in spending part of each summer at the farm in Arkansas, there were certain givens. One was playing in the hayloft. This was of course before we realized how allergic my brother was to such things. Gathering the eggs from the chickens was a fun chore. Unless you have done this, you probably don’t know that when pigs are crowded into the trough feeding, you can stand behind them and pull (gently) the curl out of their tails and watch them curl back up. Sitting on the fence watching Papaw herd the cows back from the pasture in late afternoon was a daily treat, too. Arkansas, by the way, is hot and muggy in the summer and we would definitely nee to wash our sweaty faces more than once a day. Three hefty meals a day was in order, but snacks were mostly taking a ripe tomato from the box Mamaw kept by the back door. There is something special about eating a garden fresh tomato in the same way as you do an apple.

The annual killing of chickens to put up in the freezer was a pretty messy affair and I’m not sure we thought that was fun. There was also a lot of canning that went on and we didn’t help with that so much as we stayed out of the way. In truth, I suppose I did occasionally wonder why it was referred to as “canning” when what you actually use are mason jars.  I imagine there were times we claimed to bored although there generally was plenty going on to keep our attention.

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know….

This isn’t as confusing as it sounds. A recent event with a major, mutual misunderstanding and some as yet unresolved tensions brought this expression to mind. I have been on both sides of this as in being in a situation where someone was convinced, “Well, you ought to know” directed at me, and me thinking the same about someone else. In the real world, however, I have also been in positions where I genuinely did not know certain things and I made mistakes due to that; some more serious than others.

Indeed, in continuing to reflect back on my Army days, I’ve mentioned my very first assignment was completely different from what it was supposed to be and it was a position to be held by a captain rather than the junior second lieutenant I was. At a minimum, it should have been a fairly senior first lieutenant. The rationale for why this  occurred is not the subject of this post, however. The individual who placed me in this position was also a demanding boss and only cut me so much slack. On the other hand, I was told in one of my moments of great self-doubt that his actual assessment of me was, “Yeah, she makes mistakes, but never the same one twice,” and the senior guys around me, to include him, did step in if it looked like I was going to make a really serious error. Which leads me to the first main point.

The event that set me to thinking about this was a case where Person A had an agreement that Person B was going to perform a certain service. Person B happily agreed and in fact was in multiple meetings when the service was being discussed. Person B had done something similar for Person C. The difference was an additional administrative requirement was applicable to Person A that had not been the case for Person C. Person B was not aware of this. Person A was not aware Person B did not know of the requirement. The lack of understanding did not come to light in time to correct the problem. “Well, they should have known,” was stated on more than one occasion. It’s a logical sentiment, but in truth, it was simply a mutual, unfortunate lack of understanding. Both parties are now very aware of the specific question to ask in the future.

The second main point is if you are thrust into a position you don’t have the training/background for, be willing to seek out the information/guidance you need and be willing to do the extra work to become as knowledgeable as possible as quickly as possible. The flip side of the coin is if you decide to pursue such a position, don’t try to pretend you won’t make mistakes. Again, be honest about what you’ll have to do and learn from the mistakes you do make. Stretching beyond your comfort zone or taking on new challenges is okay; just be honest about what it is you’re doing.

 

Daylights Savings Time…..

I know I am by no means the only person who finds this whole thing to be annoying more than helpful. At least I think I do. We’ve been at this since the 1970s when the energy crisis hit and that’s been a long time ago. The fact that a couple of states don’t bother with it – Hawaii and Arizona and I’m not sure if there are others – seems to support the concept  we really don’t need it any longer. Maybe if we didn’t have so many items in the house that require changing the clocks, I would feel less imposed upon. While the computers and cell phones  have it figured out, the house phone, stove, my watches, and more need to be reset. To be honest, I don’t have the faintest notion of how to re-set the house phones – we bought the new ones fairly recently. Anyway, I suppose this is another of those things I should simply accept as a fact of modern life. The real impact this particular morning is I already have a jammed day and screwing with my time doesn’t help. The week has been in a bit of a turmoil with not only extra social events, but also a commitment to do four articles within a few days. One of them deals with a technical subject I am not very familiar with and a publication I don’t normally work with. Both those factors complicate the task. The other articles are a matter of coincidental scheduling which happens to not work in my favor. Ah well, so goes the world of freelancing.

On the “upside”, I had to send down some more copies of Shades of Deception to the dive shop since the last two sold. That is a task I certainly enjoy. Okay, having allowed six days to pass since my last post, I will do better this week.

Artistic Living….

It’s been quite a while since I posted about the issues and concerns we had when we decided to support our son in his desire to be a professional dancer. The popularity of all the TV competitions such as “American Idol”. etc., usually show the huge number of “hopefuls” as they are narrowed to the few. Even those who do not win the big prize are often helped by the exposure on their way through the process so it would seem to be of value.

Anyway, there was a Twitter post this morning about encouraging/supporting love of the arts in your children even if it means teaching them to balance early on. It is difficult to be forced to choose between art and “practicality”  and I mean art in every creative form. Even though a tiny percentage of aspirants in whatever the discipline is, “make it big”, many that do come from long-shot circumstances. Encouraging talent and a dream doesn’t mean ignoring the “real world”. You can help prepare someone to live a dual life without taking away from their passion. If a lack of talent does happen to be the case, finding a gentle way to deal with that is different. Coping with the lack of fairness in how certain careers are valued can be a challenge and helping with time management can be tiring. The love of art, music, dance, performing, etc., and the joy it brings to those around the creator can be a powerful antidote to frustration. As I have also mentioned in our decision to make certain sacrifices to allow son to be a dancer, that was very much because contemporary and ballet dance is age-restrictive. It is simply not something that can be a mid-life career. In our local artist community, it is interesting to talk to those who having spent a career in engineering, the allied health field, and so forth, are now able to spend time with their various mediums. There is a range of talent as there will always be, but the enjoyment is what they have in common.

Allowing the Antagonist To Win…

I have previously posted about how I don’t require a “mega-happy” ending to books and movies and I’m okay with tragic outcomes, especially if I have at least some warning. As I have also posted, I occasionally kill off a very likeable character I had not intended to because it ultimately worked better with the plot flow. When it comes to allowing the antagonist, especially a really bad one, to win that’s a different thing. It almost always includes plot twists that are often cleverly done and I can appreciate that aspect. In other cases, such as the book I just finished, an important plot twist was more manipulation than clever, although I will give credit where due for crafting of the final one. And yes, I know there are people who didn’t mind Hannibal Lecter escaping at the end of Silence of the Lambs and I agree the closing shot of Body Heat was well done. While I’m not completely for “anti-heroes”, I am okay depending on how darkly they are drawn.The vigilante angle is a bit tricky and I admit I never watched a single episode of “Dexter” so perhaps his character would have been the exception for me.

Anyway, not to be a spoiler if new readers are reading this, I will also acknowledge I personally prefer killing off the antagonist when it can be reasonably done and one of my favorite techniques in plotting was what I did in Shades of Truth. I suppose my position comes from the sad reality too many individuals do “get away with murder”. That’s one of the big reasons I enjoy true-crime cold cases where someone is caught even decades after. Each author makes his or her decision and I certainly can’t deny the immense popularity of Gone Girl. On the other hand, I don’t foresee me changing my approach in the future.

Semi-Pro Football….

I know this might seem like an odd topic, however, it’s another off-shoot of the kind of stories I get involved with depending on the community piece. The original connection was when I met Nikkolas Bocanegra at a Chamber of Commerce networking event. I’m always paying attention to seek out what I’ll call “community-building” organizations and individuals. As I have mentioned in this blog and in the articles I write for the paper, there are far too many good causes for people to be able to contribute to all of them they wish to. On the other hand, for each group I find (or am led to) and highlight, that particular group may be a great fit for someone. That was, and is, my feeling about the South Dade Immortals, our local semi-pro football team. When I wrote the article a year ago, the Florida Football League (https://floridachampionfootballleague.com) had six teams. Their season runs Feb through May and they now have thirteen teams.

The concept is dual-purposed. First, there are many who have a deep love for the game. They enjoy playing or watching in any form and thus, they get another four months after pro and college are over. There are talented players who for one (or more) reasons couldn’t come to the attention of college scouts; maybe it was poor GPA or non-completion of high school, etc. The semi-pro league gives an opportunity to be seen by scouts who understand a “second chance” is sometimes the answer. On another level – that of “community-building” – there are young (and older) men who find a sense of belonging and receive the kind of mentoring they can relate to in being part of a team. The owner/coaches and just plain coaches are fully committed to helping the players with life skills as well as what they bring to and derive from the games. The teams are non-profit and while of course, many of them dream this can be the path to college and pro, most realize that isn’t going to happen. It is changing some of their lives though and provides a source of entertainment for football fans.

STEM and STEAM….

In a few hours, Hubby and I will be going to a STEM event at a local Community Center. A group I will learn more about received a grant to do a series of STEM Saturdays for students K-12. Today’s focus will be how to design and build cars.

I haven’t looked to see where STEM and STEAM originated, but became aware of it a few years ago when I did a series on local education for our weekly community paper. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math can also be Science, Technology, Engineering, Aviation and Math or Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math to give the STEM/STEAM acronyms. The intent is to try and make science, etc., “fun” from early on in order to guide children toward those skills. I actually used a passage about this in my novel,  “To Play on Grass Fields” . The point was made during a discussion about education in the context of children seem to naturally take to art, music, dance while the other subjects can be “scary”. I am a great example of that which I believe I mentioned in a post quite some time ago. My sister and brother were both mathematically inclined and I was not, nor were my parents. Our junior high school had two math teachers; one excellent and one not (You can guess the one I got). I was fine with ordinary math and the binary system and basic algebra were what threw me off track.  In trying to help me, my sister couldn’t grasp why I couldn’t understand and thus our “tutoring” usually ended quickly with both of us angry. At that stage, the accepted wisdom was, “girls don’t need to be good in math”. Since much of science is grounded in math and engineering certainly is, the simple solution was for me to focus on my talents. This is one of the reasons I firmly support doing everything practical to make math “fun” for kids. It does not mean I don’t support the arts and there are studies which show how music for example can be integrated into math. I don’t have the name of those studies at my fingertips, but will look for them to do a future post. Actually, now that I think of it, there’s probably a future article for the paper in that idea as well.

 

Desert Aspects….

I suppose Hubby’s venturing out into the Everglades at ungodly hours for the recent meteor shower and then Blood Moon is what caused me to think of this. My only passage through American deserts was many years ago when I went cross-country to California for a special Army course. My objective was to get there as quickly as possible so there was no lingering for sight-seeing although I do wish there had been time to at least go by the Grand Canyon. That will come about in some future travel.

Although I do not fall into this category (not does Hubby), I can understand how some people are drawn by the uniqueness of a desert environment and there are distinct differences depending on which area you are in. During Desert Storm, we were deep in Saudi Arabia, but not as far as Kuwait. Unlike the initial forces that deployed in early August, we didn’t arrive until November/December and most of the troops were out by May. Hubby and I managed to not be part of the residual force that stayed into the summer. During the first few weeks and the last few weeks we were in a city, but when in the desert there was literally nothing else for miles. We operated under blackout conditions at night until Iraq surrendered. That means even though we did have generators running for power, sound travels oddly and it is difficult to pinpoint a location by sound. It’s amazing though how the smallest light can travel. All openings were secured and our flashlights had the dark red lens which provides minimal illumination. Vehicles could use only their blackout lights often called “cat eyes”. Interestingly, one of the few documented gender differences is while men are more prone to colorblindness than women, they do tend to have better night vision than women.

The lack of light anywhere in the area did result in extraordinary brilliance of stars and the moon. A full moon really was astonishing. The connection about Hubby going to the Everglades for their photo shoots has to do with trying to get away from light in order to have a better view of the night sky. Being in a remote place certainly does give you that.