It’s Not Twitter, But…

I never could figure out how people could use just 140 characters to express themselves.  I tend to run on and on and on…well, if you ever read stuff I write you know that.  But one thing I found I really enjoyed was captions.  I love doing photograph albums and writing the captions.  Preparing family photo calendars for Christmas is one long giggle fest for me.  Then a few years ago I got cancer, a type with a very low survival rate.  Being the optimist I am, I decided the day of my diagnosis that the day they declared me cancer free I would get myself a teeshirt that declared “Grim Reaper Reject”.  I did, too.  Then one day I was driving with my sister past our favorite meat palace and got a face full of fragrant hickory smoke.  My sister sighed happily and remarked, “Man, if there’s no barbeque in Heaven, I’m coming back!”

Yesterday I was on the Teespring website reopening the teeshirt sales for those two sayings and my brain started cranking.  We have a Christmas sign on our front door we haven’t changed out yet that has annoyed me from day one.  “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” it says.  It annoyed me because it seemed to say that was the ONLY season He was there for.  Jesus is the reason for EVERY season! Huh, I thought.  That sounds like a teeshirt.  So now it is.

While I was doing that, my mind wandered back to a conversation I had about friendliness.  I have a running joke that I use to describe myself.  I call myself a social slut because I’ll talk to almost anybody.  Hey, I wonder…  Yup.  Another teeshirt.

Unfortunately, these are not open for long.  If you’d like one, check them out quick.  I may, if things work out, wind up getting an inventory of several sizes and sell them myself.  But you don’t have to wait if you don’t want to.  These shirts go up to 5X.

The place to look for them is http://teespring.com/stores/words-are-my-life.  I’ll probably be putting more up there as they come to me.  Sometimes they smack me in the face and sometimes they slip in when I’m not looking.  I hope they amuse, inspire, and just sometimes make you think.

Sit! Stay!

I just saw a terrific post from www.WritingSisters.com  about how to be a writer.  A dog sat before a computer keyboard, and the caption said “First rule of writing: Sit.  Second rule of writing: Stay.”  I have to tell my self that lately.  I’m beginning to think I’ve developed Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.  I’ve been so easily distracted lately it’s driving me crazy.  I wonder if it has to do with the weather.  Or my allergies.  Or my sudden desire to spring clean.  My sister/roommate/mortgage partner would scoff, but I have been doing more cleaning than normal.  I also have health issues in myself and my family to deal with.  I just haven’t been writing as much as I want to, and I need to sit and get words down.  (I can’t say ‘down on paper’ anymore, you know…)

There have been lots of words going through my brain.  Several stories have been writing themselves up there.  Maybe it’s a necessary step before I can get the fingers moving.  I have been talking to several people about writing, as well.  Hopefully they will spread the word and I will make more sales.  I have also been busy learning everything I need to do about setting up this website as a merchant’s page as well so that anybody can buy my books and other items from me easily.  I told my sister I might have to start taking night classes at the local college for business administration.

I have also been working through taxes.  It should be easy for me after thirty years of working there in the trenches, but everything keeps changing and often the most difficult challenge is trying to figure out if the word they use for something means the same thing as the word you’ve always used for it.  This happened at work all the time.  Most of my efforts in writing training materials was spent making sure the students understood the language used in the procedures.

You also have to be super organized if you are trying to reference anything that happened in previous years, and unfortunately, my years of too much work and not enough filing have caught up with me, so I’m trying to do it all now.  I do at least have some decent software to help with that.

Organization is also extremely important when it comes to writing, even if it’s fiction.  I base my Biblical characters’ stories on specific Bible verses, with background details on other research, and it’s vital to be able to look back to the research quickly.  I am so glad I spent the necessary money to get a computer that can handle what I’m asking of it.

Wow, my fingers are cold.  I’ll have to turn the heater back on.  It’s supposed to get warm today, but the sky is still gray and the wind has picked up.  It is Texas, after all, where the weather laughs at weather predictions.  I’ll go get warmer clothes on and try to warm the house up a bit.  I need to get some dishes and floors cleaned, which will help warm me.  But I swear I will be writing in my head, and will get back to the keyboard “toot sweet” ( apparently a phonetic spelling of some French phrase meaning ASAP) and get some more moneymakers done.

Not So Slowly Slipping Away

I just looked at the clock and got a terrible shock.  It’s almost 11 AM as I write this, and I haven’t even had breakfast yet.  It wouldn’t be so much of a shock if I hadn’t got up as usual this morning with my sister at 3:30 AM.  As I stared at the clock, I tried to think of where my morning had gone and what had kept me so busy I forgot to have breakfast.  I had two cups of coffee before 5 AM, I remember that.  I wasn’t paying too much attention to the news since all they could chatter about was the Oscars, which holds zero interest for me.  I wasn’t reading a book, which can really kill time.  What was I doing?

Ah, now I remember.  I’ve been trying to clear a lot of email, so that takes a while.  Then I got tired of sitting around in my pajamas and went back to my bedroom to get into something warmer and wound up doing some cleaning in there.  Oh, yeah, that definitely ate up a big chunk of time.  It never feels like it, especially when you look around and see how much is still left to do.  I’m a slob, I know.  It drives my sister, who shares the house, nuts, since she is a lot more organized.  Generally, as long as I know the clean clothes are hanging up or are in my dresser drawers, I’m pretty satisfied.  I try to throw the dirty ones in the hamper as I pull them off, but well…

So breakfast – lunch? – brunch, maybe? is now cooking, meat is thawing for later meals (hot soup in freezing weather!), neatening of the house is gradually spreading, and I am working on my blog.  Sorry I haven’t got to it sooner.  Life got in the way, as well as some funerals and deaths of people I knew.

We also had a fire nearby that distracted us over the weekend – I had to call 9-1-1 twice because it kept springing back to life thanks to the unrelenting wind.  The second time was this morning at 4:30 after my sister took off for work and then called to say the flames were high as the car as she drove by.  I don’t think the firefighters wanted to particularly thank me for the call, since the windchill is around 20 degrees right now.  Sorry, guys, but since I’m only one house away across a narrow highway, I’m intent on keeping that thing under control.

Remember that song “Slowly, slowly, slippin’ away”?  When I was working (especially taking phone calls from angry taxpayers) time slowly slipped away with excruciating jerks and pauses.  Long, long pauses while somebody furiously shouts in my ear, swift jerks as breaks dash by.  Now I’m retired, and time seems to fly.  My friends who beat me to retirement mostly told me I would never seem to have the time to do what I wanted.  A very few told me I’d be bored out of my mind.  Can’t say that’s happened yet.  I’m having to make out increasingly lengthening ‘to-do’ lists.

There is the permanent list: Dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking, shopping, etc.  Then there is the strike one, add three list: Taxes, filing, organizing, meetings, trips, marketing, lots of things done for other people.  Finding time to do my writing is becoming more and more difficult.  I’m having to schedule it, which I never expected.  I just want to get it all done.  I attended a funeral of a guy younger than me this past week, and discovered a friend died 5 days after her 102nd birthday, and two others who were very elderly but not so much.  You never know what will happen next in life, so do things while you can.

My bucket list that I wrote when I was in my early twenties is actually mostly done.  Oddly enough, only the top three remain, and at least one of them will never happen – have children.  Get married?  Maybe if he’s persuasive enough.  Since I’m not even dating, it’s still not likely. I enjoy being single and having a messy bedroom.  Write a best seller?  That’s more doable, and I’m doing my darnedest.  Wish me luck, buy my books, write reviews, and tell your friends!

Who knows, maybe I’ll be at the Oscars someday, watching the movie version win Best Picture.

No Starving Artists Here

I live for comfort.  I admit it.  I’m not ashamed of it.  I grew up in sometimes grim circumstances and have memories of days when a bowl of beans was something to be extremely grateful for because I had already known times when I didn’t have that much.  I spent a week once without food and it wasn’t by choice.  I’ve lived in drafty shacks with a wood stove and no running water.  Every time I heard or read someone saying they wanted to “go back to the land” or “off the grid” or “live like the pioneers” I knew they had never been there.  I have, and it’s not comfortable, easy, or satisfying.

I’ve had relatives tell me I’m “livin’ above my raisin'”, a quaint southern saying about acting like you’re better than they are.  My sisters and I agree, durn right we’re living above our raising.  I’ve worked since I was five or so and I’m tired.  Most of my jobs in my life involved long, long hours and often very hard work.  I’m retired now with a pension I can live on and time to do what I want, which is be creative.

As the economy gets worse, the expenses go up, but I have the choice of how to deal with them, and so far I’m doing fine.  I have two books published and I’m working on my third.  I have two teeshirts designed and for sale now.  I’m not freaking out about how fast or slow they are selling.  I have enough to live on and be comfortable, and the rest is just gravy.

It took me a long time to get here.  I worked and worked and worked, trying to reach that point that is so difficult for the poor, that feeling that I finally had enough money.  I never did.  What I reached was the point of exhaustion.  When the breast cancer forced me to take almost five months off, I did almost nothing but sleep.  I went back to work and did sixty hours the first week back, still not heeding my body.  If the chemo had not messed with my brain making it difficult to do my job, I would probably be working still and would probably be working till they dragged me out, still trying to reach that point of feeling I had enough money.

Now I have been retired for two years and would rather cut back on expenses than get another job.  I am finally doing what I want to do and am loving it.  My creativity is brimming over and it is very comfortable, especially when I can sit at my computer in my pajamas with a big cup of coffee as I write this.  My sister that I share a mortgage with is at work this morning, trying to earn more overtime.  She hopes to be back in time to watch the Superbowl.

Me, I’m going to meander around the house, fix some breakfast, sip some more coffee, and slowly get ready for church.  Life is good.

Ghostwriter for God

Someone asked me where I got my inspiration for some of my writing.  Sometimes it makes even me screw up my face and wonder.  One particular instance, however, was very clear and still makes me smile, although not in public, because people look at me funny.  My first book, “Once Upon A Christmastime”, began in the Walmart’s hardware department several years ago.  I am the director of Sunday School in my small church and give Christmas presents to the teachers every year.  I always give the same thing to everybody, which isn’t always the easiest thing in the world.  I was wandering around the store picking up necessities for the house while pondering gifts in my head.  As I often do, I appealed to the source of all wisdom.  “Give me a hint, God!” I begged.  I’m not fond of shopping at any time, and I preferred to get everything in one trip.

Much to my surprise, the answer was clear, immediate, and very detailed.  “Get one of those nightlights for each of them.”   I was looking directly at some very plain, ordinary nightlights to stick in an outlet and keep you from stubbing your toes during midnight bathroom breaks.  “How is that a gift?” I wondered.  As He usually does, He said, “Do now, question later!” So I did, and continued through the store.  Candy canes, Christmas star cookie cutters, some actual frankincense and myrrh incense, gold chains, and finally, in the arts and crafts department, I was directed to get some white feathers.  I was floored by now.  The gold chains I could understand; the teachers were all very classy ladies who could probably use a gold necklace.  The frankincense and myrrh I got .  The candy canes and Christmas star cookie cutters even made sense.   But fake feathers and nightlights?

I got a gift bag for each teacher and divvied up the selections, then sat back and said, “Okay, how do I explain this collection?”  He said, “Start typing!” and began to dictate.  I was intrigued as the story unfolded.  Usually I make a story up completely in my head, rumble it around for a while until I think it’s thoroughly digested, and then type it out.  But I didn’t have any idea about this one until I typed each word.  Weird, huh?  What do you call that? Ghostwriting for God, maybe?  I printed out the story, copied it for each teacher, and put a copy in each bag.  Every year since then, He has given me a story.  The gifts are always given on Christmas Eve after our community Christmas program, and sometimes He doesn’t inspire me until that morning, even though I had already gotten the gifts.

When I was going through chemo for breast cancer, I was too sick to go to the Christmas program, and I got no story.  I thought about just sending the gifts by themselves, but something told me to wait.  Sure enough, when I was able to get back to church, the story was suddenly there.  The last story in that book suddenly began during a sermon in October and I found myself (being unable to type, of course, and unable to leave, since I also lead the congregational singing) suddenly whipping out a notepad and writing notes furiously as our pastor continued.  I thought I was supposed to do that story that Christmas, but it would not work.  I could not get it on paper.  It took another six months before I could get it out.  Luckily, He came through with not a story, but a poem, for the gift I gave that year. When I finished that story, my sister nagged me into self publishing it on Amazon, and then the next book, “Standing Next To A Miracle”, began to unfold, not Christmas stories this time, although strangely enough, the first story ends with Christ’s birth and I couldn’t finish it until December.  I already have the gifts and the story for this year.  Someday I may publish another book of Christmas stories…