Irrational Irritation is More Irritating Than Stale Coffee

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Jax, the foster super-kitty caught in a mighty  yawn roar.

As my first week of unemployment comes to a close I have some fears and irritations to chew on along with my not-so-quiet happiness at being home again.

Fear #1: MONEY. Lack of it. I only got a day-job because we really needed the money. I’m so happy to be home every day again but the sharp shadow encroaching on my happiness is knowing how short lived it must necessarily be. Soon I have to look for another part time job, unless by some miracle people really start buying my apothecary products.

Actually, I just spent a half an hour looking at available positions on Craigslist. So it has already begun.

Fear #2: My apothecary website is still unfindable even by a url search. This has never happened to me before and I don’t understand it and an online business relies heavily on one main thing – BEING SEARCHABLE AND FINDABLE ON SEARCH ENGINES. So, fuuuuuuuuck!

Irritation Numero Uno: The company that laid me off is now back in business and have rehired my one friend at that job. That’s not at all what irritates me. I’m relieved she got her job back because even though they treat her horribly she really needs the money. Like, more than I do. She deserves WAY better but at least this will tide her over for now. What irritates me is that I wasn’t offered my job back. I know what you’re thinking “But Bitch, you quit your asshole of a job just last week. What’s your damage?!”* First of all, I actually unquit my job an hour after quitting in hopes that when the dust of our company move settled, things would be much better and I could stay at my job. Second of all, they offered someone their job back who stole confidential documents, padded her time card (and was caught doing both these things, by the way), and who did very little actual work for many months. They offered HER her job back. A shady person who also has the distinction of having caused the company (inadvertently, it must be admitted) to shut down temporarily. They offered her a job back and not me. She pissed off everyone – that’s more people than I pissed off!

So yes, I’m irritated that they value someone who steals, is lazy, and lies more than they value the hard work I did, the honesty I brought to the job, my unwillingness to take advantage of the company even when I was invited to do so on occasion by a person who’s name will remain _________.

What I need to remind myself through my irritation is that while they have dished out the ultimate insult to me, it is also deeply revealing of the owner and the managers’ ethics. I also need to remind myself that if I have to work outside the home I deserve to work for people who share MY ethical standards and who appreciate and respect employees who bring that high standard to their work every day.

In the meantime I have much to work on. I have a lot to do to get my house back in order. I need to clean, organize, and clear the air of fears and irritations. I need to fill it with confidence, order, and love. That’s right, I’m getting all metaphysical on your ass!

I need to find out how to fix the invisibility of my website. I  need to work on my label design some more. It’s not quite right, not quite good enough. I need to sort that out. There are three super important things about making a successful apothecary business and here they are in order of importance:

  1. Make a superb line of products. This is the foundation and heart of a business – the quality of the product being made and offered.
  2. Eye-catching packaging and label. This isn’t just window dressing. This is the difference between being remembered or forgotten. This is the difference between a product being purchased or passed over for a more promising looking product. Before a customer has your product in their hands they only have the image of that product and the copy attached to it to make a decision with.
  3. Visibility/Findability. Your product has to be visible to your target market. Whether you put it on store shelves (I’m not doing wholesale so this won’t be me) or you operate from an online store – customers have to be able to find you.

I have some fantastic products. I’m working on more. But my labels and visibility to my target market are not good. So that’s where I’m at with my business. I’m reminding myself daily that impatience isn’t going to get me where I want to go. Building a good business takes time. There are a lot of details that have to get put in place first. You get there by taking one step at a time. The pressure of needing money might be a useful motivator but I think it can also get in the way of good decision making because if I let it get to me I’ll hurry things that need time to develop, I’ll skip things that shouldn’t be skipped, and I’ll settle in ways that don’t reflect the strong foundation I’m trying to build.

Talking that out made me feel calmer. More focused. How about you? Are you working on something impatiently? Are you battling fears and irritations? How are you dealing with them?

Don’t feel you have to answer. I’m going to go feed my dog, get dressed, and work on labeling as well as write a post on my website that you’ll get to read when the universe/domain handlers/IT people stop hiding it from everyone. Have a great Saturday!

*People don’t talk like that any more, do they?

Thursday Thoughts: an unnumbered list of thoughts

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Every garden is full of vignettes. Tight little scenes that have a life of their own. This is my favorite one in my garden.

List of Thursday thoughts as they come into my head:

My head hasn’t felt this clear for months. Which is funny because it’s actually still congested with a cold.

I just found a black bic ballpoint pen and I have no idea how it got in my pen jar. I NEVER use black bics. Ever. Only blue. So that’s pretty weird.

I got a pound of lye in the mail yesterday and my first thought was how hard it must be to buy enough lye to dissolve a whole human body without being noticed. Unless you have a business that buys industrial amounts of it for seemingly legitimate reasons.

Scared to have to find a new job. I don’t want one. I want to make fabulous potions that people buy enough of that I can stay home and make them and write and my family will still be okay.

My tooth problems are one of the reasons we need me working or making a living. Even with dental insurance I can’t afford the crown I need nor the wisdom teeth pulling.

Max wants to drive up to Tahoe for a night to see the snow. He doesn’t have a coat or snow boots.

Max’s grades are dropping. Normal teen thing or is he in need of help? I don’t have a strong line to draw in the sand about when grades require intervention. I was mostly a C student and tons of pressure didn’t improve those grades. I’m not a believer in punishing kids for mediocre grades. I think I’ll talk with him about this though.

I just got really stressed out looking up hotels in Tahoe for an overnight trip to see snow on Spring Break. We can never seem to afford to take Max to the snow since we moved back to CA and we promised him we’d take him. A friend just suggested I check to make sure there’s actually snow in Tahoe right now. It didn’t occur to me that there wouldn’t be.

I hate how easily I can be sunk with anxiety. It qualifies as a superpower I think since my ability to go from totally happy and calm to anxious-ridden-worm-hole-brain super powerfully fast. Which I can and often do.

I had a perfect Wednesday with my friend Sharon. We looked at roses and had coffee together. I brought two clippings home of favorite roses, one of which is no longer commercially available. Today I’m going to put them in pots to root them.

Feeling better now. I’m going to try and convince my guys to take a little trip to Salt Lake City to visit friends instead of snow for spring break.

I don’t love dishes but I always feel better after I’ve done some.

I’m still not happy with my company label. I’m not quite sure what it is. It doesn’t quite grab my attention the way other product labels do. I need it to be compelling. Can’t afford a designer for this but need advice.

I’m going to go transplant a sick rose and start a few seeds.

See all you tomatoes later!

Brand New Day

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One of my favorite things about Sonoma County – the yellow fields of mustard!

Yesterday the owner of the company I worked for laid everyone off. Kind of funny how life works, isn’t it? No one saw that coming. I have such warring feelings. I desperately need time to set up my own business and take care of my house and cook real food again and to write…but we also need money and jobs are scarce on the ground for me. I felt both uplifted and then stiff and sick with anxiety. Just last Thursday I quit this same job and unquit within an hour. I wonder if I would have been just as sick to my stomach on my first day not working if I really had quit? Quitting felt empowering while being laid off feels dire.

I’ve never been laid off before.

In spite of having to spend a few hours on the couch trying to settle my stomach I took my first day of unemployment by the balls and headed over to the local IRS office to find out how to disentangle myself from my accidental new identity as Lamare.

I accidentally gave the wrong social security number (by one digit) on my W-4 form and because my employer failed to get a copy of my ID and SSN card, they didn’t catch my error. So I recently discovered that the IRS wants to take some of my earnings towards unpaid child support because apparently I’m a deadbeat douche-dad.

Today I’m trying to get my apothecary website up and running. You can get to it through this link to see how it looks so far:

Winters Apothecary

For some reason it’s still not findable on Google using the url. So I’ve got to figure that out. I’ve got most of my products listed except for the sachet blends. There are so many products I want to work on, I’ve got what I think are some super fun ideas, but if no one can buy the stuff I already have then I’m shooting myself in the foot. So I have to get things set up properly.

I’m excited to be home on a Tuesday morning. The nausea has worn off. Other things I need to do are clean my office and possibly set it up a little differently so it’s more functional. I’m not sure it’s set up as well as it could be. I’m talking about flow.

I also need to clean my living room and my kitchen and my bathroom and bedroom and dining room. Finish the spring cleaning I started almost two months ago. There’s so much more to be done.

It’s a brand new day. Anything is possible when you aren’t dead yet.

You Can’t Buy My Respect: 30 Years of Employment

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I’ve been a working person for over 30 years. I have experienced a lot of different employers working a lot of different positions. I’ve cashiered for more dismal places than I can even remember (fast food, electronics, neck ties, and for about 2 seconds I even cashiered at Safeway – until I was strangled to death by coupons, just to name a few). I’ve been a coffee jerk, a fabric cutter, a stock person, a hair dresser’s assistant, a design assistant, a supervisor of other design assistants, quality control, shipping manager, swatcher (color specialist), seamstress, technical writer, customer service rep, headline editor, and book seller.

In every single job I’ve ever had – EXCEPT FOR THE HALF DAY I WORKED THE SAFEWAY CASH REGISTER – I have been this kind of employee:

  • I work hard for my employers and managers whether they earn my respect or not, whether they deserve my loyalty and commitment to my job or not.

Even when my managers have been chauvinistic bosses at Radio Shack who believed my poor sales record was because I couldn’t properly understand electronics, being a girl, and NOT because our products really fucking sucked.

  • I will work late, I will work extra, I will do it without getting overtime, I will do it – to get a job done. When I work with other people I like and respect I will do it to support them, to be a valuable and reliable part of a team.
  • I am never sloppy in my work. I make mistakes like all human employees do but I am always endeavoring to improve my performance. This is a matter of personal pride.
  • 90% of the time I come to work with a good attitude. I face work fuckery with a positive approach. When things get crazy I might freak out for five minutes but I always find my equilibrium and determination to turn a touchy or tough situation around with good will and humor.

However, I’m also always THAT employee who speaks up at meetings to point out what isn’t working and suggests ways that might make the work process smoother or faster or easier. If a manager or employer asks my opinion, I WILL GIVE THEM MY FUCKING OPINION, even though I know they rarely truly want it. What most bosses want is to ask you a question and hear you agree with the position they’ve already taken. When a boss says “Don’t you think this way of doing _____ makes the most sense?” you’re supposed to agree to make them feel good.

But that’s just a steaming pile of bullshit and the one thing I am never tolerant of is steaming stinky bullshit.

An employer hires me to do a specific job, to be (or become) expert at that job, and if my opinion on how to get the best results doing it don’t matter – then that employer doesn’t actually trust me or respect me in my position. Even when I’m trying to improve things so they can sit back and rake in money and have customers so happy with them they become loyal and return again and again.

I won’t play that bullshit game. I’m never paid enough to abandon who I am, abandon my self respect, or to stroke someone’s bloated fragile ego. Do that in your bathroom mirror, get that from your customers/clients, become a cult leader, but don’t think that paying me a wage entitles you or your lieutenants to sycophantic worship.

I respect the boss/employee relationship. I don’t argue with the fact that paying me a wage entitles an employer to have certain expectations that, when not met, can result in lawful termination of employment. I don’t have a problem with figures of authority as a general rule.

But I have a big problem with employers taking advantage of that authority and that happens all the time. Unless you work in an actual sweatshop it’s hard to prove and most employees won’t challenge an employer because they need the money and can’t afford to quit and go to court trying to prove an employer’s negligence with regard to OSHA safety regulations, respectful treatment, fair pay, etc. This very fact makes it excessively easy to intimidate the general work force into keeping their mouths shut, putting their heads down, and accepting outrageous disrespect from employers.

All of this is compounded by a bad economy in which jobs are scarce and this is further true of the workforce that’s limited in options due to age, years of staying home to take care of kids, lack of formal education, sex, and race. The more limited the options of an employee the more likely they are to knowingly be taken advantage of by an employer/manager.

If you are an employer and/or a manager there are some things you should know:

If you cram 5 employees into a residential garage that violates at least 4 OSHA safety regulations at any given time and no one reports you, it doesn’t mean it’s okay that you are putting people in unsafe work conditions every day or that your employees are cool with those conditions. Consider yourself fortunate that you employ people whose need to feed their families is more important to them than reporting you.

Just because people agree to take on employment in sub-par working conditions doesn’t mean they deserve to work in such conditions. It’s proof of the poverty of your ethics and your greed as an employer that you put people in such conditions in the first place. What conditions people are willing to work under has nothing to do with their worth.

Employees know when they’re being lied to and cheated. Just because they don’t speak up doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping a tally of what kind of human being you are and constantly weighing how much more of your fuckery they’re willing to take and how quietly or loudly they’ll go when they’ve had enough abuse.

A high employee turnover rate is evidence of poor working conditions, poor management, and a toxic work environment. If you own or manage a company in which there is a high turnover rate: it’s YOU not the people you’re employing that’s the problem.

Managers who throw their employees under the train but pretend to stick up for them aren’t fooling anyone, ever. It’s not rocket science to figure out when a manager is actually sticking their necks out for their team with the owner and when they’re NOT. Employees know when you talk behind their backs, when you lie to them. THEY ALWAYS FUCKING KNOW THIS SHIT BECAUSE TAKING A PAYCHECK DOESN’T MEAN THEY SUDDENLY HAVE NO BRAIN, NO EYES, AND NO EARS. Level of pay in employment rarely has a direct correlation with level of intelligence or acuity.

When a manager sticks up for their employees/teams they will earn a lot more loyalty and respect. When the chips are down, employees will always be there for the manager who speaks up to the boss on their account. They know that managers need their jobs too and that sticking their necks out puts them at risk – that willingness to be a real advocate for their crew is deeply appreciated and always noticed.

It’s measurable in how things do or don’t change on the job.

If you are a manager of any kind, never act like you’re in the exact same position as everyone else. It’s patronizing. Don’t say “we” when you mean “you”. Your team will respect you more for being honest about your position.

If you’re a manager don’t pretend you have just as little power as everyone you’re managing. That’s the same as the above statement. It can’t be stated loudly enough. Own up to your position and wield your power fairly and honestly and your team will work hard for you.

Know that your employees all talk to each other. When you talk behind their backs they tell each other. They also know (because they aren’t stupid) that when they talk to each other about you – you will hear all about it.

When something awful happens to one employee – all the employees know about it. There are no secrets. So when one employee is treated like shit by El-Bossperson, everyone knows about it and adds it to the over-all tally of a boss’s ethical scorecard.

Don’t ask your employees/crew for opinions you aren’t planning to take seriously. Stop wasting their fucking time. Just stop it. You want something to be done a certain way, all you have to do is tell your employees that’s how it’s got to be done. No excuses, no quibbling, no pretending to care what anyone thinks of it.

If you insist on asking your employees for their opinions know that most of them are going to tell you what you want to hear not because that’s what they really think but because they really need to pay their rent.  If one of them actually tells you what they really think and it isn’t in agreement with your ideas – don’t start pissing on the wall in anger. You started it. You asked for it.

If you don’t like the opinion you invited, take it with respect and then make the decision you feel is best and ask your crew to respect your decision. They may not like it but they’ll DO WHAT YOU DEMAND. And for fuck’s sake don’t hound that person hoping to get them to agree with you. They obviously don’t, leave it. They’ll respect you more for being honest and for listening to them before going with your own idea.

A good relationship between an employer, a manager, and employees is dependent on mutual respect. Employees always know when an employer doesn’t respect them. You can’t fake that shit. They know. Just know that they always know.

You can tell them you respect them but still think you’re better than all of them because you have your own business and employ people – they know . They know by the conditions under which you expect them to work. They know by the raises you do or don’t give. They know by the way you talk to them.

You can’t buy a person’s respect by paying them a wage. That’s not how it works. Paying people a wage merely buys you their man-power, their professional courtesy, their expertise. That’s all it gets you. You want your employees’ respect? You have to earn it the way all people have to earn respect in the world of other people – with your actions. You earn respect by giving it.

YOU EARN RESPECT BY GIVING IT.

YOU EARN RESPECT BY BEHAVING IN A RESPECTFUL MANNER TO OTHERS.

YOU EARN RESPECT BY GIVING A SHIT ABOUT OTHER HUMAN BEINGS.

YOU EARN RESPECT WITH HUMILITY.

That’s the end of this story, friends. I’m a fantastic employee that people have been lucky to have for 30 years. I always give 100% to my jobs even to employers who don’t deserve it, but I will never give my respect unless it’s earned. I will never be untrue to myself for a paycheck. I will always ask the questions that need to be asked knowing that it might result in me getting fired.

In 30 years of employment I have never once been fired. Right now I’m at a job that could be a great job. It could be a great way to support my family and I want it to be. But I’ve almost walked out without giving notice at least once a month for all 5 months of my employment.

I’ve only ever walked out on a job without giving proper notice ONE TIME IN 30 YEARS. No matter how bad a job is and how little they deserve notice I have only one time not given proper notice.

But seriously, those coupons were going to crawl down my throat and suffocate me, I had no choice but to walk away.

I almost walked out on my current job on Tuesday. I decided to stay solely out of respect for a fellow employee and knowing how fucking awful bad it would be for her if I bailed this week. So I’m not leaving. I’m not even giving notice. There’s a chance that the general work conditions may be about to improve considerably and it would be awesome if this job started becoming the cool opportunity I had originally hoped it would be.

I AM writing this post, however, knowing that if my manager and/or employer reads it they may decide to terminate my employment (but will find a legal reason for firing me, of course) and I’m at peace with that.

If that’s the price for being true to myself and having self respect, I’m willing to pay it. If that’s the price for having a voice and using it, I’m totally at peace with it.

We all always have choices. Weigh them honestly. Look at them carefully. And once you’ve chosen, proceed forward confidently and fearlessly.

All Chained Up Inside

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That, there, is a mushroom penis. a fungal penile growth under my foxglove. This perfectly represents my mood and state of mind. Think of this mushroom as a finger throwing you some major fuckitude. Not the kind you take to bed and get naked with, the kind that chains you up inside the dumpster of your ignorance and self-righteousness until something better starts to grow in it.

Why I love swearing: Because it’s a beautiful expression of angst, anger, and grand fuckery, of which there is an unending supply in this world.

I’m full of unexpressed anger today. The tiniest whiff of disrespect, arrogance, or bullshit is all it will take to set my whole pile of anger on fire.

I laid on my couch when I came home from work yesterday for 3 hours trying not to let myself cry. I was successful, as I nearly always am at suffocating it. While telling Max about my day I told him I was still on the verge of crying, but not because I was sad or hurt and he said “You mean rage crying”. Indeed, son. Don’t have to explain much to that kid of mine.

This is one of those days I want to run away into the woods (the kind without many ticks) and never come back. Or perhaps find a cave to live in. My family could visit me there and admire my long thin beard hair and the earthy unwashed skin-veneer of sediment and leaf mold.

My friend Hayley inspired a new life theme song and it goes like this:

His dongle dangling in the breeeeeeze as he cartwheels off a cold trapeeeeeeeeze….

If you don’t have your own theme song I suggest you start working on one today. I’m going to be singing that in my head all morning. Especially if I spot the very special human this song refers to.

Hide your dried-up nut-sacks from my siiiiiiiiiiiiiight before I tie them to my kiiiiiiiiiiiiite…

Seriously, this shit writes itself.

And tempt the hungry winter crooooooooooows to take a big-ass biiiiiiiiiiiiite….

Time for work, folks.

Keep Your Popcorn Kisses to Yourself

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This mustard is now plowed under. It’s such a short but gorgeous season, the mustard fields in Sonoma County.

This is only Tuesday but it’s already shaping up to be a brutal work week. The company I work for is moving locations from a private garage to a bona-fide commercial builing. This is a really good thing, actually. It’s pretty creepy working in the garage of someone’s home, crammed in like illegal sardines. However, this means packing up the place. We’re not shutting down the company website so orders will come in all week and we’ll just be desperately trying to unpack and set up while customers build up heads of angry steam and it will be us peons who get blamed for whatever doesn’t get done in an impossible situation.

The incredible thing about human beings is their stalwart belief that if you give other human beings money of any kind you have the right to expect them to become magical benders of time and space – expected to turn acrid sweat into expensive wine with a large market share.

I spent all weekend trying to set up my new commercial website for Winters Apothecary. It is not a labor of love (in case anyone is hoping to hear a romantic spin on starting a small business). I am doing it with the full expectation that I will crank out a living from this gig. I’m taking all the steps necessary and trying not to be overwhelmed nor destroyed by self-doubt. I make great potions and remedies, all I have to do is find enough customers to make the whole thing thrive. Enough business will mean quitting my day job and sustaining my family while still having time and energy to write.

I’m concentrating on little good things these days to get me through the crummy days, the inertial that overtakes me in the afternoons and evenings.

The yellow mustard fields. The first rose to bloom in my garden (Abraham D’Arby). The first California poppy to open in my garden. The mandarin blossoms. The sound of mourning doves in the morning. The leaves of my potted fig unfurling tentatively like infant hands. Fruit trees in blossom. Max playing with the foster cat, Jax. A perfectly formed pancake.

Last thought before I go off to the day-job trenches: I read an excerpt of a YA book on twitter that was the description of a kiss between two teens. I think it was supposed to be “sweet” and “romantic” but it describe a boy as tasting like popcorn an cologne and maybe face wash? NO. I don’t know what adults pine for their teen years of bad kisses with young boys, but I worry about you. I really do. Even when I was a teen I would have been grossed out by a kiss tasting like popcorn. Ugh.

So maybe if you write YA fiction with a romance as part of your story, bear in mind that some nostalgia is just icky. Even for your target age group.

Am I the only person in the world who found the groping and newness of teen make-outs unsatisfying and unromantic?  In my own experience sex didn’t get good until the 20’s when everyone’s had a little more experience and matured to the point where neither partner smells like bubblegum or popcorn. Kisses aren’t good until it’s backed up by some living and some maturity.

It does occur to me that since 99% of the population has a bigger sex drive than I do, they might not particularly care about quality as long as long as there’s lots of it.

Anyway, keep your sloppy snack-tasting adolescent kissing between the covers of your book when trying to appeal to an adult crowd.*

*Twitter.

 

If I Was a Bird

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This is my official salute to Leonard Nimoy, off on his new adventure as ashes or gasses or maybe worm food.

I can’t post selfies without hearing the voice of my ex-nemesis accusing me of being narcissistic. My psyche collects bits of conversations and voices like the sea collects flotsam and jetsam.

 Yesterday afternoon a very heavy fire extinguisher fell on a coworker’s foot and crushed at least a couple of toes sending her to the ER. One hour later I get a text from my mom telling me she’s in the same ER with a possible heart attack that turned out to be 3 broken ribs that were making it painful and difficult for her to breathe.

Wanna know my feelings about Monday?

Good news about work: in about two weeks we will no longer be working in a residential garage. Wanna know what I think about working in someone’s garage that isn’t my own?

I just said I’d foster an adult cat for a couple of weeks. One that’s come from a cat colony. It’s harder for me to put myself out for humans than it is for animals. I suppose I’ve found my work as a cat foster parent. I do wonder if I can get involved with working to rehabilitate injured wild birds. I really love birds.

If I was a bird I’d probably be a pterodactyl or a wild turkey. Yep, not a delicate sweet hummingbird. Not an elegant beautiful pigeon*. Not a cool righteous crow. I’d be a scary giant flying dinosaur, or a really wacky weird turkey. Or a chicken.

I’m year of the rooster in Chinese astrology, so that all makes sense.

This just reminded me how everyone wants to discover they were royalty or someone really important in a past life and I’m all “Yeah, peasant here. I’m sure I was a mud-hut blister-covered peasant”. You wanna know what’s great about that? Peasants are the people who’ve kept the world running from the beginning. They made everyone’s wine, they built roads, they dug wells, they plowed the fields, they buried the bodies. Royalty and nobles do very little that’s actually worthy or noble.

The same is true today. So yeah, being a peasant in a past life is cool by me. Also, my ancestors were farmers, fur trappers, and wine makers (the ones I actually know about). Plus a poet. Plus some really epically poor folk living in the Appalachian mountains doing a lot of surviving, I guess.

*SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU PIGEON-HATERS. THERE ARE PIGEONS WITH WAR MEDALS YOU BAT-TURDS!

A Minor Epiphany: Remembering to Let Go

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You can’t play music well if you’ve never played it poorly. I don’t care what parents of prodigies say, no one picks up an instrument for the first time and plays no wrong notes.

I was discussing my writing problems the other day with two writing friends and had a mild epiphany: this writer’s “block”, or whatever it is, is the same thing I experienced for so many years that I actually gave up on writing fiction. I have folders full of notes and starts of novels, middles of novels, bits of novels that never came to life. I couldn’t make them catch fire and growing discouraged I abandoned them and decided I’d just stick with writing creative non-fiction. I gave up my life-long dream of writing novels because I believed I didn’t have it in me to write them.

All those novels were alive, vibrant, important, cool, fun, charged, and insistent INSIDE MY HEAD. But I couldn’t get them out in the same condition. What came out of my head were dead versions of my stories. Stagnant, poorly written, boring, nowhere versions of the living stories inside of me.

I realized that what I’ve been experiencing ever since finishing Winter; Cricket and Grey is the same thing as before when I told my friend Kele that it’s like the conduit between what’s in my head and my pen/laptop is broken. That’s how it felt before.

In 2009, when I finally fixed that conduit and wrote the first draft of “Jane Doe” it felt incredible! I was finally doing the thing I’ve always supposed to have been doing and I knew it because – well – how do you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing? It’s hard to quantify or describe that feeling and I imagine it’s not the same or all people.

I just felt right in my own skin and in my own head.

So how did I fix that conduit and how can I fix it again?

In the most simplistic terms it was all about letting go. Letting go of expectation, doubt, expectation, pressure, interference from others, expectations of others, and letting go of control. The first time it happened resulted in chaos and a manuscript that, five years later, is still in a state of chaos. Maybe it always will be. That’s not as important as I used to think it was. That release of control let the stuff in my head come out and live on the page. I had to release it in raw form. I had to let the stories and characters come out imperfect because that’s how I got the power to change them and edit them into something better. They had to get to the page pure before I could make them better.

Humans are messy beings. Their stories are also messy. If we lived life like a well edited story we’d die of constriction. We don’t live our lives like that. That’s how others may see us and our lives, but the reality is that in the moment we are messy with mixed emotions and motivations and our paths are littered with junk our psyches drop like old skin.

After finishing the first Cricket and Grey book I think I set myself up for failure with a return of expectation. Now that I finally finished a novel and actually printed it and people have read it – I rebuilt the expectation that I should be able to sit down and write with control. But the control of writing is an exercise in multiple steps. First you get the crappy draft down, but you let it be colorful and melodramatic if that’s how it comes out, you let it come out live and imperfect, then you begin to shape it and perfect it through edits.

Everyone’s process is different so I can’t actually say this is how it is for all writers. What I’m saying is that this is how it is for ME.

Part of the power of my blog writing, the stuff people tend to comment about, the stuff that makes people think I’m a good writer, is that I let stuff come out unfiltered. Some of my best blog writing is late at night after several beers because my walls are down,  my instinct to control everything I say is gone. It comes out raw and living and definitely dramatic. Sometimes I wake up and hate what I wrote because it’s embarrassingly earnest and as melodramatic as a teen experiencing their first passions in life. I hate that shit. HATE IT. But that’s the same well from which my poetry comes, my best words, my most creative and inspiring writing comes from that same place.

It’s also the same well from which my nightmares are drawn.

You could say that the best and the worst all comes from the same well. My psyche.

I can’t draw on that unless I let my defenses down, let go of control, let the living moving magma out of the mountain.

Part of it is about trust too. Trust that I can take the raw material, the wildly stupid messy narratives, and shape them into something worthy the way they play themselves out in my head. Trust that the first draft is not an indication of the worth of the story but merely the lump of material from which a great story is chiseled or molded or built.

Pick the metaphor that works best for you.

The thing I can’t account for, the thing I miss and want and need is that energy that pulls me back into the process every day. The energy that makes everything else in my life feel less urgent than getting back to the page. That sense of excitement, discovery, and purpose is like a drug, I suppose. I have heard nearly every successful writer say that becoming successful is about showing up to the page even when that excitement is on the wane. I believe this, I do. I believe it because a person, no matter what they’re doing, can’t be UP all the time, can’t be EXCITED all the time, can’t be PASSIONATE all the time.

If a person IS up all the time, excited all the time, and passionate all the time, then they are living a life out of balance. Or they’re on recreational drugs.

Everyone needs times of reflection, of inwardness, of aloneness, of quiet.  I’ve known people who are exquisitely uncomfortable being alone with themselves, with down time, with quiet days, with slow work, and with reflection. I’ve known people who think their relationships with others are over the minute passion quiets down or the sex isn’t as exciting or as frequent.

Everyone needs refueling from time to time. That is a fact. Creativity needs refueling. Love needs refueling. Bodies need refueling.

So I know that part of writing is accepting that it’s not going to be exciting every single time you sit down in front of your page. But a year and a half of feeling the words die on the page? This is the kind of thing that makes a writer quit, that made ME quit before.

I won’t quit this time. I just need to get out of my own way and let this first draft be messy and dramatic, rich and overstuffed with adjectives. I just need to let it come out without trying to control every sentence as it gets to the page where it dies from suffocation.

Time to let the magma out.

Say This While You Sneeze

forellenschluss 1

This is Forellenschluss. (That sounds like the name of an avante guard movie) I ate this very head of lettuce for dinner the night before last and while I admit that when grown in Oregon it is a little sweeter, it was delicious! This is my all-time favorite lettuce variety.

I just now heard the news that Leonard Nimoy died this morning. That’s one dead person who’s absolutely got to feel all the love sending him off to the next adventure! Like so many others, I loved him and I’m crushed to hear he’s left us earthlings to our own devices.

My toe has neither fallen off nor stopped hurting. I believe the world owes me gratitude for not posting pictures of it.

In my dream one friend set another friend on fire. I had to save the one from the other all while keeping a toddler from accidental death. There was definitely something fiendish about the toddler, something more fiendish than usual. Toddlers are bitches.

I just put make-up on and took a bunch of selfies trying to get just the right one to salute Nimoy and I dropped my camera on a toe on the same foot as the other toe. Might have broken my camera too. Oh well. Worth it.

My coffee has grown cold. I’m playing “Sail” by AWOL Nation loud because it’s the kind of song that needs to be played loud. I also need to play a lot more music loud in general. It always feels so good to get music all up in your veins.

Holding my accordion to take a few pics of myself with it for a friend made me realize the shocking truth – it has become strange to me and my fingers can’t remember what to do.

I just realized I did my “Live Long and Prosper” salute, I did it with my thumb closed. Dammit. Can’t do anything right sometimes. I just re-did it. I can’t have Nimoy thinking I don’t know the proper way to send him off to wherever.

It’s time for me to work on my manuscript for a little while. Then I’ve got to make some notes in my business binder. Then I have to finish sewing a market tote and send it out.

So I will leave you with this: when I was a kid I used to make phasers and protective eye gear out of cardboard, pens, and pieces of plastic packaging and then pretended to be part of Star Trek running through the shrubs and underneath the fig tree on the side of the house. I can’t remember if I played Star Trek with my brother or by myself. Happy memory.

Getting Clarity on Goals

Penny in a basket

I’ve made some minor decisions and adjusted my business plan for my apothecary business and it makes me feel loads better to get some clarity.

First of all, I’m not going to be writing on Stitch and Boots anymore. All my gardening and food posts are going to be here from now on. My whole life will be here on Better Than Bullets just like my whole life used to be on Dustpan Alley. Stitch will still be there as an archive and I might still put recipes on it from time to time because I have the plug in for that on Stitch and don’t feel like adding it here. I’ll be turning off comments so I don’t have to worry about missing that.

Second of all, I will be starting a commercial website for Winters Apothecary. That’s part of why I want to put all my writing in one place again. I need to keep things simple. The Winters Apothecary site will just be my store, not a blog. It will have some writing on it as is appropriate for the store but it won’t be a personal journal of my urban homesteading. All of that will be right here. Winters Apothecary will have my books (see how hopeful I am about my writing career?) and my apothecary goods on it.

I don’t think there’s a “Third of all”. Oh! Well, my Etsy shop name will change to “Winters Apothecary” too. I guess that’s a worthy “third thing”.

Over the years I’ve done this a lot. Changing focus, starting new blogs, new Etsy store names, splitting my interests out. I’ve learned a lot, experimented a lot, and had a lot of fun doing it all. I do feel like it was all to good purpose. I wish Dustpan Alley (the blog) was still out there as an archive. For those who don’t know, we let the domain name lapse and someone bought it so my blog disappeared. We think we can get the content printed for personal archiving use but it will never be available for others and I’m a little sad about that. Dustpan Alley was the very beginning of my blogging online life.

I’ve also come to realize that I have to take it easy with this whole business building thing. It takes time. I has to take time. I’m always so impatient. Building something worthy isn’t a fast endeavor. Coming up with and perfecting labels, logos, recipes, and packaging all takes time. Finding the right suppliers and writing good copy. All of it takes time. Building a store and finding ways to induce people to come and check it out takes a whole lot of time. I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Here’s what I want:

Write novels that people buy and read.

Make remedies that people buy and use with a business thriving enough to support my novel-writing but not so thriving I have no time to write.

Still have time to garden, make quilts, preserve food, make fun of everything.

That right there is what I want my life to BE.

Everything I’ve been doing in the past 10 years has fueled me with the expertise, the experience, and the network of people I need by my side to make this happen. Running a brick-and-mortar retail store gave me loads of experience running a business and it WAS growing steadily, though slowly. That’s how it happens. We got out because we didn’t like the store being our whole life. But we were doing it right. I must also point out that I realized one of my long-time fantasies – to have a retail shop. Not everyone takes the opportunity even when it’s in front of them.

That was pretty damn cool.

Getting clarity feels so good.

I have to go to my day-job now. At least today is Thursday which means I have the next three days off.