Tammy's Terrible Ts (part 1)

Or perhaps they’re terrific. I’ll let you decide. For me, they’re terrible. Why? Because my coworker just quit on the cusp of the busy season and he was the designated balancer and poster of cash drawers, retail sales and charge sales, along with the filer of such nonsense, which means I assume all his loathsome work until such time as a suitable victim may be procured.

I did not get the day after Thanksgiving off, and therefore, did not make turkey enchiladas or complete the Christmas mail out. I spent inordinate hours mucking out the basement this weekend whilst the head of house was gone (and remember, I’m ever so pinned between a two-year-old and his parental units, a basement millennial, and that problematic 90-year-old who owns the roof but can’t remember that orange juice doesn’t go on cereal and wicks can’t be lit on electric stoves). Oh, and it snowed today. And not the frothy Hallmark Christmas stuff. This was the dozens of cars off the road, 40-mile-an-hour, and it took me over an hour to get to work stuff.

When my editor reminded me of my blogly obligations due um…now? I almost cried.

You see, I am struggling to manage the first of my terrible T’s and that is – Time.

Here’s the deal. We all only get 24 hours in a day. This we can plan on. Unfortunately, we are not promised tomorrow, so those 24 hours become more and more precious the closer we get to collecting social security. Unless you’re me. I’ll still be working.

I digress.

The other evil they don’t tell you in school is that once you are out there on your own and independent, you’re still not your own boss. Unless you own your own company. And if you do, you aren’t reading this because you don’t have time. So unless you’re indigent or independently wealthy, part of those 24 hours will be spent procuring funds so you can have a bed, transportation, food and all that other stuff that makes life livable.

So now you have 16 hours to do what you want, cuz you’re grown. Unless you’re me. My job requires 9.5 hours a day. So I have 14.5 left. Let’s add my commute shall we, because if you work outside your home, travel happens. So there’s another 1.5 hours of my day, and its highway miles so multitasking is not an option. So now, I have 13. Gotta sleep, right? Now I have 6 hours. We eat as a family, so now its 5 hours. But wait. What about getting ready for work, getting lunch packed clothes out etc.? 1.5 hours? Now I have 3.5 hours a day. Free time, right? Divide it up amongst the myriad other things my family might need (toddlers and those with dementia have little concept of time – or their impingement on yours), extra work I take on because I have bills to pay… but wait! There’s the weekend! Oh yes, that’s when I have time to pay those bills, balance my checkbook, clean the basement, cook something. Go to my house of worship. Buy groceries. Squeeze in a cry and an extra five minutes in the shower…

I know, It sounds like a diatribe, a list of whiny crybaby problems. It’s not.

Perhaps your life is even busier. And yet there is that burn to write. And you reach the end of your day with nothing on the page and an ache in your heart. That’s why my first T—time—is terrible. Because it is limited, and in order to write, you must sacrifice the time you would spend on something else so that you can spend it on writing.

Personally, I rarely cut my toenails. I hardly ever dry my hair. I inhale most of my meals. Who has time to chew, really? And during one of the most challenging times of my life, I am wrapping up a novel. At least the first draft. All I really had left to sacrifice was my Netflix binge time and Pokémon Go.

But I only have 24 hours in the day, and I am a writer. Besides. Who really needs a shiny Pickachu? So the next time you are faced with a lack of time, put some math to it. Jot down just how you carve up your allotted 24 hours. Then consider what you can do without. And if you’re spending 3.5 hours inert, binging on Netflix – your solution is only as far away as your remote. Time is not the enemy. You are.

Peace
Tammy Boehm, Associate Editor

The Library of Your Mind (final)

The live journal.

At one time there was a blogging site called livejournal.com I had an account and mirror posted to it. I kept it personal for several years, then opened it and got spammed. Live and learn.

I do however recommend keeping a live journal. While I do promote paper writing and computer journaling and saving for posterity, before the “cloud” was a thing, I saw promise in the concept of a blog, not just as a platform for writerly things but as a chronicle of one’s life, ones moments, etc. And since I’m a big picture kinda gal, my writer compass points to the personal website. Again, as a writer we are encouraged to have these but for me, my site is an extension of me, not just my writing. A full website allows one to catalogue not just writing but also images, sounds and themes in one cohesive place. If you’re sensitive and private, you can build a beautiful site and keep it private, but truthfully unless you’re really famous, or you have mad social media skills, you’re at minimal risk of exposing your soft underparts to the untamed masses. Chances are you won’t go viral. I promise.

That being said. Don’t be discouraged if you do want attention and you put all this effort into building a beautiful website that no one sees. What’s the point, you ask? Because in all the outward focus of the past few entries (if you’ve been keeping up), this one is really about you at least for now.

Writers are creators and building a page or a website (freewebs is great for this) is a visual exercise that is very satisfying. Pick a site that you trust of course. Do some research. There are free site hosters out there as well as paid services. Just make sure that you can manipulate your own data and content easily. This should be something enjoyable not an exercise in becoming computer script writer.

Keep things simple to start. Choose content about which you are passionate. Experiment with the different templates and colors available until you have something that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. And don’t build the whole thing at once. If your aim is to have something that someone else will eventually see – spread your addition of content and pages out so that your site is dynamic and will encourage people to come back.

It saddens me to see all the abandoned sites out there. Writers can be fickle. They dive in to some project, spend loads of time and effort and then when the fuss dies down, they abandon the area and move on, leaving a trail of broken links and obsolete data in their wake.  I’m guilty too I guess, but hey that gives me an idea for a New Year’s resolution. I could go make my websites amazing again. Then I could blog about it. And I could write a letter to one of my old buddies who got me interested in blogging and website building. And then I could go make some way cool comments.

 

All joking aside. If you’ve been following along, you may remember my comment about the library:

Every time an old man dies, a library burns down? Should you decide to build your own website and keep it updated, eventually when you write your final sentence on this side of the veil – viola. Your website, your blogs – all the love letters – that, my friend, is your library. Full of color and light and beauty. It is a part of your legacy, and a gift only you can give to the next generation.

 

Peace.  

Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor

The Library of Your Mind (part 4)

The Blog

With the advent of social media platforms like Facebook and even more platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, there has been chatter out in the interwebs that blogging is dead. Sure it is. Until you seek publication or get published and your editor asks about your platform, and your followers and your blog address. The blog is still relevant but ironically this electronic tool seems to cause more agony for writers than ecstasy. Truth is, with all the work on our craft we do while writing poetry and stories, writing about writing or writing about ourselves can become loathsome.

So here’s a solution. TA DA! (Insert sound byte of two-year-old’s pan and ladle solo as drumroll here) Guest spot on someone else’s blog. Find a writer you know, or a topical blogger you follow and actually volunteer to do a guest spot. I can assure you that if you are a writer and you query Rani, she would be quite generous in allowing you a guest spot or two. (She and Kristina make me do it.)

Again, I encourage you to expand that big brain of yours. Writers write best when they write what they know and I personally know a lot of different things. From Kenworth trucks to green chili chicken enchiladas, I am a wealth of information just waiting for a forum. And so are you. Even if you can’t come up with a topic but you still want to try the exercise, it is possible that the blogger you frequent has a list of topics from which you could choose. I know. I don’t want to write on my own blog, why would I want to write on someone else’s blog? Because it will give you not only a fresh perspective but the opportunity to write for a fresh audience. Just like one dimensional characters are a drag, one dimensional writers are a drag. So don’t be a drag. Consider volunteering for a guest spot.

 

The Blog adjacent

 

Blogging can be cumbersome. I get it. My own blog is pretty much inactive these days and I know I do myself a disservice as a writer. But there’s that 90-year-old dementia sufferer, the toddler, the husband, and the day job so writing time is severely limited. I’m percolating a novel too, so I know eventually I will have to get back in the blog saddle. It’s why I don’t squeak too loudly when Kristina MAKES me guest blog. 

So here is another thought. If you’re a writer, you’re a reader. Consider in lieu of a full blown blog post, the extended comment. Instead of the latest sticker or GIF, actually write something back to someone. Blogs are wonderful for this, but it can actually spark some conversation on Facebook. I urge you though, be more creative than engaging in a verbal duel over politics. You’re better than that. Don’t dive into the morass of banalities and diatribes. Find something cool to comment about.

Some of my favorite blogs back in the day when I blogged daily were the ones wherein my readers locked on and left a flurry of comments and conversations amongst themselves. There was synergy created in those posts as my writer friends were inspired to go and post longer blogs about whatever was discussed. I even belong to a writer site where there is a minimum character limit which forces a reader who wants to comment to actually say more than one word. I actually believe texting is damaging to our ability to write complete thoughts. But that is a blog or perhaps a blog comment for another day. So get out there and do some commenting on blogs, or as I used to call them, “blogments” If something you read spoke to something in you, say something back to the someone who authored it that will mean something.

 

Peace.

Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor

The Library of Your Mind (part 3)

The Love letter

She’ll tell you it was third grade and I’ll tell you it was fourth grade when I met her on the playground. She was wearing a cape and telling people she “Vonted to sock their blod” (you have to use the accent or the story isn’t as good). We started this game called “terror in the wax museum” and since she was already Dracula, I became Lucrecia Borgia and our mutual friend picked up a stick and was instantly transformed into Lizzie Borden. She was the first person to inspire me in so many areas, but specifically she was my impetus for writing. When I moved away in eighth grade, we were best friends and I was devastated. The only thing that kept me dreaming was letters between us. For several years I kept every one she wrote me. They were love letters and I would pull them out and read them. Then came the lyrics we traded. I still have every set of lyrics, every poem she sent me and for many years I sent her each thing I wrote. She inspired me to write my first novel and my protagonist is named after one of her daughters. She is still my heart.

We have Facebook and texting now, but honestly, it’s not the same. You see, there is something special about holding a piece or two of special paper, with someone’s own handwriting (yes, handwriting) maybe doodles in the margin even, and words that are meant for your eyes only. It doesn’t have to be a romantic interest to be a love letter. I encourage you to widen your scope of love. A family member. A friend. Even a coworker who needs encouragement. It doesn’t have to be someone far away, either. He or she could be in the next cubicle. As you read this, you may already have someone in mind.  Whoever it is though, make sure you do the following.

 

  • Use paper and pen. Unless your handwriting is illegible, even when you print, use paper and pen. Don’t cheat and buy a card, even a blank card. Go get some stationery if you don’t have it or some notebook paper and actually write with your own hand the sentiments you wish to convey.

  • Be genuine and transparent. Tell the person exactly what you want to tell him or her. Remember this isn’t a romantic thing. No stalking a coworker crush. No home wrecking. And no left handed despite the fact I carried you for nine months in my belly and you never even call I still want you home for thanksgiving snarkiness. If opening a vein on paper and squeezing out love is too ooey gooey for you, write a thank you to someone and I’ll give you a star, but the love letter will be a better benefit to you as a human and a writer during this season of giving.

  • Be wordy. You’re a writer and he or she probably knows it because seriously, who doesn’t know you’re a writer? Right? So fill the page with lovely words about your chosen recipient. Make it count. Cause him or her to have to stop for a moment in his or her personal chaos and actually ponder your gift.

  • Be prolific. Write more than one. Especially if you had to go buy a box of stationery for this exercise. Don’t stop with that old grade school bestie. Write to a teacher. Write to your parent. Write to your child. Love does not harm. And the more you put to paper the beautiful things you’ve found in others for which you are grateful, the more that beauty will continue to flow and fill up your life with color and light.

Peace

Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor

The Library of Your Mind (part 2)

The Library

 

Today, in the middle of a very difficult day, my dear husband queries me via text message regarding my participation in the disposition of his mother’s purse.  

Him: did you take mom’s purse?

Me: (an hour later because I’m not supposed to use my phone at work) no.

The black bag from hell had still not been located when I got home. So I proceeded to go through my mother-in-law’s things and found it in her dresser drawer. And that’s when the fight started. She wasn’t grateful that her purse and bank card and check book was safe. She was livid that someone moved it from the kitchen to her dresser drawer. It must have been me or the two year old grandchild yada yada yada. I had a rotten day in a series of rotten days and I come home to get accused of theft. My empathy is limited. And unfortunately, in the heat of the daily battle, I have no point of reference wherein my mother-in-law was kind and loving and generous.

The hard truth is that dementia will destroy the personality of a person well before the disease progresses to the point where the brain forgets to run the body. The building will remain but all the books inside will be gone or so degraded no logical pages remain. This is where you as writer have the opportunity to use your beautiful gift and restore the library.

The first thing to remember is that since this is a gift, it isn’t about you. (We will do you in a later installment, but for now it’s about other people). While I personally struggle with my mother-in-law and her current personality, I have managed to collect things more indicative of the woman she was and I have the wherewithal to preserve and share them at some point in the future. It helps that I am an avid genealogist but I’m suggesting that you start small. If you are a writer, you may have a tinge of OCD or a bit of an addictive mindset so be careful that working on a library doesn’t eclipse your other writing. It is a gift, not a lifestyle change.

The best starting point would be whatever access you have to the oldest of your family members. Keep things simple. Keep them light hearted and enjoyable for you as well as your subject of study but do not hesitate to give it your own flair. Along with asking your patriarch or matriarch his or her birthplace and school memory consider things like the music and art your subject enjoys. If you are fortunate, you’ll get lots of data that can then be turned into a bio of your family member. However, if all you receive are a few statements, you can still take these and do your own research perhaps on what a person’s birthplace was like at the time of the birth. I’ve actually googled addresses of family members and found old homes still standing. The options are as varied as your imagination and dedication are. If you don’t have aging family, consider those in your own generation or even the generations after you. I myself have grown children and now a grand babe. Pictures are a powerful starter for stories and can be used easily with younger family. Finally, if you are without family, consider your friends. You’re the writer. You’re eloquent and your friends would probably trust you with their stories.  

 

It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Investing even a small amount of time in capturing moments of someone else’s life will inevitably give you more than you give. You will find that delving into someone else’s life, fleshing out the words to fill that library with stories will enrich your own life and feed your own creativity. Above all, it will keep your heart soft preserving those moments of beauty and pain for those of us who spend our days running reconnaissance through burned out buildings only to face a flamethrower. We need those stories to build our empathy, to remind us that everyone has hopes and dreams beyond the day-to-day survival.

 

So that is my challenge to you. Pick one person and write the book of them. You’ll enjoy it. I promise.

 

Peace

Tammy Boehm
Associate Editor