Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Moon

As Hurricane Sandy was approaching and meteorologists were warning residents on the east coast that the storm surges would be made worse because of the full moon, I couldn't help but admire its beauty. It was washed in a haze of cloudy sky here, pulling tides toward shore in other states.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo - the Abbreviated Version

I'll have to find some time to lock myself away and write.
It's almost time for NaNoWriMo again! This fall, I've felt more motivated to write than I have in a long, long time. I have three different novel ideas swirling in my head. I'm ready to sit down now and get started, but I won't. That would take the fun out of being part of the NaNoWriMo community as it occurs.

But, I'm not going to be able to write 50,000 words this year. I know, I know. This sounds like a lame excuse already, but now that I'm entering my 4th year of participation, I feel I know of what I speak.

I've only finished once so far. I was thrilled with the middle grade novel I wrote the first year, but quickly learned that I needed to cut about half of the 50,000 words I wrote.

The second year, I wrote 32,000 words before throwing in the towel. I wish I would have stuck with it, but the novel was spiraling out of control and wasn't even making sense anymore. I didn't know where to take it and sadly, set it aside to fix at a later date. That still hasn't happened.

Last year, I started a novel but was traveling on business for 2-1/2 weeks and barely had time to take a shower, let alone write a novel.

And this year, I'm traveling on business again. Then, right when I get back from that business trip, I'll head down to Georgia for my son's wedding!

I have a million things on my mind and plenty of exciting things happening. It's too bad NaNoWriMo happens in November. If only we could push it out to January when so many of us will have freshly resolved to write our novels in the new year. (NaNo organizers - are you listening?)

Yes, I could just write it on my own in January, but that's not the same thing. It's the community of NaNo that I like. The pep talks; the empathy from other writers; the group project of it all. So, despite the trip to Singapore and exciting wedding events afterward, I'm going to sign up.

But  -- I'm doing my own modification of NaNoWriMo this year. I'm only going to attempt 25,000 words, which is perfect since I'm writing another middle grade novel. If I can complete this, I'll be amazed. I'm going to give it my best shot. I know NaNoWriMo won't consider me a winner if I only write 25,000, but I will. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Politics & Neighbors

A good old political statement out by the road.

Perhaps it's different around here than in the rest of the country, but here in the swing state of Ohio, politics between neighbors is starting to get ugly.

I googled the Cincinnati Enquirer's website in search of a story I wanted to share about a couple in another Cincinnati community. He's a Republican; she's a Democrat, and they both put yard signs in their front yard, side-by-side. Then they took their dog for a walk and came back to find that her Obama sign had been stolen. The husband was outraged on his wife's behalf.

That was the story I was going to share, but when I did a search on the newspaper's site, dozens of other stories popped up. Apparently sign-stealing this election is widespread and big news. Some of the offenders have been caught with hundreds of signs that they've removed from people's yards. Across the border in Kentucky, it's local election signs that have been removed almost as soon as they're put up.

Politics are creating some pretty bad neighbors among us.

My mother's neighbors, who are the kindest, sweetest, most neighborly people in the world, have suddenly turned on her. These are people who come over and  let her dogs out when she's gone for long, who feed her horses, who help shovel snow off her porch and who she exchanges Christmas gifts with. But now, they're barely speaking to her since they disagree on politics. And instead of putting out yard signs, they've placed an empty chair in their yard expressing their support of Romney, Clint Eastwood-style.

At our house, our Obama sign lasted less than 24 hours. We put it in our yard, went to bed, and woke up to find it missing. There's no trace of it, and few other Obama signs remaining in the neighborhood. We suspect our neighbor -- the same man who brings us vegetables from his garden in the summer. His daughter even told us it might be him.

All we can do is shake our heads. Stealing our yard sign isn't going to change our vote, but we may think a little harder about the cliched saying that 'fences make the best neighbors.'

Friday, October 19, 2012


...the heady fermentation of apple cider wafting through the air... the sound of brittle leaves crinkling across the ground...the vision of red, orange, and yellow decorating spots of brown...the smooth roundness of a pumpkin....the intoxicatingly cozy briskness of autumn...


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just a Wheel Watcher

This weekend, Wheel of Fortune rolled into town. They set up shop at the Treasure Aisles Flea Market in Monroe, Ohio and hosted auditions for the show.

Not to brag, but I'm really good at Wheel of Fortune, much to the dismay of anyone else (my dad, especially) who is in the room. Guess I ruin their fun. So I felt compelled to drive up to Monroe and join the crowd in the hopes of auditioning to be on the show.

One 900-person group

By 'crowd,' I mean the line of cars backed up down the state highway, trying to turn onto the road that lead to the parking lot, swarming with people.

And by 'swarming with people,' I mean THOUSANDS who showed up for a chance to audition for one of three shows.

Here's how it worked: Everyone could stand in line to fill out an application. They hosted three show auditions, letting 900 people at a time into the building where they then pulled five names from a drum and let those five come up on stage for a Speed Round. They encouraged people to jump up and down, show their enthusiasm and personality, and come across to the producers and crowd as good contestants to bring onto the show. It didn't actually matter if you got on stage, or if you won the Speed Round. Those things didn't automatically qualify you. They were auditioning these people.

Guess what?
___     ___ ___ S N ' T     P ___ C K ___ D

I bounced up and down with the 900+ people in my group, hoping they'd pull me out of the crowd. They didn't. I remain simply a Wheel Watcher, despite my winning personality and dreams of fame and fortune.


When is Jeopardy coming to town???

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Quick Switch

During a meeting at work today, we were asked to get out of our comfort zone a little. The facilitator asked each of us to take off our watches and put it on the other arm.

Take a minute to do this.
Do it.

Doesn't it feel weird?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Instant Gratification: Good or Bad?

Just because they don't all have ribbons doesn't mean that they're not all delicious.

I just finished reading Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott. A wonderfully terrifying book about two parents who don't seem to comprehend how bad their daughter's drug use is getting. If you like books like that, definitely read it. But what I want to focus on today is not that story element, but a subplot and idea that the step-father in the book, a writer for NPR, brings to life.

It is the idea that as bloggers, or in his case, a weekly columnist, our writing and focus changes based on reader comments and instant feedback. If we get lots of comments, we're on top of the world. If we get little response to our writing, we deem it bad, and it often throws us into a downward slump, wondering what was wrong with our piece. I found this thought to be provocative and true. I think those of us who blog do react this way and base our merit largely on "likes" and comments and hits. But I'm wondering if this is helpful, or detrimental?

It used to be that we, as writers, would write our pieces, make our revisions, work with editors and then finally -- finally -- see our work in print. We did not get feedback on our words. We almost never personally connected with our readers. And I wonder whether that wasn't nice in some ways, because we could continue on with the assumption or grand delusion that our words were wonderful and were resonating with thousands, or millions of strangers in ways we might never know.

But now, as we share our thoughts and ideas with millions of others on the blogosphere, we almost instantly know that we haven't. And somehow, that seems to diminish what we've written.

It shouldn't be that way, but I fear it is. I am afraid that we tie our self-worth as writers on feedback now. If we have a popular post, we're on top of the world. If no one leaves a comment, we doubt our writing abilities.

Maybe it should be this way. Or maybe we need to focus on our writing and how it makes us feel as writers, rather than worrying about what the world thinks. I don't know. It's something to think about. I do love the instant gratification that blogging brings, but I also need to remember not to rely on it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Musical Education

I've been tasked with developing a theme for a workshop we're holding at work. The workshop topic is how to be a better manager to your team. Great topic. Luckily, my manager is already familiar with the material in the course. :) Then, as a steering team, we decided to thread the theme of being an orchestra conductor into the class.

As someone who absolutely loved music, orchestra and band growing up, I thought this a fantastic theme. Which lead to me being asked to create an exercise in which the class participants would start to think about themselves as conductors and about their direct reports as the people in the band.

Oh, I had a million ideas! My creative juices were definitely flowing. I started brainstorming like crazy.

My first idea was to bring in different instruments to let people try. Or even different mouthpieces. This idea came to me because my daughter and I do this at home. I let her try to play my flute and she lets me try the trumpet. Neither one of us can get sound out of the other's instrument. I thought this might be a nice exercise to illustrate that every person on your team has different skills and abilities; some are agile and can play several instruments (roles), while others specialize in one instrument (mastering a skill).

Some of the steering team members loved the idea, but I could see fear in the eyes of others.

"I get what you're trying to do, but I know nothing about music," one said.

A-ha! I hadn't really thought about that. Except that I had, in an existential sense. I thought that this exercise might bring to life the fact that some people don't really know where their talents lie. I would have bet that this person could have gotten some sound out of at least one of the mouthpieces, even if she didn't know which.

Anyway, I moved on to the next idea.

"We could have a set of common household items on each table and the people in each group would have to figure out how to make music together using them."

They liked that idea. But the more I thought about it, I realized that this exercise seemed geared more toward making them into musicians than teaching them how to be conductors of their departments.

"Or maybe we could have them draw pictures of their department members and build their own orchestras. For instance, you could think Sally is always at the forefront of projects and is involved with almost everything we do, whereas Jon is more of a slow and steady person who takes the time to thoroughly research what he's working on. So maybe Sally could be a woodwind, and Jon could be in the brass section, and we could think about how necessary both are.

Or you could make Sally a melody, and Jon harmony, or bass. Something like that. Because both sounds/people are necessary for a more robust team."

I lost them there. In fact, one person said exactly that. "You lost me. I don't know anything about melody or woodwinds or what they're supposed to do."

I realized how complex my musical theory exercise was becoming.

If it had been me, I would have loved to have categorized the people in my department as instruments or the role they play in music. I would have made my co-worker a bassoon -  often whiny and something that many orchestras can do without. (Oops-did I say that out loud? Nothing against the bassoon, though. I actually like the sound of them.) I would have made my manager the percussionist because she sets the beat and guides us in the pace and tone of our work. I would have made another co-worker a clarinet. She often has the melody on projects, but also plays harmony.

Anyway, I eventually abandoned this idea for the one that we decided to go with. Something much easier and clear-cut that features the class participants as conductors who make a collage with different scraps of sheet music to illustrate the people in their departments.

I like it. It's simple and clear and even those who don't know much about music can see the difference between easy beginner sheet music and classical pieces. We'll expand discussion from there, but this will allow them to begin thinking of the people in their departments and the skill sets they bring and need to develop.

So, I continue to brainstorm and define the musical thread that we're weaving into each of the course modules. Secretly, I hope that it sparks some interest in learning more about concert music, though that's not the real intent. But a renewed interest in music education would be music to my ears. Wish me luck!