May 22, 2018

Owning It

I suppose it's time. I've long maintained that being honest about who you are is the quickest route to respect. And, while I've been able to easily speak most of my truth, there's one small piece that has proven more difficult. I suppose I thought I'd stop, do something different, write something different. Eventually different ideas would come....but they haven't. The stories that rattle around my head, the ones I get down on "paper", all have one thing in common. One. Well, two. And both are a bit...well, embarrassing. To me. I have two university degrees and I'm almost fifty. I should be above this, past it. However, as I sit here mere inches from the official release of my first novel, I realize that it might end up my claim to fame.

I should probably own it. All of it.

What two things do my stories all have in common? I have issues with both so let's take each in turn.

(1) Romance. When I was a teenager, and a near light-year away from being in love, I read romance novels. At one point, I'd devoured everything Danielle Steele ever wrote. Then I became an adult and nearly threw up in my mouth reading Nicholas Sparks. I suppose the fall-in-love-break-up cycle I experienced in my twenties and thirties had something to do with. Get your heart broken and spend six weeks on The Break-Up Diet eating Sun Chips and drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade and I promise you'll grow a bit of skepticism about love and romance. I was certain - I am certain - it's all bullshit. All. Of . It. And yet... I write it. And publish it. And hope people buy it.

I feel a certain amount of culpability, responsibility. All this romance crap poisons the mind, sets expectations way too high. Reality isn't as I write it. Of course, I suppose we, as humans of the Western world, need to think that the fairy tale is at least remotely possible. Meh, a happy ending depends on when you stop telling the story. Fortunately when I'm writing, I get to choose where the story "ends".

Admission #1: I write romance novels.

But wait it gets better... What else do my stories have in common?

(2) Lesbians. My stories are like the Lesbian Channel. All lesbians, all the time. And because we prefer to read about the beautiful people, most of my lesbians are hot (Interestingly, my first novel is set in Little Rock. A friend there actually asked me where all the hot lesbians were because she hadn't seen many. I replied Oklahoma City. At least they were a decade ago).

Here's the part where I try to defend myself... When I first started writing fiction, I was terrified. I didn't have a clue what to write about and I wondered if the stories in my head were... um...appropriate to write. My creative writing professor, who may one day rue his decision, attempted to allay my fears by telling me to "write what I know." Okey-dokey I said as I unleashed a torrent of stories about lesbian tennis players. And runners. After all, it's what I knew.

It is absolutely no secret - I'm a lesbian. This summer it'll be officially 21 years (I came out the summer after Ellen's coming out episode in 1997) and unofficially 46 years (My mother told me that, when I was three, I said I wanted to be a dad). And truly, there's no hiding it, never has been. I can't seem to fool anyone; even to people with really crappy or completely non-existant gay-dar, it's pretty obvious (Crazy, because I'm not nearly the gayest person I know...).

And, you know, I've done a decent job of owning it, even in places where it was borderline dangerous to do so. But... I've never announced it, flaunted it, or waved a rainbow flag. That's not to say I'm not proud of who I am. It's just that being gay as always been a small part of me and I refuse to let it (or anything else) define me. I've always just been Stacee, who happened to be a lesbian...and a tennis player and a runner and an atheist and a writer and a wanna-be world traveler and a friend. None carries any more weight than another and it never will.

Now, though, I find myself with a burgeoning new identity. Even though I've always gone about my business quietly and have really, really, really tried not to make anyone uncomfortable (honey over vinegar, my friends),  I feel a shift coming. I am no longer just Stacee. I am Stacee Ann Harris and wait for it....

Because lesbians tend to have a lot of relationships, it was a quick trip from stories about lesbian tennis players and runners to stories about lesbian tennis players and runners having relationships (Welcome to the plot of my first novel). And it just keeps happening.

Admission #2: I write lesbian romance novels. 

Every time I say it, I cringe and wait for laughter or some kind of backlash. That, thus far (knock on wood...) hasn't come. And I have no idea why not. I'm embarrassed. Why isn't everyone else? Maybe because it's no big deal? Maybe because a lot of people read romance? Maybe because people, both gay and straight, know the LGBTQ community needs voices, even if one of those voices is writing romance?

If no one else seems to care, why should I? And that's why I've finally decided to own it.

When I was growing up, my parents told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as I did my best and didn't quit (I am dead certain "lesbian romance novelist" wasn't on their radar). I may have only sold a handful of books so far, but I'll tell you something. My stories are pretty damn good. It's not who or what I ever expected to be, but THIS is who I am and what I do -

I am Stacee Ann Harris and I write lesbian romance novels.

*** Straight friends and readers, like Taylor Swift with country and pop music, my aim is to cross-over. Someday maybe we'll be able to take away the "lesbian" label from my work, but right now it's what we've got. I assure you, though, good romance is good romance. Period. Like I've long said, read me and you will understand. ***

May 20, 2018

Dreaming Wide Awake

"Even though I'm wide awake my dreams are coming true..." 

[It's from my favorite Anne Murray song (She was one of my mom's go-tos during her brief country phase) and I'm sure that makes me a HUGE NERD. Won't be the first time, though...or the last.]

Dreams have taken center stage lately. They aren't all the vivid, searing, wake-you-up-keep-you-up-for-an-hour-after-get-lost-in-daydreams-the-next-day kind of dreams (not that there haven't been a few of those tossed into the mix), but they are there and they are coming true with an alarming rate of speed. We don't (yet) need an egg timer - the Gregorian calendar still works just fine - however four years ago I had no idea how far I'd come in such a short period of time. Hell, even six months ago I couldn't have predicted this. And truly, I believe to the depths of my soul, the sky's the limit.


Once upon a time, my dream was to write a novel...

It doesn't take any talent to dream. Thankfully, it doesn't take much more to make those dreams come true. Perseverance and hard work. That's it. Period. All I did was keep on, keeping on and sooner than later, because I never gave up, boom! I typed "The End" on my first novel. Then I let it sit. For a really, really, really long time (Ok, like almost a year). Then I got some advice and did a total re-write. Then I let a couple trusted people read it. Then I found an editor willing to take it on. Four drafts and three and half years after I started, my novel was done, complete. And ready for the next step.

Once upon a time, my dream was to be published...

After much consideration, I decided to publish my novel independently (We can argue if this means that I'm really published, i.e. by a real publisher, or if I simply sold out to expediency and the maintenance of my sense of self-worth. I'm going to win that one, though. Search "Stacee Ann Harris" on Amazon or look in the trunk of my car and you'll see books, published books with an ISBN). Yes, paid out the a** for editing and a professional book design, but what was I supposed to do? Sit back and weather the storm of rejection for potentially years until I found someone (i.e. a real publisher) willing to take the chance on a lesbian romance novel? Let's be honest, even though we are literally everywhere, the mainstream isn't clamouring for LGBTQ anything. Moreover, I wanted to retain creative control. I didn't want  my smart, sexy novel with cross-over potential to become 50 Shades of Lesbian Erotica. Stella and Maggie, my protagonists, deserve better than that.

With that decision behind me, my goal was to get the first part of my first novel (It's broken into three parts because research said that a $30 first novel is a tough sell, even to friends and family) out by the late spring 2018. There were unforeseen delays - an editor with mad skills who worked at a snail's pace; the dragging of my own feet as I slowly put on my parachute and prepared to take the leap; a book cover design I just wasn't sure of until I was - as are common with big projects. I settled for submitting the final, final, final draft before I left for vacation at the end of March with the hope that it would be out-out around Memorial Day. Then my publisher recommended a long lead time before the actual release date to give me and "my team"(Shockingly, I do have one) a chance to prepare and plan the launch. Oy. Ok. Advice taken. I selected Friday, June 15th more or less at random for the print release (Amazon, I guess, does whatever it wants to do with e-books. The e-book was released May 4th - more on this in a second).

We are still a few weeks out but time is flying. My publisher was right - we did need time. You can't throw a book release together overnight, not when there are parties (ok, party singular at this point) to plan, businesses to set up, sales tax permits to acquire, and Paypal card readers to buy (and figure out how to use). I can say what I want about Amazon jumping the gun, but the early response from e-book readers has shown me that people already want Part II. Add that to the list of goals - Publish Part II ASAP (I'm hoping for pre-release in mid-June and full release mid-July) and Part III by the end of the summer (I'm assuming readers will want it as well).

This means that by the end of Summer 2018, I could have THREE published novels. Take that dreams! To keep pace with these dreams, though, something is gonna have to give. I can't afford to keep publishing independently much longer (not if I want to keep pace with my dream to travel - and run - the world). I have a short story collection and a fourth novel inches from ready to go, not to mention a collection of my blogs and the umpteen other long-form fiction pieces rattling around in my brain. At some point very soon, I'm going to run out of resources. Either I'm going to have to raise some money or get discovered. Given that I have no control over "get discovered" (and I really like control), this summer, with the help of a couple enthusiastic friends, I'm going to run a Kickstarter campaign. If successful, I will be able to keep publishing and actually market and promote my work. At least for a little while. My theory is that the more I flood the market, the greater my chance of true "discovery" becomes.

Once upon a time, my dream was to make enough money from writing to quit my day job (and live in a tiny, fourth floor walk-up without an elevator in a borderline questionable neighborhood of some random European city)...

Let's be brutally honest, good connections would be pretty cool and a lot more cost effective. Having someone buy into my vision and publish and promote my work? So I could wear a few fewer hats? I'm not asking to be rich. I just want to have enough coming in that I don't have to wear an orange apron every day. I'm still working on this one, but at the rate I've made my dreams come true so far... Stay tuned.

There are many with talent, but few who will put in the work and believe.  I am the latter. Long odds don't scare me. Not in the least. Sometimes you just gotta put in the work and believe in yourself. Because until you do, no one else will.

*** Yes, I realize there is the matter of the Alicia Vikander dream from last summer. I'm still working on that one, too...***

May 18, 2018

The Art of the Write-cation

I've learned something about myself and vacations the past couple of days. I'm on my third week of vacation in less than two months (I won't get another until October and then the next will be March 2019 so don't be too jealous) which gives me a unique perspective on both of us (meaning me and vacations). And here's the thing - I don't take them. Not like a normal person anyway.

My sister, for example, is in Hawaii this week and thus far she has hung out at a cool resort, been on a boat excursion of some kind, and now today she's snorkeling. That's a vacation. She's not grading papers (she's a university professor) and I don't think she's gone to a Body Pump or Body Combat class (her preferred workouts) since leaving the mainland on Tuesday. Pam is normal.

What have I done with my Las Vegas vacation thus far? Let me explain it this way - Right now I'm sitting in a coffee shop writing this. Ok, so the material is about vacationing and I'm not at Lola Savannah in downtown Lakeway, but still... I'm in Vegas. Shouldn't I be - I dunno - doing Vegas? I mean if not strippers, black jack, and booze (or hookers and coke as one friend suggested), maybe the Mob Museum, the shark exhibit at the Mandalay Bay, or the High Roller? I suppose I could, but......Meh. I have only moderate interest. Coffee shops. That's apparently where it's at for me.

I've been here four days. Guess how many coffee shops I've been to? Yep. Four. One each day.

Tuesday - I started off slow and predictable at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (10834 W. Charleston Blvd, Las Vegas, NV). I had a little time to kill and a book borrowed from my sister's vast collection so I got a chai latte and sat awhile. The girl at the counter called me "Sweetie" and didn't look at me funny when I ordered the chai "as skinny as she could make it" (Being skinny ordering a skinny drink can draw unwelcome smirks). Points there. I managed to get a super comfy chair......that ended up bathed in too much sunlight too soon. When I finished my latte, I left and went to Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday - A Google search led me to MadHouse Coffee (8470 W. Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas, NV) , a quirky little place with a blacklit restroom and crappy wifi. The coffee, a bitter pour-over of Peruvian-something was pricey (I felt like I was back in Scandinavia) and not quite worth the expense. The A/C kinda sucked too. In their defense, I was sitting near the window and it was a warmish day out. Anywho, I wrote a kickass little fiction piece, so the afternoon wasn't a total loss.

Thursday - Another Google search later, I decided to venture out to the swankier part of Summerlin to Sambalatte (750 S. Rampart Blvd, Las Vegas, NV) The wifi was sucky but the house blend brewed coffee was pretty good and reasonably priced. The decor was upscale Italianesque, arty coffee house chic and the clientele  yoga-mom select. I continued with the fiction piece from the day before. The setting? A coffee shop.

Friday - When I was at MadHouse on Wednesday the barista told me about a really good coffee place on Fremont Street, the trendy, Deep Ellum-ish (if you've been to DFW) part of town, called PublicUs (1126 Fremont Street, Las Vegas, NV). There's a bookstore the woman at the post office told me about just down the street so I figured worst case, one would end up cool and worth the twenty minute drive. After being at PublicUs, the bookstore can suck. Seriously. In the rack and stack of coffee places I've been to in Vegas and throughout Scandinavia, this one is hands-down my fave. The vibe is chill but not too chill and the decor is reminiscent of a downtown loft space. The chairs aren't comfortable (at least not where I'm sitting) but the wifi connected easily and hasn't suddenly disconnected on me. Before I hit the door, I was all about saving money and calories. A brewed coffee. That's what I was going to trade for the use of a table and wifi. Then I saw the pastry/dessert case. I could have had one of everything but decided on the zucchini bread (Bread = my downfall and a serious road to my heart...and my waistline). The top was crispy and the inside perfectly moist. And I got a free refill of really good coffee. Boom. Fave. I'll probably be back here before I leave next week, if not tomorrow.

Four days. Four coffee places. I promise you, it's not Las Vegas's fault. My Scandinavian vacation was frightening similar. Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Oslo, and Bergen were also a series of coffee shops and blog posts. Why? Why? Why? There is so much else I could do while on vacation and yet I spend my time exactly like I spend my days off at home.

  1. Sleep past 2AM.
  2. Run, if the weather agrees (i.e. isn't too hot). 
  3. Write.
  4. Update/create content for website.
It may seem un-exciting to everyone out there reading this, but I enjoy it. To have a nearly unlimited amount of time to write is an absolute luxury. Maybe someday writing will be my career - my bs-filled full time job - and I'll spend my vacations snorkeling and taking boat tours or rock climbing and hiking. For now, though, I'm living the dream and loving my write-cations.

*** Stay tuned for "When the Write-cation Meets the Run-cation", a review of some cool places to run in and around Las Vegas. Stop back by in October when I'll do the same for Reykjavik.*** 

May 17, 2018

Short Hair and All

I know I've been writing about more serious topics lately, but I need to touch on another topic just for a moment. I don't want to keep you long so I'll get right to it. Something's gotta give with this hair. Seriously.

I shaved my head (If you're familiar with clippers, I used the #4 guard so I didn't SHAVE my head. Mom, please don't panic) about a month before I went to Europe in March. I wanted it to grow out a little before I left but still be short enough that I didn't have to pack a brush and could get away with using crappy travel shampoo for two weeks (Look, when you only pack one pair of shoes and a week's worth of underthings, there's no way you're going to take up space for hair care). It worked out well for the trip. My hair was long enough not to draw unwanted attention for being an American skin-head freak but short enough it didn't require product other than a 2 in 1 body/hair soap.

Now, it's mid-May and I've got a good three months worth of unwieldy growth going on. At this point, the bed-head is so bad that no amount of wetting down will touch it so I have to take a shower every morning (Fortunately, I workout before work most mornings...). Even then it still looks like shit.

To me. I'm sure others out there think my hair looks fab, terrific, pick a positive adjective. "Stacee, it's finally long enough that you almost look like a girl...when viewed from the right angle." (Tell that to the woman in the Starbucks' restroom last weekend that gawked at me four times before I walked out the door. The shorter my hair is the fewer questioning looks I get. Do the confusing math on that one). I appreciate the compliments and understand the pleas not to cut it, but f**************ck. I'm the one who has to look at it in the mirror and deal with it on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis.

Just quit my bitching and shave it off again if that's what I really want to do? Believe me, that is EXACTLY what I really want to do. It's "too short" for a couple three weeks or a month but then it grows out to a nice, manageable length. That I like. Usually that's all I care about. Usually. Trouble is, things are fixing to get unusual in a month or so.

Ok, so it's not like the release of my novel is suddenly going to catapult me to fame, but for the first time in my life I have to consider marketability. My marketability. I'm at a cross-roads mentally. I have seldom given one flip what others thought of me, beyond the basics of smelling good and being polite. Next month, I have to begin selling my book and myself. Yes, it's a lesbian romance; yes, it's no secret that I'm a lesbian; and yes a lot of dykes (stereotypically-speaking) have super short hair.

How can I spell this out? It's just that.....even though I have traditionally been pigeon-holed because I fit the short-haired lesbian stereotype, I've ALWAYS rebelled against it. I have never wanted that to define me. I've wanted to be seen as Stacee and everything I bring to the table, not simply as a lesbian. Let's return to the book release. Because it is so much easier for people - gay, straight, you name it - to lump people into categories, I'm honestly a little worried. I don't want people to look at a shaved head and make assumptions - because after we categorize, we tend to make assumptions.

The bottom line? I want to be a writer, not a lesbian writer. If I shave my head, like I have for years and like I like to do, people will question less and assume more. And I fucking hate assumptions.

What are my options?

  • Grow it out? Oh, honey, it took me almost three and a half years to do it the last time and IT WAS AWFUL. Not only did I end up with hair in my mouth with a shocking regularity I never imagined, I never once looked in the mirror - in THREE AND A HALF YEARS - and saw me looking back. I cannot do that again. 
  • Get it cut cute and sassy and girlie by a professional stylist? Man, I've honestly debated this one. Will I sell enough books to justify the expense? And the frustration of having to do it every day (even thirty seconds is way too much time for me to squeeze into my routine)? Oy. I just don't think it is. 
  • Tell the world to f*** itself and get used to a new writer on the block with super short hair?
Truthfully, I'm leaning toward the last option. Once upon a time, I drew A LOT of fire for writing a blog that merely suggested that maybe we ought to expand the definition of "feminine", maybe. You'd have thought I'd suggested that we institute human sacrifice as a way of appeasing Jesus so that he'd speed up the Second Coming. Mid-maelstrom, I threatened to quit writing - it was THAT bad. Fortunately, one of my closest friends told me that I had to keep writing and pushing limits and speaking my truth because so many out there weren't courageous enough to speak theirs.

That experience as unmercifully hard as it was made me stronger and much more confident in who I am and what I bring. I am Stacee, uniquely so I think, so why should I stop now? Why should I change who I am just to make me and my novel more marketable, more mainstream? The answer is that I shouldn't. Never, ever, ever. 

Over the years, I've learned that authenticity brings respect. By and large, people like people who possess a self-deprecating confidence and present themselves honestly. If I tweak myself to make people like me, they'll see right through me and I'll accomplish the opposite. 

That leaves me with one choice and only one choice. I have to be - must continue to be - unabashedly me. Short hair and all. 

May 16, 2018

Silver Linings

I'm in Las Vegas this week with my dad. My sister, who normally provides his once daily daily care - meds and eye drops - is in Hawaii. A year ago, my dad was living in San Diego and I would have discovered that my sister was in Hawaii on Facebook. A lot has changed in a relatively short period of time. I can't say we're all ecstatic - I really enjoyed my annual trips to San Diego and my dad said just yesterday how he wishes he was there and not here. We resolved...well...more me than him...that there are times that we have to embrace what is and make the best of it.

Truthfully, we don't have many options. Dad is where he needs to be - a very nice assisted living facility less than a mile from my sister's house in Las Vegas. My sister visits him once a day to make sure that he gets his eye drops and his medication (at ninety, he's only on two prescription medications). I visit every six weeks or so and, like this week, provide coverage so my sister can take vacations. The level of care he needs isn't possible in San Diego, so here we are. All of us.

Almost every situation has a silver lining if you look hard enough for it. I'm sure for my dad, who had to leave his home and everything he knew behind, silver linings don't come easy. In fact, they might be almost impossible. What I see, though, is my ninety year old father thriving in ways he just wasn't back in San Diego. His new life necessitates a certain amount of independence. The staff at his assisted living ensures that he gets out of bed, helps him shower a couple times a week, and gets him ready for bed at the end of the day, but that's it. The rest is on him. He has to go all the way downstairs to meals and figure out how to pass the day either in his room in front of the TV or out and about around the facility. This means he can't camp on his backside 24/7. And while he uses a wheelchair - that he wheels himself with his legs - instead of his Ferrari-like walker, he stronger than I've seen him in years. I hope he finds some enjoyment in his day-to-day existence. I hope he finds some enjoyment in my much more frequent visits. I know I do.

For my sister and me, the silver lining is a bit easier. We are friends, something we never quite got around to when Dad was in San Diego. It wasn't a conscious choice; it was just too hard to coordinate our schedules to both visit Dad at the same time. Now, though, when I come to see Dad in Las Vegas, I see more of my sister than I do my dad. We've grown closer and I think we both value our ever-developing friendship a lot.

Today, I discovered yet another silver lining. I have two nieces. The last time I saw either, I might have been ten and they barely toddlers. Much like the distance between my sister and me, it wasn't something that was planned or intended. I went my way and they went theirs, which, as misfortune would have it, were different directions. It's not like I knew nothing of their lives and vice versa- my oldest niece and I have been 'friends' on various social networks for years. Yesterday I responded to a Facebook post and she commented back asking me to run (She's a runner and I'm a runner, so...). A couple private messages later and we had a plan. This morning we did a spectacular trail run in her neck of the woods. Eight miles and an hour and a half later, I realized that I have more than a niece - I have a friend.

I hate watching my father age. And I hate knowing that we brought him here to Las Vegas largely against his will. It isn't easy turning into the parent, having to do what's right even when you know it hurts. Believe me, I don't take pleasure in any of it. However, like I told my dad yesterday, sometimes you just have to make the best of the situation, play the hand you're dealt (You had to see that one coming. We are in Las Vegas). For me, that means cherishing the time I get with my dad and deepening the connection with my family here. My hope is that what we grow will endure long after my father is gone. That part is inevitable and will definitely need a silver lining. For now, though, I have six more days to spend with my dad and I plan to enjoy them.

May 5, 2018

Blessed and/or Lucky

Let me begin by saying that I'm beyond blessed. "Blessed". It's a common phrase here in the South. I don't know if I ever heard anyone refer to themselves as "blessed" until I moved to Texas fifteen years ago. Now, I hear it all the time. "Have a blessed day." In response to "How are you?" "I am blessed." And apparently I've heard it so much that I've begun saying it. Part of me must believe it. Of course, I DO NOT believe that my blessings come from a higher power, like 99.9% of the people around me who say it. I'm simply using the term because...well, I don't know why. Maybe I should say that I'm beyond lucky. But, you know, it's more than luck. Or not quite luck. It's something else. Yes, I'm lucky. But I'm also blessed. Because, God knows, I'm not lucky. I never win at random stuff. I win at things that come from hard work. Not that blessings necessarily come from hard work... Or that my blessings have come from hard work. Oy. Geez. I dunno.

So, let's begin again and just go with it. I'm beyond blessed. I recently took on a part time job, in addition to my full time gig at The World's Largest Home Improvement Retailer, not because I need it to make rent or my car payment, like many of my friends. Nope. I'm now moonlighting (ok, actually afternooning) at The World's Most Famous Coffee Purveyor so I can afford two trips to Europe a year. Yes, you read the right. I'm putting in an extra 15-20/week around EVERYTHING else I have going, just so I can travel twice a year and not go into debt. I love travel, but I also love being debt-free, and I'm unwilling to sacrifice one for the other.

I don't have lavish travel habits (reference my blogs about window-less hotel rooms and doing laundry in hotel bathrooms), but even the most budget conscious travel costs a pretty penny. The hotels I choose usually have a paltry number of couple stars and my only concession to expense is a private bathroom (I am waaaay too American to concede on that level). I will take a hotel with a free breakfast buffet over one without. Seriously, if you play that right, you can have TWO meals a day on the house - Get up early and eat, then come back right before close to fill up. I give myself just $100/day for expenses - all expenses - including transportation, non-free-breakfast-buffet meals, souvenirs, excursions, and museum and attraction tickets (Running tours are a given - can't take a run-cation without them - so they don't count against my daily expense cap). Up until now, I've traveled exclusively in Scandinavia and it's been a bit pricey in places ($31USD for a double cheeseburger, fries, and hard cider in Oslo as one example). After Reykjavik in October (which might end up as expensive as Norway), I'm sliding south and east. I'm not going to lie. Part of what made Croatia so attractive for my two week spring trip was it's comparatively lower cost. I really wanted to go to Malta, but when I did the math, Croatia was a no-brainer. So Croatia, it is.

Cheaper or not, it's still going to cost me thousands of dollars I don't currently have sitting at the ready in my travel account (Yep, I've got one and it's totally separate from my other checking and savings accounts). That's why I'm working a second job. I could have taken a lot of jobs - fast food, grocery store checker, but I figured working for an internationally recognized company and learning a skill that is needed all over the world would be a good idea. Eventually, I'll be a barista and one day I hope to be proficient in all facets of the business. Right now, I'm strictly entry-level scud labor - I take out trash, do dishes, mop floors. I did get on the register a minute yesterday and I'm getting better at warming up stuff in the oven. They say I'm doing fine, but I have my doubts.

It's all a chaotic mess at this point not even a week in. I'm honestly grappling with a few issues and I can't say I haven't thought about quitting. Yes, already.

(1) It's been a hot minute since I've worked two jobs. Before I moved to Texas, I always had a couple jobs. It was just what I did. Now, I'm simply not used to it. When I look out over the horizon of most days, I've got eight hours at one job and at least four hours at another to go. Admittedly, it's all mental. I just need to wrap my brain around it and get used to not having any free time. I've also given up a couple hours sleep a night which is something I said I'd never compromise. Thus far, I haven't missed a workout, but I have the feeling I will eventually. I'm not sure how I'll handle that. I guess we'll see (especially since the purpose of Reykjavik in October is to race a half marathon).

(2) I'm not used to sucking at so much with such regularity. It always happens when starting a new job. I know this. I do. I've re-created myself at my main gig so many times and had to start from scratch at something new, but damn... I feel like I fumble and stumble constantly. Luckily, all my co-workers are nice and reassuring. They tell me they fumbled and stumbled, too, and that I'll get it eventually. This kind of patience is, unfortunately, NOT my strong suit.

(3) My timing, as usual, sucks. Not only am I working two paid jobs, but I'm also trying to get my arms wrapped around the release of my first novel. Independent publishing means I wear a lot of hats. Fortunately, a few highly motivated friends have jumped on board so I don't feel quite as alone and over-matched. But still... There's a lot to do and now I have even less time to do it.

I think when I start to see the balance in my travel account go up, I'll be fine. After all, that's the goal. Eyes on the prize and all that. I get to slave away so that I can travel. It's not so I can afford to eat or have health insurance. Many of my co-workers are part of the "working poor". They work two or more jobs out of necessity. I feel for them and I am so grateful that I have all that I have. If I had to work two jobs to keep it, I would. I'm just ecstatic and grateful I don't have to.

So, as I said in the beginning - I'm beyond blessed. Not sanctified or beatified, like my thesaurus suggests as alternatives. Even if I did believe that there was a god pulling for me, I still wouldn't give Him credit. Like I deserve His adoration and favor over anyone else in this world? Ugh... (We've arrived at my issue with religion in a nutshell). Maybe we ought to go with lucky. It's safer. In that case, I'm beyond lucky. Fortunate. Halcyon. Golden. Regardless of the adjective, I'm insanely thankful.

April 30, 2018

Hitting the Reset Button

Four years ago today, I sort of hit the reset button on my life. It wasn't something I planned to do; I can admit to absolutely no forethought what's so ever. When I emerged on the other side - something I really didn't think would happen - I was changed. And not necessarily for the better right away. That took time. It's still taking time. More than ever before in my life, I feel like I'm in a constant state of self-improvement flux - trying to manage what I know about myself and make it work for me. So far, so good. In most cases.

In many ways, the last four years have been some of the most productive of my life. Some of that has to do with moving through my latter forties. Let's be brutally honest, at best, I'm nearing the halfway mark. At worst...well, we can talk in terms of a couple decades. If your impending mortality - FYI, you only get this one go-round - doesn't make your feet move a little faster, I don't know what will. The rest has to do with the reset button and not wanting to repeat certain mistakes. I have come to understand the necessity of doing me, and exclusively me. Turns out, when I do that, I'm really kind of productive. In the last four years, I have...

  • Finished my Masters at St. Edwards University
  • Completed a short story collection. And a half dozen or so other stories.
  • Donated 10" of my hair to charity.
  • Run four half marathons (I'll begin training in June for 5, 6, 7, and 8 - Reykjavik, Houston, Austin, and Austin respectively). 
  • Traveled to Europe three times (Fourth is booked - see Reykjavik above. Fifth is in the serious planning stages), including having driven a Volvo in Sweden.
  • Written, edited, and self-published my first novel (Ok, so I had it edited by an editor and paid a publisher to make it look cool enough to buy). 
  • Created my own website,
  • Posted 100+ blogs.
I'm not presenting this list boastfully. I wrote it as a reminder to myself about how far I've come. For all that I am and all that I believe in, sometimes I forget. Sometimes I forget how extraordinary these kinds of accomplishments are (I promise you, the hair was by far the most arduous of the group). No, I didn't win a gold medal or make a best seller list. I'm not world renown in the world-at-large and I don't seek to be. I simply want to do what I do, inspire others to try a little harder, and live. 

In the past four years, I've also tried really hard to make my introversion work for me, to varying degrees of success. Sometimes I think I'm too good at it. Too good doing me to the exclusion of others. While it's made me productive, it's also made me isolated. Assuredly all by my choice and not for lack of trying on the part of others. But there is necessity in it. At least there has been.

And that's the corner I'm attempting to turn as I go forward. Can I un-isolate myself? Can I connect with others in a real (i.e. personal, non-social-media separating, manner)? Can I withstand the hit to my solitude? The answer for the past four years has been NO. A definitive-all-caps-intended NO. I could barely balance me and the doing of me. Letting anyone else in was unmanageable to the point of being unthinkable. So I just didn't. I did me.

And arguably, I've done it pretty well. Minus the aforementioned gold medal and best seller list, of course. Awhile ago, probably coinciding with the hitting of the reset button, I started wishing exclusively for peace. (Well, and a publishing deal. That one came after the novel, I'm sure). Thus far, I've gotten all the peace I could care to wish for (Not so much on the pub deal but if I had to pick, I'd go with peace every time). I desperately want that to continue and I live my life exclusively with that in mind. 

That's why this whole opening up to connection thing has me worried. If it threatens my peace in any way, it goes straight in the trash. I'll go back to being a full-time, albeit productive, introvert before I let anyone screw with my solitude. It's not like I'm lonely and need the interaction. I am never lonely for anything outside of myself. I want connection just for the sake of connection, not because I need it. And because just once I'd like to feel at least a little normal. 

So, I'm preparing take my strength out for a spin and see what comes. Can I balance an inside life with an outside life? Maybe once I try, I'll realize I'm better off shrouded in my introversion writing novels and running half marathons. Only one way to know these things - I have to try it both ways. I'm really not looking forward to it. 

Owning It

I suppose it's time. I've long maintained that being honest about who you are is the quickest route to respect. And, while I've ...