Author Archives: Emmie Mears

That Thing Called Resolve

I am bad and missed my post yesterday.

Would you believe one of my resolutions this year was to be more organized?

Failing.

I started this year with a lot of resolve and not a huge amount of resolutions. There are the classics, like losing the flub round the waistline and getting out of debt. There are stranger ones like meeting an elephant and more career-oriented ones like getting my book published.

A little over a month into the year, and I’ve learned a few things about life and its tendency toward chaos.

Monkey surprise

Monkey surprise (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

 

1. Life Catches You By Surprise

You can make as many plans as you want. Decide you’re going to go to the gym every day or bead fifteen new necklaces a month to sell on Etsy. But there will always be unexpected moments that catch you by the scruff of the neck and try to drag you away from the things you want to do.

For instance, I’ve been planning to go to New York for a conference since last January. I started saving, squirreling away little bits of my tips in a box and watching the little stack of money grow into a nice wad.

The unexpected? The car needs new tires. And those tires cost about the same as the ticket I’d been saving for. I had to fork over the money I had saved and start from scratch — but I picked up three shifts at work in a week and managed to buy my ticket already.

There are good things as well. So far this month I’ve had two tremendously good pieces of news fall into my lap this month — both of which I will share in good time. 🙂

 

 

 

2. Resolutions Mean Nothing Without Resolve

So often, I’ve treated resolutions like a list of things to do. Maybe. If I felt like it.

We make lists of them, tell them to our friends, joke about how stupid they are on Facebook, and tend to ignore them after a couple of months. But the thing about that is, resolutions do nothing if you don’t actually muster up the resolve to see them through.

Last January, I got an email from my mother-in-law. She had decided that 2012 would be the year she lost weight and got healthy. I nodded along and said “me too” when expected, but she had something I didn’t. She had resolve.

A year later, she and my father-in-law have lost at least sixty pounds each. They look fabulous. They look happier. Healthier. They accomplished what they set out to. They did it because they understood that resolutions need a foundation of resolve to be anything more than a fantasy to fail at.

Alka-Seltzer Plus dissolved in water.

Alka-Seltzer Plus dissolved in water. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. Sometimes The Best Intentions Dissolve

Today’s post is the perfect example. I knew my day was coming up and even had an idea I wanted to write about. But then that idea became impossible for eternal reasons, and when today rolled around my brain went poof like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in water.

Even though I’d even had a post semi-planned, I completely forgot to write it. It’s my own fault. It happens. I got distracted by some big personal news as well as a doctor’s appointment I had to attend with my husband and then had to go into work an hour earlier than I thought I did.

In spite of the intrusions of life and the chaos that can sometimes happen, with enough resolve, you can still make things happen.

My mother-in-law literally changed her life last year.

My life is dramatically different today than it was a year ago.

While there are aspects that still need change, I did achieve a lot of my resolutions for last year.

Going into this one, there are a lot of things I want to do. A lot of goals, a lot of dreams. But they’re just dust in the ether until I find the resolve to make them a reality.

What do you want to make into reality this year? How are you going to find the resolve you need to get there?

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Heat Advisory: Send Out The Kids

Something just happened that made me livid.

I had Buffy on her leash, and these two kids greeted me as I walked out the door. One asked me if I would take a tract. I took it as Buffy zoomed down the stairs to the grass to pee, and when she was done with her various business, I headed back up the stairs.

The kids were still there, dripping sweat and knocking on doors.

They asked where I lived, so I told them, and they wanted to ask me some questions on the tract.

I had read it while waiting for the puppy to do her puppy excrement things, and there was nothing on there I wanted to discuss, even with a couple of kids. As politely as I could, I told them that my life had taken a different path and offered them some water, which they declined.

“They have you out in this heat?” I asked them.

“Yeah, last summer was bad too.” They kind of laughed it off, but they were sweating through their shirts.

Not only were they out here distributing tracts, but they were doing so for a church that isn’t even in Maryland. It’s in West Virginia. What?

There was a phone number on the tract they gave me. I won’t mention the name of the church because I’m about to rip them up one side and down the other.

First of all, to have children out proselytizing in 106 degree heat is repugnant. Repugnant.

There is a heat advisory in effect until 8:00 pm tonight. Exposure to extreme heat can cause heat stroke and even death.

Secondly, sending children to proselytize is something of questionable morality to me as well. I could write a dissertation about how I feel about a child’s role in deciding his or her own faith, but now is not the time. Suffice it to say that it’s not the role of children to convince adults what to believe.

Finally? I thought for about thirteen seconds, then I picked up the phone and dialed this church.

A woman answered, voice chipper and polite. For about two seconds.

The moment I explained why I was calling, I could almost see spike-covered walls fly up and smell burning naptha above my head, ready to cover my body with boiling pitch.

This is what I said to her:

“Hi. Erm, I’m calling because two children just came to my door distributing tracts, and it’s over 100 degrees outside. There is a heat advisory in effect, and I feel that it is dangerous to have them out in this kind of weather.”

Her response: “It’s all volunteer-based.”

Me: “They’re children. It’s over 100 degrees.”

Her: “It’s the same as kids playing on the playground right now. Their parents signed permission forms and dropped them off. This was a pre-planned event.”

Me: “I’m sorry. That’s no excuse for them to be out there. I would hope the church would take responsibility for the safety of children put in their care and postpone or cancel events in the case of extreme weather. There are better ways to spread a message.”

Her: “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

What?

Anyone who’s ever had someone give that kind of bullshit apology knows exactly how bullshit it is. That’s not taking responsibility for wrongdoing — and do not mistake me, subjecting children to extreme heat in the name of proselytizing is wrong, wrong, wrong — it’s giving someone the finger.

“What, you don’t like it? Fuck you, then.”

Yeah. Not cool.

Volunteer or not, how much say do you think those kids had in doing this today? I used to be very active in church, and I can count on my fingers the number of times I heard kids their age chomp at the bit to go spread the gospel.  In fact, I can count on my fist.

Because uh, NEVER. Even in a thriving church like I used to attend, it was the parents saying, “Yep, you’re going to share Jesus with the heathens.” (They didn’t put it quite like that.)

Having kids hike up and down stairs going door to door to distribute tracts is not the same as playing on a playground — which, if I had kids, I wouldn’t allow during a heat advisory either — it’s more irresponsible and downright endangering them.

So am I supposed to believe these kids were sent out there on their own free volition? Apparently. Apparently I’m expected to think they waved their little hands around, hoping to be picked for the honor of such a mission.

Shame on their parents, and shame on their church.

Suspended is Right

Sheesh.

It has been quite a while since I’ve deigned to post in these parts, has it not? I’m quite sorry. Writing has taken over my life, much as I always wanted it to, and writing/editing fiction plus keeping up with social networking and a thriving community over at emmiemears.com has kept me hopping like someone put hot coals in my sandals.

But here I am, and there are a few things I’ve been up to that are more worthy of this blog than my writing world. 🙂 Consider this my moment to decompress.

Newlywed life with two jobs is rough, especially when one of those jobs doesn’t send a paycheck. (Actually, neither of them do, but in one of them I get tips.) I sell stuff for a living, and I end up making sort of enough money to get by. Barely.

For the last couple months, I’ve felt like something had to give. I’ve just finished a new novel (which I wrote in six weeks!) and I’m about to start editing it. I’m working out regularly and drinking a lot of water. I spend a decent amount of time chasing the puppy and kitten around the house with the vacuum so their fur doesn’t send me into asthmatic shock.

Breathing is sort of a hobby of mine.

So in the spirit of something giving, last night I went to a Mary Kay party.

I know. Non sequitur much?

I grew up with a friend whose mum sold Mary Kay. I used to mow her lawn to earn gifts for my mum’s birthday et cetera, and I never really thought much about it that Monica had earned a car through her business in Tinytown, Montana.

My financial situation has been very bad for quite some time now. And by quite some time I mean approximately 28 years. I was born in 1984. You do the math.

The party I went to last night was the launch of a new Mary Kay consultant, who happens to be a friend of mine from work. And one of the things they do at those parties is let you know that you can become a consultant as well. The woman who hosted the party is a national sales director who has earned fifteen cars in her thirty years selling Mary Kay. While that is not something I have written in blood at the top of my list, financial independence is.

I’m 28 with a penchant for leather, weapons, and tribal music. Until last night, when I thought of Mary Kay, all I thought of was pink.

But then I had a sort of epiphany.

I want to write. I am doing what I love and I am so thankful for the 1000+ followers I have on my other blog and the enormous amount of friendly, amazing people I have met through writing. I’ve learned so much about the business and the process and the craft that my fiction has improved tremendously.

Unfortunately, my bills really don’t give a shit about any of that.

As much as I love to do what I do, I need to make sure my husband and I (and the little four-legged furballs who depend on us) are taken care of. And I’m getting quite tired of waiting on tables and hoping people will decide that tipping 15% is behind the times.

In case you’re wondering, 18-20% for good service in the US is what is customary, and if your server is awesome, throw her an extra dollar or two. You don’t have to drop her a twenty on a fifty dollar check, but if you really think she did a great job, show it by compensating her.

Every time someone throws me $8 on $35 or $10 on $40, I feel great because I feel like my hard work is recognized. Of course, if you have the funds and want to make your server’s day, dropping a twenty on any check between $10 and $90 will endear you to the serving gods. Believe me when I say I remember those people. I got $45 on $80 once, and I can still picture their faces. When they come back, they will be recognized and thanked yet again.

Server wage in Maryland is $3.63. I do not receive paychecks at all — all my hourly wage goes to taxes. This is the case for the vast majority of servers. We pay our bills with what you decide to give us for the time we spend serving you. If we do a crappy job, that’s one thing, but if we do a great job, make sure your tip is representative.

But yeah. I’m tired of depending on the whims of others for my bills — and the whims of business as well. Monday night was my only scheduled night shift (read: money shift) this week, and we were so slow that I only had five tables. That put a stress on the rest of the week.

So I’ve decided to join the Mary Kay family. Which sounds strange to my ears. It’s not official yet, but it’s in the wings.

Back to that epiphany I had.

Mary Kay can look like whatever you want it to. Sure, the products come in pink tubes sometimes, but you can be as edgy as you want to be. The beauty of Mary Kay is that you make it your own.

This is what I hope to accomplish:

  • Pay off my debt.
  • Travel with my husband around the world.
  • Have more time for writing.
  • Leave the restaurant industry.

I could do some of those things working a traditional 9-5, but if I could get my business going with Mary Kay, I would have the ability to travel. That is something that means a lot to me and always has.

So I’ll leave you with a question: what’s preventing you from doing what you truly desire?

Emmie’s Everest

This post will deal a lot with my writing career, so I reckon I’ll esplain right off the bat why I’m putting it here instead of over at my um…writing blog.

The first reason is because that there blog is for writing about urban fantasy and the business side of my career. Though I might make the occasional foray into the personal there when the occasion demands, this little leafy blog is where my personal meanderings (hence the name) occur. The second is because I got homework today, and I decided to share the concrete bits with whoever feels like reading them.

Without further ado, I give you………*drumroll*………..Emmie’s Not-Top-Secret Goals for Her Writing Career in 2012 and Beyond!

That title needs some work. Cut me some slack.

My assignment was to assess my personal goals for my writing career. Who do I want to be? Where do I want to be in five years? Ten? Three? What do I want out of my writing? Who do I want to reach? What is my definition of success for my career, and how on earth will I know when I get there? What kind of income do I want to get from it? What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Let’s start with the introspection.

Who do I want to be as a writer? As Forrest Gump might say, “Aren’t I going  to be me?” Well, yes. Essentially, I’m not aiming to be the next Stephen King or Jo Rowling or Stephenie Meyer or “the next” anyone. I want to pave my own way and establish my own niche in my market.

I know that’s a cop-out answer. I hope this one is a little better: I want to be a best-selling urban fantasy author who turns out new books, each better than the ones that came before them. I want a writing career where I am always striving to be better, bolder, and unique.

Who do I want to reach? I want to reach the lovers of magic and the supernatural. People who love vampires and shapeshifters and twists on our world. People who love human stories in the midst of all that. My ideal audience is people who love the grittiness of Buffy — or Twilight fans after some of the glitter has worn off the vampires. People who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty and like their sweet with a touch of bitter.

What is my definition of success? I will consider myself successful when I can amply provide for myself and my family by the sole means of my writing. When I can quit my day job and still have wiggle room after the squeak of the bills grinds to a halt, I’ll know I got there.

Where do I want to be in three years? In three years, I want to have a book somewhere on the New York Times or Amazon.com bestseller lists. I want to be planning a migration to Scotland and maybe thinking of building our home. Maybe even thinking of spawning some little Emmies.

Where do I want to be in five years? In five years, I would like my family to be ensconced in our home in Scotland with a charming husky and a fluffy orange cat that meows a lot. I want to spend my days writing in my library and continuing to hone my craft. I’d like to have filled another passport up with stamps from all over the world.

I’d also like to have met an elephant by then.

In TEN YEARS?! Ten years from now, I’d like to be done popping out kids so I can make my husband get a vasectomy and stop having to deal with foreign hormones clogging up my body. I want to write every day. I want to teach my children to love books and that they can be whoever they want to be. I want to show them the world. I want to share what I have with others and give back as much as possible. Some dreams I have in that sense are to make hefty donations to cancer research (I’ve lost several loved ones to that cursed disease), to Eve Ensler‘s heroic work for V-Day to stop violence against women, and to find some little girls that remind me of myself and make some of their dreams come true.

What kind of income do I want to make? I would love to have enough to build our dream home (which, by the way, is NOT 10,000 square feet, nor does it have a pool or any columns or more than 5 bedrooms or any other such nonsense), pay off all my debt (including the debt of my immediate family, of which there is quite a lot), and make the aforementioned hefty donations as possible. I don’t care about millions per year. One thing I’ve learned from a lifetime of never having enough of it is that money does not buy “happiness,” but it can alleviate a great deal of stress and improve quality of life. I want my children to have more than I did, but still to know the value of their own work and to take joy in earning something for themselves. I don’t have a specific number of how much money I want to make, just that I want to be able to pay for the things I value: family, books (ha), travel, and causes that matter to me.

That is my Everest. Right now I’m at base camp, starting the trek. Took a long time to get prepared for even this leg of the journey, now I’m about to begin my ascent.

And oh, yeah…

What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? This depends on whether it is an African swallow, or a European swallow. It’s unlikely that either variety of swallow would be capable of carrying a large burden, such as a coconut, over any distance, but perhaps if the swallow were being chased by a large horde of zombie swallows it might have enough adrenaline to do so. Though why it would want to is a question for a greater mind than mine. Perhaps for one known as…Tim?

English: Eve Ensler

Eve Ensler is my hero for too many reasons to name here, but to give you two: she is a champion for women around the world, and she kicked cancer's ass. Image via Wikipedia

Flexing the Brain Muscle

Today I got off work around 2:30 in the afternoon for my break between shifts. As I waited at the bar for my cash out, I struck up a conversation with a guy sitting there. We ended up chatting for a half an hour about politics and religion (yes, in a bar!) — but not the way you think.

You see, we spent a half an hour discussing the ways people approach these things through their own respective biases. Our conversation rarely showed any red or blue, crosses or crescents, or any other indication of our own views. We discussed the way people think about politics based on their own religions. How the inherent irony in works like The Terminator and my current read Robopocalypse manifests itself — like how the technology we have all come to rely on so fully eventually turns against us and thinks for itself.

We discussed books, and how his favorite six-book collection of Winston Churchill’s recollections of the Second World War is loved in part because of the coffee stains on some of the pages. We discussed quantum physics and string theory and how physicists sometimes consult philosophers as they reach their arms toward the upper echelons of the universe’s mysteries.

I realized something profound as I left my restaurant to spend my couple hours at Starbucks blogging and reading.

I miss learning. I miss my brain.

I miss learning languages and struggling to meet each threshold of understanding. I miss conversations like the one I had today, where two or more minds just talk about life and history and science and evolution and faith and religion and all those subjects. I miss the stimulation of being surrounded by others who push my mind in new directions, who force me to analyze and evaluate instead of regurgitate and accept.

I don’t have any funny quips or bits of wisdom to offer. Only a yearning to find that kind of camaraderie again. I have so many interests, from microbiology to art to String Theory to philosophy. Language. Not just my own.

As I walked in the discordant warm December rain, I found my life wanting. I love my husband. I love our home. But I think if you were to ask him, he’d say something is missing as well. Neither of our careers are where we want them right now, and though I can usually get through a day or a week or a month chugging away paying my dues, today reared its head to show me that change is coming soon, and soon indeed.

This isn’t to say I’m foretelling my imminent success as an urban fantasist. This is not even to say I’m foretelling my imminent piddling attempt at urban fantasy. What I am saying is that no matter what my writing career holds in terms of the c-word (career), something must change soon.

Whether it means I go back to university and hire a Caterpillar to dig me into another mountain of debt to get my Ph.D or start building a freelance career in non-fiction isn’t the issue. One of those things will probably happen.

About the future I know three things:

1. I want to move to Scotland and raise a family with my husband.

2. I will write no matter what I do to pay the bills.

3. If I am to have a long-term career, it must be an intellectually stimulating one.

Those are evident in my every day life. While I have the occasional enlightening moment with my tables as I wait on them, it doesn’t change the fact that Sunday when a guest was looking for me to order dessert, she couldn’t so much as describe me by my fiery red hair. To most of the people I serve on a daily basis, I am faceless. Nameless as soon as they walk out the door. No amount of cooing over their babies will change that for many of them. As much as I love the regulars who do treat me like a worthwhile person, I know this isn’t my place forever.

And so I find myself today contemplating the future and what it might hold.  I know I’m getting close to something big, but I feel that it lies just around the bend in the mountainside. It’s coming, and I don’t know what it is.

If I were to be run off the road on the way home, what would I regret?

I would feel like I was being a bit wasted where I am. I can do more than waiting tables, I know I can. This is not to be down on people who do this for a living — I chose this job. It didn’t choose me. There are aspects I enjoy, but ultimately this job does not challenge me.

I would feel like I got stuck somewhere that wasn’t the end goal. I would wonder why I didn’t try just a little bit harder to do what I want to do with this life.

Could I die today and be content? No. I couldn’t. There would be that something missing.

In one area of my life I am fulfilled, and that is love. I could not ask for a better family, a better husband, or better and truer friends than the ones I have. In this one area, I know that I am content.

But the others need some work.

I will close with a quote from one of my all-time favorite authors, a man who helped me discover epic fantasy and showed me that it doesn’t have to be high prose full of doom and gloom — that you could build a fantastical world full of humor and laughter and real people who eat and sometimes discuss bathroom breaks. David Eddings passed away two and a half years ago, shamefully outside my notice. His passing did not make headlines that reached my eyes. I thought of him just the other day and wondered how he was getting on. The question got answered much by accident.

This man will not be forgotten, and I will ensure that his words endure, if only in a tiny library owned by a redhead writer.

This is what I was talking about earlier when I suggested most aspiring fantasists will lose heart fairly early on. I was in my mid-teens when I discovered that I was a writer. Notice that I didn’t say “wanted to be a writer.” “Want” has almost nothing to do with it. It’s either there or it isn’t. If you happen to be one, you’re stuck with it. You’ll write whether you get paid for it or not. You won’t be able to help yourself. When it’s going well, it’s like reaching up into heaven and pulling down fire. It’s better than any dope you can buy. When it’s not going well, it’s much like giving birth to a baby elephant.

-David Eddings, from The Rivan Codex

Scrumptious Veggie Linguine in Cream Sauce

Trying something new today, folks!

I made this last night on a midnight whim (I get off work quite late), and I replicated it tonight at the behest of my husband, who had two bites and had to sit down yesterday evening. I was quite flattered by his reaction.

This recipe is relatively fast, definitely easy, and only has about six ingredients. Sorry the picture quality isn’t magnificent. I used my phone instead of my DSLR because I was lazy and hungry. But mostly hungry.

Behold!

1/2 bunch asparagus, chopped in 1.5 inch pieces (about 10-15 thin spears)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
extra virgin olive oil (We keep some in a cruet with a bunch of herbs and pepper in it — easy and delicious!)
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup light cream
1 package whole wheat linguine (I like Barilla.)
Salt and pepper (preferably sea salt and hand-ground pepper)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced

Ready? Here we go!

Heat water in a large pot for the pasta. You can salt it if you want. While that’s heating, chop your asparagus and halve your cherry tomatoes.

Festive colors, no?

Heat a large pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil. The temperature should be medium-high to high. Once the oil is hot, toss in the asparagus.

Look at that deliciousness.

Cook the asparagus until it is bright green and crispy with a little char to the edges. Your pan should be sizzling and popping throughout this little endeavor, and you want the flavor of the char for the sauce. Trust me. Once the asparagus has been successfully crisped, plop it onto a plate for a while and return your pan to the stove.

Add the tomato halves, cut side down. And do be careful with this step. Your pan should still be very hot, and if there’s a lot of remaining oil, it will pop and burn you.

They look like little red bubbles. Or pods. Or blisters.

By this time, your pasta water should be about ready. Go ahead and toss in your linguine.

While that gets cooking, chop up your garlic if you haven’t already. Make it nice and fine. I use four cloves, because I have a love affair with the stuff. Add more or less to your taste. When the tomatoes have a nice char on the pan side, throw in your butter and reduce the heat to medium-low. When the pan cools and the butter stops hissing (it should be nice and caramelized), add the garlic.

Is there anything better than garlic and butter together?

Go ahead and swirl the contents of the pan around until the tomatoes are unstuck and everything is coated in delicious butter. When the garlic is nice and soft, toss the asparagus back into the pan.

All together now.

Allow those flavors to cook together for a couple minutes at a low simmer. Check on your pasta to see what it’s doing at this point.

Carbs....more carbs...

It’s probably not quite ready yet, so go ahead and add the light cream to your pan of veggies.

If your mouth isn't watering yet, I shall think you inhuman.

Swirl or stir the sauce until the veggies are coated in the cream. Keep at a low simmer, barely bubbling until the pasta has finished cooking. I prefer my pasta a nice al dente, but if you like yours more cooked, feel free to leave it in a bit longer.

Once the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it, then add it to the large pan with the sauce.

You're almost to dinner. Which is one of the best finish lines.

With a pasta fork, gently turn the pasta in the pan to mix the vegetables. Be careful of the tomatoes, which will burst easily if they get squished. You can preserve their shape nicely if you use an easy hand to toss the linguine in the sauce.

This probably serves about four to five, but I won't tell if you make it for two.

Using your trusty pasta fork, go ahead and dish up! You can serve this with a salad, or an interesting chilled soup, or if you’re like me, some buttered toast or garlic bread. Who doesn’t like carbs with their carbs?

It's mine...it's all mine...

Yes. I did eat all that.

Enjoy!

 

 

Happy Holidays! Take 10%.

Maybe it’s the fact that Black Friday has begun to truly infringe on Thanksgiving. Stores opening Thanksgiving Day? Really? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a wee bit surly about approaching the holidays broke when my husband wants an inversion board and a few other expensive gifts. Maybe it’s the crumbling mountain of debt that lurks over my head or the giant, all caps “NON NEGOTIABLE, THIS IS NOT A CHECK” that I get every other week in an envelope with my paystubs, but last night at work, I noticed a phenomenon.

My tip average dropped about 7%.

Normally, I average between 18-30% tips. Yes, 30%. I work in a bar, so a lot of my sales end up being small ones, and people (generally) don’t give me less than a dollar even if all they bought was a $3 happy hour beer. Sometimes they’re downright generous when it’s regulars I’m serving.

I should also say that I am a very good server. I make sure my guests know I value their experience and that I care if the kitchen decides cheese is okay on a salad where I specified no dairy.

But it’s the holiday season, and aside from the reality that most of us in the industry face of working while people with “normal” jobs get to stay in with their families or go out on the town to celebrate the “most wonderful time of the year,” the last thing we want on top of that is to have our wages slashed. Which, if you didn’t know already, is what our tips are. Those are our wages. I’m not going to get into the whole thing about how the system is flawed because the restaurant/bar should be paying its employees and how messed up is it that  consumers are expected to pay our bills with tips when tips are optional anyway? I’ve heard all of that. Until you fix that system, tip your servers.

It’s the holidays. Not only are we expected to roll out with our usual level of excellence, but we are expected to be joyous and optimistic, bright-eyed and elfish in our interactions. Chirpy voices. Holiday cheer for all.

None of that is really faked with me most of the time, but when I open a check presenter to find that yet another person left me four dollars on a $37 check, it begins to turn charming little Cindy Lou Who into the pre-revelatory Grinch.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (film)

This is what I look like now. You're welcome. Image via Wikipedia

Also, around this time of year I know there are heaps of promotions and Group-Ons and Living Social yadda-yaddas to slice major bucks from your checks, but please remember that your tip is to be calculated by the full amount of your check prior to any discounts. Yeah. You’re still saving a lot of money, so tip your servers well.

Why, you ask? Partly because of that whole thing about us not getting paychecks except for what you write in the “tip” line on your credit card receipt, but also because if you ring up a massive bill, we are serving you a lot of stuff. Alcohol, appetizers, desserts, getting that mayo you want, switching out that drink you didn’t like twice, cooing at your baby, and just generally waiting on you hand and foot so you don’t have to do all that yourself. Tonight (this happened twice), people came in with $10 coupons. Their bills were each around $40 pre-discount. They each left me five, which is 18% of 30 and not a bad tip, but it’s 12% of 40, and that is insulting. Granted, $40 is not massive, but 20% of 40 is a lot more than 20% of 25, and it adds up fast.

The holidays are about giving. Thankfulness. Kindness. We tip our mail carriers, our trash collectors, our nannies to thank them for their services. Please don’t forget about the people bringing you your food, your beers, and cleaning up after your children when you leave. Please remember that while you’re out to dinner celebrating, we’re working. And most of us have to work all through the holidays — we’re lucky to get one of them off to spend with our families (and with Black Friday encroaching even more on Thanksgiving, more and more people are losing one of the only guaranteed days off per year). I’ll be working Christmas Eve and New Years Eve till the wee hours of the morning. I won’t get to kiss my new husband as we ring in 2012 or open an early present  before Christmas dawns, and neither will millions of other servers.

A lot of us do this job because we enjoy it — we like to provide you with an excellent, caring experience and a great atmosphere.  So please, don’t forget about us this holiday season. Help us look a little more like this:

I'd much rather look like this.

 

 

Just Before Dawn

Oh, hello there. It’s been a while. Do forgive me. I’m afraid I’ve been pursuing hours in the day that do not exist for some time now, and it’s left me a wee bit…absent.

I’ve spent the last two months with my face buried in paper, up to my neck in ink, and just generally writing until my fingers fall off more days than not. This is a good thing, but it has left my other past times by the wayside. You know. By that side waaaaay over there. It’s just a little speck to me right now. Wave at them.

Words have ever been a giant central gear that my life revolves around. They propel me, fill me, spill out of me. They suck me into other worlds where planets spin through shining colorful galaxies filled with ultraviolet sparkles and dark grimy alleys where something really does want to eat you. They do it, and they do it often. I’ve occupied my imagination so fully lately that I haven’t had the chance to turn it to other things.

I want to sit under an oak tree and feel it live against my back. I want to watch the turning of fiery leaves and run my hands across velvet grass. I want to lay on my back and watch planets and stars appear in a cerulean sky. I want to look into the eyes of an elephant and have her reach out her trunk toward me. I want to soar above oceans again and smell peat and loam and heather. I want to climb up into the branches of a tree and read a book.

It is so easy to get caught up in things. I’m newly married. We both work and have passions and try to eat normal food at our abnormal times. We still haven’t gotten our thank you notes out.

As the world darkens and the sun stretches farther away for the winter months, I feel the return of a new year. I always sort of celebrate the Celtic new year, Samhain. It’s a day of the dead, yes, but it also marks rebirth. It marks the time of year when the earth slows to sleep, where all becomes still, and where hibernation occurs awaiting the return of the light and the burgeoning buds and blossoms. I can’t help but feel like something is…gestating in my life, for lack of a better word. Not in my body; no, there’s no life inside me forming. What I feel is that I’m frantically growing something. That these words I nurture every day are multiplying into something big, something that will soon be born to the world.

The leaves turn and fall to the ground, and the earth slumbers until spring. I will continue to create, to harbor the life of these words until they are ready to be shared. And I believe they will be shared. My husband believes in me. He brings me bright fall roses and dahlias and daisies to add cheer to our home and to comfort me while my body responds to the changing of the seasons. For every winter, there is a spring. So I will keep working, keep writing, keep hoping all through this long night of the earth.

I will write through the darkest hour.

New and Old

I logged onto MySpace just now.

I know. Whoa. Yeah, it still exists. I didn’t really know either. I went on looking for a poem I posted in my blog there a long while back. I felt like dredging it up and seeing if I still thought it was shiny and whimsical. I wrote it sort of in the style of Lewis Carroll — nonsense and bounce and yes, whimsy.

The first thing that caught my eye was this entry. I feel the need to post it here, to share it. I think it deserves that. So I give you the me of two and a half years ago; do enjoy. Some of it’s lyrical. I don’t know if the formatting was intentional or not or if it just happened as a by-product of MySpace re-imagining itself in a vain attempt to stay relevant against the Facebook behemoth, but regardless, I kept it.

i
stretch, feeling the tug of my muscles, a pleasurable ache remaining.
it’s a reminder of how much has changed this year.  2009, it seems, is
setting out to prove that spring of 2008 was a crucible — the
smoldering coals i had to walk over to feel the cool wet grass under my
feet.
the first crickets sing outside my window, their tunes riding on the
fresh breeze of the evening.  my breath is measured, even.  my fingers
and hands are warm as i type, the muted light from the paper-covered
lamp filling the room with a soft glow.  and here i am.
something leaps in my chest when that thought enters my mind.  the
breath in my lungs hitches for a moment, and my heart quickens.  here i am.
the air is cool, and the sun has begun its downward path,
setting the budding trees and leafy bushes to dusty gold.  i am alone
on the greenway path.  for once, no passers-by break the silence with
their footsteps and words.  no joggers with ipods, no walkers with dogs
and leashes.  just me.  i pause at the first curve, looking out over
the field.  a smile tugs at my lips — something that is happening more
and more lately.  a few puffy dandelions grow in the grass.  on
impulse, i step off the path and pluck one from its resting place.

there’s a difference in the air this year.  a softer note in the
sound of the wind.  as i let my mind drift over the events of last
spring, it touches on snapshots.  my heart stopping as i read a
one-line email from my cousin matt.  “please give me a call the first
chance you get.”  dark brown eyes under a shock of shaggy black hair,
darting nervously as my boss informs me my hours have been cut by 40%.
coming home again to find my roommate doesn’t have the rent money or
the bills at all.  mocking words.  maniacal howling from the other side
of my apartment.  walking into my bedroom and feeling someone else’s
uninvited presence.  things missing.  weariness.  driving.  driving.
mansions and mansions filled with people, hard faces.  suspicious
glances.  smiling children and dilapidated buildings playing among cut
gravel and broken glass.  a boy’s florid bow as he moves aside to let
my car pass.  spanish filters through my open window from neighbors
laughing on lawn chairs, easy banter on a summer evening as my car
moves through their world.  the quiet of the office, eight hours of
nothing.  from sprawling villas to shoebox dwellings — an invisible
line is crossed, and i drive into another world.  the rocky mountains
in the distance.  tired.  always tired.  six o’clock i drive to work in
the morning sun.  eight hours of nothing.  the sun sets as i drive, the
numbers on my meter move, move.  hours and hours.  at midnight, i drive
home.  i fall into bed.  i sleep.  six o’clock comes too soon.  tears.
the harsh scent of vodka.  the sharp sting of lies.  snapshots — just
snapshots — that world is no more.
mom always used to tell me not to spread the dandelion seeds.  i
pause as i lift the fluffy ball to my lips, my fingertips sticking
lightly to the thin, moist stem.  for a moment i feel a gleeful
rebellion as i purse my lips and blow.  tiny tufted dancers spin into
space.  freed from their resting place
, they float through the
air.  one lodges itself between my breasts, perhaps afraid to take that
step onto the current of the breeze.  i pluck it out and it soars away,
trailing behind the cloud of others that flicker in the light of the
afternoon sun
.
last year’s world is no more.  only this year is real.  only now.  here i am.
again my heart quickens as i glance forward in time.  the clock seems
to speed in its place on the wall.  soon and very soon.  no more
running away.  this time i’m moving forward, grasping at newness, at
vibrance.  everything about now tickles my awareness of the immediacy
of the present.  the pull of my muscles as i stretch, the comfortable
space in my clothing.  the smile that tugs at my lips.  newness.
i’m alone on the path.  i glance around, but no one is there.
my heart leaps in pleasure.  the creek burbles over rocks as i cross
the bridge, the soft pat-pat of my flip-flops still audible over the
water.  the path seems smoother, more even than i remember, even though
i was there not long ago.  i feel the urge to run.  what happens is
more of a scamper, borderline bounce.  my legs tense, my pulse jumps.
something in me sparkles.  without a thought, my shoes are off, left
behind on the pavement.  i pad a few steps forward, then i’m running.

2009 is a new year.  i felt it with the ticking of the clock as
december became january.  it’s new in every way.  the gentle ache in my
muscles gives me a moment of triumph.  my body is newer, smoother, yes
— slimmer.  i feel good.  i feel healthy, energetic.  when i look in
the mirror, i grin.  i think of what i’ve done this year, in the months
that have passed since the sorrow of last spring.  focus,
determination.  effort.  i’ve fallen down, but there have been hands to
help me up.  and here i sit.  i am ready.
i come to a halt where the path turns to grass.  i look out over
the field beyond where it ends, see the rolling, tamed grass of the
golf course and purposely turn the other way.  a small meadow is
nestled in the crook of a curving slope.  a few insects flit across the
path in the sun.  the breaths i take as i turn back toward home feel
like a drug.  the smile wins, and i feel my face light up.  when i
reach my shoes, i pick them up.  the plastic, warmed from the sun,
dangles from my fingertips.  my arms swing at my sides, and i revel in
the cool air that passes over my skin.  my earrings jingle as i walk
silently on my bare feet.  right now, at this moment, i am utterly
beautiful.

carbonation bubbles in my veins as a thrill passes through me.  my
skin hums in anticipation.  soon.  an electric edge is on the air,
seems to hover around me like an aura.  this time there is no
trepidation, only certainty.  clear, crystalline certainty.no running away this time.  no desperation, no stumbles and sobs.  only
an abiding quietness and a tugging smile.  a sparkle, a glimmer.
raindrops patter on the ground outside, and a fresh-washed scent floats
in on the evening breeze.  the crickets have been put on mute, gone for
cover from the rain.  inside in the glow, the world is spread out
before me.  i’m the tiny dandelion seed, and i’m finally ready to
launch myself off that cliff, to take the plunge.  till then, i’ll
smile to myself, i’ll keep these sweet secrets dancing at the corners
of my lips.  till then, i’ll look out over the world spread before me.
till then, i’m her.  i am ready.
fumbling toward ecstasy

I can’t help but love that.

Urban Fantasy’s Hammer

While the high fantasy and sci-fi genres still seem to be dominated by male authors (with a few notable exceptions, of course), in the urban fantasy world, there are some interesting things going on in that age old gender war. People sometimes underestimate the power and social influence that books and television exert over the world. For instance, before Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the idea of a female hero (not a heroine, not someone who seemed strong until they needed to beef up a macho man and have him swoop in to save her) was unfathomable in the mainstream media. Buffy Summers paved the way for protagonists like Veronica Mars and others who flooded in after her.

I was reading my Twitter feed yesterday, and there was a little trend of hashtags inspired by Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, entitled Things Anita Blake Taught Me. Here are some that stood out to me:

“It’s okay to have wild monkey sex with more than one man at one time. Rawr!”

“Being a woman — and a petite one at that — doesn’t mean shit. Stand up for yourself!”

“Loving two men is okay.”

“A woman can be tough, carry a gun, be beautiful, smart — can be herself and still have lots of men want her.”

“It’s okay to date men who are prettier than you are.”

“Being a bad ass and being a woman are not mutually exclusive.”

“It’s easier to live in a man’s world if they secretly suspect you can kick their asses.”

“It’s too much of a burden to saddle men with always being the strong ones, just as it’s too much to saddle women with being the weak ones.”

Some people might argue that Anita Blake is oversexualized, but I am going to step out on the edge of the sword and say that she is an empowering figure. How many millions of times have we seen the man with his gaggle of women? How many references to men being more bad ass, more sexy, stronger, more manly for having more sexual partners, yet women are sluts and whores?

The power comes in because writers like Laurell Hamilton and Charlaine Harris are lending a hammer to the glass divider between the sides of that double standard, blurring the Madonna-Whore complex and showing that women can be sexual, can have multiple partners, and still be strong, confident, intelligent, and competent. It’s not the shattering blow yet, but there are cracks appearing, and that gives me hope.