Okay. We get it.

It really shouldn’t come down to voting for the candidate we despise the least.

Every time the man walks up to a podium, I cringe, dreading what manner of vitriol he’s going to spew forth.  Usually, it’s something along the lines of what I used to hear fourth and fifth graders hollering at each other out on the playground.  I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t heard him playing the dozens during the debates, as in, “Cruz?  Cruz’s mama is so fat, she has to …”

I hope that neither he nor any of the worthless sycophants who are advising him read this—the man doesn’t need any more bad ideas.

Chris FarleyWe get it, Mr. Trump.  You’re an “outsider”.  You’re not a member of “the establishment”.  You don’t have to “pander” and “suck up” to anybody because you’re “rich”.  You want to make America “great” again.  You don’t have to be “politically correct” or “polite” because you’re a “maverick”.

You know, Donald, you’re right.  You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.  You’ve no one to answer to.

Whether you like him or not, though, it appears that Trump is about to cross the Rubicon into uncharted land—for him, at least.  And though he may be a skilled tactician in the boardroom, he is shaping up to be many things as the Republican frontrunner for the candidacy of President of the United States, and not all of those things are good.

TrumpvsDisabledReporterHe’s a bully.  He’s rude.  He bloviates.  He hates.  He calls people names.  He makes fun of others for attributes they possess over which they have no control.  Frankly, he’s an asshole.  Worst of all, he offers simple solutions to complex problems (“Just build a wall!”), which resonates with Americans who are fed up with the status quo but have no clue as to how dangerous a man like Trump can become.

I’ve avoided this comparison so far; however, as much as I hate to admit to myself, the man is beginning to remind me of a certain dictator who also offered simple solutions to complex problems.  I say, “beginning” because so far, Trump has not blamed the entire population of any one ethnic group for the nation’s ills; nor has he called for the expansion of American ‘lebensraum’.  Not yet, anyway.

I pray that the remaining stability of our Republic would be enough to stop him or anyone from committing all out genocide.

Mr. Trump, if you are planning on seeing this journey through to the end, it’s time to stop acting like a snot-nosed spoiled brat and start acting like a statesman.  It’s time to man up—you’re better than this.  Because in a race between you and Hillary Clinton, it really shouldn’t come down to voting for the candidate we despise the least.

Cut the crap.  You’ve made your point.  Now it’s time to be presidential.

 

 

 

Trumpe-L’oeil

Trump’s campaign is the ruse of the century

It’s always risky to make assumptions only to find out later that you were completely off base in your assessment, but the prospect of a Trump presidency is so bizarre, I’m just going to go ahead and say this:

Trump is not in it to win it.

Pundits will argue that he sure as hell is in it to win it and it looks like he will, dammit.  Others will say that his unorthodoxy is part of what makes him the brilliant tactician that he is; that by making outrageous and seemingly offensive statements he is breaking the mold of the consummate politician thereby owning this election.  Another segment of the population is so offended by him and his Hitler-esque ideology (their words, not mine) that they’re predicting we’ll soon be goose stepping our way through a totalitarian dictatorship.  Still some, like me, just think he’s crazy.

Like a fox.

Do you really think Trump wants to make America great again?  Or is it something else?  When a guy’s got his name on more buildings than Sam Walton, it can’t be the fame.  Power hungry?  I get that, but there are other ways to be powerful without having to hoodwink the electorate all the way into the White House.  I know, Ronald Reagan was an outlier, too but who are we kidding:   Trump is no Ronald Reagan.

This isn’t my first assessment of the ruse of the century. In early August, and after Trump had announced his candidacy, I posted this vignette on Facebook.

august trump prediction

At this point, I’m not sure that this is exactly his motive, but I do think he has some O’Henry trick up his sleeve, you know, the surprise ending.  Because come on, you threaten to boycott a debate because you don’t like Megyn Kelly?  Really, Donald, if you can’t get along with the host of a cable news show, how are you going to navigate Putin?  Whining that you’re not coming to the party if Megyn is there rather emasculates you, don’t you think?  At the very least you sound like a petulant child who is picking up his toys and going home.

Most unbecoming, Sir.

His behavior is not logical, which is why some in the political sphere, like Rush Limbaugh, believe this is all part of his strategy.  To me, though, it appears as if he is setting himself up to be so reviled that he’ll either step aside and let someone else occupy his spot, or he really is a DNC plant.

Regardless, I both cringe and shake my head every time the guy opens his mouth, wondering what manner of cartoon character rhetoric is going to come out.  Would I keel and wail and render my flesh if he manages to get elected?  No.  Furthermore, I don’t think that’s going to happen.  This guy is too smart to resort to acting like an asshat, and he’s wily enough to fool people into thinking that he is.

If that circular logic baffles you, then guess what?  You’ve been Trumped.

It’s true because I read it on Facebook

Oprahs Book ClubIf you base your entire belief system on what you read on Facebook, you’re making yourself look like a real schlemiel.

Okay, so besides keeping up with friends near and far, selling a novel, and texting my sister via ‘Messenger’ because she refuses to buy a cell phone, I’ve culled some great stuff from Facebook. Stuff like, “8 things you didn’t know you could do with leftover bacon grease—number 4 will BLOW YOUR MIND!” or “Eliminate cat feces from your flowerbeds with ONE WEIRD TRICK!”

But what really boggles my mind is how people—individuals who are apparently intelligent enough to own a computer and create a Facebook page—can look at one meme or one story that’s gone “viral” and extract from that their entire political agenda. Everything from who they intend to support in the upcoming presidential election to their feelings on abortion, LGBT rights, and whether Donald Trump really does want to tattoo Muslims (he doesn’t) or build a wall and get Mexico to pay for it (he does).

Facebook is to the truth as Wikipedia is to research. It may be a good place to start, but if you base your entire belief system on what you read there, especially if you agree, like, share, or forward something about which heretofore you knew very little, you’re making yourself look like a real schlemiel. For crying out loud, you’re sitting at a computer with internet access (otherwise you wouldn’t have Facebook, but you knew that), so why don’t you do a little research and find out if Chelsea Clinton’s father-in-law really did serve time in prison for embezzlement (he did) or if Sarah Palin actually said, “I can see Russia from my house!” (she didn’t).

Even more misleading than actual Facebook posts are the memes floating among the flotsam and jetsam. These give the reader just a flash of an image or a set of carefully arranged words in an eye-catching font that are meant to completely change your opinion of everything you used to hold dear. This, for instance.

meme1

Really?  Says who? There is no identifying information within the image that I can research, just the words themselves.  Am I really supposed to believe this is true?  Or feel bad because I often identify with the GOP?  I submit to you that 80% of Americans don’t trust their grandmothers, either.

To further infuriate the masses, there are those pesky agitators out there—trolls, if you will—who will go so far as to post outlandish shizz  in order to stir up controversy; in this case (see below), to poke fun at or poke holes in certain segments of the population who refuse to use birth control, have their babies at home then eat their placentas, don’t vaccinate their young breed, and demand that you do the same under pain of hell-fire.

dotndI’ll admit that when I first saw this, I, too, said, “Bite me.”  But then I did a little digging and found that there was no “Disciples of the New Dawn”, the organization that allegedly created this Facebook page.  The page was the brainchild of somebody with too much time on his hands and a warped sense of humor.  It was specifically designed to get women’s panties in a wad (as if there isn’t enough of that going around). Apparently, somebody else was so offended that they created a Change.org petition to have site removed.

Guess who won Facebook that day?

Facebook is a platform for connecting with family and friends, for sharing ideas and showing me how to get the pee stains out of my mushroom-colored carpeting, and especially for posting cute pictures of babies and toddlers (however they are born and regardless of whether their moms ate their placentas or if they are vaccinated).  It’s also for watching videos of puppies doing cute things and kittens romping about and being clever.

And just in case you were über-impressed with the fact that Oprah Winfrey is clutching a copy of my novel in the first image, just remember that she left her venerable talk show in May, 2011, and my novel was published in March, 2014.

But I had you there for a second, didn’t I?

Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook.  A lot of it is simply fiction, just like The Gym Show.

 

Mother of the Year

I couldn’t get out of my mind the picture of her son crying out for help without thinking, why wasn’t she there?

Wife and mother Helena Richards Colby resides in a tony suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio.   Helena lives a life that most of us dream of—she’s wealthy and reasonably attractive, with a well-appointed home that includes plenty of space for entertaining, a large back yard with a pool, and a gorgeous lake view.  But what Helena wants most is the envy and adulation of her peers, and to a greater degree (though she would never admit it) she wishes to climb the proverbial social ladder to become a select member of Cincinnati’s privileged elite.

Helena stepped on the first rung of that ladder in January 2012, when she talked her husband Will into nominating her for the title of Greater Cincinnati’s Mother of the Year, the promotional brainchild of Cincinnati City magazine.  Nominees (who pay a ridiculous fee just for the faux honor of being nominated) are fêted for an entire year at various magazine-sponsored functions throughout the city in an effort to promote themselves as the quintessential mother, giving Cincinnati’s well-heeled a chance to vote for their ultimate Madonna.  Helena never missed an event.

In September, 2012, Helena and Will were scheduled to attend an event at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Art Center (once home to the infamous Robert Maplethorpe exhibit, but I digress).  It was a Tuesday night, and Helena’s regular sitter, her 16-year-old daughter Hailey, was unfortunately unable to watch the couple’s seven-year-old son, Christopher.  Hailey had a party to attend.  On a Tuesday night.

Never one to say no to her daughter, Helena figured that Christopher would be fine by himself at home.  Hailey would have her cell turned on, of course, and Helena and Will would each have their respective cells on vibrate but within “feeling” proximity.  Hailey assured her parents that she would be no fewer than five minutes from their house, and though Helena and Will would be downtown, Helena was certain that Christopher would be fine for the few short hours that he would be alone.  After all, isn’t teaching children the virtue of self-reliance a hallmark of a Mother of the Year?

Christopher wasn’t so sure.  He didn’t like it when Mommy and Daddy were gone at night, even when Hailey was there with him in the house (she never really was in the same room with him, but at least she was there).  He still slept with his light on in his room most nights, and he didn’t like this time of year when the leaves were starting to fall off the trees outside his bedroom window because they made scrape-y noises that were scary to him.  Christopher didn’t say much at dinner; Mommy and Daddy didn’t notice, and Hailey was busy playing on her phone.

Always in a nervous flurry before these types of events, Helena rushed through dinner and began barking orders to Will in an attempt to get him to hurry.  She didn’t notice that Hailey had already left the house and that Christopher was sulking on the sofa watching a rerun of South Park.  The couple left the house after Helena hastily scrawled hers, Will’s, and Hailey’s phone numbers in big Sesame Street-sized numbers on a piece of loose leaf paper she found in Hailey’s backpack because, well, that’s what good mothers do.  She trusted that Christopher would call one of them if there was an emergency.

Once Helena and Will arrived at the venue, all thoughts of her children were blissfully erased from her consciousness because it was here that she would be introduced to Cincinnati’s preeminent citizens.  Not for her were the hoi polloi that she ordinarily ran into at Kroger or while waiting in the carpool lane at her son’s school.  No, it was among these majestic faces she was meant to rub elbows, to mingle and chat, to exchange dinner invitations.  Helena was in her element.  So transfixed was she that she never felt the phone vibrate in her small reticule clutched in her left hand.  Will’s phone buzzed, too, but after several trips to the bar, so did he.

It wasn’t until she had excused herself to go into the restroom to check on her lipstick that she felt the phone in her purse vibrate.  It was Hailey.  She told her mother that she had had several calls from Christopher who said that he was scared and that he was hearing noises.  Although Hailey offered to go home and check on him, Helena reminded her that Christopher often made up stories about hearing strange noises, and that a good mother would teach him a lesson about crying wolf.  Besides, Helena had it on good authority that the party Hailey was attending was at the home of a board member of one of the city’s most sought after charitable foundations, and she couldn’t wait to hear from Hailey about what the inside of the house looked like.  After all, isn’t encouraging your daughter to develop relationships with influential people part of being a good mother?

Though it doesn’t really matter at this point who arrived home at the Colby residence first, it happened to be Hailey, who would, for the rest of her life, have seared into her brain the image of her little brother’s body as it lay broken, bloodied, and beaten on the cold, bare floor of the empty garage.  At this point in the story, I lack the vocabulary to describe what actually happened at the Colby home that September night—Google it for yourselves if you like.  Suffice it to say that after four armed intruders broke into the home, burgled it, and murdered seven-year-old Christopher Richards Colby in one of the most brutal attacks ever investigated by the first responders and homicide detectives on the scene, Greater Cincinnati’s candidate for Mother of the Year was down one child.

Oh, there was quite an investigation.  The family was questioned repeatedly about the events surrounding the break in and Christopher’s murder.  The day after the murder, the local television affiliate interviewed a tearful Helena who blamed the tragedy on a violent video game she had read about online and suggested that it was this that was the impetus for the killers’ vicious actions and the eventual death of her son. Days, weeks went by with the entire community both mourning alongside the Colby family and expressing outrage at the killers’ murderous rampage.  Ultimately, the killers were caught, and the community and the family could rest a little easier.  But there was nothing that would bring Christopher back.

Even in her grief, though, Helena found a way to turn this heartbreak into a triumph.  After all, she was still in the running for Greater Cincinnati’s Mother of the Year, and with a senseless tragedy to add to her repertoire of virtuous deeds, influential friendships earned, and exposure among the city’s most celebrated citizens, there was no reason to abandon her quest for social acceptance and virtual aristocracy.

The tragedy was too much for her husband, though—he put a gun to his head a month after his son’s murder.  Well, that’s how it was reported anyway.

After a socially acceptable period of quiet mourning, Helena began making the circuit of local and national talk shows, sharing her grief over the murder of her son and the loss of her husband, and used her platform to promote her new raison d’être as the new voice for all mothers out there who have lost a child.  Not surprisingly, after her well-crafted and heavily articulated year-long campaign, in January 2013, Helena Richards Colby was named Greater Cincinnati’s Mother of the Year.  She had endeared herself to nearly everyone.

But not to me.  I couldn’t get out of my mind the picture of her son crying out for help without thinking, why wasn’t she there?  Why did she leave him home alone, helpless and frightened?  Even when her daughter had expressed concern over her brother’s pleas for help, this mother was more concerned with her own social position and that of her daughter’s than she was about the safety of her son.

I am outraged that anyone lacking the fundamental judgement of a parent would deign to promote herself as the arbiter of parenthood.  After she all but fed her son to the killers who ended his life, how can she even consider herself worthy of any praise or accolades, let alone the title of Mother of the Year?  I am outraged that more people, not only in the Cincinnati area but throughout the country, are not as sickened by this situation as I am.  Some are even going so far as to defend her actions and feel that those of us who dare question her motives are engaging in a 17th century witch hunt.   But I don’t care about that.  I’m more concerned about the starry-eyed boot-licking sycophants who are looking at Helena Richards Colby as the gold standard of motherhood.

Any cold-hearted excuse for a human being who can demonstrate this much arrogance, negligence, and lack of judgment and still manage to become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States Greater Cincinnati’s Mother of the Year will stoop to the lowest level imaginable in order to further her self-serving agenda.

We’re dying to hear from you

If you are one of those good Muslims among the faithful who is angry, hurt, resentful, disgusted, or otherwise offended by the anti-Muslim rhetoric you are hearing, why don’t you speak up?

Most of the stupidity that has left Donald Trump’s pouty potty mouth in the months since he’s decided to run for king of the world president has truthfully gone in one ear and out the other.  I’ve never regarded him as a serious candidate; in fact, I once opined that his candidacy was a ruse—once he’s gained enough momentum, he’ll drop out just so he can sit back and laugh hysterically while he watches the next guy in line get his balls busted by Ursula the She-Monster.  So I guess I haven’t been too worried about ol’ Donald.

Until yesterday.

Yes, he went there.  Donald Trump made a statement to the effect that the U.S. should immediately close its borders to all Muslims, regardless of their status.  He not only went there, he doubled down when asked again if he wanted to retract anything about his most provocative statement to date.  Trump has no finesse; his sledgehammer bull-in-a-china-shop rhetoric makes me question his sanity.  Here’s a tip:  Simple solutions to complex problems make people very nervous.  Just ask the average Jew living in Germany in 1933.  Ahem.

It’s not that I completely disagree with Trump.  I think it’s only prudent to be ever-so-vigilant about who’s coming and going through the revolving door of our ports of entry, but to say that all Muslims should be locked out is going a bit too far.  Because there are good Muslims out there, right?

Before I join the millions of Donald-shamers, I think an important question needs to be asked:  If our citizenry, made up of a veritable kaleidoscope of cultures, races, religions, and ethnicities, is so concerned about those who label all Muslims as a collection of like-minded individuals out to commit jihad against the West, then help us out, good Muslims.  Tell us about your religion.  Share with us who you are, what you believe, and why your faith is being maligned all over the world.

Most importantly, state, in no uncertain terms, just us how angry it makes you that radical Islamists are ruining it for the rest of you.

I follow news; that is, I read, listen, and react, hopefully with an open mind.  But just as everybody’s baby is the prettiest, every news outlet and every talking and typing head has an agenda.  Every blogger, every columnist, every pundit is out to market their brand—themselves.  Using provocative rhetoric is how you get folks to pay attention, I get that.  But isn’t there someone out there who is in this for the greater good and can tell us the truth?

Likewise, isn’t there someone in the Muslim community who can share with us the virtues of their religion?

Allow me to put this in terms that may help you understand where I’m going with this:  I am first a Christian by faith, Catholic by denomination.  Michelle Duggar, mother extraordinaire, is first a Christian by faith, and an Independent Baptist by denomination.  We have very little in common lifestyle-wise (probably to her everlasting relief).  What we do have in common is that we have both accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.

It is ridiculously naïve to lump all people of a set religion into the same group.  I’m sure Michelle would agree.  If such benign differences exist among Christians like Michelle and me, isn’t it reasonable, then, to assume that the of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, there are some good people among the faithful who may practice their religion in different ways and in varying degrees?

In contrast, whereas the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Baptist Church would like to call themselves Christians, their principles and actions, their rhetoric and practices are anything but Christ-like; ergo, they are not Christians, no matter what they’d like you to believe.  They pull scripture out of context from the Bible and twist it into evil sound bites in order to justify their sins.  In many ways, they are just as bad as radical Islamists, and their actions are reprehensible, especially when committed in the name of their warped brand of pseudo-Christianity.  True Christians would never stand up for them.  Ever.

And like the pseudo-Christians out there, isn’t it also reasonable to assume that among that 1.6 billion Muslims in the world there exist Islamic jihadists whose sole purpose in life is to destroy western civilization—radical Islamists committing terror in the name of Allah?

If you are one of those good Muslims among the faithful who is angry, hurt, resentful, disgusted, or otherwise offended by the anti-Muslim rhetoric you are hearing, why don’t you speak up?  Why don’t you tell us why you and people of your kind do not want to bring terror, death, and destruction upon the United States of America.

To stay silent will guarantee that all we’ll ever hear, see, or—worst of all—experience are the voices of the jihadists who want us all dead.

 

 

 

 

 

The Magnificent Aschenbachs

Lately, many people have been asking me if I’m writing a sequel to The Gym Show.  While I think a sequel would be an excellent complement to what will always be (maybe) my favorite novel, I had already begun my second novel before The Gym Show became so popular.  So will I write a sequel?  Yes.  But first, my compulsive personality insists that I finish my second novel, The Magnificent Aschenbachs.

Would you like a peek?  Thought so.  Here is an excerpt from The Magnificent Aschenbachs.

   After that rather strange greeting, January’s initial reaction to Richard’s home was one of awe, but she fought the urge to appear wide-eyed and naïve, and tried desperately to appear as if it were an everyday thing to walk into a spectacularly furnished and appointed mansion like the main character in Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.  And, like the nameless protagonist, January felt childishly out-of-place and wished she had worn something a little less showy (Gold lame, January, really?) and a little more conservative.

    Sadly, she didn’t have clothes in her wardrobe to match the splendor of the home, and she certainly was not dressed in the same manner as Richard’s mother, the formidable looking Angelika.  What did Angelika say to Richard when he had introduced her?  She knew it was German by the accent, but she had no idea what she said.  Richard had seemed rather taken aback, and even now, he was still somewhat quiet as if Angelika’s words had generated in him some meaningful response that he was still trying to piece together in his perplexed state.  January felt as if he was going through the motions of shepherding her through the house without really considering her at all.  This was turning out to be one of the most awkward and uncomfortable experiences she had ever remembered and wondered if all first dates were this excruciating.

The story is set in the mid-80’s in Indianapolis, and if you’re a Booth Tarkington fan, you might recognize that the title is a play off his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons.  Think of my interpretation, though, as another slice of life in Indianapolis, told mainly through the eyes of a young inner-city teacher who faces daunting challenges both in her professional and her personal life.

It’s going to be spectacular, I promise!  Estimated time of completion?  I’ll keep you posted.

Kitten Knittin’

Fem-art or fem-offensive?  Depends on your definition of ‘art’.

Years ago when I was teaching and my eighth grade students were reading the play The Diary of Anne Frank, I offered them a choice of three projects that they were to complete following our study of the play and its wider implications.  Two projects were research and writing-based—the third?  Build a scaled replica of the Anne Frank house using mostly found objects—nothing purchased, just stuff found lying around the house to make this replica as close to the real thing as possible.  I even introduced the word ‘verisimilitude’ as a way to stress that the house should be neither whimsical nor resemble a standard dollhouse. The goal of this project was for students to have a comprehensive understanding of the limitations that the families in hiding had experienced.

Some students created amazing replicas; others had their parents do it (we can always tell, Mom), and still others half-assed the whole thing.  Like Brian.  Brian handed in a cardboard box.  Inside the box was a stick and a rolled-up piece of clay.  Brian was completely mystified when I refused to accept it.

“But it’s art.”

No, it wasn’t art.  It was a box with a stick and a piece of rolled up clay inside.  Just like this is not art:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/04/vaginal-knitting_n_4386419.html

No, your eyes did not deceive you.  That pants-less woman with the really bad haircut is self-proclaimed “craftivist” Casey Jenkins from Melbourne, Australia, and she was indeed pulling yarn out of her body from a place where yarn really doesn’t belong, then knitting it into … I don’t even know what.

Nothing I want throw around my neck, that’s for damn sure.

2015-10-01 18_27_06-'Vaginal Knitting' Is Here To Make Everyone Afraid Of Performance Art Once AgainBefore I join the millions worldwide that Casey Jenkins has categorized as “Haters” and provide a cursory commentary on her particular brand of performance art —because what can I say that hasn’t already been said—I have some questions for her.

  • Are you in a committed relationship with any of the balls of yarn you’ve introduce into your portal of happiness?
  • You’re putting different balls of yarn all up in that thing every day. Are they wearing protection?
  • Where are you finding these balls of yarn? In a box? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
  • What exactly are you knitting? Doesn’t look like a sweater to me.
  • What are you going to do with that seemingly endless streamer of knitted v-yarn?
  • What do you actually do to earn a living when you’re not knittin’ from your kitten?
  • Does it hurt?

Look, I consider myself rather creative.  I’ve written a few things.  I appreciate allegory, allusion, alliteration, and extended metaphor as much as anybody does.

But come on.

The only metaphorical thing I can conjure from this—and this is a stretch, I assure you— is that the yarn is being stored in an entryway, of sorts, that leads into a room (of sorts) where babies grow. She’s pulling yarn out of this entryway and fashioning it into … what?  A baby blanket?  For the love of all that is holy, I certainly hope not.  So, maybe this extended metaphor is a little too … well … extended.

So, what is her point?  And, please dispense with any statement that has the word “awareness” in it. Even if I’m not hip enough to get this, I can tell you that this is not art. This is a cry for attention.  This is a case of throw-enough-shizz-up-against-the-wall-and-some-of-it’s-bound-to-stick-edness. Except that instead of sticking to the wall it’s stuck all up in there.

Ew.

Does she have a right to express herself thusly?  Yes.  Do the rest of the normal people on the planet have to pretend to think that what she is doing constitutes art?  No. As a woman, does this offend me?  No, because that would make me a victim, and victims, especially feminist victims, get all excited and empowered over crap like this. Not me. I say, do your thing, Casey, just don’t expect the rest of us to whisper in hushed NPRish tones about how courageous and daring you are.

That Casey Jenkins has opened up the floodgates (ah, here come the metaphors) of criticism about her art is really not surprising. Anyone with a scintilla of common sense or intelligence will realize that her unique style of craftiness is nothing but this:  Look at me! I can pull yarn out of my girlfriend, knit a really long scarf, and call it art!

Like Brian and his box, it’s not art.  It’s just stupid.

The Fairy Tale of Working from Home

After nearly 25 years teaching in the public school arena (and if you think that’s a strange choice of a word to replace ‘school’, think again), I am privileged and happy to be among the ranks of folks who work from home.  It makes me happy.

Maybe it makes my co-workers in the actual office even happier.  Winning.

When I tell people that I work from home, their first question is, “What do you do?”  I tell them I work as a technical writer for a software company. Relieved (or not) upon learning that my job does not involve more nefarious work-at-home schemes, they subsequently conjure images of me sitting in front of my computer in a quiet, well-organized corner of my expansive kitchen, my sleepy face softly lit by the gentle glow of the computer’s monitor, glasses still on, hair in a messy ponytail atop my pretty little head, in my jammies and fuzzy slippers.  Let me take it a step further and paint for you the picture of what others undoubtedly think makes up the collage of my day:  I’m blithely sipping steaming coffee from a larger than normal-sized mug, in the background you can just about hear the tinkling laughter of Samantha Guthrie and Matt Lauer, and if these people hadn’t yet noticed that my sell-by date has come and gone, you’d see a couple of cute-as-a-bug’s-ear frolicking toddlers playing joyfully but oh so quietly on the spotless, wide-planked kitchen floor.

Well hells bells, who wouldn’t want to work from home?

The reality, though, is quite different.  Allow me to shed some softly glowing light on the typical day of the stay-at-home-work-from-home worker.

  1. It must be nice to work in your jammies!

Well, now, that depends.  I’m one of those people who usually fall into bed wearing the exact same thing I wore all day—leggings or yoga pants, a t-shirt or a sweatshirt, and socks if my toes are cold.  Kinda like what most gals my age sleep in anyway, so if you feel better calling my ’round the clock ensemble ‘jammies’, knock yourself out.

  1. You can work whenever you want!

Yes and no.  Yes, if I want to get up early and get a start on the day’s tasks; no if I’m expected to be present at a meeting via the various means of technological magic available for getting people from different zip codes together for a meeting.

As an aside, these technological tools that allow meetings to take place remotely are not all they’re cracked up to be.  For one, it’s often hard to hear the other people speaking, so to move things along, you have to either pay attention really, really well, or pretend you can hear everyone.  For another (and this can be most troublesome for someone like me who is always thinking that people are making fun of me behind my back), people can make fun of you behind your back!  They can roll their eyes, give you the finger, give you the finger with both hands, make crude gestures like a wild pack of eighth grade boys, or even write notes to each other about you while you’re in sitting at your kitchen table in another state, unaware of the mirthfulness at your expense.  When they laugh, you think they’re not laughing at what you or someone else said, they’re laughing at you—at your stupid question, at your stupid idea, or at the stupid but stunning likeness that someone drew of you in your jammies and fuzzy slippers.  While it is true that none of my coworkers would deign to commit such sophomoric antics, I’m just saying that it could happen, especially if one has failed to establish an easy-going, fun-loving rapport with his or her teammates, like I have.  Right, guys?  Right?

     3.   You don’t have to put up with the office politics!

This is only true if you never spend any time in your office. But I do—I travel once a month to my office in another state and I’m there for a whole week.  Now, for me, it’s a nice change from the usual kitchen-chair-kitchen-table office I have at home.  Furthermore, I really like my co-workers, I love the company I work for, and my week in the office is made even more pleasant by the company’s generosity with regard to my lodging and meals.  I really don’t know if my company has its share of office politics; however, if they do, I’m not privy to any inside information.  I don’t know what I don’t know.  You see, at first, I felt like a visitor in the office, like, “What’s she doing here?  What does she do?”  Once I had been there a while, it was like, “What’s she doing here again?  And what is it that she does?”  I solved that problem by starting the practice of treating the entire office to doughnuts on the final day of my monthly sojourn.  That shut ‘em up.  Now it’s, “Oh, Kelly’s here!  Doughnuts on Friday!”

  1. Isn’t it nice that you can stay home with your kids?working at home

Now, I haven’t personally experienced this one, because my kids are almost grown, but if anyone ever says this to you—all you young mothers and fathers out there with young children—the correct response is, “Are you flippin’ kidding me?”  Look, I have two Labrador retrievers, and I still find it difficult sometimes to juggle the demands of my job and the demands of two poorly trained and rabbit-motivated canines.  I cannot fathom doing what I do here at my kitchen-table-desk cum workspace with even one child at home who requires my attention.  Young mothers:  If you are considering a career that allows you to work from home and take care of your children at the same time, you are a victim of incorrect thinking and modern-day “I can have it all!” -ishness.  Unless you can put them in a dog crate, throw them a bone now and then, and walk them up and down the street during your lunch break, it truly is not a good idea to work at home with a child, or even worse, children afoot.  Hire a nanny, a mother’s helper, or just resign yourself to working at night while they’re sleeping because ain’t nothing gonna get done that’s worth anything if you’re trying to earn a living and take care of a child at the same time.

  1. Isn’t it hard to stay on task?

No.  It’s a job, and I take it very seriously.  I operate as if there are hidden cameras all over my house that follow my every move between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM.  If I need to go out or run an errand, I let someone in the office know or I make sure I that respond to every email via phone during any unexpected absences.  Additionally, I’m given certain tasks that require completion by a deadline.  That makes the whole work-at-home experience very real.

Okay, so that’s my experience.  And because it would be mean of me to leave you empty-handed, here’s a slice of advice for those of you embarking on a stay-at-home career:

  1. Get up every morning and get ready for work, just as you would if you were going into the office. Okay, you can skip the pantyhose and hurty heels, but shower, dress, put on makeup, shave, do both (I’m not judging), do your hair, and arrive at your workstation at the same time that your colleagues are entering the office.
  2. Eliminate distractions. As much as you’ve been dying to see that rerun of Dr. Phil where the aged cougar can’t understand why her boyfriend is still texting from Nigeria asking her for another $20K, turn off the TV.  Do the people in your office watch Dr. Phil during work hours?  And stay off Facebook.  Reposting that cat video at 10:33 AM on a Tuesday morning doesn’t reflect well on your work ethic.
  3. When someone calls to chat, tell them politely that you are working and that you will call them back after 5 PM, but at least answer the phone so they won’t think you’re dead. If you’re too spineless to tell it like it is, lie and say that you’re getting ready for a meeting, in a meeting, or meeting a deadline.  They’ll get the message.
  4. Form familial bonds with other work-from-home employees from your company. Often, pesky, problematic technological issues arise and you can’t access your VPN.  Chatting with another remote worker can confirm or refute whether the problem is with you or the company’s network.  I speak from experience (so I can tell you that most of the time the problem is with me).  Wouldn’t you rather have your sister-in-remoteness making fun of you for not knowing how to work around the VPN than your manager?
  5. Be available. Answer every email immediately, even if you have to postpone the actual task the sender is asking of you and simply reply, “Got it.”  Sync your phone with your work email so you can travel to another room in your house and not miss a beat.  (I would advise, however, from making or answering any phone calls while on the potty.)  Yes, I realize that not even your coworkers in the office do this (respond to emails in a timely manner, not take or make phone calls while sitting on the john), but it is important to instill confidence in your management that you are always available even though you might be 306.5 miles from the office.  And pooping.

Don’t believe me? Just read.

 

2014-03-23 09_08_22-Amazon.com_ The Gym Show eBook_ Kelly Springer_ Kindle Store - Internet Explorer

People I meet or even folks I haven’t seen or talked to in a while often respond skeptically when I tell them I’ve written a novel.  Their response is usually along the lines of, “Oh, well, isn’t that nice,” especially if I tell them that my novel is self-published.  Before writing and publishing The Gym Show, that would most likely have been my reaction, too.  There’s some real–how shall I put it–ill-crafted prose out there in the world of self-publishing.  When you can purchase a self-published tome about dinosaur porn, is it any wonder self-published books get a bad rap?

But that isn’t the case here.  Just because a novel is self-published does not mean that it’s not of the same caliber as a novel that is published by a traditional publishing outfit located somewhere behind the impressive but elusive edifice of a Manhattan skyscraper (a method of publishing, by the way, that is fast becoming obsolete).

The bottom line is this:  If I didn’t think that The Gym Show was a compelling read, I wouldn’t expect anyone to purchase or download it.  But I do believe it’s a compelling read.  And so do the following readers, who posted their reviews of The Gym Show on Amazon and on Goodreads.  Don’t believe me?  Just read.

Reader Reviews of The Gym Show
(click on each image to enlarge the review)

 

Giovanna Mandel Laura Baer Laura Flowers Renaye Parsey Dr. Pritchett Andrea via Goodreads Charlotte via Goodreads William Nist via Goodreads

And if you have read The Gym Show and want to comment, please do!

One Man’s Trash: Doing My Part to Save the Planet

This week, in addition to trolling The Drudge Report to make sure that the anti-Christ still hasn’t made an appearance, I scored some amazing household items–thanks to one family’s need to purge and move.  Or move and purge.  Kinda like a chicken-egg thing.

Now, some may say that scavenging through another family’s discard pile is tantamount to picking through your neighbor’s garbage, but I disagree.  To me, it’s my way of keeping this planet safe from the rising mounds of trash in our nation’s landfills, albeit in a small way.  It’s also my way of filling my home with things that someone else had taken the time to research, order, purchase, unwrap, read the complicated user manual (in seven distinct languages) in order to assemble, successfully assemble, and install.  Culling through someone else’s leftovers saves me all that heartache.  You see, in this house (unless copious amounts of alcohol are involved), assembling a complicated purchase usually results in those attempting to assemble said purchase to angrily stomp away from the wreckage and to their respective computers to Google ‘divorce attorneys’.

See?  I’m also doing my part to keep the divorce rate down.  I call that a win.

It helps if you know the people from whom you are scavenging.  In my case, I did, so I trusted their combined wisdom to have made thoughtful decisions when purchasing the items they once couldn’t live without that now adorn my own home. The fact that their now empty house was once tastefully appointed is a bonus.

When I go through my house and count the number of items within that have once been owned by other people, I am pleased to note that the number is higher than the number representing items I purchased directly from a vendor, like a furniture store, or Macy’s.  That I may know the original owner makes the counting even more fun, as in, “Those wicker chairs once belonged to Marla,” or “See that end table?  It’s Duncan Phyfe, and it once graced the governors’ mansion.”

Okay, I made up that last one, but you get my point.

However, I maintain that there are some items that I refuse to buy secondhand.  Like shoes.  Ew.  Shoes, over time, conform to the wearer’s feet, and often you can look at a pair of shoes and identify to whom they belong just by the worn out shape of the shoe.  And they’re stinky.  So there’s that.

Have you ever seen underwear at a garage sale?  As in someone else’s underwear for sale?  Are you kidding me?   I don’t know about you, but when I decide to retire an undergarment, it goes in the trash.  I don’t care if that bra and knickers are from Agent Provocateur, uh-huh.

Well, unless the tags are still on them.

My point is this:  None of us should be so proud that we turn up our noses at the thought of procuring household items from a garage sale, an estate sale, a moving sale, or any other kind of sale that isn’t located in a mall or on Amazon.  If you are, but you still like nice things, then don’t tick off the names of the previous owners of your precious plunder when you have guests over.  But be smart about it.

“See my dining room table and chairs?  That’s Duncan Phyfe.  It’s been in my family for generations.”  Fine.  Now you sound like a snob, and it still belonged to someone else.  Or, “Of course, that Aubusson carpet was dreadfully expensive, but we just had to have it,” and you drive a Dodge Neon.

Get my point?