Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Round of Words in 80 Days

Hello internet!

I just tried to come here and I failed.  I got the name wrong.  The name OF MY OWN BLOG.  What do you think it means?

I'm here today because I've joined aa very cool writing challenge started by a writer friend named Kait Nolan. It's called A Round of Words in 80 Days.  Basically, one states a clear and measurable daily or weekly goal, and the challenge to meet that goal runs 80 days.  I have a novel half written, and I've been noticing lately that it does not finish itself. 

So my goal, clearly stated, is this:
I will commit half an hour every single day to writing.  Less specifically, I plan to have my first draft finished by the end of the challenge, since I need less than 30K words.

Monday, March 29, 2010

In pursuit of checkmarks

I have not been blogging, have I? 

I've been doing a new thing.  Every morning I make a list - in pen, in a journal - of things I need to do.  Every item gets a priority A, B, or C.  I start with the As, and when I finish one thing, I consult the list, and look!  Another thing. 

It's amazing how this keeps me on the straight and narrow, and how much happy I get from being able to make a check mark next to something like Plan birthday party for Pebbles, or Call your mother.  That said, I have not written Post chitchat on your blog, until today.  Today, I actually did that.


So, I hope you are all well.  I am, even if it means I'm not exactly caught up on my reading.  I guess I'll have to put that in my list for another day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dear internet:

Stop calling me, I am trying to work.

I have stuff to do, I need to focus!  Just leave me alone goddammit!

Monday, March 15, 2010

They get younger every year

I just had a perfectly coherent conversation about molex power splitters, P4 connectors and secondary exhaust fans with a very short customer who had his boots on the wrong feet.

He had his piggy bank under his arm. It contained $4.96.

Thank heavens that is exactly how much you need to buy an IDE ribbon cable and a 90mm fan.

Friday, March 12, 2010


It occurs to me this afternoon that I am waiting.

I do my work stuff, waiting for my work day to be over so I can go home.

I wait for the evening to be over so the kids will go to bed and I can relax and watch TV.

I wait for the TV show or movie to be over so I can go to bed.

I wait to fall asleep so I can get up and go to work.

Gawd, how depressing is THAT? I didn't even notice I was doing it, but there it is. I suspect that I'm not particularly looking forward to anything in the near future, and I'm becoming a very dreary person.

I guess early March is a good time to screw up your mojo, pull yourself together and remember to take part. Ready, set, GO!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Gah, the sequel

Things remain tricksy this week. We had to call our lawyer about that woman who threatened me, because she's now going around saying that I threatened her. Whatever, I have witnesses. People who know me think this is very funny. I don't.

I'm now three weeks away from my projected end date for A Hand To Hold. I will have the whole thing penciled in by then, I expect. If not, it still goes in the drawer for a while. Then what?

I've been working exclusively on AHTH for over a year now. I have a few ideas for new stories to choose from, but first I'm planning to reread The Witch of Badenock. I want to apply what I've learned in the past year and a half to that story - specifically now that I've assassinated my inner critic and replaced her with a cheering squad comprised of my muse, my dreams and my inner child - all on large doses of caffeine. I still love that story, and now I just might not be afraid to tell it.

Actually, I'm kind of excited.

Sunday was beautiful - sunny and plus 6. We went outside and washed the car, and soaked up some much-needed rays for vitamin D. Of course that means that now the Beloved are all sick with one thing or another, so I'm planning an early escape today. Cross your fingers for me that it works out! We're having chili with jalapeno corn bread and fresh cold milk for supper. Mmmm!

Hope you're all well and happy. Take Care.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How are things, you ask?

This week has been a bit of a drain and a strain, and the writing suffered for it. 

I refused to give a refund to someone - to make a long story short she simply wasn't entitled to one.  She told me I didn't know how to run a business.  She said I should get a degree.  She said I would be very, very sorry.  She told me I was mental, and childish.  She called me - ready for this? - she called me a skank!  And then she went outside to her car, got an empty coffee cup, and threw it at our door. 

A family member is angry at me because of a decision I made.  I am sad, but I am not changing my mind.

Little Boy has his first detention today.  Apparently, his best friend slammed a door on his fingers, and so he punched his friend in the stomach, and knocked him into a wall where he bumped his head.  It's interesting to note that the Vice Principal, on calling my husband, was audibly relieved to find that we supported her decision to punish the little Berserker, and indeed said Little Berserker is finding that there really are a lot of nasty chores that need doing around the house and yard this week.  I'm grateful that his BF's mom says, never mind, they're boys, these things happen sometimes.  And the BF has already pretty much forgotten the whole thing.

And unrelated to all this, I said something stupid and insensitive and I feel rotten about it.

So this morning, I said Cindy you need to write.  So I got myself out of bed, and made some coffee, and laid my fingertips on the keys.  That's when Pebbles woke up.  She would not go back to sleep.  Then Little Boy came in and spilled my whole entire cup of coffee on the carpet.  That's when I taught my children an important life skill:  How to say SHIT.  And hell, it was going to happen sometime.  Why not today? 

So I'm just going to wander off and answer the voicemail now.  I have two beta reads going, I hope today I'll finish my comments on one and read my way into the middle of the other.  I'm going to listen to Joshua Radin, especially this one:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Family Circus

My wonderful husband and I have been keeping an eye on BamBam lately - he's got that droopy, bleary, glassy-eyed look we've come to associate with a bout of something unpleasant and possibly messy.  We've even cut his some slack in the Manners and Patience department.

But that's over now.

I caught him playing with his iPod at 3 effing 30 this morning.  Of course, I asked him a round of questions like What the hell? and How often do you do this?  and then I took the iPod away.

So, anyone want to buy a well-used  iPod?  (Just kidding, I wouldn't do that.)

How about a dumb-ass 8 year old boy?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Come here, and let me rock you

At my uncle's wake, Mrs. Potter reached out to touch a photograph of my grandmother. I saw her do it, waiting as I was among the dim light and flower arrangements for my turn to see the collection. My mother saw it too, and we looked away from one another, swallowing against the tightening of our throats.  The affection in that gesture was so plain to see, and so much like our own.  That's just the kind of woman Nanny was.

We really miss her.

She forever had her hand up the back of our shirts, rubbing our backs.  At the mall, she spoke to anyone nearby, and if they were cold to her she would wink at me.  She liked the challenge, she said, and usually she could bring people out.  She never let you leave her house without giving you some small treat, I never heard her criticize anyone, and she sang songs from the 1920s.  Come here and let me rock you, she said, and we would clamber into her chair with her and lay our heads.

Won't come over to my house?
Won't you come over and play?
I've lots of nice playthings, a dolly or two,
I live in a house 'cross the lane.
I'll give you candy and nice things,
I'll put your hair in a curl,
Just say you'll come over to my house,
And be my sweet little girl.

I visited her in her apartment when she was dying.  We both knew it, but we never said.  I remember I'd been to the dentist and had half my face frozen.  I felt awful, and she must have too.  She fed me tinned chicken soup, and we took a nap - me stretched out on her sofa, she in her chair.  When we woke up and it was time for me to be going, she said Come here, and let me rock you.

And I did.  I was twenty-one years old.  I didn't fit in that chair at all any more, so I perched my butt on the edge and I laid my head on her familiar shoulder.  Looking back now, I see myself as I was then - finishing a rough time in my life, just beginning to heal, just beginning to grow up, and I am grateful for the gift of her and her unwavering, unconditional love.  I'm so grateful for that last rock in her chair.

I thought of Nanny this morning as I was getting my daughter ready for preschool.  Pebbles wanted to wear a dress, and she complained about the tights quite a bit but she decided to wear them anyway.  She let me comb her hair and even put an elastic in it!  I sat on a rubbermaid stool, thinking little thoughts, just enjoying the sight of her.  How tall she's getting, even if she hasn't gained a single pound in eight or nine months.  I watched her wash her own face, and I felt so blessed.  I said, Come here and let me rock you.

* * *

At preschool I saw a plaque that said:

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was,
the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove...but the world may be different
because I was important in the life of a child.” - Forest E. Witcraft

Yes, I thought to myself, that's exactly what I've been thinking.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm doing it!

Got up a little earlier again today, and got something like 550 words before my littlest woke up and it was time to make muffins, get Sr. Stinkyfeet off the Wii, fed and ready for school.  I want to say to you other writers, as the wise and wonderful Vicki Pettersson once said to me: it gets easier.  You get used to it.  I wish I'd listened to her then, but I think I felt very overwhelmed at that point, and it wasn't my time. 

Now, though, I feel like it IS my time.  The kids are bigger, I can read a book after supper if I want - crazy, innit?  I can sit on the couch with a book in my hand and the children don't clamour into my lap and strangle me with their needs.  They go off together to play, learn and curse each other's eyes.  I feel a little lost, actually.  My shares have fallen in that house, and I don't quite know how to feel about that.  Sad?  Free? 

Both.  The sad is not so much use to me, but the free I'm liking.  Much better for the word count!

Anyhew.  Today is quiet, sort of, and I'm toying with the idea of trying to slip into POV and getting a new scene on to the back burner.  I really OUGHT to change the website around, though.  It's hopelessly outdated, and I've very tired of explaining that to people.  I SHOULD to reconcile my Visa.  The inner battle of good versus...better.  I let you know how it comes out...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Too true...

A customer just said this fabulous thing to me:

"I've got Windows problems, which is a lot like having Women's problems.  It covers just about everything, and nobody wants to talk to me about it!"

Books, Snow, and a Good Life

On Saturday after work, the Beloved and I went to Chapters to use the gift certificates we've been saving up from Christmas and birthdays.  What fun!  I picked up Vicki Pettersson's 4th, City of Souls, Rachel Vincent's 4th in the Shifter series, Prey (which is not in yet, actually) and a hardcover by Sarah Waters called The Little Stranger.  The kids got some books too of course, including Phoebe Gilman's Something From Nothing, which I adore.

Sunday was then spent in our warm yellow living room amongst tilty stacks of fresh books, playing and reading while tufts of fluffy snow drifted past the windows.  We ate bacon, drank hot chocolate, and it was a Good Day.

I wrote a little - have been writing a little - every day on an as-can basis.  A few hundred words here and there.  My focus right now not focus so much.  To just let the story fall out through my fingertips onto the screen, gently, quietly, and without waking the internal editor.  (She's such a bitch, I don't know why we can't fire her.  But management says we'll need her during rewrites. *sigh*)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Today I got up early again to write, and managed 700 words or so in that one precious hour before the rat race begins.  I'm still marveling at how that small effort to fit myself into my own life changes the way I feel.

I'm thoughtful today.  The music is off and the customers are (so far) leaving me alone.  I'm enjoying the feeling, because it's rarely this peaceful here and I have many things I can get done today.  And I might even bail out early, go home and make supper for the Beloved.

I have a favour to ask, though, before I get to work.  I'm brainstorming ghostly manifestations, and I want these scenes to be really chilling and spooky.  Does anyone have a ghost story to share?  You can email me if it's private.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pleasure Centres and the Fine Art of Wasting Time

Yesterday I got up early to write.  I've made a deal with myself that if I'm up by 6, I can have cream in my coffee instead of milk.  That's been doing the trick, but I've noticed something else. 

I felt great.  I felt like my life was great.  I felt happy, and capable.  I felt like I do when I get off the elliptical trainer - a little high.  Endorphins, baby.

And that got me thinking about the brain and pleasure centers, and the ways we push that button to get the little dose of happy, just like a rat in a little maze.  All day, I noticed the things I was doing to press that Happy Button, and I solved a mystery.  I really want to share it with you.

Every day I clear the cache in my internet browser, irritated at the sheer number of websites I've been to.  Many of them are not work-related (you know who you are!) and therefore I know they are detracting from my productivity, which is ultimately contributing to the level of stress I feel.  I don't just mean the few minutes I take for my lunch, it's more than that.  So why am I drawn back to them?  Why do I feel such a need to connect with friends and other writers, even to the point of checking the same blog more than once a day?  Why do I have that stupid habit? 

Because it's a Happy Button!  Because I'm here at my desk, probably annoyed, or bored, or worried.  I want to feel better.  I want a fix.  I want to press my Happy Button - so I click a link.  Just one.  And one more.  (I can stop any time I want to!) 

And before I know it, I've wasted maybe ten minutes.  Maybe more.  And I do this any number of times during the day.  And I know I was not as effective, efficient, and productive as I could have been, and I end up feeling unhappy about that.

So I eat chocolate. Another Happy Button!  Yay!  Like the little rat in the lab, I go for these artificial doses of "It's all right" and "Life is good."  And now that I see it I feel so stupid.  It seems so obvious now.  Am I the only one here?  Do you have these things too?

Today, I woke *before* the alarm went off at 6.  My coffee was made, my computer was on, and I was clacketing away at new words (850!) before the kids were up and we all had to get ready.  I am happy, and I think I'm on to something here - a more authentic happy.  A more productive, effective happy.  And if writing can give me that, I'm in!

Knowing this, I'm most of the way to beating it.  I'm not pretending I won't browse my favourite hangouts while I'm eating lunch, but I won't mistake artificial amusements for real occasions to feel good.  Recognizing what I'm doing when I'm lost and rattling around, I'm ready to change that.  It's a simple formula, after all.  Productivity -> Accomplishment -> Happiness. 

So keep an eye on your happy buttons too.  They're sneaky!

Monday, January 25, 2010

More fun with customers

On Saturday Blonde Co-worker, my sister and I were quietly plugging away at our various duties here at work: filing, researching, cleaning, labelling - that sort of chilly January Saturday stuff.  The phone rang, and my co-worker answered it.  The following conversation is verbatim.  Really, I swear.

"Good Afternoon, Itsy Bitsy Computers."
"Hello?  I can't find your door."
"We're at XYZ...oh, are you in the parking lot?"
"Yes, I can't find the door."
"Straight ahead.  Just walk straight ahead.  See me in the window?  I'm waving at you...."

My sister and I are looking now too, out the large retail window at the front of the store.  There is a neon sign that reads OPEN, and it's right next to, you know, the door

The woman is standing in a parking spot just about 12 feet from said door, cell phone to her ear.  "I just don't see..."
"Look up."
I swear, she looked up.  At the sky.
"Never mind," said my darling employee. "I'm coming to get you."  She stepped forward five paces, and opened the door.
"Oh!"  says the woman. 

You know what else?  She was here on Tuesday.  As in, four days previous. 

Poor thing, now that's a bad day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's that 5%...

I've heard it said that it will be 5% of your clientele that takes up 95% of your time and energy, and after 15 years running a computer shop, I can tell youthat's true.

We have a wide customer base, a lot of customers have been coming here for years and have long since quit nickling and diming and shopping around.  They know that my prices aren't usually the lowest but they are reasonable, and the quality of our work and our customer service makes up for it.  These people come, we do the work, they pay, they go.  These people are not in the 5%.

Yesterday, I got a call.

"Hi, Cindy?  It's Eddie, remember me?"
"Eddie Benedict."  (Not his real name, obviously)
"I know the name....?"  I have already, by this time, looked for him in my Quickbooks customer list, which dates to 2004.  I do know his name, but he is not there.  So he hasn't been in for more than 5 years.
"Yeah, well, I used to buy, like, everything there." 
"Right.  So, can I help you?"
"I need a 160 Gb IDE laptop drive. 
"Those are in stock at $89.00."
"$89? Really?  Another place has them for $77.00."
"Mmmhmm?"  Meaning: So? Go there, if it matters to you.
"Oh, well.  Is there any charge to install it?"
"Yes, the technician will probably just ask for a $15.00 service fee."
(Laughs)   "$15.00 for a few minutes' work.  That's pretty good pay!"

I'm silent, because I really don't need this.  I have other things to do, I just want him to go away now.  We do say thank you, goodbye, but then HE SHOWS UP IN MY STORE.

Blonde co-worker meets him at the counter.  "Hello, may I help you?"
"Cindy knows what I want."
"Sorry, Cindy is busy with paperwork right now.  What do you need?"
I am busy with paperwork, a tax remittance that is nearly a week late.  It is not done because I keep getting interrupted.  He grudgingly tells her what he wants, and asks if the technician will install it, and is there a fee for that?

Now, I'm listening.

Co-worker says yes, there's a $15 service charge.  Eddie asks to talk to me.  We begin with polite greetings, and then he says, "Cindy, I don't understand why there's this charge.  I used to have things like this done here all the time.  You didn't charge me then.  It's a very small job to do."
"And it's a very small fee to ask."
He looks blank, so I decide to take a minute and help him understand where I'm coming from.
"Eddie, the industry has changed a lot.  You might have noticed there aren't so many stores any more?  Costs are up, and the profit margins are down, so we need to charge these fees now if we're going to continue to be here."
"Well," he says, "that has nothing to do with me."
Wow.  Nice.
He's upset now, because he really expected me to give in.  "Well, you've lost me.  You lost me when you started to insult me."
I looked at co-worker, and she shrugged.  "I don't remember saying anything insulting."
"Well, I could have gone somewhere else, but I came here out of loyalty to you." 
"Eddie, we haven't seen you in quite a few years."
Huff, bluster.  "Well no, but I've been recommending you."
"Well, thanks."  Does he recommend me because I do good work, or because I do FREE work?  Let's watch and see....
"Well, that's done then.  I don't know what to say to you, Cindy."
"I don't know what to say to you either, Eddie."

And that, unfortunately, is the attitude of a lot of people in business these days.  There is little or no emphasis on loyalty or good working relationships with customers - UNLESS the customer wants to try and use it as a lever to get better prices or free service.  THEN, we find ourselves talking about loyalty.

DH and I discussed it at supper.  It's sad to say, when we built our business on service and antiquated notions like the Good Faith principle.  The fact is, return customer or no, these days we have to make sure we're getting paid for the job at hand, because even the repeat people often show up with a Dell they bought at Future Shop.  The notion of loyalty exists, but it is not a working system any more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More thoughts on balance

I left the preschool this morning thinking Uncharitable Thoughts.  I try not to do that, but sometimes there they are.  I try to remember that I am so very blessed, but sometimes I know that and I don't care.  Just for a minute.

It's those women.  I see them all the time.  They know each other, and so they've dropped off their kids and they're standing in the parking lot talking about going to the movies or having lunch, and as I walk past them they smile politely and I smile politely and I hate them.  Just a little.  Just for a minute. 

And you know, it's not because they go to the movies, or out for lunch.  I don't care about those things.  It's because they have time to stand around and talk, and they can plan their own day to include the things they want to do.  It's a kind of freedom. 

So I'm driving down my street trying not to put my car in the ditch while I'm hooking up my phone to the thingy, and I'm stewing because I want that.  That time.  That freedom.  And if I had that I would do such important things.  I would tickle my children.  I would smell their necks in that secret place where they still smell like babies.  I would write my story.  I would bake cinnamon buns and promise to use the elliptical trainer tomorrow. 

But poor me, I work.  I'm a grown up and I have to help pay the bills. 

And that's why most of the time I don't mind.  Most days I can remember why I do this and why it's not so bad.  I have a world class husband who works day and night to make my life so good.  I'm not a single parent working two jobs with nobody to help me.  I am not kidding when I say I have it good.  So it takes me by surprise when I feel this surge of resentment, when suddenly I'm ten years old and I want to know why I can't have the same thing those women have. 

Sometimes I write these posts and I erase them, because I come to a point when I see so clearly how trifling and self-pitying and ungrateful it all is.  Today, I won't erase it.

Today, I think I'll have a look at those feelings and be reminded that I have to be vigilant.  It's easy to let life go by, swept along by the needs of your family and your job.  It's important to fill all these roles in your life until they overflow with all the joy and goodness that you can bring.  But it's also important to follow your dreams, even when it means setting a boundary or two of your own. Those feelings aren't for nothing.  They're telling me to keep trying.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's Be A Jerk Day!

Apparently, it's Be A Jerk Day.  I had no idea, or I would have been all over this thing.

Like when Buddy emailed to say that the RAM he bought from me a year ago is not compatible with his mainboard, and I should have known that and I am the cause of all his troubles in the whole wide world ever since?  I would have pointed out in plainer language that first, I didn't sell him the computer, second, I've never seen the computer, and third, that's bullshit.

And when that other guy left me three messages about needing a laptop hard drive, and I had to listen to them ALL, and then he made a point of saying to me that he could get it cheaper elsewhere, I would have said "Thank you, Mr. Unnecessarily Rude, you do that."  (Because that is what I sound like when I'm being a jerk.  I'm Canadian.)

And when the new girl at the convenience store charged me $2.00 for the stale muffin, I would have told her to keep it and walked out of the store instead of being Nice and just paying the money and eating the damn muffin.

I would wear a shirt that said "DO I LOOK LIKE FREAKING GOOGLE?  DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!"

And when that little man took a whole hour picking out parts for his new computer, and I really needed to pee and eat lunch, and he was telling me about how he bought a house in PEI and his wife lived in it and he commuted from a different province for three years and then when he finally retired she GOT CANCER AND DIED, I would have said, "Ahem, will that be Visa or Mastercard?"


Actually, I'm glad I'm not a jerk. 

And the muffin wasn't so bad after I dunked it in my coffee.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gearing up, Grinding down

I find the first few minutes in my chair will often reveal the sort of day I'm about to have.  If the customers are well-behaved in the first half-hour, they'll generally remain so for the day.  Today is looking good, so I'm hoping to write 500 words in between my other responsibilities.  My goal for the month is 5K, and that's a stretch given my habits lately. 

In case you didn't hear me say it OUT LOUD, I'm finishing this draft by March 31st.  So feel free to lob me a right hook if you see me slacking and making excuses for myself!  (Dani, you especially.  Nobody can tell folks off like you.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I'm Back, Baby

Yesterday, a dear friend sent me a picture of an angel with this message:

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says, "OH CRAP, SHE'S UP"!

I laughed, and it made me feel good.  And this morning on the way in to work, I was thinking about how I feel so much more energetic this week, more capable, more effective.  Of course this message came to my mind, and I thought: That's right Baby.  I am an agent of good things in life.  I am making it happen. 

Maybe I was a little drunk on coffee, you think?  Yeah, I think.

So, I hope you've found your mojo.  I hope you're making it happen for yourself and the people around you.  I hope you have someone who is making it happen for you.  Have a great day!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Happy Freaking New Year

I should be working.

Ideally, I should be working my ass off.

Actually, I am presently on the phone informing a client that when he installed his RAM he bent pins in the socket and now it's fried. But in my heart, I am not working today.

I just am not feeling this place today, I want to write. I want to read. I want to bake. I want to sit in the rocking chair with my daughter. I want to lay on the carpet and play battleship with my son. I want to have a beer and play Wii with my husband. I do not want to calculate and reconcile the actual value of my inventory. I do not want to calculate and remit the electronic handling fees from December, or the effing HST, for that matter. I don't want to prepare any of these various files for my year end.

But even if I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to do any of those things. It's the blessed people. Coming in. Calling. Emailing. And always with the ever loving questions.

I could take the time right now to tell you how lucky I am, how beautiful Christmas and my baby brother's wedding was, but I'm not in the mood. So go ahead and assume all that, okay? I'm going to stomp away in a snit now and that's how it's going to be.

So there.