Now That’s Scary

Fingers poised above the keys, staring, waiting for some mystical motion as if summoning spirits with a Ouija Board, thoughts pierce my temple. Should it be first person? Should I tell the gruesome tale of the young woman who got away with murder and half a million dollars? Maybe from the point of view of the man who keeps her dark secret for a price? Would readers prefer a story with riotous misadventures, a surprise ending, desperation that turns deadly?

What do I do now? Outline the plot, develop the characters (not too many), tame that internal dialog and churn it out to give them a voice! Google it. No wait! Don’t. What is the goal? What is the end game? What hasn’t already been said by writers through the ages; ones with talent…and agents?

On the first part of the journey I was looking at all the life, there were plants and birds and rocks and things…

What? Lyrics to America’s “A Horse With No Name,” where did that come from? If that’s all I’ve got, it’s best to call it quits on this whole writing journey and dust off my resume. Let’s see how would that go? For the past five years I’ve done what exactly? Okay, enough of that! Today is pep talk day. So, why am I trying to talk myself out of doing this? The self-talk is an everyday challenge for me. Most days it takes more than guts to stand up to myself and admit that I can’t always do it alone. That’s why instead of winging it, relying on my wits and a tattered Funk and Wagnalls to crank out 50,000 words that someone might actually want to read, I’ve decided to go against my nature and become a joiner.


That’s right, a joiner: One who willingly links to organized collectives to obtain acceptance, appreciation, peer pressure support. (NOT the Merriam Webster definition.)

National Novel Writing Month begins tomorrow. Even though I have that still untitled book in the hopper, I’ve decided to delay the excruciating editing and relentless re-write process, of what no doubt will turn out to be a best seller, to participate in the wild raucous that promises to be just the thing to give my confidence and creativity the boost it needs OR the frantic fiasco that finally lands me in the funny farm.

Here’s a little something for the trip:

Now you know. Wish me luck. Hopefully when the month is over I won’t look like this:

“The bridge is out. You’ll have to spend 30 days!”

Disaster Relief

When the flood water recedes, and it will, there will be much work to be done. Recovery efforts require everyone working together to complete the important tasks of clearing debris, assessing damage and getting lives back to normal. How we handle crisis, help our neighbors, encourage each other – these are our strengths. Hundreds of volunteers are  providing comfort and care to those affected by the storm in shelters prepared to assist anyone displaced from their home by Hurricane Sandy.

To locate loved ones in the path of Hurricane Sandy who have registered they are SAFE and WELL visit here:

To find a Red Cross Shelter visit here:

To donate to the American Red Cross visit here:

To stay updated on what’s happening with the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Efforts visit here:

It may be darkest before the dawn, but dawn’s early light is our finest hour. 

‘Tis The Season For Things That Go Bump In The Night

By this time each year, holiday decorating is already in full swing around here. Even before Halloween, large Christmas ornaments are placed in medians near the convention hotel that hosts the whatever Disney character is popular at the moment, something-or-other on ice. Store window displays on Main Street showcase the dead with signs that read Happy Halloween, pilgrims proclaiming Happy Thanksgiving and Santa’s helpers making merry for Christmas with all the trappings trimmings. Why not just throw in some candy hearts and get a head start on Valentine’s Day?

Hey! Add some green beer and make it a real party!

We have more over-developed empty space than a Mr. Universe convention and still more bull dozing going on all around us to make way for yet another Ross Dress for Less/World Market/Massage Envy/Payday Loan complex. The mall near where I live sits all but vacant during the week. Of course, it is absolutely packed on tax-free weekend, and once holiday shopping kicks into high gear there will be more hang tags ripped off merchandise from Forever 21, more ticket stubs and BiG Thirsty cups from the AMC Theater, more Whataburger bags, and more flyers with coupons for Lego Land blowing down the hill, landing in the hedges along my street. Why we need more retail space to sell the same crap as stores less than 10 miles away in any direction is beyond me.

Whatever the reason for the current surge of “development” it is increasing a problem that is being overlooked by everyone; everyone except me that is. RATS. We already had rat issues in the area. Bait boxes are located all around the mall, and still, rats scurry right passed the tormented shrubbery between the building and parking lot in broad daylight. Someone forgot to contract a pied piper to take care of all the rats that live in harmony with the snakes an armadillos in the wooded areas now being dozed and scraped to make way for new luxury shopping ‘designed with you in mind.’

I can only surmise the reason the snakes aren’t taking care of the rat problem is because the snakes around here are fat and happy.  There is no creature more vile than a rat. They spread fleas and disease. They use junk mail to create a fluffier place to have their rat sex and as the weather cools, the rat population will no doubt increase.

I can only hope they will take up residence in the new luxury retail space before spring arrives.

Maybe it’s because we hardly have time to enjoy one holiday before it’s time to merchandise for the next or maybe it’s because snakes and rats make strange bedfellows around here, but does getting into the holiday spirit seem to take more effort each year or is it just me?

Good Clean Fun

Now that our lives are digitized I sometimes miss the days of honest to goodness human interaction. Sitting around with friends, having a real conversation, listening to stories of the days when, well, when people knew how to listen. Yesterday I drove downtown to Jimmy’s Italian Food Store to purchase ingredients for the Italian feast I am preparing tomorrow night for some IRL friends. I rarely drive to Dallas, it’s a freakin’ hassle to navigate construction and all of the gas-powered cell phones on the highways these days, but being a brave woman of the 21st Century I did it, for the love of food.

OMG! It’s true if you drive a Mercedes, BMW or big ass SUV there is no one more important than you on the road. I witnessed drivers in each of those vehicles run over into someone else’s lane in front of me. Luckily the other drivers swerved out of the way and avoided a collision. When I blew past to get the hell away from their crazy asses, I noticed each time the driver was holding a damn cell phone!

How timely it was that last night I received an email from my dad with this subject line:

The day has arrived – Einstein was right. Here’s a link to what followed.

I love my friends and family. I also love my cyber pals, and so, today when I read my friend Brigitte’s post, as her posts usually make me do, I smiled and decided to join in the fun and answer the questions that had been posed to her by two other bloggers.

Brigitte always adds  worthwhile comments to the conversation here at HonieBriggs, and recently she commented on one of my posts about our trip to Italy asking, “where was the female representation?” Well, after going through more photos this morning, I finally found some.

Today’s pics are thanks to Brigitte! 😉 Here, just for fun, are my answers. Also included are links to some of my best kept secrets from the past year. Feel free to read them. Or not.

  • Would your ideal evening be spent alone or with others?
    It depends on who the “others” are.
  • Are you a Day-person or a Night Owl?
    I become a day person around noon.
  • Talk radio or music in the car?
    Sometimes music, but mostly silence. Oh, and yelling. Almost always some yelling.
  • If you were to enroll in college today, what course of study would you choose?
    Emergency Administration and Planning / Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Fiction or Non-fiction?
    Fiction is just non-fiction funded by beautiful benevolent princesses who send it on a voyage in a rainbow colored rocket ship to discover new worlds where natural resources never end and the guardians of all life are wise and handsome princes.
  • Live TV or On Demand?
    For those times when there’s absolutely nothing else to do or when I need some serious down time, nothing beats the DVR.
  • Plane, train or automobile?
    D: All of the above, I wish I had my own plane though.
  • Black or brown shoes?
    No shoes required
  • Swimming, walking or jogging?
    What! Napping isn’t a choice? GAAAAHHHHH! Then I choose walking.

  • What got you into blogging?
    As if everyone isn’t already sick of hearing this. Self-love is pretty much my major motivation for blogging. I don’t want to lose what little sanity I have left. So, I write to give the voices an outlet.
  • What have you learned about yourself through your blog?
    I might be the only person who thinks I’m funny, but there are gracious people in the world who don’t mind humoring me.
  • When you aren’t blogging what do you do?
    Sword fight or sleep. Sometimes I sword fight in my sleep.
  • If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?
  • Who is/was your greatest influence in your life?
    My father
  • Who is your favorite author?
    Rudyard Kipling
  • What music do you prefer to listen to?
    Music swirls around my head almost all of the time, sometimes even when I’m sword fighting in my sleep. It’s probably easier to say what I don’t prefer. That’s easy, country music and death metal.
  • If you could, who would you like to have cook for you?
    Julia Child
  • Imagine that you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you say?
    Oppenheimer – Dude, what the hell?
  • Are you happy?
    Happiness is subjective. I prefer to think of myself as willing to accept graciousness with gratitude and assholes with attitude. That really makes me happy!

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
― Albert Einstein

Word Count: 185,566 Words Later

Let There Be Light

Word count seems to be a hot blogging topic lately; along with rules about not writing about one’s self. Maybe these have always been hot topics and I’ve just been too self-absorbed to notice. This post isn’t about passing yourself off as grammatically challenged when the truth is you just don’t care enough about readers to properly punctuate. So, if you think I’m going to reveal my own solid gold nugget “How to Blog the Right Way,” you may want to click to a better place.

At this writing, the document that holds my blog posts contains 87,301 words. If I add the 44,505 words in Summoning the Strength and all of the comments I’ve made on other blogs, plus the words in my still untitled second book, I really should have nothing left to say. But I do.

To  grammar police, smarty pants, know-it-all well-meaning experts who post examples of their expertise such as this:

“Your blog revolves around your person. Stop talking about yourself already. I don’t know you personally, and I couldn’t care less about your ramblings. Tell me something I can use in my own life. Facts, stories, not boring personal stuff.”

I have this to say:

One day in February 2011, I received a call from my friend Donna. We did our rave/rant exchange, which had been our custom for over two decades. Husband stuff, adult child stuff, projects pending completion. I’ll let you imagine which topic fell into the rave category and which spilled over into rant. We each took a breath and then she said something that smacked me in the gut like a size sixteen steel toed boot.

“I need to ask you to do something and I want you to promise not to get upset.”

Like I had so many times, with full, yet completely unreliable, confidence that I actually had control over how “upset” I would get I replied, “Okay, what is it?”

“I want you to deliver my eulogy. You’re the best person to do it because you’ll know what to say.”

I knew what she was asking. I knew what it meant. I knew that there was no other answer but absolutely yes I would do it. I also knew that she’d want to see a draft. We talked for a little longer. I’d already planned to visit her in a couple of weeks. When I hung up the phone, I started thinking. I am an over-thinker. I made a list of every word I could think of that described this crazy friend of mine.

Then I went to see her.

She’d already been through hell and all of the wretched misery that comes with cancer for over a year. Her mother and I had taken turns staying at the hospital round the clock so that one of us would be there in case she needed anything. By this time she was exhausted, but unwilling to give in to that vile thief. We sat in her kitchen talking about some trivial something. Another doctor’s appointment, what to have for dinner, and then I told her when she was ready I had something for her to read. The next day she read it.

This is what it said.

The original Greek, eulogia, simply means good words. There are so many good words to say about Donna. I made a list from A to Z and even then there were more. The first thing that came to mind was how lucky we are that she ran such a successful Attitude Adjustment Boot Camp.  If you ever needed a reality check or just that little extra encouragement to get your act together, Donna was a great motivator.

Her generosity extended equally to friends, family, co-workers, even strangers.  It usually involved cooking or crafting of some sort and often required large quantities of cheese, her Kitchenaid stand mixer, industrial sized baking pans, a drop cloth, a trip to Hobby Lobby, Home Depot and Sam’s all before lunch.

I could always count on a phone call from Donna to include one of the following phrases: Stephanie, I’m telling you, it was the funniest damn thing I have ever seen in my whole entire life. Or Stephanie, let me tell you, it was the craziest damn thing I have ever seen in my whole, entire life.

Donna learned from the master how to tell a story better that anyone I have ever known in my whole, entire life. I loved to hear cherished memories retold in such great detail that I could feel the joy and excitement as if I had been right there with her.

Laughter was Donna’s hallmark. She laughed with us or without us, and at us, and about us. Thanks to her I will always remember not to take myself too seriously. I could always count on her to point out someone doing something stupid.  She had a zero tolerance policy for stupidity and if the person got hurt while doing something stupid, it would just make her laugh that much more.

Each time I have moved to a new place, it didn’t feel like home until Donna came to visit. She was kind. She was thoughtful. She snored like a freight train.

She was great for a road trip to the beach, to the mountains, and everywhere in between. She had exceptional knife skills. She knew the best places to eat and the quickest back roads to get there. 

Her favorites: all dogs everywhere, the color yellow, the Jockey Lot with George, Boots Randolph’s Yakety Sax, rivers, Birkenstocks 

Her beliefs: be nice to everyone, offend no one, what comes around goes around

Her values: family, friendship, hard work, swift justice, compassion

Her pride: being a mom, being a military wife, being Southern

She taught me that excellence does not require perfection. She knew the importance of going the extra mile to make others feel special. I remember apologizing once for unloading my troubles on her, as I did so many times, and with her own special brand of honesty she said, “Its okay Steph, I know you’ve never been one to suffer in silence.” Thank you Donna for making sure I didn’t have to. She is my most cherished friend, and I will miss her for the rest of my life.

It’s been a year since I made those remarks. I edited it a bit; left out the “damns” because her mother planned a lovely church service. The place was packed with people whose lives were better for having known Donna. I carry her laughter with me every day.

I’m moving on just like she’d want and I started this blog to help me through the grieving process. I wrote a book about how we gain strength from others. I’ve enjoyed the exchange with the enormous community of writers and photographers that I’ve found through this blog. I appreciate your comments, and like anyone who spends time researching and writing content of any kind, I am hooked on “likes.” Would I still write without them? Sure. I did for what seemed an eternity when I first started blogging.

It makes sense to have rules. We need them to guide us and help us become better at lots of things. I like to think I make my own rules. The truth is, I don’t as much as I bend the rules others have made as far as they’ll go. Sometimes that exposes my ignorance. Other times, it gets me just where I want to be. Right here, right now, I’m only one click away from someplace better. Thanks for reading.