If It’s April,Then It Must Be the Black Snake

Here it is April already. And the snake is back.

So basically, we’re going to be talking about snakes today. And I wanted to put it right out there for you so you’d know what was coming. Furthermore, if you do not want to see a snake, you should probably click out of this post right now. Although…

The snake tied in remarkably well with my topic over at The Muffin today and I’d hate for you to miss out on some terrific writing tips just because of a snake. But yes, there’s a snake there, too. The post is called “First, You Need a BIG Black Snake (Or How to Grab the Attention of Agents, Editors, and Readers)” so you gotta have a snake. But at least you know the snake’s there. Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good, y’all. Although…

BIG black snakes are good to have around. I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, back to my original point. Which is BIG black snakes and April. This is the snake that Libs alerted me to the other day:

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You’ll note that this snake is on a walkway of my deck. And though it doesn’t look like much at first, you’ll see that in point of fact, it is a BIG black snake, even if it’s all twisted up.

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(It was stretched out next to the house and I had to disengage it and so it responded by coiling into itself.) But the minute I saw this snake–I was walking on the deck/walkway and talking to Youngest Junior Hall who was telling me about the bear (Yeah, I said bear. What is the world coming to?) that had broken into the golf cart barn where’s he working now–I recognized the snake.

Oh, yes, friends. I knew this snake. In fact, I’d documented this snake right here on the blog. So I went back to find the post where I’d discussed this very same BIG black snake and there it was: “If It’s Wednesday, It Must Be Time to Post.

The snake had nothing to do with that post, except–and this is really what the post, “First You Need a Big Black Snake...”  is all about: every single comment on that year-ago post was about the BIG black snake.

Anyway, as I was proving, you’ll note the date of the first appearance of the snake was April 18, 2018. So clearly, this snake has a nice, comfy home somewhere under and/or around my deck and walkway. And I’ll bet you five bucks right now that in that home, possibly next to the front door, you’ll find a calendar with April circled.

After the Conference

business-conference-learning-7095Just wrapped up a conference around here–well, technically, it was St. Patrick’s weekend–but it takes a few weeks to wrap up things, right?

Or maybe that’s just me. I’m one of the behind-the-scenes people at the conference now and oh. My. Word. Lots going on behind those curtains!

Of course, all most attendees see is the smoothly flowing conference, the practically perfect workable AV system, the charming faculty and helpful volunteers. It all goes mostly like clockwork, the gears fitting together nicely to make a great conference. But it takes a lot of grease to get that job done and so I need a lot of rest after the conference to recuperate.

I’m not sure I needed almost three weeks back in the day but I’m not going to dive deep into that pondering. I’m just going to thank my lucky stars that my legs aren’t cramping anymore (and someone, please remind me not to wear new boots to a conference). I’m reading one of the books I purchased: Ranger Nader and the Sunstruck Phantom by Kam Karem, (pseudonym of friend, TK Read). Take a look here for more on this fast-paced science fiction adventure. And I’m fixin’ to deliver all the board books I purchased for all my friends with babies/grand-babies. (There are four of ’em!)

And very soon, I’ll start writing again, applying everything I learned in between running around like a chicken with my head cut off. For now, I was able to write a post at the Muffin: “What Kind of Conference Attendee Are You?” and…um…this post right here.

And I feel pretty darn good about that.

(Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels–thanks!)

The 40 Days Thing

2018-agenda-black-273011So somewhere along the line, I missed the biblical heads up about forty days.

I mean, I knew about Jesus going out into the desert for forty days to fast and I knew that Lent lasted forty days. But I did not get the memo about the floods for Noah and company lasting 40 days and 40 nights or that Moses was up on that mountain for 40 days and 40 nights, waiting for the commandments. That whole 40 days thing just registered with me recently.

Though honestly, I’m sure the nuns must’ve mentioned it a couple of hundred times during my school years; I’m just not good at remembering details like numbers. Especially when there’s other more interesting things to think about…like old Noah and how he and the gang  survived for 40 days, floating around out there.

I’ll bet I was busy worrying about Rabbits Three, Four, Five, and Six, who just about the time they were thanking their lucky stars that they were snatched up and brought on board the ark, Noah’s wife threw ’em in a pot!

Anyway, the point is, 40 days comes up a number of times (no pun intended) in the Bible and possibly there are other references in other religions. And the more I thought about 40 days, the more I thought that six weeks must make a difference. Maybe that’s the time it takes to break a bad habit or form a new, healthy habit. Perhaps 40 days is the exact time we need to reflect in order to transform our lives.

Or maybe just five minutes is enough to figure it out. Because as I began to think about what needed to change in my life this Lent, I knew it had to start with how I use my time. And so I decided on the Five Minute Facebook Fast (for Forty Days).

There are lots of good things for me on Facebook…I love hearing about friends’ great news and I am a sucker for a punny cartoon. I like the company–most of the time–and some mighty prayers get answered, thanks to Facebook requests.

But on the other side of Facebook is the not-so-good, falling into those rabbit holes of toxic discussions or articles or conversations. Even when I don’t engage–and I rarely do–I still will look up from my laptop and blink: Is it really possible that I’ve spent an hour and twenty minutes on something that’s only served to upset me?

It’s not that I have such a busy life, but at the end of the day–and I mean literally at the end of the day–I like to feel that I’ve used the time the Lord gave me in a positive way. So I’ve been keeping to five minutes on Facebook and I’m not going to lie. Every time I sit down to work on my laptop,  I have to stay my hand on that mouse. My fingers just automatically go to click on Facebook. But on the plus side, I’ve become super intentional about what I read there, zipping along at a meaningful clip. And it feels as if I’ve added a ton of time to my day. A ton of time where I’m accomplishing good things.

So that’s my revelation on the whole 40 days thing. And what do you think? What might you accomplish in 40 days? Tell me all about it, ’cause honestly, I have plenty of time to listen. (At least until Lent is over when we’ll find out if six weeks really can break a bad habit.)

When Copying Crosses The Line

2011-09-01 14.32.13When my Junior Halls get together–especially the male contingency–they talk. A LOT. It’s a barrage of words and laughter and shouting and more laughter. But one thing they do that makes me crazy is quote lines from clips that are out there in Webland. Honestly, I don’t even know where half of this stuff comes from except that it’s a video, somewhere, somehow.

It’s like a secret language. Except it’s a secret language they’ve lifted from the brains of other creators. And so invariably, at some point, I will say (and by say I mean shout because those guys are loud), “DO ANY OF YOU HAVE AN ORIGINAL THOUGHT IN YOUR HEAD?”

And then I remember my dad saying that to me and my brothers when we were kids. Except with us, it was TV commercials. We quoted them constantly. Even today, I can rattle off the gist of a commercial from way back in the day. And I’m pretty sure that my brothers would jump right in with me.

When we like something–whether it’s a commercial or a video clip or a recipe or a fashion–we embrace it. We learn all the words to a favorite song or we copy the look of a hairstyle we love. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that. But I wonder if we have somehow blurred the lines from understanding what’s copying for fun and personal pleasure and copying  and claiming work as our own. Because that’s plagiarism, and plagiarism is becoming a real problem in our society.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s always been a big problem. Remember the gossip back in those crazy Elizabethan days about Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare? Who wrote what first? And I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Caveman Oog speared Cavewoman Boog when he found her copying the delicate nuances of his woolly mammoth on the cave wall and signing her X to it.

But just because we’ve been doing something unethical forever doesn’t excuse the unethical behavior. And the longer we engage in a behavior, the more it becomes entrenched, however wrong it may be. Then one day, that wrong behavior seems okay. Next thing you know, it’s not wrong at all. Everybody’s doing it so it’s all good!

Except it’s not. It wasn’t okay for Oog and Boog and it’s not okay for us. It’s always wrong to steal someone else’s hard work and claim it as your own. So we have to be vigilant about plagiarism. And that’s why I addressed “The Finer Points of Plagiarism” over at The Muffin today. I mean, it’s not a legal lesson in plagiarism or anything highly technical; it’s more of a not-so-gentle reminder that plagiarism is out there. And awareness is the first step in doing something about a problem.

As for my Junior Halls and their obsession with quoting funny videos…well, maybe that’s not so much a problem as just super annoying. Sometimes you have to walk away. (And then when they follow you, run back inside and close the door. Probably better lock it, too, just to be on the safe side.)

The Cleaning That Never Ends

brush-cleaning-scrubber-45059Do you remember “The Song That Doesn’t End”? DON’T watch it unless you want to hear that song in your head for the rest of the day…

I only mention it because I feel like I could replace “song” with “cleaning” and that would sum up the situation here at Casa de Hall. Specifically, my upstairs office:

This is the cleaning that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friends. 

I started cleaning it last month not knowing what it was. And I’ll continue cleaning it forever just because…this is the cleaning that never ends. 

And it’s not like your everyday cleaning. Oh, no. It’s my writing life. A great big pile of my writing life. And you know how you like to think you’re a relatively spiritual person, not attached to things in this world? Yeah…when it comes to writing–your words and such–it’s not so easy. Suddenly, you’re a raving egotistical maniac!

Or maybe that’s just me. The point is, suddenly, I’m reading reams of stuff because it’s my stuff. These are my precious, precious words. And even though my brain is screaming, “Cathy! You don’t have time for this!” my eyes are scanning the lines. My stomach is lurching.

Because these may be my precious words but many of these words–TONS OF THESE WORDS–are not good. In point of fact, they’re rather bad. Eventually, I realize that this essay or that manuscript stinks and I give it a toss. But my hands are slow in doing what my brain (and stomach) knew the minute I scanned the first line.

It gives me a whole new perspective on agents and editors who blithely toss my precious words after reading the first line; they’re not invested. It’s easy to toss when you’re not invested.

And so I’ve had to detach in order to get any cleaning done. Asking, “How Important Is It?” has been helpful, too, which you’ll see when you read my post over at The Muffin. My poor little ego has been bruised and battered through this process, but I’m sorta making progress on the upstairs office.

Not a lot of progress, mind you. This is the cleaning that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friends. 

Ugh.

(Sorry about the song. If it makes you feel any better, it’s stuck in my head, too.)