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.)

 

Thanks, January

So at long last, we say goodbye to January. It really is like the longest month ever, with its 31 days and its bitter cold and the starkness that follows the festive color and coziness of the holidays. I mean, that right there is January in a nutshell: January is the serious month of the year,right?

Or maybe that’s what it was for me and other folks were out there swinging from the New Year rafters and jumping feet first into their veggies and tofu diets–for the first couple of weeks at least. Then, I’m pretty sure they were right there with me in the January trenches, thinking ah, well. Here we go again.

clouds-hd-wallpaper-landscape-67832Except by the end of the month, I quit. And I’m not gonna lie, just typing “I quit” right now still makes my palms sweat a little and I get a sick clunk in the pit of my stomach. But I’m also–and you can imagine me singing along with Michael Buble here because that’s exactly what I’m doing–feeling good. 

 

There’s lots more to the story so you’ll want to read Just Quit over at The Muffin.

BUT. I’d just like to add that timing is everything when it comes to quitting, just in case there’s anyone thinking of making changes right now. The timing for me came when I’d had years of preparation and the means available, yes, but it was more–and mostly– about the changes in me and in my life now. 2019 Cathy has something to say that’s different from 2017 or 2015 and especially 2010 Cathy when the writing world was new.

So I guess I should thank that interminably long month of January for the time to process all that. And I hope that you have a January–whenever it may come–when you’re ready to do some thinking about your new dawn, your new day, your new life. (Yeah, you knew I’d work in a way to sing again, right?)

 

 

The Upside of Cold Weather

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Yeah, that’s a blanket in my office chair. And I’m wearing a sweatshirt. Also, the space heater is running below AND Libs is squinched up next to me. It’s THAT cold.

 

I know it’s a LOT colder in a lot of places in the world, that people are dealing with blizzards and ice and below-freezing temperatures. And I’m not complaining that it’s been pretty darn cold here in my corner of Georgia; I’m just saying that when it gets cold like this, in GEORGIA, for cryin’ out loud, I don’t go out. Well, I go out but mostly when I need supplies.

So I’ve had a LOT of time indoors since January 1st. And when one spends a LOT of time indoors, one tends to notice the sorts of things one ignores when one is gallivantin’. To wit, cobwebs in the corners, stains on the carpet, junk spilling out of drawers…it’s enough to make one want to brave the cold. But instead, I’ve knuckled down and tossed and scrubbed and vacuumed (with that attachment that reaches the recesses of corners).

And I have to say, all that cleaning has reaped benefits (besides the obvious lack of cobwebs and dust and clutter in the house). When I clean, my brain goes into a different zone and I’ve been finding LOTS of ideas amongst the messiness of my life. I explain it way better over at the Muffin in “Ideas Are All Around You” so I hope you’ll take a look.

I also hope that if you’re somewhere cold and stuck indoors that you have plenty of heat! And after heat, I hope you find lots of ideas while waiting for the thaw. And lastly, I hope you have sense enough to write down all your great ideas.

Because I might’ve found lots of great ideas, but I have no idea where I put ’em.