Why I #epicfail at Twitter

There are two basic types of successful “Tweeps”.

1) #livetoserve. These are the people who troll all the resources you don’t even know existed and post live links to useful information that you would have otherwise spent your life without. Right now my very favorite #livetoserve guys are @MikeMullen and @TonyEldrige. Mike consistently puts up random fascinating stuff and has already contributed ideas to my current and future fiction books. Tony is a touchstone of author marketing. Reading his blog or a blog he links to has never been a waste of time.

2) #ADDunleashed. @KarinaCooper and @JamieTheVWM are goddesses of this Twitter genre (are there Twitter genres? Well, there are now.) Their twitter feeds records the minutia of their lives in hysterical detail, every one eliciting a laugh, a snort, an eye roll. And somehow they are finding time to write whole books, publish them, and do extensive marketing on what has been released already.

*sigh* To be so focused…

And then there is 3) #epicfail. Unlike Facebook where I post with alarming regularity, I am a Twitter ghost. I think the character count throws me off. It’s horrifically difficult for me to pare a thought down to 140 characters. I probably need the practice. So I haunt the Twitter feed, clicking through to fantastic articles and posts I would never have found on my own and laugh out loud at the events others post from their lives

Exhibit A: Why I #epicfail at Twitter

I aspire to such service and amusement, but life keeps getting in the way. It is the dead of summer and I am home with two boys under the age of 9 (read, in need of near constant supervision). Just about the time I come up with some fantastic, pithy and succinct jewel of a tweet, someone runs out the back door naked and screaming like an ape on fire. The smart-phone gets dropped onto the counter where it immediately seeks shelter under a weeks worth of the flotsam and jetsam. And I spend the next hour muting the boy-volume, reinforcing the need for clothing in the subdivision and desperately trying to recapture that long-lost train of thought.

Mother-hood and ADD are a cataclysmic combination.

But my hope is this, school, including all-day kindergarten, begins in just over a month. Then, watch out Twitter-verse, I’m coming to take over!

My Rebellious Blood

The thing about non-fiction is that you can’t dismiss the truth when it stabs you in the heart.

Warren Petoskey tells a story at a Northern Michigan bonfire, July 1, 2011.

Right now I am completing the website for Dancing My Dream by Warren Petoskey, an elder in the Odawa and Lakotah tribes. It should go live in a few weeks. Warren writes with great passion and compassion about his experiences as the most American of minorities, the native who has had to ask permission to use the land his ancestors once worshiped and worked freely.

Reading Warren’s book and other writings, researching historical photos and building these web pages has ripped off a scab I didn’t know I had. The romantic image of the noble savage marrying into civilization, like Disney’s Pocahontas, has shattered. My native ancestors cry for justice and my European blood is too ashamed to look back – not too closely, anyway.

I have been asked, especially when I was young with long, straight, dark brown hair, if I was native. Eventually, I began to answer with a laugh, “Yes, but not enough to get me a scholarship.” Curious, isn’t it, that admitting my Scottish, German, Irish and English heritage never required a qualifier.

The print on this 1891 picture says, “Three of Uncle Sam’s Pets. We get rations every 29 days. Our pulse is good. Expressive medium. We put in 60 minutes each hour in our present attitude.” Three Lakota teenage boys in western clothing, sitting near a tree—probably on or near Pine Ridge Reservation.

The greatest thing about Warren is he does not reverse discriminate. His love for all things Native includes us whose blood is so dilute as to be nearly invisible – but still enough to call us back to nature whenever we get the chance.

This is what Warren wrote for the website, and almost exactly what he said to me when I expressed my grief that I cannot legally claim the native status I feel calling me so strongly when I return to the woods, water and hills of Northern Michigan.

“As I have traveled many apologize to me that they were only an eighth Indian or less. I asked them who they felt they were in their heart, admonishing them not to allow anyone to dictate to them.”

I draw great comfort from Warren’s words as I ponder how much of my own native blood came from women who married white men to survive rather than for love. I have come to recognize the Northern Michigan countryside my European ancestors have owned for generations also owns me – a fractional breed daughter of Mother Earth, who draws strength from the hills and seasons, lakes and trees.

My own Christian faith echoes in and fulfills the native beliefs of a kind and generous Creator.

Registering as a Native is unlikely, even after adding up all the diluted parts I have inherited from different branches of my family tree. So I take great comfort in from Warren’s words, that Native is not all about blood, but about blood memory.

Do you have a heart for nature and preserving the Creator’s work? Are you stirred by traditional arts like the flute and drum? Is there peace for you resting quietly around a campfire?

My answers are yes, and my blood is enough.

Return of the Monkey

A horrible yowling woke me up at 5 a.m., a full hour before I usually start ignoring my beeping alarm. I laid there trying to ignore it, cursing the stray cat who wouldn’t go away – until I recognized that particular yowl and leapt out of bed in complete disbelief.

Remember Cricket, my beloved cat who was killed by a car last September? (Yeah, it wasn’t him. I don’t write horror stories.)

His brother, Monkey, was a huge comfort to me as I mourned the loss of that little body with the great big personality. Over the winter I got used to having only one cat around as Monkey literally expanded to fill his brother’s boots, bulking up and taking over the morning meditation duties that had been Cricket’s sole domain.

I’m a pretty laid back cat-owner. We get along well that way. I provide food, window sills and affection; they come and go pretty much as they please. So, I don’t usually stress if a cat doesn’t come home for a day or two. But by the beginning of April, when two days had stretched into two weeks I resigned myself to the worst-case-scenario. I assumed Monkey had also exhausted his 9th life.

Fast forward two and a half months. I’ve given the cat food and paraphernalia to the Humane Society. I’ve told the boys we will get another cat someday, but not yet. I’ve started to think that maybe we need to thin the herd by of a golden retriever as well. (Emmet, I’m convinced, is willfully ignorant and intentionally stupid – but that’s probably another blog post altogether.) I’m trying to rest up from a long weekend and there’s a stray cat howling in my back yard.

After 10 weeks of being AWOL, Monkey the cat is skin and bones and happy to be home

But it’s not a stray cat.

It’s Monkey.

A very thin, very hungry, very, very, affectionate Monkey the Cat.

The house feels at peace with itself again.

Life at the End of the Rainbow

The rainbow over my house, my office window is on the left

The rain is driving in from the north but the sun setting in the west has somehow found a crack in the clouds, creating the perfect conditions for a rainbow. Except I am sitting in the rain.
Where is my pot of gold?
The rumbling thunder panics my preschooler who consents to go to bed, but only in my bed. He claims he will be OK only if I got into bed with him. I’m still breathing very quietly, hoping he’ll find the peace that falls with the rain and go to sleep.
My second grader is listening to an old Caedmon’s Call cd in his room. Very mellow and sweet. I expect he’ll be asleep in a minute. Oh, he’s not asleep yet either… He just turned it off and started talking.
Gave him a good scolding and peeked in at the youngest – who, blessedly, is asleep.
The rain is moving off now and the sun is still shining, right into my office window. I think I’ll step outside and look for the rainbow.

The Irresistible Urge vs The Unavoidable Laundry

The urge to write is a funny thing. It’s not irresistible, but it’s enough to create a low-level buzz of dissatisfaction when it is ignored. It is the fly inside the lampshade you can’t seem to reach, a noise that becomes more noticeable the more you try to ignore it.

Yesterday was like that for me. I had a laundry list of domestic duties to attend to, a list that included laundry of course. Things that needed to be done if children are to appear presentable and the cogs of family life are to turn smoothly. Yet every time I walked past my computer I could hear the words yet to be written calling me, seducing me to rewrite Glitter in the Sun until the prose glowed and the copyright issues were resolved – or join my fictional protagonist Liridona in her fantastic steam punk world.

My primary problem with chosing household maintenance over writing is this: words do not unwrite themselves at the end of the day – the way laundry is worn, floors are dirtied and dishes are used. I have yet to find a place in my head where housework does not feel fundamentally futile. So, no matter how hard I fight it or ignore the call of the keypad, a day in which I have not written feels like a day in which all evidence of my efforts evaporates.

Yes, there is satisfaction in seeing my husband and children in clean, freshly pressed clothes. Yes, I enjoy walking through a house that does not wear a second coat of golden retriever hair. And yes, clean dishes are fantastic. But not like the satisfaction of leaving behind words that may inspire someone to seek God.

My comfort is in the secure knowledge that writing is my calling, and that God is making a way for Glitter in the Sun to reach publication and distribution, as well as projects not yet complete or even conceived.

So I continue to chose to honor God in every aspect of my life. I will honor Him for calling me to write by writing words that bring honor to Him. And I will honor him for the most precious and irreplaceable gifts of all, my family, by taking care of them too.

A Brutally Honest Bio

What gives me the right to tell you how to live your life?

Ultimately, you do, but only if it is what  you chose. My parents and husband can attest to how difficult it can be to convince me to do something I don’t think of myself. Even the little voice in my I-Pod Couch to 5K program that tells me it’s time to run only has authority because I have decided to obey it.

But it’s easier to take someones advice when you trust them – which comes from having an idea of who they are and where they come from. So, for you, in hopes of earning at least a little bit of your trust, here is my brutally honest bio for your consideration.

***

Jane spent the first 23 years of her life as a complete slacker punctuated by sporadic attempts at sincere self-improvement. God help you if you met her when she thought she’d been improved, because then she was vain.

The youngest/oldest/middlemost child (yes, it is a long story) of a working class poor family in a working class poor town, aspirations and delusions of a “better life” drove her to an overpriced university immediately after high school graduation. Financially and spiritually broke after one semester, Jane gave in to the depression that had shadowed her since childhood. Community college, serial boyfriends and other bad choices swallowed four years of her life until she finally washed up on the shores of grace, at the end of herself and determined to really try to listen to God this time.

She was not an overnight success.

Eventually she returned to the overpriced university and earned degrees in English and Speech Communications, intending to change the world as the next Lois Lane –before she realized Clark Kent/Superman was not going to save her, and that she hated the unpredictable hours. A brief stint in public affairs cured her forever of corporate ladder climbing aspirations, and again, at the end of herself she listened closely to God.

Giving her the choice of an about-face or staying in public affairs, Jane took the chance to be the youth minister of a very small youth group in a very small town. Choosing to be forced to rely on God for everything from groceries to Wednesday night lesson plans opened her eyes to the vast generosity of God and his desire to give her every good thing. Jane regards that short but intense time of her life as a crucible that made her the woman she is today.

Now married with two sons, Jane seeks to connect other young women with the wise, wonderful and loving God she still relies on daily. To that end she has written Glitter in the Sun, a devotional book that uses the Twilight Saga as a conversation launch point, and maintains a blog of the same name that seeks to identify the point at which fiction intersects with faith influencing reality.

Public Policy And Boiled Frogs

A few weeks ago I was browsing the New Fiction shelves of my favorite local library and stumbled across a book by Glen Beck. My first reaction was to think it had been misplaced. My second was the incredulous declaration, “Glen Beck writes fiction! On purpose!”

The Overton Window is a book about a political theory akin to boiling a frog. Theoretically if you drop a frog in scalding water it will struggle until it escapes or dies. However, if you place it in temperate water it will be content to stay there as you gradually turn up the heat until it is cooked. Paul Overton of the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy defined the theory that came to be known as The Overton Window as a way to achieve a desired political result for any given constituency – even if it is currently outside what the general public will accept.

Picture a yardstick. At each end is an extreme of policy with gradations of each tapering toward the middle. Somewhere, probably toward the middle of that yardstick, is a section of options that are acceptable to the public. That section of acceptable policy is the Overton Window. But what if someone in power determines the best possible policy lies outside the window. It would be political suicide to advocate that policy outright, until the window is shifted to include that option. Paul Overton advocated education as a way to shift the window – but it didn’t take long for other minds to recognize that fear also shifts the window, and quickly.

In Beck’s book a group of behind the scenes power brokers have been gradually shifting and shaping American policy to the point that only one more national tragedy will bring about complete government dependence. It is a chillingly realistic glimpse of how an Orwellian world might come into being. The tension is created when a handful of people learn about the plans for that last big tragedy and do everything with their significantly smaller power to stop it.

Now, I enjoyed The Overton Window, in spite of agreeing in part with The Washington Post critique, “… its literary value (none), or its contribution to the thriller genre (small), or the money it rakes in (considerable)…” It was a fun bit of escapism. But unlike other political thrillers that leave my consciousness almost as soon as I turn the last page, something stuck in my head when I was done with this one. The thought that unnamed powers can manipulate events on a global stage to bring about results that directly affect my life can be paranoid inducing.

All the more so when real life events fall directly into the mold.

Just over a year ago, on Christmas Day 2009, a young Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, attempted to blow up an airplane coming into Detroit from The Netherlands. Now, this affected me directly as my home is within the holding pattern of Detroit International Airport. In the summer I sit on my patio and identify jets’ corporate identities by the colors and logos on their tailfins. It is not unthinkable that debris from a successful bombing attempt could have destroyed my life or the lives of people I personally know and love.

The political upshot of the thwarted bombing was the installation of full body scanners and stricter screening measures for civilians flying from airports within the U.S. But it doesn’t address the original problem that someone was able to board somewhere else with explosives in his underwear.

But that was already history when I read the book.

What brought the book back to mind was what was reported by Detroit media last week. “Flight 253 Passengers Claim Accused Nigerian Terrorist Didn’t Act Alone”, reported FOX 2 News in Detroit. A couple returning from vacation witnessed Abdulmutallab being given special treatment despite of his lack of passport, and were a mere six rows behind him when he set the plane on fire. Kurt and Lori Haskell aren’t knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers wearing confederate flag bandanas. They are well educated, well spoken, self employed lawyers who are putting their reputations and livelihoods on the line by going public with information they say has been repeatedly ignored and belittled by the government and mainstream media since the day of the event.

They claim not only did they witness the Underwear Bomber’s kid glove treatment, but also claim he was given a defective bomb by U.S. agents.

It’s not much of a leap from there to full blown conspiracy now, is it?

Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King) once said “Fiction is a lie. Good fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

Really, who needs the Washington Post to praise your books literary value if the results make people think? And Beck himself in his preface says this is the whole point of his book – to cause people to think. Perhaps, now and again, a little paranoia is not a bad thing.