ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

Goal-Setting

I’m really terrible at setting goals for myself.

Seriously.

This is not because I’m lazy or because I don’t like to have goals. It’s because I have incredibly unrealistic ideas of how much I can really accomplish.

For example, this summer, I was supposed to finish What You Stand For, and I expected to be deep into the third draft of What You Settle For by now, with a tentative start date of September 1 for drafting the Polish Scouts project. I’m going to have to give some thought to a title for that. Instead I spent the summer cleaning the house and driving people around, so now I am at the beginning of the second draft of What You Settle for, still tightening up What You Stand For, and still plotting the Polish Scouts project.

But it’s all good, I guess. I’m going to get finished with the Brooks and Kit books and then I’ll be moving into this scouts project.

Anyway, I’ve decided recently to add a goals section to my bullet journal, mostly so I can think about what I need to get done every week. I’ll be away next weekend but in the meantime the goals are:

  1. 2,000 words a day.
  2. Blog twice this week.
  3. Prepare lunches and dinners for the days I’ll be gone.

The third goal is mainly because, though I love my husband, he’s terrible about feeding the children nutritious food. If I’m not here he goes to the grocery store for every meal, and buys pre-made food of some kind. Doughnuts. Mac and cheese. Greek pizza. When I get home they are all in a bad mood and he doesn’t get the connection.

I’m kind of excited about the trip, which I will be posting about later in the week. Meanwhile, the dirty dishes are calling my name.

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A Poem Happened Today

So, those of you who know me in person know that I don’t write poetry. At all. I don’t even really like to read it. Have something to say? Well, say it so we know what you’re talking about! Let’s all move on with our lives!

Maybe it’s because the Polish Scouts project has taken a sudden turn for the literary. It’s turning into the kind of thing I might need an MFA for it to be taken seriously. I have a really good idea that I’m still not sure I’m skilled enough to pull off. And earlier today, I finally got my first fragment of this story: the ending scene popped into my head, and I wrote it down.

Tonight I took my son to Santa Fe for orchestra and waited for him at Joe’s Pizza (WHICH IS AMAZING. Shout-out to my new buds there, who seated me near the bar and surrounded me with beautiful artworks). I was doing research–“Nazi Women,” which includes a lot of personal profiles. And I was still thinking about the structure of the book and what I’m going to have to do to it to make it readable and meaningful. And while I was thinking about that, this poem started stalking me.

In the five minutes between leaving Joe’s and arriving at Santa Fe High School, this poem started talking to me. I really can’t describe it better than that. I don’t feel like I wrote it. When I stopped the car I wrote it down, and here at home I spent some time cleaning it up. And here it is.

Evil is never fully-formed

arriving in precise jackboot strides

banging on the door in the middle of the night while we wait, breathless, on the other side

shoving you down the alley, impatient, hot demands into the side of your neck

wearing the burka or the swastika or the turban or the diamond cufflinks

running in the streams of blood, in our veins or at Babi Yar or the ravines and shadows of places even further away

fired from the big gun in the hands of the little man

Evil doesn’t announce itself.

Evil comes in small pieces.

In the relief that the knock is for the neighbor and before that, the casual lie that the neighbor is to be feared. Not like us,

we’re normal.

Calling me a bitch for not being afraid of you, not subservient enough, not decorated enough.

Creeps in the window left open just a crack for the night air to cool you, to soothe you to sleep

(it won’t hurt if it’s just a little bit)

(and it isn’t really bad)

(and no one saw, no one knows I’m meeting you here)

But I did.

Evil in small doses, like a live vaccine

And we think we’re immune

When it’s already living in us.

I’m not afraid of evil that marches in sloppy formation and shoots to kill.

The worst evil shoots to wound, to hurt on purpose.

Wounds heal, and we are not who we were.

Evil floats in on a breeze of not caring, the night air carrying the screams

and we pretend it’s just crickets.

It sees the streams of blood and says “Not mine. So what?”

Starts with a dry academic idea debated by men with voices like dead leaves

Reduces Them to ashes and shadows on the sidewalk.

“So what? It’s just Them.”

An easy lie, smooth words that you think are the truth or you don’t care that they aren’t the truth. “They deserve it.”

And then you help.

And the face of evil becomes your own.

 

 

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Young People

Is anyone else tired of hearing about all the flaws of young people today?

Well, I am.

Young people are narcissists. They don’t think of anyone but themselves. Entitled, shallow, wanting trigger warnings, too connected to social media. Staying inside on the couch and never going out and doing things. Spending mom and dad’s money. Their parents are to blame! They don’t have any manners. They don’t respect their elders. When I was their age…

Yeah, that stuff.

I will admit that my oldest sits on the couch. I prefer this to him sitting in his room alone. From that couch he has now taken 11 AP classes, ranging from Calculus B/C to psychology to economics. He’s a talented clarinet player; he’s gone to All-State every year since he was a freshman, and he goes to clinics and classes and National Honor Band last year. He’s a leading light of the Santa Fe Youth Symphony Orchestra. He also volunteered to learn two more instruments for the school musical last year–and may I say there’s nothing more startling than coming home to hear “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life” being played on the saxophone, when as far as you know no one in the house plays the saxophone. And there’s more; he’s also getting famous on Reddit, where he is making the argument that Trump’s supporters on a particular subreddit are a hate group. It’s convincing; he just uses the posts these people make themselves. He’s talented, he’s engaged, he’s better educated than I was after two years at Sewanee, and you know what? He’s done all of it himself. Yeah, that kid’s entitled and lazy, that’s for sure.

My middle child is on social media all the time. She can’t do gymnastics anymore because of her knees, but she’s teaching it. She just started in marching band, where she plays the flute in spite of being told all of last year by other girls in her section that “she wasn’t good enough to be second flute.” She replied that she must be good enough or she wouldn’t be there. When I told her someone who was once a family friend would be at her sports practice and that she didn’t have to interact with him, she said, “That’s OK, I’ll just smile at him.” She still plays hockey, even though the attitudes that plagued us when she was younger are still around (I blog under my real name so I don’t want to be more specific). She draws and makes things, including an incredibly sophisticated cat costume for herself. She’s good with her siblings; she can make absolutely anyone laugh. Sometimes I find myself depending on her too much; she’s emotionally mature and she calms me down sometimes when no one else can. Yeah, that kid is sure too connected to electronics. And entitled.

My youngest is still learning that she can’t do everything! She is learning trumpet and sings in the choir, she does ballet and modern dance, she’s on the gymnastics team. And she’s a great friend; her brother and I used to despair because the kids she invited over here were quite often high-energy and hard to deal with, kids who didn’t have many friends at school other than my daughter. I never really know who’s going to be here when I get home; she has the most amazing assortment of people she likes to be around. And somehow, it all works when she’s there in the middle of them, making compromises and redirecting. She loves animals of all kinds, she loves her brother and sister, and she’s sad that next year her brother will be in college, maybe far away from us. She’s a sensitive soul, sometimes to the point of annoying me. She loves to read, and even more than her sister she makes things and we have craft supplies EVERYWHERE. Yeah, that kid is so entitled and doesn’t show any respect for her parents.

I know there are lots of other kids and young adults out there who are like my kids, making a life for yourselves and engaging on many levels. I love young people! And so should everyone else!

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Beta Reads Are Go!

Since my last post, I’ve gotten two beta reads back and now I’m waiting for the third. I’ve already done more editing since it went to the beta readers. Ah, well, it wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t editing, right?

I answered a request from a friend so I have some more reading to do.

It’s an interesting experience to beta read for someone. Getting through the whole entire book isn’t difficult, exactly; it’s just that you can see something that isn’t working, say, on page 100, but there are still 200 more to go. You have to disengage from the thing that’s bothering you and push onward.

Getting a beta read was interesting too. One of my readers sent me a paragraph or so, and it didn’t really give me the information I was looking for. But the second did in-line commentary and also big story arc thoughts. I’m taking most of her advice to heart, although not all. I think about 80% of the issues she had were from me taking out the backstory.

But, no writing for me today. I’m going to the elementary school for my Yearbook Club, then my big kids have flute and clarinet lessons, then taking oldest to a college information session. I’m considering waiting for him in the car so I can do some work. And I’ve had to get a friend to pick up youngest from gym. Meanwhile I have about 1,000 phone calls to make, but am I making them? No, I’m messing around on Facebook.

And my husband is getting me a new laptop. I’m still using the old one, but I’m starting to be grouchy about it. I think a MacBook Air is in my future.

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Excitement galore!

Ah, I’m finally back in my office!

Every time I think things are settling down and everything is getting back into its routine, something new happens. This time it was a broken computer; not mine, my son’s. It just stopped turning on when we were at Mom’s house. So, husband ordered him a new one. Which right out of the box was broken.

Then we had a few weeks of son using my computer and me getting no work done. Son is taking 7 AP classes this year, and did most of his summer assignments on my computer, on my desk, in my office. Know how much work I got done? If you guessed “none,” you are mostly correct!

It’s OK though. I sent the book out for Beta reads and have already decided I cut too much of the back story, so I have started restoring some. Not very much. I still think it brings the story to a grinding halt. I even thought about a new beginning, but no, I like my beginning. It’s really the first time I have taken a stand on some particular thing in the book; this time, I like the beginning.

I’m also Beta/critiquing a book for one of my readers. I’m slow, because computer issue. The big desktop I got from my husband freezes up once a day.

Finally, husband ordered son a new laptop, which has been working for a week. But during the time he had mine, he left it on the edge of my desk in my office and guess what? It fell over (or the dog knocked it over) and now the screen has little thread lines on it! Husband is coming home Sunday and I am getting a laptop of some description that doesn’t have a broken screen.

There’s always research, right?

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