Brave

SF Flower

Anyone else heard about the thing where you choose one word to go with you through the new year?
For a couple of years I only heard about it when the year was about halfway through and I forgot about it afterwards. It sounded cool: choose a word that means something to you (or pick a word from their list of ideas) and use that word to inspire or motivate your life.

Last year I joined in and chose the word “brave”. It was choice I wasn’t entirely sure of at the time, because it seemed rather cliche and possibly bland. Then there was the disappointing movie that had recently come out.

But I decided to go with it anyway.

Then Sara Bareilles came out with her song.

And Neil Gaiman posted his New Year’s Wish:

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And all through the year, when I had a choice to do something easy or do something brave, it inspired me.

  • I applied for promotions at work, even ones high above my current ability level. I started building relationships with those managers, putting a framework in place for the future.
  • I dove headfirst into my romantic relationship when I didn’t know what I was doing, because growing and being in it with him is more important than staying in my comfort zone.
  • I volunteered for extra work trainings to grow my skills.
  • I said yes to acting in a Christmas show even though I hadn’t been in front of an audience in 15 years and didn’t know what I was doing.
  • I set boundaries with people.
  • I insisted on getting some medical assistance, changing doctors when the one I had wasn’t listening to me (and as the recently-returned tests show, I was right).

I really like how this year turned out. I like how “brave” became such a part of my life.

My new word for 2014 is another one I’m not totally sure of, so I’m going to go with it.

My word for 2014 is “energy”.

I think it’s partly about having more physical energy and focusing on things I can do to boost that. And partly it’s about rejecting negative energy and embracing positive energy. So it’s a word with more than one meaning to me.

Have you joined One Word in the past? Are you doing it this year? Share your word!

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The Problem With a Perfect Punchline

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From PublicDomainPictures.net

Bumper stickers.

I have a love-hate relationship with them.

Driving down the road and seeing a sticker that pithily states my beliefs raises my spirits and makes me laugh.

But seeing a series of stickers making snarky comments misrepresenting something I agree with makes my blood pressure go up.

I kind of want people to put the kibosh on bumper stickers. What would our world look like if people stopped throwing out unanswerable one-liners as they barreled by at 70 miles an hour? Do you think we might have less road rage? Or do you think we’d be more able to separate assholes from the political positions they espouse if the car with the “Hope” sticker (or the “Sorry Yet?”) hadn’t just cut us off in traffic?

Maybe taking the time to debate our beliefs and politics with each other would be better for our nation than trying to piss each other off with passive-aggressive and often misleading words plastered on our cars.

Dreamspace

Ever used your dreams as a writing prompt?

One of my in-progress novels came almost directly from a dream. A short story was pretty much directly transcribed with little added from me afterwards. But generally my dreams provide amazing springboards which bear little resemblance to the original inspiration.

I think that the creative space and the part of brain which produces dreams must overlap. I control images and storyline a lot more when I’m waking. But it gives me the same feeling to wake from a good dream as it does to create a satisfying story in my head.

What do you use from your life to inspire you for your creative pursuits? Do you use a Dream Dictionary? (Please share; I’m always looking for a reliable interpretive site.)

They Say It’s A Good Year for Squash

The boyfriend brought over 18 pounds of squash this last week. (Yes, I weighed it.) I hadn’t quite made it through the last squash gift so it became sort of important to find a way not to be buried under summer deliciousness.

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I added two pattypans to my favourite Eggplant Curry. I made Zucchini Fries out of two long yellow zucchini. And I made squash fritters out of the Lebanese White Bush squash.

Then there are the muffin recipes I made with previous squash deliveries: Wholesome Zucchini Muffins (much tastier than the name implies) and Nonfat Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (in which I discovered that I like my chocolate and my zucchini separate, but everyone else in the world loves these so it’s a great way to make other people happy while getting rid of squash).

The Boyfriend’s favorite method involves marinating long wedges of squash in different flavoured and balsalmic vinegars, olive oil, dried herbs, and garlic powder, then either grilling or sautĂ©ing depending on what method is available. Unstoppably delicious.

Since “Sneak Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day” has recently passed, I hope everyone has more than enough summer squash to keep them happy.

What’s your favorite way to handle a squash glut?

To Binge on Books

I go through fun, entirely unpredictable, reading binges. Last year it was a lot of classic literature from the first half of the 20th century (also some classic scifi, all of Charles de Lint’s books I could get ahold of, and more YA fiction that I want to admit to). (I used the Recommendation feature on Goodreads a little too much.)

This year it’s had even less direction to it. But what I have in front of me is interesting: a few older, fun scifi novels (C.J. Cherryh, David Feintuch), some George Orwell, all of Ann Aquirre’s Sirantha Jax novels, and some non-fiction I’ve been meaning to get through.

…It’s the TV that’s really distracting me from my reading list. I have Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones in my queue.

What about you? What’s on your reading list? (Or your watching list?) How do you choose your next read?

Perceptions of Currency Make the World Go ‘Round

I had a conversation involving money this weekend with a member of another generation.

It made me think of the ways that currency and value can be perceived differently, and can present differently, in various generations and cultures.

We currently don’t use shell money or beads as currency. We don’t wear neck rings as a sign of wealth. In fact, we don’t wear our wealth at all, in the way that cultures used to string their money around their bodies as both adornment and a mobile bank.

(We now expect to wear lots of expensive status symbols AND leave the majority of our wealth behind a vault, something which is highly unrealistic.)

I checked in with a few friends about this, and my (very unscientific) sampling agrees that my generation (the Millennials) doesn’t perceive value in physical currency as much as we do in digital numbers.

It’s like this: old information about keeping to a budget would hype the “pay in cash” method: if you have the cash, you can buy. Once it runs out, you’ve got to stop. Simple, right? It runs on the present availability of physical currency and the idea that a tangible trade (dollar bills for goods or services) is more psychically painful than swiping plastic.

But what my friends and I agreed on is that, to us, physical money is a freebie. It’s untraceable and it leaves very little record, especially if you lose your receipt. Dollar bills are the ghosts in our field, flitting through and leaving no footprint behind.

Using a card, however, is permanent. To us, that card is directly connected with our mental image of our bank or credit accounts. We see those charges in columns, we know how much we’ve spent each day, and we know that our available balance is going down. Unlike physical currency, those black-and-white numbers are a reminder of what we spent, when we spent it, and how much we have left.

If a conceptual shift like this can take place between just a few generations, what might a financial exchange look like five hundred years into the future? Or on another planet? Or with another, perhaps alien, culture?

What is your perception of currency in the world and culture you live in?

Choose: Lone Wolf or Team Player?

My company had our annual Employee Barbeque yesterday.

Last year at this time, I’d been working there for mere weeks. I listened to everyone talk up the event, getting hyped with them over descriptions of bouncy houses and facepainting, grilled food and cotton candy.

When the time came to join last year’s event, though, I found it massively disappointing. I wandered around the parking lot looking for familiar faces and trying not to let on how lost and lonely I was.

This year it was completely different. I went on a bouncy house (avoided the mechanical bull, though), ate sno-cones and popcorn, piled a plate with grilled veggies, chatted with coworkers and met new family members.

The difference?

Community. I now knew these people. I knew people from other branches. I’ve been in the trenches with them for the past year. Some of my coworkers have moved on to other departments, making an event like this a great time to catch up with them.

It made me think about the importance of community in writing. Some of the best stories include vibrant, connected community–think of Harry Potter with his stalwart friends, the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, the X-Men, almost anyone in any Charles de Lint story, Thursday Next’s circles of Spec-Ops and literary cohorts, or Mal’s crew on Serenity.

And then there are the iconic loners.

Community, or lack of it, plays a huge role not only in the tone of the story but in the formation of the characters in it.

Saturday’s challenge: come up with an existing character and flip his or her community around. Some examples could be setting the Doctor set into a group of (healthy, functioning) Timelords, or watching one of Snow White’s dwarves making his way in the world alone. What does this character’s world (and internal landscape) look like now? How would this character’s life and personality have been different if they’d had or lacked this all along?