My Life Rocks Game

My blog is called weaving reality, because it is about the things I put my determination and energy into making.  Up until now it has mostly been about tangible  holdable, viewable things.   Like pictures of my garden and the food I cook from it,  directions on how to make a rainbow skirt, or my musing on writing, publishing and marketing my work.

But things you can hold are not the only things I make.  I have a vision of the world I want to live in, and I do things all the time to make that world happen.   I can’t change it alone of course, but I can make a little change here and another one there and weave in little threads of my reality into yours and everyone else’s.

Part of the way I can do this is to talk about what I want to change and how.  I can talk about the sort of social system I would like to live in, the sort of government that would make me happy.  I can tell you when I see injustice and how best to combat it.  I can talk about fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia,  fat-hate, poverty, and meanness.

I don’t want to do it in a “this things sucks” sort of way and leave it at that.  I want to tell you how I deal with a situation and try to make my world a little better.

Today I want to talk about something I am calling “the tragedy game” or the “my life sucks game”.    This is where one person says something bad that happened or is happening to them and then you have to one-up it, then someone else has to one-up you, and so on.   This game works on the principle that in our society it is OK to talk about things that are bad in our lives.  It is OK to reach out and try to get support and sympathy.  And it is. I 100% agree that if you are having a problem or you need help, you should reach out to a friend or family member.  As humans we are social creatures; we form tribes and we help each other.   But this game sometimes goes too far, because we all want attention.  If one person is always getting attention by being hurt, sad or broken, then I think we tend to rummage around until we can throw something into the pot.

For example, I had a rough childhood.  But I have dealt with the bad things that have happened really well.  I don’t often think about it; I talk about it even less.  It is depressing, it is in the past, and I am mostly healed emotional and physically.  Talking about it has no profit for me.  Until we start playing “the tragedy game”.  I have found myself in groups of people I hardly know telling them very personal things, just because “my horrible abusive childhood” somehow became the topic of the game.     By the same token, I have found myself telling people about my illnesses or emotional problems, just because that is what we were doing.   This is especially bad when the person who starts the game does so with something that is way less horrible than something that has happened to me or is happening.

And that is the problem with this game. The very first rule is that we have to rank other people’s suffering.  For example, I once had a woman tell me this story about why she does not wear shorts.  Once when she was young, her father hit her with a belt so hard on the back of her legs that it left huge red marks for a few days.  To me, to the person I was then (about 10 years ago) this seemed so little.  Compared to some of the things that have happened to me, her experience was cotton candy.  But now I get it.  I get what she was saying.  She was trying to tell me about the lack of control she felt, about the humiliation, about how someone else took her body and hurt it and marked it. She was telling me that even years later as an adult, in some way her legs still did not belong to her.   So I said, “well, you think that is bad? Once my mom….” or whatever I said I don’t remember now.   But I one-upped.  I tried to get social points by having been abused.

People play this game with all sorts of things.  Mental illness,  physical illness,  discrimination, lack of money, bad relationships, abuse, etc.

I don’t want to play this game anymore.  I want to be the sort of person, who when someone tells me something bad I want to just listen and be supportive.  I will give them attention, and then when I can, change the subject to something more cheery.  I don’t want to sit around talking about all the horrible things in a person’s life or mine, unless we are looking for solutions. I very much don’t want to listen to people tell me all the things they can’t do because of their problems.  This does not make their lives better and it does not make me happy.

At the same time, while it is acceptable to talk about how hard something is, or how broken and substandard you are,  it is not OK to brag.  Sitting around talking about how great your life is, how wonderful you are, how hard you work to get great things in your life, or just how naturally amazing you are is not OK.  We are supposed to be modest.

Fuck that!  I don’t want to be modest.  I am fabulous.  I don’t want to talk about the bad things that have held me down.  I want to talk about how I kicked those bad things’ asses and climbed over them to reach my goals.  I want to talk about how my experiences have made me strong, smart, or creative.    I want to talk about all the great things I am going to do.   I have problems, sure, but I can work through or around all of them to do what I want.  And that is what I want to talk about.   I want to brag, and I want you to brag.   I want you to tell me something amazing about you.

My first brag in this round – I am so confident.  My life experiences have led me to be the sort of person who thinks she can do anything she sets her mind to.  I often think things I do are great and I love showing them to people.

Please, one up me!  Tell me something amazing about you.  Tell me why you are worth knowing and worth having my attention. Tell me how you have overcome something or your plans for overcoming something now.

All Hallows Read

A few years ago Neil Gaiman came up with the idea of giving away scary stories at Halloween. I wanted to write a new story, but it is turning out to be a tough one so there is very little chance I will have it live by tomorrow. So I have lowered the price of my book from $2.99 to $.99. Yes, I know that is not free, but that is as low as Amazon will let me go. So think of it like this – you buy one story I will give you 4 free. :-/ And at this price point I get so little that unless there was a miracle and 500 copies sold I would not keep any of it, all the money would end up going to local art, music and theater.

Here is a link to Gaiman’s explanation of all hallows read and info about the story he is giving away:

http://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/34321545955/download-a-free-unpublished-halloween-scary-short-story

I love the idea of giving away stories this time of year for lots of reason.

One of them is trick and treat.  As kids we got to go around and get candy.  It was a little scary and fun all at the same time.  With the other people wearing costumes, all the decorations and often walking around after dark the world was a alien place.  Walking from shadow to light as you went from house to house leaves a special memory in my mind.   I remember at first running to get out of the dark areas quicker, because that is where the monsters were hiding in wait for me.   Then after a while, lingering in those dark spots, no less frightened but now also intrigued, curious.  I wanted to see the horrors that hid behind decorative hedges and old tool sheds.

Another is community.  Up until this point most of the people who have read my stories are people I know, but most of the stories I have read are by people I don’t know.   It is like a web, connecting me to all the authors of all the stories I have ever read.  Also to you, who are reading these words now.  We are not community in the sense of sitting down to dinner together or helping each other raise a barn.  But we are community in other ways.  Maybe you love fantasy or horror, maybe you like to homestead.  For some reason you are reading this so we likely have something in common. I want to be able to gift my stories to you, in this sense of community.

I guess the last is a more complex and does not have an easy single word to describe it.  As a writer I want people to read my work.  I want to get paid for it to, but that is secondary to wanting it read.   I want my words in your eyes, my ideas in your brain.  I want you to see something like what I saw when I wrote the stories, but colored by your experiences and feelings.

So go here: http://www.amazon.com/Treacherous-Nature-ebook/dp/B0098N9CGI/

And here for the PDF version:Treacherous Nature PDF

Pick up my book, read it, tell me what you think.  Or don’t, it is just there if you want it.  The price goes back to $2.99 next week.

 

Post Publishing Doldrums

For the last few months putting out this collection of stories was my main goal as a writer. I did some other writing too. I submitted and got rejected for an anthology and worked on a novel idea. But now the book has been released and I feel sort of flat.

What now?

I don’t expect this book will do well. So far I have sold 7 copies, which I have to admit hurts my feelings a lot. I am trying not to let it, but it is hard. I am a big supporter of the arts where I live. I spend more money than I care to calculate right now on plays, local music festival, my friends’ art and their artistic endeavors. I go to art auctions and give donations to local groups. I am not saying I expected these people to support me, not exactly. But I expected some sort of boost. I know, I sound like Earl in “My name is Earl” – “You do good things, and good things happen”. And now I feel sort of stupid for having these expectations.

I am trying not to take this personally, but it is really hard. Sure, lots of people might not like the sort of stuff I write. And that is ok. I give time and money to the thing I do because I like them and think the work they do is good and worthwhile. I wonder how many people think what I am doing is worthwhile?

I need to think about my next moves? Should I start submitting short stories to anyone who will take them? Should I work on a novel? Should I take a break and get a real job? Should I try to save up money and go to a writer’s workshop like Clarion West? I could use the pointers and practice, but I could use the contracts even more?

To the people who read my blog who have some success at selling their work, do you have any advice? How do I get my stories to the people who would enjoy them? What is a good balance between traditional publishing and self-publishing?

This is Cheese-Burger taking a nap. This is about how I feel right now, but that is ok. After he sleeps like this for a few hours he is full of energy, so it must be a restful way to be.

Homestead Food 3

So I said I was going to do this every Friday or Sunday.   You might notice that today is Tuesday.   Friday it got put off because a friend wanted to come, but the friend ended up not able to come.  It got put off on Sunday because I just did not want to do it.  And that is a good thing in a way.   The goal of this is to make me sort of understand what it would be like if this was my only food supply, and on Sunday I got a bit of an idea about that.  I ended up having a salad from the garden that day but instead of a full garden/local/community meal I had steak and mashed potatoes.  Because I wanted it and because it is so easy to go to the store and get anything I want.   Had the food in my yard been the only food supply I would have been very unhappy.

There is so little to eat right now, so very little variation.  On Sunday when I put it off I got this crazy idea in my head of doing it Monday and it would be better.  Then on Monday I went out for tacos, about a mile away.  So today I said enough stalling.

The Ingredients:

Omelette:

  • Eggs (Gift from Erik)
  • Salt (Gift from Lori)
  • Chard (Garden)
  • Oil (Exempt)
  • Sauteed Onion (Garden)

Grits:

  • Local Grits (Farmer’s Market, single bought item)
  • Water (Tap)
  • Salt (Gift from Lori)
  • Butter (Exempt)

Peach Chutney (Exempt, canned by us)

  • Local Peaches (picked and processed by us)
  • Raisins
  • Some other fruits (I don’t remember what)
  • A ridiculous amount of vinegar

I did not want eggs and chard again. Temper Tantrum Did Not Want.  This is very similar to what we had last week, but switched around a bit.  When I look out in the garden there are unripe strawberries, little tomato plants, small peaches, tiny blackberries, and 2-inch high corn.  I want those things to be ready and I want to eat them.  I want foods that I like better, like squash, green beans, and black eyed peas.  It is also a little annoying that I can’t just throw in some French bread or beef broth whenever I want.   I have some pretty strong food insecurity issues because of a very poor childhood, and having to eat only what I have is really making me have to deal with those issues.

Knowing I was going to have to eat eggs and chard today has made me so motivated to work harder.  I know I could not do anything about the dinner tonight, but I am sure going to try to have a better one this weekend or next week.  The last few days I have done lots of planting, weeding, and transplanting.

I am also thinking about community more.  I am actually thinking about people I want to invite to dinner;  not just Erik, who did not join us tonight because he fears grits.    I am thinking about joining some meetup groups and actually going to their meetings.  I am thinking about how to be nice to the friends and family I do have so they will please bring me food.  I am thinking about how I can help the people around me survive, and how they can help me survive.  Yes I know that sounds very dramatic.  I am a rather dramatic person.

Another upside to my annoyance at today’s dinner is that I know that my pleasure with each new food as it becomes ready to eat will be even greater than normal.  My mouth is watering thinking about how amazing some fresh strawberries would be right now.  I could deal with more eggs and chard if I could just have a bowl of berries to go with it.

Now with all of that drama out of the way, the meal was actually pretty good.   The egg part of the omelette was delicious and the chard was OK at the beginning.  By the end the chard tasted a bit too bitter to me, and I did not want to keep taking bites of it.  The grits tasted like grits and butter, so there is nothing wrong with that.  The peach chutney was better than I remember it being.  The peach flavor was very bright and fresh; the pepper was just right, giving only a hint of spice, and the vinegar was not quite as overpowering as I remembered it.  The chutney matched well with the omelette.

Homesteading/Community Food Experiment

We have decided to start a new food challenge.  For one meal a week, we will have a meal of food that we grow or food that I can legitimately say comes from our “people”.

I guess I need to describe this idea first.  I don’t live in an actual community.  I live in a neighborhood, and I give food to my neighbors when they come over to see what crazy thing I am doing.  Last night I let neighborhood kids pet my chickens and I gave them each a carrot.  It is always Halloween at my house. But we are not a community.  I don’t help them with their tasks. They don’t bring me food or offer to help with my tasks.  I don’t know most of their names.  I try to interact like I did yesterday.  But it is sort of hard because we don’t have much in common, most of them don’t want to interact, and I have social interaction issues.

But there is a small group of people who I consider my community.  Close friends that I care about, who I would be happy to help with planting, harvesting or burying the body.   Most of these people are in the Atlanta area, but not all of them.

So here are the rules:

Baseline – All of the major components of the meal have to be from our yard or be grown, raised, or made by people we are friends with.

Examples:

-Anything that is growing in our yard right now.

-Any of our own harvest we have preserved.  We have pickles, dried cowpeas, sunflower seeds, and dried beans.

-Pork from Issa (http://lovelivegrow.com/) and Joshua.  We ordered a pig from them. It will be several months before this part gets added in.  Any other food we buy from actual friends is good too.  I need to make friends with someone who has a milk cow. 🙂

-The eggs our chickens will make, or eggs given to us by a friend.  *cough, cough..Erik*

-Herbs in our yard

-A simple thing a friend grows, processes, or makes and then GIVES to us (not like buying the pork, it has to be a gift).  This could be a loaf of bread –even if it has more outside ingredients than we would be allowed ourselves.   I am trying to simulate what it would be like to be mostly self sufficient in a community.   People in that community could give us things that we don’t have the ability to create.   But this can’t be something like a friend brings us a whole meal, or taking us out to dinner.  It has to be a reasonable farming community item.  Something they could have grown or made themselves.  Examples could be bread, muffins, wine, mead, meats they cured themselves, foods they have grown or raised.

Exceptions:

-Salt. We have no ability to create our own salt.  I guess we could go to the ocean and try to figure it out.  But for now salt from the store is allowed.  I am thinking I will only use salt Lori gave me for Yule, as that would fit with the idea more.

-Oils. At present we don’t grow any oil crops.  We could, and I plan to in the future. But for now olive oil, butter, coconut oil, etc. are all allowed.

-Things we harvested and preserved from local sources.   We have strawberry and blueberry jam from fruit we picked ourselves but did not grow.  We also have peach salsa, peach chutney and some pie filling. But we can’t just go buy something from a farmer’s market.

-Honey. This one is only for now.  Once we have bees, then we will only be allowed our own honey.  But right now I can use local honey or honey my stepfather gives me (He has bees in middle GA. He is kind of like my people, sort of.)

– In each meal there can be one ingredient that does not fit the rules.  Like I could use chicken broth if I want to make a soup.  Or I could add a store-bought meat to something, or local grits.   Whatever the extra ingredient is, it must be explained.  It also should be as local and/or as cruelty-free as possible.   This is one ingredient, not one item.  So for example I can’t bake my normal bread.  The bread I like to make is flour, butter, yeast, milk, eggs and salt.  So that is three ingredients I don’t have – flour, yeast and milk – four if I have to buy eggs.  But if a friend gave me a starter (like sourdough),  then the only thing I would need would be flour for some breads.

I am going to try to make this meal happen around the same time each week. And then post a picture and explanation of the meal.  Any friend who wants to donate is also invited to eat with us.

 

The world I am hoping to weave here is one where I sit down with friends over a meal wrought with our work.   We laugh, talk, and learn a little about each other.   I want to grow a tighter community with people who are passionate about this. I’ll be grateful for the gifts my friends give me and feel good for what I give them.  Eating together is an ancient and beautiful ritual that has been lost in our fast-paced world.  We have so little connection with where our food comes from and there is so much food.  I remember food meaning more to me when I was a child living in pretty serious poverty in coal country.  The venison my father hunted,our garden, the maple syrup we harvested and made all felt so important.

I’m hoping this fosters a sense of urgency about my homestead.  Sometimes I don’t work as hard as I should. Seeds get in late, weeds grow, and bugs run wild.  Food has been lost because I just left it sitting.  A few sparse meals will help. I also think this will increase my own sense of accomplishment about what I do.  The fact that I think I can do this means I must have confidence in my homesteading.