Friday, November 16, 2012

Tom's Secret

When I was in law school, I worked in the research department of the law library.  One of my student co-workers was a student who I'll call  Tom (because that was his name, although I don't recall his last name.  Sorry, Tom).

At least in those days, it was typical for law firms to schedule interviews with the law schools.  A representative from the law firm would come to the school, and would interview second year law students for summer internships and third year law students for post-graduation positions.  The law students were expected to wear 'professional attire' to these interviews, which of course meant that the men had to wear suits.  Needless to say, this was not what people typically wore to class.  So when you would see someone dressed up, it was common courtesy to ask  who they were interviewing with, and to wish them good luck.

Tom was a year ahead of me in school, so during my second year he was very busy with interviews, trying to land a job for when he graduated in the spring.  And of course I always wished him good luck.

One day, Tom and I arrived at the library to work our assigned shifts, and I noticed he was wearing a suit.  As usual, I wished him good luck, and I asked who he was interviewing with.

"I don't have an interview today," he replied.

"But you're wearing a suit," I said.   (yes, I've always had an eye for the obvious.)

And that's when Tom shared his secret with me.  He'd been up quite late the night before, and felt pretty ragged, when he got up in the morning.  So he put on a suit.  He explained that the act of putting on a suit, forced him to focus more on what he was doing.  Then, throughout the rest of the day, wearing the suit made him feel obligated to pay attention, and stay alert, and present a positive attitude, because he felt he had to make his demeanor and attitude match what he was wearing.
"The worse I feel, the better I dress," he said.

Sounded like a bunch of mullarkey to me, but I nodded, and smiled pleasantly.

But the next time I got up in the morning, and felt like putting on my sweats and staying home,  I dressed up.  And you know what?  It worked.  Tom's secret truly worked!  I felt less tired, and better able to handle whatever the day was going to throw at me.

Now I'm not saying that getting dressed up will cure cancer, or even the common cold.  It won't even cure the hiccups, as far as I know.  But at least, sometimes, it can compensate for fatigue, or general malaise, or a late night.

Some days call for sweatpants and a cup of tea.  But some days - well, they call for dressing up.
And of course, a cup of tea.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I was in the store today, and I walked by a couple of children looking up at one of those great big inflatable snowman things that you put on your lawn.  The kids were probably 6 and 8.  The older one said to the younger one  "That's Christmas, but I don't understand, because Thanksgiving is next", and the younger nodded in agreement.

YES!!!!  They get it!  Even children, who would be the ones you would think would be most happy to jump straight from Halloween to Christmas, to jump straight from candy to toys...  these children get it, even if the advertisers do not.  I wanted to go over there and hug them.  (don't worry, I restrained myself)

I have to admit, I might be just a teensy weensy bit overzealous about this.  But after all, Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.  From the time I was a small child, Thanksgiving has been a very magical time in my family.  It has always been a time for everyone to get together, and spend hours in the kitchen, cooking up favorite foods, laughing about 'old family recipes' (we stole them from an old family! - I still laugh at that joke), being surrounded by family, and wonderful aromas, and then sitting down to the most wonderful meal, ever. And then - oh my -  the leftovers!   And as the family has gotten older and become separated by geography, we've filled the seats at the table by adopting various friends and treating them as family, at least for Thanksgiving Day.

So when advertisers jump straight to Christmas, I'm afraid I get a little bit cranky.

I do understand that Thanksgiving means different things, to different people.  For some, it means  visiting friends and family, and maybe it means enjoying someone else's cooking.    For others it means the  opportunity to gather together family and friends  and share some favorite recipes.  Still others consider Thanksgiving a time to play and watch football.  And for some, it's just one more day off work.

That's ok, I can be tolerant of others.  After all, I do realize that there are those who actually enjoy drinking herbal teas.

BUT - I object to Thanksgiving being seen as 'that annoying holiday that gets in the way of Christmas sales'.  Trust me, you really will sell just as many clothes, and toys, and electronics, and whatever else you're selling, if you wait to start running your ads until the day after Thanksgiving.  Those who buy presents and decorations early, will do so whether you advertise or not.  Those who wait til the last minute are clearly unaffected by your ads, so you're wasting your time trying to entice them to buy early. I don't believe that even the advertisers  think... 'boy, we'd better remind people that Christmas is coming, because otherwise they might forget to decorate, or buy presents'.

My appreciation for Thanksgiving came from my grandmother, who immigrated to this country in the 1940's.  When she arrived in this country, she was touched by the idea of having a holiday whose very name told you to give thanks, and whose celebration involved spending the day with family and enjoying wonderful foods, and each other's company.  These are difficult times, and not everyone feels capable of giving thanks, and not everyone has family with whom to spend this holiday.  But this holiday is very real, and very important, and should not be slighted.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Those who know me well, are looking at the title of this post and thinking  "but Laurie doesn't like change."..  and they're right.  When people describe me, they're much more likely to use words like 'rigid', rather than words like flexible.  That's ok.  I know who I am, and they're right.  So, when we go to a restaurant we've been to before, you can usually count on my to order the same thing I ordered last time, and the time before, and the time before.  While it's true that I might miss out on something I might like better, I'm more concerned that I'll end up with something I like less.

But every now and then, circumstances compel me to change, to try something different.  The other day, I got to work, and remembered that I was out of tea.  I didn't really have time in my schedule to go back home, and I knew I wouldn't find Typhoo Tea, or even Bewley's, at the store, but I was in desperate need of some tea.  So, with a big sigh.. and some degree of trepidation..  I headed to the store.  Hmm, Nestea, Lipton, instant tea, herbal crap  (sorry), decaf...  oh, wait!  here was a tea with mandarin orange....  I like tea, I like orange... I can see those flavors working well together....  so what the heck,   No guts, No glory.  (actually, more like 'if I don't compromise and pick something, I have to do without).

I returned to my office, with my tea.  The teabags were pyramid shaped,  rather than round (Typhoo) or square (Bewley's).. but that was ok.  I poured the hot water over the bag, and after a moment, I could smell tea, and orange.  Hmmm, maybe this would work out.  I like my tea strong, so I let it sit a bit longer, and the aroma got better.  I removed the teabag, and with great anticipation and great expectation, I took a sip of the tea.  YUCK.  But I was desperate.  Maybe it would taste a bit better, if I let it cool a bit.  A few minutes later, I took another sip.  Still yuck.
Sigh.  Mom, I'll bring this with me when we come out for a visit later this month, perhaps you'll like it. I'm certainly not going to drink it.

And this is just one more example of why I don't like change.

But....  I'm working on my nano story.  And I'm not thrilled with it.  In fact, I don't like it.  I'm blaming it on the fact that I already know the end -- which is spoiling things for me.  What's that you say?  Don't use that end?  But don't you understand.. this isn't the end that I chose, it's the end that the story chose.  And, contrary to the usual pattern, where the end is revealed, only as I approach it, this time the end was revealed even before I started.  Someone suggest I change the POV  (point of view).  Uhm.. I'm still a novice at this writing stuff, I don't quite know what that means, or how to do it.  It sounds like I would change my main character, and that's not going to work.  And we're not supposed to edit, during nano.. no time to edit.  But I have to do something.

So I decided to jump ahead, and write some portions that belong later in the story.  I'm not willing to write the end yet, because I'm still hoping it will change, but I can write some middle bits.  And it is helping.. except that now it makes part of the beginning not work quite right.  But editing is something we're supposed to try to avoid.

AHA!!!  I've got it.   I went back to the beginning of my story... I did NOT edit  (I am an inveterate rules-follower)...  but I changed the opening scenes.

Ta-dum!  See, I can make changes, after all.  And I'm back to drinking my typhoo tea, so perhaps this will be a good nano, after all.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nanowrimo Write, part 1

Today, is November 1.. which means that, ready or not, I've shifted from Nanowrimo prep, to Nanowrimo write.

This is my 4th Nano, and I've come to look forward to the bit of adrenaline rush that arrives, as October draws to a close and it's time to turn the calendar to November.   But for some reason, this year, the adrenaline rush was more intense than ever.  I'm thinking that perhaps my writing group is to blame.

I've never been one for study groups, or book clubs, or write-ins.  But I've been hanging out with this group of writers.  It's a small group, and no one is published, yet, and most of the group have no desire to be published, but we all write.  And we all talk about writing.  And we all do Nano.

So, whereas my typical Nano prep had been to come up with a concept, and do some research, and talk to my brother about Nano.... this year, I've been talking to half a dozen other people about Nano... and we've been talking about Nano for a couple of months now.  And I've somehow become the ringleader of 10 other attorneys from around the country, who have decided to urge each other on, as we all try to coordinate our work schedules, with our efforts to write 50 thousand words of fiction, in 30 days.  This is NOT something I would have done, prior to the influence of my writing group!

And there's more...  I almost stayed up until midnight last night, just so I could write the first few words of my story.  I finally wimped out, and went to bed.. and was glad I did, because I woke up, knowing what my opening was going to be.  Then, at lunchtime today, I went to a write-in that was at the library that's just a few blocks away...  and I actually enjoyed it!  Again, these are things I would not have done, prior to the influence of my writing group.

The adrenaline rush is gone, now, and I can sit still long enough to enjoy my cup of tea.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still excited about Nano, and I'm still excited about writing, and I'm still excited about my writing group, and I'm still excited about the little cluster of lawyers who are doing Nano.... but things now feel more normal, and more reasonable.  November is here, and I have 50k words to write.  And if I succeed, I'll have earned the right to call myself a winner, and a purple banner will show up on my avatar on the Nano site.  But whether I meet the goal of 50k in 30d or not, I have fallen in with this group of people who have given me this added energy and enthusiasm.    

When I hear the word "Muse",  my first thought is of the Greek Muses.  The dictionary defines "muse" as 'someone or something who serves as your inspiration',  and I've always thought of muses  as fictional, almost like an imaginary playmate.  But I think of  people I know who get energy and enthusiasm - yes, and inspiration - from theater groups, and from social organizations, and religious groups, and athletic organizations, and I realize that I've been rather narrow minded.  While muses may be fictional, and come from an inner source,  life is full of external muses, as well.  I'm not sure whether I found my muses, or my muses found me...  but here we are.

Write On, Muses!!!