A castle

A silly poem about living in a house made of rocks.

Living in a castle
Is really quite a hassle
The rough stone floors are freaking hard to sweep

The tapestries get dusty
The rugs are kinda musty
The air in there is bound to make you weep

The towers can be pretty
But living in them shitty
The stairs going up can really wear you down

All that space is cold
And prone to gather mold
And echoes come from every freaking sound

The food is quite ample
But they pay a guy to sample
A poisoned princess would make a lot less noise

The furniture hurts my back
The bed feels like a rack
I question why I practiced all this poise

The staff in here is snooty
Just trying to do their duty
But they haven’t heard a single word I’ve said

I’d give them all the boot
I think it’s all quite moot
The status isn’t worth the overhead

And though it can be iffy
I’d sell it in a jiffy
And head out on the moor to fret and roam

Find a pleasant maid
With a rundown shack that’s paid
And enjoy the life a peasant would call home

a DNA that says oops

One of the many dichotomies of life: How failure really isn’t as bad as we make it out to be, while comfort is not really our friend.

Comfort Zones Suck (our lives away)

Feeling for a moment like a big fucking failure, I started re-reading one of my many success self-help books, because no one’s going to read it for me. I’m barely into the first chapter, when a sleepy creature groans and pokes it head above the debris of my life, peering out with bleary eyes.

Oh, wow, I haven’t seen this critter in a while! It’s my Hunger to Succeed.

It seems my comfort zone had been quietly lulling her to sleep with Lo-Fi music and stacking distractions up around her to hide her from view, once more trying to keep me from that scary thing called Change. Comfort zones do that. It’s their purpose, to shield us from the saber tooth tiger outside the cave.

“Just stay by the fire,” it says in our ear. “I know you’re hungry, but let someone else go hunt for food and possibly not come back. Be safe, don’t risk it.”

The comfort zone’s job is to protect us, keep us safely ensconced in our easy chairs in front of the television, where no one can break our hearts or tread on our egos. The people on the screen do all that for us now. No need to risk it ourselves anymore.

Our comfort zones are adept at sapping our confidence so we don’t put ourselves out there, and risk that most fearful of all creatures: Failure. But this is just silly.

It may sound ironic or even crazy, but without failure we’ll never know Success.

We can emulate others all we want, read their books, watch their YouTube videos, but until we put ourselves out there and actively fail at things, we won’t learn who we are, what we can do, what actually works for us in life. What our purpose is.

When We Learn to Hate Failure

Unless we were lucky enough to have a set of those truly inspired parents and teachers who know the score, most of us are brought up in a failure-unfriendly environment.

  • Classmates who jeer when you fall down, tripping up and bullying the one who fails–the supposed weak one–to keep the focus away from their own weaknesses.
  • Teachers and coaches who actively tear you down for coloring outside their lines, thinking outside their boxes, doing anything that might show you can be better at something than them.
  • Online peers who enjoy trolling and flaming your troubles as well as your accomplishments, to take the spotlight off of their own failed lives (otherwise they’d have more positive things to do and say).
  • Media content bent on Success, Success, Success! It’s all about Winning! Heaven forbid you fail at anything.
  • Commercial content bent on telling you what a failure you are … if you don’t buy and use their product to “fix” the situation.
  • Loving parents who only want to protect their offspring from harm, from the heartbreak of being a “failure”, so they try to teach them how important it is to win at all costs.

These are not easy things to put behind us when they are ingrained in us so young. I know: I am fighting this fear of failure on a daily basis, when I’m aware I’m giving in to the fear at all.

The Face of Failure

Failure is that awkward geeky kid with the big glasses who never gets picked for the team. The kid who now owns a multi-million-dollar corporation he started in his garage. All because he didn’t waste his time conforming.

Failure is that quirky kid who made jokes in class and drew pictures in her notebook instead of memorizing dates and names she would never ever need in real life; whose paintings now hang on a gallery wall and will create their own history.

Failure is how entrepreneurs become millionaires–or happy average people living their dreams. These people try everything, embrace the entire process as an adventure, including the failures. They know every attempt provides a lesson in what does and doesn’t work.

I want to be like them when I grow up.

It’s In Our DNA

There’s this string of organic programming that defines the form of all life on this planet, a string of molecules so complex it takes a supercomputer to unravel–and it was created from failure.

DNA makes mistakes all the time, called mutations. All life on this planet evolved from our DNA “learning” which of these random “defects” thrived. Without these mutations, life never would have happened, much less become anything complex or sentient.

We were created to fail! And that’s awesome. The problem is our view of failure, as a negative thing.

Our comfort zone, and the comfort zones of many of the people around us, cry out for safety. Don’t risk anything. Stay out of harm’s way. Don’t live. Don’t evolve. Die safe and unhappy and unfulfilled.

Wait… is this what we’re here for?

Find Success through Failure

Fuck that. Fail. Fail with abandon! Try awesome impossible things bound to fail!

Because once you get that forward momentum going, the little successes will start happening, too, more and more often as you learn what didn’t work; because, like Captain Marvel, you didn’t give up.

The only real failure is giving up before you get there.

And when you accidentally fall across one of those crazy impossible things that doesn’t fail? Then you will have found a thing no one else has found, because they were afraid to try: Your seed to Success.

If at first you don’t succeed; keep on sucking ’til you do succeed!

— Curly, from The Three Stooges

Evolution: It’s not just for DNA anymore.

Prius pic, torn in half

When the world is being mean to us for no reason, is it actually trying to wake up our Inner Hero?

An Ode to my 2nd-Gen Prius,

… may she rest in pieces.

A few days ago, some lovely example of humankind made away with a piece of my car in the night. It wasn’t a pretty piece by any means. It didn’t play music or gleam in the sun or make my tires stay round. It was just a metal blob of environmental piping covered in road grime underneath. It also helped my little Prius not to sound like a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Which it did when I started it up the next day.

Someone had cased my car, waited for darkness, jacked it up enough to get under it, and hacked away my catalytic converter. All within a few feet of my apartment.

I can only imagine how tough the job was for the poor criminal, on his back on wet gravelly asphalt in the cold drizzle of night, making all that racket sawing metal that should have woke the neighbors–or me. Just for a few hundred dollars in precious metal.

I almost feel bad for them.

No, that’s a lie. Despite my usual empathetic, compassionate nature, I cannot condone their sheer selfishness, taking away my hard-earned (and under-insured) mode of transport. I think it warrants a little ire. I think I could happily have squirted lighter fluid in their crotch and applied a burning match.

Allow me to savor that image for a moment before the guilt sets in…

Empathy and Other Lost Arts

Despite my vengeful imagery, Empathy is important to me. I personally believe that it is the one trait living creatures are gifted with that has the power to save this world. If only we exercised a little more of it.

So, the image of flaming nether regions will remain in my imagination for now (although I’m hoping karma will have its day with that person).

Instead of stepping on each other and one-upping each other to get ahead, we should be reaching out to pull each other up, so we can all get ahead together. I think we will get there so much faster that way, too. It’s a shame so many religions and governments seem to be bent on keeping that from ever happening.

Damage Done

This particular act of local selfishness won’t be passed on to an insurance company, sadly. Since I’ve been doing the starving artist thing, I unwisely decided not to cover my car for damage, thinking it too old and unvaluable. I should have thought a little harder on that.

Moral: If you own an older Prius, get comprehensive coverage. Don’t be an idiot like me.

Ten minutes of shady work turned my trustworthy steed into an overly large parking lot paperweight. A perfectly running car that can’t be fixed, because repairs would cost more than the car is worth. More than I’m worth at the moment.

It still sits out in the parking lot, all cute and curvy, hinting at a nice wash and wax for spring. But all I can envision for it now is being stacked in a junk yard with a few dozen others of its kind, all missing the same part.

I wonder if she’ll miss me. Ugh. I should never name my cars.

When Bad Things Happen for Good

It is a difficult exercise trying to envision something good coming out of this, as painful and undeserving as it feels right now.

But I know from experience, time has a way of showing us that it sometimes takes bad things to knock us out of the ruts and unproductive grooves we get ourselves coasting down for the sake of our comfort zone.

Comfort zones are nasty little life-eaters we think are so lovely, until we look back on them in regret.

Most of us hate change. And yet most of us secretly pine away for something to change. We’re just afraid to do it, or clueless as to what to do to make it happen in the right direction.

So, life steps in.

As a writer who often writes about life, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed it is that Life (substitute Universe, God, guardian angels, wombat spirits, or whatever form they take for you) doesn’t care about Things. Those will be dust in a blink of an eye, from its perspective. Life cares about You. And me. It cares about small actions that make big changes in our history, in our survival as creatures sharing this big blue rock.

It takes action to affect the path of living history. Usually uncomfortable, heroic action, like in the movies we all watch so much.

A Fun Exercise

Go watch any movie. It doesn’t matter which one.

Within the first 15 or 20 minutes, our hapless protagonist is going to have something taken away from them, like Indiana Jones, or Marty McFly, or Luke Skywalker; and this sends them onto an uncomfortable and unwanted path toward Change.

And it always seems to be the change they needed from the beginning.

Why do we love watching movies that do this over and over? I think it is because we all know deep down this is the way our life works. We identify with it. We want it, if only we can be as brave as our heroes on the screen to go for it.

Think about how many real life people they’ve made movies about, whose story started with a small tragedy that began their battle to become who they are now. Tell me on some level you don’t want that to happen to you, too, scary as it sounds.

I believe we all have inner heroes waiting to come out to make our dreams come true, to rescue us from living lives beneath those dreams. And this world we live in is trying its best to help, with nasty little Inciting Incidents, like mine, when we don’t make the effort on our own. I figure if I don’t do something about this one, it’ll be worse next time. Life can be mean when it loves you so much.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it … and some lighter fluid.

A little memoir piece that came out of someone asking me on Quora: “What was Amateur Radio like when you were first licensed?” and a little story kinda happened…

I was living in rural Pennsylvania, fortuitously in a slate roofed house high on a hill overlooking the tiny town we’d just moved to. I was in high school and shy, and ham radio seemed a cool way for a nerdy girl to get out there socially. The fact that it made me do so in Morse code was actually a motivator, because I was too shy for a microphone just yet. Two meters (handheld VHF radios) cured me of that a while later.

In a rural community, ham radio seemed more a concept than anything else. I think I fell across a CQ or QST magazine in my school library and found out what it was about from that. The kids in my school were too much about Farming and Football to know about it. Once I put it out there I was interested, my parents somehow connected with an older man who knew all the other hams in the area.

I was surprised there were so many in such a tiny town.

One of them was an Extra class who worked for the power company, and had the tallest telephone pole I’d ever seen planted in his yard by his house. He had a deep accent, perhaps Scandinavian or thereabouts (I can’t remember now), a handlebar mustache, a pristine radio setup, and was possibly the best Elmer a 16-year-old could ask for.

He and the original ham loaned me Morse code tapes and then drove me to a late night theory class in the city. It was great. They took me to my first Hamfest (a flea market for hams) where I found an old Heathkit rig, a vertical antenna I planted on a hill behind our shed, and a Morse code key.

By the time the license came in the mail, I was already copying code (practicing decoding a bunch of dits and dahs to letters on paper) from that for a while, before I finally got up the nerve to put out a call in slow Morse. I logged two contacts before my nervousness took over.

That weekend I went back to my Elmer’s and told him about it, and he said, “Let’s see!” And he fired up his rig and pointed the massive beam antenna on top to somewhere noisy. The next thing I knew I was tapping away at my first DX (long distance) contact, in New Zealand! About as far away as one can get on one planet!

My code was so slow that the Kiwi on the other end flicked a switch… I heard a hum, a piano playing in the background, and a lovely down-under accent, saying he couldn’t do Morse that slow, mind if we cross-mode chat? Turns out his son was practicing the piano in the background and his wife was clanking dishes in the sink. On the other side of the world! This was perhaps my best day ever in ham radio.

A few years later I moved from home for a job and joined a local club, which was pretty active and very family friendly. I wish I could find one like that now. I was barely 20, but far from the youngest there, since there were kids as young as 10 or so learning Morse code and having a ball. This club introduced me to Field Days, where we camped in tents out in the woods with generators, and long wires strung up in trees, and took shifts trying to log as many contacts as possible, drinking beer, or goofing off.

The club would also “band” together for antenna parties, where one ham with more money than sense would buy a used tower and a new monster beam antenna (a huge yard-sized “H”-shaped thing) and need help putting it all together.

I found out a scrawny girl didn’t have much to do at these gatherings, with all the men and their wrenches clanking and moving stuff–until they figured out I wasn’t afraid of heights (I actually love them). So when all the tower sections and beam parts were thoroughly wrenched together with lots of testosterone, I’d get to be the heroine of the day and climb to the top of a 200 foot tower and bolt the new thing in place.

I remember all of these middle-aged and elderly men staring up at me looking a little ill, or nervous for me, or perhaps a little embarrassed for not volunteering, while I shimmied up and waited for them to winch the monster to the top. I’d guide the thing in and tighten it up and watch while they tested the rotor (rotating motor–I love a portmanteau). I felt a little like a rock star for a little while.

After that, when the club was looking for a new place to install a repeater (a gizmo that “repeated” our handheld or mobile radios with more power and from a great height a much further distance), they knew who to call. I got to talk to people on simplex (person-to-person) from the top of a huge water tower, legally, just to see how far away I could get people on a little two meter handheld. Everyone on the ground was looking up at me like I was crazy, but it was fun!

I think I’ve bored you enough, but that’s what it was like back when I was a nerdlet. I realize the Internet and cell phones have done a hurting on the hobby since, but if I could find a ham radio club that was more into family fun than survivalist training in my area, I’d probably join them. It’s a shame they don’t realize they’re putting prospective young hams off by being so serious.

It’s amazing how quickly the brain adjusts to intentions when it comes to remembering dreams, as if something deep within us wants us to pay attention to them, and it only needs a little encouragement to make them want to be remembered when we awake.

A Funny Thing Happened …

I love writing dream sequences in my stories. The rules of reality are (for the most part) suspended, but you get to have the fun of making a pretense of them for the sake of creating a story within your character’s mind. A story that tells them something about themselves they need to know to advance the plot in their waking life.

I love this idea so much that it makes me jealous… because I typically don’t remember my dreams. Not a whit. The alarm goes off and, oh, there. Nope, gone.

There are exceptions: Yesterday morning, I was having one of those dreams you sometimes get when things are so intriguing (or sexy) that you don’t want to open your eyes for fear of it ending too soon. Your body is waking up, you realize you’re dreaming, but somehow this doesn’t end it. So the dream actually becomes more lucid, and you want to see it through.

Ever have those? I hope so, because otherwise I’m going to sound silly.

In those situations when you’re already partially awake anyway, it’s not hard to hold onto the memory of them for a little bit once you do open your eyes.

And if by chance you decide to write them down… watch what happens the next morning! It’s pretty amazing.

Why a Dream Journal

From my experience, it seems to be the sheer act of recording a dream that opens the floodgates of remembering more dreams. From memory to hand to paper, this conscious processing of subconscious information seems to be a signal our mind was hoping for, encouraging the process.

Write down a dream and the following day the next dream will be waiting for you, too, just itching to be scribbled in a fat pink journal. It is as if our dreams want to be looked at in the light of day.

I remember when I was living in Hawaii for a year and my girlfriend at the time encouraged not only remembering and recording our dreams, but would help me find the symbols within them and see what they were saying about my internal life, the one that influences how I’m dealing with the world. So I started writing down the ones I could remember when I woke.

Just the action of recording a dream on paper immediately signaled my brain to hold onto them. For my entire time in Hawaii, my dream journal was filled with almost daily entries, some several pages long, with detail that was normally lost to me within seconds of waking.

And then one day it stopped. It was my own fault. My dreams once more became that thing “I didn’t have anymore,” but I knew I just wasn’t remembering them.

This morning, when my phone woke me (I feel sorry for the alarm clock industry with phone apps these days), my dream was right there waiting for me to jot it down. Any day prior to yesterday, the alarm would have sent it flying into the wind of forgetfulness.

I think it is the journal itself, or the promise of it, that spurs our brains to give us this gift.

What We May be Missing

When my Hawaii relationship ended and I moved back to the mainland, alone, my dream journal went silent. Just one of a handful of things I lost motivation for after finding myself once more in my own company.

But I think it was to my detriment that I didn’t keep my dream journaling going. I was missing out on some prime meta-data; some wonderful life stuff I could use to advance the plot of my own real-life story.

Time alone is the perfect time to explore our inner selves, to find what went wrong, and to see what we should have learned from it.

It is pretty common wisdom that regardless of who we blame for the situation, the plight of any relationship is shared equally. And I should have been taking the time to see what my part in the ending of it was–and the beginning. Perhaps only then will I figure out why I keep attracting people who are ultimately wrong for me, despite how right they seem for a time.

Our dreams come from the smartest part of us: our subconscious (the part that doesn’t forget anything, just ask a hypnotist), busy in there figuring us all out.

Perhaps we should grab a journal and listen to it.