On Writing, Random Thoughts

36 Writing Tips from Stephen King #writingtip #amwriting

Written by Millionaire’s Digest Staff Member: Amber M. Founder & Owner of: A Not So Jaded Life Millionaire’s Digest Staff Team, Author, Successful Living and Writing Writer 1. “Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life […]

via 36 KILLER WRITING TIPS FROM STEPHEN KING (10 min read) — Millionaire’s Digest

Random Thoughts

White Beckys

I had a powerful Facebook post come across my feed this morning. The nicely written post by a pretty lady named Lakeshia Robinson shared the experience of being on the metro going into DC for the #WomansMarch last Saturday. It centered on her unfortunate encounter with a rude passenger she deemed #BeckyinthePinkHat who was loudly unhappy about having to make room for the author on the crowded train.

Lakeshia never mentions why she determined Becky’s behavior had anything to do with race. She doesn’t describe the race or gender of the other passengers the White Beckys didn’t make room for, so one has to infer from the rest of her post they were not white women, and that white women would have been treated differently.

I’m pretty sure I know a dozen or so White Beckys, based on Lakeshia’s description. They’re easy to spot, being walking, talking stereotypes. They’re loud and rude and seem self-centered and entitled. I hate that this stereotype has power to influence what any stranger might first feel about me, since I’m a white woman, too.

I would not consider myself a feminist. I am not a liberal. I don’t believe there was one “single” agenda representing every person at the marches, despite what some anti-march folks seem to think. I can stand for equality without being pro-abortion. I can feel genuine concern for my gay friends without turning in my Southern Baptist Christian card.

There are a whole lot people capable of being much less shallow than the White Beckys of the world. Those of us who are know that thug gang members don’t represent all black or Latino young men. Or that any single trait, negative or positive, can possibly define an entire race or gender or nationality. The more we try to fit people into simple categories, the harder it is to achieve equality. It kind of feels here that the racist one on the train was the one saying the train was full of White Beckys.

The only way we will all be equal is to finally realize we are all equally different. Even White Becky, once you get to know her. Maybe, like Lakeshia, she’s “guarded” for her own reasons based on her own history and interactions with people. Maybe, similar to someone I know, she is simply a complete narcissistic bitch. But if she is, she’s her own personal, special kind of bitch. Don’t put Becky in a corner.

Full Text by Lakeshia Robinson – I felt conflicted about the #WomensMarch since I heard about it. I’m glad I decided to attend part of it, but I couldn’t make the trip into DC before being reminded of why I purposefully limit my exposure to Whiteness and white women.

The trains into D.C. were crazy this morning. But tbh, living in DC, I’m used to sporting, cultural, and political events clogging our sidewalks, streets, and trains. It’s not a big deal. Try metro’ing out of city after the Independence Day fireworks show. It’s an hour long wait just to enter the metro stop and then an even longer wait for a crammed train car ride back home. God help the tourists who are lost and jam up the slow but smooth process in their confusion. But hey, having access to all DC has to offer means putting up with tourists and the…ehem crowded train cars they bring.

I was pleased to see the platform nearest my house wasn’t as crowded as I expected this morning. The trains seem to come every 2-4 minutes, more often than normal for a Saturday. But even though the platform wasn’t crowded and the trains arrived frequently, in 15 minutes I watched 3 full trains roll by filled with pink hatted white women, none with room enough to accommodate the modest crowds waiting to board. After watching the cycle a few times, I decided to I had to try something different.

I realized most people were traveling in groups and were not boarding unless they could get on together. The folks traveling alone were usually able to squeeze onto a train car when the doors opened. I watched twice as white women traveling alone squeezed their bodies into trains that were by all accounts crammed full. After witnessing this twice, I thought why not. The next train pulls up, the doors open…

I walk up to the door and Becky…Becky in the Pink hat (#BeckyinthePinkHat) puts her arm out as if to block me from entering, which is bold, but nothing to write home about. But what happens next is exactly why being black around lots of white people is dangerous for black flesh. BeckyinthePinkHat places her entire forearm on my abdomen. Her hand is wrapped around the left sleeve of my Jcrew Field Mechanic Jacket (pictured), while the rest of her forearm, elbow include, has been placed against my stomach.

I need to take a break here and just talk about this for a minute.

I have never felt free enough to touch a white woman. I am scared of white women, if I’m being honest. And for good reason. White women’s tears get people who look like me killed (or best case fired). Can you imagine calling the cops and telling them you were defending yourself against a white woman? Have you seen what happened in Ft Worth when a white grown man laid his hands on a black child? Having been in the reverse of this situation, the boldest I’ve ever felt is to just now attempt to move when a white man/woman tries to push onto a crowded metro train. I have never in my black life, in all my burnt sienna years, extended a member of his sepia toned body to block a white person’s path. I’m not that trill yet, but I hope to be someday.

I looked at Becky in the Pink Hat then I looked down at her arm on my body. Then I looked back at Becky. White Feminist Becky then says, “My baby is squished. There’s no more room.” White Feminism by Tami Lauren still has her hand on me and I’m starring at it and thinking about how it came to rest there on my body. Then I look up at her “baby”, a tallish girl in glasses and purple coast who could not have been any older than 12. While observing the two of them, mom clinging to her “baby” of nearly the same height, the “baby” big as day, big as all getout, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Lysa and Robin Arryn. But thats mean and I didn’t say that. I’m writing it now, but I didn’t say it out loud then. I moved Lysa Arryn in the Pink Cat Hat’s arm off my jacket and pushed, much harder than I otherwise might have into the crowded train car. Magically, space did indeed become available for my almond colored body.

Lysa and the Tully back up singers were not pleased and she continued to complain loudly, in her “I’d Like to Speak with Your Manager” voice, that her 5’1″ baby was being “crushed” and “squished”. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, petty, and a good deal pleased, but mostly I felt angry that safety pins and pink hats didn’t mean I would be treated any differently.

See, I deal with this all the time. This is why my white colleagues say, “you’re so guarded” or “youre so hard to approach”. Yes, snitch, I am. I know that we’re going to walk into this board room or through this vault door and you’re going to tease me over my accent as a passive aggressive way to undermine my request to lead the briefing. I am purposefully hard to approach because from 8 – 5pm, 345 days a year, you only approach me to marvel in bemused befuddlement over how “different” my hair is as a way to bond with the new boss.

F you Becky and all your aggressions, micro and otherwise. And also f your false, misplaced, pseudo concern for baby becky too. Should you ever find it in your heart to be half as interested in Trayvon, Tamir, and Rekia, these marches would instantly be obsolete.

I’m on the train and I just want the doors to close and the train to move so my time near Becky can end as soon as possible. But the doors do not close and the train does not move. For what felt like a half hour but was likely only 15 minutes, we wait on the tracks to clear ahead of us so we could finally move. It is during this time, waiting for my hand to stop shaking and my disappointment and anger to subside that I wrote a bunch of half baked status messages on Facebook. Becky was close enough to read them and I was glad when I found her glaring at my screen over my shoulder. I only wish I’d called her Lysa Arryn sooner.

Eventually, the train doors close and the train moved. Soon after, another white lady, this one not in a pink hat, asked if I was ok. I was not and my answer was a short, clipped – yeah. She asked if I lived in DC, again – yeah. I made more posts on Facebook, time passed. The train rocked back and forth and I laid the full weight of my body into Becky the Older. The other random white lady again spoke up. She didn’t ask me if I was ok this time. She instead told me that she was glad I’d gotten on the train and she was sorry that they had not made room for me. She continued “We should have. You are welcome here. I am sorry.” It is important to note that Becky the Elder had not stopped complaining that whole time and I had started to tremble about 10 minutes into the ride.

I cried for the rest of the train ride. Becky Arryn in the Pink Hat asked if I was claustrophobic. The white lady who wasn’t a walking white feminism meme told her “No. But thank you.” That’s white lady for “Are you forreal?!” Then as I sobbed, mourning all that whiteness and white feminism has wrought on the world, that they are, in fact, the reason we had to have this stupid, pointless march, all the other random Becky’s in Pink Hats who had until then remained silent decided to speak up. They wanted to let it be known what side they were on, pro-making space for me or against. (Really. Y’all Beckys are the most. the.most. My 2017 list of resolutions has to be amended to include an effort to be just as self assured and half as self centered as these pink hat white ladies.)

The non-pink hatted white lady got off outside the march zone. I’m not sure if she attended or not. The rest of the Beckys and I stayed on the train. It got lit the next time those doors opened and they refused to make room for the next person.

Random Thoughts, Spiritual, Travel

Family Vacation

We are finally home from our family vacation to Arizona. While I’m certain I would visit my brother and sister-in-law regularly no matter where they lived, I can admit that I appreciate that they happen to live somewhere that’s wonderful to visit. I’m sure he says the same about me when he visits and gets to hang out on the ocean. 🙂

My brother and I try to get together at least once a year, either by him coming to South Carolina, my going to Arizona, or a shared vacation meeting up somewhere. People who say they’re close to their siblings, yet go years or decades without seeing them, completely baffle me. I’m not judging, just confused. Even my employees who have to travel 9,000 miles to see their families in India manage to do so every couple of years; however, I’ve seen others who can’t be bothered with a four hour train ride. Life is too short to keep putting off that visit until next year!

This year, we took my in-laws along. We had a long-promised birthday gift vacation that my father-in-law hadn’t been able to accept due to health issues, but this year he was determined that he and my mother-in-law would cross the Grand Canyon off their bucket list, despite his recent stroke. Once again, life is too short to put that bucket list item off year after year. They were not disappointed. It is gift-from-God majestic.


On our Grand Canyon days, we stayed at the historic El Tovar, quite literally on the canyon’s South rim. The rooms themselves, like many historic hotels, were simple, but nicely decorated. Because of the thick fog hanging in the canyon the first afternoon, we spent a lot of time chatting with other tourists as we warmed ourselves by the main lobby’s enormous fireplace. One note on the Grand Canyon? Don’t bother with the Grand Canyon Railway. It is incredibly overpriced for the experience.

breakfast-el-tovarDinner at El Tovar was great, though. My brother had warned me to make dinner reservations and I’m glad we did – the dining room fills up even in the dead of winter! I very much enjoyed the roasted half duck with cherry merlot sauce, but I don’t believe any of us cared for either of the two types of rice side dish that came with our entrees. Breakfast, on the other hand, could not have been lovelier. While not a perfect view, the dining room does provide a nice way to watch the sunrise and see the colors on the canyon walls.

We spent our Sedona days at the beautiful and scenic Junipine Resort, about eight miles from town. Sedona is to the western mountain desert as Gatlinburg is to the Smoky Mountains and Myrtle Beach is to the coast — absolutely loaded with tourist stuff and a whole lot of family fun. We did not take a pink jeep tour but we did visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross (whose gift shop is larger than its chapel – not kidding). Wonderful views.

img_7719The last part of the week we spent back in Phoenix, where, besides the Grand Canyon and visiting with family, we had the highlight of our trip in spending an afternoon on the Desert Belle on Saguaro Lake. We also enjoyed the Desert Botanical Garden, Butterfly Wonderland, and, of course one of our favorites, Old Town Scottsdale. If you’ve never been, but like art, put Scottsdale on your bucket list. While you’re there, be sure to visit The Sugar Bowl. Yum.

My brother also introduced us to some of his favorite restaurants. Although according to my brother, Claim Jumper really messed up by removing steak chili from its menu, it turned out to be my father-in-law’s favorite meal of the trip. In between all of that, my mother-in-law fit in a massage and hair styling, I got my nails did, and the boys went shopping for guns.

On the way home we detoured through Washington DC just in time for the Women’s March. I didn’t get to see anyone I knew there, despite having at least 10 friends and relatives participating. It was fun to watch my Facebook feed as my friends from around the country posted pictures from their various cities (Raleigh, Lansing, Knoxville, New York, Columbia, just to name a few).

I’ll save the political stuff for another post, but I will say that this day of togetherness and solidarity was the perfect end to a wonderful vacation enjoyed with people I love and respect. Please – don’t be so wrapped up in your own life or work or politics or anything else that keeps you from spending time with your people or with God. If you wait for a wedding or a funeral to have either around, you may miss them both.

Also? Go see this:


Random Thoughts

Tea. The best cold comfort around.

Last weekend, my husband and I stopped for lunch at one of my favorite places – Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, SC. The owner (whose name is Carol, and not, in fact, Laura) has a dog named Jake who is friends with our dogs Wilbur and Orville. I usually run into Carol when pickup up the dogs from doggy day care, but I hadn’t seen her in a while and decided to pay her wonderful establishment a visit. We hadn’t made reservations for the tea room upstairs, but the deli downstairs is lovely and filled the needs quite nicely.

I have discovered some of my favorite teas from Laura’s Tea Room and I’m so glad the tea shop carries everything they brew so I can also enjoy these delights at home. On this last visit, we split a large pot of a black tea with a dried cherry flavor.My husband and I both have colds this weekend and I got to craving that tea. Unfortunately, I forgot to write down its name, so I’ll have to ask Carol next time I see her and maybe pick some up the next time I’m in Ridgeway.

southernpecanI’ll have no issues satisfying a tea need this weekend, though, because I still have some of the two different kinds I got at the tea room back in early fall. Southern Pecan by Elmwood Inn Fine Teas tops my list of favorite tea of all time. It’s a Sri Lanka black tea base with pecans and white chocolate chips. I like a bit of vanilla soy milk in this one over cream or regular milk because it plays so well with the flavors in this mix.

Laura’s Tea Room carries several Elmwood Inn Teas and they are all on my list to try – especially the Apple Spice and the Bourbon.

colonialI got hooked on my other favorite when my girlfriends and I went to the tea room proper (high tea, upstairs in the tea room, wearing pretty hats). Oliver Pluff & Co.‘s Colonial Bohea has a very…distinctive.. flavor – best reviewed by someone who knows way more about tea than I do.

If you’ve never had Lowcountry tea, I highly recommend. This tea is extra special amazing if you add some lightly frothed sweetened milk or soy. If smoky teas don’t excite you, Oliver Pluff & Co’s fruit teas are amazing (apricot FTW).

Both of those teas sound delicious, but I think tonight we may have to indulge in one of the rooibos teas (naturally decaffeinated) with honey to soothe sore throats and hopefully rid our mouths of the taste of the nastiness known as NyQuil. Sleep tight!


On Writing

2017 Atlanta Writing Workshop

I normally self-identify as a fiction writer, but one of my current projects takes the business writing I do (in my “day job”) to book level. I started it several years ago and nearly finished it before my career changed gears. I’m back in a position where it makes a lot of sense to pick it back up and finish it, but I really don’t know that much about the non-fiction publishing industry. Originally I thought I’d just publish it through PMI (my professional association), and I suppose that’s still an option, but over time the book has evolved to where it would be valuable to people outside of project management.

Ah, but where to start? Then, just the other day, I received a nice little PM note from Chuck Sambuchino @ChuckSambuchino telling me he would be teaching at the 2017 Atlanta Writing Workshop in February. Now I haven’t been to a writing workshop in years, but I know Chuck’s work, so I followed the link to see what topics he planned to take on at this year’s conference. One session in particular grabbed my interest:

Nonfiction Intense: Book Proposal Tips, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This session is completely devoted to nonfiction that is not memoir. So if you are trying to create an awesome nonfiction book proposal, this presentation is for you. With both a writer and agent to instruct and answers questions, the session will talk about platform, identifying your book’s place in the market, effective pitching, and more.

While I’m not really planning on writing a memoir or middle school fiction any time soon, I did see a couple of other topics that also sounded interesting. The price – $169 for early-bird – seemed really reasonable, and having worked in the area, I know the venue is nice (The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North). Best of all, the workshop is on a Saturday (February 25, 2017) AND I just happen to be speaking at the DevNexus conference in Atlanta the day before. Win-win-win.

So, I’ll be attending, and I’m sharing the info about the workshop to my writing friends. Are you interested in a writing workshop that focuses on the publishing side of the business? Check it out! Hope to see you there! About the 2017 Atlanta Writing Workshop

Fitness, On Writing

2017 Resolutions – Let’s Get Personal #HappyNewYear #2017

It feels pretty good to have my hands on the keyboard again. I gave myself a three-month sabbatical from writing (and a myriad of other activities) to focus on my new role at work, and I’m glad I did, but I am beyond ready to get back into some regular habits. I know a lot of people shy away from New Years Resolutions because they so often end in failure; however, ever since I quit smoking cold turkey many years ago, I have enjoyed great success with them – from running marathons to earning my PMP – so here’s to continuing the tradition. This is the first time my resolutions haven’t including something brand new. This year is all about reviving old good habits that have taken last place in the busy-ness of life. And somewhat uncharacteristically, I’ve decided to get a bit personal in hopes that anyone reading this will take a look at their own habits and maybe avoid some of my bad decisions!

12191940_10208073140376495_7424452354353438648_nResolution #1 – Running. Ever since I hobbled through the last half of a marathon with a stress fracture, I haven’t felt much like running. The past few weeks or so I’ve caught myself daydreaming about being out on a run…just me and my music and the fresh air. I don’t think I could ever feel like running if just for something like weight loss – there’s too many other types of exercise to force yourself to do something you don’t want to do or that you’re afraid you’ll hurt yourself again doing. But my daydreaming tells me my body is healed and my mind is aching for the peace and clear-thought that where such a large part of what made me start running in the first place.

Resolution #1a – Remember I haven’t had a good run in over a year and not get discouraged when I can’t just trot off a 5K before breakfast like I used to!

Resolution #1b – While the running focus is mostly mental-health-driven, part of the resolution is really putting more focus back on my physical health. In my 30s, making purposeful health choices (like quitting smoking and picking up running) helped me through some major health issues practically unscathed. A hysterectomy seemed like nothing to me compared to the alternative. (NOTE: please know I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of this situation, especially for anyone facing it who still wants children. Thankfully, my kids were already teenagers).

After I made it through the surgery and all the procedures, I spent ten years focused on my health, religiously putting up with the inconvenience of tests and biopsies every three to six months. Then the weirdest thing happened. In 2015 I got my 10-year-cancer-free card and, apparently, went completely batshit insane. Like a dumbass, I went from working out 3-4 days a week to doing practically nothing. Do you know what happens when you quit working out? Yes, you gain weight, but that’s just vanity. The real issue is that you quit paying attention to the crap you put into your body. I still don’t know exactly how or why it happened. I even started eating fast food, for Pete’s sake! I suppose not having to purposefully think about it or shoved in my face every 90 or so days with a blood test here or a biopsy there made the threat of it less real. Which is crazy, since my mom died from cancer just three years ago and I’m a walking genetic clone.

healthy-living-apple-300x279So here we are a year later and (thank you God) I just got through my dozens of tests and specialist appointments with no sign of cancer (or anything else serious). Funny how fast that year went and how little I thought about it, but let me tell you, I did a lot of thinking (and remembering) as I went through all those tests again. And I was ashamed of myself and how I took it all for granted. This year I’m shaking all that off and get back into the awesomeness of healthy living!


Resolution #2 – Writing. I have two half-finished books that I’m determined to complete this year. One of them, a non-fiction book about Agile Project Methodology, I (legit) set aside to complete another large Agile implementation and purposefully test out some ideas and theories I had suggested in the book. I’ve got a ton of new material swirling around in my head (which may be part of the drive to run so I can sort it all out and start writing it down!)

6a014e5fb9e8aa970c016764212744970b-800wiThe other, a work of fiction, quite honestly got set aside before I even hit the sabbatical. I had reached a point in writing that happened to coincide with some circumstances in real life and the emotional collision paralyzed me a bit. Whenever I wrote dark situations in the book as tight and tense as I think they need to be, I found it difficult to keep from picturing similar (worst-case scenario) events and situations happening to some real people I love.

Now let me preface that normally when I read something I wrote a few months or years prior, I am hyper-critical of my work. Sometimes I think parts are okay and maybe if I polished it I could salvage something, but for the most part, I fail to see any spark of originality, let alone brilliance, my professors and others have claimed to see. I read over my draft the other day and I realized that the parts I wrote with dread in my heart were some of the most honest and striking writing I have ever done. Also? The worst-case scenarios I kept picturing never materialized. I thought, maybe instead of hiding from the way my writing makes me feel, I need to embrace it and write through the emotion, raw as it is, and let my characters take on that dimension.

So there it is, for all the world to see. My New Years’ Resolutions. Perhaps now I’ll have to post every now and again on how it’s going and let the thought of that help keep me on track! 🙂