Random Thoughts

New Site Design #amwriting #blogging

thefaulknerportableI got some good advice from my friend Tess after my blog post yesterday. If I really want to shake off the negativity, I need to lighten up. Not just my content, but also my site design. I agree!! I’ve had that old design for a long time and really liked the idea of making a change. I had a lot of fun selecting just the right colors and fonts and layouts. I think the end result is bright and happy. I hope you like it, too.

In addition to a new look and feel, I made some changes to make navigating the site easier. On the main page, I ditched the boring Categories section and added an Archive by date and a Category Cloud instead. I moved the Creative Commons License to the footer, so it’s still on every page, but isn’t taking up space on the side bar.

My favorite addition, however, is content I’m starting to add to provide additional value for my readers. On the side bar, I’ve created a couple of lists for links – kind of like a custom blogroll. I follow around 600 blogs, so I thought I’d use some space to introduce my readers to some of my favorites. While I’ll likely keep a couple of links static, I really like the idea of rotating the list to highlight different blogs, and especially to give some newer blogs a little attention.

In addition to the links, I’m adding resource pages (where I may put some more permanent references to some of the top blogs in each of my industries. So far, I’ve added a resources page for Agile, and plan to add pages for Writing and User Experience, too. I’ll see how that goes and decide if everything still works together or if I need to think about creating more than one blog (one for writing and one for technology).

I hope you enjoy the changes and additions. I’m certainly open to comments and suggestions, too, so please feel free to send them my way!

On Writing, Random Thoughts, Spiritual

Goodbye Negativity – I don’t have room for you in my world #amwriting #ampraying

I woke up this morning in Atlanta with the same awful headache that plagued me the entire DevNexus conference. Despite having looked forward to today’s Atlanta Writing Workshop for many weeks, I made the decision to just come home. Disappointed and cranky, I found a seat at breakfast as far from other humans as possible and stared at my phone, in case anyone thought to, I don’t know, make eye contact or something.

As I made the rounds on the social media sites, I found myself moving from cranky to irritated to angry, which has become a too-familiar pattern in these months since the election. I wandered around until I landed at the @realdonaldtrump Twitter account. Spiking my mood, I retweeted some snarky thing to no audience in particular – I guess so I’d feel like I have at least some kind of voice in this surreal new world – but instead of making me feel empowered, I felt even more deflated. I looked back over my Tweets for the past several weeks and realized all the emotion, all of the anger and fear and disappointment and confusion, had made its way onto my page.

My husband likes to say that anything that does not provide value and add something to your day should be cut out of your life. He’s much better than I am about cutting things (subjects, people, whatever)  completely from his world. Not that he isn’t interested or engaged in all this Trump-craziness – we both have to be, as so much of what has transpired so far has impacted our professional lives directly in one way or another – but he doesn’t get as emotionally invested as I do. He sent his strongly-worded letter to Senator Graham; whereas, I write the letter, make the phone call, attend the town hall, Tweet about it, etc..

Today I think I reached my threshold. Between the news stories and the posts on Facebook and the Tweets, I feel like I’m drowning in Trump – suffocated by his narcissism, ignorance, bullying, and ugliness. Strangled by every word I hear about what he’s said or done today or what his minions have said or done. Making things worse are all the fights I’m witnessing on social media between my friends on the Trump Train and my friends wringing their hands in delight at the thought of derailment.

My dear friend Tess gave up on Twitter a few weeks ago. I don’t think I want to give up Twitter completely because I very much enjoy the socializing with my fellow writers and readers, but I knew before I left that breakfast table that I needed to find a way, somehow, to remove the negativity from my world. I want to do it, however, without sticking my head into the ground. I still need to be engaged serve as an advocate and defender. Surely there is a healthier option.

As I started the drive back to Columbia, I looked at the next book in queue in Audiobooks – Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer by Pricilla Shirer. Really? When I’m wallowed down deep in pissy attitude? I literally rolled my eyes. At God. I knew I was supposed to listen to it whether I wanted to or not. As I pulled out of the parking garage, I took a reluctant swipe at play, determined to not enjoy it.

Strategy 1 – Your Passion – Getting It Back When It’s Gone. I realized my morning bible time had all but disappeared, replaced by my morning ritual of “catching up on the news” before and after work each day. When was the last time I had some Bible time? It had gone the way of my writing and running and other things I’d been passionate about. WTH?

Strategy 2 – Your Focus – Fighting the Real Enemy. Have I been putting all  my time and energy into fighting the wrong battles? Worrying about things I can’t change and ignoring the tools at my disposal that could truly make a difference?

Strategy 3 – Your Identity – Remembering Who You Are. At 45, I have reached a point in my life where most superficial things don’t really bother me much. I realized listening to this, however, that I was still really shaken by how “less than my best” my conference presentation was, especially in comparison with my colleague Doc Norton‘s presentation on a similar topic. Two thoughts. 1) Had my passion and focus here, for my work, been impacted, too? 2) Is there any person on the planet who isn’t at least a little insecure?

Strategy 4 – Your Family – Fortifying the Lives of Those You Love. Oh my family – a constant source of joy and worry. I don’t care how old your children get, you never stop worrying about them. And the grandkids, my little treasures, when was the last time I wrote each name in my prayer book and prayed for them as individuals?

Strategy 5 – Your Past – Ending the Reign of Guilt, Shame, and Regret. Every time I think I’ve accepted God’s forgiveness (and forgiven myself) for the many sins in my past, BAM!! out of the shadows comes some reminder. This is another area where my energy is often misdirected–when I should pray fervently and pity those people who would seek to hurt me rather than be irritated or angry.

Strategy 6 – Your Fears – Confronting Your Worries, Claiming Your Calling. All of the strategies struck me, but this one perhaps most. I am the Queen of procrastination and most of the time, it’s easy to point to why. I did it with my conference presentation. DevNexus is a really really technical conference. I’m an English major, not a computer engineer. Even being an application development manager and understanding (most) of every session I attended, I still worry every time I present there. I do the same thing with my writing. I’ll do anything BUT write the closer I get to the completion of a project.

I still have Strategies 7 through 10 to go, but I’m not stupid. I got the message loud and clear on why God wanted me to read this book. And why now. I have spent way too much time and focus on the things that not only add no value, they just make me angry or sad. And every time I retweet with some snarky response, it not only brings me down, it spreads the fever to all my readers. That’s not fair to them. That’s not why I keep a Twitter account in the first place.

So, my first strategy to implement is reorganizing my schedule and focus to spend my time and energy on what’s most important. Clearly I need to lay off the political posts, never look at Trump’s Twitter, and make my first activity every day my bible time. I need to be praying for the president, not trolling him.

It is also time to stop researching my books and finish writing them. I have more than enough material and continuing to read about things like neglected foster children and heroin overdoses just makes me angry at the world and the systems with holes as big as elephants in their safety nets… and they aren’t even central to the story! It’s just procrastination, like my other book, which I know I’ve been avoiding finishing because I’m absolutely sure there are a hundred Agile experts who know way more than me and should probably be writing that book themselves. What’s that? Is that Strategy 3 and Strategy 6 calling?

I do hope, through all of this, that I find the right channels to be heard and affect change in healthy, positive ways. I would guess that, after the quite direct messages I received, something to that effect is in order one way or another. I’m always amazed by where God takes me when I stop rolling my eyes and start listening to him.

Random Thoughts

First Things First – Beat the Procrastination Demon

Procrastination – Writer’s are often experts. #amwriting #writinglife #writingtips

Jack B. Strandburg - Author and Editor

One of the more popular blog topics targeting writer discusses why writers procrastinate.

One recent blog asked whether perfectionism caused writers to procrastinate. At last count there were 171 comments on the blog. Many agreed perfectionism to be an issue and offered advice, the most popular to write the draft and let the revision stage improve the manuscript. Easy to say, hard to apply, isn’t it?

For me and I expect a lot of writers, perfectionism never factors into the equation because some of us can’t even get started. Now that is true procrastination.

The reason (to me) is simple. Sitting down to work on a writing project, whether it is an outline, a first draft, or revising an existing project, means you have decided to commit a block of time to essentially create something from nothing. Many writers fail because they realize that block of time can be…

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Random Thoughts

The Writer’s Toolbox – Timeline: A Writer’s Best Friend

In case you missed it – Post on timelines from Jack Strandburg @jackstr952 #writingtips #amwriting

Jack B. Strandburg - Author and Editor

Every writer develops their stories in different ways. Some outline, some write from scratch and let the characters develop and the plot emerge as they write. Others might draft three or four chapters before they decide it’s time to step back and determine the flow of the story.

I’ve tried all of the above and other approaches, but always come back to, and finally settled on outlining. My “ideal” story will be mapped out with all questions and issues resolved before I write the draft. Of course, that’s in a perfect world.

Regardless of the approach you use, at some point the chronology of the events in the lives of your characters will need to be validated. Most, if not all stories involve background events for your main characters, which may or may not be included in the final version. But these events are important because you want to ensure…

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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: