Our Society Needs More Truthful People

It makes my heart hurt when people stare at me, completely baffled, when I say I want to return something I didn’t pay for (like when the warehouse people had accidentally filled my order twice, but only charged me once when I made an online order this summer) or they undercharged me, so I’d like to pay the rest of what I owe for what I purchased (like the tea I bought last week.)

Today, I went to the mall, purchases and sales receipt in hand, and walked up to the cashier in Barnes and Noble. I explained that I’d bought some books and tins of tea there last week, and, when I looked over my receipt, I’d found that they’d undercharged me for the tea. So, I was hoping to pay the remainder of what I owed.

He stared at me. Then, finally, he asked, “Why would you want to do that? You could use that money to buy yourself something else now.” I replied with something like, “Well, I fully intend to make other purchases, but I cannot keep something I did not fully pay for. I need to pay what I owe. I don’t steal things.”

He looked at me, aghast, again, then thought for a minute before he admitted, “I don’t even know how to handle this.” I just shrugged and said I just believe in honesty. He asked, “Why can’t you be selfish and greedy like the rest of the world?” Then he paged for a manager. His summary of the situation? “This person’s honesty astounds me.”

 

Or, several years ago, the seller in the gift shop in Washington, D.C. rang me up for some souvenirs, but she thought the puzzle sitting with my things was a box of chocolates, so she typed in the incorrect price. Now, chocolates and puzzles are of different enough prices that I noticed as soon as she said the total. I thought she’d completely missed an item, so I held them up one at a time for her, asking, “Did you get this?” And when she saw the puzzle, she was like, “Oh! I thought that was a box of chocolates!” And adjusted the amount accordingly. And then proceeded to thank me for my honesty at least three times. Then she insisted on giving me a small souvenir for free. Wouldn’t let me say no. And she thanked me again for my honesty several more times when I was leaving.

 

Those scenarios stick out in my mind, but I know there are other stories out there. And not all involving me, of course.

Is honesty really such a rare quality these days?

I mean, I know I’m not perfect. Not by a long shot. I may do my best to be honest, but I’m willing to admit I’ve lied.

I lied disconcertingly regularly on my job over the summer. I got lots of questions like, “Are you out here alone?” and “Wow, you work weekends? So, what day do you get off, then?” And there was no way I was going to admit I was, indeed, working alone–always assured them I had coworkers, just in a different section, and we’d meet up later. Which, if you look at it broadly enough, might be considered true–I did have coworkers working…but they were a good 45-60 minute drive away, and the only time I’d be meeting up with them would be at the office at the end of the day…So, it was essentially a lie. And I usually declined to say what my days off were. As someone who enforces the rules, you never say when you’re off-duty. Just encourages certain people to think about when they can break the rules and get away with it. The people I was talking to? Probably not. But, you never know who they might unwittingly tell…

 

So…yeah. I think it’s sad that honesty takes people so completely by surprise. I believe in honesty, integrity, and morality. (Yes, I know, those words can mean different things to different people.) I was raised by my parents to not lie and always pay what you owe. I guess my parents just set good examples for me.

 

I just wish that honesty was more the norm than it seems.

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NaNo, the End

So, NaNoWriMo ended when November ended. I had two goals for the month:

  1. Write 50,000+ words on my story.
  2. Write at least a little every day of the month.

I accomplished the 1st goal, but not the 2nd. I lost my motivation to write last week.

Last Tuesday, my mom was admitted to the hospital. She had gone in for a scheduled exam (stress test) and was expected home in the early afternoon. They decided to admit her. She still hasn’t come home. (Hopefully, today! But, they said that on Sunday. And Monday.) It’s pneumonia. Probably. (Doctor said the scans “look like” pneumonia. Not “it is” pneumonia.) And it’s aspiration pneumonia. Probably. Maybe. And it might be aspiration due to GVHD in her throat. Maybe. Maybe not. Different people in the hospital said different things.

So, they don’t know for certain.

She might come home with an oxygen tank, but at least she’ll be home.

Hard to find the concentration to write when I’m stressing out about my parents’ health. And babysitting kids, so my dad can be with my mom in the hospital every day.

 

I got an extra punch of disillusioned disinspiration on Thursday. My supervisor from the last three summers emailed me to say they’re not rehiring any of the seasonals from last summer. So, my back-up plan if no one else hires me just fell through. He must’ve been getting criticism from some of the other seasonals, or else he had a guilty conscience, or maybe he just wanted to make sure I’d got the message, since I hadn’t replied to the email, because he also called me that night. Told me the same thing–they’re “restructuring the department” and so they have decided not to bring any of the seasonals back. It does make sense, to hire all new seasonals when you’re going to change the system and do things a new way. That way, you don’t have any around with old, bad habits. I do get it. I just wish they’d been more forthcoming before I left. He said he thought he had been clear about it by encouraging everyone to be sure to apply for other places.

I remained silent, feeling rather numb, but I was mentally screaming, “No. You WERE NOT clear. You never said you were not bringing anyone back. You even made the point to gather us all and tell us you might not have the funds to bring everyone back next season, so people should be sure to apply for other locations, as well. But, that rather implies that you’d probably bring some back.” And how about the conversation I had with my boss shortly before I left, when he asked, “I suppose, if I ask if you would be willing to return, you’ll tell me the same thing you always do?” And I replied, “Yup. I’d love to come back, but if I get something in MN, I’ll take it.” He didn’t say a thing.        WHY EVEN ASK?!?!

I just wish they’d have told me sooner. When I was applying for summer jobs for next year, so I could broaden my application base. Telling us now, you just screwed us over; summer hiring is closed. No more applications open. MN better hire me this year, or I’m in trouble. (Of course, there could potentially be the last-minute scrabble of jobs opening when some places thought they hired someone, but then their hiree bailed on them, so they need to quick grab someone… But I really don’t want to count on that.)

 

So, yeah, high stress and worry is not conducive to writing. Though, that’s really when I need the escape the most.

 

 

Well, if you’re curious how my NaNoWriMo graphic ended up looking, here’s the final picture:

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Edit: Yes, my mother did come home tonight. She needs an oxygen tank, but at least she’s home. (And the tank is hopefully temporary.)

NaNo, Day 23: Home Stretch!

Aaannnnddd….I forgot what I was going to post about, aside from my NaNo graphic.

Well, short post, then!

About a week to go until NaNoWriMo ends, and I have less than 5,000 words to go before I hit 50,000! Of course, my story will not actually be done when I hit the 50,000 mark. My tales have traditionally tended towards long.

Even in high school, when my classmates were struggling to write their 1 short story of 3,000+ words, I was struggling to keep mine shorter for the 2 stories of less than 3000 words… >.<  The first story I handed in to that class, I couldn’t staple, because there were too many pages. I had to use a binder. We handed in our works at the beginning of class, then were given writing time for the prompt of the day. Another teacher walked in and was speaking with our Creative Writing teacher; he spied the pile of stories on the front table and asked about the binder. I didn’t catch the entire conversation, of course, but I heard my teacher say, “Yeah, that one’s from her.” And he must’ve pointed at me. I usually sat in front, and that day was no exception. That story was 25,213 words. That’s about 70 1/3 1.5-spaced pages in MSWord. Our teacher also offered extra credit for every 1,000 words over the minimum word count for the story assignment; needless to say, even if that story was absolute trash, he was forced to give me an “A” on it, anyway. Too much extra credit!

I miss my Creative Writing teacher……. *sigh*

 

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Hugs & Crosses

On Wednesday, we had the opportunity to babysit Scoot, my 3 ½-year-old nephew. We don’t usually watch him during the week anymore, because he’s been going to school/daycare. But, he was sent home early on Tuesday with a fever, so we got to watch him on Wednesday.

There are plenty of cute kid stories from my nephews, and there were plenty of cute scenes from that day, but the thing I wanted to talk about was just a short blip. I was holding him and walking around, because he had been asking for his daddy, who, of course, was at work and not here, so he had begun to cry.

After I got him to calm down, he pointed to my necklace and said, “Hug.” So, I gave him a hug. Then he did it again. And again. I kept hugging him every time he asked, but I didn’t clue in as to why he had to point to my necklace first.

After he had left and I was pondering things (and also failing to focus on writing…) I realized why. My necklace is a crucifix. Jesus, on the cross, arms spread wide. Scoot was telling me my necklace looked like Jesus opening his arms for a hug.

And you know what? He was right. On that day, on the cross, Jesus spread out his arms to hug the entire world and show us His love.

Kids. Even when they may not realize it, they can teach us many lessons.

 

 

In other news, it took copious amounts of tea and chocolate, but I hit the 30,000 word mark yesterday for NaNoWriMo. 15 days and 20,000 words to go!

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Rambling Through the Woods

Back in 2013, I was in the Ottawa National Forest. They have three federally-designated wilderness areas in that one national forest: Sylvania, Sturgeon River Gorge, and McCormick. Sylvania was the largest of the three, and, as it had its own trails crew, I also never set foot in it. Today, for some reason, the story of the McCormick Wilderness has been in my head and won’t leave, so I’m sharing it here.

McCormick Wilderness, if you look on the map, is not even connected (touching/adjacent) to the Ottawa National Forest. It’s way out, on its own. It took us a couple hours to drive there when it was time to clear the trails. So, how did it become part of the Ottawa National Forest? Well, it goes something like this. [Disclaimer: the story I’m about to relate was told to me by one of my coworkers. I did not fact-check any of it, so it could be fact and it could be fiction, or any mix thereof.]

 

Mr. McCormick (inventor of the McCormick Reaper) was a rich man who enjoyed the outdoors. Rumor has it that while he was walking in the woods, he found some timber harvesters cutting down trees. He walked up to one of the men and asked how much the tree the man was cutting down was worth. After the man gave him a figure, McCormick pulled out his checkbook and proceeded to write out a check for that amount, hand it to the man, and tell him, “Don’t cut it down.” He wandered over to another old tree, also in danger of the saw, and repeated the process. He bought many trees that day and eventually also bought the land they were on.

He added to that plot of woods, built himself a home (which was actually several buildings—a house for himself, a house for dining/cooking, a house for guests…), and even dammed the river, because he wanted his house to be on a lake, so he made a lake. (I believe he named the lake White Deer Lake, because he had spotted a white deer in the area. The river, if I recall correctly, was the Yellow Dog River.) He even hired his own trails crew to build and maintain trails on his property. His stipulations for the trails were that they:

  1. Had to be wide enough that two people could walk abreast without touching, and
  2. Also had to be tall enough that a lady could walk the trails with a parasol and not get her umbrella caught in any branches.

And he enjoyed his land, and invited his friends over to also enjoy the beautiful country. He would often take them out on his trails, but his friends (being of the rich, genteel variety) did not own clothing they could go hiking in the woods in. So, as the story goes, McCormick, tired of his guests not having suitable attire, bought many different outfits of different sizes and kept them in the guest house—a complete wardrobe for guests to borrow from, so they had suitable hiking clothing while visiting.

And, of course, eventually, McCormick passed away and deeded the land to his heirs. They added to the land or parceled it off, as they pleased (or as needed, when the heirs all wanted a piece). Down through the generations until, finally, the McCormick holding the land died and it was in his will that stipulated that, if his heirs did not want the land, they could not sell it to developers nor cut the woods down themselves, but they must donate it to the Forest Service to become a wilderness area. The heirs did not want the land, so it was given to the Forest Service, and it became a wilderness area.

And so it remains, a wilderness area part of the Ottawa National Forest. The river and the lake remain. The foundations of his buildings also remain, but the buildings themselves have fallen. There are some very large, lovely trees within it, and as I hiked through there and admired them, I wondered if they were one of the lucky ones singled out by McCormick that day.

 

So, that’s the tale, and even if it isn’t true, it makes for a good story.

 

 

I think I need an eccentric rich person like McCormick in one of my stories. No, okay, I don’t think I do, I know I do. I just have not discovered him/her yet. Maybe I will meet them during this NaNo month. Maybe they will remain hidden for awhile yet. And, maybe, just maybe, they are already there and I just have not seen that side of them yet.

A vampire stole my spare key

I’ve been having really weird dreams lately. Most of them, I don’t recall enough details for them to be useful, other than they were weird.

But, in one of them, some vampire took the spare key to my car. And I saw him take it and let him walk away. Then, a couple days later, I realized I really ought to get that back, and went and reclaimed it. (I found him out at one of the places in the woods where I worked over the summer…down by one of the rivers…) And, in the way dreams do sometimes, dream-me was off back at home, key in pocket, but dreaming me saw the vampire guy hold a very odd and creepy conversation with someone I couldn’t see. But the disembodied voice was very angry that the vampire had lost my key and was demanding he get it back. NOW. (For some reason, that key, specifically, was important. Didn’t want the main key. Didn’t want the car. Just the spare key.) And the vampire was clearly quite afraid of the voice.

Anyway, I woke up before dream-me had another run-in with the vampire, so I don’t know if he ever got the key back or not. My brain is so weird sometimes…

 

In other news, I’m just shy of 16,000 words for my NaNo story. I’ll be going over the 16,000 mark today.

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And, hey, it’s snowing!

Okay, this isn’t the first snowfall. When it snowed on Tuesday, Mooch said he wanted to go out and build a snowman. We told him there wasn’t enough snow. (There really wasn’t. There was still plenty of grass showing. The snow was really just a dusting.) Plus, what snow we did have wasn’t packable, so you couldn’t build a snowman, anyway. And on Thursday, Jaws asked me if I could go outside and play in the snow with him after school. I told him sure, if there’s any snow left. There wasn’t.

NaNo Day 5

Well, we’re five days into NaNoWriMo. It has been good and bad so far.

Saturday was rough. The words did not want to come. Sunday was great. I got my word goal finished by early afternoon, then I returned later that day and added more.

Today was also rough. I struggled just to get my current 368 words. Can’t get the words to flow. And I can’t really get a good rhythm going.

But, nevertheless, I continue to toil away, smashing my head against the keyboard.

For a little brighter note, here’s my current NaNo graphic:

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Until today, I’ve been hitting my daily word count goals. Yesterday was my wordiest day so far.

I have been struggling with this story this year; more than the stories I did the last 2 years.

Of course, today isn’t on the list yet. I don’t count down the final word count until the day is over. And today is still going. I will write more, though it will be a long night, at the rate I’m going.

But, any progress is good progress.

So, bring on the writing! (I think I need more caffeine and chocolate.)

NaNo, Day 0

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow!

Here’s my graph for today:

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(Yeah, okay, I colored in the “NaNoWriMo 2018 Wordcount” yesterday.)

I have a sense of the story and the characters I’ll be writing. I have updated my NaNo account online and added my “Novel” to their site in anticipation of tomorrow. I have stockpiled chocolate, tea, and snacks for my writing sessions. I have set up my writing station, away from [most] distractions. I have warned told people I’ll be writing all month. Thus, I have set the groundwork for my story, so I:

colored the bookshelf

It’s the support for the books; therefore, now my prepwork is complete, it is colored.

Happy Writing, all!

Feels Good to have Ink on my Hands Again

Ink (and/or pencil lead) used to be a common smudge on my fingers and hands. Especially in high school and college. Nowadays, it typically only happens when I’m doing my mass mailing of postcards in the summer.

But, on Sunday, I picked up a pencil to sketch a story character (at my sister’s encouragement) and tried to find a face to affix to the name in my head. I did find one of my characters for my NaNo story this year, but it wasn’t the one I’d been hoping to find. Still good to have somebody down on paper, though.

Last night, I drew a little graphic for myself to chart my NaNo progress. Yes, I always do a corner word count for total words and a word count countdown for words remaining until 50,000 in the corner of my document while I type; and, yes, the Nano website itself make a very nice graph to show your word count climbing by day. But I wanted something a little more colorful and hands-on. So, after reading one of the NaNo blogs from over the summer about teachers getting their students to participate, I stole one of their ideas—make a “bookshelf” graph. Each book represents 1000 words. They had it circling the classroom. (And, since they were doing total words for the entire class, they needed a lot more than 50!) So, I drew a bookshelf and doodled on some books, labeling each spine with its appropriate number.

DSCN5811cropped(After I was done, I realized I should’ve made the books bigger, so I could’ve done a crazier, more topsy-tervy bookshelf.)

I tried to vary the sizes, just so it wasn’t so cut-and-paste looking, but it looked way cooler in my head than it does on paper. However, it’ll look awesome once it’s colored in.

Every 1000 words, I’ll color in the next book. To the left of the lower shelf, I have space to write my actual overall word count total each day, and on the bottom, I’ll be writing the daily word counts.

Now, I know it probably seems weird that all the books are shut except for the one after 50,000 that says, “+” (for when I go over 50,000 words, assuming I make it) and also, “The End.” It might make more sense for all the books to be open except for the last—once you reach the end, your novel is supposed to be done, right? (Haha.) But, NaNo isn’t just about the story you write. It’s not an ending once you hit 50,000 words. It’s a beginning. You’ve made a habit of writing every day. You now have a draft of a story (of any length!) that you can edit and fix up and add to/subtract from as you see fit, when you return to revise the draft.

I’m not intending to update my blog daily to show you my graph each day. But, I do hope to update more frequently, as a way to inspire me to blog more, as well as keep me honest. 😉

 

Any one else NaNo-ing this year?? I’d love to hear about it!

frustration/despair and apathy

The to-do list lengthens…the starred items are more important…the double and triple-starred ones even more so.

My ability to focus on….pretty much everything…is pretty much nil.

Even when I go to start working, my brain keeps telling me everything else I also need to do, so then I start multi-tasking. I start one thing, stop to start another, stop to start another, stop to think, get confused, then give up.

This happened a lot over the summer, too, and I felt like I was losing my mind.

Now, my mind lost, I feel like my brain is falling apart.