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Week 3 – Influence

In early August of 2005 I found myself in a Miami bar lazily drinking a beer and occasionally glancing at the TV above the bar. The man sitting on the stool next to me held a Vodka on the rocks in one hand, his eyes absorbing whatever was on television. He was well-built, muscular, but not overly so, with a handsome, square-shaped face and white-flecked, brown, wavy hair. His shirt looked expensive, button-up with a stylish striped design. At one point he repeated something from the TV. As the conversation was mostly one-sided, I have left out my negligible contribution.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Ha! Screw that!

People are responsible for themselves alone. That’s it. People who try to take responsibility for others never come out ahead.

Take my grandfather. He was a doctor. My dad said he had a special gift for it. “The healing touch.” I never met my grandpa, since he died in the war. But he saved a lot of people, according to my grandmother. As if it was a good thing. He died, and she had to raise three kids, including my Mom, on her own. He could have been a family practice doctor, leave a lot of money to his kids, live a comfortable life with his wife. And what he chose to do instead was better? Fuck that.

My dad wanted me to be a doctor. Especially when he thought I had the healing touch. We had these blueberry bushes, and Dad noticed that after I picked blueberries, they would grow right back the next day. So he started testing me. He’d ask me to touch the leaf of a dying houseplant, and when I did, the plant would start growing again. Once he even asked me to touch a dead plant, hanging over the lip of its pot. I did, and the next day it was healthy as ever.

That’s when he told me about my grandpa’s “healing touch”. Mom never talked about it with me, and Dad thought they were just exaggerated stories, until he started watching me. Grandpa was known to touch a person and heal them. Thing was, I had no interest in being a doctor. It’s too much responsibility, you know? Even as a kid, I knew I didn’t want that. So I started shutting it down. Dad would bring me a sick plant, and I’d do everything he asked –touch it, water it, breathe on it, whatever, and nothing would happen. The plant would just end up the same or maybe a little worse, if I could manage it.

So my Dad sat me down to tell me I didn’t have the healing touch and that it was okay. I had it, but I figured out that it wasn’t so much about healing. It’s about finding the vulnerability in a system. What you do beyond that is where choice comes in.

I’ve always figured that my purpose in life is to be comfortable. I don’t need a lot of money. I just need food, shelter, sex. The basics. So I use my gifts to meet those needs.

My job? There are other ways to get money than with a job. Sure, I was a mechanic for awhile, and I did some work with computers, but I didn’t like or understand either one that much – I was just able to use “the touch” to move and adjust things by feeling them out. I could have been a weatherman, too. I can feel what weather is coming. I could have developed that skill, learned the meteorology vocabulary. But at this point I just use it to feel out when it’s going to rain, how hot the day is going to be, when I need to prepare for a hurricane. Sometimes I can tell weeks or a month in advance, depending on how strong a storm it’s going to be. That’s come in handy a couple of times here in Florida. I only get flood insurance in time to cover me before a flood, then I cancel as soon as I get my payout.

But I’m not really a “job” kind of person. The easiest way to get by in the world is to hook up with rich women.

Oh yeah. Sex is one of the easiest things to manipulate. See that woman at the end of the bar? Not the blonde. Her friend. If I wanted to screw her, I’d send her a drink to feel out how she reacts and get her to make eye contact with me. If that goes well, I’d go sit next to her and talk, and look only at her, not her friend. She’s probably used to people looking at her blonde friend, and not doing that makes her feel special. No, that’s not the touch. That’s just psychology.

I don’t always have to actually touch her for it to take effect, but it’s a lot more potent if I do.  It’s hard to describe, but I feel something in the warmth of someone’s body, something missing, like in her cells or something. Then something in my cells or whatever shift around and sort of flow into her, fill that empty place. I could be touching her anywhere – her hand, her shoulder, her knee. And then I take my hand away. It’s like holding a delicious meal under a hungry person’s nose but not letting them eat it. Then I’m in.

Age difference? Ha. I’ve been at this since I was a teenager, but I swear, the older I get, the younger the women are that want me. Now that I’m in my 50’s I can get any age pussy I want. Within legal limits, of course.

But I’ve converted to older women. They’re the ones with the money. Florida’s the place to be. Rich old men are dropping like flies, leaving rich old women lonely and ready to go.

Of course I don’t meet them in bars. Senior centers are the place. That’s where I met my current wife. Widow of a billionaire boatmaker. I know. Jackpot, right? She’s in her 70’s. In good shape. And seriously, with the touch, I don’t have to spend much time getting her off. It’s quick. Yeah, old and wrinkly isn’t really my type, but rich is, so there you go.

Plus, her husband left her a boat company, and I love sailing. Just me and the water and nobody I have to adjust myself to.

Do I have political aspirations? Funny you should ask. You remember the Bush/Gore race of 2000?

Let me tell you a story.

To set the stage, I’ll start with high school, where I figured out how to make people flunk tests. There was this one smart girl I desperately wanted to fuck, but she had no interest. So on SAT test day our senior year, I made sure I sat next to her, and I bumped her arm. Not physically, but with energy-like – I don’t know how to explain it – and I made her put down wrong answers. Multiple choice works best for this sort of thing.

We got our grades back weeks later. When I see her by the bus stop after school, I ask how she did. She literally falls apart in my arms, sobbing so I practically had to hold her up. Of course I fucked her after that.

Anyway, back to the 2000 presidential election. Bush and Gore are way too close for my comfort. I’m in Palm Beach volunteering in voting booths that year, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to affect the voting of old people. Touch lingers longer in their bodies – kind of like it takes them longer to get rid of a cold. Plus that antiquated voting system! Hanging chads galore. It was practically made to be tampered with.

I also had a hand in the scrub lists. You know, the ones where felons were removed from voting lists. But eventually they found listings to be inaccurate. In fact, some of the felonies listed happened at a future date. I’m not taking full credit of course. Ralph Nader helped, too.

I didn’t like Bush much, but Al Gore got on my nerves, with his global warming crap.

Oh, I believe in global warming. It’s definitely happening. I know because influencing things around me isn’t just a one way street. Opening up those channels to touch others lets things come over to my side, too. That’s how my grandfather could heal people I suppose. He gave them health, but he had to take in some of the sickness to know what was wrong. It’s the same when I’m influencing other people. In order to move around and adjust something inside them, I have to let a little bit inside me. With things, like voting cards, it’s nothing. With people, it’s a pain, but I’ve learned to keep most of it, whatever it is, out. I take only the little bit I need for my purposes and push the rest back.

But with the environment? Forget it. Try to escape from that. Global warming is everywhere, man. It’s in the air we all breathe. The ground we walk on.  It’s not just temperature. I can’t shut out global warming any more than I can make myself stop breathing. It’s something I feel every second of every day, surrounding me like a smell that just keeps getting worse, or an itch that’s slowly spreading all over my body.

So why get Bush elected? Listen, if you got cancer, a really nasty, incurable one, and you’re given a month to live, how do you want to spend those last days? Do you want to make yourself sick with chemotherapy or radiation, lose your hair and spend a fortune just to prolong your life a few more days? Not me. I say have a party, get yourself a DNR bracelet, and let loose.

But Gore just wanted to prolong the agony. All these environmentalists don’t get it. The world is sick of us. It’s trying to buck us off like a horse that can’t handle the weight. But it’s a horse that’s dying! I say let the world die, and put us all out of our misery. I figured Bush would stall things long enough to fast forward us into global death. But stupid tree-huggers are doing their best to drag it out. Drive a prius, go solar, eat vegetarian. Ridiculous. Bandaids.

Listen, I can feel hurricanes a month before they happen. Global warming is 10 times that feeling, but always there. And getting stronger.

At this point he took one last drink, set his glass on the bar, and stood up with a loud sigh. As he stood up, he put on his jacket and dug into his pocket. He pulled out a hundred-dollar bill and put it on the counter.

Before leaving, he took one more thing out of his pocket. “My card,” he said, setting it on the counter before me. “If you ever need a boat.”

About a week later, I called the number on the card, which said, “Benson’s Boat-Builders”. A woman’s voice answered, nasally and scratchy with age. When I asked for Mr. Benson, the woman hesitated, then said, “Mr. Benson died seven years ago.”

“I was given a card,” I said. “By a gentleman who didn’t give me his name…”

The pause lasted awhile, and I wondered if she was still there.

“Ma’am? Is this Mrs.Benson?”

“My name changed when I remarried,” she said. “I think my husband may have given you that card.”

“May I speak with him?”

“He passed away about a week ago. He was out sailing and got caught in Hurricane Katrina.”

I gave the woman my condolences and immediately wrote down whatever I could remember of my conversation with her husband.

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Week 2 – Potential

I knew that my granddaughter had Potential when she was very young.

You may have heard it called the Golden Touch, the Changing Eye, the Cleansing Spirit, the Influence – even The Force. But my grandfather called it Potential. He had it, too.

Most people haven’t heard of it, but they see or experience it without knowing what it is. I’ve heard folks say, “He’s got the Spirit in him!” Mind you, sometimes he’s just a handsome kid with a bright smile, but once in a while, it’s Potential finding its way.

My Grandpa Joe sat me down when I was ten years old, with the pretense of sharing some ice cream, but with the intention of having a serious talk.

We sat out in the wicker chairs on the back porch, looking out over a Montana meadow, grassy and scattered with prickly pear and sage brush. I held my cone close to my mouth, turning it strategically so as to lick the melting ice cream before it dripped down into something my grandma would make me clean up.

“Joseph,” he said (I was named after him), “You’re ice cream’s melting.”

“I know Grandpa,” I said between licks. “It’s hot out.”

 He nodded and looked at his own cone. “Mine’s not melting.”

I looked at his cone, and it was true, but I didn’t think too much about it until Grandpa Joe said, “Here, let me see yours for a minute.” He reached out and took my cone, which immediately stopped dripping. “Huh,” he said.  “Look at that.”

I looked at it, barely interested, wanting my ice cream back.

“Well, let me clean this up for you,” he said, and as I greedily eyed my ice cream cone, I saw the lines of once-melting ice cream recede back to the scoop of vanilla above the lip of the cone. Grandpa handed it back to me, then gave his own cone a few licks as he viewed me from the corner of his eyes.

I reached out and took it, wondering if I had seen what I saw, rotating the cone to view its clean, dry surface. As I looked and wondered, the frozen treat began a slow slide of melting on the down-tipped side. I looked at Grandpa, and he reached out a finger that touched just below the newly-forming drip.

“Let me get that for you,” he said, and as soon as finger touched cone, I watched the melting ice cream retrace its downward track, leaving the cone clean and dry once again.

That was the beginning of many conversations about the Potential that he had, and his grandfather before him. It ran in the family, he said, and it came out in a lot of different ways.

His Grandpa had told him about it when he was around ten years old, and back then, Josephus (the first)  thought that it just ran in his family. But Josephus the third knew that one of the slaves on his family’s plantation, an old man named Kitch, had it. In his family, it was called the Influence, but he knew it was the same thing.

History was important, but how would I condense it all into an introduction for a ten-year old? By that time we lived in Seattle, and summers didn’t get nearly as hot as the ones in Montana, hardly the 90 degrees that melted my ice cream on a sunny back porch when I was ten.

So I decided to talk it over with her in the fall, when leaves were slowly turning colors – nothing as dramatic as east coast fall colors, but enough for my purposes.

I suggested we go to a park that didn’t get much patronage anymore since a mudslide made stairs to the beach inaccessible. Once in the park, I pointed to a leaf, just beginning to yellow, and I said, “Josephine,” (she was named after me), “Watch this.” I touched the tip of the leaf, and soon yellow was replaced with vibrant green, spreading as though it was sucking up green paint.

Josephine gave a little screech. “Grandpa! How’d you do that?” As I pulled my hand away, the yellow quickly seeped back in, the leaf drooping down.

“I thought about summer,” I said, “and how green the leaves get, how warm it is. Here,” I said moving her hand to the leaf. “You do it.”

Josephine touched the leaf and smiled. “Come on Grandpa. How’d you do that, really?” She was used to my magic tricks – a quarter pulled from her ear, a handkerchief changing color, a favorite stuffed animal appearing from within my jacket. I had explained some of these tricks to her, taught her how to do them. But this was not one of those tricks.

“Hold the leaf,” I said, gently enclosing my hand around hers, then letting go. “Now, remember last summer when it got so hot I turned on the sprinkler and you jumped through it?”

“Yeah. Wearing shorts.”

“Remember how you told me that the apple tree leaves were green on their tops but sort of soft and silvery underneath?”

“Like peach fuzz,” she said, looking down at the leaf she held. The yellow, almost crunchy leaf was slowly becoming soft and silvery green.

Josephine quickly let go of the leaf and looked up at me.

That was the beginning.

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Week 1 – Vocabulary

When Eulalie Sacks opened the door to her home, she had two thoughts.

The first thought was “accretion”. She had been studying vocabulary words for the SAT test she would be taking on Saturday, and she had lamented about how many of the words were abstract ideas, difficult to visualize. Accretion, however was a concept with a physical example in the form of stalactites and stalagmites, those someday-meet-in-the-middle icicle-like cave formations, the product of years and years of mineral deposits, so tiny as to be imperceptible, but impressive when added up over hundreds and thousands of years.

This thought came to Eulalie because a pile of miscellaneous items on the living room couch had become so tall as to form a precarious point that reminded her of a stalagmite, and she unconsciously looked up to the ceiling to look for the blob’s upside-down sibling.

Eulalie had gotten used to piles of stuff on the couches and chairs. Her mother had become a collector of things – books about gardening, pickling supplies, kitchen utensils – almost anything food or cooking related. She also had a myriad of hobbies and ideas for future hobbies which inspired piles and boxes full of piles on the floor. It had been awhile since Eulalie had seen a clear patch of the carpet. Most of the front living room window was also covered by boxes, many of which were piled on a cat condo for their non-existent (and never existed) cat to climb on.

It had been years since anyone had sat on the couch. And wasn’t there a chair in the corner? How had she not seen this happening? Her mother had always had a reason to put something here, something there, and she talked about plans to use those somethings or to give them more permanent homes elsewhere. But those reasons and plans never came to fruition, were never something Eulalie could see. They were all abstract ideas in her mind, but she assumed they were more visible in her mother’s mind. Were they?

The project ideas had begun when Eulalie entered middle school, the year her father had moved away. Little by little, interactions with her Mom moved into smaller locations. But Eulalie also spent more time away from home or alone in her room, so she hadn’t noticed. She stopped watching TV on the living room couch because she was busy with homework, or she watched shows on her laptop. She used to eat with her mom at the kitchen table, but now she ate all her meals in her room.

In fact, when Eulalie looked around at the living room, she was amazed at how much stuff had accumulated. The whole space was filled with formations that had slowly accreted there, piled by her mother after shopping trips and rummage sale stops and gathering from free piles in the neighborhood. When was the last time she had even looked in here? Usually when she came home, she was on her phone, texting or tweeting, then through her bedroom door four steps later.

It was like looking at a geological wonder, the cave of her home, slowly built up. Accretion.

It was then, looking on with mouth open in wonder, that Eulalie had her second thought.

“My mom’s a hoarder.” She let this phrase settle into her. Then she went into her room to Google it.

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January 2016

Posted on January 30, 2016 by sydneymandt

Star Wars!!!

Star Wars VII! The Force Awakens! (Spoiler Alert!)

Doug and I just went to the above-mentioned movie for his birthday. I definitely enjoyed it, but it resembled the first one, Star Wars IV, so much that I found it distracting.

I remember seeing Star Wars in the theater when it first came out. Actually, I saw it at the Montana Theater in the 8000-or-so-person town of Miles City Montana, so I most likely saw it several weeks after it first came out, even if I was at the first showing. Much of popular culture was old news by the time it hit Miles City.

That movie made such a huge impression on me. I couldn’t say why I loved it so much, but it hit me in scene after scene. Luke’s underground home with his Aunt and Uncle – wow! Cute, beeping robot – awww! The mysterious man in the robe who turns out to be a jedi – brilliant! The saloon filled with so many varieties of creatures, and very few humans – amazing! A kick-ass princess! A lowly hero! Scary bad guy! The magic Force! Space battles! Action! Suspense! IN SPACE! BOOOOM!!! (That was the sound of my eight-year-old head exploding.)

I never developed into a Star Wars geek who could name all the planets in the story or who knew the names of the different creatures. I think it even took me awhile to figure out that the white-armored soldiers were called stormtroopers. But I knew the heart of the story, and I loved it. I had more boys as friends than I did girls, so I spent my share of recess time playing the role of princess Leia, running around with rebel forces and imagining my hair in big twisty buns on the sides of my head.

I’ve heard that other people have noticed that this movie followed the 1977 movie almost to the beat. But I wonder how they felt about it. How did I feel?

I felt a mix of comfortable familiarity, entertainment, and disappointment. I found myself looking at the same characters represented with an outward twist: same hero, only female; the lady is rescued from Darth Vader’s death star, but this time by a black man; the death star is actually not that, but an exact copy that’s 10 times bigger, and Darth Vader is someone else, of course, but he still wears all black, including a voice-distorting mask, and he’s in the middle of father/son issues. Etc.

Perhaps my disappointment stems from remembering how the first movie gave me such a sense of newness and wonder. But I suspect no true Star Wars movie, however original, could do that for me. For one thing, I’m not eight years old. Back then, I don’t think I had ever seen a movie set in space before. Also, I hadn’t seen many movies at all. This was in the days before the wonder of VHS tapes. (Movies in your home? Without commercials? On that 13-inch TV screen? Ridiculous.)

Also, Star Wars may have been the first time I had seen such an archetypal hero story onscreen that wasn’t Disney. It was like a fairytale, but told with phasers and hover cars!

Now, close to 40 years later, I’ve seen many more movies, enough to recognize common patterns and to know what will probably happen next. Instead of having the total surprise and newness of an 8-year-old watching Star Wars, this time I had a double dose of predictability: extreme similarity combined with decades of movie-watching experience.

Anyway, it was nice to be out on a date with my husband, and to see a very entertaining movie in which good is stronger than evil.

I’m looking forward to the next Star Wars movie. Will the similarties continue? Or will the next film chart a new, unique course that still keeps true to the story’s heart?

I’m hoping for the latter.

Posted on January 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday

I don’t know the origin of the tradition of TBT – possible radio programs? An excuse to play older songs? Maybe it started on Facebook as a chance to show pictures that show how much people have changed over the years. However it started, I have decided to continue the tradition.

In my cleaning and reorganizing, I have found many of my old short stories, poems, and essays. Some of them are only available on one hard copy, so putting them on Word Fertilizer will create a backup version. Also, in true TBT fashion, these earlier writings show how I have changed over the years – in attitude, writing style, etc. Of course, these TBT’s will not count as one of my 52 weekly writings over this year.

“Something old, something new.” Welcome to a new aspect of my commitment to writing.

Posted on January 27, 2016

Does not rhyme with banana

I’ve tried to post my story, but the way to do it escapes me. I try everything I can think of, and it’s not working. It’s a little humiliating. I keep meaning to ask Doug for help, but I don’t seem to remember when it’s a good time for both of us. At this point, though, I need to start working on my next story. I’ve danced with a few ideas, but I’m going to have to focus a little more to get an actual story out of one of them. Or I’ll come up with a new idea.

On the feng shui tip (look at me! using a colloquialism!), my living room is the mess that my bedroom currently is not. I took everything out of my closet yesterday  – it was filled with very unorganized miscellany – and today I removed the layer of long-accumulated stuff from my bedroom floor. The living room is my reconnoitering and mobilizing zone. Tomorrow I will engage my enemy (Chaos) in a Herculean battle. May Order emerge victorious!

I’m feeling good that I’ve been able to address some clutter issues these last couple of days, thanks to my Mom caring for the MIL in my absence. Mom will be leaving in less than a week now, so I’m trying to get as much done as possible. I believe that having my stuff more in order will help me use my time more wisely and that I will be better able to write regularly.

Hasta manana. (Funny, I’ve never seen that spelled “manyana”, but what are you supposed to do if you don’t have computer access to a tilde? Just use a regular “n” and risk people reading it as if it rhymes with “banana”?)

Posted on January 26, 2016

Grand Opening in February

I have the Week 3 Story ready to go, but I’m having trouble getting it to show up on Word Fertilizer.

I decided to make the story almost completely in a monologue format. It’s just one man talking, with no action or setting descriptions. I don’t know if this makes for the most effective telling of this story, but I’ll put it out there (when my hubby can help me figure out how) and see how people respond to it.

I haven’t had a “grand opening” of the blog yet. I’ve been waiting until I figure out how to post pages and posts and get drop-downs to work and such. Maybe by February I will officially invite Facebook friends and others to my website.

In fact, that sounds like a new, achievable goal. Grand Opening in February!

Posted on January 25, 2016

It’s too late (or too early) to blog.

It’s midnight on the dot, and I’m tired. I will blog and post the week 3 story tomorrow.

Posted on January 23, 2016 by sydneymandt

Bad words and good stories, even if they’re bad

The upcoming Week 3 story contains vulgar language. It fits the character who speaks it.

I guess a part of me feels like i should apologize for saying offensive things in a story. But offensive things do happen in the world. And sometimes those things can make for useful stories. By “useful” I mean informative, entertaining, enlightening – or something along those lines. I’m not sure if the Week 3 story will be any of those things to whoever reads it. But I want it to be real, a “lie that tells the truth”. (Where did I first hear that phrase?)

Mostly, though, I want it to be written. The idea that I could produce 52 stories by the end of the year excites me. Even if they are mediocre or bad, they are practice. And I’m a firm believer in looking at everything I write as a potential work in progress. Even if I consider something a final draft, I reserve the right to demote it down to rough draft status if I see room for improvement. With that philosophy, I can’t really say that something I’ve written is bad, since it may just be in one of its earlier stages, an awkward phase through which it just needs to grow into its more complete self.

So I won’t be apologizing for bad language if I feel it’s justified, and I won’t apologize for bad stories. Because maybe they’re just not done yet.

Posted on January 22, 2016

Book Visions

I’ve been working on the next short story. It expands on the concept of “potential” or “the potential” introduced in the last short story. In fact, I’ve thought of many story ideas based on people who have “potential”. Maybe it’s spelled with a capital “P”. Or maybe it is described by a different word or words altogether. But in this family, whose ancestral tree I have roughly outlined, it is usually called the same thing because it roughly manifests in the same way.

Around 50 short stories, each focusing on one ancestor at a time, could add up to a whole book. That would be cool. But I’m not counting any unhatched chickens yet. This is only week 3 after all. But I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

Posted on January 20, 2016

Come on immune system! (Exclaimed as a cheer)

I’ve been low-energy, sneezing, and feeling the rawness of my drippy nasal passages and sore throat, but I resist saying “I have a cold.” I guess stating it outright feels like giving in, dwelling on the negative. I surmise that if I emphasize the health that’s present within me it will feel encouraged and get stronger.

Then again, this philosophy makes me think of the statement attributed to President Reagan that there are no homeless people in the United States. Ignoring something does not negate it’s existence. There are people who live under blue tarp tents in the trees and brush next to I-5 in Seattle. And there is a population of cold virus clones trying to wreak havoc in my body.

And that’s where the analogy breaks down.

Posted on January 17, 2016

Week 2 Story

I’ve written a very short story which feels more like the first chapter in a larger story. It brings up more questions than I have the answer to right now, but maybe I’ll answer some of the questions in stories to come.

Posted on January 16, 2016

Refenging my shui

This morning I continued my book purging begun the day before. My main goal was not exactly to get rid of books, but rather to keep the ones that I really want and to arrange them in a way more suitable to my needs. My writing books used to be covered up, and are now more prominently displayed on a shelf in my bedroom. The books that I like to read at night are now reachable from where I lie in bed. I’ve let go a few books that I have already read or have little interest in or can easily get on Kindle. The books I have kept are now casually stretched out on bookshelves instead of gasping for breath, sometimes at the bottom of a pile pushed behind other books.

I’m hoping that some good feng shui will increase my writing productivity. So far, though, this organizing stuff has been cutting into my blogging and story-writing time. I might be able to finish a story by Saturday, but I might have to extend the deadline.

Posted on January 14, 2016 by sydneymandt

Well, fooey.

I took a precious half hour of morning time blogging, in part justifying my non-blogging of yesterday with the “time is an illusion” excuse. Then I thought I clicked on the “Publish” button, not even bothering to click “Save Draft”. Then I wandered around the web a bit, looking at a few articles about time, and when I came back to Word Fertilizer, my post was not there!

Disappointing. Lesson learned. Moving on.

(“Save draft”.)

Posted on January 12, 2016 by sydneymandt


Busy days are happening as we take advantage of my Mom’s presence by scheduling appointments for our younger kid (Jo) that Doug and I otherwise would not both be able to go to. Jo’s still recovering from whatever knocked her down Sunday, so when we got home Monday (yesterday), Johanna went straight to bed and slept. This morning she told me that she slept from 2pm to 11pm, when she woke up and changed into pajamas, then she fell asleep again. Now it’s 6am, and I’ve been trying to cajole her into wakefulness for about an hour now. We have another appointment this morning, and we need to leave at 6:30 to get there in time.

Short story update: I finally have something, though I’m not super happy with it. But I’m not super happy with much these days anyway – part of my winter condition. And the point of writing a story every week is to get practice. So that has been accomplished, just in time to get started on another week’s story. You’ll find “last week’s” product in the “Story” Section of this site under Week One Story.

Posted on January 11, 2016

Slow start

Part of this is due to procrastination and not just “not having time”, but I have not finalized my short story, and I’m nodding off egregiously at the early hour of 8pm. I want to go to sleep and start over in the morning. Maybe I can even work on the story while in the car tomorrow going to and from an appointment for Johanna. But right now I want to put my yawning self to bed and check out for the evening. I hope that eventually I’ll get a system going, and be used to the routine of having a story done every Sameday of the week.

Posted on January 9, 2016


I need to decide how I am going to implement my goal of writing one short story or poem every week. I suppose I could add “song” to that list, and then I would have accomplished my goal already. But my original goal was to write a short story every week, and I added “or poem” as a sort of way out, an easier substitute for story writing in case I don’t get one written on a certain week. I’m clearly trying to get out of the work I want to do.

So here’s the deal. My goals are to blog every day, and to write a new story every week. Songs and poems will be bonus material. The story will have no minimum number of words, but it needs to have a full story to it. (This may lead to a future blog entry about what makes a story.)

When during the week will the story be due for posting? I’m going to say Saturday, since it is now Friday night, and I have not started writing a story, and I’m very tired and need to wake up at 5am tomorrow so I can wake up a kiddo and get her to the carpool meetup spot for robotics.

Good night!

Posted on January 5, 2016 by sydneymandt

Name an insect conscience from the Arabian peninsula

Yemeni Cricket!

Posted on January 5, 2016 by sydneymandt

I love me some short stories

I’ve been loving the “Bedtime Stories” anthology. So far I’ve read:

The Thing in the Forest by A.S. Byatt

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Troll Bridge by Neil Gaiman

The Poacher by Ursula K. Leguin

The Sailor-Boy’s Tale by Isak Dinesen

The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Industrious Tailor by William Maxwell

The Dragon by Vladimir Nabokov

And I’m in the middle of Night by Guy de Maupassant.

I would like to write something insightful here about each story, but given the late hour (I’m tired) and how quickly I’ve been reading them, all I can come up with right now is “They’re great!” Not a very penetrating comment.

I seem to be greedily consuming these stories like chocolate. Maybe I need to slow it down a little, savor the subtle flavors, letting them melt on my tongue slowly and deliciously. Maybe I eat so much at once that it doesn’t really digest properly, devouring stories with a tummy-rubbing “Yummy!” while other, more cultured folk are still chewing the flavorful first few sentences.

I think my reading became faster when I had kids, and especially during the time I was writing my thesis. I became fairly good at plowing through research papers efficiently, gleaning what I needed. But in that case I knew specifically what I was looking for. With these short stories, I’m trying to learn what makes a good story, but I’m not sure I know how to look for that. I suppose some of it is learned unconsciously, but I would like to be conscious of the knowledge, also.

Mentioning my thesis brings to mind how my Mom came out to take care of my toddler and baby daughters during my final push to get done. I couldn’t have completed it without her.

Tomorrow my Mom will once again come to the rescue! She’ll stay at my mom-in-law’s house, in my now college-age daughter’s room, and she’ll help care for MOL during this very busy month. We have 4 birthdays to celebrate in January. We also will go to 4 longer-than-two-hour health appointments for Johanna. AND it’s build season in FIRST robotics. That means Johanna’s robotics team, the Hi-tekkers, beginning this Saturday, will meet every day except Sunday for the next 6 weeks, 4 to 8 hours each day. Plus I have Baha’i meetings to go to. And blog/story-writing goals. So I’m grateful that my Mom will be here to help. Yay Mom!

Posted on January 3, 2016 by sydneymandt

Staying Alive

I wrote a song today.

New songs don’t come to me often, but when they do, they demand my mental attention, and require that I sing them out loud multiple times, trying out different lyrics and tunes as needed.  They are usually silly or sarcastic and sometimes fall into the category of children’s songs. Serious songs don’t seem to be my thing. I’m kind of a really amateur, female, non-accordian-or-any-other-instrument-playing Weird Al Yankovich. (No insult to Mr. Yankovich intended.)

Today’s song is to the tune of “Staying Alive”, by the Bee Gees. I’ve been tweaking the lyrics all day, trying to set the right tone and not offend anybody. I don’t know if it has the same impact just reading the lyrics – I have to wiggle some syllables around to make it work. For that reason and others, I would rather reveal the song through singing, but I lack the technological and musical know-how to get that to happen satisfactorily before this day is over, and if I procrastinate, I fear it will not get done.

So please check out Stayin’ Alive under stories.

Posted on January 3, 2016

New Books

Yesterday my hubby took me out for Thai food for my birthday. Before that, we went to the Half-Price Books just a couple stores down from the restaurant. There he bought me some blank journals and several anthologies of short stories. The book I’m reading first is called Bedtime Stories, which features “great writers of the past two centuries” exploring what others might call “magical realism”, though the blurb doesn’t use that term.

I would like to tell myself I need to read at least one short story every day, but I hesitate, given my experiences with setting unrealistic goals. It doesn’t seem like a big task to undertake, but added up with all the little goals that fill my day, many of them listed only diffusely in a shadow of my mind, I could be overwhelmed . Recently I gave myself the reasonable tasks of exercising and praying every morning. But Christmas preparations disrupted my routine (which I’d stuck with for maybe a week and a half), and that was enough to kick in the all-or-nothing part of my brain that tells me I blew it, and I might as well sleep in.

So I need to rally myself back into beneficial routines. I need exercise. I need my morning prayer. And I need to read short stories if I am going to write them. Maybe I don’t need to make specific reading goals, since that’s something I enjoy doing to the point of ignoring other responsibilities. Many of my self-appointed half-hour reading times have resulted in binge-reading for hours. “Just one more paragraph”, “I’ll just read until the next chapter”, and eventually, “Well, I’m almost done with the book anyway” are frequent justifications I use to ignore the clock.

Speaking of clocks, it’s 10:30pm, and I need to go to bed. Especially if I’m going to wake up early to exercise and pray. And/or read.

Posted on January 2, 2016

Birthday Blog Post

This is the first day of the new year, both mine and the Gregorian calendar’s. I also share my birthday with many immigrants to the U.S. who have this birth date chosen for them in lieu of the unknown actual day. On behalf of us all I’d like to point out that the days are getting longer, despite the continued cold, and that vegetation and animal life that has paused or slowed its growth is stirring once again. I count myself in both the vegetable and animal categories.

I love that I have two New Year’s days to commemorate. My non-Gregorian, non-birthday New Year is Naw Ruz, celebrated on March 21 by Baha’is and countries influenced by the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. This New Year marks the increasing momentum toward summer and the sprouting up of new possibilities,

It helps me to know that my personal, birthday anniversary of self-beginning is the VERY beginning, and a slow start is to be expected. I am an infant blogger, still learning the technology and fairly new to what makes a website/blog enjoyable, readable, informative, etc. and whether or not those are things I strive toward.

Here are the things I do want my blog (plus) to be:

  1. Writing practice: through writing a blog entry every day and writing a poem or short story every week.
  2. Sharing practice. I rarely share what I write, and what is the point of writing something if not to share it somehow?
  3. Practice receiving feedback. It’s not always easy to take (speaking for myself), but it’s a writing-related skill as much as the actual writing and sharing of writing are.

Thus the adventure begins! May 2016 bring wonderful things to us all!

Posted on January 1, 2016 by sydneymandtLeave a comment

Hello again!