If that salt has lost its savor, it ain’t got much in its favor

It’s Veterans Day here in the United States, a federal holiday and a state holiday, which when I was a teacher usually meant a one-day weekend. Saturday and Sunday for work, Monday for relaxing. Normal two-day weekends were seldom real weekends — I usually worked both days.

Thank God we have more state holidays than any state in the union. We also have the longest life expectancy, and I don’t think the two are unrelated.

Now that I’m out of the classroom these eight (wow) years, I no longer really work all weekend, but I still put a good amount of time in, either on Saturday or Sunday, so a three-day weekend usually means a normal two-day weekend.

I went to the office Saturday, but only for a literal couple of hours. In the morning, I met two of the NaNo regulars for a small write-in, where I banged out about 4,000 words. Then got a few things moving in the office, then we had Penny’s birthday dinner at Chicken Factory. I was going to try to wring another thousand words or so out of my brain at the boba spot, but I did the Friday 5 instead. It was good for me.

Sunday I did a little bit of tidying up at home and worked on specs for steaming broccoli in the microwave oven. Broccoli is one of my favorite foods and I prefer it blanched above any other method, but I’m trying to take healthier lunches to work during the week, and while blanching isn’t exactly a hassle, if I can work out a good system for microwave steaming, the time and energy I save will be worth the slight decrease in epicuniary pleasure.

I think I’ve almost got it. Also, I ate a ton of broccoli Sunday.

In between attempts, I just napped. It was such a stressful, tiring week. Then I went to the folks’ place to hang out, watch football, do laundry, and have dinner. I did a couple of crossword puzzles, too, which may have been the most therapeutic activity all weekend.

I’d already blocked today off for work and NaNo, and it was pretty productive both ways. I went over the 20K words mark for NaNo (yay) and am ahead of the pace by about a full day, I think. In the very late afternoon I wasn’t feeling physically well, so I took myself for a long walk. Okay, no. I think that was the most therapeutic activity all weekend. During lunch (microwave-steamed broccoli and rice) I got halfway through Linda Sue Park’s 2001 Newbery-winning A Single Shard, which I’m rereading for the first time. I read it the first time when I was working on my thesis and haven’t been back to read it for pleasure. I thought it was time.

My next read was going to be Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello Universe, the 2018 Newbery winner. I bought it right after the award was announced but never got to it — in fact, didn’t know anything about it — and was really looking forward to getting to it this weekend.

But, you know. NaNoWriMo. November is the worst time to start a new book. I was trying to work out a reward system, where I’d allow myself to read X pages for every 1000 words I wrote this month, when Crush Girl mentioned to me that she thought it looked interesting. So I lent it to her, alleviating myself of my problem while also doing something nice for her, so double win.

I did not know that Kelly is a writer of Filipino descent, which makes it three Asian American writers who’ve won the Newbery. Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard, Cynthia Kadohata’s Kira Kira, and now this book by Kelly. At a time when people seem to question my American-ness, I have to say this really resonates.

I practically begged Crush Girl to take her time with the book. I really shouldn’t get started on it until December 1.

And speaking of her, I got to hang out with her outside of our usual context for a very brief moment this weekend, with a small group. It was nice. I managed not to spill anything, offend anyone, or break down crying over the sorry state of the world and my sorry place in it, which I’m always in danger of doing when I have a drink or two.

You gotta love alcohol. It really lets you be yourself!

I’ve been moody as heck all day for no discernable reason, unless it has something to do with the work stress, which has been formidable. I feel like I’m on the verge of plunging into the darkness. I was already kind of teetering on the edge because of some of the other work stuff that’s been bumming me out.

Which is why I’m doing this instead of working on NaNo. Just needed to open up the laptop and write whatever. I think it’s helping, at least a little.

The plan, once I finish this, is to put myself to bed at a very early hour (it’s only 8:30 now) and face the new week determined to reflect light, no matter how many attempts others make at putting it under a bushel. If you hide it under a bushel, it’s lost something quite crucial. Don’t quote me — that’s from Godspell.

My calming mantra all of last week was “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” It helped. So this week I’m going to repeat the light of the world stuff to myself and see what happens.

I like it because it is bitter, and because it is my heart. That was my mantra for weeks before last week. I liked it (I liked it because it is bitter and because it is my heart) but I think maybe now I need to focus on more forward-thinking thoughts. This week’s episode of Heavyweight has convicted me about not being who I was, but being who I am and who I hope to be.

The Heavyweight podcast usually inspires while also making me want to stab myself in the heart (my bitter heart) with my own pen because the writing is so good it’s maddening, but this week it just inspired me. It was either not written quite as amazingly as usual, or I’m pretty pleased with the quality of my own output this week.

I just deleted a funny, self-deprecating line here because it wasn’t in keeping with the positive note I hoped to end on. So you’ll just have to imagine it. You’d have laughed!

Friday 5: Bad Mood Food

I’ve had a long, busy day, and I’m unwinding in the boba cafe, which closes in thirty minutes, so I’m going to try to write this in 20, leaving me time to pack up and visit the lavatory.

From here.

  1. What are you most likely to reach for when you stress-eat?
    Ice cream is my depression food. Chips are my stress food, at least lately. And I’ve downed a ton of them at work this past week and a half. It’s not good. It’s helping me cope, but I can’t keep relying on it — I’m trying to drop weight, not add chips. But grrrrrrrrrrrr this group project at work is taking a toll on me. By the end of Friday I felt wrung, like a chamois. It’s affecting the rest of my life, too. I lost sleep Monday night because I was so annoyed about a scheduled 90-minute meeting I thought could be an email. The meeting turned out not to suck, and we got good work done, but I still don’t think it was necessary. Now WHERE THE HECK DID I PUT THOSE DORITOS?
  2. When were you last disappointed by a meal?
    The frickin’ Popeye’s chicken sandwich was supposed to be available last week. The stupid Popeye’s app even TOLD me to go get it. Turns out the app for some reason doesn’t even work in my region (beyond sending me notifications) and the Popeye’s in my ‘hood had signs up all over the restaurant saying the chicken sandwich was coming soon. So I ordered chicken fingers and they were on the downside of okay. So annoying; I should have ordered chicken but I was trying to write while I ate, and I didn’t want to grease up my fingers, so I could type. Blasted chicken sandwich and crappy chicken fingers. Two disappointments in one meal!
  3. What food are you sad you can’t get anymore?
    They added a thin layer of caramel to the Whatchamacalllit bar in the summer after my junior year. It was a perfect candy bar before that. It’s still good but it’s not nearly as good as it used to be. KC Drive-In shut down 20 years or so ago, so the legendary chocolate ono-ono shake is but a memory. I wrote it about it in my NaNo project, so I’m feeling the nostagia now.
  4. For what food will you make an exception to a personal rule?
    I don’t like to get food on my hands, so eat a lot of finger foods with a knife and fork, but I make an exception for wings. Wings are among my favorite foods, and you can’t eat them with a knife and fork.
  5. What’s something you really like but would never order while dining out because you have it at home all the time?
    There are fewer items on this list than there used to be, because I’m so busy and I typically dine alone. I’m a sucker for corned beef hash when it’s made in-house, and I used to have the canned version all the time at home, but I’m trying not to have processed meats at home. So I’ll order corned beef hash even in joints where I know it’s out of a can, once in a while when I want to indulge. With a sunny-side-up egg and some rice, it’s one of my favorite breakfasts.

Yay. Got it done in 15 minutes.

Mapping the Hero’s Journey

ONE: Ordinary world (let’s say 5000 words)
We meet our hero.

TWO: Call to adventure (5000 words)
The adventure begins.

THREE: Refusal of the call (2500 words)
The hero digs in his feet.

FOUR: Meeting the mentor (2500 words)
The hero acquires a personal trainer

FIVE: Crossing the first threshold (3000 words)
The hero enters the other world in earnest.

SIX: Tests, allies, enemies (5000 words)
The hero faces new challenges and gets a squad.

SEVEN: Approach to the inmost cave (3000 words)
The hero gets closer to his goal.

EIGHT: Ordeal (5000 words)
The hero faces his biggest test of all so far.

NINE: Reward; seizing the sword (3000 words)
The hero sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

TEN: The road back (2500 words)
The light at the end of the tunnel might be further than the hero thought.

ELEVEN: Resurrection (1500 words)
The last test is met.

TWELVE: Return with the elixir (2500 words)
The hero has a triumphant homecoming.

This adds up to 40,500 words, which means I have 9,500 words to play with in hitting my goal. I’m going to have to revisit this every few days because honestly I don’t know how many words it takes to get my character from one step in the journey to the next.

More NaNoWriMo talk Friday.

Friday 5: Food Mood

From here.

  1. What’s the best striped food?
    Someone else said salmon, and I really wish I’d thought of that. My first thought was Fudge Stripes cookies, which aren’t really that great. Then I was chatting with Sylvia the other night. She wants to make Japanese-style potato salad (mmmmm…) and asked if I thought Kewpie mayo was a must. I said the only thing Kewpie mayo is a must for is okonomiyaki. Bing. There’s my answer.
  2. What’s the best spotted food?
    Crush Girl has a blouse that reminds me of a certain fruit I’m fond of, so of course that’s the food I want to name here. Really, though, how could it be anything other than vanilla bean ice cream? Great. Now I’m craving ice cream.
  3. What’s the best layered food?
    Why are layered foods so amazing? Tiramisu, ice cream cake, seven-layer dip, loco moco. Mm. The winner is clearly lasagna, though.
  4. What’s the best swirly food?
    Helloooooooo Cinnabon.
  5. What’s the best black-and-white food?
    I’m going comfort food here: nori tsukudani and rice. I only just learned the word tsukudani now. I had to look it up because in our house we just referred to it by one of the brand names we liked (Gohandesuyo!). When we were kids, my sister and I always called it “mushy nori.” My mom, the first time she heard us saying it (when I was like 6 and my sister was 4), told us not to call it that. Because mushi means bug. Hahaha. And if you look at nori tsukudani closely, you couldn’t swear that it wasn’t made of blended bugs. So of course that’s what we always called it when my mom wasn’t around. In college, it was a frequent breakfast, and my roomie Captain Daveman was grossed out by it. Wouldn’t even try it. Kept calling it “that black stuff.” But it is freaking delicious. That stuff is straight-up umami paste, and it will always give me feelings of being taken care of, which I suppose is really what comfort food is, right? The stuff in the photo up there isn’t as black as the stuff I usually have, but better photos were from personal blogs and I didn’t want to steal from them. This one’s from an online retailer and therefore fair game.

Story Brainstorming

Okay I think I have a premise and only the slightest glimmer of a hint of a whiff of a story idea so I am going to run with it and see what happens. Working title: Killian Kobayashi Gets Laid.

I’m going to start drafting in a bit but then come back here and answer some idea-generator questions I got from goteenwriters.com, a website I discovered when Googling brainstorming ideas. I haven’t explored it much, but it looks kind of interesting. Its about page has a misused it’s, though, which maaaaaaaaaay be a dealbreaker. Hey, it’s happens to us all, but on something as prominent as an about page, should there be some proofreading?

It’s 5:35 a.m. November 1. I got up at 3:30 to pick up some stuff for the NaNoWriMo kickoff Saturday morning. I had to wait around a little because I didn’t get what I wanted (although in fairness, I sorta got what I ordered), and the lady at FedEx Office was nice enough to redo the order while I waited.

So i’m off to a later start than I expected. I’m going to do some free-writing, then come back and respond to the questions from goteenwriters.

Don’t nobody go nowhere.

Okay, it’s 9:55 a.m. November 3. Here’s what happened between where I left off and where I’m picking up.

  1. I wrote more than 800 words Friday before a quick trip to the beach and then back to the office for real work. Friday wasn’t a great day at work — I pissed someone off and don’t know what I did, and my apology was clearly not accepted. It was barely acknowledged. Great.
  2. So I went to the boba cafe to continue the work. I was pretty spent by 9:00, the time for the online Oahu NaNo group meetup. Hung around and chatted a bit, but didn’t do any more writing.
  3. Woke up early Saturday for the annual Oahu Region kickoff. We had a nice group, and I had a nice time; I also got another 2476 words, then finally tried this new burger spot in Chinatown everyone’s taking pictures of for IG. It was good.
  4. Went home for a nap, thinking I’d hit the boba cafe for another evening push, but I got up, ate some leftovers, and pretty much went right back to bed. My body was telling me to cool it, so I cooled it.
  5. Woke up early Sunday for a swim, and to figure out what to do with my NaNo project now. See, I’m kind of bored with the premise already after only two days of work, and I don’t like it for the Hero’s Journey, which is my focus this year. I’ve already written the words and I’m not about to give them up for NaNo (every. word. counts.), but if I insist on staying wed to the premise, I won’t finish the month with a victory. And if I do, I’ll hate the process along the way, and that’s a loss, no matter how many words I crank out.
  6. Had a good swim, but already decided on a change in working title. It’s now Killian Kobayashi Gets Played. And I’m ditching the premise, but I haven’t quiiiiiiiite come up with a good premise to replace it. I’m going to do some brainstorming in a minute to see what I come up with.
  7. I also have some real work and some side work to do today, so yikes.

Although a lot of what i’ve already brainstormed is no longer relevant, I thought I’d post it here anyway, as intended. Didn’t get through the whole exercise yet, but I plan to in the next few days. Here’s what I have so far.

Character Questions (for major characters) •

Who is my character?

A fourteen-year old in the summer between eighth and ninth grades, a student at Pacific International School.  He gets middling grades but doesn’t find school challenging, except for assignments he doesn’t see a reason for.  His friends are the sorta alt crowd, kids who don’t listen to the popular music, who appreciate his not being like everyone else.

What is he named and why?

Killian Kobayashi.  Killian for the Irish side of his heritage (his mom) and Kobayashi for the Japanese side (his dad).

If I had to describe him in one word, it would be:


What’s his family like?

His dad is a Japanese American computer security guy, contracted by the military but not in the military.  His mom is an Irish American restaurant manager from New York.  His parents met when his dad was at a conference in Washington.  His mom was there to visit a friend – they were both dining alone at the bar and struck up a conversation.

What does he value?

In others, he values intelligent people who treat him like he’s not an idiot.  He values wit.  He’s drawn to shy people.  He admires people who work hard, even though he isn’t a hard worker himself.

He loves learning but hates schoolwork.

I need more here.

What lie does he believe?

He believes a lie he’s told himself – that the raging hormones in his body demand he have sex, as soon as he possibly can and with as many people, and that if he doesn’t get laid he’s going to explode or die.

Why does he believe that lie?

A steady diet of guy talk, longtime exposure to porn, lots of talk about it from grownups in his life telling him not to do it.  And his own hormones.

What happened in his past that caused his to believe it?

Ooh, I think I just answered this.

What is his main goal in the story?

Externally, it’s to get laid.  He doesn’t know that it’s really for nice female companionship.  He’d also like to pass his summer typing course but he’s not stressed about it.  He might find out that a passing grade (that is, even a D-minus) will be as good as an A, since only the credit transfers to his school.

Why is he ideal for the journey and why is he not?

He’s pretty typically a horny teenaged young man, and he’s motivated by a stupid bet and his distaste for the guy he’s betting with.  He’s also kind of daring, but still a wuss about certain things.  Like, he wants to get laid but when he hears about some friends who did it in the McDonald’s bathroom he’s horrified.

Who are his allies and who are his enemies?

He has two friends in his typing class, a guy from his own school who sits next to him, and a girl from another school who he’s just getting to know, who sits at the desk behind him.