Monday, November 23, 2015

Why Was I So Angry? (Reflections on Springfield MO, Burnett and GO:61)

As the year begins to wind down, I'm looking back at what all has happened and drafting my end of the year post. A whole lot of crazy stuff has happened, for sure. A lot of people think I'm this raging activist and I swear I'm not. This year, however, I was angrier than I have ever been. Ever, in my whole life. And I'm still angry, it just burns deeper and makes coals that fuel what I do. Today, while time stood still in the waiting room from hell, I identified a core problem that has manifested itself in a thousand smaller problems. And one question I have never really answered was the one everyone asked: why are you so angry?

It wasn't ever about nipples. And for me personally, it was about so many things I had to really dig deep to puzzle it through. Today I had hours to kill today in a waiting room, so I finally had that kind of time. I mean, it wasn't blind rage, I had good reasons to be angry. But I had not taken my time to really work through the whole "tweets of fury" thing and analyze it to understand it thoroughly. This is only from the angle of why was I so angry. There will be "why were you so skeptical" and "why did you punch so hard" posts to come later that will tell it from those perspectives. Because this was only a tiny part of my problems with what went down in our local government and charities putting out unverified information. This is just about why I was so angry that it came off me in waves.

Ultimately, my rage comes back to this: I am furious because people want me to be afraid. On a small scale, I've been threatened this year alone with being raped into making sense, beaten into making sense, and being held against my will while someone coerced me into agreeing with them. On a bigger scale, the world wants me to be powerful but "ladylike" (a word whose definition changes from person to person so I'm encouraged to play it safe and not risk offending anyone), strong but not so strong I make anyone uncomfortable, and intelligent but not show up the wrong people by speaking my mind if I know better. I was supposed to sit in the back row, be quiet and courteous and if I played just right, maybe someone would listen to me if I followed all the subliminal cues and asked nicely.

Ain't nobody got time for that. And I found out the day my city voted against me as a full citizen and learned that Burnett was going to use this new tool to squash a legal protest, that I just gave my last fuck about what someone might think of me. I was going to say what I thought, and own the consequences. There came a point when I committed and decided I would rather go down fighting than stand by and do nothing. We were suddenly lesser people by our own city's law, and that could not go unchallenged. Women pay the same amount of taxes, but now we have to make sure we don't cause "affront or alarm" or we risked having our morals judged and sentenced on a whim. The fact that our rights were even being voted on was sickening to thousands of women who watched and hoped and were eventually let down. They literally created a fashion police to keep women obedient.

This understanding of trying to scare women into obedient submission is the root of a problem that has held us back for... well, since forever, since that conditioning starts in childhood. Then my city passed a law that said making people uncomfortable with my choices in dress was illegal. IF they decided to enforce it. The "if" was supposed to make "the right ones" feel better while "the bad women" had a lingering threat to keep them in line. Then Burnett recommended a half-baked charity that among its many claims stated that women could be ordered up like pizzas. Helpless women, stupid and needing rescued, those defenseless little things. Except they never produced a single woman who vouched for their service or the quality of help received. Still, women's credibility as capable beings took a ding while nearly everyone swallowed this load of bull without question. Though GO:61 has shown themselves to be cowards who consider questions like "how much money has been donated this year?" and "how much of that goes out in direct aid?" too aggressive. Well, no. I disagree. If someone is going to assert that 600 women are for sale like pizzas and that is double from the month before, that person had better be ready to show their math. They refused.

I had a good friend tell me when she spoke to her husband about discrimination she experiences, and he simply dismissed it with "no, you don't." That was it, subject closed. In his superior knowledge, he had the nerve to tell his life partner what her experiences are in a workplace he has never seen. Dismissed without a bit of thought about the possibility that she knew something he didn't about it. Because it was her own fucking story she was telling him, I'm just guessing she had some facts to impart. That kind of dismissal happens all the time. Each one hurts like hell. "I know something." "No, you don't. Go make me a sandwich." RInse and repeat and wonder why we get so emotional. More of that conditioning for you. And this was from a nice guy, I should mention. One of the good ones, so imagine what all the wives of average and subpar husbands deal with.

All of those things happened in a two week span. No. NO. Never, no, no fucking way.

I decided to fight back by refusing to give in. I am not afraid someone is going to scoop me up and take me away. I'm not afraid of some stupid flashing light on my cell phone and would never blame an innocent business for my hysteria. I refuse to be cowed and I will not back down. I'll call a bluff every time, because I have earned that right. I am competent, strong and a fully developed person in my own right. I don't owe the world my best outfit every day and a smile when I don't feel like it. I am held to the same standards as men, and therefore I demand the same rights. When my very own councilman tried to make me worry that my boobs might get me arrested, I had finally hit my limit. So I put it to the test.

I was (partly) right, too. The first thing that hit was a wall of intimidation. Threats by the gazillions flooded my Facebook inbox, where the bulk of this took place. Some came through my site, but the worst were always through Facebook. I didn't take it to heart, I just blocked them if they crossed crazy lines and went on. But I read every single one, because I feel obligated to read every word sent to me. It was hard as hell to not be afraid of that, especially when it was at its peak. But when I decided I wasn't going to be afraid and held it, they quickly ran out of ammo and faded away. And that was it. A flutter, a scream, and dead silence afterwards. Some tried to keep a banter going, but they were weeded out quickly.

So now I know what to do to combat the source of my rage. I'm going to wear whatever I want, say whatever I want, and I goddamn dare someone to try to stop me. Because if my mailbag had any themes in common, it was thanks for giving words to the ideas that many women were thinking, and secondly for standing up and saying "oh hell no." Women I've never met still write to me regularly, taking baby steps in standing up for themselves, and it all started with one little dipshit who can't understand the difference between scripture and law for all citizens of all types. After the ACLU is done with this, it will likely all be rolled back to how it was before. What will have changed is that there are new people paying attention to what goes on around here.

I guess I'll shut up and get back to it. When you find yourself waiting for hours, some people sleep and some people write the mother of all blog posts on their phones. But here's one that I feel I can answer and do it justice. This all happened so fast, and there were so many things I said I'd answer when I could take some time to do it right.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The "Journalism Style" Talk - Mission Statement

I have been spending a lot of time on Facebook, but I still post things over here (and will be doing even more soon!). I'm going to start parking several posts about my writing and online work for reference. For example, when I am about to write something I plan to link back to many times, like the cussing talk.  I have recently responded to many remarks about my style and my approach. I'm going to explain myself one more time, and try to say it all in one place. Not just for the people who are new to my feed, but for myself.

Let this suffice as my future mission statement and an explanation for why I write the way that I do.

I'm direct. I don't apologize, and I'm not going to start. It's how I am in real life, and it's going to be how I am online as well. There are enough perky blond fluffballs and serious old white men telling the news in the same polished tone of voice. I'm over it. I'm going to say it in my voice, and those who don't like it can simply tune in to a channel they prefer. I don't feel that it's my job to make information palatable or comfortable, and I'm relieved at how many responded positively to this. We're adults. Let's just fish out the facts first, then decide how we feel about them. When I write about my feelings - and I will - I will write it separately and make a point to better separate the two. My Facebook is where I write my thoughts. My articles are where I publish my findings. Those two have mingled poorly in the past when I have written about my thoughts and it be confused with my factual writing. This is one of many things I have noted and will correct.

I am not going to sugarcoat or sell anyone on what I do. Those who like it have stuck around, those who do not have moved on, and that's how it should be. I'm really happy to see how many have stuck around. I sorely miss some of those who have left, but I respect their decision.

Unlike the people I have been writing about lately, I want to point out that I work completely in public view. I don't hide what I do, and you are here to see every triumph and every mistake. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but this is the thing I am most proud of, for The Bon Project and for myself. It takes all the nerve I can muster to work in front of friends and readers I don't want to disappoint and critics I can never please all at the same time, and I've done okay so far. It has kept me honest and diligent and I like that. I believe in transparency, period.  I'm proactively living up to my ideals by putting my future career on the line. I walk an unconventional path and I wouldn't have it any other way. I've been rewarded with a lot of trust and love, and smacked with a lot of criticism. I've listened to both very carefully and I implement aspects of both. I do not chase approval, but I can tell when I've rightly been called out and I do my best to take that to heart.

The people who don't like my methods regarding GO:61 have to at least admit I have taken full responsibility of my every action, which is something they cannot say. I was bold, I asked questions, then I demanded answers when nothing added up. I don't feel it's my job to make them comfortable for failing to provide information they are legally obligated to provide or operate in such a way that their purpose and results are clear. Those who disagree have said their piece and were not censored. Unlike councilman Justin Burnett, I have left the entire record stand on my Facebook feed for public scrutiny. I have taken ownership of my words, and I stand behind every single one. When I made a statement I provided the evidence or full train of logic for comment. I did my homework, and thanks to tips and public support I got many leads to check out. That was a first for me, and it changed everything.

As I'm rather fond of pointing out, I'm an acquired taste. I'm not for everyone. However, I do promise to be myself at all times. I have been myself all along, as my friends can attest. My rage is real, when I'm angry. My sadness is deeply felt, when I write about some of the things we want to pretend don't exist. My happiness is genuine when I get to report something that tells us the world is doing something right. I do not get paid for my coverage of local events. I pay out of pocket for all of my costs, including upcoming Sunshine Law requests. If I ever write for conventional press, my editor will have a lot of say in what I write and how. This may be the only time I may ever truly own my voice. I'm going to use it for the ideals I support, and I'm not going to try to sound like everyone else. I'm going to write millions of words in my life. I want to come back to here and remember these days, when I worked full-time and was in school, not sleeping because there was one more thing to look up. This was when I fell in love with what I do and decided to go about it my own way. The flirtation became the lifelong commitment. Journalism, I love you, even when you're an asshole or make me get up before sunrise on my day off.

On a serious note, I'm not going to always write what people want to hear. Or get to write what I want to say. Sometimes I have to write the truth even when it sucks, and the work isn't very fun. But I get so many messages from people saying thank you for researching an issue, or for giving them the words they wanted to frame their own thoughts, that makes it worth it every time. I keep them all, and when I need to read some comfort I bring out the praise. When I worry I may be going down a path I don't like, I read my criticism and remember how the people who don't appreciate my particular style view me. It helps me be aware of what I can do better, and I feel like I can focus more on getting it right.

I've learned SO MUCH during this process. I had a lot of help and folks who helped me think things through, and this has given me insight I can use for the rest of my life. No classroom could prepare a person for the things I've seen.  One story at a time, I am going to find issues that matter, that affect people, and I am going to stick with it until it's done. I enjoy the narrow focus that lets me really work best. Even if there is no conclusion to be made, I will at least fully prepare and publish my work and have thoroughly checked it out. That's my mission. When there is an issue that nobody else will cover or want to dive into, let that be my groundwork. Let me learn from these so I can complete my education and do a good job going forward. When this wraps up and I take on my next project, I have a long list of things to do to help me do this better. If I had to boil this down to one lesson, I'll say this experience has taught me to ask every single question no matter how simple it might seem.

The thing that makes me the person I am has to add a few conditions. God help the person I catch harming another, because I will not hold back. I will have no mercy for the cruel or the people who take advantage of the helpless or the gullible. I will look down every path, even when I don't want to, and record my findings objectively and thoroughly. Then I will ponder what I find. Then I'm going to say what I think about it, evenif I don't like where the investigation has taken me, and whatever heat I take is not going to stop me. I will do all of those things every single time. Those who choose to disagree with my analysis are welcome to do so, but I hope my fact finding and sharing of resources also shows my dedication by letting people look at my work and grade it. Whatever path this takes me down, I will go gratefully and happily.

If you can take an occasional jag of cat pictures and an occasional (and by occasional I mean frequent) F bombs, I hope we can have a good time here on social media while I write what I feel compelled to say. But if you can't, I understand, and I wish you well on your journey.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ode To The Arts

"You give out hope like it was candy in your pocket." This is a totally obscure quote from the movie The Postman, with Kevin Costner. I thought it was amazing, so much so that I remember pausing the movie all those years ago and giving that a thorough pondering. I decided I wanted to do that more than anything. That if I could pick a super power or a way to give back to the world, that would be my mission. Except I couldn't really give hope, because that wasn't within my scope. I could, however, try to make people happy in tiny but helpful ways. From jokes to being an ear or maybe helping quietly behind the scenes, I have cheered up many a person since that day in 1999. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's really really not.

And it saved me. People who knew me when I was young can tell you I did not speak often. When forced, and begrudgingly. I could go days without saying a word or stepping outside of my head during summer vacations from school. I had a lot to say, but I was scared to say it. I hadn't found my voice or courage yet. Through doing these things and writing and researching, I grew and friendships became easier. Toxic friendships ended because real ones grew and replaced them. And I really stepped out and started saying the things I was thinking, and learned other people were thinking them too and were also afraid to commit to an idea instead of an accepted theory. As a young adult I was looking for my place in the world and I was afraid to take the one that was right for me. Mainly because it was hard to explain to other people, and the loving consensus was that I should be more practical.

Every year since I made New Years goals of good deed quotas to hit and writing goals, and as I learned and improved, I got better at both. I've done some spiffy things overtly, anonymously, and usually to some degree of moderate success. One simple and relatively unnoticed line from a movie did that. It put my hopes and wants into a sentence and a coherent thought when I was much younger, and led to a lifetime of work and a mission statement that has affected many for the better. Myself included.

The arts are powerful. Math and science can change the world, but so can ideas. And through art, we can sometimes show someone just what they have been looking for. Some of us need a song, some of us a picture, and some of us just need the idea to echo in them and bring out something even better. This is why artists are so riddled with insecurity, because "helpful" people try to steer them to more tangible paths. Paths that make more money, but kill ideas. Careers that support luxury but reinforce greed and unhealthy living.

Stop doing that. Encourage your artists. They have a vision that can create even more good than they thought possible.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Her Name Is Mary

We walk with blinders on, ignoring the people around us. At the gas station today, there was a woman crying in utter defeat. She wasn't "working the crowd" because she was on the other side of the building where there are no doors. She was crazy skinny and I'm not going to lie, she smelled worse than she looked. She didn't ask me for a thing. I asked her what I could do to help. I can tell she's homeless or near it, and she starts to tell her Story because that's what homeless people do to placate those who only help the "worthy." I don't care if it's true or not, I do not want her to justify her need for my sake. I just told her it was okay, and please, just tell me what she needed.I didn't say it but she didn't have to be pitiful enough or sober enough or smart enough for me to help. She was standing in front of me, and that was enough.

All she asked for was a bag of chips, some salt to help her with the heat. I had originally stopped for a lottery ticket and a candy bar. I got her a big bag of chips, a huge water and a bag of M&Ms because they're portable and have raw calories.

When is the last time your situation was so dire you were prioritizing by raw calories? I thought so.

It's not even that hard to make a huge difference. You just have to look around, get off your high horse, and give a damn about the people standing right in front of you. They don't owe you anything, and you don't owe them. But don't for one second think you should be privy to and judge their Story. Either help them or don't. Live by the principles of doing good or don't. Use your gifts to make things better, that's why you were given gifts. Those who don't have money still have ways to help if they want to.

Serve your fellow man or don't. But don't tell me you can't. I'll call you a liar every time.

This is the one circumstance where I do not want to hear someone's life story. Not because I'm not interested, because it feels like they are sharing their pain in exchange for a few dollars and a little self-satisfied judgment in my look. I want them to know they've been helped because they're human and normal and I'd do it for anyone. I could grab the door for a businesswoman in $500 heels, and not feel I should ask her why she thought carrying so much crap was a good idea. In this case, I spent money I was going to throw away on a lottery ticket that wouldn't win and a candy bar I don't need, and someone has calories to make it until morning.

She says she is leaving town as soon as she gets bus money. I gave her my change and wished her well, and told her of a few places to go in town just in case. It's all you can do, but I would like to think someone would do it for me if I needed. And not because I had suffered enough for them, or lived my life by their still-flawed standards, but because I was a human standing in front of them.

I'm going to write here alongside the Dead Shuffle reboot (WOOHOO). I want to touch on a lot of things, how we view ourselves. The decisions we make when nobody is looking. The lies we tell when someone is. I want to talk about human nature and what we find acceptable. That's a mighty tall task for a zombie story, but that's what I want to do. I don't JUST want to scare people, the zombies can do that without me. I want to make people look at something and wonder what they would do, and what it would say about them.

Mary will be there.  Her story will be one of the best ones I'll write at the very beginning. I'm already working on it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Return of Dead Shuffle

Dead Shuffle was a learning project, a fiction blog that I started to see how it would work in reality. Then it got a small following and some loyal readers. Then it blew up because that's what learning projects do.

I'm pleased to announce that January 1, 2016 Dead Shuffle is coming back. And this time we're going to do it right. All of that previous work was not in vain, those lessons have been analyzed and applied to a final product that will launch.

This time, a small team of writers and creative people are on board from the beginning. Loyal people who stayed with us from the beginning will recognize some familiar faces, but this is a reboot and so everything could be subject to change to fit the new parameters.  A whole lot more will change than what has remained the same.  But all the same, you will recognize some people.

I might have little blurbs on my Facebook, but for the most part we're going to stay mum until everything is ready. I was just too excited to keep it quiet for any longer. Let's face it, that's just not my style.

I can't wait to write more soon, and fill in some details.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Project Lavender Moon

Project Lavender Moon

I can’t really tell the name of this project until it’s released.  But I’m excited, and here’s why.

Last semester, I had an idea. A great one, actually. I took photography class for my journalism degree, and to my utter surprise I fell in love. I thought it would be all artsy talk about pictures of flowers and our feelings, but it was really technical and challenging. I also had a wonderful teacher who paid as much attention to how we planned to use our photography as she did the curriculum. I came out of it learning about shooting landscapes, animals, people and portraits through the eyes of the students who were passionate about them
We had to create a portfolio as a final project. I drew up some great ideas, and that’s where this one was born. I knew right away I had found The One and still knew it was too big for the assignment at hand. I got an A in the class (for perspective, please realize the last art class I took was in 1989) after some hard work and remedial studying, and then I began to prepare for this.

I can’t tell you what it is yet. But I can say a few things and not spill the beans too much. It’s my first self-published art ever, and the concept is pretty special. Writing journalism is rewarding but you spend so much effort keeping yourself out of it. In this case I get to bring my own passion and vision into it but still maintain factual integrity. I also get to bring my other love into it. And at this point, photography is a love. The honeymoon is over. I’ve slogged through wet grass for a shot and hurt myself crawling around dancing people for “the” shot of a drummer. The love endures. I have a lot to learn but thanks to some generous people (including that amazing teacher) I have some folks who will help me succeed.

My writing life in general has entered a new, peaceful phase. The work for CBS Local is steady and rewarding. I learn a lot and I get to do tons of research and learn about random and unpredictable things.  That’s pretty much a Bon kind of deal. is also steady and I have full creative control. Though I report to an editorial team, I pick my own assignments and can continue to gain valuable experience. Unite Publications is personally satisfying, because I am contributing to a cause I believe in, a major principle I try to live by every day. Steady work, no need to hunt for more, and actually turning down work because I am pleasantly occupied. This frees up a lot of time. I no longer have to write query letters, follow up with editors and mail endless packets out to publishers. I just write. Now I can do this justice.

I have conducted a few interviews, and have some coming up. The subjects are getting better and better, and I am learning how to interview in an entirely different way. I am in talks to interview someone I have admired for years, and have met the most amazing people through the conversations. It is my job to record people. Their stories. Not just news, or scandals. What makes them who they are. Their perspective and experiences are unique, and there is so much to learn from one another. I realize as I’m doing it that it’s my best work to date, but in another surprise I didn’t expect it to change me.  My mind and understanding of people has grown so much in the past few months that it is unreal.

I’m going to write about my experience of putting this together in my blog. Not to tease people with upcoming releases, I won’t link to them at all. You will have to sign up if you want that level of detail. I have several artist friends who want to learn the publishing end of this, so I am going to help them understand on a step by step basis.  If you would like to learn how, I will gladly help and answer questions along the way. Self-publishing is usually not recommended, especially for traditional fiction.  However, for art it is perfectly acceptable, and that is how I plan to approach it anyway. 

So there you have it. There will be more coming. I am going to work it hard this summer, and hopefully have it down to editing and tweaking before school starts back up. 

More coming soon,


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Coming Soon

I knew I had fallen in love with photography about halfway through the class. Our final project was to complete a portfolio, and I turned in black and white images that showed character and told a story. For the first time in my whole frustrated artist life, I had finally accomplished something and I knew it. I went into that class not knowing which button to push or what a DSLR camera was. I came out with a good sense of composition and theme and some technical knowledge. My editing skills are weak, but in journalism that is not a priority like it is for some photographers. Besides some cropping, blurring for privacy or making everything as clear as possible, editing is a crime among my people.

I decided today that I am going to put out a book of photography. In a small way it's an extension of my final project. But I have worked the idea over, given it a test run in class, and decided just how I want to execute the second round.

I obviously can't tell too much right now, but it will be based entirely on Springfield and the people who live here. I'm already adding and working on the format.

I might even be using an occasional model, and some effects to create scenes. I'm going all out on this, because now I know just how it will all come together.

Art is a fantastic thing. I'm so glad I have finally found something I can really sink my teeth into. I see myself getting better in leaps and bounds. I have committed my rookie mistakes and paid the price, now I'm working on fine tuning and learning how to edit just a little better, so I can pull off some artistic effects. There's a lot to do, but that will get me out and around this summer, give me reasons to hike because I have to cover a lot of ground to get all the shots I need, and leave me with something I can keep forever.

Stick with me, kids. This year has been upgraded to incredible.

State of the Bon Address

Things have finally calmed down, and I am feeling normal again. So many changes! To quote Inigo Montoya, "There is too much. Let me sum up."

  • I moved to a different department at work. So far I love it. This is the most recent change, but I enjoy it very much.
  • School is finally giving me a break. I took the summer off, and I'm glad I did. It took me nearly a month to rest and catch up on things I had put off to take care of school.
  • I am in love with photography. My website has a growing gallery of shots. I particularly enjoy black and white, and capturing the character of people.
  • I'm now writing for CBS Local, in the St. Louis market. I love it so much, because it's enjoyable and constant. Between this and Examiner, I now have all the outlets I need and enough to keep me busy when school starts back up.
  • I will graduate in May 2016. I'm a little freaked out by that! It seems like forever, and it also seems like way too soon.
  • I'm now taking the next two months and writing as much as I can. Then I can go back to school in September with no regrets, and a full body of articles behind me.

There really will be more posts here as well, but this is a nice overall catch up for those who don't follow me on Facebook. My website has undergone a facelift, so stop by www.bontindle if you ever want to see what's new. It has become an online home to me now and I update it often. This blog also runs through it, so everything is nice and connected.

Until next time,


Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Resolutions

I'm really going to miss 2014. As with any year, there were some ups and downs, but it was an exciting year. I grew a lot and I learned so much. Before I start on my 2015 resolutions, I have to report how I did with my 2014 goals.
  1. Get published through two different publishers for the first time. Done, actually doubled. I'd like to brag but in reality it was just luck. I met some people who made referrals, and the next thing I knew I have steady business. Bonuses were picking up repeat gigs at one publication, getting a treasured "request for article" email, I got on an editor's short list and had the same article run in two different newspapers. Saving the best for last, I scored the front page above the fold on Unite Publication's November issue, and I had no idea that was coming.
  2. Perform two significant good or kind deeds per month. Done, but just barely. I usually get a jump start on these because they're my favorites, but this year wore me out. I met my goal but I did not exceed it. Whenever I got a chance to do some good, I took the opportunity. It's a good habit to build, and trains you to look for the chance to make someone have a better day. From that mindset, you can do great things.
  3. Lose 25 pounds. Nope. Because nope. Moving that to 2015 goals, and putting it at the top. I do not like to fail.
  4. Go into a cave, start with a safe one and work into two more challenging caves. No, but with reason. I developed a breathing issue and I can't always keep my breath. Add to that the fact that my claustrophobia manifests itself as a fear of not being able to breathe, I purposely took this one off the list until further notice. If they get my breathing issues under control I promise I'll get started. Otherwise, forget about it.
  5. Geocache and find treasures. Yes! I did the one at the Springfield Art Museum and a couple of small follow-ups. It was a blast, and I'll do it again just for the fun of it.
  6. Perform one magnificent and completely anonymous good deed. Oh hells yes I did. I found someone who had no reason to know I could help them. I did, and then sat back and watched that amazing person take it and grow it into something even bigger, and benefit even more people who needed a boost. It may be one of the most rewarding exercises in my life, because I got to see the deliberation and work of good people turn something ugly into something beautiful.
So not great, I missed a few. But I did okay. The lessons I learned this year are:
  • The value of pacing yourself. I tend to do whatever I'm doing with all of my energy, all of the time, until I fall down flat and sleep. It's a romantic notion, but in school and planning / executing a writing career it isn't always practical. I'm purposely acquiring a value for the baby steps approach. For some projects, it is the only way to succeed. I need to call times to rest and decompress and in the end know it's more efficient, even if short term it's tempting to try to do it all at once.
  • Be nicer to myself. I wore myself out this year. I'm no spring chicken anymore. I need to be aware that my limitations are shifting in some places, and I need to factor that into my goal setting. I want to be aggressive in my goals but in the end I want to accomplish what I set out to do. A couple of private resolutions really pushed me to the limit in 2014.
  • Exercise and rest must be a priority. When I'm busy or stressed, these are the first two things to go out the window. No more. It cannot be acceptable any longer. And this is going to be hard as hell, because I despise the entire notion of exercising and working out, but it is necessary for a long and happy life. And I want one of those.
  • There's nothing wrong with a phase in life in which you focus on yourself. I did a lot of neat things, and had a lot of experiences. I think this next year should be quality over quantity on the goal setting. There are a few select things I need to do, and do well, and that means I'm going to have to find where to put my energy and budget it well.
With that said, to apply my lessons and prepare for the next year:
  1. Eat better and find two long-term exercise solutions that I enjoy. Ideally, one strengthening and one endurance building, but I'll take whatever I can get. I'm going to try all kinds of new activities, and honestly measure my success. This includes a monthly weigh-in. Now, no freaking way am I writing how much I weigh. However, I will "golf score" myself and on the first of each month I will tell where I am at. January is 0, so I have a whole month to work before I have to tell how it's going. This makes me accountable, and gives people like me a realistic look at how it is going from sedentary to moderately active. It's not all going to be pretty. This will include the goal of losing 30 pounds. That seems like a reasonable goal, even though I know it's going to get harder towards the end of the year. Still, I want to set an aggressive yet attainable goal and this seems fair. Make better food choices 75% of the time and apply moderation, a concept with which I struggle greatly.
  2. Focus on myself and learn how to listen to myself. I need to prioritize and let some things drop off the radar while I attend to the things that matter, like work and school and family. I am down to 12 hours this semester, and will take 9 per semester and graduate in the spring of 2016. This will allow me to have a life on the side. I can pick my classes so I have one challenging, one medium difficult and one fairly easy class, to spread the work out. I am going to take better care of myself, with diet and exercise and even a meditation of sorts. I'm not going to be selfish, but I am going to invest energy into the next year of school, as my grades will have a big impact on my future. Life is about phases, and this phase is going to be a bit more about me.
  3. Patience. I am going to work on my patience. I don't have a lot of it in my nature, and while it may sound like a simple thing I am putting a lot of emphasis on it. I am going to be patient with strangers. With people I love. With myself. With processes that I have planned. In many areas of life, I am going to struggle with this and do my best to know when patience should be applied, and develop the skills and resolve to apply it.
  4. All A's. Even in algebra, because I can do it. All A's and no exceptions.
  5. Begin work on learning Russian, to be conversational and fluent in three years.
  6. Writing? There's a few here.
    1. Three new publications. Fiction, nonfiction, grocery list, whatever. Three new places that have never run my stuff before in any form.
    2. Focus on journalism and do 24 articles on local focus for Apply for one additional news category with them and expand my market.
    3. Focus on fiction and write one short story per quarter, and start querying publications.
    4. Two queries to any completely new publication per month.
    5. Wrap up the essay project and deliver it by June. This is because the Daylight Man should be ready to start writing while I get this one out and going, if I can time it just right. It's technically done in draft, but there's a lot of polishing to do, and arranging cover art, distribution, etc. So there's a lot of work to be done. Getting it out in my hands in paperback form will be sufficient, but if I rock it out having it done by the end of summer would be fantastic.
    6. Two blog posts per month the entire year. No restrictions.
  7. Perform one magnificent and completely anonymous good deed. Okay, you can have two. But seriously, when that chance appears, see it, do what needs to be done and never let anyone know you did a thing. It's just such a great feeling, and just one… right? Okay, maybe two if the opportunities present themselves.
So there are my goals. I'm taking it easy this year and putting my work into myself. I need it, and I need to take these years and make them count because they will determine the rest of my working life. I'm not just out for an education, I'm out to conquer the world. I have established my goals and made my plans, but the execution stage is the hardest. I'm right in the middle of that, and I won't be of any help to anyone ever if I drown and become a failure.
Regular updates, and more bog posts to come. I meant it when I said 2014 I was setting up the dominoes and in 2015 you'd see them start falling into place.