NojoMo 7

Write about your mom.

My mother is originally from a small town in Southern Mississippi. Her family moved around some as she was growing up. In addition to various other places in mississippi, she and my grandparents spent some time in Houston, TX.

She was severely injured in an accident as a child. With long hospitalizations, she really missed most of what would have been her first grade year in school. She had to repeat the grade she was in, resulting in her graduating a year later than she normally would have.

She and my dad coupled up when they were both seventeen. They married at twenty, and were together until his death at 59. She joined my dad at the university he was attending after she graduated high school. My dad had turned down an appointment to the Merchant Marine academy for an opportunity to kill a commie for Mommie in the Army. The war was winding down when he finally finished basic, and his unit was relocated to Okinawa.

This young woman, who’d never been west of Houston, or east of Pensacola, was now in Japan.

It took them a long time to have me. I’ll leave out their struggles; they wanted kids, and weren’t sure it was going to happen. My brother came around a little more than three years later, as she was attending graduate school.

After my dad finally retired from the Army, she settled in to a life of work, and spending time with her family, hoping for grandkids, etc. Then cancer number one for her husband. Get through it, then her eldest son is diagnosed with MS. Then cancer number two for her husband. He’d eventually die during surgery to treat that one. Then both dogs dying within the next six months.

I started writing this earlier today. Hadn’t finished up, but, now mom is over after I took out for her birthday dinner. (And this writing prompt makes sense now….)

NoJoMo 6

Describe a typical day for you at work. You can go total Peter Gibbons on this one.

Let’s see, and considering I woke up early this morning with one after one of my huh, issues.

I try to show up right around 7:00. This floats a bit sometimes, because it’s never a sure thing how long it’ll take to get to the base. I also have to get a ride in, normally from my mother, because the bus stop is way too far for me to even try to walk.

I walk through the various security checkpoints to my work area. There’s a door with two-factor authentication, and a couple more where I have to swipe my badge. The floor height varies oddly moving between the concrete slab of the main office, and the raised floor of the area where I work.

Once inside, I stumble to my eighth of a cube. No, I’m not joking. I have an eighth of a cube. At some point, someone had decided that a “pod” configuration would be most productive. There are four main pods. I’m in the one farthest from the doors. Getting to the work area involves manuvering around people who haven’t even gotten promoted to an eighth of a cube; there’s no direct walkway to Myspace.

I hang my cane on the wall of the cube, and sit down to wait for my two PCs to boot. Next, I check the email accounts I can. Very rarely is there anything really of interest. Since they still haven’t gotten me full access to the tools I need to do my job, I try to look around to see if there’s anything, that would be shown in those tools, for me to fix.

At some point, I make the trek down the hall for my first of many trips to the bathroom.

It’s cold in there, the result of past electronic practice. (If you check most electronic components, the optimal temperature for operation is normally a few degrees warmer than where the overbuilding mastars keep server rooms. 73-78F doesn’t mean it’ll last any longer at 65. Seriously, y’all.) One bright side about the cold is that it does help keep me awake a bit amidst the drone of fans. Many days, though, I’ll have a cup of coffee to try to keep me awake and warm.

Because I have no way to leave the office, I don’t take a lunch. I snack at my eight of a cube. I worry about drinking too much liquid, or eating something that’d mess with my intestines. (Not that my MS drugs help any with those to begin with….) There’s a small bathroom inside the area, but I normally don’t use that one, because the one stall is often occupied.

I get through the day trying to not be hung up on what’s being done wrong. Yes, there’s many things that fall into that category. Hey, they’ve worked since 1996, so that must be the way to do them. Uh, actually not.

I languish away until whoever’s able to give me a ride is ready to leave, finally. Normally, since they’ve been able to leave at some point during the day, this is somewhere around 1530. If nobody’s able to give me a ride, I now try to see who in my family can come to pick me up. Getting a taxi there has been like Tony Romo with a game on the line. If I was allowed to have my cellphone, it’d be easier. But, that’s not allowed, and hasn’t been for years. “Just lock it in your car.” Uh, I don’t drive, y’all. “I don’t have to make accommodations for you!” Uh, yeah, you do, actually.

But they’ve shown unwillingness to do anything to accommodate me, really. This job sort of pays out bills. I’m trying to do good work, but my way of considering things is completely lost on folks. It’s fine; it’ll be over sooner rather than later.

NoJoMo 5

Write about your siblings. Where are they now, what are they doing? When was the last time you saw him/her/them? Are you on good terms?

I have a younger brother, who was actually born in the zip code where I’m now working. There was an oh-wait-a-minute moment when I realized that a few weeks ago. I mean, I was three when he was born, so I don’t remember too much. I guess I pegged his name if he was a boy, though. My mother used to tell stories about how I really wanted them to name him, “Brian.” When they put him on display in the nursery, I guess that was his not-yet-official name tag. My parents didn’t name him that, though.

He is living in Texas, after his wife’s company moved them out there. Cowboys’ fans galore, but you married one, bro.

I guess the last time I would have seen him would have been sometime this summer, before they left the East Coast.

We are on decent terms. High school was tough. He and my longtime high school girlfriend didn’t really get along (well, that was true for she and pretty much everybody else in my family). His high school girlfriend, who he ended up marrying, well, I’ll shuttup. That’s over. His second wife is great, and I’m happy they’re doing well. Even if it is in Dallas.

NoJoMo 4

Since it’s Election Day, when did you first vote? Did you vote today? Have your political opinions changed as you’ve aged?

1999, maybe? There was some weirdness with me getting registered in Virginia, so I think I missed the general election that year. It’s only 1030, and I’m off work. I plan to take my wife, a first-time voter, over this afternoon after my couple of midday meetings. I’ve pretty much made up my mind, and will be voting for candidates from the two political parties. I won’t be voting Libertarian, because, once again, the candidate the LP is running in the biggest race seems more concerned with getting high than doing the basics of governing.

No matter what you think of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, both were good at making sure the Federal government did the things it was supposed to do. In the past few years, however, that’s gone away. IOW, I won’t be voting to reinforce a Senate leadership who’ve completely punted on the budgeting process. There is one smug guy from the desert to blame.

As for my own political beliefs, yes, there’s been a change. I’ve become a lot more moderate as I’ve aged. One of my friends from college pretty well nailed it when he described government under me — everyone would get what they needed, but nobody would be happy about it. I do have a very egalitarian streak, but I also see the value in following the rules from top to bottom.

On the major issues, I’ve rethought many positions I once held. The latest? Capital punishment. I am now, pretty firmly, against the state having the power to take life. I realize that getting rid of it, completely, would require an amendment to the Constitution.

I support universal health care. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a disaster, though. It’s legislation artfully crafted to try to protect party politicians, while, simultaneously avoiding offending organized labor. Disaster. I still think a single-payer insurance system, with the ability to purchase auxiliary or alternative insurance, and a purely private delivery system is best. Note that that is not a single-provider system like the British NHS, the VA, etc. Roberts’ opining upholding “Obamacare” did not really help resolve the issues. But it did absolutely destroy a misreading of what Congress can do under the Commerce Clause.

I’ve written enough. This afternoon, I’ll go vote against some people, and vote for only one. That’s been the story for me the past few elections.

NoJoMo 3

List some of your earliest memories. Where were you? Is there anyone who could provide clarity about them?
Memory A: I remember when the old man who lived across the street died. I remember the ambulance in their driveway. I think I would have been about two years old, living in Newport News.

Memory B: The neighbors’ dryer caught fire. My introduction to lint buildup. I don’t remember exactly how old I would have been, nor do I remember the firefighers. I do remember the burned-out hulk of a clothes dryer sitting in their backyard afterwards. Again, Newport News.

I asked my mom if she remembered either of tehse, but I don’t think she did. I suppose the things a young child focuses on could be a lot different than an adult.

Memory C: Flying to Mississippi to see my grandparents. I would have been about three or four; my younger brother was an infant. I’m relatively certain we flew USAir, whose logo was far different in 1983.

Yes, kinda short-armed this one, but there’s something big afoot.

NoJoMo 2

  1. Describe your year to date.

I’ve been thinking about the best way to approach this one. I also realize that I screwed up the first writing prompts entry. I’ll have to juggle things a bit. My HTML skills are rather rusty, and copypasta from wherever I wrote those originally didn’t quiet work as intended. Probably because of that, the Election Day prompt is now set to fall tomorrow, instead of the proper Tuesday. Hmmm. I’ll juggle as I write next new days.

Anyway, back to this year. This hasn’t been a good year, at all. There’s still some hope it’ll get better before it ends, but I’m not holding my breath. Please to be ignoring the bad paragraph structure, as I’m just going to write what I can in blocks by month.

January:
A bad year started with some promise. Having removed myself from the driver’s seat on account of my failing eyesight in late 2012, I finally sold my car, which had been marooned with my mother, between Christmas and New Year’s. While I didn’t get nearly what I thought it was worth, the buyer seemed like a nice enough guy, exceed to have it, etc.. The cash infusion provided some comfort, but there was still an unresolved problem that kept me from spending the proceeds. With the community event to help save the market across the street in the middle of December, it looked like they were going to be able to stay open. I loaned one of my powered antennas to the owner so he could watch the playoffs while he worked the counter, trying to keep the store afloat. Things with HR Geeks were moving along, but I hadn’t gotten a ticket to Shmoocon, so I figured I wasn’t going to go. I was a bit disappointed by that, but after the 2013 one, I really wasn’t too broken up about it. So, toil away at my thankless job, instead of taking much of the scant leave I had available. Perhaps by subconscious choice, I don’t have the slightest clue what we were working on at work. Whatever it was, we were doing it shoddily, in the name of meeting wildly outrageous schedule promises. This was kind of par for the course, and I’d been thoroughly reminded that, because I was such a lousy professional minesweeper player, didn’t have a ton of connections on LinkedIn, we would meet whatever stupid schedule we’d been committed to, and I wouldn’t say that it was impossible. I wasn’t qualified. So, despite my dissatisfaction with the job, I was going to stay and do it until…? My wife also was about to start school, which I thought was kinda cool. Being on campus with her for the new student orientation had me feeling very out-of-place as a spouse in amongst a ton of parents, but I was excited for her. We’ll stay in Norfolk until she finishes, then go wherever. With that attitude, out of the blue, around a week before Shmoocon, a longtime friend came through with a ticket for me. Schweet. Even better? Free of charge. So, the trip would cost me transportation (Amtrak to DC, various cab fares), and whatever a hotel room cost. I confirmed with my boss that things were in order through the end of the Federal fiscal year, and asked whether I could, despite not asking well in advance, have the time off to go to the conference. Yes. I can totally deal with that. The conference was great. I wasn’t angling to land a gig. t wrote vociferously. I ate good food with friends. I made it home feeling tired, but somewhat excited about where things were going. I didn’t work MLK Day, using it as a day to recouperate after an eventful weekend. I went to the market across the street, and, no, they probably weren’t going to make it after all. Damnitsomuch. Tuesday I went to work. And was informed that I was being laid off next Tuesday. Perhaps I should have been more upset about it, but it honestly felt like a relief to get out of there. Nope, the little market across the street is closing. Again, damnitsomuch. We tried to help. For me, busses and trains to the Employment Commission, filing for unemployment, etc. Carrying home PBR on public transportation in my hipster acetate-framed glasses, etc. If I’d had a velvet blazer, and a mesh condom on my head, I probably would have looked more the part.

February:
Snow. Lots of it. Few bites on my resume. More bus trips to the unemployment office. Seminars telling me what I was doing wrong. Started thinking about seeing what it’d take to reopen the market across the street. I finally, and officially, resolved the aforementioned outstanding issue. Got home from the post office, started playing with my phone, and noticed I couldn’t read really any of the text on the screen. Maybe I’m just exhausted from being out, hoofing around, etc.. Rest for a bit. Nope, vision is still blurry as hell. Great. Call the neurologist’s office. Uhh, we’ll talk to the doctor and call you back. A few hours later, back on the bus to the neurologist’s clinic for the first of three days of Solu Medrol. My wife got out of class, and met me there. I also started angling to maybe reopen the market across the street. I had a decent working draft of a business plan, but probably not enough startup capital to make it go.

March:
Involvement with various startup agencies. Other stuff, digging through emails to see…I was trying to help my wife through Calculus. Started considering applying for jobs with the Federal Government, something I never had seriously considered before. Totally surprised my wife by conspiring with her mom and sister to get a white, ice cold, Twilight-themed ice cream cake. Saw the neurologist, who decided to keep me on Tecfidera, after the Solu Medrol had taken care of my flare. My wife and I had decided to stop paying COBRA from the four-letter company, which was running us better than $1400/mo.. Essentially, same vision and dental, with medical insurance from a local provider for roughly half the cost.

April:
HR Geeks came back to Norfolk from its monthlong exile in VB. On the way up, my wife was almost run off the road by a couple of police who were probably street racing at the end of the afternoon rush. My wife was pretty shaken up after a cop yelled at her out of the window of his cruiser for not getting over in bumpter-to-bumper traffic. While waiting at the restaurant, I called and opened a complaint about the cop. More seminars about starting your own business. More applications.

May:
Not a lot I’m seeing in my sent items, other than trying to get setup for startup stuff. I chose to go ahead, and open up my own business, not the little store across the street, focusing on kind of my technical and analytic strengths. Bank account? Check. Business license? Check. Registered for this Chamber of Commerce seminar on starting your own business for early June.

June:
As I continued setup activities for my company, I found it tough to avoid the temptation to try to do things myself, manually. Trying to setup basic services and infrastructure is just something that seemed to come naturally to me. Well, sort of. I still really suck at some of it, and am unwilling to spend the money to do it correctly. So? Take my own damn advice, and find a third-party provider. Unfortunately, I scheduled a bunch of sales calls with things like bandwidth vendors, one of which, after still keeping the conference after knowing they couldn’t provide what I wanted, caused me to miss TEDx at ODU. I tried to watch some of it, and while there were some good points, I still thought the speakers I watched were sort of missing the point. I finally got my drunk-looking-dude discount for the bus, as well as my Schedule A letter.

July:
I registered to be a part of Hatch Norfolk’s 1000-4 program, hoping it’d generate some business leads for me. Started attending their meetings, going to social events, etc.. The premise is sound, though I think some of the ideas are a bit off-the-wall, but I’m sure they think the same of my idea.

August:
I applied for jobs, and got referred for several positions locally, and in DC. One of those referrals was for a pretty sweet-sounding gig as a GS-13. On a whim, in order to keep my unemployment benefits coming in, I applied for a very low-level position dealing with a system I’d worked with previously I ran out of unemployment, and money was starting to get tight..

September:
One of the things I haven’t written much about in this tome is my struggles to find adequate dental care this year. The dentist I’d been seeing since 1996 finally closed his Norfolk office when the building he was in was demolished. He was only keeping hors on Friday down at what had been the first of three offices he opened. If/when I needed anything major done, he’d see me at his larger, modern office half an hour north. (where I’d seen him since high school) I went to one of the local larger practices while I was working for the four-letter after I’d lost a filling. The guy I saw had dollar signs in his eyes, then his office staff screwed up the billing. I messaged my primary care doc, and asked for a recommendation. His verdict? A friend of his up north of ODU. I went for a cleaning, had trouble wresting control of my records from the money-grubber practice. He fixed a small issue I had, then recommended I go back to see the guy who’d done all the work on me. Pfft. I scheduled an appointment with the old guy, which required a trip up with my wife, basicallly costing her an entire day. While I was waiting in the dental chair, I got a call from that thing I’d applied for months earlier. They needed me. As soon as possible. So, I took the gig, and cancelled the next two HR Geeks meetings. I also went to the Start Norfolk event, blew my pitch, and only attended about half the conference, being exhausted from work, etc..

October:
Still at this job. Not happy about it. Still digging hard on GS jobs, though I still haven’t gotten an interview. Now five have been cancelled, and twenty-some applications outstanding.

TLDR; it’s been a pretty lousy year, overall.

NoJoMo 1

List your schools, through high school. Describe a memory from each.

As an Army brat, I attended a bunch of schools growing up. I thought maybe I should try to write something down about each of them before the memories are gone. I spent most of my early childhood living in Newport News, Virginia, having moved there when I was still an infant.

Preschool/Kindergarten: Trinity Lutheran School (http://www.trinitynn.com) in Newport News. My wife and I ended up in that part of town sometime in the past year, which might have sparked this prompt. There was a parking lot/blacktop between the main school, and the preschool next door. I seem to remember that we’d assemble there, though I don’t remember if that was for getting on or off the school buses. When I was a kid, that seemed like a huge area. As an adult, it looks pretty small. As for a particular memory, there, there aren’t a ton, really. I really seem to remember things like folks getting sick, in trouble, etc..

First Grade: MacArthur Elementary School, Leavenworth, Kansas. (http://macarthur.usd207.org) I had to check their staff directory to see if the teacher I had is still there. She’s not, so I won’t allow my simmering spite to seethe into this entry. There were two big things, of course, that happened that year. First, as a young kid, I was getting into baseball, and the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. And, to keep with the spirit of avoiding seething spite, I’ll save talking about the San Francisco Giants for a later entry. Bigger than the Royals, though, was Challenger. We, the students, had been at lunch, and the teachers were smoking cigarettes, watching the launch in the teachers’ lounge. With Krista McAuliffe aboard, they were all about paying attention. At the end of lunch, they gathered all three first grade classes into a single classroom, where the teachers tearfully told us that it’d blown up.

Second through Fourth Grade: Mark Twain Elementary, Heidelberg Germany. There is no website for this school, because it closed. (http://www.stripes.com/news/pupils-staff-and-alumni-recall-happy-days-as-heidelberg-s-mark-twain-school-closes-1.145522) I still have Facebook friends who I met while there. A single memory is tough to find, really. The whole experience is kind of intertwined with the bigger part of living on the razor’s edge of the Cold War. So, what can I talk about that isn’t related to mutually-assured destruction? Fluoride. And, cue General Ripper. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1KvgtEnABY) The water in Germany isn’t fluoridated. So, every few weeks, the nurse would bring trays full of fluoride for us to swish. Three minutes, if memory serves. The green stuff was okay. The pink stuff was tolerable. The yellow stuff, ick.

Fifth and Sixth Grade: Newington Forest Elementary School, Springfield, Virginia (http://www.fcps.edu/NewingtonForestES/index.html) I was supposed to be part of the last sixth grade class that attended, but, looking at the website, I guess sixth grade has migrated back. Neither of my teachers is still there. Memory would be of a question to the PE teacher. The answer? “The man will know.” Speculate about what an eleven year-old boy would ask in a special class taught by a male PE teacher.

Seventh, and the first half of Eighth Grade: Osterholz American High School, Osterholz Germany. Another school that’s long closed, now. (http://davidgaines.com/oahs/) The whole situation, there, was strange. During the winter, we’d get on the bus from Bremerhaven well before the sun came up, and get off just before it set in the afternoon. The post near the school closed at the end of the first year I was there. I had something like six lockers, because the school was such a ghost town that second year.

Second half of Eighth Grade: Hanau Middle School, Hanau Germany. Closed. (http://wikimapia.org/11158323/Former-Hanau-Middle-School). That whole experience is a blur. I’m hoping my last job will fade, similarly. A blip on the life timeline. But Hanau wasn’t as bad an experience as the last job. When I think about that time, I think more about what I was doing outside of school.

Freshman Year: Heidelberg High School, Heidelberg Germany. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidelberg_High_School) Closed last year. I played football, which was really my life back then. Significant memories, naturally, were from things outside school. Yes, her. Her, too. Nevermind. When I interviewed for a job, there was this woman on the interview panel. After the interview, I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head, “I know this chick.” I got the job, and had been working there for something like four years before we finally made the connection. She was a couple of years older than me, and had been a cheerleader when I played football. Holy shit. I let her borrow my yearbook for awhile, and she gave stories about going to one of these all-classes reunions. She then left, and I’ve lost contact with her again. Hmmph.

Sophomore Year: Carlisle High School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. (http://www.carlisleschools.org/HS.cfm?subpage=321950) Again, football. I was very much out of place, and really probably had one of my first big MS flares They did six-week marking periods instead of quarters. The Honors English teacher offered a pretty significant extra credit opportuniies; one of those was writing in a journal. Over the first marking period, I wrote more than the required twice a week. Mostly, if memory serves, I wrote about angsty teenager bullshit. But it was something I could do as I languished in the basement of my dad’s quarters in “Smurf Village.” So, was I emo? Perhaps a bit. But I was also fifteen. I was entitled. I was in a little town. I didn’t really have friends. I had acne, a computer, and a puppy. Anyway, I was the only person who chose to do the extra credit assignment. Naturally, she read every word with great interest, and came away quite concerned about this troubled teenage boy. Off to the guidence counselor. And no more writing for me, really, until I was introduced to Open Diary in 1999. You could say it turned me off. Is that a memorable “moment?” As memorable as the colonel with the neck as big as his head quietly telling the Buddy Ryan fan head football coach that he didn’t need to scream at his players. Pfft. Out of curiousity, I had to take a look to see if that teacher is still there. Yep. “Click to e-mail.” Yeah, I’ll pass.

Junior and Senior Years: Menchville High School, Newport News, Virginia. (http://mville.nn.k12.va.us) No football. Drill Team/ROTC. Memorable moment, would have been extracurriculars, too. Prom, standing with my best friend’s prom date, watchign him and my girlfriend act a fool on the dance floor.

So, that’s the rundown. Back to writing. Also, since it’s November, facial hair is growing back in.

Writing Prompts 3/3

  1. What are your plans for the evening following what was surely a long week? Are you satisfied with how the year went?
  2. November 22nd is a big day for a graying segment of the population; calculate your age for that particularly bad day in Dallas, and describe the most important President of your lifetime.
  3. Last weekend before the short week. For fellow U-S Americans, this is essentially a three-day week. Do you have any big plans for the remainder of week before tryphtophan poisoning?
  4. Write a bit about why you’ve chosen to write this (and past) years. How many years have you been at it? Art you satisfied with what you’ve written this year? In past years?
  5. Describe your travel plans for the next few months. Is there any destination you’re really excited about? Any you’re dreading?
  6. Describe what you’re doing for the rest of this year.
  7. Write about your day. For Americans, if you’re stuffed/drunk/sleepy, describe why. If you’re a Cowboys’ fan, we understand why you’re drinking, but please elaborate anyway.
  8. Today is “Black Friday.” Is this just a gimmick? Will you be shopping for $religious_observance?
  9. Since today is the last day of the month with a prime number, describe your last prime-numbered age. What were the highlights? What were the low point?
  10. The end. Please free-write about what you’ve done this month, and the past year.

Writing Prompts 2/3

  1. Today is Veterans’ Day in the US, and Armistice Day everywhere else in the civilized world.  2014 is the hundredth anniversary of “the great war.”  Write what you know about World War I.  Do you have any relatives who served in the military?  Anyone currently? Do you have to work today? Go to school?
  2. Did you get a flu shot this year? Describe the last time you really had “the flu.” I’m really looking for the real flu.
  3. Now that we’ve talked about being sick, what medications and/or suppliaments do you take? Why do you take them?
  4. What are your plans for the weekend?
  5. Earlier this week, we wrote about drugs. Of which libations do you partake? When were you last drunk? What’s in your glass now?  What will be later?
  6. What’s the best place for brunch in the city where you live?  When did you last go?
  7. ~o/When I was seventeen/it was a very good year/o  Write about seventeen year-old you.
  8. Have you started your holiday shopping?  Any idea what you’re going to get people?
  9. Have you ever been to a foreign country?  List the ones you’ve visited, and what you remember about them
  10. Now that you’re two-thirds of the way through, write about whatever you’d like.  Will you finish this year?  When have you done this previously?

I will keep waiting to see if anyone offers some suggestions before I finish.

Writing Prompts 1/3

Followup to yesterday’s entry…. People who know me personally will see the impetus for some of these.

  1. List your schools, through high school. Describe a memory from each.
    List some of your earliest memories. Where were you? Is there anyone who could provide clarity about them?
  2. Describe your year to date.
  3. Since it’s Election Day, when did you first vote? Did you vote today? Have your political opinions changed as you’ve aged?
  4. Write about your siblings. Where are they now, what are they doing? When was the last time you saw him/her/them? Are you on good terms?
  5. Describe a typical day for you at work. You can go total Peter Gibbons on this one.
  6. Write about your mother.
  7. If you attended college, talk about your alma mater. Did you have a good experience? Are you happy with the major you selected? Are there any lessons that’ll stick with you forever? Do you have people you keep in contact with?
  8. Pro sports time — list your favorite teams, along with when you started following them.
  9. Describe the highs and lows of your fandom.
  10. With a third of the month passed, what are your plans for the rest of the month