Friday, December 16, 2011

The Commandments of Rachel

Everyone has their own code. (Although I sometimes wonder about some people.) This is mostly a joke, but here are my personal commandments from myself to myself.

No. 1 If you don't want to do it, don't do it.

No. 2 If you don't want to do it, consider whether there is a good reason to override No. 1. For example: You're being paid. It's the right thing to do. You'll be glad later you got it done now. Etc. Peer pressure is not a good reason.

No. 3 Don't lie. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

No. 4 You're responsible for yourself. No one else is. Let other people be responsible for themselves.

No. 5 You said you'd do it, so do it! If you aren't going to keep your commitments, don't make them in the first place.

No. 6 Be nice. It costs nothing and pays excellent dividends.

No. 7 Stand up for people who need a friend. Bullying, sniping, and gossiping are Not Cool.

No. 8 You always have time to read.

No. 9 If you don't know, say so. It saves time and embarrassment later on.

No. 10 Be grateful. Blessings accumulate when you count them.

No. 11 Don't panic. Seriously. It's unhelpful. And annoying.

No. 12 Have fun. It takes just as much effort as being miserable, but the consequences are more enjoyable.

No. 13 Stand your ground. Finish what you start.

No. 14 Move with confidence. Watch people get out of the way. It's fun AND it really moves grocery shopping along when you don't keep stopping for people to decide whether they'll move their cart out of the way.

No. 15 Don't speed. If you crashed into a minivan and killed a soccer mom and her kids, wouldn't you feel absolutely awful? Wouldn't it feel worse if you knew you were going ten miles over the limit and maybe if you hadn't been there would have been time to stop? Besides, you can't afford a ticket.

Well, this turned out more serious than I expected it to be. I would tweak it to be more funny, but actually I feel pretty strongly about all of these.

Particularly No. 11. Hysterics, even when it's an actor acting hysterical on a tv show, drive me up the wall. And if more teenagers followed No. 1, there would be a lot less problems with drug use, teenage pregnancy, cheating, and so on. And there's always time to read! If you have time to eat, you have time to read. And No. 2 is bang on- life sometimes requires doing what you would rather not. Like homework.

What are your commandments from yourself to yourself?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The end is near!

Today, the world ends!

Or, at least my semester does.

One more comprehensive final, and it's all over. Over!

Bwahahaha! Free! Free!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The List of Worthy Opponents and Magnificent Mentors

Full disclosure: none of these people have ever heard of me. I just really, really love their writing.

I have another list - the Black List - but it's a list of one, and doesn't really count. I make it a rule to never finish reading a bad book, in case the terrible craftsmanship is catching, but I've only officially put one writer on that list. And I'm not telling you who it is, because hundreds of thousands of people disagree with me. As is their right.

The List of Worthy Opponents and Etc is my list of writers who are so great that I want to write like them and eventually surpass them. (Admittedly, it boggles me slightly when I imagine surpassing Terry Pratchett - all hail the Discworld Creator!) The List is not the same thing as all writers that I enjoy reading. I enjoy reading Georgette Heyer, but I have no intention of making a career in romance. C. J. Cherryh is another great writer, but at this time I don't plan on branching into hard core sci-fi. David Brin, on the other hand, writes what I think of as 'soft' sci-fi, (no judgment on the story substance at all), which is like fantasy with a different flavor and style.

Behold, on the sidebar, the current List of Worthy Opponents and Magnificent Mentors, abbreviated to The List because the full title won't fit. I'll update it as I remember and/or find more worthy opponents and magnificent mentors. It is in a state of permanent incompleteness.

If you're interested in trying out a new author, or finding out what my taste in awesomeness is, try one of their books. You might not like it, but you certainly won't be disgusted by sloppy POV, poor characterization, blatant emotional manipulation, plot holes, unbelievable character motivations, and if I don't stop now I'll go on all day.

(Disclaimer: Martha Wells wrote the excellent Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy, and Dean Koontz wrote (is writing, please, a new one soon soon soon) the Odd Thomas books. I can't recommend every book, because I haven't read all of them.) (In fact, that applies to everyone on The List except Terry Pratchett, who is at the top for a reason. Everything Terry Pratchett writes is great. (Collaborations don't count.) Everyone after Terry Pratchett is in no particular order.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Music Fast

Not the same thing as fast music, alas.

Last Thursday I was driving to my weekly Institute class, listening to my choir's practice CD. Lots of latin and piano and other cool music stuff I don't know the words for. The kind of music that raises the hairs on your arms when you sing along.

And out of nowhere a thought dropped down into my head.

(This is never a good sign. Normally I can trace my thoughts pretty far back, by a method of word-association and random-remembrance that wouldn't make sense to anyone else. The point is, even when I suddenly think 'I should go pumpkin hunting with my dad's rifle,' I can figure out where that thought came from. When a thought just falls into my head, I consider it as though someone leaned through the hole in the floor of heaven and dropped a brick into my train of thought. And these thoughts are never about how I should eat more ice cream!)

The thought was something along the lines of "I should try only listening to music like this and see what happens."

Oh, I did not like that. I love my music. Evanescence, Within Temptation, Linkin Park, Blue October.... Dido, Eurythmics, Cutting Crew, Foreigner.... Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood.... Imogen Heap, Ian Van Dahl, Sarah Brightman, Three Days Grace... and so on. There probably isn't a music group on the planet that hasn't written at least one song that I like. (They've probably written at least fifty more that I don't, but such is the nature of my eclectic and fickle taste.)

For me, there was no doubting that this thought was inspiration. See the aside about trains of thought. But that didn't mean that I had to like it.

But when I noticed that the heavy city traffic that I suffer through for Institute every week was leaving me completely untouched, unbothered, and unstressed, that sealed the deal, like it or not.

But there's no way I'm swearing off 'Juke Box Hero' and 'White Flag' forever.

So, until New Year's, I'm only listening to classical, instrumentals (such as Vanessa-Mae and David Lanz), and gospel music such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

The withdrawal is intense. But I'm considering this a fast, with all the spiritual blessings that come with that, and, most importantly...

... it's not for forever. (Hallelujah!)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Revenge Shall be Mine!

I recently filled out the FAFSA for the first time. I'd been putting it off, and putting it off some more, since I had the sneaking suspicion that a family with three cars wasn't going to qualify for aid, no matter how old and paid off said cars are, or how many medical bills not-covered-by-insurance said family gets yearly.

I was right. I'm eligible for a very helpful 'loan'.

Having read The Courage to be Rich by Suze Orman, The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, The Millionaire Next Door by I don't remember who, Debt-Free U by Zac I-can't-spell-his-last-name, among many others, I have a pretty good understanding of debt, compound interest, and just how many people actually default on their student loans.

I have big plans. If I get a student loan, I'll have to consider those payments when I graduate, and probably I'll have to work several jobs, and it could still take years to pay the loan off. The insidious thing about debt is that you don't just pay back what you spent. (Haven't bothered to do the math to see how long this would take; I'm not going there.)

I certainly don't want to sacrifice years from my writing career just to bring my net worth UP to zero.

So filling out the FAFSA and having it be absolutely no help wasn't a big surprise.

Going to the Financial Aid office at my community college, where I've been pouring all my money and effort for the last two years (I'm an out of district student- they charge me top dollar, but not quite enough to make it worth ditching them and going to a university), and being told that the only aid they'll give me is what the FAFSA dictates.... made me want to spit.

This is partially due to my own incorrect preconception. Everyone talks about the aid the 'college' gives you. I was under the assumption that the FAFSA was for federal aid and the college had a separate thing to fill out for getting aid from them. You know, aid that takes into account that you've got a 4.0 GPA and you're on the President's Honor Roll because you work your butt off on every assignment. Ha ha ha. Silly me.

In fairness to the financial aid officer, she was very professional. It isn't her fault that she's a tiny cog in the evil machine of higher education. But being told straight out that these grades don't matter one bit, that I'm too rich to be helped through college but too poor to enroll for the spring semester, that yes, there are scholarships, here's one piece of paper with websites to look at, have fun!.... I walked out still in control of myself- they didn't have to call campus security or anything- but I felt like I was shaking.

I don't often get angry. When I do, I try to find something ridiculous to laugh at, because I have a hard time being angry when I'm laughing.

I decided I'm going to destroy the public college system. And I know how to do it, too. Every printer has a sign begging you not to print more than nine pages a day. The computer labs have signs on the doors asking you to cut out the last page of internet printouts (you know, the one with nothing but the web address). Every stand of handouts says Take ONE! So, all I have to do to bring higher education to its knees, begging for mercy, is go around printing nine pages on each printer, and take every handout, and so on. The high cost of paper and ink, plus the negative PR of killing cute trees will destroy their budget! Bwahahahaha!

It didn't really work. I'm still pretty ticked.

Fortunately, this kind of anger can be very motivating. How dare they get in my way? How dare they say I can't go to college? I'll show them! I'll get my four year degree, with no debt, and then they'll all be sorry!

Probably they'll never care. But I can pretend that they do, and then every hour of scrubbing dishes, filing paperwork, editing recipes, shredding, talking to rude/obnoxious/angry/far-less-than-intelligent customers, and so on, will be another hour that I'm not bowing to their tyrannical will. Try to enslave me to debt by saying it's the only way, huh? Don't give me any help to find a better way, huh?

Just you watch. Not only will I one day be a rich and famous (to readers) writer, I'll ALSO have a bachelor's degree in business or accounting, and I won't have paid a penny in interest to anyone.

Monday, October 10, 2011


This is my new blog! Isn't it shiny?

I mentioned in my Moving post that I'm about to be out of a job.

I've been working at a local bakery. Before you get excited, I've mostly been helping in the office. So, no, I can't make you a birthday cake.

Unfortunately, between the rising cost of materials and the declining economy, it's hard for the bakery to stay open. The doors will close by the end of October.

A moment of silence, please, for the best first job ever. It has been a wonderful ride.

I was hired as a naive college freshman who had plenty of volunteer experience but very, very little experience in the working world. I was hired to help ship cakes during the holidays. I was warned that this was most likely a temporary, three-month-tops job. (Leaving them open to let me go after New Year's if we hated each other.) Instead, this temporary holiday job has lasted a full year. Weirdly, I'm now one of the most senior employees. (I try not to think about that. Makes me feel old.)

I love the bakery. I love my manager. I love the owners.

I love that the business is small enough for me to get to know and love the bakery, the manager, and the owners.

As I try to resign myself to being young, brilliant, and unemployed, I just have to remind myself:

There are other perfect jobs out there. I just have to find one.