“Little Girls Don’t Like Star Wars”

In all this time of #metoo, women are asking what’s really changed? I say a lot. I’ve noticed the difference in my own lifetime. How?

Star Wars, of course.

“Little girls don’t like Star Wars.” – Everyone when I was 9.

And I was confused, because I was a little girl and I loved Star Wars. I had all the action figures (literally; I counted them.) I had Star Wars bed sheets. I mailed in cereal box tips for an exclusive Emperor Palpatine figure. But everywhere I heard the mantra, “Little girls don’t like Star Wars. ” I once begged for an AT-AT walker after the boy down the street wouldn’t let me play with his, because Star Wars is for boys.

Then they stopped making Star Wars toys after Return of the Jedi and it seemed the galaxy far, far away had faded away. I still loved Star Wars as I combed garage sales for other people’s discarded, dog – chewed figures. I soon became a woman, but the mantra remained.

And then a miracle happened: new Star Wars movies. Adventure; excitement; a girl Jedi does crave these things! And that’s when I first noticed it. It wasn’t much – a pink Star Wars tee shirt. Just the words in that iconic font printed on the front, but it was obviously meant for a girl. It wasn’t branded with the lone female character, either. This was just a plain Star Wars tee shirt. FOR A GIRL.

My friend’s daughters liked Star Wars.

Later, Disney bought Lucasfilm and there would be new movies again. Soon the stores were flooded with Star Wars toys. But this time, the stuff wasn’t limited to pink tee shirts and Leia dolls. Heck, it wasn’t limited to little girls! I could buy purses and shoes and womanly Star Wars things. The first time I saw a store full of Star Wars stuff for me, I cried in the aisle.

I know how far we’ve come because np one says “Little girls don’t like Star Wars” anymore. When I read an article about Millenials destroying something, I smile. Because all they are destroying is the preconceived notions of those people who told me little girls don’t like Star Wars. Now they buy her a lightsaber for Christmas.

Because little girls can like whatever they damned well please.

Veggies, I’m Coming For You

Diet, week 2. Veggies, I’m coming for you!

Week 1 went well. I drank much water. Can’t say as I really noticed all that much of a difference, except in TMI ways that aren’t really pertinent to the goal. And of course, since I told myself I was going to do this in easy stages, I find myself wanting to run out and do weeks 1-4 at once, go to the gym, take up jogging, and all manner of “good for me” things.

This is how it begins.

I’m amped up, ready to make ALL THE CHANGES. The enthusiasm feels good! I can do anything! But enthusiasm is a lie. Because eventually it fades, and soon the daily trip to the gym doesn’t feel good anymore, it feels like a just another item on the to-do list. Then, instead of wanting to go, I dread having to go. I’m tired, and hungry and bored (so bored) and no one will notice if I skip just this once. Or twice. Or month. Or…six.

Traditional diets are the same. Figuring out what to eat is work. Denying myself that sweet, sweet milkshake I want so badly becomes negative reinforcement. The milkshake is bad, I say to myself.  I shouldn’t drink it. Then it isn’t a big leap to “I’m bad for wanting it.” Of course I want it! Sugar lights up the pleasure centers of the brain. Calling myself a monster for wanting, or occasionally consuming, high-calorie treats isn’t going to make that craving go away. All it’s going to do is convince me there’s no point anymore, since I’m a horrible person who might as well be fat, since no one really cares about me anyhow.

OK, maybe that last  bit is just me. Thanks, Mom.

So I’m having to throttle myself down. This isn’t an exciting new adventure! This is the new normal. More water, boolean veggie test. Had to catch myself this morning – I made eggs for breakfast and had to figure out the vegetable I had on hand that would go with them. Cucumbers in vinegar. Not quite pickles, they’d only been splashed with vinegar instead of truly pickled, but there was half a cup of them. Threw in a sliced pear sprinkled with cinnamon for a sugary kick.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I’m kind of having fun scouring the internet for new recipes. Especially since I have to be gluten-free now, I got into a rut. I found out what was safe to eat and stuck to it, but that kind of made eating boring. Same old stuff for breakfast, same old restaurants for lunch where I ordered the same old dishes. Comfort carbs at home, since I couldn’t easily get them elsewhere. Yawn. I’m shaking myself out of the ennui of food allergies. I think that’s probably a good thing.

No weigh-in. I’m actively stopping myself from stepping on a scale. If I focus too much on the weight, I’ll obsess over the diet and I’ll rush into making ALL THE CHANGES. Nope, nothing to see here. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along. At least until week 5, anyway.

And veggies, I’m coming for you.

What’s Past Is Backstory

Most of the time I’m converting lessons from business to writing. This time, I’m taking a piece of writing advice to apply to business.

Part of my job is reviewing documents that are going out to the users. Today, as I reviewed yet another watching-paint-dry user guide, I was desperately trying to think of something, ANYTHING, that would make basic user instructions sound less – dry. I mean, no one expects user instructions to be scintillating. Yet I couldn’t help but feel there had to be something better than the plodding list I was reading, even though there wasn’t really anything wrong I could point at.

As I started my review in earnest, I looked over the glossary of terms. I, of course, knew all those terms already. I debated if the given definition matched my understanding of those items garnered from months of use of the product – and that’s when it hit me. Why was I reading a list of definitions before I learned anything else?

A glossary is backstory.

You see, it’s common for beginning writers to shove backstory into their first chapter. “But the reader needs to know this first,” the writers say, usually with raised voices. They are positive if the readers aren’t data dumped 500 years of international history they simply won’t understand why the main character is squatting in a foxhole in the first scene. Except the reader doesn’t really need to know the entire geo-political situation to get that the character is a solider in a war. They’ll find out about those 500 years leading up to that foxhole later, when they have context to hang it on, not to mention a reason to care.

Business writing, I realized, is full of backstory. I can’t count the number of trainings I’ve taken that start with a history lesson on how the thing I’m studying came to be. Or sets of instructions that begin with a glossary of terms I didn’t know, or have a reason to care about yet. I won’t even start on the emails rehashing an entire intra-office saga before getting to the point. What’s worse, organizational style guides act as a sort of corporate raising of the voice, encouraging writers to load up on the backstory because it makes things “clearer.”

It’s human nature. When we tell a story, we want to start with the first thing that happened. But stories can’t all start at the beginning of time and cover every detail contributing to the current situation. Somewhere along the line, we have to leave a few things out. That’s where the art comes in – deciding what the reader needs to know right now, and what they can discover later.

Why can’t good story structure be a part of business communications? It would certainly spice up the work day to get emails that first pose a dilemma, then lead you to the proposed solution. It’d be easier if definitions of new terms grew organically out of the places in the guide where you needed them. I like to craft emails full of boring dates and instructions into thematic narratives, if only to relieve my own tedium while writing the stupid things. Well that, and it gives me an excuse to use the word Padawan at work.

Perhaps business communications can’t all become high-fantasy novels, full of noble quests, or mystery novels, with clues peppered through email chains to a triumphant reveal.  The next memo across my desk definitely won’t be a riveting space opera. But couldn’t we at least stop front loading the backstory?

New Year Redux

Despite my normal disdain for such things, I’m setting myself a New year’s Resolution. I’m going to lose weight.

Why? Well, I know you aren’t supposed to go on a weight loss plan to fit into a garment. I’m also fairly certain those people never scored a limited edition Columbia Echo Base Princess Leia jacket that’s two sizes too small. I can’t just get another one in my size; they’ve been sold out since 7 minutes after they went on sale.  But I can’t bear the thought of simply selling it on eBay, either.

I’ve also come to realize that the normal advice doesn’t work for me, so I’m thinking about using some bad advice to help me achieve my goal.

Yes, bad advice.

I shall adopt a diet that defies the normal conventional wisdom of dieting. One that requires me to eat, rather than reduce my eating. That limits my exercise. That doesn’t require weighing myself or any of that horrible calorie counting that tends to encourage me to binge-eat. Skeptical? Oh, but you should have more faith. “Normal” diets don’t work very well anyway, so why should I follow that advice? I think I have a better plan, and it’s all scientifically sound, too. So there, conventional dieters!

Here’s my plan to lose weight by avoiding dieting:

Week 1 – Drink at least 32 oz. of water per day.  NOT 64 oz, per that terribly misunderstood study everyone quotes. That study found we need 64 oz of fluid a day, but get approximately half of that from food, so really you only need 32 oz of straight-up water. I have a lovely Star Wars water bottle. Fill it twice a day and I achieve the goal! If i want to unlock the bonus round, I’ll add a fiber supplement to my water. Oh, ambitious!

Week 2 – Layer in the veggies. Every meal has a fruit or veggie included, and I don’t count those other botanicals masquerading as veggies, either. Potatoes (aka tubers), corn (aka grains) or mushrooms (aka fungi) don’t count as part of the recommended daily allowance. I can still eat them, of course. But I have to eat the veggies, too. Or first. Probably first to make sure. Absolutely NO  tracking calories – this is a boolean operation. Is there at least a serving of fruit or veggie? Yes or No are the only answers allowed.

Week 3 – I’m going to give up my gym membership and limit myself to 15 minutes of strength training per day. Forget the treadmill. If I want to walk, I have a dog more than willing to make that happen. Insistent upon it, actually, whether I want to do it or not. No fancy-schmancy workouts or special classes. Alexa has a 7 minute workout I can get literally for the asking – do that once in the morning, once in the evening with a couple of 10lb weights and the achievement is unlocked!

Week 4 – Half the portions. I can still eat whatever I want, but when I sit down to eat I only have half as much as I think I want on my plate. I have to wait 10 minutes from the time I finish before going back for more. Note, I don’t say I can’t go back for more, only that I have to wait for 10 minutes. Paired with my water intake and the veggie requirement, this shouldn’t be all that difficult to accomplish. I think I need Star Wars Tupperware to squirrel away the extras for more motivation. more Star Wars is always motivating.

Week 5 – Take a picture. No, really. I’m going to put on the jacket and take a picture. I might weigh myself, but really, who needs that? The important thing is: does the jacket fit better than it did 4 weeks ago? I can also take the week to figure out how ELSE I’m going to not diet for the next 4 weeks. That’s the Agile way.

So here I go, taking the bad advice. Oh, and I plan on drinking more alcohol. I hear tell a glass of wine every day or two is good for me. Not sure that’s going to help me lose weight, but it sure sounds like fun.

Before Picture:

Don’t Get Distracted by Side Quests

I was playing Defenders of the Realm at GenCon with a friend who’d never played it before. After we set up the pieces, each player got the card with their side quest. He got all excited at the prospect of getting this really cool weapon for his character. As we played, the board filled with evil minions. The rest of us ran around putting out fires (literally, the villain was setting things on fire) while he chased his side quest. About halfway through, he looked down at the board and said, “Wow. I really don’t have time to do this, do I?” His dithering around on that side quest, instead of helping us defeat the dragon generals, ultimately cost us the game.

I’ve given up a side quest. Which was hard, because I really, really like it. I’ve been writing and editing a newsletter at work, and I’m not ashamed to admit I did it well. In fact, that was becoming the problem. You see, I’ve been trying to finish a full length novel. But as much as I love the newsletter, it’s a lot of creative writing work, and I started wondering if I was using my writing energies on that rather than devoting them to my true goal.

Life is more like board games than i’d like to admit. The key to winning is to remember what, exactly, constitutes winning. But just like that game of Defenders of the Realm, chasing a side quest could take so much time away from my true goal, I jeopardize achieving life’s victory conditions. But unlike a game, life doesn’t come with a rule book defining the victory conditions. So I have to ask myself what my true goals are. The great part is I get to pick! Also, the terrible part is I have to pick. I know there have been times where I wished life came with a handy rule book that spelled them out for me.

Not that other people haven’t tried to tell me what the victory conditions for life are. It sometimes seems everyone is out to tell you what it means to succeed in life, or to fail at it. Advertisements. Pop culture. corporate culture. Heck, some of the worst messages came from my own family. My brother once called the community college I attended “Harvard by the highway”, not-at-all-subtly implying I’d failed at life because I wasn’t at a four year university.

Thus, the side quest. It’s easy for me to go haring off after some shiny objective because someone else said I should. It’s simpler to plot the career path others say is the best one for me. And it’s really FUN to track down trivia for newsletter articles in my increasingly limited free time.

I need to say goodbye to the side quest. Workplace newsletters don’t get a book published, and I’m increasingly convinced that my real contribution to my job is the projects I have yet to start. I have the capacity to accomplish amazing things; ironically, the newsletter proved that. Now it’s time to abandon the side quest and devote my time to achieving those amazing things.

I’ll miss the trivia, though.

They Say

I think I have to give up on conventional wisdom. Lately anything “they” say seems to be just – wrong.

Exercise will give you more energy. Really? I was walking the dog and getting in my recommended 10,000 steps a day. All I felt was exhausted, all the time.

Turn off the electronic devices an hour before bed. Yeah, didn’t work. In fact, a dark, quiet room is perhaps the worst prescription for sleep. I found the quiet time alone with my thoughts spirals out of control. I checked my fitness tracker: my heart rate actually goes up if I try that.

Track your food to help lose weight? Triggers binge-eating. Eat healthy? I ate three times the calories to avoid eating the thing I was craving.

Hire a dog trainer to help the new dog adjust to our home? She really convinced me the dog is on the verge of biting me if I come anywhere near him.

Almost every psychological trick or “normal” tendency I’ve read about doesn’t work for me. Not only has my body moved to extreme ends of the bell curve, I’m not sure my psychology can be charted on the same graph as the rest of humanity.

Time to stop listening to what “they” say. Obviously I was transported here as a baby from some alternate dimension. I need to figure out the rules for my dimension of origin.


So – yeah. WordPress tells me it’s been many months since I blogged. Like, an embarrassing number of them. Much like with vacations, the more fun you are having, the less time you’re spending documenting all the fun you’re having.

See what I did there? Now you think I spent all this time off exploring the world and having amazing adventures, and now I just have to humblebrag about it. The truth is so much more complicated, like with anything else in life. Have I been travelling the world? Yes, part of it. But the trip to Scotland was just two weeks of those many months. Have I had amazing adventures? Sure – a few, some of them lasting only an hour of those many, many months.

So why the radio silence? The parts that aren’t fun to put in a blog. The long days slogging through projects at work, followed by long nights watching TV as I berate myself for not doing the all-important-thing-what-must-get-done-or-i’m-a-failure-for-life. Exciting psychological terms like “impostor syndrome.” A dose of plain old depression spiced with a pinch of fat-shaming. I’m pretty brutal on myself; more to the point, just as we all hate humblebrag posts, no one wants to read self-loathing mental diarrhea. Not even me, and as a rule I’m pretty interested in reading about me.

So we come to the nature of comebacks. I could have just abandoned this blog. Called it a failed experiment and flitted to the next shiny thing that crossed my path. Yet here I am, boring my 3.5 readers with musings about my absence. Why?

Because we too often believe that once we stop something, we can’t ever start again. Happens at the gym with exercise programs. Novels get abandoned more often than they get finished. I have three sweaters, a two scarfs and an afghan stuffed in a drawer with the crochet hooks still clinging to the last half-completed stitch row.

But you know what? Those balls of yarn don’t care how long it takes to be stitched into useful items. A publisher will never know that novel’s first scene got written two decades ago. My butt certainly doesn’t hold a grudge over the number of hours it spends sitting in a chair versus laboring in a Bowflex machine. Because they are inanimate things, while I am the consciousness that gives them meaning and purpose. I’m the one who decides what’s been abandoned or when that long absence has only been a resting period.

It’s time I came back to my life.