Sunday, October 19, 2014

Field trips, Trains, and Running in Circles

It has been a very challenged couple of weeks. School stuff has kept me hopping. There were a few field trips and a few meetings. Cuddle Bear really enjoyed the field trip at the beginning of the month to the Genesee Country Museum. I had the opportunity to go as a chaperone but I didn't take it because I had a meeting with my psychiatrist that day. By all reports, he had a good time and was very well behaved. This relieved me because Cuddle Bear was being a bit difficult at the time.

Snuggle Bug had a field trip last week to the Seneca Park Zoo. It was another chance to be a chaperone that I missed because of scheduling conflicts. He was very excited to go and see the monkeys, tigers, and bears. It was all he talked about for a few days afterwards. It was another trip where my little one was well behaved and happy.

It makes the reports from school that Snuggle Bug has been having temper-tantrums very difficult. I'm trying to find out if there has been any changes to his schedule or classroom. From what I can tell, there has not been any major changes. Snuggle Bug needs a very orderly routine because he doesn't transition well between activities. While Cuddle Bear has some trouble with that, it is not quite as severe as Snuggle Bug's difficulties. Snuggle Bug has also been talking about how he doesn't want to go to school just about every day for the last two weeks. I think there's something going on but I honestly have no idea what it could be.

Cuddle Bug handled the transition of his classroom's student teacher leaving very well. At his IEP team meeting last week, they told me that he has been making big progress in his reading and mathematics. They think he is almost at grade level with his reading. There is a week of evaluation testing coming up next month. After that, they will have more concrete answers about where he stands academically. All of the testing will be done and considered just before the report cards come out in mid-November.

I wish that I had the software up on the computer to share the pictures we took of the boys' train ride yesterday. Beloved's parents paid for the kids and him to take a ride on the excursion train that ran yesterday from here in Lakeville up to Industry (a little town near Rochester) and back. The kids were so excited that they were skipping down the walk from our house to where they were loading passengers. We got lucky with the tickets. Apparently they sold out before we had got there (a half hour before the train was due to depart) but somehow my father in law managed to score enough tickets for Beloved and the boys.

Everyone had a really good time on the train trip. We got pictures of the train before it departed, as it was leaving, and when everyone was getting on board. Beloved was so busy with keeping the kids in their seats that he didn't get a chance to snap a picture of them on the train itself. I don't think, however, that it will be a problem. The boys have been very excited about it all and asking if they can do it again next year. If the excursion train is running next fall, we will definitely do it again. However, we will order our tickets in advance.

When I haven't been busy with stuff pertaining to school for the kids or my own health matters, I have been working on writing book four of my fantasy series. I self published book one a little while back. As I have been reviewing it, however, I realized that there are some parts that need a bit of polishing. So, I'm debating briefly pulling it off the market to revise those sections. The way I see it, the few copies that are floating around out there currently will be come collector's editions after I make my fame.

I am about to send book two off to beta readers. Book three is prepped for the first round of edits. I have now established a Facebook page for the series. (I just discovered that it is possible to buy used copies and I'm surprised because I hadn't received notification that any had been sold yet. I'm tempted to contact the seller and tell them that I'll sign it for them if they ship it to me to do so.)

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Blogging for $$$

I started blogging here on Blogger back before Google acquired it. Of the different formats that I've encountered, I'm pretty comfortable here. To be honest, my first foray into blogging was on LiveJournal. I still have an account there but I haven't updated it in over a year. It is my hope to start slapping up book reviews on there (as that is the theme of that particular blog) after the chaos of NaNoWriMo and the holidays are passed. I've been working my way through the Harry Potter series and the Dark Tower series. I have some definite thoughts on both. (95% of those thoughts are positive, by the way).

When I heard that I could blog on Helium and on Triond for some sort of cash payment, I decided to start posting material up on there. Then my life got crazy and I wound up taking an extended break (not by choice) from those platforms and blogging in general. Helium was an interesting place and I'm still not sure if I liked it. I kinda found the platform unwieldy and awkward. I, however, am one of those people who are technically termed a 'user' by the computer industry. If it is not damn near idiot proof, I'm a person who has a good chance of having some difficulty with it. Not because I'm an idiot but because my interests and expertise lie in other areas.

Triond was a good site. I didn't make much money on there (nor on Helium) but I found the platform really user friendly. I posted a bunch of stuff and got the beginnings of a readership base. Then my forced break from blogging happened. Over the past few years, I've been trying to get back into writing on Triond. I started to see my readership go back up and I was becoming hopeful of actually getting a check from them. (On both Triond and Helium, you need a minimum of $50 to get a check.)

I suppose it started having problems back around early June. At first, I didn't think much of it. After all, if you're running a site as big as that, you're bound to have some difficulties cropping up from time to time. The glitchy software or servers (I honestly have no idea where the problem is) became big headaches for me over the course of July and early August. Then, sometime in the middle of August, Triond became terribly difficult to use. Not because they changed their platform but because of how badly the servers were lagging behind and that they were constantly timing out when I went to post anything.

By September, I found that I could barely get to the main page with out things crashing on me. At first, I thought perhaps the problem was my computer. So I turned to the computer whiz, my Beloved husband, and asked him what the error messages meant and if I had done something wrong. He explained to me that they were generic error messages indicating that something was wrong on Triond's end. I kept trying at regular intervals to use Triond to post things.

I had articles waiting for approval for over the course of the month. What was usually a two day turnaround time from post to publish turned into a full month in the case of two articles. It has me thinking that I need to wrestle with Triond to get my original content off there (because I foolishly did not have backups) and discontinue using it.

I don't know what I'm going to do next. I know that I will keep my blogs here on Blogger. The mirror blog of Veiled Witch over on Wordpress is going to stay. Heck, I'm even going to keep the LiveJournal account open. While I can't seem to get the blogs here on Blogger to work with Google's advertising widget, I'm not going to worry about that. It was never the point of these blogs.

Beloved and the PorchCat have both pointed out that I am good enough to get paid for my work. I keep trying to screw up the courage to follow the links that the PorchCat gave me but my social phobia gets in the way terribly. It makes me feel despondent to see that I can not even bring myself to just go out and freelance on the internet, where there will be no face to face contact. It is something that I will be working on with my therapist, obviously. Beloved is strongly encouraging me to get an agent to work with for my novels. Again, white hot terror shoots through me at the thought of engaging in that process.

Beloved is of the opinion that all I need to do is get angry enough at the situation and I will just sweep this obstacle aside. I kinda foolishly hoped that I could just blog on topics that I felt like writing about and make some money that way. Taking a step back and looking at things realistically, I have to admit, my blogging on stuff that I'm interested in hasn't done much for my readership here. It leaves me feeling like maybe I'm not terribly interesting after all. Beloved assures me that I am interesting, I just need to market myself.

All I know is that something has to change or my dream of being a professional author is just not going to happen. It makes me wish that there was a pill that made everything better. I'd feel less ashamed of the medication if it made all these damn things easier. All the drugs do is take the edge off of the mood swings and quiet the noise in my head. I know these are big things because they allow me to function.

It feels like I'm just not making progress and that I'm doomed to be struggling with these stupid fears. The fears are the glass wall between me and my destination. It's awful to have yourself as your own worst enemy.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

October ranting.

It's been a while since I posted in here. I've been busy working on novels. (I finished one last week and started another. I'm up to book 4 in the series! w00t!) I've also been busy with the kid's school stuff. When I am not dealing with all of that, I have been working on my series of letters to Loki on Triond and the novel that is in progress there. (Honestly, given how much trouble Triond has become over the last few months, I think I'm going to withdraw my work and post it elsewhere, perhaps on here. I don't know.)

All of that said, I just have a few things I need to get off my proverbial chest. It's October and it means a lot of things to a lot of people. For some people, October is one of the best times of year because of football and bonfires. For others, they're excited for things like the fact that it is National American Cheese month or Bat Appreciation Month. And, let us not forget, Holloween is at the end of the month which I think 95% of the population of children in the country all anticipate with glee. Sugar rushes are always loved by the young 'uns.

I am, however, sick of seeing a few things. I get that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. I even get that they want to raise awareness and research funds. It's the 'pinkwashing' of everything that makes me furious. Lazy activism by way of purchasing the latest gadget with the trademarked pink ribbon on it makes me want to scream. A miniscule portion of the funds raised by those damned pink ribbon products actually goes to research. Most of it funds, get this, the product line and promotion of the products with that damned ribbon. If you want to do something about breast cancer, go donate directly to research funds. Make things for people who are afflicted, like hats to help the people who lost their hair due to chemotherapy stay warm. Get to know somebody with cancer and help them directly.

Aside from the commercialism aspect of the pinkwashing campaign, I hate how it presents this false image that breast cancer is the number one cancer killer. The top three killer cancers world wide are: lung, stomach, and liver cancer. Yes, breast cancer is towards the top of the list of lethal cancers (coming in at no.5 in the list) but if you go by all the advertisement and 'awareness' activities that you spot, you'd assume it was number one. By the way, the pinkwashing campaign has put breast cancer research funding at the top of the list followed by colorectal cancer.

I'm not saying that we should stop raising money for breast cancer research. I'm saying that all forms of cancer deserve as much attention as breast cancer. Imagine the strides that could be made if all forms of cancer were getting as much in funds as breast cancer. Further more, imagine the strides that would be made with out people skimming money off to fund their pink ribbon products. As someone who has lost a grandparent to cancer and had another one deal with it and survive, I may be taking this whole pinkwashing thing a bit harder then most people.

Long story short, the pinkwashing campaigns are disgusting for two reasons. First, it implants the false image that other cancers are less severe. This costs lives because people will be reluctant to get diagnosed for that lump they feel until it is too late. Secondly, too many people are lining their pockets with money that could be used to save lives. I recognize that medicine is an industry and that people are in it to make a buck. That doesn't change the fact that they have a responsibility due to the social contract made between them and their patrons to actively advocate and work to assist people with their health. It has been this way since antiquity. Allowing greed to get in the way of that is shameful and it makes me want to start an angry mob with pitchforks and torches.

And then there's this other little matter that has me madder then a hornet trapped under glass. I'm a pagan and I'm proud of it. Beloved and I are raising our children as pagans as well. We are doing our best to educate them to have a sense of wonder for the world and compassion for all life. We are also striving to encourage them to be respectful of the beliefs of others, regardless of the fact they disagree with us. All of these efforts, however, don't feel like they're enough when people are out there lampooning the pagan belief systems.

I get that people want to dress up as a witch for holloween because that is a character from folklore and has a role within our collective unconscious. Dress up is fun. But when someone takes the pagan belief systems and turns them into a marketing scheme, I get angry. Vikings or their descendants are not some prop to be slung up in a shop window to draw customers, for example. Holding them up as tawdry marketing ploys is as reprehensible as doing the same with people of African American descent or Native Americans. As much as people want to say that these kinds of things are 'harmless' they really are not.

There are people who practice the beliefs that are lampooned by those measures. They struggle to be treated as legitimate by the rest of the people around them. One may argue that they're not being denied their First Amendment rights but I would argue that creating a culture where one is mocked and reviled for not being part of the dominant religious sect is worse. Pagans in the western cultures face steep opposition. It ranges from regular harassment to outright violence to legislation that has been made to limit their ability to practice their religion.

Demeaning another person's religion because it isn't yours is disgusting. It also lays the groundwork for your religion to be demeaned by someone else. Freedom of religion means freedom for all religions. That freedom includes freedom to practice it with out harassment or punishment. And freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion. The plastic concept of 'witches' and other non-mainstream religious groups as something to be the butt of jokes, marketing ploys, and scorned because someone deems them 'evil' manifests differently everywhere in the USA. But it is still there, just as vicious and insidious as it always has been.

Sure, no one is burning witches at the stake today. I suppose this is an improvement, but there are states with laws on the books that make religious practices like divination illegal. There are laws on the books that state that someone who is not of a certain belief system can not hold public office. (Yes, these laws are real and have the threat of being enforced. Don't believe me, look up discrimination against atheists. A lot of those laws get applied against people who are not of the dominant religious belief system as well.)

Those laws and the attitudes that lead to their development are dangerous to a free republic. They are a short step away from punishing political dissidents and people who say things that you don't like. These are not fantasy scenarios. If you look into the rise of despotic states, you will find that persecution of people who are not of the approved social sect is amongst the first of a long string of events that lead to their development. Mockery and harassment of pagans tends to peak around holloween because of the cultural association of this time of year with 'dark' things and for some reason paganism has been deemed 'dark'. That has to stop.

Now, my rant about pagans being viewed in askance during this time of year doesn't just point at the non-pagans and the people who are quick to turn us into marketing ploys. I also am looking at you people in the pagan communities who seem to feel that the month of October is the time to crow loudest about your beliefs and treat it as though it is somehow the time of year that we must claim as our own. If you're pagan only one month of the year, you're as bad as the christians who are christian only for Advent and Easter seasons.

You're not pagan just in October and a shoe salesman (or whatever else you are) the rest of the year. If you're a pagan, you are a pagan 365 days a year. You live your religion. You incorporate your religious practices into your life and have them present at all times. They inform and color your actions. As trite as it may be, to quote the christian Bible "by their fruits, ye shall know them."

If you're one of those cockamamie pagans who only do it in October because that's when it feels right, go away. Your behavior is part of the problem. Flooding social media with 'witchy' things and black cats in October is not being pagan. It's being a living, breathing version of that plastic image they sell you. Knock it off and be yourself, for gods' sake. I know you're more then that. And if you think that plastic image is all that there is to you, then, for the love of everything holy, get some help. Because that's not healthy.

You want to celebrate your paganism. Go ahead and do it, but do it all year long. Sure, it's great to celebrate your way of life. I think the gods want us to be happy and celebrate living because living is a glorious thing (for the most part). Putting it on and taking it off like some kind of mass produced flimsy costume off the discount rack of Walmart is not only disrespectful to the religions you claim to practice but to yourself. If you can't bring yourself to respect the religions, then stop it for the sake of your self respect. Because the person you are in the deepest depths is not some vain weathercock that whirls around after the latest fashions unless you are sick and have no center of being.

There's my two rants. Or is it three? I can't tell. I almost made it four, but I'll save my griping about Triond for another time.