We’ve All “Been There, Done That”

Some of us even have the T-shirt

Once, I even tried prayer. Then I realized that it was a waste of time: after all if one set of imaginary friends won’t talk to me, what made me think another set would?

Being blocked is frustrating. When I’m there, I’ll try reading a book. It works, sometimes. Other times — like now — it makes me feel useless: I can never be that good a writer.

So I set the book aside and fire up my laptop. Maybe there’s something good on Netflix that will inspire me. “Oh, cool!” I think; “This one looks interesting.” It’s a martial arts epic in Mandarin, with English subtitles. Am I the only one who wonders why it seems the Mandarin language takes several paragraphs of dialog to deliver a single sentence in English?

Ninety minutes, 2,500 dead bodies, and 175 gallons of fake blood later, I’m all, “Well, that wasn’t it.”

I know! I’ll wash the dishes! Maybe cleaning the kitchen will clean my mind so I can start with a clean slate.

Photo: izzie-r-584152-unsplash.png

So. The dishes are washed, the kitchen is clean, and now it’s time for a cup of tea. I do my best thinking over a nice cup of tea. I’ll clear my mind and perform the ritual: I measure the tea precisely into the cup. I boil the water. As I pour it into the cup, I use the bamboo whisk to mix it thoroughly before rotating the cup three times and finally raising it to my lips.

Ok, ok, ok…that’s what I do in my mind. In reality, I boil a pot of water and pour it over the two Earl Grey teabags I’ve already put in the cup. While it steeps, I set out the milk and sugar. Hey! A girl can dream, right? And before you write to complain, I know Earl Grey requires lemon, not milk. What can I say? This is how my Irish Nana taught me how to make it, and that’s how I like it best. So screw you, George Orwell.

It’s The Weather

Spring is here, and with it comes pollen. With pollen, come allergies. And boy, do I have allergies! Mine call for “[t]he nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine.” And that’s in the daytime!

In fact, the pollen is so bad in our neighborhood that the meth heads are converting their crystal meth back into Sudafed!

It Isn’t Writer’s Block, it’s Blocked Sinuses

And I feel like dog doo-doo. It’s quite simple, really: I don’t want to write. Or do anything, for that matter. All I really want to do is to take some acetaminophen, some Benadryl, and go to bed until next Thursday or whenever I feel better, whichever comes latest.

Yes, I know I promised a review of my note-taking apps. But that was then and this is now.

Finally! The goddess is in her heaven and all’s right with the world!

I’ve often used Ulysses on my iPad and iPhone, wondering all the while why they don’t make a Windows version. To get a document written in Ulysses over to my laptop for editing requires me to jump through far too many hoops.

Too many in fact that I finally stopped using it altogether, canceled my subscription and deleted it from my devices.

Never before had I been sad after removing an app, especially one that was so useful.

Enter Notebooks

Not in any generic sense, however. Not “notebooks” but Notebooks with a capital N. The solution to my problem. Once I paid for it (less than $30 U.S.) and installed it on all my devices, I set it to sync to Dropbox.

Now I can start writing on my iPhone, work on it in bed on my iPad, and do a final polish on my laptop.

What’s that? $30 for an app? Well, no. It’s act$30 for three different apps and no subscription fees.

Consider: in order to create an app that runs on the iPhone, iPad, on Windows, on the Mac, and on Android devices requires that you own at least one of each of those devices. Costs a bit of money. And if you’re a programmer trying to make a living from your work, you don’t just give it away.

Oh, and then there’s the software you have to have on those devices to make sure your app is compatible with them. And the last I heard, Microsoft isn’t giving away free copies of MS Word.

But why did I even need a new writing program in the first place? If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know that to me, writing is as necessary as breathing or drinking. Whenever I have a few minutes to kill — when I’m waiting for my tea water to boil or the tea to steep, or when I’m riding on the bus, or when I’m waiting to be seen by the doctor — I write. Sometimes when I’m writing, my ADD-addled brain says, “Ooh, ooh! Here’s another idea!” and I make a quick note of the thought, knowing that unless I do I’ll forget it in about 3 seconds.

With the Notebooks app, I can simply add a new note and jump right back into the previous one. For me, it is the answer if not to prayer then certainly then treasure chest at the end of a long search.

And I’ve also done away with all the other note-taking apps I had on all my devices.

 

Or, I’m always on the lookout for The Ultimate Note-Taking App

freestocks-org-570357-unsplash

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Sadly, it doesn’t seem to exist. IA Writer comes close, but it still doesn’t have all the features I’d like. Note’d is pretty nifty, but it too lacks the features I need. Standard Notes has all the features…but you have to pay $10 a month to get them. It is available, however, for all your devices: iPhones, iPads, Windows machines, MacOS devices, and Android smartphones and devices. So if I create/edit/delete a note on my iPhone, it syncs to my iPad and my laptop.

(As an aside, before I went completely digital, my ultimate notepad was a Rite-in-the-Rain notepad and a pencil.)

Which brings us to Apple Notes. From what I’ve seen of it—and used it—it seems to be the best all-around note-taking app available for iOS and MacOS: iPad, iPhone, and Macs. The problem is that in addition to an iPhone and an iPad,I have a laptop running Windows.

Apple Notes started out as a bare-bones note-taking app. But Apple, like just about every other software publisher, lost sight of the First Rule of Engineering: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.

Over time, Apple Notes has been tweaked and massaged and upgraded until it’s now just a short step away from being a full-blown word processor. And if I’m going to use a word processor for taking notes, I might just as well use Notes’ big sister, Pages, which runs on all of my devices.

The Ultimate Test

So I’ve decided what I’m going to do: I’ve downloaded  all the apps I listed above and installed them on the appropriate devices. For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to use each of them to jot down the same notes. At the end of the test period, I’ll decide which one I like the best, based on ease of use. Then I’ll get back to you with the results.

 

 

But I Was Too Busy Trying to Have my Own

Source: Arctic Fox, on Pinterest

Some of the most unpleasant people I’ve know had over-achievers as parents. I was fortunate enough not to have had that additional problem in my life, but I did have one that’s just as toxic as it is well-intentioned.

My parents had dreams for me.

I’m sure you know the kind of dreams I mean: a college degree, a house in the suburbs surrounded by a white picket fence, a two-car garage, a successful career, and 2.5 children.

Honestly, did that dream ever exist anywhere but on Leave It To Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, or even Bonanza?

And the dreams were only implied, not explicitly stated. My whole life was guided by them. In school, I didn’t even realize that there were art and music classes beyond second grade. In junior and senior high school I wasn’t allowed to take shop classes, because “those classes are for the dummies. You’re too smart for that — you’re going to COLLEGE!” (Cue the angelic trumpets.)

Last time I was in San Francisco I saw a beautiful hand-crafted wooden jewelry box that one of those dummies had made: the price tag said $2850.00 — and that was over 25 years ago.

And if my faucet leaks, I have to call another dummy who’ll charge me $75 an hour to fix it.

So who’s the real dummy now?

My Spectacular Failure at Education

After high school, it was taken as a given that I was going to go to college. I had no say in the matter. It was another of my parents’ dream for me.

At the wise old age of 18, I didn’t know if I even wanted to grow up, much less what I wanted to be if it ever happened.

In 1968, college was a place where you studied things to help you decide what you wanted to be doing for the rest of your life.

In 2019, college is a place to go to earn the credentials you need for the job you’ve already chosen.

I say — and neuroscience backs me up on this — the 18-year-old brain has developed sufficiently to be making such life-determining changes.

My education might have been more effective had I gone to a better college, but my grades, our family’s economic situation, and our physical location meant the sole criterion that went into the choice was the fact that as a Lutheran minister, my father could get a discount on my tuition and fees if I went to this particular college. A college I flunked out of at the end of my freshman year.

College, Take 2

I was simply too immature for and too uninterested in going to college. So I put off my plans for a higher education for two decades. Even then, I only went because my wife decided to pursue her degree, and I was worried about being left behind.

It went better this time. I was more motivated, and by then I had learned the fine art of academic philosophy, aka Intellectual Bullshit. I breezed through a semester of Selected Masterpieces of American Literature and got an A on it without once reading anything on the syllabus.

And I took several art classes, discovering that I could draw after all and that I was good at etching and engraving. I even sold some of my silkscreens and linoleum block prints.

But here’s the thing: after getting my AA degree and being one semester from my Bachelor of Arts, I was informed that I would not be allowed to count my 12 semester hours of computer classes towards my degree.

It seems one of the faculty review team said that computers have no bearing on liberal arts. This, after I designed and administered the first-ever study of if and how personal computers — then in their infancy — affected the process of writing.

So the University of Alaska, in its infinite wisdom, decided that I needed another 12 hours — a full semester — of math and natural science — -neither of which have any bearing on the liberal arts.

Had I taken the 12 hours and added 3 more, I would have been able to graduate with both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science.

Admittedly, the University of Alaska (Southeast) is nowhere as prestigious as its big sister in Fairbanks, but a double major is still a double major. And two degrees for the price of one….

Or three, if you count the Associate of Arts degree.

Livin’ La Vida Loca

So now it’s 2019. It’s been 51 years since I finished high school. I’m retired and living on Social Security. I’m not rich, but I get by — without complaint, thank you very much.

But since 2012, when I retired, I have finally been able to live my dreams. And the biggest lesson I’ve learned — and fulfilled — was to let my daughters dream their own dreams, and to support them in making those dreams come true.

Stay safe, my friends.

And I Still Don’t Know

Sometimes my darkest moments give me my greatest ideas. But because the Dementors have taken hold of my spirit, I can’t act on those ideas right away.

So I do the next best thing: I write myself a note with the basic theme of the idea. Later, when the sun returns and dissipates the fog of depression, I can review my notes and decide if any of them are worth exploring further.

This is One of Those Ideas

I’m 68 years old; in 5 months I’ll be 69. It will be time once more for me to write a big fat 0 (zero) after my age. The eternal Footman will be one step closer to holding my coat.

What have I got to show for my life? For what will I be remembered by future generations of my family?

Will I be remembered at all?

Will they remember that I was a loving parent who adored her children and grandchildren? That the loss of a beloved pet some 35 years ago even today haunts me?

Or will they curse my name for the accursed genetic heritage with which I have bequeathed — nay, cursed — them?

For that’s the one constant in my bloodline: chronic depression.

And Yet…

My daughters and my grandsons are my legacy, and my inspiration. I am Transgender, and so is my grandson. It is for them that I continue to live, continue to believe that without them I would have long since yielded to The Big Sleep.

Because there are statistics that tell me that children of suicides are far more likely to kill themselves.

And I will not do that to my girls.

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” Hamlet, Act III, Scene i.

If you’ve never felt the cold winds of Depression (with a capital D) blow over you, then you can’t understand that “[y]ou don’t have one problem or problems you are sad about, there is only sadness.” (Source)

And I’m also comforted by something I read on the internet years ago:

So nanny, nanny, boo-boo! I am Officially Exempt™ from having to grow up. And to celebrate, I might just go out and order a Happy Meal!