0 Jeff Salyards | Monthly Archive | September
Archive | September, 2012

Land of the Lost

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My brother-in-law, Greg Shields, died last week. This weekend the family held a service and a celebration of life memorial in his honor. I wasn’t close enough to Greg to do a fitting tribute, let alone feel the deep grief Kirsten or the rest of the family are experiencing. I knew he died too young (not quite 30), suffered quite a bit (Spina bifida and severe diabetes, among other things), and that he had a great smile and infectious laugh.

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I did what I could to lend a hand and support this weekend, but there wasn’t a tremendous amount I really could do beyond that. I’ve lost several people in my life over the years—all grandparents, aunts, uncles, both parents, and my brother—so I know what grief feels like. I could relate, sympathize But I also know that each time it’s different. You’re at a different point in your life, the relationship is unique, and the way they depart is never the same. Even if you’ve lost someone, and you know how painful that hurt was to you, how much it ached or burned or devastated, you don’t know precisely what another griever is experiencing, or how they need to cope with it. All you can do is be there really.

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But even a weekend with that kind of gravity, there were some moments of levity. My wife, Kris, like me, uses humor to deal with serious stuff. She gave a lovely and poignant reading in honor of her brother, and peppered it with some touching but really funny moments.

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And then I had my own personal little episodes. Kristen has a young nephew, Brandon, who was running around the hall near me and suddenly started doing the pee-pee dance. I asked if he needed help, and he nodded fast. I escorted him into the restroom and then stopped dead in my tracks. I have three girls, and zero boys. Which means I know diddly squat about how to help a boy use the restroom. Did I hold him up to the urinal and hope for the best? Did I position him on the toilet? If so, how did I account for the anatomical differences and trajectory that involved? I mean, sure, I have the requisite equipment—I know how I go about it. But I don’t remember anything about being under two feet tall.

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I said, “OK. Tell me what you usually do here. What do I need to do?” Brandon looked at me like I was about the dumbest person on the planet, and was probably second-guessing asking me for help right about then. But he talked me through it and we made it out without any horrible splash patterns.

That pretty much summed up just how useful I was this weekend.


Monday Manuscript Weigh In

Last week was pretty solid–5,000 words. Not spectacular or jaw-dropping, but right in the middle of my weekly target, so I’m pretty happy. Of course, only about 300 of those words might be worth a damn, but I’ll figure that out on a second pass down the road.

This week I have an interview to finish up and a guest post to write, so I’m a little worried about making my goal. If I can eke in at the lower end of my target range I’ll be satisfied. Time will tell. Time always tells–it can’t keep a secret to save its ass.

But for today, I hold my bald dome up high.

Something Went Bump in the Night

I came to bed late last night after a couple hours of writing. Kris was sound asleep. But her “sound asleep” is like a hummingbird’s sound asleep–the tiniest tremble or noise can wake her. So I moved about carefully in darkness, made my way to the bathroom, brushed and popped the contacts out, and then crept back through the dark bedroom, even more blind than before. There weren’t a lot of obstacles in the way, so I moved by memory and made my way to where the bed was. Or where I thought it was. I was off a little bit. About a foot and a half. So I plopped down, thinking I would have a mattress beneath me, and fell to the floor hard onto my tailbone.

Startled, Kris jumped across the bed and grabbed my shoulder, saying “What’s wrong, what’s wrong??”

Still sitting on the floor, laughing a little, moaning a little, I told her what happened.

She cursed and said, “I thought you had a heart attack!”

No Weasels Allowed. Especially Lollygagging Weasels.

It is time for the walk of shame. No, not THAT shame. We’re talking writing quota.

In the last two weeks, I hit 10,000 words for BOOK II: AS-YET UNTITLED, BUT SURELY SOMETHING TO SHOCK, AWE, AMAZE, OR TITILATE. Which puts me right on pace for the targeted weekly range I set out for myself. That sounds pretty good, right, nothing to feel lousy about at all?

But that’s spin. I exceeded my goal two weeks ago, but fell just short last week. Sure, the average works out, but falling short is still falling short. I could try to make excuses (“But I worked on an interview that required over 2,000 precious words that could’ve been spent on my book total!” or “Insert more compelling rationalizing rhetoric here”). But I’m publicly outing myself so I resist the urge to try to weasel free. I missed. There it is. Owning it and moving on.

Here’s to nailing my target this week. Because if I don’t, even the averages won’t work out in my favor in the next tally check-in. And no amount of spinning, scuttling, or weaselly slinking will save me.

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