100 Things, 2017: September/October Update

43/100 – Thing 62 – take Charlotte on a picnic at Bowdoin Park, 9/8/17
It wasn’t a picnic, but Charlotte and I went to the park with my parents to play at the playground. And we did sit at a picnic table and eat Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn, so I’m counting it.

44/100 – Thing 66 – go to the Mid-Hudson Valley Gem & Mineral Show (September-ish), 9/16/17
I was so excited to go to the gem show, because this year I actually saw my high school Earth Science/Advanced Geology teacher! I have gone to the annual show a few times since graduating, always hoping to see him. I took Earth Science as a Freshman, and then chose to take his Advanced Geology class as a Junior. And then, he asked me to come help him out when I was a Senior so I was a student teacher for him. He took up a half page in my Senior yearbook when I asked him to sign it, and I stapled on the opposing page the graduation card he gave me, which had another long personal note for me. I’m sad that we lost touch, and surprised he still has the same email address he had when I graduated 17 years ago! I was almost giddy when I saw him again, and I’m glad to have another chance to keep in touch.

45/100 – Thing 43 – throw Charlotte a 3rd birthday party, 9/23/17
We had a great day! After going apple picking (that should be on my List next year) the Sunday before, we made an apple cake for Char’s birthday party. It was delicious. I used a yellow cake mix and added a teaspoon of cinnamon. I left out the oil, and instead I used two grated apples, and two diced apples. I used a plain white buttercream frosting. My mom was concerned that I added cinnamon and no sugar, but the sweetness of the apples balanced it out. Charlotte had a wonderful birthday, and her favorite present is definitely her LeapPad tablet from Grandma and Grandpa!

46/100 – Thing 26 – attend a flea market, 10/7/17
Mark and I left Char with Grandma and Grandpa, and went to the Stormville Flea Market. Wow, is it huge! The land used to be an airport, and the rows of vendors go on and on. We didn’t buy anything aside from food, but… we did have some really yummy food! It was fun, and it was nice to basically have a date with my husband.


Things Done Each Month:
January – 8
February – 10
March – 6
April – 5
May – 2
June – 2
July – 7
August – 2
September – 3
October – 1

If you click on the progress bar in the right side of the page, you can see the complete updated list, even before my monthly update posts at the end of the month.

Creating my system of Magic #NaNoWriMo #Preptober

This year I am re-writing my 2007 NaNo novel, Quest for Serentasia. There are a LOT of reasons for this, some of which are:

  • 2007 was my first NaNo, and my first attempt at anything longer than a short story. In ten years, my writing has improved in general.
  • I wasn’t nearly as mean to my characters as I need to be. In fact, 2008’s novel was written solely as an exercise in torturing a character. I killed my main character’s dad. Then I killed her, and her mom became the main character. I gave her depression and delusions related to the deaths of her husband and teen daughter. I made her paint when she couldn’t sleep because of the nightmares, but she would paint things like a bloody heart pierced by swords (classic Tarot imagery for the 3 of swords), and used this as my inspiration for realizing she’d had a miscarriage too that she never told anyone about. This time, I think I’m a lot better prepared to kill my darlings if needed.
  • I wrote a sequel in 2012 that introduced new characters, and I want to put them into this novel.
  • Most importantly, I didn’t have a system for the magic in the novel, and even as I was writing it I knew that I would need to define the magic before I could rewrite the novel. I didn’t define the magic for the sequel either.
  • There is a lot of dumb stuff that needs to be removed, even if I love the characters. I took on a couple NaNoWriMo dares that were fun to write, but have no place in the final story.

I decided it was finally time to write a new draft, but first I needed to come up with a system of magic that I can use as part of my Story Bible. I may or may not rewrite the sequel, but having a system will make this book much stronger. I took into consideration Sanderson’s Laws of Magic, but ultimately decided I needed a list of questions that, in answering them, would lead to a full, fleshed-out system of magic that would ultimately follow Sanderson’s Laws anyway. There are a lot of web pages and articles and books that would potentially help, but I settled on this questionnaire.

I filled in the questionnaire, and skipped around and came back to questions, and it took me several days to get a version I like. I took into consideration what I want my characters to be able to do, and what I need in the novel to stop or stall them. I thought about my villain character, and what I need him to do, and what could explain him not being defeated already, and what makes sense as far as why this time is different, why this time he will be defeated.

And I thought about how the magic is actually done. I don’t want magic wands like Harry Potter, but I also don’t want my characters to be gesturing, such as with a nose twitch (Samantha), a pointed finger (Sabrina), or a head nod (Jeannie). I thought about how I want to incorporate the elements, but it’s not fair if characters have to be near their element to do magic – then my air element fairy could always do magic, but my fire element fairy would have to carry around matches or something? No, that won’t work. So then I need a different source for their magic that could potentially lose power either partially or completely.

I am not going to post details here, but I am pretty much done now. I’m so glad I spent this time figuring things out before November, because the writing is definitely going to be easier. On to character sketches and plot outlining!

Writing Resources: eadeverell.com #NaNoWriMo #Preptober

At some point I should probably look at my page with fave NaNo resources and give it an update, but for now I want to share a new one I just found. I’ve spent the past week or so slowly but surely working on worldbuilding for next month’s NaNoWriMo novel. I intend to write a new-from-scratch draft of my novel Quest for Serentasia, which I wrote for my first NaNo in 2007. I may be including elements of the second novel, Return to Serentasia, which will in turn, perhaps, get its own second draft next year. I am not even going to reread the original drafts first – I know enough of the storyline, and really want to improve it more than proofread it, so I don’t need to reread it.

The biggest problem I’ve had with these two novels is that I don’t have rules for the magic used in the magical fairyland that is home to the kingdoms of Serentasia and Felicimora. My biggest goal for Preptober is to define the magical system, which is going to make rewrites easier and more cohesive. So I have been doing a lot of research on worldbuilding and creating a system of magic for fantasy fiction.

Enter Eva Deverell‘s site. She has a ton of great writing worksheets and resources. Come for the PDFs on magic, stay for the PDFs on every other aspect of noveling. Actually, the amazing worksheets aren’t even why I’m posting, although they are certainly awesome enough to merit a post (and please, if you are a writer then go explore her site).

No, what I am so excited about today is the Novel in a Month Notebook. I will admit that I was a little nervous at first. A cute little booklet whose success depends on my printer’s ability to perfectly print double-sided pages, my own luck in flipping the pages the right way in the printer, AND my precision in cutting all of the pages? No small feat, but I was up for the task. And while I would prefer to buy a perfectly printed and stitched book, I’m really happy with the outcome. I haven’t decided what I want to do about binding (staples? rubber band? string?) but it actually looks really good.

My fountain pen soaked through the first page a little bit, which is a flaw in the system and obviously has nothing to do with the PDF. So I will be using my colorful, fruit-scented, glitter gel pens to fill out the notebook instead, and that’s turning out to be a lot better anyway. 😉 Here’s a quick photo of the notebook as I’m working in it. I will try to remember to post more pictures in December when I’ve filled out a lot more of it.

Jury Duty: September 2017

In January, I got a jury duty questionnaire in the mail and filled it out, dreading when I would get called but hoping to get it over with quickly. I got the jury duty summons for the county courthouse in August, and my service was to begin on 9/11. My number was A053, so my husband Mark correctly predicted that I would have to report to the courthouse on the first day. I watched the video about the importance of serving jury duty, and turned in my summons to be officially entered into the jury pool. I was about the 4th person called for a jury selection group, and as luck would have it, I was the 1st in that group of 25 to be put into the actual questioning group. So I knew I would be put on a case. As I told my mother-in-law when she started telling me what to say to get out of it: I’m not gonna lie to get out of it. Either I’ll be put on a jury or I won’t.

Let me back up a minute. The first (and only) time I was called for jury duty before this, I knew I was going to be rejected. I was a newlywed and the summons was in my maiden name, and I didn’t see anywhere to correct it. So when called to be part of a group for jury questioning on a criminal case, I waited patiently for the judge to read and spell my name for the attorneys, as she had done for every prior potential juror. Then I said, loudly and clearly enough for the judge and attorneys to hear, “Actually, I recently got married. My new last name is…” and I said and spelled it for them. No way were they going to accept a juror who spoke out of turn in the courtroom, despite the fact that I was just trying to do the right thing.

This time I didn’t have a built-in excuse, but more importantly, I wasn’t in the mood to be turned down only to possibly go through questioning again for a different case. So I listened to the attorneys as they said it was a medical malpractice trial, and gave a few facts about the case, and asked if we had prejudices that would be hard to overcome. I’m emotional and sympathetic, but I’m also very logical, so I knew that I wouldn’t have a problem being impartial. I wasn’t surprised at all when I was accepted as a juror.

Put on a trial for a civil case expected to last 6 days. They said to come back at 9:15am because the trial wouldn’t be starting yesterday afternoon, so I guess we’ll soon be told if it starts today or not.
I know I’m not allowed to talk about the case before and during the trial, but what about after? Anyone know if I can talk about it after it’s all over?
This is gonna be hard. I can’t keep a secret if my life depended on it. Maybe I should have told the lawyers that… lol
-My Facebook status on Tuesday evening, September 12

The trial began on Tuesday, and the judge said that after the trial we could speak about it as much or as little as we want. After opening arguments, the plaintiff’s attorney called the defendant, a surgeon, to the stand. He went chronologically through the events before and after the surgery at the heart of this trial. Throughout the trial, I liked the plaintiff’s attorney and based on that and my sympathy for the plaintiff, I thought I was going to side with them. The doctor seemed ill-prepared for the trial, and this reinforced my personal feelings. The cross-examination by the defense attorney was mainly aimed at getting the doctor to explain what was done, and to point out and explain the plaintiff’s foot x-rays before and after surgery, as compared to a diagram of a “normal” foot. It was rather boring, but critical to the jurors’ understanding of everything else that we would hear.

Done for the day. At the risk of saying too much, I now know more than I ever thought I would about the bones in the foot!!!
-My Facebook status on Tuesday evening, September 12

On my way to the courthouse again. Trying to explain to Char that just like sometimes she does something wrong and gets a time out, that sometimes grownups do something wrong and need to be punished too. And I said that I need to go to the courthouse and help decide if a grownup did something wrong and needs to be punished for it.
-My Facebook status on Wednesday morning, September 13

The next day we heard “expert” testimony from a witness for the plaintiff. I don’t know how the attorney found him, but he didn’t seem like an expert at all. The defense attorney did an excellent job discrediting him.

Out of court 2:15 today, and Friday is expected to be an early day as well.
-My Facebook status on Wednesday morning, September 13

Thursday we had a day off, and I had to go to work. It was weird to be back, and hard not to talk about the case. Friday the plaintiff’s attorney finished by calling the plaintiff’s mother, and then the plaintiff (who was a minor at the time of the surgery in question) to the stand. I was surprised that the plaintiff’s attorney rested after this, as I didn’t feel like there was enough evidence to prove his claims. I wondered if he would somehow turn things around on cross-examination of the defense’s witnesses. At some point on Friday one juror mentioned apple picking, which I thought was an excellent idea. So on Sunday I took my daughter Charlotte apple picking with my dad and sister.

The defense attorney called the doctor back to the witness stand for further questions on Monday. The primary focus was to give a more detailed analysis of the doctor’s curriculum vitae, and to go through surgical notes line by line. Again, pretty boring but important so that the jury would understand things, especially if we decided to look at the doctor’s records during deliberations. The defense questioned his own expert witness on Tuesday. The plaintiff’s attorney asked very few questions of these doctors on cross-examination. I was very surprised that he didn’t have more to ask, especially when it didn’t seem like his questions helped his case in any way. I guess he felt he had already adequately made his point.

Short day at court today – done about 11:40. I had to check at work to see if I would have to work the rest of the day, but was officially given permission to go home. On the train now, yay! Definitely making apple pie with Charlotte today, we’ve been talking about it since Saturday.
-My Facebook status on Tuesday night, September 19

Closing arguments today, and starting deliberations. Hoping everyone agrees quickly so I don’t have to come back tomorrow.
-My Facebook status on Wednesday morning, September 20

On Wednesday morning we heard closing arguments, and that afternoon the deliberations began. I have to say, we had a really good jury. And by that, I mean that all 6 jury members were active participants in the deliberations. We all paid attention during the trial, and we wanted to make sure that we had all the information we needed to come to a verdict. We asked to see some of the evidence for a closer look. We asked for part of the testimony to be read back to us by the court reporter. And ultimately, we needed to sleep on it and come back fresh on Thursday morning for more deliberations. Even though I originally wanted to finish deliberations quickly, I was glad we decided not to rush through just to be done with jury duty.

Deliberations began today, and we will continue tomorrow. Interesting process.
-My Facebook status on Wednesday afternoon, September 20

It’s not like on TV and movies where the jury simply decides guilty or not guilty. Instead, we had a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style questionnaire. We answered the first question fairly quickly on Wednesday with a unanimous decision that the doctor did not deviate from standards of practice. With this answer, we skipped question two (which was dependent on a “yes” answer to question one) and moved on to question three.

When we left off on Wednesday, we had done a preliminary vote to see where people stood on the question of whether or not the doctor had given “appropriate information” before obtaining consent for the surgery from the family. I think it was 3-3, and while I didn’t side 100% with the doctor, I also wasn’t 100% for the plaintiff either. I wasn’t sure at all. I needed to think it over.

By the time I returned the next morning, after reconsidering the testimony from the mother that we had heard read back to us Wednesday afternoon, I had decided without question that I was on the doctor’s side. We started deliberations Thursday with another vote, as suggested by one juror to see where we stood now. It was 3-3, as he had changed his mind and was undecided. He suggested that just the three jurors who were unsure should start talking about what they are thinking. Before we continued, I made what I feel was an excellent point – I asked the jurors who were not 100% for the defendant where do you fall? Are you 100% the other way, or are you somewhere in the middle? They were pretty much 90% for the doctor, they just had some nagging doubts. That makes a big difference – instead of trying to convince someone who thinks the opposite of you, we just had to talk through the questions and doubts they had.

We asked to see another piece of evidence that had been referred to but not enlarged for us to see, as some of the other evidence had been. One of the undecided jurors looked at this evidence and realized that it showed another side to the story that hadn’t been fully shown to us in the proceedings. One juror said that he had basically thrown out the mom’s testimony when she said she didn’t know what was going to be done, and when pressed on the matter she said that she didn’t ask the doctor to clarify because, “he was the doctor, he was the expert – we trusted him.” I pointed out that both expert witnesses said this doctor’s notes were more complete and clear than most notes they’ve seen for cases, and both have reviewed several dozens of other charts for medical malpractice cases in the past. I said that if this is true, I don’t believe for a second that he was any less thorough in his clinical appointments with the patient and his family. And if they don’t understand but they tell him they do, that’s not his fault for not explaining further – the family should have told him they don’t understand.

Ultimately, we all agreed that there was no proof that the doctor didn’t give appropriate information. We only needed a 5/6 agreement for any given question, and it didn’t have to be the same 5 for each, but we had two unanimous decisions. And with that, we were done. Had we decided the doctor didn’t give them full information, then we would have had to decide if the patient is due damages, and if so then how much. But it didn’t come to that. We felt bad for the family, but ultimately it came down to a few facts.

  1. Just because a surgery has less than desirable results, it doesn’t mean the doctor did anything wrong.
  2. It’s the plaintiff’s attorney’s job to prove their side of the story with evidence.

We the jury did not find sufficient evidence to prove what the plaintiff claimed, therefore we could not find in his favor.

Typically, the judge said, the first juror (me) is foreman. But we could choose someone else if we wanted to. However, when deliberations were about to begin on Wednesday, the court officer told us that the foreman would have to write and sign any jury notes to the judge asking for evidence, for testimony to be read back, and to fill out the verdict sheet. So he suggested we pick the person with the best handwriting, and my hand shot up. I couldn’t help it, people always compliment my handwriting. Plus, I don’t mind public speaking (I’m used to doing storytimes every week at the library), and I’m not scared of the losing side – I don’t care what they think of me, they don’t know who I am and can’t do anything to me. So yes, I was the foreman.

It was kind of a rush to be able to stand and speak in the courtroom to deliver the verdict. The one thing I was nervous about was that I have no poker face, and I didn’t want to let out a nervous laugh when the judge was reading the questions on the verdict sheet for me to answer. I actually bit down on my tongue a little bit so that I wouldn’t smile! And then before I knew it, the judge was thanking us for our service and excusing us.

So after getting our paperwork to show our jobs (and the court, if we’re accidentally called again too soon) that we served, and that we are exempt from federal court for 4 years and from local court for 6 years, we started to leave and the plaintiff’s attorney came to talk to us. He started off by repeating what we had been told before, that it’s our decision to talk about the case or not. He had some questions to help him in the future, and wanted to pick our brains a little bit. We all stayed to talk to him for about ten or fifteen minutes. We told him what influenced our decision the most. We let him know what evidence we didn’t believe, what we felt was irrelevant, and we listened as he told us what he felt the defense attorney did or said that was smoke and mirrors designed to distract us from the point. After this discussion, however, I don’t think any of us regretted our verdict. We still felt he didn’t prove his point.

It was weird to say goodbye to the jurors. I wrote on Facebook the next day:

First day back at work since Jury Duty ended (last Thursday doesn’t count, I was still in the middle of it and got a rare day off from court) and boy was it strange to be there! Like waking up from a realistic dream — this is reality, THIS is normal… but it feels like this is the weird part. It’s also like summer camp — it’s over, and I may never see my “temporary BFFs” again, even though we just spent hours and hours together most days for the better part of two weeks.
-My Facebook status on Friday morning, September 22

When I went outside to wait for my ride, another juror who lives close enough to walk home stayed to wait with me, as she had several days before. The plaintiff and his parents started walking toward us, and we stayed near the courthouse’s front doors. They started out questioning us calmly, but after a minute or two they got angry and belligerent, so the other juror and I went inside. There were plenty of court officers and security guards for our safety if needed, but the family did not follow us. The father did make a disgusting, uncalled-for comment regarding his wishes “if you have children,” which I will not repeat here, and I was happy for not giving a verdict in his favor. Their attorney was probably right when he said that putting the dad on the stand would have been a bad idea. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t matter anyway.

However, as I said before, I don’t really care what they think of me. I am proud of my decision, and that of the jury as a whole. I believe we came to the right verdict based on the facts as they were presented to us. I believe one hundred percent that justice was served. If they’re not happy with the verdict, then they should take that up with their attorney.

Case closed, verdict delivered. Foreman duties complete.
-My Facebook status on Thursday afternoon, September 21

100 Things, 2017: July/August Update

34/100 – Thing 15 – get a manicure, 7/7/17
35/100 – Thing 16 – get a pedicure, 7/7/17
My sister got married July 8th, so the day before I went for manicures and pedicures with her and Mom. I went with hot pink polish, which is my usual color.

36/100 – Thing 47 – visit Canada, 7/7/17
I’m going to be creative like I was last year and count this as “done” even though it’s not traveling there as I had hoped. Much of my Dad’s family lives in Canada, and many came to my sister’s wedding. The night before, we had a big dinner out with the Canadians who were in town.

37/100 – Thing 81 – Do a random act of kindness, 7/15/17
I know this is a little thing, but I am checking it off anyway. I was buying a snack at a gas station and left my change in the “Leave a Penny, Take a Penny.”

38/100 – Thing 82 – Order room service, 7/20/17
My husband had surgery this morning, so we ordered up dinner in our hotel room instead of going out that night. The order was not right, and he had to call to have them correct it. The woman who was doing the room service that night was so nice about it, even when we told her she had still forgotten a dressing, and she even let us request a dessert on her.

39/100 – Thing 78 – read the Eve Marie Mont Unbound trilogy (A Breath of Eyre, A Touch of Scarlet, and A Phantom Enchantment), finished 7/26/17
I LOVED this trilogy! My favorite part is that the author didn’t stick with the “character stuck in a book” trope for each book. Instead, while big chunks of the first book were Emma as Jane Eyre, the second book had a lot less time spent in The Scarlet Letter, and the third had some similarity to Phantom of the Opera but Emma retained her identity the entire time. The end of the third book was a shock, not what I was expecting at all but I actually really liked it.

40/100 – Thing 34 – don’t wait until Halloween to figure out a rockin’ costume, 7/31/17
I’m going to count this as done, even though it was hardly rockin’ – for my Halloween in July program at the library, I dressed up as a ballerina. It was a blouse and skirt I wear often, ballet flats, and put my hair in a bun.

41/100 – Thing 100 – Buy something for a total stranger off their wishlist/registry, 8/12/17
Again, maybe I’m being a bit generous by granting myself this one, but that’s okay. It’s not like anyone can judge me for it but me, and I’m okay with it. I bought two items from the registry of a second cousin’s registry for the baby shower for his ____ (wife? girlfriend?) – see? I don’t even know who she is, this definitely counts as buying something for a stranger.

42/100 – Thing 50 – Take Charlotte to a Renegades game, 8/13/17
I took Charlotte to the Princess Party game. She didn’t really appreciate the princess party (maybe it would have been better had Ariel or Rapunzel been there), but she had fun the rest of the night. And our team won the game, yay!


Other Things I’ve started: I started to read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Thing 70) and after 21%, I’ve marked it abandoned because I just can’t get into it. Do Morning Pages for 60 straight days (Thing 14) – I tried earlier this year and missed a day after 45 or so days in a row, which was so frustrating that I had to give up for a while. I started again on August 15, so Day 60 if I keep up with it will be October 13.

Things Done Each Month:
January – 8
February – 10
March – 6
April – 5
May – 2
June – 2
July – 7
August – 2

If you click on the progress bar in the right side of the page, you can see the complete updated list, even before my monthly update posts at the end of the month.