I am kaitco

a writer's log

Assertive, but not Rude Monday, November 4, 2019

Filed under: Article — kaitco @ 4:22 pm
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This started as a response to a Reddit comment, but the more I considered the matter, the more I had to say. Rather than confine myself to a word count limit, I’ve decided to post this here so I can explain exactly what I wish to say.

Before beginning, I’ll note that I’m no psychologist, social worker, nor an authority on this matter. This is 100% my own opinion. Things that work for me obviously may not work for everyone and some of these suggestions may seem backwards, but these are the actions I’ve taken to master and control corporate conversations and avoid the bullying that often manifests in this environment.

There are a number of points to being assertive in a corporate environment while avoiding rudeness, but ultimately, everything boils down to maintaining control. It’s not something that can be mastered overnight and there are multiple layers to the act. Hopefully, my notes might provide a bit of help for those who struggle with crafting an assertive image.

 

The One

I’m going to reach back to an old high school trope: “All it takes is one.”

In nearly every high school, there’s almost always “that” table in the lunchroom, the trendy table. Whether you sat there yourself or not, but you knew this table in the lunchroom, and you knew what types of people who sat there. Some of them were nice to talk to every once in a while, and others were horrible all the time, but the people at that table typically kept within their own group and it was difficult to cross into that group if you didn’t start there in the first year of high school.

That said, all it ever took was one. If just one of the people at that table took a real liking to you, the others would miraculously see the “cool” in you and you could manage to make the crossover into that group. It’s sad to say that these folks were always a bit conformist and sheep-like. If one of their flock sees something they like, the others all fall in suit.

Why mention this high school diatribe regarding the corporate world? Because it is exactly the same. Where in high school, the trendy table was made up of people who either were well off enough to buy the trendiest and expensive styles, the corporate world is instead made up pay grades and those who feel self-important because of to whom they report or what businesses/projects fall under their leadership. Just like in high school, however, these folks are also incredibly clique-ish and will often speak down to those outside of the clique…until just one takes notice of you.

I’ll use a personal example for both. In high school, I floated between groups because I hated being the token black girl in the popular clique, but that meant that while I knew and often hung out with many of those within the popular clique, I didn’t hang with them enough for all the outer circles of that clique to know me well. I was on a number of athletic teams and I knew a couple people from one of those teams and shared a class with them. At the start of the year, the folks from that team couldn’t be bothered to even look at me twice while we were in class and would actually turn away if I tried to engage in conversation. And yet, when I’d made my rounds and these same people saw that I was not only friendly with other members of their clique, but I had known and been friends with them since the 6th grade. All of a sudden, these same people who couldn’t be bothered with me earlier, wouldn’t shut up or leave me alone in class; I was instantly treated as a dear friend. As soon as they saw that one person, or in my case 3, considered me part of the “club”, they immediately fell in line.

In a separate example, in my line of work, I’d been involved with dozens of projects interacting with those on from much higher pay grades and levels of leadership, and my boss’s boss had me join a daily conference call to provide knowledge about some ongoing business matters. When I first joined, I could hardly get anyone to even acknowledge if I’d even said anything on the call. And then, on one call, a guy who’s the peer of a boss three levels above me directly called my name and asked me a question which I answered promptly. Just like in high school, everyone else immediately fell in line. Instead of being interrupted and ignored, I was not only asked my opinion, but my direction was also followed. Just like in high school, all it took was a single person for the others to see my value.

 

The Squeaky Wheel

With all this notwithstanding, while “all it takes is one” does work, you still have to get the one and that by itself can be the greater challenge. To use yet another parable, the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This doesn’t mean that you have to be the loudest person around, but simply that your face and name need to be presented as much as possible to get noticed.

Pulling from school again, I played basketball, but I wasn’t a starter. I’m rather short, so there’s that, but I had enough tenacity to assist and shoot against these Amazon women that populated most basketball teams. Getting my coach to notice this was a difficult, though. In practice, there were the starters and then the rest and crossing that line was seemingly impossible. To get my coach’s notice, however, during games, I made certain to sit right beside his seat when I was on the bench. When he saw someone screw up on the court and he needed to take her out for a moment, he turned to look down the bench and first person he saw was me. Unless he specifically wanted someone else, he would say, “Kaitco, go in for Ashley.” and I would have my moment to shine. The first time it happened, it was only for a couple plays, but because I played like my life depended on it in just those two plays, when it continued to happen, I became the one he wanted first to go in and then also to stay in the game.

There’s no basketball analogy for the corporate space, but the “squeaky wheel” is still the one who gets that kind of notice. In one position in my career, I was working overnights where I found that it was difficult to showcase the work that I could do for those who were much higher up the chain. I quickly learned that my direct manager had no interest in trying to help me forward my career, so I had to put my name in front of his manager as much as possible. I put together a weekly report of my accomplishments in an email and sent them directly to my boss’s boss. For the first couple months, I got no response at all, but I still kept sending them and eventually in a meeting, my boss’s boss mentioned “Well, Kaitco sends me details about what she’s doing every week, so how could we not have seen that these numbers were slipping if she’s sending out these reports each week?” Even with that little blip, I kept sending my reports because getting a promotion didn’t happen immediately, but it kept my name directly in front of him constantly, so that when it was time for a promotion, he recognized what I could do without anyone directing me to do it.

What’s important about getting your face and/or name in front of those in positions of power is that they become your “one” because all it takes is one to get to push your career forward.

 

Confident Pride

Still, the original question was still about being assertive, so how does all of this pertain to assertiveness?

Ultimately, your ability to be assertive comes down to having full confidence in your abilities and your knowledge that you have something worthwhile to add to the conversation. It can be difficult to bring out that confidence, especially within a corporate environment, but that’s where your “one” helps. You can be confident in meetings, or even through emails, and assert yourself because you’ve got your “one” who already believes that whatever it is that you have to add is relevant and accurate (because you’ve already proven it to them) and you can gain further confidence that your “one” is going to help the others fall in line. So, when you speak up, you can speak with authority and confidence which is all being assertive is.

So, now we’ve got an understanding about the foundations of being assertive, but putting this into action can be a little more difficult, especially if you’re not naturally tenacious.

I’m going to reiterate the importance of confidence in your ability to be assertive. In some cases, despite all efforts, you may never have that “one” and you may be in a situation where you’ve got to be strong at a moment’s notice in an unfamiliar scenario or amongst unknown individuals. This where bold pride comes into play and where you must be mindful of timing and tone.

Regarding bold pride, it may sound like pride on the point of pure arrogance, but going into a situation with the idea that you are the most knowledgeable person in the room, and that you are superior to everyone else goes a long way into driving that confidence. Even if this level of pride isn’t entirely accurate, I’ll default to the old adage: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull!” As long as you sound confident and then SOUND as if what you’re saying is accurate, others will be less inclined to interrupt or speak over you.

Also, in written communication, I’ve also found that using larger, less common words that folks generally don’t recognize will reduce the amount of people who will be combative in e-mails. Often, since they don’t recognize the words used, especially if the word isn’t easily understood by context, people don’t want to appear stupid by asking for a meaning or immediately responding in case their response indicates that they didn’t know a word, and many are too lazy or busy to look up the word you’ve used and will simply stay quiet. That silence gives you a bit of an upper hand; the last person to respond wins!

 

Interjection!

Let’s say you’ve got the bold confidence and you know you’ve got your “one” backing you in the meeting as well. The remaining piece is how to interject without being rude.

I’ve found that a simple interjection in something along the lines of “Um, sorry to interrupt, but…” and then continuing as long you’re not speaking over another person. It helps to use a smaller, milder voice in that “sorry”, but it still must be strong enough to actually stop someone. The goal is to interrupt, because some men will seriously continue talking just because they enjoy the sounds of their voices, but interrupting with the slight apology to make it at least appear that you don’t mean to interrupt.

Be sure to leave off “I’m” from the sorry. It’s not “um…I’m sorry” but “um…sorry to interrupt.” Word choice is important in the interruption and starting with “I’m sorry” gives a negative connotation to what you’re saying and also starting with “I” can make others feel as if you are bringing the attention directly to yourself instead of to the point you’ve got to make. The “um…” is your soft interjection and it must be said a bit soft so that it’s not a hard and rude interruption. It’s like a small blip into the conversation that softly introduces your voice and your intention to add something to the conversation.

Another option is to wait for an actual pause in the conversation to add “and, if I could interject…” The “and” doesn’t need to be as soft as the “um” since you’re not actually interrupting, but you still do not want a blasting tone. You should be at the same volume and tone as the rest of the participants in the conversation. I’ve also found that “um, this is Kaitco…” immediately followed by the point I’m trying to make. Not only does your face/voice get a name, but you’re drawing attention to the name for future conversations as well.

With either interruption, what’s most important is what you have to add once you’ve got the spotlight. This comes down to thoroughly knowing your audience. In a highly corporate environment, the higher up the chain someone is, the more concise and poignant you (the unknown entity) must be. When stepping into the conversation, have a single point to make, and get to it in less than 8 seconds of straight speech. It sounds like a tiny amount of time, but when hearing a complete unknown, anything more than that will cause others to start ignoring you. It should be a small interruption that adds to the conversation by directly countering or increasing what has been said and then pausing for further questions.

An additional piece to being assertive is how to manage those who speak over you or simply won’t let you get in a word. Some individuals may be more naturally tenacious (or argumentative) and can combat more easily than others. What’s important, however, is to stop the other party without reverting to shouts. I’ve found a good way to stop others in their tracks is by just saying their name. If you’ve tried to interrupt “Drew” twice, but he won’t take the hint, start by just saying his name. “Drew.” This will make him pause for just long enough for you to begin a proper interjection.

 

Fight Fire with Superior Fire

At the end of all of this, sometimes you’ve got to fight the proverbial fire with fire, but what’s important is that you never stoop to a lower level and that you maintain control of the conversation.

There’s a difference between an inflection in your voice and yelling. You should be to still enunciate your words very clearly with an inflection; yelling causes a strain that inhibits this. Keep a purposefully slow, natural pace against those who may be speaking fast; it keeps you in full control of the conversation and makes the other sound irrational and combative. No matter what profane or explicit language is thrown at you, never repeat it. Again, this is about maintaining control of the conversation and using any non-professional language weakens your position. Keep cool and if someone is on a long yelling rant, remember the exact word you want to start with when you continue; nothing keeps you in control more than continuing as if you were never interrupted in the first place after someone has been yelling for a minute straight. Anyone who’s yelling has to take a breath eventually and that’s when you calmly continue without batting an eye.

As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. That said, you may not be able to directly practice these elements of assertiveness outside of meetings, which is why having these “conversations” with just yourself in the shower or in the car when you’re alone can help you get the wording the right. Think about the last time someone made you stumble over your words and consider what you would have said if you had more time. Actually say these words and imagine the conversation again. It may sound odd to talk aloud to yourself, but the more you’re able to speak aloud without getting tongue-tied on your own, the more likely you’ll be able to do it live.

Also, never forget the power of silence and simply saying “One moment.” In saying that you need a moment to collect your thoughts, it’s key that you do not ASK for permission to pause. It’s not “could I have a moment?” You must state this as if it were a command from a queen to her servant. State “one moment”; don’t mention needing a moment “to think” and don’t add any upward inflection indicating a question. One moment. If someone seems determined to deprive you of your moment, revert to saying their name and then repeating it. “Steve. One moment.” You are in control of the conversation and if someone is asking you a question, they can wait for an answer.

 

The Last Resorts

The last piece of assertiveness causes me to revert to the types of behavior that both helped and stunted me growing up. Drawing back to that bold, arrogant pride, there is great simplicity in not caring at all what others think of you. It can come down to something as simple as entering every conversation with the mindset of “Who is he that he should speak to me like that?” and also “What’s he going to do? Fire me?!”

So, this group of people find you a bit difficult? So what? YOU’RE right and you have something valid to add! There is an inherent problem with this mindset, however, because a) this could very well get you fired and b) when used to o often, it may close more doors than open. The key to using the “Who are you to me?” mindset is using that tone and often that expression only on those who would use it on you. It’s useful to fully read individuals in a conversation and utilize this mindset when nothing else works. The very wealthy, the entitled, and many of those of bred in large cities are the ones who would react best to this bold tone. Again, I can’t help but reiterate that this should be used very sparingly because this tone runs close and parallel to the line of rudeness. It’s easy to cross that line and plain rudeness can easily backfire in the worst moments.

 

One of the hardest things thus far… Monday, October 23, 2017

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 7:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

From blog.doriennesmith.com/:

My Pastor went home to glory last week. His homegoing service was today.

This has been one of the hardest life experiences I’ve had thus far in my life and it’s so easy to fall into a spiral thinking “there’s so much more darkness ahead as well.” but, I’m going to keep on keeping on.

I have to keep reminding myself that the reason all those around me seem to be doing so well with all of this is because they’ve already had to bury fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, children. And, they all got to go through with their Pastor by their side. This is my first time dealing with death so close and I’ve no Pastor to talk me through this.

It’s just been so hard. The calls and texts of encouraging someone whose spiritual strength I’d often taken for granted. Overcoming my own anxieties to see him during hospital visits. Literally picking myself off the floor after collapsing at the news that he was being moved to hospice. Visiting him in hospice every day he was there and watching him slowly transition onto glory. Accepting the news that he was gone. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard or as much in the entirety of these 33 years I’ve walked this Earth. I’ve got my ramblings to say and these words may not make sense to many others, so perhaps this is just here for me.

Years and years ago, I was a very skeptical agnostic. I’d been baptized a Christian as a child, but had never really belonged to a church home and with very sporadic church attendance throughout my teens, very little remained of my Christian experience and understanding. In a lost moment in college, I’d attempted to find a renewed spirit within one of the churches my mother and I had visited some years earlier. I walked into that building a proverbial lost lamb, but I walked out of it no longer a Christian and certain that God, whatever form He took, was not to be found withing Christianity.

An extremely difficult period followed afterward, where I’d figuratively wandered lost within the world, but as providence would have it, God brought me to what would become my church home through the teachings of a very great man who would become my Pastor.

After so many years of absolute distrust in ministers and most Christians, my Pastor proved to be a man of the highest character. One of the things that I adored most about Pastor was that he put God first in everything that he did. Because his ministry was about Jesus and not about uplifiting himself, he wasn’t afraid to bring newer or even stronger preachers into his pulpit and he was never afraid to admit that sometimes he simply did not have all the answers. These weren’t overall concerns because he did not feel the need to put himself first, but God. He acknowledged that there was no way he would ever fully understand every single thing that the bible said, but to use a phrase he often did, “I may not know all the specifics about how electricity works, but I’m not going to sit in the dark until I do.”

He often quoted Matthew 6:3: “Seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” and he had this deep, mighty voice that always stressed FIRST; that we were to put God first; that God was not running for any place in our lives but first; that anything that we put before God was idolatry. These teachings allowed Pastor to become the first preacher that I ever really trusted. Above all, I trusted that he would never purposefully tell me something to lead me astray or that would go against God.

Pastor focused on bible-based teachings and rarely did all the screaming and shouting “performance” that is so often found within black churches and we used to talk about that a lot. I told him often that I never liked all the “hootin’ and hollerin'” sermons because that was all show and had more to do about uplifting the preacher than the Word. I also told him that it was part of that latent skepticism that I struggled to lose. He agreed that the shouting was often part of the show, but that sometimes that’s what people needed to ignite their spirits. He also reminded that, in reference to my skepticism, that faith and doubt could not occupy the same heart, and I remind myself of this as often as possible as I continue on my journey.

We disagreed from time to time. He wanted me to be more involved in church auxillaries and often chastized me for quitting just about everything from the choir, to the usher board, to a helping auxillary, to teaching Sunday school…I’m sure there are many other things I’ve even forgotten that I’ve quit. And, he was very right; I quit a lot of activities, arguably out of fatigue. Every once in a while, I had something to throw back at him, though. Once, he demanded that all his lady ushers had to wear skirts when they served, so I sat down and quit. Eventually, it got back to him that the reason I’d quit ushering was because the Word said that men and women were to be dressed differently to be readily identifiable as such, not that men wore pants and ladies were skirts. If I’d been trying to usher in a men’s suit, then by all means call out that behaviour, but if I wanted to serve wearing a finely cut women’s pants suit, where was the harm? Later, he agreed with me and removed this rule, but this was the type of man he was. He acknowledged if he was wrong and moved forward.

One of the things I cherish most, however, was that Pastor never hesitated to teach God’s Word. When I was teaching Sunday School, he gave me (what I later learned was a very expensive) Matthew Henry Commentary Study Bible with my name engraved on it. He’d given one to my mother as well. I think I’ve learned more about scripture and also myself from reading this commentary than anything else in life. I remember asking him how much the commentary cost because my church is sometimes just barely able to keep the lights on, but he refused to say, and refused to accept any payment. I’ve several other spiritual books Pastor has given to me in this same manner and I’ll treasure all of them always.

He didn’t just preach and give out books, though. He was a 21st century pastor. Over the years, I could always depend on texts from Pastor. Admittedly, of late, they were of the variety “Daughter…you are MIA” if I’d missed more than 2 consecutive Sundays. Mostly, though, I could text Pastor any of my questions about scripture and he always had answers for me:

Many Sundays, I would approach him after service and ask further questions about his sermon. Sometimes he would even roll his eyes and laugh when he saw me coming. He’d say, “I knew you’d be coming up here after I preached that!” He always encouraged us, though. He often said, “Don’t just take my word for it. Read the bible for yourself. When you get to glory, God isn’t going to hold you accountable for what Pastor said, but for what God said.”

What I take from this most is that I will miss him so very much. But…in the same way, all those years ago, when he waved me forward as I stepped out in the aisle to join the church, he said to me in that deep voice of his, “Come on, Daughter. I’ve been waiting for you.” I know that when I get to glory too, he’ll be there waiting with a smile again saying, “Come on, Daughter. I’ve been waiting for you.”

One of his last sermons:

 

My posts this year are analogous to 2016… Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 2:18 pm
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…a barren wasteland of nothingness.

I could make a post just about Carrie Fisher…in fact, let’s start there.

Carrie Fisher passed away today. She had a heart attack on Friday, spent Christmas essentially on life support, and passed today at the age of 60. I’ve spent the last hour crying.

I didn’t know this woman. I didn’t know her friends, her family, favorite cities. I didn’t even know who her mother was until earlier this year. I have no reason to be in this much pain, but I am. Someone on reddit made me feel a tiny bit better. On the whole, however, my heart aches. It started aching on Friday, my whole body was tense across the weekend, and now the lacrimal floodgates have been opened.

Outside of Star Wars, I’d only seen her in When Harry Met Sally and, while at least one of her books has been on my To-Read list for ages, I’d never got around to it. I can’t say that I was some diehard Carrie Fisher fan, but still…I first watched Star Wars on VHS when I was about 11 and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life. What I loved most about was Princess Leia; a girl with big brown eyes and tons of sass, who carried the title of Princess. A young girl could hardly ask for more!

As I got older, I never found myself half-stalking her actions and film work the way I do with say, Gillian Anderson, but I knew she was writing and she was still there. This changed last year, when I got to experience the awe and wonder of watching a set of actors take up roles some 30 years after first portraying them. Offhand I can’t think of any other set of films or TV where this has occurred and I’ve spent much of this year intrigued by this and especially by Ms. Fisher. I don’t follow many celebrities on Twitter (I’ve followed Mark Hamill since Friday though because he’s good fun), but I was amused by her tweets that somehow found their way into my social media and I was wholly engrossed by how much of an advocate she has been for tearing down the stigmas of mental illness and also how she managed to take on all of her critics who complained about her looks, as if a woman is expected to look in her late 50s the way she did at 19. This year, especially, I had grown to really respect and admire Carrie Fisher, so hear that she had suffered a heart attack and then to hear that she had passed – my newly admired celebrity, my favorite princess since age 11 – this news is heartbreaking.

I think what aches the most is not just the loss of a celebrity I was gaining a newfound love for (seriously, not a month ago, I was thinking that I needed to follow more Twitter celebs and I should probably start with Carrie Fisher), but the fact that she was 60 years old. I understand that she had struggled with drug abuse her whole adult life and most abusers don’t usually live to a ripe old age, but I still see 60 as young. Perhaps, it’s because my parents are at this same age. Both dad and step-dad are 60 and mother isn’t far behind. Ms. Fisher leaves behind a daughter not much younger than myself. Her death, unlike that of David Bowie or Alan Rickman, hits home so much harder because she’s woman I felt I’d known since childhood and now she’s gone. The loss serves as a reminder that life is short and impermanent and that every moment must be cherished because we’ll never known which is our last.

This year has seemed so awful in so many respects, so I suppose this is a fitting way to close it. On a more personal level, I’ve allowed first-job to come before so many things that I’ve drifted from my church, regained all the weight I’d lost the previous year, I’ve watched my family suffer through medical setbacks and suffered through a couple of my own, and I have wallowed in a hole of depression so deep for so much of the year I half wonder if some of today’s tears aren’t just Ms. Fisher, but for just the year as a whole.

Next year will be better, I tell myself. I will write more, I will read more (starting with any Princess Leia-focused Star Wars book in creation, both canon and non, and then I’ll write one if I can’t find anything else that I want), I’ll attend church more, I’ll pray more, I’ll call relatives more. I’ll be a better daughter, cousin, niece, faux-sister, a better person. If I keep telling myself that next year will be better, maybe…just maybe, it will be.

And, so…some of Yoda’s words to help get me through the rest of this day, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.”

 

The X-Files!! (add 10 exclamations!!1!z) Saturday, January 30, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 6:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

This was originally going to be a review of the first two episodes of The X-Files’ “reboot”/Season 10/etc., but since so much press has already been given to that, I’m going to take a different approach altogether.

Considering the fact that “x-files” is an old tag on this blog and practically any other blog I’d ever created, I think I can realistically call myself a fan. To be honest, however, The X-Files has made me the person I am today, so I’d like to think that in relation to X-Files, I go far beyond “fan.”

On a Friday in 1993, at age nine, I sat in the living room flipping through the channels while my mother worked in the other room. I knew it was past my bed time, but I figured as long as I stayed quiet and didn’t make too much noise, Mother would let me stay up a bit longer. In my flipping, I came to a “grownup” show where some sort of invisible monster was running through the woods and, when it came upon other people, it would attack them with an intense light and kill them with burns. I was so intrigued by what I was watching that I couldn’t turn the channel and continued watching as these two people, a man and a woman, seemed to be searching for this monster. In the end, one of the people that they were working with, named Max, was found hovering in the middle of a room. There was a blinding light and then he was gone. The man saw the whole thing, but the woman had just missed it and, in the end, they both seemed a little miffed at one another. Overall, I was terrified by what I’d watched and vowed to never watch the Fox channel around 9pm on a Friday ever again. I didn’t know what I’d watched or what had actually gone on, but I knew I didn’t want to see anything like it again. If I’ve learned anything about life it’s that whenever I say never, I’m almost willing it to happen (obligatory: I’m never getting published. I’ll never win the lotto.)

While I can’t succinctly place how and when I became an obsessed fan within the next year, I clearly recall watching what I later learned was a Season 1, and likely first run, episode “Fallen Angel” when I was nine. I do know that I didn’t watch Scully’s Season 2 abduction first run, but I did watch “Firewalker” first run (the first new episode following the abduction series) and I was already obsessed by that point. It’s likely I caught the X-Files “bug” during a set of reruns. I don’t know which episode did it, but by the time I was ten, I was hooked forever on what I’d said I never wanted to watch again.

When I finished watching that first Season 10 episode this past Sunday night, I just sat in pure silence, revelling in the opulence of a moment I hadn’t experienced since high school. I thought about what I’d watched and how much I’d enjoyed it, and with the thought that there was another episode happening the next night, I actually cried happy tears. It’s almost like a religious experience for me. Yep…I’m a big dork, but that’s fine, because X-Files has made me the person I am.

 
X-Files is why I learned to code:
I love all things tech; from operating systems, to hardware, to programming languages, I love it all. I’ve got dual boots of Windows and Linux on my two “main” PCs and I bought a Macbook Air a few years ago mainly to learn OS X, though my “official” rationale was the need for a light-weight travel laptop. I know the ins and outs of iOS better than most iOS device owners and it’s only out of a strong desire to stop buying things I don’t need that I haven’t bought a cheap Android tablet just so I can learn the OS as well as Apple’s. I also love learning programming languages. I’ve been slowly teaching myself Java and C++, which I don’t find terribly daunting because I’d taught myself HTML and CSS long ago, and why did I teach myself how to code? Because I wanted to create an X-Files website of my own.

As with spoken languages, learning one programming language makes it considerably easier to learn others. Without knowing any programming languages, viewing any code will look like a giant wall of letters, but understanding just a single language can bring a sense to the unknown without a lot of effort. While playing Minecraft, I decided to have a go at creating my own mods and started to tweak the Java code quickly because I’d already had experience reading code. At first-job, I create and edit Excel VBA on various projects often, not because I received a degree or even a certificate in the process of being taught VBA code, but because my experience learning HTML/CSS on my own had already taught me how to generally make sense of any code. Following all of this from beginning to end, no matter how silly it sounds, my love of X-Files has actually helped my career.

 
X-Files is why I appreciate music of all genres:
The first X-Files movie came out summer of 1998; I saw it opening day and still have my ticket stub. The movie came out on VHS later that year and I made it quite clear to my mother that it didn’t matter if I received nothing else for Christmas that year, all I wanted was the X-Files movie. Of course, I got my beloved film, and still have the original VHS, but after countless watching, I found myself wanting the soundtrack. Previous to this, most of the music my 13-year-old self liked was pop or hip-hop, with a little early 90s R&B sprinkled in for nostalgia. In watching that X-Files movie for the umpteenth time, however, I started to enjoy some of the music I heard in the background. I received the soundtrack later that next year, but was originally disappointed. What I thought I had enjoyed didn’t sound all that great once I heard the full songs that were all a far cry different from the pop music I mostly enjoyed at the time and I eventually dropped the soundtrack into the pile of other music that I would just keep around to say I had a large music collection. The soundtrack still called me from time to time, though and, after repeated plays, I would find something else to like about one more song. Foo Fighters’ “Walking After You” became the most beautiful song I’d ever heard, the lyrics of Bjork’s “Hunter” were so interesting that I wanted to write a song of my own, and Noel Gallagher’s “Teotihuacan” taught me that instrumental music came in forms other than classical and jazz. It was as if a light had clicked. This single album expelled my musical myopia from the simple pop radio stations to anything that was available. I could like any kind of music, not just pop and hip-hop, not just what was at the top of TRL; all music could have value.

I spent a good part of today cleaning the whole house from top to bottom and listened to a playlist while I cleaned. The playlist starts with 90s R&B, goes into contemporary R&B, continues into Korean pop, then Korean R&B, then techno-punk, then rock music, a David Bowie cover, “edgier” rock music, then spliced rap (specifically, it was The Grey Album), and then new-age hip-hop. All these genres flow from one to another and, if I play this in the car with another person, I have to warn them, “I listen to everything” because I’m familiar with the “What the heck is this?” look received when a playlist goes from R&B to K-Pop to techno-punk. What’s best is that today’s playlist isn’t even a wide spread of the music I like, and I recognize that I’d be stuck in one set of stereotypical music for my race and my upbringing if it was not for X-Files.

 
X-Files is partly why I write:
This may be a slight stretch, but it’s still relevant. Like much of my Oregon Trail generation, I spent a good amount of the late 1990s glued to the Internet, and one of the sites where I spent most of my time was an X-Files fanfiction archive. It’s still around, though I don’t think it’s been updated in several years, but it was through X-Files fanfiction stories that I first started to appreciate characterization and learned how to craft a story.

I think it’s prudent to mention that this site wasn’t like a FanFiction.net, where it’s a huge free-for-all, with neither care nor controls for quality. All the stories had to be reviewed before being added to the archive, so everything I read was written by people who had taken the time to craft a properly written story which, in turn, gave me some insight as to how to tell a story.

Much of the reading I did as a teen came through assigned novels in English class and few of those ever intrigued me enough to think about after I’d finished them. X-Files fanfiction, however, gave me the pleasure of reading stories about characters I cherished and I loved reading how different authors tweaked Mulder and Scully just so much to take their characters into entirely different, yet still plausible directions.

I had written two novels before I went off to college, but neither of them were decent by even high school standards and, in my first few years at school, I nearly abandoned the idea of writing altogether. However, I still read X-Files fanfiction and I still yearned to create. After a good amount of practice trying to emulate what I’d been reading for years, I decided to write my own small X-Files story, and yep, I managed to get it onto the archive ten years ago. From that small story, I decided that I loved the craft too much to give up and I set forth learning how I write a novel, i.e., I started writing Flight.

I’m still unpublished and may never even get there, but I still write because I recognize that it’s part of who I am…and that I love to attribute to my love of X-Files.

 
Following that second new episode this past Monday, I was invigorated with the need to create. I spent much of the week perusing old projects I hadn’t touched in months because I was filled with the kind of happiness that only a simple television show that saw me from the tail end of my childhood, throughout adolescence, and into my early adulthood could bring. I am the way I am because of a TV show. I suppose it sounds trite or sad or pathetic or inane that I place so much onto a set of fictional stories, but as The X-Files has been my source of comfort through the fright of leaving childhood, the pain of adolescence, and the hapless wandering of my adult years, I discuss it proudly. Everyone has vices and I’m fortunate enough to have had one for the last 20 years that has made me, if not a better person, at least a more interesting one.

 

Going for Goals Friday, January 8, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 9:59 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’ve written over 7500 words in the past week by simply opting to write just a little every day. Considering I hadn’t written anything close to that amount in the month of December, I’ll call that a minor success for the week. I’m getting more intrigued about writing Flight specifically as a self-published ebook. I still plan to throw Damen at as many agents who I think may find it worthwhile, but Flight gives me something to do in the interim.

I’m in the midst of a Daniel Fast. Between the strict diet and loads of prayer, I plan to “correct” myself; i.e., re-adjust, re-focus, and re-ignite my passions for the things that matter most.

Something I’ve not noted here is that in 2015, I managed to drop 40 lbs. I could’ve done better, but then my birthday came, and then Halloween candy, and then Thanksgiving, and so forth with the other excuses. Throughout it all, however, I managed to not gain back the weight and hovered at the same mark for the last three months. Now is the time to finish this, however. I dropped the first half and now, I must be rid of the second as well.

One of my actual resolutions for this year is to learn something daily. So far, I’ve only been indulging in French on DuoLingo to keep my streak alive, but the year is young and between other programming languages and other spoken ones, I’ve lots I hope to learn.

 

Obligatory New Years Eve Post: 2015 Edition Thursday, December 31, 2015

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 7:24 pm
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Here we are, at the end of another year. As always, this is the time for deep reflection and promises to do better than the previous year. I have “resolutions”, for lack of a better word, and they haven’t changed all that much since high school, which is probably worth a post all on its own.

I sit here debating how I will spend my evening and usher in the new year. For the past nine years, I’ve attended Watch Night service at my church and usually had a good time. This year, however, I’m honestly just tired and all I really want to do is have some dinner, play video games, and then go to bed at a reasonable hour. The debate comes down to whether bringing in the new year in church is something that I really want to do or if it’s something I feel like I should do from the idea of “how I ring in the year is how I will live the year.” If it’s the latter, well, that’s superstition and nothing more. I suppose I’ll figure it out before 10 PM tonight.

Back to these resolutions…

While there are loads of things that I would like to do better in 2016, I’m going to focus on just one: Blog here more. My desire for writing has diminished in 2015 and every day it seems like it’s more and more difficult to get into my old grooves where I could not wait to have a free moment to write. Nowadays, writing any project feels like a chore; something that must be added to a daily to-do list and begrudgingly attended to while often times getting moved onto the next day and the next without getting completed. I can’t point to a specific moment when this occurred, but this is the current state of things.

I’ve tried to combat my diminishing drive in a myriad of ways, but this being the start of a new year, I might as well attempt to face this from a different method. This blog has long since been my main avenue of visiting my writing struggles and successes and, (as melodramatic as this is about to sound) since I sense I’m at the precipice of ending an activity that has encompassed my very being for the last twenty of my 30+ years on this rock, I suppose it’s fitting to use this blog as a final shield against what may be inevitable. TL;DR: I’m going to commit to blogging here weekly to get myself back into the swing of things.

There are always plenty of things to say and saving it for a monthly update clearly isn’t cutting it. I may fail at this goal, as I’ve failed at so many goals in the past, but at least with this one, I’ll be able to look back and see that I didn’t go down with a hearty fight.

Onward and upward in 2016!

 

Finding My Way Monday, August 31, 2015

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 8:10 pm
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The last few months have found me incredibly busy. My project with first-job has become permanent, I’ve taken to writing bits of sermons and gospel songs (of sorts), and my writing has been so scattered, it’s difficult for me to even consider it real writing. I think what’s been most pressing, however, is my faith.

Several times over the past couple months, I’ve asked myself, “Wouldn’t life be easier if I were an atheist?” I would certainly have more time on my hands not taking the time to study the bible each day, not going to bible studies, and definitely more time on Sundays. What I would do with all this “extra” time, I’m not sure, but it’s presumed that I would have it.

A couple weeks ago, my pastor did a sermon about what to do when one finds him or herself angry with God. The message was simply to recall that you can’t really be angry with God because God owes you nothing and you owe God for everything; from every breath you to take to every thing you have done or ever will do. As I write, these thoughts press against me because, while I want to take them fully to heart, I’m not sure I’m there yet.

It’s hard, very hard, to remain steadfast when I continuously see the righteous left to suffer. I know…deep down…everything is all a part of God’s plan and purpose, but lately, I’ve been having a difficult time remaining satisfied with not knowing the end results. I am, for lack of a better word, utterly frustrated with the state of things. All around me, life seems to get worse and worse and especially so for those who, at least outwardly, seem the most faithful and the least deserving of the world’s malevolence.

I try to press forward and I try to consider the positives. I have a good career and a hobby that makes me happy. I have a nice roof over my head and a nice car to drive. I have family who would miss me if something were to happen. I have a lot more than a lot of people could say and I certainly don’t take that for granted. Still, I can’t help these thoughts that wander into darkened places, considering the what-ifs and could-bes of a supposedly easier life.

I’ve written some “mini-sermons” recently for a program focusing on the seventh chapter and the seventh verse of any book of the bible and, though, I’ve only given the first one and I worry that I don’t even understand the words I preach to myself, I think it prudent to include them somewhere:

 

Job 7:7
“O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good.”

Life is short.

I was talking to my father’s mother a few months ago and she said to me, “It goes by so fast.” Now, my Nana is 91 years old. Ninety-one years on this planet and she tells me that her time has gone by so fast.

I’ll be 31 at the end of next month, I’m thinking to myself that the years between when I finished college and the point where I stand before you today have gone by a little quicker than I’d prefer. I can hardly imagine what I’ll think if I live long enough to be my Nana’s age.

In this 7th chapter and 7th verse, Job is referring to the brevity of life as a man who has lost virtually everything, and he is calling on God to give him a speedy death rather than let him continue to linger in his current state. But, we should not pass judgement on Job’s mentality at this time of his life.

We should, as we should always do in reading God’s Word, look upon ourselves and apply this Word to our own lives.

Our time here on this rock is short. What we do with this short time, however, will determine how we spend eternity. So, everything that we do ought to be for God’s greater glory.

How we speak to one another, how we behave when we’re outside of God’s house, how we carry ourselves when we think no one is looking.

God knows all and sees all and He is perfectly cognizant of how you are using the gifts He has given to you. So, be honest, and ask yourself: How are you using the short time God has given?

Are you using this short time he has allowed you to walk amidst His creation to wreak havoc on the lives of others or are you using this short time to walk the straight and narrow path and be a light to others?

Are you using His time to lie in the front of the television and watch hours and hours of Real Housewives of Atlanta or Extreme Cheapskates or perhaps even some truly nonsensical television that will likely corrupt you and those in your household?

Are you spending God’s time posting and saying ungodly things on Facebook, and on Twitter, and on Instagram? Are you using God’s time to make passive-aggressive statements to other Christians when, clearly, your time could be better spent?

Are you using the short time God has given you to eat yourself into oblivion? Are you more likely to go without feeding yourself God’s Word than go without feeding yourself McDonald’s or KFC?

Are you using the short, breath of wind that God has given you to grow closer to Him? Are you studying God’s Word daily? Are you loving others as you love yourself and as you love God?

Are you doing whatever you can be to a light to this dark world and bring others to Christ?

My brothers and sisters, our time on this Earth is but a trifle. I’m here just to remind you this afternoon, that we are to use this little time that God has given us to continue to magnify His glory and bring other lost ones back home to Him.

 

2 Kings 7:7
“Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.”

So, let me take you back for a moment to the Year 891 BC at Samaria:
Leprosy was highly contagious disease and those who had it were forced to live outside of the walls of the city, often surviving only on small charities or even the table scraps of the city when life was good. But, at this point here, Samaria has been under siege by the Syrians battling against them and there was great famine in the land. Food was scarce and what little food was available was incredibly expensive.

So, the lepers living outside the city, couldn’t even depend on the extras because everyone, everywhere was starving to death.

At this point in our text, there were four lepers living outside Samaria and they were starving as the city continuously prepared for battle against the Syrian armies.

One of them, stands up for a moment and says to the others: Listen. We’re just sitting here starving. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’re going to continue to get what we’ve always got. If we stay here, we are going to starve to death. However, if we get up and go to the nearby camp where the Syrians are…well, to be honest, they may very well kill us, too. But, there’s also a chance that they may be willing to give us something…anything to eat. So, we either go to our graves quickly by being killed outright by the Syrians, or we might get a little something to eat from them. Either way, we won’t be starving anymore.

So, up they get and go off towards the Syrian’s camp. What they didn’t know what the God had already made a way for them.

Just before they arrived at the Syrians camp, God caused the Syrian soldiers to hear something in the distance. The Syrian scouts and generals and foot soldiers thought they heard the sound of many chariots rushing towards them and they started to panic amongst themselves. They said to themselves, the Samarians have somehow hired armies from the Hittites and the Egyptians and they were all coming for them right now and they thought that EVERYONE was about to be killed. And, they didn’t just run. They panicked! And, they left everything behind them in their haste.

Now, a little common sense at the time should have helped at least one of them say, “Hang on. How are these Samarians who are practically cannibalizing one another for lack of food getting money to hire other soldiers to battle for them?” But, they were in a panic and no one thinks rationally when they panic.

Now, the four lepers arrive at the camp, and they see everything has been left. Food, clothes, money, everything is out for the taking and Syrian is nowhere to be found. So, our four lepers sit down and have a NICE meal amongst themselves and even get a little money for their troubles. But, that’s not where this ends.

Elisha, the pupil of Elijah, had told the Samarian king prior this, that food, which had become so dear in the siege against the Syrians, would soon be so plentiful that it could be sold cheaply. There was a doubter of the prophet, of course; we all know, there’s always at least one, but this was what the prophet had told the thing.

Now, the lepers, after eating to their fill, returned to the city and through them, the king was advised that Syrian armies had fled. And, the starving Samarians were then able to take up all that the Syrians had left behind and just as Elisha had prophesied, food became so plentiful that it could be sold off to the other cities at a profit.

So, you may ask, what’s the significance of this?

Well, friends, we know here as it is shown in the Word, that God can and will use anyone for His glory. And, many times he will use those who mean to do you wrong or simply malevolence to do great things that will always show His glory.

 

Romans 7:7
“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”

I’d like to pose the rhetorical question: How do we know right from wrong?

Even before a person is taught the tenants of religion, some truths are universal. To tell the opposite of the truth is generally undesirable. Treating others as you wish to be treated is generally considered the best way to live across many religions. But, how do we know the difference between what is right and what is wrong? Only through the Word of God.

You can be told many things, but until you study the Word for yourself, you’ll never know what is sinful and what is not.

Some cultures and even some sects of Christianity will tell you that women must always wear either dresses or skirts and it is sinful to do otherwise. But, in studying the Word, we learn that the law says that men and women are to be dressed differently. It’s not that women can’t wear ladies’ slacks or a woman’s pant suit, but that women shouldn’t be wearing silk neck ties and men’s Armani suit in an effort to look and behave like a man.

A lack of studying the Word can often lead to misconceptions about the bible.

A common misconception is that Even took a bite of an apple in the Garden of Eden, but in the studying the Word, we know that the fruit is never specified and that the apple has been ingrained in our imaginations because of the interpretations of a few artists.

Another misconception about the bible is that Noah gathered two of every single animal on Earth into the ark, but in studying the Word, we know that he took two of every unclean animal into the ark, but seven of the clean animals, making his feat even more incredible.

Biblical misconceptions say that you shouldn’t eat pork because the pig is deemed as unclean in Leviticus 11:7 and 8, but in studying the Word, we know that God says everything that is His is good to eat. Now, personally, I don’t eat any meat because I’m an American and I’m an adult and I can choose to not eat whatever I want, but that’s a subject for another day…

But, ask yourselves: How can you ascertain whether you are walking on the narrow path of righteousness or taking that broad road towards damnation? It is only when we take the time to stop and study the Word of God that we see for ourselves the light and right path God wants us to walk.

 

 
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