The Muses

I wrote ages ago about muses and how I didn’t have one. However, I recently realized that I do have a muse. I have several of them, in fact. It’s just they’re not what I thought they’d be.

A muse, according to the dictionary, is “a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist”. I have always interpreted this to be more of the figurative meaning, an imaginary being that sprinkles creative dust on my head, which infiltrates my brain and gives me ideas. And in that respect, I never had a muse. I was never blessed in such a fashion.

As it turns out, though, I have been blessed with multiple muses over the years. I just didn’t realize it at the time. I was looking for fairies when what I got was people, places, and things.

My muses are concrete nouns.

For example, there’s a tree across the street in my neighbor’s yard. I don’t know what kind it is. It’s just big and it’s been there for years and it’s very pretty in the fall, but the wind strips its leaves pretty quickly. It’s usually bare by Halloween.

That tree has been in several of my stories and at least two of those stories came from ideas I got from that tree, from wanting to write about it. It was a muse.

There are places that I’ve used the same way. The library I work at has popped up in my stories long before I started working there. I wouldn’t be writing Defending The L right now if the library hadn’t inspired the story. The local lake, the house across the street, the zombie car wash, all inspired stories. They were muses.

And, yes, there are people who’ve served as muses. People who I think would make excellent characters so I build stories around them. People I want to give starring roles. People who I will absolutely not name here nor will I name of any of the stories they inspired. But they were all muses.

The thing about these muses, the real thing that I think tripped me up in seeing them for what they were, is that I thought of muses as more of something permanent. The fairy that was always there, flitting about with their creativity dust. As it turns out, muses are more impermanent than I previously thought. I don’t think that they’re always supposed to stick around. They serve their creative purpose and then they return to being the nouns they’ve always been.

Of course, muses, like inspiration and creativity and all of those other intangibles, are highly individual. I’m sure some people have muses that stick around forever. Maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to have that happen.

And I’m sure there are some people who are lucky enough to have the fairy kind of muse, sprinkling creativity all over them. I know that I’ll never be lucky enough to have that.

I’ll have to settle for the nouns that happen to catch my attention.

Page-A-Day and Sunday

As I mentioned, I’m currently writing a page-a-day novel as well as something I’ve come to think of as my Sunday novel. I’ve been doing them both for a few months now, long enough that I’m ready to talk a little bit about each project, but more importantly talk about how different the processes have been for me, particularly in light of working on a NaNo novel at the same time.

NaNo, of course, is NaNo. I’ve finished it in 12 days, I’ve finished it in 30 days, I’ve totally failed it. My goal is to write 50,000-60,000 words in a month, about 2,000 words a day. After years of this, I’ve found a happy medium between outlining and pantsing, giving myself a basic blueprint of the story with room to wild out and surprise myself. It’s been a winning formula for quite some time (when I’m not cheating, obviously). The resulting first drafts vary from needing a lot of rewrites to just needing a few rounds of revisions.

Blasting out that first draft as fast as possible has been my way of writing for a majority of my writing career and it’s how I’ve done most of my projects.

Defending The L is not my first page-a-day project. A few years ago, I decided to shake up my creativity by writing one page a day every day for a year because as the adage goes, if you write a page a day, by the end of the year, you have a 365 page novel. At the time, I was looking for some kind of creative productivity boost. I had a general idea of the story, a few scenes I knew I was writing towards, and I just sort of let it unfold, day by day, page by page.

My current page-a-day is a little different. I started writing Defending The L this way because I wanted to write this story, but didn’t have time to devote to it to do it NaNo-style, nor did I want to wait until NaNo. I also don’t have the goal of writing a page a day for a year, just until the story is done. As of this post, it’s right around NaNo length of about 50,000 words and into the third act of the story, which takes a bit of a horror turn.

Defending The L also has the dual purpose of being a bit of a catharsis piece. It’s set in a library, so I’ve been able to vent some of my frustrations with the job through the story.

Like the previous page-a-day (which still doesn’t have a title and I haven’t looked at since I wrote it) and much of my NaNo work, this one is going to need some revising, but more than likely not any heavy re-writing. Of course, I’m not finished yet, so fingers crossed.

My Sunday story, That’s Punk, is an entirely different beast and honestly, it’s a little scary.

First of all, there’s nothing horror or fantasy or otherwise genre about it. It’s straight contemporary fiction, which for me is way out of my comfort zone.

Second of all, instead of writing this first draft as fast as I possibly can and getting it all out in one hunk I can shape through rewrites and/or revising, I’ve only been able to work on this story on Sundays. And when I do work on it, I go back and re-read what I wrote the previous week, revising anything I’ve decided needed changing while it’s simmered in my brain since the last time I looked at it, and then I add new material. There’s also no goal before I call my day on That’s Punk done. No word or page counts. Once I do my rewind and revise, I decide how much I want to get done that day. Usually, it’s a scene, or maybe not even that. I stop where it feels good. I’ve been working on this story since the end of August and I’ve only got about thirty pages written.

It’s so weird on so many levels for me. I’m writing something I don’t normally write in a way I don’t normally write. And you know what? I think I like it. There’s something indulgent about being able to take my time with a story, revise it as I go, and keep my goals fluid. There’s something luxurious about having this dedicated time to work on something on a day with no other expectations. I’m not rushing to get anything done because I have to go to work or I have errands to run or dinner to make. I don’t do anything on Sundays by design. Writing this story on my lazy day has turned into a form of relaxation for me, as strange as that sounds.

November has been an interesting writing month for me for years thanks to NaNo and the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel around daily life. But this November, writing three different novels, three different ways…it’s been eye-opening.

One thing about being a writer…I never get bored exploring and developing my craft.

“What Are You Working On?”

This is a trick question.

“What paranoia are you on about now?”

Hear me out. This is a trick question in two ways.

Number one, the person asking the question is more than likely just being polite. They don’t really care about what you’re working on. They’re just trying to pretend to have interest in your little writing hobby because they want to be supportive, but they’re really not that invested. You can tell by the way their eyes glass over and they nod along, not really listening, just waiting for you to finish so they can say, “Wow. That sounds great. I can’t wait to read it.” And we all know they’ll never read it. Because they’ve never read anything you’ve written because *insert reason here*.

The only correct answer to this question is to say what kind of project you’re working on.

“Oh, I’m in the middle of revising a short story for a contest.”

“Oh, that’s great. I can’t wait to read it. I hope you win!”

“Thanks.”

And scene. Small talk achieved. Everyone leaves with their egos intact. To go into any further detail about whatever you’re working on is to risk that glazed look and feeling your enthusiasm for your project/writing career deflate. And we don’t want that.

If they attempt to engage further by asking for story specifics, don’t panic in the face of this unanticipated interest. Simply demure, saying you try not to talk too much about your projects when you’re working on them.

Which brings me to the second tricky point.

If you do find someone who is genuinely interested in what you’re working on, then talking about the project, no matter how enthusiastic you are about it, can drain some of that energy you have for it. I don’t know why this is. But it seems like talking about the story you’re working on, particularly in the first draft stage, makes it less engaging to work on. It’s like the magic is escaping the bottle and it’s escaping because your dumbass keeps taking the lid off of it so other people can see it.

It’s true that sometimes talking about your work can help you see and/or fix problems with it, but if you’re not specifically looking for that feedback, then uncovering problems you didn’t realize you had when you’re enthusiastically telling someone about your great idea can be both jarring and demoralizing. Now you have to cover this realization because you don’t want the person you’re talking with to think that you have no idea what you’re doing. And god forbid if they’re the ones who point it out to you because you were oblivious to it. How embarrassing. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll fix that immediately.

And by fix it, I mean throw the story directly into the trash because I won’t be able to look at it without feeling the searing heat of shame.

You also run the risk of being told that your idea isn’t that great. Think about it. You’re absolutely jazzed about this idea and you’re thrilled with how it’s been going and someone finally asks you about it in a way that suggests they’re actually interested and not just being polite and you launch into your spiel and they just…don’t react. They smile. They nod. And then they say, “That’s nice.”

I’d rather be told my idea is shit than be told it’s nice. Nice is dismissive. At least disliking an idea is an actual feeling.

But you’re still left with that empty feeling of doubt, wondering if you’ve been wrong and this idea that you thought was a sure thing is really just another bust and maybe you should have realized that because it seemed so good and you never get good ideas that flow so well. Clearly, this was a trick of the writing devil, that prick.

And now you’re not feeling the idea so much anymore. Good thing it wasn’t really that good anyway.

Now do you see what I mean? A trick question.

So, never ask me what I’m working on.

I know you don’t care and I won’t tell you anyway.

NaNo 2022

I’ve decided that for this year’s NaNo I have enough of an idea that I can actually work on a novel this time and not have to cheat.

Maybe.

So, the idea I have is actually a combination of two ideas. The first is idea is about a character I’ve had kicking around in my head for a while named Royanna McKee who comes from a family of con artists and her attempts to break free from her family causes problems, particularly with her twin sisters, Claudine and Bernadette.

The other idea features a couple named Trix and Miggy Herrera who also have interesting families (particularly Trix) and as a couple they’re commissioned to write books about niche history topics. For example, Trix is supposed to be researching the history of a local courthouse, particularly the corruption related to its construction, when she comes across an article about a woman who went missing in 1976 and decides she’d rather research that.

Naturally, I thought those ideas could mesh together well in a timeline switching read, going back and forth from 1976 and 2022-ish.

Am I good enough writer to successfully pull that off? Probably not. But it’s NaNo, so it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that I FINALLY came up with a title. Leave Well Enough Alone. It’s not great, but it’ll do.

The challenge of this NaNo (aside from the questionable outline I put together) is that while I will be NaNoing away, I will still be working on my page-a-day project, Defending The L (have I mentioned that here yet? I’m too lazy to go back and look) and what I think of as my Sunday project (which I did mention in this post) called That’s Punk. So, I will technically be working on three novels at once during November. But so long as the words are flowing, I’ll only be logging the words from the official NaNo project.

Unless it falls apart and I need to cheat.

This is my 19th NaNo. It’s far from the worst way I’ve bent the rules.

Besides, after this many years what do you expect?

50,000 words is 50,000 words.

The Universe Gave Me a Sign To Cut My Own Hair and Other Questionable Ways I Make Decisions

The last time I was scheduled to have a hair appointment, my stylist had an emergency. She works out of her home, so it wasn’t like another stylist could step in and help me out. I decided to wait to see what was going on and then see about rescheduling.

Only I never rescheduled.

I decided that this was a sign from the Universe to shave my head.

Okay, not exactly. But pretty close.

Here’s the thing. The abruptness of this hair appointment cancellation unfortunately played right into an annoying, elevated period of anxiety. So while I was battling the brain gremlins about whether or not my stylist would even want me to reschedule, another part of me -the goblin part- told me that this was a sign from the Universe to take matters into my own hands.

Given my indecision about rescheduling, it was only natural that I would start watching YouTube videos about cutting my own hair. Most of them were too complicated and required me to buy razors and sheers and that’s more commitment than I’m willing to do. But one only required clippers and scissors, both of which I have. And I found the style to be quite fetching. It’s got a punk vibe to it and I’ve been craving that lately.

Well, obviously, this was meant to be. Because if my stylist hadn’t cancelled, then I wouldn’t be in a dither about rescheduling, and my hair wouldn’t be driving me crazy to the point that I’m so seriously considering cutting my own hair that I’m looking at how-to videos on how to do it.

So, on a Saturday after work, I shaved my head, leaving the top long. It took a couple of days for me to convince my hair to do the thing, but it’s worked out well so far.

Thank you, Universe.

Okay, do I really believe in signs from the Universe? Yeah, sometimes. I don’t necessarily believe in God, but I do believe in the Universe, and the Universe has a sense of humor. And I do believe the Universe loves us and knows that we’re dumbasses and tries to help us out on occasion.

I’ll take all the help I can get.

To be honest, the fear of failure that has been instilled in me from a young age has resulted in me being afraid to choose wrong. That bit of unknown causes me to balk. It freezes me sometimes and makes it difficult for me to make a damn decision. In those instances, I need some help.

That’s where the Universe comes in.

Or tarot cards.

I know what you’re thinking. Tarot cards can’t tell the future. Good news! I’m not asking them to. I’m asking them to give me some clarity on whatever situation is causing me difficultly. Interpreting the cards with that focus in mind helps shake my brain loose from whatever has it stuck. Because most of the time, I know the decision I have to make. This is a roundabout way to arrive at the destination, but I get there nonetheless.

It’s not quite flipping a coin, but I rarely have a coin on me, so.

There are times when I’m a very decisive person. When there’s no doubt in my head about the choice I should make.

And then there are times when I look for a sign from the Universe and I get it in a certain song that’s on the radio when I start the car.

And then I shave my head.

You’d be surprised how often it works out for me.

Oh Shit…I Read Romance Now

I’m known to read more than one book at a time due to the fact that I work at a library and keep seeing books I want to read and then I put them on hold and then they all come in at once and I have no choice.

During one of these multi-book sprees, my roommate looked at the three books I was reading and went, “Oh my God! Everything you’re reading is chick-lit! You’re reading more romance than I am! Who are you???”

In my defense, the two books I’d finished right before that were death-related: one was on crime scene cleaning and the other was about people who made death their profession (embalmers; funeral directors; grave diggers, etc.). And of the three “chick-lit” books I was reading at the time, one had serial killers, one had witches, and one had queers.

However, my roommate was not wrong to point out the obvious.

I’ve become a reader of romance.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before (and I’m going to do it again because this is my blog and you can’t stop me), but romance has long been a genre that has eluded me. While my friends in high school were swapping bodice rippers, I was reading Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Romance did not appeal to me and it seemed like every attempt I made to find something I liked ended in disappointment. Straight (some pun intended) romance and romantic suspense or thrillers are pretty much impossible for me to read. Try as I might, I just don’t like them.

And then I discovered the joy that was queer romance. Clearly this had been my hang-up all along. Too many hets. My director actually made sure to order all of the books in the Written in the Stars series because she knew I liked them. I’ve since read just about every single queer romance my boss has gotten for our collection, plus several that she didn’t.

Once I’d established that I dug queer romance, I decided to give straight romance another shot, but only because it featured a fat woman protagonist. Turns out, I loved that one, too. So, I found out that I could read het romance so long as there was a fatty. Groovy.

Inevitably, I found myself pushing those boundaries once again.

I chose a romance that didn’t explicitly advertise any queerness or fatness (turns out the protagonist describes herself as having big hips), but it did promise serial killers. I did the same thing with another book, but there was witches. And as of this writing, I have another het romance on my hold list that includes a ghost.

So, it seems that I can enjoy a het, not explicitly fat romance and be interested in reading them so long as there’s some major quirkiness and/or potential horror element involved. It stands to reason considering two of my favorite “romance” films are not actually straight-forward romances.

I cannot tell you the joy this has brought me and I think will continue to bring me. It makes me very happy to know that I have these cozy books to cuddle up with when I’m in the mood for something lighter. It has opened up a whole new happy part of my brain and I am so thankful for that.

Who am I?

A romance reader. And I will not be shamed about that. Especially given how many books I’ve read on how to properly dispose of a corpse.

I may have found my romance joy, but death, murder, and horror was here first.

I Should Take My Own Advice–But I’ll Do No Such Thing

I’ve been working very hard to reform my exercise habits. I finally got myself into the rhythm of doing two short workouts a day: a harder one in the morning and then a kinder one after after work. Doing this five days a week, that’s ten workouts. I’d been able to keep this up for a good six weeks before I hit a real wall.

I’d been feeling run down for several days. Maybe it was the last gasp summer weather change (we went from the 70’s to the 90’s down to the 60’s in a span of a week); maybe it was the PMS fatigue that has been known to whip my ass on occasion; maybe it was the fact that I’d been busting my ass on multiple projects and it finally caught up with me. Whatever the cause, my ass was dragging and if you know me at all, you know the size of my ass is considerable, which means the drag was, too.

I got up on that Wednesday morning feeling like I hadn’t slept even though my sleep had been decent. In that moment of meh weakness, I decided that I was going to take at the very least the morning workout off. My body was aching for rest and I decided to listen to it for once.

Cue the guilt and self-loathing.

I grew up with parents who despised laziness. The only thing on par with being lazy was being selfish or possibly murder (but I think laziness and selfishness would have beat murder out simply because I had DONE something instead of watch TV and not share with my sister). So I grew up to believe that any kind of rest I gave myself was laziness and that simply isn’t allowed. Please understand that this does not apply to anyone else –only me. Other people are allowed to listen to their bodies and give themselves the rest they require. I’ll even give them that very advice.

But I loathe to take it for myself.

I have a whole day during the week which I have designated for “self-care” and that is Sunday. I do as little as possible on Sundays. I schedule no work, put no expectations on myself, don’t even get dressed. Sundays (unless absolutely unavoidable) I’m just allowed to exist.

It took me years to get to that point. I spent years convincing myself it was okay to take one day a week off. And I admit that it’s done wonders for my existence.

But the work on deprogramming myself continues.

Is it lazy for me to take a day off of physical activity when my body demands it? Even with my Sunday off? Will one day off to honor myself totally ruin my exercise habit that I’ve worked so hard to re-establish? Will I immediately gain 100 pounds by not exercising on one day that I’m supposed to?

The answer to all of these things is obviously no. And logically I know that.

Illogically, I’m trying to tell myself that I can salvage it if I do two workouts after work (I’ve done that before), no matter how tired I am.

Imagine my surprise when I don’t. When I come home from work and choose to rest. Which is what I did on that particular occasion.

Imagine my even bigger surprise when I didn’t try to make up the workouts later in the week. I just…missed those workouts. And nothing of consequence happened. I let my body rest and ended up feeling better as a result and didn’t punish myself.

Maybe I should take my own advice a little more often.

Let Me Justify My Existence

I often say that I’m only happy when I’m stressed. Which is funny since an overabundance of stress kinda broke me once. But when it comes to my own projects and self-imposed deadlines, I am at my best when I am overscheduled. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The other day, though, I realized that it’s more than that. While I do like to keep reasonably busy with my projects and sometimes I do overschedule myself because in moments of productive optimism I forget myself, I think I also end up doing so many projects at once to justify my existence.

Allow me to elaborate.

I have -both by accident and by design- foregone a traditional adult life. I never wanted one and eventually finagled myself out of it. As such, I haven’t worked a full-time job since 2011 (I hated that gig). Even when I was working three jobs, I was still technically only working part-time. I have come to realize that I am very much like my Great-Uncle Junior: I am a working fiend when I work, but I don’t want to work anymore than I have to.

Which is fine. But that capitalistic narrative that’s been instilled in me since childhood that I was supposed to graduate high school, go to college, get a “good” job, get married, have kids, hit my mid-life crisis, get divorced, get re-married, and have my second family is still pretty ingrained despite all of my work at deprogramming myself. I feel compelled to prove that I’m not a waste of DNA and to justify my continued existence by throwing myself into my other work.

I worked full-time until I went to college the third time. I was between jobs when I started that last go ’round and when I finally got a new job, I only worked part-time because I was going to school. When I failed to go back because all I had left was math and science and I needed to bone up on my algebra before I took the placement test and I was going to take a semester off to prepare for that and I didn’t prepare for that and therefore, didn’t go back, I kept working part-time. I was returning to writing in earnest, I said. And I did. And when I inevitably walked out of that gig and got myself blacklisted from every being hired at Wal-Mart again (when I burn a bridge…), I was still committed to writing, even though I wasn’t really making any money off of it.

Fifteen years later, and I’m still playing that same song. Yes, I’m only working at the library part-time, but I’ve got multiple Patreon projects, podcasting projects, and writing projects going on, too. I’m not some lazy layabout. I’m working, I just don’t get paid for a lot of it. (Yet. One day.) It doesn’t help working with people who seem baffled that I could have anything else going on in my life considering I only work part-time and I’m not married and I don’t have kids. What do you mean you’re busy?

Believe me, I am very pressed.

The thing is that on a very conscious level, I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation for how I’ve constructed my life. It’s my business how I live and as long as I’m fine with it and it’s legal and (somewhat) moral, then you should be fine with that, too.

But on another level, I cannot escape the perceived judgment of society glaring at me like Sauron’s eye. It’s a guilt that I shouldn’t have, but that I still struggle to escape.

Maybe one day I’ll chuck it all into Mt. Doom.

How To Library

If you didn’t know, September is Library Card Sign-up Month.

This is the instructional/refresher I wish I could do for patrons because I feel like some people weren’t paying attention at all when using a library was discussed back in school and with some of the younger kids coming in, I’m wondering if that’s not one of the curriculum bits dropped due to lack of funding.

Yes. It is a bit snarky. I will not apologize for that.

Here we go. The absolute basics of How To Library:

  1. Have your library card with you if you want to check items out. You would think I wouldn’t have to say that, but it turns out the number of people who come into the library without their cards is staggering. If you lose it, let us know and we’ll replace it. If you left it at home accidentally because you switched out your purse or grabbed the wrong wallet, okay, I get that. That happens. Ways to combat forgetfulness? If your library has an app, use that. It should have your card on it. Or take a picture of your card’s barcode. We can scan that most of the time. Or we can use your ID. Don’t have your ID? What in the absolute fuck are you doing driving around then? How the hell will anyone ID your corpse when it’s found in a ditch somewhere? I do not understand you people at all.
  2. Return your items on time and undamaged. You are borrowing an item. BORROWING IT. Would you borrow something from your friend, keep it months after you agreed to give it back, and trash it in the process? If you would, I don’t want your ass in my library or as my friend. Some libraries still have fines. Mine doesn’t. That means you’re not penalized for not bringing your item back on time, but you should still endeavor to do so. If your item is going to be late, you can renew it. You might even be able to do that over the phone (we do that at our library) or online. And if something does happen to the item you’ve checked out, bring it to the circ desk and own up to it. Because we’re more likely to charge you if you ditch it in the dropbox and run away rather than showing it to us and explaining what happened to it. Think I’m lying? We’ve got a book in our collection with tired tread from a whole ass car on the title page (that person was having one hell of an interesting day). Some damage we can live with and we’ll be more likely to let you live with it too if you take responsibility.
  3. Learn your library’s shelving system. I can’t speak for every library, but when it comes to fiction, 9 times out of 10, the books are going to be shelved by author’s last name in alphabetical order. I don’t understand why this is a mystery to so many people. Non-fiction can be trickier. Some libraries still use Dewey Decimal, some don’t. Mine uses a subject based system, but guess what? The subjects are still in alphabetical order. Movies, TV shows, and music can be the same way. We organize ours by genre, but within the genres…alphabetical order. We use the alphabet a lot. It helps with finding things. Speaking of which…
  4. Learn how to use your library’s search. Some libraries may still have card catalogs. Mine doesn’t. Ours is now computer based. Either/or, spend some time learning how to use whatever your library uses. This includes any searching online in the comfort of your own home via whatever apps/sites your library might have. Our computer search can be done by title, author, keyword, etc. and then with a click you can find out the call number. We are happy to help you find whatever item your are looking for, but we are just as happy if you find that item yourself. Believe me. Our feelings will not be hurt if you find that book on your own.

The basic tips make my life as a library worker easier. These basic tips also make your life as a patron easier. Knowing where stuff is and how to find it makes the library more user-friendly and less intimidating. And that’s what we want! Of course, if you have any questions about anything in the library, ask a library worker. We will be happy to answer your questions because we want you to have a good library experience and that’s what the basics do -build a foundation for a good library experience.

I realize this is a bit of a snarky list (particularly the first two), but it’s these four things that haunt me the most. Honestly, the number of people who are indignant about the idea of having to have their library card with them to check items out is mind-boggling (the number of people rolling without their IDs more so). But I feel like a serious disservice is being done here by not properly educating people on the basics of librarying. I want to fix that.

So bring your damn library card and return your shit on time.

Parental Supervision–Home Alone Edition

I was 11 the first time I babysat for someone. I was considered very responsible and somewhat mature for my age, and even though I lacked in some areas (my cooking skills were below subpar; I couldn’t even work a frozen pizza), I was considered a pretty good babysitter.

I have no idea what any of the adults involved were thinking.

But back in the ’80s and ’90s, it wasn’t an uncommon thing. Gen Xers were known as latchkey kids. Older Millennials fell into that category, too. We’d come home from school and be expected to keep ourselves alive until our parents came home from work. Okay, that was the situation for a lot of kids. Not me in particular. My mom ran a daycare in the house, so I had a parent waiting for me when I came home from school. That didn’t mean that we weren’t left home alone sometimes.

Once I was deemed old enough to start babysitting, I was deemed old enough to be left home alone with my sister in my charge. It wasn’t really babysitting since my sister is only 18 months younger than I am. It was just being left home alone for a few hours. The rules were simple: don’t answer the door, don’t use the stove, and don’t use the iron. I have no idea why the last one was included. My sister and I weren’t known for our out of control ironing compulsions. But it was put on the list.

Nothing interesting every happened while we were left home alone, at least not that I remember. We just hung out and watched TV and either got along or ignored each other. Maybe I dreamed up what-if scenarios, but I’ve always had an active imagination.

We were left alone at friends’ houses, too. Working parents were common in my friends group, including some single moms. My parents thought nothing of my sister and I going over to our friends’ house to hang out unsupervised. We were good kids, it was a small town. There was nothing to worry about. And there really wasn’t, at least from the good kids perspective. Aside from some minor shenanigans, we really were good kids. Could things have gone wrong? Of course. But they never did. We were lucky.

Since nothing ever happened while we were younger, it just meant that we were considered responsible enough to be left home alone for longer periods of time as we got older. By the time I was 16, I was being left alone for entire weekends. Had I been something other than a severely depressed introvert, I might have taken advantage of that. Lucky for my parents, I was a mentally ill lump. And a pretty good kid. Most of the time.

Am I saying that parents should abandoned their young children for periods of time, particularly in the care or company of other young children? Of course not. Only parents can decide if their young are capable enough to survive a few hours unattended in a safe location. Apparently the law also has input on this now, as in many place they’ve enacted laws about how old a child has to be before they can be left alone. But legalities aside, it really does depend on the child and the parents.

I mean while I was babysitting at eleven, one of my classmates was being babysat by neighbors.

Only you know whether or not your unsupervised kid will blow up a microwave.