Monday, December 28, 2009

It's time to make a plan!

Do any of you have trouble coming up with blog topics? I've been racking my brain trying to think of one.

I have been attempting to make a mental list of New Year's resolutions. And trying to plan for the new year ahead. What will 2010 bring? To begin with, I've copied and pasted my thoughts from last year. In my next blog post, I'll comment on last year's post and what I'm planning now.

This was written at the same time (end of December) in 2008:

So the madness is over now and life can return to normal. Right? Whatever normal is.

In a few days I can hang up my new Wizard of Oz calendar, purchased during my visit to Mystic, Connecticut. A new year ahead so it's time to start planning for 2009. Do you have a plan? So far I don't. But it's time to get busy and make one.

I've never really liked plans. I've always been a "fly by the seat of her pants" kinda girl. (Thank you, Julia Roberts' character in Pretty Woman) Just shuffle along, take life one step at a time and see what happens. Only flaw in that philosophy? Quite often nothing happens.

I will never forget a line from one of Shakespeare's plays. (Sorry, but I can't remember whether it was Richard II or Richard III) Richard is locked up in a prison and he says, "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me." And why is that so memorable? Because it concerns the nature of time-wasting. Just what constitutes wasting time? How does one determine that? If a person spends the entire afternoon playing video games, is that wasting time or is it time spent having fun/relaxing?

If a person spends the entire evening watching television or DVDs, is that wasting time or is it spending an enjoyable evening on the couch being entertained?

Who can say? It's all a matter of opinion. But the gist of that line spoken by Richard is that HE felt he had wasted time, wasted his life not doing important things, and now he was rotting away in prison. And that's the point I want to make here. Each of us has to determine what it is we want in life and how we are to make it happen. Time is only wasted if we're not accomplishing the things we want to accomplish. Everyone needs some down time to unwind and have some fun. But too much down time means that list of accomplishments will never get fulfilled. The master plan will just be a bunch of meaningless words on a piece of paper or computer screen.

So I'm going to make a plan. And I'm going to try to make it come to life. I don't want to end up like Richard dying on my deathbed spouting the words, "I wasted time and now doth time waste me."

Nope. It's time to make a plan!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who do you see when you read?

I've finally finished reading Stephen King's Under The Dome. Since I don't want to give away the plot or the outcome, I'll try to watch what I say here.

How many of you try to imagine certain actors and actresses playing the characters in the novels you read? I'm assuming Hollywood will decide to make an Under The Dome movie at some point, so as I was reading this hefty novel, my mind tried to conjure up the appropriate actors.

The lead hero is Dale Barbara, thirty-something. Even though he's been working as a short order cook, he's an ex-military guy. So who would fit the bill here? Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis, too old. I can think of a bunch of actors who are in their forties or fifties. Need a younger guy. Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Leo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, James Franco?

And then there's the newspaper editor, Julia Shumway. I think she's supposed to be a bit older than Dale Barbara. Need a tough cookie for her. I kept picturing someone like Sigourney Weaver but she's about 60. Maybe Kyra Sedgwick, who is about 43 or so? Hmm, I'll have to think about this one.

It's kinda fun to speculate on who will play these parts. Even if you don't try to picture an actor or actress as you're reading a novel, chances are you still have an image in your mind.

I think it's really funny when Hollywood casts the "wrong" actor or actress for a part. As I read The Horse Whisperer, I pictured a thirty or forty-something, dark-haired, rugged sort of guy as Tom, the lead character. Instead we got Robert Redford in the movie role. He was in his sixties when that movie came out. And then there was The Bone Collector with Denzel Washington playing Lincoln Rhyme, who is not supposed to be black. I definitely had a different image in my mind for this guy.

Sometimes Hollywood gets it right. Ian McKellen was perfect as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. So was Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. In fact, I think director Peter Jackson got all of the actors right. I also thought Jodie Foster nailed the character of Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. Hmm. Maybe she could play Julia Shumway in Under The Dome?

So what do you think about this? Do you imagine certain actors playing the characters in the novels you read?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Power of Positive Thinking

Upon reading someone's post on the writing web site I frequent regarding being in a bad mood all the time, I started thinking how to respond to it.

What I know from my own personal experience is that negativity breeds negativity. The poster wanted to understand why he has such constant bad luck, bad experiences while others seem to thrive. I once was advised to read Lynn Grabhorn's book, "Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting" in which she explains the concept of drawing positive energy your way by making sure you are putting out positive energy. It's really a very simple concept. Let's say something bad happens to you. You're getting ready for Christmastime, all set to go shopping, and you go outside to jump in your car and find a window smashed in. There is broken glass all over the front seat. Suddenly your lovely plan to go shopping has to be cancelled because your window will have to be replaced. And now you're in a lousy mood as well. Let's suppose it has snowed overnight and the roads are icy. Even though it's tricky, you decide to walk to the nearest drugstore hoping to buy a few gifts there. You're walking along grumbling about the asshole who smashed in your window when suddenly you slip on the ice and land on your butt. Man, that hurts! You sit on the ground swearing about how much pain you're in, finally get back on your feet, walk the rest of the way to the store and find out it's closed! Closed? You have no idea why they haven't opened yet but who cares, they're closed! You start swearing. A little old lady passes you, hears you swearing and says, "What's wrong, dear?" You say, "Mind your own business lady!" and you start walking away. Eventually you find out this woman is actually your boss's mother and she has told her son about this nasty woman she encountered and your boss fires you.

Okay, so all of the events in the above example are quite the exaggeration, but you get the idea. One bad thing seems to lead to another--all that negative energy keeps producing more negative results. If we turn things around and try to put out positive energy, we may find that good things seem to come our way.

Christmastime is the perfect time to start this chain of positive energy. Smile at someone when you're out shopping. Hold the door open for someone. Give a small donation to your favorite charity. Let another driver onto the road in front of you. And, as my friend Kim said to me the other day, "Don't sweat the small stuff."

It's time to start making some good things happen.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Some thoughts at Christmastime...


The expression "here and now" just popped into my head. It's the title and one of the songs on my son's band's new CD, but it's also meaningful in other ways.

Some people get stuck in the past, reliving either sad or happy times in their minds or in their hearts all through the year. They can't let go of these memories, can't put them to rest. Now sometimes it's good to hang on to memories; they really are part of the fabric of our lives. It's when these memories hover over us like dark clouds that problems may arise. We all need to move forward since that's the way we're meant to go.

I've been trying to focus on ways to make this Christmas special and meaningful, as I always do, but every time I come across a photo of my mom I think about what's missing this year. I know I should focus on the "here and now", but I'm having trouble with that. She won't be here to share the fun and laughter, the hugs and kisses, the family togetherness we've always enjoyed. I hope she's smiling across from Dad up there in heaven, maybe looking down at us as we're opening our presents. It's not the same as having her here, but it's a nice image to draw upon.

There's a song by Amy Grant that sums up some of my feelings quite nicely. In a song called Heirlooms, she describes being up in the attic, going through old boxes and finding "letters and photographs, yellowed with years, Some bringing laughter, some bringing tears. Time never changes the memories, the faces of loved ones who bring to me all that I come from and all that I live for, and all that I'm going to be...My precious family is more than an heirloom to me."

So my "here and now" is different, it changes with every passing year, and all I can do is try my best to make it as good as I can. Each year we seem to lose someone, and our family grows smaller. I think that makes us grow closer because perhaps we need each other more.

We do have the addition of my sister's granddaughter who has just turned a year old. This year will be her first real Christmas and I know she'll help everybody feel like a kid again.

So we will make some new memories this year and keep our lost loved ones close in heart.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reading and Writing...

I just realized I haven't blogged since last Wednesday! This is such a busy time of year.

So....

I've been absent for two reasons: Christmas shopping/decorating and--

I have been trying to make my way through 1000 pages of Stephen King's latest novel, Under The Dome. Now, I am normally a very slow reader because I have a thing about trying to read every single word, really absorbing each one so I don't miss anything important. However, when I'm pressed for time, I'm apt to skip over some words or even passages in order to get to the finish line. As it happens, my three sisters and I split the cost of this novel we're all planning to read, one at a time. I got to go first. So I really want to finish reading as quickly as possible so they can have their turn. It's so frustrating to have to keep the plot to myself. And some questions have arisen as I've read along that I can't ask my sisters since they haven't started reading yet.

As a reader, I'm enjoying this novel as the plot unfolds and I'm getting to know the characters. As a writer, I'm trying to pay attention to the sentence structure, word choices, POV, plot development, and so on. I'm hoping to learn from King. In the past, I always read his novels simply from a reader's perspective.

So with all this in mind, I raise two questions here:

1. Do YOU read novels as both a reader AND a writer?
and

2. Do YOU sometimes skip over words/passages in order to finish a novel faster?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Late autumn, early winter



At the top of this blog, in the header picture, you'll see how it looked in my area in late October. As I previously promised, I am updating with this post, showing how one of my favorite spots looks now in early December. (different location than the header photo.)
If you click on the pictures, you can see a bigger version. You can even see the ducks!

A long time ago I wrote a poem in which I tried to convey my thoughts about the cycle of the seasons. As luck would have it, the poem has vanished, and all I have left is fragments of it in my memory. So today, I pieced together what I remember of it and added some new lines.


THE CYCLE

Bare November, winter's frost,
another day is lost.
The trees shed their leaves like skin
and leave behind a ghostly grin.
All trace of summer's gone,
vanished like the early dawn.
Fall too soon will also be
a fond but distant memory.
Icicles will stab and pierce
like fingers. Winds so strong and fierce
will whip across the fields and sky,
'til snowflakes drop like tears we cry.
But time will find awakening
With many yawns and stretches, spring.
Dressed up in dazzling shades of green,
parading 'cross the nature scene.
And once the buds and seeds have grown,
and birds return from where they've flown,
The air is thick with summer heat,
we walk through sand with naked feet.
When summer bows to autumn's call
and hands off her baton to fall,
Just as a soul is redirected,
the cycle will be resurrected.



Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm a Peacemaker

I'm the peacemaker in my family. Perhaps it has something to do with being the middle child. I believe I read somewhere that's a telltale trait of a middle child--serving as the one who maintains peace between family members.

It's a tough job, riddled with responsibility and anxiety. I don't know if it's expected of me or if I expect it of myself. All I know is I have a serious need for harmony and peace. If two members of my family are fighting, I just have to intervene. I've always been this way.

It's certainly a plus for those who need a referee, but not so much a plus for me. I've stuck my neck out many times, coming to someone's aid, only to put myself in harm's way. Back in fourth grade, standing at the bus stop, a boy I considered a bully was harassing my sister and my girlfriend. He was my age, but, of course, a boy, bigger and stronger. I moved between him and the two girls, trying to get him to stop. His response was to pull his arm back and punch me in the mouth. Shocked and bleeding, my first and only thought was to run. I was, after all, 9 years old and a child of the early sixties-- a time when boys simply did not hit girls. It was unheard of. A major no-no. (At least, where I lived.)

This story had a happy ending for me with the boy getting yelled at by the principal, my mother, his mother, his teacher and my teacher, but still, none of it would have happened if I'd simply hung back and kept my mouth shut. But I just can't do that.

Fast forward to 2009 and I'm still doing my best to come between warring factions. Should I just let my husband and teenage son hurl obscenities back and forth like Frisbees, or step in before they hurt each other? Well, recently, I did nothing. It was just a war of words, but the blast in the air glowed for hours. I know I'll have to find a way to make peace between them because they won't do it themselves. Too much pride on each side.

I will have to choose the right time, the right words, the right approach. A hefty responsibility for me to shoulder.

But I'm a peacemaker. That's what I am. That's what I do.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's time to be thankful...

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS A RE-POSTING OF A POST FROM LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME OF YEAR, ALONG WITH SOME UPDATES IN PARENTHESES.)

Are you ready for Christmas? No?

Well, why not? After all, when I visited my mom today in the nursing home the little Charlie Brown Christmas tree was already up. Or perhaps they never took it down. (Sadly, my mother passed away this past May, 2009)

It's kind of sad the way Thanksgiving gets lost in the shuffle. The media does make a big deal about Halloween with stores bursting with decorations, masks, costumes, and accessories. Why, my daughter even sent me on a frantic last-minute mission to purchase some fake blood. No costume is complete without it. So Halloween gets its share of attention.

And now, apparently, it's time to move on to Christmas shopping. Time to decorate, play those timeless songs, and get out there and hit the stores. Except...

What about turkey day? Where are the turkey songs on the radio? Are there any? Surely there must be SOME Thanksgiving songs? Is Thanksgiving really just one day in November? Or perhaps we should be celebrating it all month long. If the holiday is about giving thanks, maybe we should be doing that every day in November.

So today I tried to put aside my griping about the poor economy, my many bills, and lack of money. I have a roof over my head. It's a leaking one, but it's a roof. (We have since had our roof repaired!) I have clothes to wear. I have enough food to eat. I can feed my kids. My health is not perfect, but it's good. I have a great family and wonderful relatives. I have a one week old great-niece, just starting out in life who will move our family into a new era. (She turned one year old this past October!)

Today I told my sister, "I'm thankful for everything I have." And I'll try very hard to remember that all the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gift or Guilt?


How do you feel about charities?

This is the time of year when we're bombarded with requests for donations from food banks, The Salvation Army, and a slew of other organizations.

Nothing wrong with giving. In fact, it's a wonderful thing to do. The problem is there are too many charities and each person's wallet only holds so much. And that's where GUILT comes in.

Every time I visit my local grocery store, I'm forced to walk past The Salvation Army bell ringer. There he is ringing his bell and we all know what that means. I know what it means. But my focus is on filling up my grocery cart with needed items. "Maybe I'll toss some money into the kettle on my way out", I think to myself. And sometimes I do. Believe me, I do. But the problem is I'm at that grocery store quite frequently during the week. That means I have to encounter the bell ringer on numerous occasions. I can't contribute every single time. But IF I have to walk past him without donating some coins, I feel guilty. Ah, the guilt!

It's gotten so I've had to figure out some sneaky ways to outfox him. If he's at the left hand entrance to the store, I enter via the right hand side. (Even if I have to walk all around to the other side of the parking lot.) And of course I do the same thing when I'm exiting. Crafty, yes, but effective.

Then I'm riddled with guilt twofold. First, I've failed to give a donation. Second, I've chosen stealth to avoid giving a donation (or being detected).

But if my mounting guilt should get the best of me one of these days, I see only one solution. I'll just race up to the bell ringer with a big smile on my face, open up my purse and spill every last dollar and cent into his kettle. "Merry Christmas!"

Heck, I'll even throw in the purse. And my hat. And my gloves. And my coat.

Free of guilt at last!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Many Other Things Are We Missing?

I just read an interesting anecdote in an email I received from the songwriting group I belong to. I'll try to summarize it and then this post will be my response.

On a January morning in 2007 in a Washington DC Metro Station, violinist Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world, performed a little social experiment on an unwitting audience of about 2000 people on their way to work. In the course of about 45 minutes, he played 6 Bach pieces while men, women and children passed through the station. In that whole time only 6 people stopped to listen, about 20 threw some money into the hat, and Bell collected about $32.00. Now the crowd did not know who this musician was. They didn't know he had played very intricate musical pieces on a very expensive violin and had appeared just two days ago in Boston in a sold-out show to a crowd who paid about $100 per ticket.
The question raised from this experiment is if we do not have time to stop and listen to a very talented musician playing beautiful music with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing?

I think this is an important question for us to consider. We lead busy lives, always scrambling to get to work on time, get to appointments on time, get to school on time--our goal is simply to get there. But what if we're missing something important along the way? How important is it to be on time anyway? What if someone falls down, collapses on the sidewalk? Do we step over that person because they're in the way? Or do we stop and help? And how about simply observing and appreciating something beautiful that pops up unexpectedly in our busy day?

What if you had been there to witness the violinist at Metro Station? Do you think you would have stopped to listen?



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Enjoy the Ride

Life is a carousel ride. Choose your horse and climb aboard. Pick a pretty one or one that's just the right size for you. Hold on tightly as the ride starts up and spins you 'round and 'round. For once you're strapped in, there's no stopping, no getting off no matter what.

Life will take you where it wants to go. Close your eyes and listen to the music as your body's lifted up and down. Open your eyes and scan the beautiful sights flying by--rivers, grass, trees, children, babies in buggies.


When the ride is over, time has slipped away. You are still you, but older now. This carousel ride can be fun, exciting, scary, adventurous, short or long. But the length of the ride is not what matters; it's the ride itself.

Let's try to enjoy the ride!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Snip, snip, snip...

I am working on my novel for the National Novel Writing Month competition. Competition in a sense because I'm not actually competing with anyone but myself. This year I hope to finally complete my 50,000 words by the end of November.

So the following is a passage from my novel. I've been playing around with it, tinkering. We are not supposed to nitpick at this point, but I can't help it. After I finished reading the wonderful novel, Water for Elephants the other day, I found myself looking at my own prose differently, scrutinizing each line. The copy I borrowed was the large print version, and now when I close my eyes at night, I see big words running across the canvas of my dreams. Very strange.

This passage from my novel is pretty self-explanatory.


Standing before the mirror, April checked herself out. Her hair needed brushing so she removed a brush from her purse. As she swept it through her hair, a dim memory surfaced of her mother brushing her hair when she was little. A fond memory for sure, but one of the only good ones she could recall. Most of what she could remember was just a vast amount of time spent alone since her mother often neglected her. Alone in her room, she found solace in her books and drawings. And, of course, her imaginary friends. April stopped brushing and stared at her reflection. Her mother had told her she had beautiful hair, the kind men would admire one day. Her mother had the same kind of hair and primped for hours whenever she was going out. April was too young to know where her mother went at night. She thought perhaps her mom was a waitress at some cocktail place, but didn't know for sure. All she knew was that her mother went out night after night instead of being there to help her with her homework or talk to her or spend any time with her.

I've just gone over this passage again, making a few more snips. I keep finding new things to fix.

So what's your writing method? Keep fixing as you go, or wait 'til later?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo...

Whenever I read that little abbreviated copy, I immediately think of Robin Williams as Mork in the old show Mork and Mindy. His trademark expression, "Nano nano" helped make him a star.

But participating writers know the above abbreviation stands for National Novel Writing Month. The goal: write a novel in a month. I've given it a shot for the past two years. The first time around, being a NaNo virgin, I didn't make the required 50,000 words by the end of November. It was much harder than I imagined. And I tried to do the unthinkable--write a good novel, one with a plot, character development, scenes that made sense, and sparkling prose. I edited as I went along, as I usually do when I'm writing. I guess that abbreviation should be more like "Nuh uh, nuh uh", as in "don't even try that." Why? Because stopping to edit and change things around takes time. In order to write 50,000 words by the end of the month a writer has to write approximately 1,666 words per day. Who has time to think, plan, and edit on a schedule like that?

So I failed at my first attempt. But I did learn some things. Sitting down to write each night requires dedication. I turned off the TV and secluded myself from my family members. No matter how much I wanted to run into the living room to find out what was so funny or what they were talking about, I didn't budge from my chair. And I found that the words flowed along, night after night, or usually did. Sometimes I got stuck. Then I got panicky. How was I supposed to complete my 1,666 words for the day if no words popped into my head? Sometimes I skipped scenes too hard to write. I'd go back to them later. Can't think of an interesting way to describe a character? I just threw in some "blah blah blahs" to fill the paragraph.

The second time around I believe I was dealing with illness and then family stuff. I still didn't complete the 50,000 words.

This time around I'm staying on track. I'll get this sucker written one way or another. It will be very hard to avoid fixing things since I was trained to do that in my job as an editor. I'll just have to shut one eye and keep typing.

The words will not be gems, but more like rocks. That's it--a bag of rocks.

So excuse me now. I've got some rocks to collect.

Monday, November 2, 2009

With a little luck...

I was discussing the notion of "luck" with some friends the other day. There are those who feel the good things that happen to us are a matter of hard work, perseverance, a positive attitude, etc., and those who feel it's simply a matter of good luck. I know Oprah thinks it's the former of these two. I've heard her say so on her TV show. I know I've always been cynical about this topic.

I'd like to believe hard work, setting goals, etc. will lead to dreams coming true, but I've never experienced it myself. While Oprah can claim these things are responsible for her being who she is today, I still say that luck plays a part in it. I hold fast to the belief that many, many people work hard in life, struggling to accomplish their goals and dreams. Let's take the example of a job interview. Let's say there is a good job in a given company, perhaps a copywriter for an advertising agency. There's only one job, but 50 people respond to the ad. Obviously, the decision maker has to weed out some candidates to get to the top 3 or so. Let's say three highly qualified candidates interview for this ONE position. One person will get the job; the other 2 will not. It is my contention that the person who is hired was LUCKY. If all three are equally qualified (for purposes of this discussion), luck has to enter into it.

And some people believe that a higher power is responsible for their good fortune in life. They pray to God for help, for good luck, for better health, etc., because they believe (perhaps) that happiness, good health, and success are beyond their own control. Or at least, they believe that God can help steer them in the right direction. I have no problem with this type of belief. My point is simply that some people use prayer as a way to try to make their goals and dreams become a reality. Let's say the person who got the job in the example above had prayed to God: please let me get this job! I guess he or she would believe that God heard that prayer and granted it.

But what if all three had said the same prayer? Two would be feeling a little let down.

So what do you think? Are some people in this world just luckier than others? Are some people doomed to fail over and over again but they never really know why? Does hard work pay off eventually for everybody? Is there some master plan for all of us in life, but it just takes some of us longer than others to figure out what that is?

What do you think?


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Things Left Behind...

Inspired by an anecdote on another writer's blog, I got to thinking about the things we leave behind.  How many of us inadvertently leave something important somewhere and either never get it back or go through hell trying to get it back?

My husband has a bad habit of forgetting his baseball caps in public places.  Just recently he left one behind at the movie theater. When we got back home he asked, "Did I have my hat with me at the movie?"  We both pondered that for a moment.  Then he said, "Yes, I did.  I think I left it on the seat."  Oh well.  We weren't about to drive 30 minutes back to Lincoln just to fetch a baseball cap.  He has others.  And now, I suppose, someone else is wearing his hat.

A number of years ago I'd visited a fast food place for lunch during my lunch break from work. Having only a half hour alloted to me, I got busy eating my food.  I'd draped my new jacket over the back of the chair and never gave it another thought.  It was a warm day and the jacket wasn't really needed. When I glanced at my watch and saw the time, I panicked.  Got to fly back to work since some nosy person would notice if I was late.  I just grabbed my handbag and took off.  Eventually at some point during the day I realized I'd left my new jacket behind.  I called the restaurant and spoke with someone who didn't seem too concerned; he told me the jacket would go to their lost and found area.  I made numerous calls and even returned to the "crime scene." To make a long story short, the last attempt I made to get my jacket back I was told that the supervisor took the jacket home with her.  I never got it back.

Last year at Christmastime I was a scatterbrain shopper who rushed from store to store, frantically trying to do everything in one day.  (grocery shopping, mall shopping, drugstore, post office--you get the idea)  On my final trip (grocery store), when I paid for my groceries, I whipped out my billfold, placed it next to the credit card swiper machine and pulled out some cash.  After paying the clerk, I grabbed my grocery bags, tossed them in my cart and rushed off into the outside world.  Later at home when I wanted to check my receipt, I opened my pocketbook.  Hmm.  The receipt was there, but no billfold.  The billfold is sacred of course since it holds all of my cards--driver's license, credit cards, all kinds of important stuff.  It would be a MAJOR inconvenience if this billfold could not be recovered!  I searched all over the house until it dawned on me--I'd taken the billfold out at the grocery store and apparently had not stuck it back in my pocketbook. I'd left it at the register where ANYONE could just pick it up and take it with them. Oh shit!

But this story has a happy ending. I raced back to the store, the store manager spotted me, the wild-eyed, crazy woman searching for her billfold, and flagged me down. She knew me by sight since I practically live in her store; she'd found my billfold right after I'd left and knew I'd been at that particular register and she tucked it away safe in her office.  Whew!  I dodged the bullet this time around.

I've also left my keys on a city bus, my driver's license at the bank (and amazingly they did not call me to tell me I'd done that), my umbrella at a restaurant, my winter coat at the hospital, and a pair of black panties at a former boyfriend's house (don't ask).

So how about you?  Have you ever left something important behind?


Monday, October 26, 2009

True Beauty




Okay, my final blog post about the colors of autumn.  I just need to embrace the beauty of fall before it slips away.

It's just so beautiful out there each day; sometimes I wish it would last all year long.  But then again, perhaps it would get tedious seeing the same artwork painted across the landscape day after day.

I was thinking about it the other day, the beauty of nature, how each season holds its own special beauty.  Spring gives birth to flowers, the beginning of the seasons.  We get to see everything in bloom.  Summer gives us blue skies and lots of greenery.  Fall is obviously known for bright, beautiful colors.  But how about winter?  I thought about that one for a while.  With its bare branches and loss of color, what could be beautiful about winter?  And then I thought of snow.  Whiteness has its own special beauty, blanketing trees, houses and landscapes.

So, let's celebrate fall while it's upon us.  Here are a few more samples of the awesomeness of autumn.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The colors of fall



Today was very windy, leaves swirling all about, so I thought I'd better capture a few more images on camera before the trees are bare.

I found this group of trees surrounding a nearby fishing pond; they called to me as I was driving past.  I thought, "Oh, I've got to take some pics of those on my way back."

It was a bit overcast today, so the photos will reflect the lack of sunlight.  Still, I couldn't resist the colors.  In the next few days I'm hoping to get over to County Road where I saw some beautiful yellow leaves.  Just hope they haven't all blown away!

Oh, and if you click on one of the pics, you can see the larger, clearer version.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's time to dress for fall...



As promised, I went out and snapped a few fall pictures to show the contrast of the changing seasons.  Many of the trees around me are beautiful right now; it's so nice to see those blazing shades of yellow, orange and red as I'm driving about or off on a bike ride.

I know autumn won't last long, so I'll hold onto these pictures as a keepsake, returning to look at them on those cold winter days when the trees are empty and sad.  There's a chill in the air today and I needed three layers to keep warm.

May the colors inspire you as you're sitting down to write today.

ETA:  I'm going to update this soon.  I found an area with much better foliage. Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me, so I could not capture what I saw.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Anniversary Memories


Twenty-four years ago yesterday I wore a white dress, white shoes, a touch of jewelry and my best smile. A nervous smile, I might add.  I remember something my mother once said about sitting across the breakfast table at her husband and thinking, "Who is this man?"  Sure, I knew the man I was marrying, but did I really know him?  Ah, but twenty-four years later, I know him quite well!

It was a blustery fall day, the red, orange and yellow leaves swirled about, but the sun was shining and my heart held the highest hopes for a new life with my new partner on a journey I could only imagine.  "For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health"--I repeated the words and so did he.  I was a bundle of nerves, my palms were dripping wet; I knew what I was saying but somehow couldn't really focus on the words.  All eyes were glued to the two of us, as if we were actors on a stage; one false move, one slip and perhaps they'd be laughing at us.

Much of that part is a blur but often through the years I've thought about those words we were asked to repeat.  They have such meaning, such significance, and yet for many they don't seem to mean much at all.  Considering the divorce rate, how could they have meant much at all?  My husband and I have been through good times and bad times ("for better or for worse"); we've never been rich, but we've been poor.  I translate that one to ("for poor or for poorer").  There has definitely been some sickness, mostly mine, and thankfully my husband has seen me through it. These are things many people never think about when they're standing across from each other wearing their Sunday best, gazing into each other's eyes, hand in hand, before God and family and friends.  The future is down the road, out of sight.  Their focus is usually on the present, their special day of celebrating, partying, dancing, smiling and loving each moment.

Those holy vows meant something to me way back then and they mean even more to me now. I take promises very seriously. We can't know what kinds of hurdles life will throw in front of us on that road that leads to the future, but we have to be ready for them.  And holding onto your partner's hand you're saying, "I can get through anything as long as you're beside me."

"For as long as you both shall live."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Descriptions, descriptions!


How would you describe these flowers?  Are they pink and white or are they more than that?  Do they need to be more than that?

I was trying to write a 3000-word story for a contest and didn't get too far.  I had a vague idea of where the story was going.  I'd figured out how to incorporate three contest requirements into it. The problem? Narration. Description. How to explain what the woman is doing and why.

I don't seem to have a problem coming up with ideas. I don't flinch when it comes to writing dialogue. Piece of cake. But descriptions? Man, that's hard. I'm a writer, I'm supposed to be able to do it. Are certain writers better at descriptions than others? 

There are times when I think I should stick to writing poetry.  Or non-fiction.  Or maybe plays.

And now back to those pretty flowers.  How would you describe them? (oh, you can click on the picture to see a larger version).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Writer and Her Workspace




Originally, I had some photos of my workspace posted.  But since someone thought my desk looked a little too neat, I decided to take a few pics of its messier status.  Now, I tried to edit the original post and move some things around, but technology doesn't like me very much, so I wound up removing the whole ball of wax.

And now I have to use my brain to remember the lovely words I'd posted.  Of course, I can't recall, so I'll just have to wing it.  I believe I explained that in its neatest condition, my desk holds a dictionary, a fancy can with some pens and pencils, a laptop computer supported by a dohickey thing which elevates it so I don't burst my neck muscles, a stapler and a few Avon books (my other money-making venue).

In its messier condition, you'll see some other items such as a Kathy coffee mug, a water bottle, a magazine, a bunch of papers, yet another cup of pens and pencils, my mouse and now a brand new phone.  Nearby is my printer.

And what good is a workspace without the writer working in it.

If all goes well, the photos will magically appear once I'm finished typing this.  Cross your fingers I do this right.

What does your workspace look like?



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sky pictures

"Rows and flows of angel hair

and ice cream castles in the air

And feather canyons everywhere,

I've looked at clouds that way."

 

Joni Mitchell had a nice way of describing what clouds look like.  Very accurate, too, I must say. Today when I was taking my walk I decided to study some clouds and photograph them, too.

 

I think most of us can remember lying on the grass as a child, staring up at the clouds. We challenged one another to try to describe the shapes we saw, to find the hidden pictures. There were dragons, castles, witches, angels...or maybe nothing more than just a girl's flowing hair stretching across the sky.

I wrote a haiku about clouds once:

Clouds filter through steel

branches, unraveling threads

of sky tapestry.

 

What do you see in the clouds?


 



Saturday, October 3, 2009

I need to make you laugh!


So, I wanted to write some humorous greeting cards the other day, but for the life of me, I just couldn't think funny.  How do you say something funny on command?  I can't do it, but perhaps some people can.  I'm sure Jim Carrey and Robin Williams aren't funny 24 hours a day.  They must have their off moments.  It's great to have a script in front of you filled with funny lines, but what if you don't?  We're all humans, capable of multiple emotions, so you would think we all have times when we just don't feel funny.

So, in that case, how do you MAKE humor happen? How do you tap into that funny vein and make the silly, crazy stuff come pouring out?

One way I do it is with pictures. (Like the one I've posted above.) I need idea starters. So I googled funny baby pictures. Then I stare at a picture and wait for inspiration to strike. Possible captions for this one? How about: "Man, I'm pooped. And speaking of poop, change my damn diaper, will ya?"

Or maybe: "Sucks being me. How are YOU doing?" Then there's: "She makes me wear this goofy-looking hat! What will all the cool kids think?"

A number of years ago when I was working in editorial at Paramount Cards, I finally got a shot at writing humorous cards. We had a very small staff the whole time I was there; all three of us worked on sentimental or serious cards, no funny stuff. That was fine with me but I must admit there were times when I felt like writing some humor. It wasn't until 1996, I think, that we had a different editorial manager, and he let the three of us editors work on some humor. I remember sitting around with Michael and Regina, bouncing ideas off each other. It was great! We just cracked up laughing and I thought: What a great way to make a living! The other departments must have thought we were insane; I'm sure they could hear our bellows all the way down the hallway.

So, that's another way to stir the funny pot--surround yourself with funny people if you can. My youngest sister is usually a great source of jokes, derived mostly from real life incidents.

The only other way I can think of is to watch funny TV shows (and there aren't many I'd consider funny) or funny movies.  Sometimes a book will prove useful.

Excuse me now.  I've got to go tickle my funny bone so I can tickle others.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Beauty Can Still Come Through


I was looking at this picture I took recently and trying to determine what it signifies.  Besides the obvious--a couple of pink flowers poking through an old fence--maybe one could go a little further and say it represents something new coming from something old, or something new and beautiful blossoming in an old and ugly world.

It's possible to find ugliness and evil in the world around us if we choose to look for it.  But what a sad and miserable way to live, to always see the bad instead of looking for the good.  We live in a very fast-paced society where manners have seemingly vanished; after all, if people are always in a rush to get to their destinations, there's no time for politeness-- it's just GET OUT OF MY WAY!

But maybe it doesn't have to be that way.  Many of us are at fault for having to rush.  If we oversleep, don't get enough sleep to begin with, or forget to set our alarm clocks, for instance, we set ourselves up for trouble.  We end up behind schedule, rush out the door, hop into the car, back down the driveway and zoom down the street.  Heaven help anyone in our path!

Life seems a little bit broken and I think we're going to have to fix it a little at a time.  If each one of us tries a little harder to get organized, calm down, and rid our schedules of the excess stresses that make it so hard for us to be patient and polite, well maybe that would help a lot.

We can be those beautiful flowers trying to poke through the old fence, saying, "I'm ready for a fresh start."


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mysteries


There are mysteries out there.  Some are big ones, some are small.  My fascination with houses extends beyond the houses themselves; I also wonder about the people who dwell within them.

And then there are the things you see outside. For instance, a bunch of shoes hanging on a telephone line. How did they get there? Who tossed them up there? Why are they up there?

I do not have the answers to these questions. But that doesn't stop me from being curious. Yes, it's a small thing to ponder, considering the bigger mysteries in life. But I'm just a small fry in a big vat of bigger fries, so I'll focus on the little mysteries for now.

Here is a possibility:  Some kids swiped the shoes belonging to Tommy, Billy and Charlie and tossed them up there so said kids would have to walk home shoeless. Arriving home each mom says, "What happened to your shoes?" Tommy, Billy and Charlie have got some explaining to do.

Here's another explanation: Tommy, Billy and Charlie decide it would be a neat idea to toss their own shoes up on the telephone wire. Tommy says, "Hey, I bet I can make my shoes land on top of that wire and you can't!" The others join in since they can't back down from a challenge.

And there's always the possibility of aliens.  Late at night, when a nice quiet neighborhood is fast asleep, three aliens emerge from their spaceship and step out onto the playground.  They gaze up at the telephone wire and decide to leave a message behind for their Earth neighbors. Each alien tosses a pair of recently acquired shoes up on the wire.  What does it mean?  Well, we can only guess.  Perhaps it means: We would like to know what it's like to walk in your shoes for a day. Or maybe: You people have strange taste in footwear.  Or: This is a warning, Earthlings! First your shoes, next your clothes, then your lives! Fear us!

As I said, I'm curious about the things I see every day.  How about you?  What makes you curious?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

And the seasons go 'round and 'round...














I'm fortunate to have some beautiful country landscapes very close to where I live.  The other day I decided to snap some pictures of late summer/early fall which will begin this new experiment I'm planning.
I will try to faithfully follow up with pictures of this same lake and countryside when the leaves turn to red and gold, then later when the trees are bare, and finally when spring returns with budding flowers and leaves.

This cycle of the seasons has always fascinated me.  Spring seems to signify the beginning; for humans it's the equivalent of infancy and childhood. Then Summer cartwheels in as an adolescent, Fall carves out its own colors and personality as an adult, and eventually Winter ends the cycle as a senior citizen.

As Joni Mitchell wrote in her classic song, The Circle Game, "And the seasons they go 'round and 'round and the painted ponies go up and down...We can't return we can only look behind from where we came, and go 'round and 'round and 'round in the circle game."



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Have You Seen My Smile?

A while back my husband said something to me I've never forgotten.  He didn't say it to be insulting; it was simply an observation. He said, "You don't seem to smile as much as you used to."

Really?

At the time I brushed it off, didn't think too much about it. But lately I've been pondering his observation.  Is it true? I don't smile as much as I used to? If not, why not?

I've never forgotten a certain line from the Billy Crystal film, City Slickers, when the wife says to her unhappy husband, "Go and find your smile." It's a wonderful line. It really is. Crystal's character was unhappy with his job and his life in general, as I recall. Going off on vacation with his buddies opened the door to adventure and new experiences and in the end he did indeed find his smile.

But for those of us living in the real world, perhaps it's not so easy. Children always seem to find a reason to smile; they're often pleased by very simple things.  Teenagers have a harder time of it since they're often dealing with peer pressure, conflicts with parents and good old-fashioned acne. Still, if life blesses them with a good family and good skin, there should be a fair amount of smiles. But grown-ups? That's where things get tricky.

We just have so darn many responsibilities, don't we? I remember a time when I didn't. I smiled more when life was more carefree.  And I smiled when I had a job I liked, money coming in, or when I was just plain having fun.  Somewhere along the way I think I've stopped having fun.

So therefore I am making it my goal to pump more fun into my life.  I'm not really sure how. But I am determined to find my smile.

Now which way did it go?


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Houses Have Personalities




I like to look at houses from the street. I find them fascinating. When I'm out taking my walks I check out homes--the colors, windows, fences, yards, flowers--everything that makes each home unique. I try to imagine who lives within the walls; is it a couple? Old or young? A family? Little kids or older ones? A single person? There are some indications if one tries to find them.

For instance, a little tricycle adorning the front lawn. Or perhaps parked in the middle of the driveway. A skateboard tossed aside, a small pool, a trampoline in the back yard. All of these things would suggest children live here.

And then there are the houses and yards not so obvious. Who lives here? That's a little game I like to play. Just out of my own innocent curiosity, mind you. I'm a writer; I'm curious. It's not really any of my business, but it interests me. There are some people who are quite talented at decorating their houses and property, making them attractive to the eye. Others put less effort into it for various reasons. Perhaps they can't afford to repaint or fix up their houses and yards. Or perhaps they don't care. Simplicity is also a possibility. For some home owners it's what's on the inside that counts.

Houses have personalities. I've posted a few houses for you to examine. Maybe you can guess who lives inside them.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Change is in the air

I feel it in the air.  Change is coming.  As I'm riding along with the breeze blowing back my hair I feel Fall touching my skin and whispering in my ear, "I'm coming.  Get ready for me."

This is the time of year, end of summer, almost fall, when sadness creeps in and threatens to throw me off balance.  I want to cling to summer, make it stay for just a little longer.  I look up at the clear blue sky, the gently swaying, beautiful green leaves on every tree and try to memorize each detail.  I know it won't be long before this color turns to multi-colors--shades of orange, yellow and red.  I won't mind autumn's varied palette, but after that, they'll all die off, crinkle away and curl up stiff and broken on the ground.  The trees will be as bare as I once described them in a poem:  "the trees shed their leaves like skin and leave behind a ghostly grin."

I'm not ready to face the nakedness of winter.  And so I cling to the lovely and varied costumes of summer and fall.

I will try my best to appreciate each fading summer day before it slips away.  I will photograph the treasures of nature with my eyes.

I feel it in the air.  Change is coming.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just how socially network social are you?

Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, MyTwitFace, MyBookSpace.....

Ahhhhhh!  What is the world coming to?

Yes, I'm guilty of joining two of the major social networking sites.  Why? I don't know.  Just because.  Keeping up with technology and the Joneses or something like that.

I remember a time when people looked each other in the eye when they talked.  And I remember a time when people sat down in a chair and dialed that thing called a telephone to speak with friends and family members.  (Texting?  What the heck is that?)  Why, I even remember a time when people sat down at a desk and whipped out something called stationery (along with a pen) and, GASP!, wrote a letter to friends who lived far away.

But, alas, that was back in the caveman days.

I was one of those cavewomen who stubbornly clung to her customs and cultural routines for quite a while.  The computer age?  The digital age?  Oh no, not that!  It's a lot safer hiding in a cave.  Just give me the basic, rudimentary sticks and I'll scratch out a message in the dirt.  As long as the message didn't have to be too long, I probably wouldn't run out of dirt.

Does anyone here remember typewriters?  Those noisy, clippety machines that typed out letters and other correspondence?  Why, I bet one of those dinosaurs would be worth a bundle at an auction these days.  A real antique!  No real use for one, but you could put in on display for future generations.

And what will the future bring?  When Kathy is in her eighties, what will all the young whippersnappers be doing with their time?  Just how will they be communicating?  Let's try to imagine the possibilities, shall we?

What might be coming down the road?  Our current cell phones DO just about everything.  (What is that commercial that goes:  "There's an ap for that." ??)  Applications, music, photography, texting...  What else might a phone be programed to do?

The future classroom might feature each student sitting at his or her desk texting on a cell phone to the person at the next desk.  Oral communication will cease to exist! No human teacher will be required because a computer will beep out the lessons the students will listen to on their earphones.

Husbands and wives will no longer speak to each other.  The wife, for example, will stand in the kitchen preparing dinner, and if she needs to ask her husband a question, she'll simply use her nearby wall computer and type in her question.  This will be relayed to her husband who's seated on the couch in the living room.  Something will beep or lights will flash and he'll see the question on his wall screen and type in his answer.

Ah.  It's all so simple.

At the kitchen table, on those rare occasions when all family members are present, each one will text messages back and forth while enjoying their tasty meal.

And what kind of wonderful high-tech social networking site will exist thirty years down the road? Hmm.  One can only speculate.  Probably each home will have a huge wall devoted to just that.  Rather than Facebook's virtual wall, this will be a REAL wall.  People will push a button or flick a light switch when they return home from work and one entire wall will light up with messages and pictures along with videos and music.

Or why stop at that?  Maybe EVERY wall will have all of this stuff flashing and beckoning.

That's okay.  The young people can have it.  I'll be in my eighties rocking in my rocking chair, senile and oblivious to all of it. Maybe I'll have saved my trusty iPod and be tapping out the beat to some oldie but goodie.

Or there's always the chance that life will do a complete turnaround and we humans will go back to the days of talking face to face, writing letters, and only using the telephone once in a while when it's really needed.

Excuse me now.  I have to go check my email, read some blogs, see what's happening on AW, Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo........................

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fifteen Films in Fifteen!

Inspired by another blogger, I am going to try his experiment of posting 15 of my favorite movies in 15 minutes.  Don't know if I'll have time to say why they're my favorites, but I'll try.  Here goes:

1. The Silence of the Lambs:  Just excellent in so many ways--the acting, the script, the direction, the characters.

2. While You Were Sleeping: My favorite romantic comedy.  I love the budding relationship between Lucy and Jack.  They squabble, they laugh, they fall on the ice together.  Here is a couple which actually gets to know each other before they sleep together.  Actually, the audience never does see them sleep together.  But it is obvious they are good together.

3. Rocky:  I'm not normally interested in sports or boxing, but there is also a love story in this film.  Adrien is so interesting to me because she's shy and not your usual perfect beauty.  I love the relationship between Adrien and Rocky.  I also love the idea of an underdog trying to win.

4. Jaws: I've always loved this movie.  It scared the crap out of me when I first saw it in the theater.  I could see it a hundred times and still be scared.

5. Fried Green Tomatoes:  Wonderful characters in this film, people you can really care about.

6. Tombstone: A great western with great acting.  And I'm a big Kurt Russell fan, too.

7. Forrest Gump: Charming, funny, interesting, and touching.

8. Alien:  I love the first of this trilogy.   Or are there 4?  Very scary.

9. Gladiator: When this movie first came out, I did not think I would like it.  Was I wrong?  Wonderful acting, scenery, and battle scenes.

10. Meatballs: Yes, it's kinda goofy, I suppose but I love the idea of a young boy trying to fit in.  A counselor takes him under his wing and helps him find some confidence.

11. The Karate Kid: I love the underdog working hard and winning.  And a great relationship between teacher and student.

12. Pretty Woman: Funny and touching.  No, I don't think it's very realistic.  But a fantasy type of story, so I can live with that.

13. One flew over the cuckoo's nest: Very well done and thought-provoking.

14. The Sixth Sense: Love this film.  I did not guess what was coming at the end.

15. The Green Mile: Good acting, thought-provoking film.

Okay time is up!  Now I'll go back and explain my reasons.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oh those lazy, hazy days of summer!

Ah, it's August.  Such a sticky, sweltering, suffocating summertime month.  Here you see some beach goers soaking up the sun.  Some people here think the beach is THE place to be when it's hot and muggy.  Sure, if you don't mind all that beach traffic as you're on your way to your destination, made worse if you don't happen to have air conditioning in your vehicle.  And then there's the problem of all those bodies splayed out on every inch of sand from here to eternity.

No, that's okay, I'll pass.  Give me a nice, cold, air-conditioned room!  Ah yes!  Give me a nice, lengthy book to prop up in front of me as my legs are stretched out in front of me, feet resting on a little stool, my back pressed against a comfortable chair, and I'm happy as a clam.  (While others are out in the hot sun digging for clams.)

Sure, I live in the Ocean State.  That's what we're famous for.  The ocean, tall ships, beaches, quahogs, seafood--all that stuff.  And all of that stuff is great.  But I find hot, sticky weather very uncomfortable.  It's hard to breathe, hard to think, hard to concentrate.  I want to be able to write something coherent and read passages from an intriguing novel just once, instead of over and over again.

So, speaking of summertime reading, I'll tell you what I'm reading. First I read Kim Richardson's autobiographical book, The Unbreakable Child. Also read a fellow writer's unpublished novella tentatively titled Reaper Tales. Now I'm reading My Quirks and My Compass by H. Charles Dilmore.  After that, I'm planning to read Summer Sisters by Judy Blume.  If there's any summer left by then it's on to Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner.

So how about you?  What books are on your beach blanket reading list?  Or, if you're hiding from the sun, your living room coffee table?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Picture this!

blurry I don't know what
floral collection
boats on the bay
flowers and flag
sunflowers are us


I took a walk the other day with my trusty digital camera accompanying me.  The mission was to seek out lovely, interesting, or unusual images to photograph.  My own yard is devoid of flowers at this time.  It's just the timing; end of August seems to be end of summer/almost fall, so my yard is at that in-between time.  Our flowers seem to spring up in early spring, then disappear after a few weeks, not to be seen again until next year.

So my only option was to search for flowers in other people's yards.  I've posted them here with little captions so you can see what I found.  I particularly like the one called "blurry I don't know what" because I truly don't know what it is.  But that's the fun of it.  See if you can figure out what's in that picture.  It's good for the imagination!

Note:  If you click on a picture, it should show you the larger version.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is it better to look good or to feel good?


A certain topic on the writer's site I frequent got me thinking.  It dealt with the aging process and how people feel about milestone birthdays: turning 30, 40, 50, etc.  Also, the question of whether it's better to "look good" or to "feel good."  Or does one guarantee the other?

Let's suppose a person takes good care of herself.  She eats healthy foods, gets plenty of exercise, enough sleep, watches her weight, protects her skin from the sun, etc.  Let's say she does all of these things but has a job she hates or no job at all.  Let's say she looks good, too.  Do all of these things she's got going for her matter if she's basically not happy or fulfilled?

Now let's counter that with a person who eats anything and everything, barely exercises at all, gets either too much or not enough sleep, is overweight, doesn't even own any sunscreen, and doesn't put much effort into keeping up her appearance.  But this person has an interesting/fulfilling job or career, so she's happy, she "feels good."

Is it possible to have it all?  Is it necessary to have it all?

I once read an article about Halle Berry, a beautiful actress.  In it I was shocked to learn that years ago she attempted suicide. I simply could not fathom why a beautiful and talented woman would want to end her life.  And even though the cause of her depression was a failed relationship, it still made no sense to me.  She's Halle Berry, I kept thinking.  She could have any man she wants.  Why would she not have enough self-confidence and self-worth to rise above her troubles and keep going?

But this is the mistake many people make--we judge others by what we see.  We see the exterior and have no idea what's going on inside the person.  If someone doesn't have as much beauty, confidence and worthiness on the inside as what people are seeing on the outside, this does not make for a very happy person.  I made the mistake of assuming that a beautiful woman could not possibly have serious problems in her life and would be lacking in self-esteem.  Not true at all.

So it would seem that spending one's life doing something interesting, meaningful, fulfilling, fun, joyful is really the key to being a happy person.  We can't count on our looks to fend off bad things happening in our lives; they'll happen anyway.

Inner peace brings about true happiness.




Friday, August 7, 2009

Out for the count

I had to have a medical test this week, for which I had to be sedated. They probably gave me the same stuff associated with Michael Jackson.  I think it's called Diprivan.

At any rate, it's such a strange thing indeed to go under anesthesia, being at the mercy of others, unaware of what is being done to you, how long it's taking, or what people are saying.  And what I might be saying, I should add.  That was a particular fear I had going in.  I'd heard that people under anesthesia often talk in their sleep.  Can you imagine how embarrassing this could be?

"It's too friggin' cold in here!"

"Watch what you're doing with that instrument!"

"You better not be looking at my bum!"

I must admit I cannot remember much about my recent outpatient testing.  But I have this vague memory of being wheeled back into the recovery room and in it I see myself being combative, fighting off nurses/attendants who are either taking tubes out of me or disconnecting things from me, etc.  I have no idea what really happened; it's all just a blur.

I sure hope I didn't say anything weird or insulting.  It really bothers me that I can't remember what happened.  They say it's better that way, but I'm not so sure. 

I hope not, but it's possible that some unfortunate medical staffer might be sporting a black eye right now.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Funny Little Story

I wrote this little humorous story as an entry to a contest.  At the last minute I changed my mind and entered a different story.  So I thought I'd post it here for (hopefully) a few laughs.

They Made a Flying Monkey Out of Me

Greetings! My name is Monty. Yeah yeah, I know, Monty who?, you're thinking.  My name doesn't ring any bells, I'm sure.  You've probably watched The Wizard of Oz a million times and the name Monty doesn't mean anything to you.  I get it.  But I've decided it's my turn to tell the story you don't know, all the little things that went on in that witch's castle nobody has told you.  But man, I lived it!  Do you have any idea what it's like to be a flying monkey?  Even the term gives people chills.  Hey, I know. We were the bad guys, hated by little kids and grownups alike.  Too bad you people don't know what it was like. That's where I come in.  Sit back and I'll tell you The Wizard of Oz from my perspective.

Okay, first of all that Wicked Witch of the West treated us like crap.  Some people would have considered us cute little monkey pets, but not her! Oh no, we were just her little servants, her little fetch it guys. "Fetch my broomstick! Fetch my pointed hat! Fetch my nose hair clippers!" And the stuff she fed us? Mushy brown bananas, cat food, and pretty much any crappy leftovers rotting around the castle.

So, as I said, I'd like to tell you the story of Dorothy, Toto, and the rest of her gang the way it really went down.  Please don't believe everything you've ever read about that Dorothy.  Sweet and innocent little Kansas girl, my ass!  She was a tramp.  The minute we brought her back to the castle (as commanded) she started flirting with all the guards!  Fake crying about getting back to her precious Aunty Em, boo hoo, yeah, I don't believe a word of it.  I know what she was really whispering in their ears.  Ya know, the witch really locked the chick up in a room by herself because she couldn't keep her slutty little hands to herself.

And then those three friends of hers showed up--the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.  Those guys were the ones the other monkeys and I roughed up in the haunted forest.  Now that was a blast. Imagine us monkeys beating up a lion!  King of the Jungle.  Yeah, what a wuss.  He went down so easy I'm embarrassed to tell you.  Why that little mutt Toto put up more of a fight than the lion.  Growling and biting. Man, he grabbed onto my leg and wouldn't let go.  But that Tin Man?  We sure kicked his can. And of course the big bag of straw was no challenge at all. We just ripped him apart, scattered him here and there and then flew off with Dorothy and her doggy.

Now our boss, the Wicked Bitch herself, said there'd be a reward for bringing back the tramp and her little mutt.  Yeah sure!  Some reward we got.  A kick in the rump and all the rotten bananas we could eat. But I digress. I was telling you about the three gang members showing up to rescue Dottie.  I heard them whispering to each other in one of the hallways. They were arguing over which one was going to play hide the banana with Dorothy. The Tin Man warned the Scarecrow if he tried to make out with Dorothy that'd be the last straw.  The scarecrow told the Tin Man that Dorothy wouldn't want a heavy metal, hard-nosed dude like him.  And the two of them told the Lion little Dorothy wouldn't want to be seen in the company of a big fat coward like him.  So while they were arguing, I scampered off to tell my boss, her Wickedness, that the enemy had penetrated the castle walls.  I figured that would earn me bonus points. Instead, what did she do? Gave my tail a yank and screamed at me for breaking ranks! Bitch! Ya try to do someone a favor.

So, to make a long story short, after my fabulous, but unappreciated tip, the green-faced guards (who seriously needed facials and about a year's supply of acne scrub) surrounded the enemies on all sides.  Our wicked leader came forth and greeted (read that threatened) the intruders. Now, here I want to tell you what really happened. Yeah, yeah, I know you'll say I'm making this up. I assure you, I am not. Just as the Scarecrow's arm was burning due to that wicked witch, I spotted a bucket of water up on a shelf. I have magnificent vision if I do say so myself. So I jumped up into the air, grabbed that bucket and tossed it in the direction of the Scarecrow's burning arm. But folks, putting out that fire was really just gravy. Ya see, I was really aiming for my boss, The Wicked Witch. How I wanted her to die! Years of cruelty and injustice will make a monkey turn wicked, will make him do anything. And it worked! That water splashed all over her body and she melted into nothing but the crappy black outfit she never changed out of for all the years I'd known her.

So, there you have it, that's what really happened. I, Monty the Monkey, am the true hero of The Wizard of Oz. Don't believe any other version 'cause I'm telling you what really went down. After the melting of our evil leader, my fellow flying monkeys and the ugly green guards bowed down to me. They said, "All hail, Monty.  The Wicked Witch is dead!"

And now that I was no longer forced to hunt down and destroy the witch's enemies, I showed the world the compassion that lived in me by sparing Dorothy and her gang members. Handing the girl the witch's broomstick, I told her to go taking a flying you know what back to Kansas. She and her buddies scampered out of there like a bunch of scared and twitchy little squirrels.

As for me, I was crowned Monty, the Magnificent, King of the Castle.  No one would ever again make a flying monkey out of me!


Monday, August 3, 2009

Then and Now...My Kids in Pictures



I used to take a lot of photographs of my kids when they were little.  Believe me, I did.  My kids were always such fascinating subjects, in my estimation, that almost anything they did was picture-worthy.  Unlike my husband, I felt tub pictures were off-limits.  No naked kiddos.  My father snapped the occasional naked baby on a bearskin rug photo when I was growing up, but not I.

However, I did take pictures of the kids eating their meals (and wearing a shirt full or face full of applesauce, beets, prunes, etc.), playing in a playpen, smiling back at me in their cribs, toddling around in the snow, and all dressed up for special occasions like Easter and Christmas.

I'm so glad I grabbed the camera each time to document all these milestones and once in a lifetime moments.  I've always said if my house was on fire and I could only grab one thing to take with me (besides people) it would be my big box of photographs.  I can buy just about anything to replace that which is lost, but not pictures.

So recently, realizing there was a lack of images of my grown-up children, I gathered them together in the back yard and snapped a bunch of pictures.  I must say this was some huge feat for rarely are the three of them at home at the same time these days.

And I got a little misty-eyed thinking of that.  My kids have grown up so fast and I have been forgetting to document these changes as if somehow they will stay just the way they are, as if it doesn't matter now that they're no longer running round with pigtails or droopy diapers.  Maybe I've been afraid to show these changes because that would force me to reckon with the changes in me.

Life is a scrapbook of memories, and photographs are the proof of time moving forward.  We can't stop time.  As Joni Mitchell said, "We can't return we can only look behind from where we came."


Friday, July 31, 2009

The Windmill of My Mind


I snapped this picture of a windmill one day while driving around Newport.  I've always found windmills interesting and kind of poetic.

Evidently, others do too.  Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote the lyrics to Windmills of Your Mind.  Some of those lyrics are:  "Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel, never ending or beginning, on an ever-spinning reel, as the images unwind like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind."

I think writing is a lot like that.  Sometimes I feel like I'm going 'round and 'round, never really getting anywhere.  Writers need to see change and feel a sense of accomplishment and growth. Like those characters in our stories, if there is no growth along the way, our writing will suffer.

I need to stop being a windmill and be more like a rocket.  I want to blast off into the solar system and get somewhere as fast as possible.

But as most of us know, the writing life just isn't like that.

The wheels are turning slowly.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Secret Room


A bare room.  Starting over.  What is the essence of a room without color, carpeting, curtains, and the furniture and possessions that make it personal, make it come alive to the person who dwells within it?

It's like the artist's blank canvas, staring back at her beckoning and begging to come alive.  Which colors will she select?  Which strokes of her brush are the right ones? Which tones will convey the right blend of warmth, creativity and coziness?

Our lives are similar to this empty room, blank canvas.  Sometimes we think the "furniture" can't be rearranged, can't be moved, or we're afraid to lift up a "carpet", fearing what lies beneath.

I used to have this recurring dream where I was back in my former apartment, living on the third floor which contained four rooms.  Only in this dream, I'm walking through the apartment and I discover a fifth room!  A new room, a different room, a room I've never seen before.  I get all excited when I find it, wondering how it came to be and why I'd never known it was there. So what does it mean?

I think the dream is about possibilities.  There is something there waiting to be discovered in our lives, but it's invisible until we're ready to see it.  It's like a secret room, waiting to be furnished in whatever style or fashion we choose.

I know there are some things I still want to do.  It's time to take my paint brush and get busy painting!