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.


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?

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.


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.