Sunday, January 31, 2016

\fȯr-ˈtēn

Dear Zoe and Talia,

Over the past several weeks, I've been working on a blog post that I hope to submit to The Huffington Post. The piece revolves around you (this isn't it) so my brain has been working overtime thinking of you wee beasts. And then, I realized that your birthday was approaching, and that fact, of course, threw you both front and center in my mind. (Not that you aren't always front and center, but sometimes, I do think about other facets of my life!)

Each time I stopped to think about you both, I felt paralyzed by the fact that you would be turning 14 years old. FOURTEEN! Or as Daddy would like to say, 2x7, 3+3+4+2+2, 17-3, or even that it is the base of the tetradecimal notation. I should also add, since you've been using the periodic table of elements this past year, that the atomic number of silicon is 14 and it's the approximate atomic weight of nitrogen. Fourteen is also a number that seems too little and yet too big all at the same time. I remember distinctly being told that two babies inhabited my body, and then someone pushed the fast forward button on my life and here we are, talking about Hetalia and writing, swapping inappropriate jokes at the dinner table, and swooning over Matt Bomer. (We can't forget about him.)

There. I thought you might like to just sit and look at him for a minute. Go ahead. (It's from IMDb.)
In fact, give the clock a minute and we might be standing at your college graduation. I kid you not. What I wonder, though, is why the fluidity of time strikes me as new every year. Why does it hit me square in the face every January, as if I didn't know how quickly time passes (or at least seems to)? Somehow, I think my conscious mind tries to forget that fact in an attempt to slow down time so I can savor the moments with you. My attempts are all in vain, I know.

In an effort to get to my point before your 15th birthdays, let me try to be quite frank about what's percolating in my head. I've been doing a lot of thinking about you and how you're growing up. (Of course you do, you say! We're getting older, Mom. What the heck? In fact, I can see your eyes rolling right now.) But I've been thinking about your growth and maturation in two ways.

The first way is completely physical. Growth partly entails moving from embryo to fetus to infant, toddler, adolescent, young adult, and adult. You gain length and width and increase in size quite a bit, which is relatively easy to do if you're healthy (and thank goodness you always have been). But the second way to grow and mature is not physical but happens as you physically grow. (How's that for convoluted?) As you grow, and as your brain grows, you not only increase in size, but you gather information and experiences. You make memories. You learn lessons. You gain wisdom. Some of the memories and experiences you toss out, like a wilted flower among fresh buds, and others you store for later. But each of those experiences influences you and helps you make future decisions. As a parent, right now, I want you to make the best decisions you can. In fact, let's be honest. I want you to make the decision I would make. But I can't expect you to do that because you've only had 14 years of experience whereas I've had 42 years. How fair is it to expect a decision based on a learning experience that might not have happened yet? It's not fair at all, is it?

So here's what I'm trying to do for you in this new year of yours (besides love you as much as I already do and maybe even more so). I'm trying to think of you in the moment. I'm trying to see you as you are right now. I'm trying to let you be who you are without all the micromanaging I'm inclined to do. I'm trying to let you learn your own lessons, fight your own battles, and plan your own agendas. I'm trying to back off a little, not because I don't love you, but because I want to celebrate you. Each of you. Talia. Zoe. Not even Talia and Zoe, but then again, yes to the and of course. I'm going to concentrate on allowing you to learn your own lessons, take your own experiences, and watch you as you shape your own future.

I have to admit, this year will be difficult for me. Each year brings you further and further away from needing me as much. And even though I relish your independence, I know I'll miss doing everything for you and being so very involved in your lives. But my heart sings when I think of what you two are each going to become. So in the end (just like always), I can't wait to see where this new year takes you.

Happy Birthday Zoe! Happy Birthday Talia!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Best in Show

Aaron's a great artist. Last year, he had a piece in the local art show, and this year, he has another piece headed to the same show as well. Wait a minute, you say. Who is this lady bragging about her child? Well, I'm not bragging, per se, I'm just trying to help you recognize the complexities of Little Red.

For I came home the other night to find this lovely piece of art sitting on my counter (this is not the piece that will be at the show, I should add):


What is it you ask? Does anyone want to hazard any guesses? (Get your mind out of the gutter at least partially, FRN.) It's a tampon ghost, of course.

I guess I'm quite proud that my 11-year-old son is comfortable holding a tampon. On the other hand... well, I'm not sure there is another hand.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Into The Pensieve, II

Mom used to be a reader—a voracious one. Stack upon stack of books littered our house. Even now, the family room is lined with books, many of which are from my childhood, others that have come in since I left the family home. Mom wasn't partial to one genre in particular, either, so the books that exist in the home now are as varied as they used to be. I remember looking at all the books—from encyclopedias to classic fiction to her beloved Ayn Rand and the Childcraft series. Many of those books, she'd take off the shelf and read a little piece to us.

One book had the classic poem, "The Highwayman." I remember Mom reading the poem aloud, her voice long and low, her eyes bright. And after she was done, I'd take the book from her hands and stare at the pictures. I think the green cast of the woman's skin both entranced and horrified me such that I remember spending many moments with the accompanying illustrations.

The entire poem is illustrated and can be found on Pinterest.
I can't tell you why, but the other day, this poem, and this particular image (shown above), popped into my brain. The memory of the poem and those moments with Mom made me smile. In case you've never had the pleasure of reading the poem, I included it here for you.

The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes

PART ONE

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.   
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.   
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   
And the highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,   
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.   
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.   
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.   
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,   
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,   
Then look for me by moonlight,
         Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;   
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
         (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

PART TWO

He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;   
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,   
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,   
A red-coat troop came marching—
         Marching—marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.   
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!   
There was death at every window;
         And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
         Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!   
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.   
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.   
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;   
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
         Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;   
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!   
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,   
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
         Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood   
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!   
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear   
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
         Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

And still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
         Riding—riding
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

#TBT, Part Trois

It's been a long week and I've been thinking of a certain set of twins who will turn 14 (!) at the end of this month. And because of that momentous occasion, I just had to include a picture I've been looking at lately.


Who is up for a game of which kid is which? (If you know their personalities, you'll be able to figure it out easily!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Confidential in Phoenix

It's sometimes difficult being the person to whom everyone confides. It's not that I don't want to listen to friends and family. It's more a matter of being inundated with feeling because once someone opens up to me, then I know too much.

One day late in 2015, as I drove home from work, Sara Bareilles' song "She Used to be Mine" came on the radio. Earlier that week, I'd had a conversation with a person I've known for a while. The conversation ran the gamut: from kids to spouses to jobs to fears to hopes and dreams. But as much good as came out of that conversation, I hung up feeling quite raw and exposed, without truly understanding why. In the car that day, as I sat and listened to Bareilles' lyrics, I understood.

I don't know if you've seen the movie Waitress or not. I enjoyed it, but it's been some time since it came out (2007, I think). Bareilles wrote "She Used to Be Mine" for the musical that comes out in April of this year. I've interspersed my thoughts that day with her lyrics, but my thoughts can't do justice to what Bareilles' has written. I've included a video at the end, so you can hear the actual song, in all its glory. Believe me when I say that you should listen to it.

It's not simple to say
That most days I don't recognize me

I remember the first time you posed such a comment to me,
in the midst of a hilarious phone conversation,
when all of a sudden,
what you had to say shifted.
Your words stuttered, stumbled, and stopped.
I remember then, how much I wanted to pull on the hand I couldn't see
to bring you back
into the present, to me.
Because, I didn't recognize you, either.
And that thought disheartened me.

That these shoes and this apron
That place and it's patrons
Have taken more than I gave them


Shoes and an apron to some,
scrubs and Crocs to others,
sandals and skirts to a third.
It doesn't matter
what or where or who,
sometimes all of us
(especially you, always you),
are taken in by other people,
and spit out by those same folks,
so that in the end,
everyone took more from you than was rightfully theirs.
Each day, in fact, a piece of you left,
looking longingly over your shoulder,
leaving nothing but a withering soul.

It's not easy to know
I'm not anything like I used to be
Although it's true
I was never attention's sweet center
I still remember that girl


You're not who you used to be,
that's true.
And I remember that girl, too,
from years ago.
The happy-go-lucky young lass,
who ran through the fields
with flowers in  her hair
and hope in her eyes.
Long-limbed and fluid,
never the center but always there,
always present.
I want her back.
I want to know where she went, and why she's hiding,
and I want to know
what made her leave in the first place.

She's imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won't ask for help


Imperfection,
a trait we all know well,
but it has nothing to do with where you went.
You and I both know we're all
perfectly imperfect.
Comparing yourself to someone else does nothing,
concentrating on who you are,
who you want to be,
bathing yourself in love,
mostly self love, is the key.
And maybe it's time to remember
to ask for help.
Why not? I said to you.
Being broken doesn't mean we can't be fixed.

She is messy but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine


I argued with you that day,
so many words at the ready,
I envisioned you with a tear or two on your face,
painted between bright red splotches,
so lonely, so closed in.
Salty tears slipped down my own face, too
when I realized just how long you've been gone.
You used to be mine, I whispered.
And I have to ask you now, to query, to find out the answer if I can.
Where did you go and when will you be back?

It's not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person
And makes you believe it's all true
And now I've got you

Back doors can be tricky,
you said, so dicey.
I chuckled through the tears
that I blinked back and swallowed,
as if I feared that you could see the drops spill from my eyes
even though you were on the other end of a phone line.
But I believe that carvings
are not permanent
that you can change if you want to;
that you can go back to at least a little of what once was.
Bring the life that slipped in behind you,
through that backdoor, and learn from it.
Go find yourself and
carve yourself anew.

And you're not what I asked for
If I'm honest I know I would give it all back
For a chance to start over
And rewrite an ending or two
For the girl that I knew

And isn't that the beauty of life?
even when we think it's over,
it's not.
We're given things we never dreamed or imagined,
things we didn't ask for nor that we ever wanted, but
As long as the flame still flickers,
it can grow stronger, taller, hotter,
and it can be the new lens through which we view ourselves.
Rewrite that ending, I said.
And if that ending doesn't suffice,
try another one.
I'll help you.

Who'll be reckless just enough
Who'll get hurt but
Who learns how to toughen up when she's bruised
And gets used by a man who can't love
And then she'll get stuck and be scared
Of the life that's inside her
Growing stronger each day
'Til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little
To bring back the fire in her eyes
That's been gone but it used to be mine

But what about my family? You asked me
and I wish I could have held you tight
within my arms that ached for you.
For thinking of yourself is maybe a little reckless,
but not much.
That flickering flame, still growing,
garners strength and reminds you,
once again,
to live.
I've seen you fight, dear one,
and it's a sight to behold.
I cannot wait to see it when it happens again.
Because when it does,
you will be mine again.

Used to be mine
She is messy but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine  



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Kitty Cuteness, XVI

Many of you probably know that Lucy has been with us since July 1999. Yes, that's a long time. For those of you who don't like math, that birth date means he will turn 17 this year. (Yowzers!) He doesn't do much these days besides sit on the recliner, an action that reminds me very much of my grandfather. Hmmm.

Anyway, I thought this episode of kitty cuteness could be dedicated to the oldest four-legged mammal in the house.

He happens to be looking at Melina in this picture...

She didn't hold his attention long.

He's trying to use a Jedi mind trick to get me to leave him alone.

Really? He says. Why isn't she leaving?

And if that's not proof that he doesn't do much, here's a little video to enjoy (I should mention there's nothing to hear on this. Melina was whispering something for a bit, but those words are not necessary for the video):


Monday, January 25, 2016

Lyric Lover, V

Today's installment of Lyric Lover doesn't provide an entire set of lyrics for any particular song. Because here's what I find: that many of Taylor Swift's lyrics are stories, and that one could, if one wanted, go in a different direction than she does, if one chooses to use her lyrics as writing prompts.

So who is up for a little bit of on-the-fly writing? (S. B. House tends to post prompts on Mondays, and since I follow her so much, I thought these would be appropriate today.)

Note: due to copyright issues, I cannot print lyrics here. But I'll post the links to videos and a few words for you to focus on with each video



screaming color
(Out of the Woods)



Burning red
(Red)


light up this whole town
(You Belong with Me)


one-hand feel 
(Our Song)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Days Off

I took a day off yesterday--an FRN-approved day off. However, I didn't think to consider LRN's feelings. I should have. I was wrong. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry...


However, I feel rejuvenated by the break. Somehow, one little day of not posting has given me the courage to not post more often. I've broken the posting cycle! I've freed myself! (You laugh, but really, there's something to the words I speak. It's called OCD.)

But I want LRN and all you other very loyal and faithful readers to know that I appreciate your friendship, so very much.

You are these people. Thank you.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Time?


This photo can be found all over the internet (I copied it from this place), but what I find interesting is that the words, while thoughtful, probably aren't those of Buddha. Yes, a fingernail's worth of digging found an article on where and how these words came to be. They are, in effect, an interpretation of Buddha's teaching. No matter, because these words make me think about many things in my life. And as I like to say, anything that makes me think is worth posting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Getting the Job Done

If there's one thing I can say about FRN, it's that she is persistent. And great about guilting (is that a word?) me into posting. Again, I had plans to skip a day of blog posting. I've been editing other people's writing, submitting my own pieces, and actually spending some time on my teaching. (The heart dissection went well yesterday, thank you.) And as I said, the cats are getting bigger, so I don't have as many pictures to post of those creatures to close the gap that not-writing would cause. The kids are also getting bigger, so I don't have as many cute pictures or anecdotes to share about them, either.

But sometimes, the kids still surprise me in ways that I should anticipate, but don't. Take yesterday, for example...

The school district had a two-hour delay due to the below zero wind chills. I, however, did not. I woke Tim up, asked if he could stay to take the older two children over to the their school and then be back to get the younger two on the bus. He agreed to take on the task and go into work late.

But I've lived with Tim long enough to know that even if he has the best intentions, even if he thinks he's going to get up on time, he doesn't always do so. Therefore, I wasn't entirely convinced that he'd wake up in time to help the kids get breakfast and their school items together. So, I wrote a little note about the lunches--what still needed to be put together and such--and I told Aaron and Melina where the note was. I went on to explain that the waffles were on the counter, fruit was (of course) in the fridge. I covered my butt, you could say. Even if Tim ended up waking up late, Aaron and Melina would know what to do and the four kids and Tim could get it all done.

A little before 8 a.m., I called to check in and to make sure that Tim was, indeed, vertical. Sweet Melina picked up the phone.
Melina: HELLOOOO? [Those caps are accurate, by the way.]
Me: Hi Sweetpea. How are you?
Melina: Good. Do you know where my water bottle is?
Me: It should be in the drawer where the popcorn bowl is. Do you know what drawer I mean?
Melina: I think so. Oh yes, there it is. I think I can fill it...
Me: Wait, wait, what are you doing?
Melina: I almost have my lunch done.
Me: What?
Melina: And did you toast the waffles?
Me: No, I only made them. You guys will have to toast them.
Melina: [Small voice.] Okay, I guess I can toast them.
Me: Wait! You have your lunch put together? And you want to toast your waffles?
Melina: Yes.
It dawned on me right then, that Melina had taken it upon herself to finish her lunch packing and make her own breakfast.
Me: Sweetie, I appreciate that you want to take care of everything, but that's not entirely your job. Is Daddy there?
Melina: Yes, hold on. [Yells to Tim.] DADDY? I NEED YOU! [Back to me.] All the goody bags, Mommy. Can I have all the goody bags?
Me: Yes, all the goody bags. I love you.
Melina. Okay. I love you, too. Bye-bye.
Tim: Hey.
Me: Hi. You realize Melina has put together her lunch and she's starting on breakfast?
Tim: Oh.
Me: Yes. I don't mind her doing some of it, but really, at this age...
I didn't say it to Tim (because he knew where I was going), but at this age, the other kids would have still been in their pajamas. Aaron is 11 years old and my guess is, he was sitting in the study reading a book--not getting his lunch ready. He probably hadn't looked at the list I left since I actually left the house, and Zoe and Talia might still have been in bed. Had I not stopped Melina, she would have most likely gone on to make Aaron's lunch, as well as Zoe's and Talia's lunches. Because when Melina sees something that needs to be done, she does it.

And that's where we find the very thin line between doing something because it needs to be done and doing something because no one else will.

I don't mind her performing a task for the former reason, but the latter reason? That can't happen here in this house. 

(That's what you get for guilting me into posting, FRN: a story you've already heard.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Kitty Cuteness, XV

Kitties turn into cats. People around here don't take as many pictures of cats as they do kitties. But I needed to have a Kitty Cuteness Day. I just needed it.

And so here we are...

Benedict is on the right. He's going to be 1 year old very soon. Lucy is on the left; he turns 17 in July!

How did Arnold get on my back? He flung himself at me, clawed his way up my back, and decided to stay a while.
 
Benedict really doesn't want to be photographed...

He'd rather hang out here.
 Now, it's on to a full day of teaching, heart dissection (YES!), and writing. Happy Tuesday to you!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Try, Try Again

A person I've known for a long time has always said, "Trying is a noisy way of doing nothing." I've never agreed with that decree. It's not so easy to disprove when you're ten years old, but as an adult, I have looked around my home life, my work life, my friend life, and especially my writing life, and I see people putting forth herculean efforts. Doesn't that spirit of constantly attempting to bring a task to fruition constitute the word trying?

Sure enough, the simple definition of try over at Merriam Webster states:
  • to make an effort to do something : to attempt to accomplish or complete something
  • to do or use (something) in order to see if it works or will be successful
  • to do or use (something) in order to find out if you like it
Let's concentrate on that second bullet point for a minute, shall we? (Yes, that means go back and read it, please.) That second point implies that the outcome of our attempts is never guaranteed to be successful. We try to do something so we can "see if it works" or to see if it "will be successful." We actually have no way of knowing whether or not what we try to do will end up the way we want it to, or whether we'll encounter unknown obstacles along the way that impede, and sometimes, devastate us. And yet, we keep trying.

I don't know about you, but I don't see nothing in trying at all. What I see is bravery.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Saturday Muffins

The kids wanted bagels, so bagels, they would get...

I stood in front of the case that held the bagels, donuts, and muffins. My hand reached in to grab the plain and sesame bagels that sat there, lined up like tires behind the plastic door. Covered in tissue, my fingers grazed the side of a muffin as I picked up the last of the dozen bagels I planned on purchasing.

The muffin, green as the spring grass, called to me, so I squinted to look at the name: Pistachio Muffin. Well that explained the green.

I took the muffin home, set it on the counter, and realized, just how green the muffin was. No way on God's green earth this green came from natural sources.

I felt the urge to cut it open...


Despite the color, I also felt the urge to eat it...

I'm not sure how many chemicals would have constituted the list of ingredients, but I can tell you this: of the three people in our household who tried this muffin, all of them found it tasty. But I have to say that I wouldn't mind if the baker decided to lay low on the artificial coloring.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Into the Pensieve, I

Picnics are fun, she thought
as she threw on a shirt and pair of shorts.
She'd have to come back up to brush her teeth and hair,
but she couldn't wait to get downstairs, eat some breakfast, and get ready for the picnic.
The whole family planned to go--
a small trip to the lake 30 minutes away.
They didn't go often and of course,
Mom and Dad had promised.
A picnic.


But at the kitchen table
she saw the forlorn look
of her usually effervescent sister.
Head in hands,
scowl pasted on.
It's raining, her sister said,
and pointed out the window.


The image of her day smashed into a thousand pieces
and hung in the air,
bits so concrete she thought she'd be able to hold them in her hand.
She wanted to brush them away,
tell them to come again another day.
But then, Mom appeared with a picnic basket
and Dad pulled out a blanket.
They set the floor like they would a table.
The sun never arrived that day,
and somehow, it didn't matter.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thoughts to Get Me Started

The New Year card they sent spoke of nothing but merriment and bright tidings. I looked at the rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes of the children in the picture: identical twins holding onto the leashes of identical puppies. I wondered how she could send this card to me. Didn't she know that I knew? That I'd heard about everything that had happened in the past year? That I was privy to information that only a select few were? What was she trying to pull?

***

He leaned back in his chair and gazed at the woman in front of him. Lines traversed her face and hollows gathered in her cheeks. Fine wisps of gray-brown hair pulled away from the messy ponytail she kept at the back of her head. Her hands worked to scrub the coffee stain out of the floor and an image of his mother floated into his mind. His mother on her hands and knees as she mercilessly attacked the round, red blood that had seeped into the tile. The whispers. The shouts. The shackles that gripped his wrists.

***

It all came down to the last three seconds of the game, and there she stood, with the ball in her clammy hands and three defenders coming toward her.

***

Nothing could have prepared the young man for the sight he encountered the moment he opened the door of the cab. (Thanks to S.B., I've been thinking about cabs lately.)

***

The rain falling on the sidewalk sneaked into her house and grabbed her by the shoulders. She tried to push the droplets away, but couldn't. Next came the clouds, which threaded themselves through her arms and legs, trapping her. She fell to the floor, waiting for the sun to come rescue her, but realized, at the same time, that she needed to find the strength to rescue herself.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What'll It Be?

I prepared my coffee, opened up my lap top, and sat down to write. Well, I wasn't going to write, I was going to revise. But as I sat and looked at the words on the page, they--I kid you not--looked like they were dancing. I watched as the e floated by and the i leaped over the m and the n.They didn't feel like stopping, no matter what I did or what page I was on. And in that single moment--I have a lot of single moments where I realize sooo much--I knew what the problem was. I didn't want to revise yet. I wanted to write.

(Much to my children's dismay, I did not make this image. But you can find it just about anywhere online.)
So The Chocolate Garden is on the back burner for a bit. I need to step away and let the story simmer a bit more, I think. Fill in the plot holes in my head but not on paper yet. And my plan? I always have one of those, you know. My plan is to take After We've Fallen chapter by chapter, tweak each word if I have to, polish it until it shines...

And then? And then?

I might query it a little more and consider...(insert drum roll, please) self publishing.

And then again, I might not. It's still early in the year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Feeling the Guilt

I had no plans to post today...too much to do and too little time in which to get it all accomplished. Then, I received this:


And so, thanks to that good old Catholic (or not) guilt, I'm now saying hello to FRN. Like I just couldn't have texted or called her.


Happy now, FRN?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Into the Pensieve (An Explanation)

A goal of mine for the new year is to write more loving, kind memories of those who surround me. I haven't yet attempted a post like that this year (it is, after all, less than two weeks in), but I thought I'd introduce the title of this new series. I've decided to call it Into the Pensieve.

All the Harry Potter fans will know exactly what I'm talking about with the word, pensieve. But if you haven't read the books or seen the movies, I might have to help you out a bit.

According to the Language Realm, a pensieve "is a magical repository for memories" that first appears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We see it again later, in other books, and realize what an important tool it can be. (I don't want to spoil how it is used.)

But what is it? In most technical terms, the pensieve "is a stone bowl with runes on it, filled with a silvery white gaseous liquid (or viscous gas). The user extracts a memory from himself or someone else with a wand, then drops it in the pensieve for later retrieval. Dumbledore explains that it helps keep his mind from becoming too crowded with old memories, and to experience a particular memory again when needed."

More like this found here.

Why is a pensieve so special? Because not only can a person walk down a lane in their own memory, but as we find out in the books (or the movie), a person can also walk down a lane in the memory of someone else. And that, my friends, is just so brilliant. (And a very imaginative way for an author to get across information that needs to be told.)

You're only one person, you say. And you can't really get into another person's memory. You're right, readers, but this is a blog and sometimes I embellish. Sometimes, even, I craft fictional stories. So it just might be a great exercise in writing to take a memory of my own but try to tell it from another person's point of view. We'll have to see what happens.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Saturday, January 9, 2016

FYI

Filed under the things you didn't need to know but I'll tell you anyway file:

I had my yearly mammogram the other day. Apparently, I don't have much of a rack, as evidenced by my less than B cups, but what tissue I have is very dense. Not much can be done about that, but it means that the mammogram technician had to work hard to get my measly breast tissue between the plates so that all tissue could be imaged.

Filed under the things you might need to know so I'll tell you file:

Not sure what constitutes dense breast tissue? Let me remind you that breasts are composed mostly of glandular tissue (lobules and ducts that produce and carry milk, respectively), fatty tissue, and connective tissue. If glandular and connective tissue make up the majority of the breast, that breast is categorized as dense. The denser the breast, the greater risk for cancer (slightly higher risk, most sites claim, and I'm not going to look up the statistics to prove it) and the more difficult it is for the radiologist to see cancer on the mammogram. So they want to get good pictures. Hence, the technician having to work extra hard in my case.

And just for kicks, I'm going to include a very good picture of the different types of breasts. (I have plans to get my hands on my own pictures, but I'll have to contact medical records first). I found these pictures at this site.


And now you know.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Consumer Reports

Dear Old Navy,

I remember the first time I heard of you. I think it was back in 1995 when I met my friend, Jess. She always dressed nice, casual yet not messy, and I asked her where she found her clothes. "Lot's of different places," she said. "But I do like Old Navy. They're relatively new and they might not have a store here yet."

Up until that time, I had no idea you existed (of course not, as you had only been established one year earlier). And since that time, I've found a few items of yours that I love: a pair of pants here, a sweater there, and that fleece of mine that some of my readers detest. Usually, I find your items at Goodwill or online because I'm not a big fan of shopping at all and anything I can do from the comfort of my own home, well, sign me up.

However, the other day I decided that I just needed to go shopping for pants. The act of shopping wasn't a time waster. It's winter and I'm teaching more this year. I could honestly use a few more pairs of work- and weather- appropriate pants. And since I had the time, I hopped in the car and drove to your nearest store.

Oh, Old Navy, I'm sorry I went--I could have used that time far more wisely. For you see, my experience wasn't bad, per se. It just wasn't memorable in a good way. (Not that shopping needs to be full of fanfare and bling, but you'll see what I mean in a moment.) For the sake of clarity (and I'm a big one for that concept) let's see how the trip went.

Having arrived early (just after opening), I anticipated a relatively quiet store. I also found a relatively quiet store. In fact, when I walked in, not a single employee greeted me. I actually looked around at the place, trying to pinpoint if an employee existed. Had the store actually opened? Did anyone know I was here? Usually when I arrive at a clothing store I'm assaulted by a plethora of staff, hoping to help me find the exact item I need. Not so that day. I meandered farther into the store, toward some women's pants, and realized that the only sound to be heard was the radio that gently flowed from the overhead speakers.

Well okay then. I wasn't there to meet people anyway, I was there for pants. As I edged over to the pants section, and looked at a pair of Pixie pants, I spied one employee sweeping up dust; she didn't even look up as I passed  her. And as I checked out another pair of pants--jeans this time--I managed to see the young woman who staffed the checkout station, too. She was busy doing something on her computer. Apparently I wasn't much of a threat to them, nor was I worthy of a little shout-out or salutation.

Well that's okay, I thought. I'm a somewhat quiet and independent girl. I can go shopping by myself, right? Yes, of course, but I wasn't finding what I wanted in the women's section, so I wandered into the girls part of the store. Sometimes, I can fit into the larger sizes over there. But in trying to access the shelf that held some khakis I was interested in, I almost fell over shoes that were thrown across the floor. Across the middle of the floor. Where clearly, customers could trip over them. I stared at the shoes, which sat along side a pile of leggings. I wanted to ask them what they were doing on the floor, but I knew they couldn't answer me. So I didn't.

It took some effort, but I reached the shelf of khakis, and then cringed. Pants were tossed every which way on the shelves, spilling onto the floor. Some pairs looked as though they'd taken flying leaps off the top shelf, making me wonder. What was wrong with these pants? And what was wrong with the people who worked in this store? Did they not care about chaotic displays such as this? Were they not worried about someone tripping over the items left in the middle of the floor and then suing them for medical damages? I left the girls' section with a pair of pants, but my level of confidence hung at an all-time low.

I won't go into any more details. Just know that I wandered the store for a few minutes more, selecting several pairs of pants that I thought might fit. And that's where I became even more frustrated with you, Old Navy. Your sizes cannot possibly be the same they were a few years ago. Your shirts and sweaters are huge and your pants...well...the sizing isn't consistent. That fact alone bothered me more than it should have until I let it go. (Cue the music!) Of course, none of the pants fit, so I put them all back where I found them--nicely folded, I might add--and decided to leave the store with nothing more than I came in with.

On the way out, I saw a person who looked like a manager speaking to an employee. They stood to the left of the door. They glanced up at me as I passed out the door. They said nothing.

There you have it. The whole sordid story. I had effectively been in the store for about 25 minutes and not a single person said a word to me. That's weird, based on how many people usually just feel the need to speak to me and share their life stories. But that's not the problem I have with my morning. I can always find someone to speak with. Here's my problem: You are a store. You sell clothes and accessories to people like me. I would think that welcoming shoppers into your arms and seeing if they need help would be top priority. Furthermore, even if you don't find it important to greet your guests, I would also think it would be very important to keep your shelves tidy and those floors clear. Make the customer want to come back even when they don't find what they want the first time.

I gotta tell you, Old Navy, I'm not coming back. You might not care, but if enough people start feeling the same way, the people at the top--and the shareholders--just might.

Sincerely,

Christina

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Reprimanded by a Computer

The other day, when trying to print a file, this happened:


It's a little difficult to read the small printing, but the window says, "Previously, the power cord may have been unplugged while the printer was still on. When turning off the printer, follow the correct procedure."

Bam!

Well the computer told me, didn't it? To be fair, the cord had been unplugged--inadvertently. Normally I do follow the correct procedure.



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tell Me How You Really Feel: 24

I find myself whispering as I lay in the darkness of my bedroom, "It's not about the grade...it's not about the grade." And it's not, really. In essence I should not be worried about my child's grade on a middle school semester exam. It's not my grade and I know--as an adult--that learning is more important than what grade shows up on a piece of paper 1/4 of the way through someone's life. No one is going to say to my child down the road, That middle school grade is what did you in. Had it not been for that, you'd have become a brain surgeon, or singer-songwriter, or a lawyer, or a veterinarian. Had you just done better on that math exam...

That's just not going to happen.

But what I fear is that the dismal grade on the math exam is a product of not studying, of being lazy--not the result of not understanding the material. I think she had the chance over the last two quarters to put the information into her head and she simply chose not to.

I know how these things go. There are stories to write and YouTube videos to watch. Wii to play and food to eat. And sleep. Hell yes, she'd rather sleep than study functions. I get it, because I, too, was once an almost 14-year-old girl. The difference? I had fewer distractions.

I can't blame the distractions though--I'm not that sort of person. At almost 14, she needs to be accountable for her actions, right? She needs to say to herself, I did not prepare for this exam and look where it left me. With a D on the paper and a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I think she needs to take this lesson and learn from it and understand that if one doesn't prepare, one might not pass. That's true in middle school, in high school, in college, and beyond. I mean, if one does not prepare their book and query letter and synopsis, one will not find a literary agent, right? (Okay, there's more to the whole process than that, but you know what I mean.)

How then, do I teach my child the lesson of hard work? She sees her parents working hard at home and at their respective jobs. I thought teaching by example would be easier than it is. But truthfully, I thought parenting would be easier than it is.

I guess nothing great in life is easy. At least one of us has learned a lesson.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Spoiler

Heard on the radio while driving to Marshall's yesterday (yes, I treated myself to a few items of clothing, none of which have pastel/rainbow colors in them):
...The Forest is the most highly anticipated movie of the season. Look for it in movie theaters near you soon. It has a great twist ending...
I had no plans to see The Forest, but now that I know a twist ending exists, I will not make plans to go see the movie. Same thing goes for books that reveal a plot twist on the dust jacket. Does no one respect the element of surprise anymore?




(If my slight complaint has caused you to consider seeing the movie, check out this site here for more information. The above pictures were taken from that site.)




Monday, January 4, 2016

Habits are Hard to Break

If you Google, How long does it take for something to become a habit?, you will find differing responses. People used to think it took about 21 days for a new action to stick (that misconception was partly due to a statement by Maxwell Maltz in the 1950s). But as of a few years ago, science supposedly stated that it takes 66 days--not 21--for something to become a habit. Which means that 300 or so days ago, blogging each and every day became a habit of mine. A habit I'm having trouble breaking.

Some would not find a blogging habit to be much of a problem. I mean, it's not that I'm out there bingeing on alcohol or recreational drugs, nor am I hurting anyone (or myself ) with such a habit. (Remember this habit? Yeah, it's still a part of me.) And truthfully, sitting down in front of my computer, if I have a moment of time, isn't all that bad. However, if I sit in front of the computer and write to you instead of revising what I've written? Well then, I'm putting off that dream of mine again. And I don't want to do that.



Where does that put me, then? If I can't say goodbye to you--and I really thought I could--then I might have to give in, write a few sentences each day, and not worry about the quality of those sentences. The less I "care" about what I've written here, the more time I'll have to revise what's sitting in my "Stories" folder on my laptop. The best of both worlds, maybe.

We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Pull of the Words

I thought about not writing today, but realized that on a day when my responsibilities are fewer, that I should take the time to put some words down somewhere. I truly believe that blogging as much as I have has made me a better writer, so why ignore the pull when I have the time?

It's good I have the time because I've been doing a lot of thinking about 2016 lately. I can't be sure what it will bring--for me, my family, my folks, or my students. I don't possess a crystal ball after all (and I wouldn't want one anyway). But over the last several days I realized that 2015 was the year that I needed to purge myself of some very negative feelings that had managed to take root and fester for years. (If you go back and look at my blog, or if you've been following my year, you know exactly what I mean.) And while I tried to be somewhat diplomatic in my writing, so as not to specifically call out certain people in particular, it was very apparent in some cases who I was writing about.

I'm okay with that. This is my blog. I get to say what I want. These are my feelings, and no one else's. And I've come to understand that writing is what gets me through the day to day lunacy that sometimes describes my life.

But this year, I'm going to try my very best to write differently. Not all the time, mind you, as I'm sure I'll need to vent at times still. I'm always up to a new challenge and so along with my writing goals of revision, when I post, I'd like to try to put a positive spin on those anecdotes. And if I cannot do that, then I at least pledge to write about some warm, positive memories I have of people in my life.

I'm looking forward to sharing those memories. I hope you're looking forward to reading them.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Even More Words for the New Year

For both 2014 and 2015, I started off the year with some words that meant something to me. The cool thing is, for both of those years, those quotes truly did hold a special meaning. In 2014 I saw several goals achieved...those that excited and inspired me. And in 2015, I added a few amazing people to the cast of characters I surround myself with (and I mean the people I can touch and people see--not the characters in my head who are also real.)

Of course, I'm a creature of habit, so I intend to keep the ball rolling with another small quote for us all to ponder.
Remember one thing only: that it’s you – nobody else – who determines your destiny and decides your fate. Nobody else can be alive for you; nor can you be alive for anybody else. ~e.e. cummings
Happy New Year and here's to much happiness to you all!