Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Fifteen (Identical Identicals)

On Sunday, Tim reminded me that as of this morning, we will have parented for a total of 50 child years. I know that sounds weird to just about everyone, but the number made me realize that with the twins' birthday today--holy cow, they are 15 (!)--that 50 is quite a number. Clearly, those years have overlapped and that 50 really means nothing. But something about it makes me feel very, very old and also makes me think I should be wiser than I am.

And of course, just the fact that here we are, at 15th birthdays for Zoe and Talia.... How did we get here and how did we get here so quickly?

This year hasn't been the easiest. Fourteen brought with it a whole host of teenage angst, the likes of which I hadn't seen for a long while. Sullen faces, refusal to do what I asked, shoddy workmanship. All of those things sprung up this year like crocuses in the spring, but let me tell you--the flowers are much lovelier! Teenagers are, in a word, ugly at times, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

But last year at this time, I made a promise to the girls. I said,
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.
Oh, I tried all right. I tried so hard to stick with that program over the last 12 months. I gave them cell phones. I stepped away from checking grades online and making sure they stayed in touch with friends. I allowed them to completely make their own lunches, hoping they chose wisely with respect to food. I clung to the belief that they'd make the right decisions at school, especially this past fall, when they entered high school as only two freshman in a vast sea of 2300 students.

Did I succeed in my plan? I'm not really sure, but I think to some degree, I have. Over this past year, despite the issues with math (let's not go there), and grades (let's not go there, either), I have watched these two come into their own a little bit at a time. Zoe and Talia do not share the same class schedule, and so when they come home from school, I get two versions of a day now, instead of just one. I think then, I celebrate "each" and not "them." They've both made new friends, another key that we're celebrating "each" and not "them." And, they've come into their own with respect to styles--both hair (Zoe's is blue) and clothing (Talia wears more black). Zoe. Talia. Not Zoe and Talia.

What I find so interesting, though, is that even with my letting go, per se, and their ability to find something about themselves that needs to stand out, the girls are still, 15 years later, so doggone the same. I haven't shared this with them yet, but a couple of weeks ago, I had these two conversations:
Talia: Mom! I think I know what I want to get Zoe for her birthday.
Me: Okay, what?
Talia: Do you know what a fidget cube is?
Me: No.
Talia: Well, it's this cube that you can press things on, you know, click them on then off.
Me: Like a pen that might drive someone bonkers?
Talia: Yes and no. I can show you, come on.
Talia showed me what a fidget cube was and I agreed that we could order one for Zoe, but that I needed to find out what Zoe wanted to get Talia before I did any ordering.

Two days later, Zoe ran into my room and flung herself on the bed. (I know you know where this is going.)
Zoe: I know what I want to get Talia.
Me: Oh? What?
Zoe: Do you know what a fidget cube is?
At this point, my face almost split in two with laughter and I made the immediate decision to lie to my daughter.
Me: No.
Zoe: Well, it's this cube that you can press things on.
Me: Oh, and we can get it on Amazon?
Zoe: Yeah.
Me: I'll look it up tomorrow and you can show me which one to buy.
I am in no way surprised that Zoe and Talia wanted to buy each other essentially the same gift. These ladies embody what I'll call identical identicals. And that gets me thinking that no matter what, no matter how much I try to love them as an individual persons, it's like there's this inertia pushing them back together, forcing me to remember that they began as one single-celled organism. And I guess I'll just have to be okay with that.

Happy Birthday, Zoe! Happy Birthday, Talia!


Monday, January 30, 2017

Lemon Meringue Pie

We decided to celebrate the girls' birthday this weekend, since Tuesday will be busy. Both girls like lemon, and Talia especially likes pie, so I hunted down a recipe for lemon meringue pie that I'd tried years back. The paper is splotched and yellowed at the edges, but the recipe turned out just fine. (For Zoe, I made one of her favorite desserts: cheesecake. I've already shared that recipe here.)

I tend not to make pie that often, and I'm not sure why, because when I do, I realize just how much I actually like pie. If you try this recipe, be sure to let me know how you like it!

Ingredients:

1 (9 inch) baked pie shell
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water

4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup lemon juice (I used fresh and bottled)
2 teaspoons lemon zest (grated lemon rind)
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, salt, and 1 1/2 cups water in a heavy saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and 1/3 cup water to make a smooth paste. Gradually whisk the cornstarch mixture into boiling sugar mixture. Boil mixture until it becomes thick and clear. Make sure to stir constantly. Remove from heat.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the lemon juice. Gradually whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot sugar mixture. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and butter. Place the mixture in the refrigerator and cool until just lukewarm.
4. In a large glass or metal bowl, combine egg whites and salt. Whip until foamy and then gradually add 1/2 cup sugar while continuing to whip. Beat until whites form stiff peaks, which could take a while. Stir about 3/4 cup of meringue into lukewarm filling and then spoon the filling into the baked pastry shell. Cover the pie with the remaining meringue.
5. Bake the pie in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, until meringue is slightly brown. Cool on a rack at for at least 1 hour before serving.


I'm thinking that a slice of pie and a cup of coffee might make for a fine breakfast this morning.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Fill-in-the-Blank, II

Thanks go out to S.B. one more time for some fun fill-ins. I let Tim do the filling in this time.

Here's what we started with...

I'd know that __________ anywhere.

This is the last time I'm going to put up with ___________.

Why is all the ___________ gone?

Second _________ to the right, and straight on till _________.

Just wait until __________ get's home.

And here's what Tim said...

I'd know that butt anywhere.

This is the last time I'm going to put up with fascists.

Why is all the salsa gone?

Second cell to the right, and straight on till the electric chair.

Just wait until Elvis get's home.


Friday, January 27, 2017

My Views, II

I haven't been silent about my opposition to Betsy DeVos' confirmation. I do not believe she's a qualified candidate for the position of Education Secretary, and many of the people I know--Republican, Democrat, and Independent--agree with that statement. So when I shared a meme I found on Facebook the other day, I wasn't making a political statement: I simply found it funny. It said, "Ms. DeVos, We're here for the IEP meeting," and it showed four brown bears lumbering down the street. (I'm sure you can find the image out there somewhere.)

If you've kept up with the senate hearings and all the hullabaloo about how DeVos' hearing went, you'll know what the meme refers to. (If not, key in "bears betsy devos" and you'll at least get half the story. Better yet, watch the senate hearing and get the whole story.)

Of course, someone commented with the following: "Ok, so what is the problem with Betsy DeVos? She supports school of choice and is a strong Christian woman.....what's the issue?"

I didn't have the time that night to respond, but I went ahead the next morning and told him why I didn't support DeVos. I cited facts and also inserted opinion. The bottom line: she's under qualified to serve in that capacity.

This person who commented is the same guy who asked me about my experiences after having posted a defense of Planned Parenthood. Since he inquired, and did so politely, I thought I'd ask him a couple of questions, and I sent him this email:
Since it looks like we can have a civilized conversation, despite our differences, I do have a question for you. Or maybe more than one. Are you completely, 100%, behind what Trump is saying/doing and behind all his cabinet picks? Mattis seems like a good choice, but some of his other choices are under qualified. And the whole wall thing--that is a very complicated issue on so many levels. But do you really think he will get Mexico to pay us back? And if that doesn't happen, do you realize we will be paying for it? I will even go one step farther. If we have to pay for it, taxes have to go up. I will be frank--we are middle class, so my four kids and husband and I will see our taxes rise, all to pay for a wall. This is my opinion, but I'd rather see my taxes used on good schools, good military, good police force, etc. I'm truly asking because I want to understand the opposing viewpoint. No rush on an answer, and if you'd rather not answer, that is fine. 
Thankfully, he responded. And while I didn't want to argue with him, I could have. At least I think so, and remember, this is my blog and my views. I put my comments in red.
Of course we can have a civilized conversation!  Anything less would be uncivilized.  I will try to address each of your questions here: 
- as for being completely behind what Trump is saying/doing. Let me be clear that I did not vote for Trump in the primary as I didn't think he was the best candidate. I will also be the first to say that he is kind of a jack ass. My only goal with my vote and my money this past election was to do everything I could possibly do to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning. 
I've heard that from a lot of folks with respect to this election. No one WANTED the candidates who were on the ballot but they felt they needed to vote one way or the other so as to save themselves from the opposing candidate. How, then, did those candidates get there in the first place? Uh, I think we need a new system.
Now that Hillary is not president, I have disengaged slightly from politics and am embarrassed to say I have not been paying a lot of attention to all the cabinet picks. 
Typical of so many Americans. The party they want is in control and they sit back and obey. Doesn't anyone want to think for themselves? The follower mentality gets to me and he clearly says he's not paying attention. I wonder why. Oh wait...
I am ok with controversial picks and people who are deemed under qualified as it is likely they will bring a new or different perspective to their office. I can't name one cabinet pick that Obama made that really made a positive difference, so replacing them with 'any of the above' can't hurt in my opinion.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Would you want an under qualified heart surgeon to step into the OR for your open heart surgery? Would you want an under qualified dentist working on your teeth?  Would you want an under qualified architect to design your home? Would Trump hire someone who wasn't qualified for one of his business ventures? My guess is no. I'm all for different perspectives and viewpoints, but somehow I just can't agree with his statement. (And truthfully, I don't think he really knows how well qualified the 'any of the above' group is. I should also state that I didn't agree with all of Obama's cabinet picks, but I didn't have doubts as to their qualifications.)
- as for the wall. I have to laugh every time someone brings up Mexico paying for it. This is an example where you can't take Trump literally. I do believe that Mexico will pay for the wall, but they are not going to write us a check. They will pay more tarrifs and taxes on goods they import from the US when Trump re-negotiates trade deals. This is what he means by Mexico paying for the wall. 
What he says here might make sense, especially since Trump has since stated the same idea, but the concept of the wall, to me, is ludicrous. And, I heard an interview on NPR with border control guards. They said, "You build a wall of 18 feet and the next day, you'll have 19-foot ladders." Yep. What a waste.
- I highly doubt your taxes are going up under a Trump administration. Have you not seen your taxes and healthcare costs skyrocket over the last 8 yrs? I sure have, and I'm in the middle class too just like you!  
Actually, yes, I've seen healthcare go up, but we all know that insurance companies themselves are partly to blame. And based what I've read about Trump's plan and this calculator, our taxes will go up. I'm all for taxes, I don't even mind increases, but in this instance, my taxes won't be going to the services I think are useful because Trump is cutting back on many of those services.
-Personally, I think everyone needs to chill out and let's just see how this plays out. If Trump doesn't deliver on his commitments or really screws something up, than he will be out in 4 yrs and we can do it all over again. I am optimistic about the future and encouraged by Trumps first few days in office. 
Even Fox News has said that Trump has flat-out lied in these first few days. And if you can be encouraged by a man who is only concerned with winning and winning big and whether or not he's the best, then sir, I'm not sure what to say to you. 
The stock market is reacting positively too which is nice. I really thought that the world was going to end when Obama was elected and it didn't; it won't end because of Trump either. Let's all take a deep breath and have a little faith in the man upstairs, after all, he is in charge and always has been.
The world might not end, but the United States as we know it might. Already, Trump is trying to block freedom of speech. Is he not concerned about that right? And what about...oh hell, never mind. I'm not going to bother.

I went back and thanked him for his time and realized that while it would take only four hours to drive to his house, a divide exists between us that we will never, ever, bridge.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Space

Space.

It was something Karen always wanted more of now that she'd managed to give birth to five children in the span of seven years.

Space at the table. Space on the counter tops. Space in her own bed, even. Just an inch or two more really, enough to keep her entire leg on the bed all night. Was that too much to ask?

And she wanted that space free and clear of anyone and anything, including her husband, Randy. His mouth always turned upside down when she said the words, "I need space." He knew when she said those words that she wanted to be free of him as well, and he couldn't understand it. "What about me isn't to like?" he said each time she asked for space.

Karen shook her head. She knew Randy didn't get it and probably never would. He didn't need space, didn't crave space like she did, like she had to have it as much as she had to have air. Or water. Or chocolate. Hell, he needed so little space, they'd ended  up with five kids. No, she knew that until the day he died, he'd need the opposite of space. What was that, anyway?


Never one to leave a question unanswered, Karen searched for the thesaurus on the shelf in the living room. She'd have preferred her iPhone, but she knew that it was in the family room, with the little guy. He'd confiscated it from her purse while she'd been on the phone with the pediatrician, and since he was occupied--and giving her the space she desired--she had no plans to take the phone away. At least not yet.

Her fingers rifled over the spines of all the books she hadn't read in so long. The Arabian Nights. Outliers. The Fault in Our Stars. Watership Down. She pulled one of the slim volumes of poetry she had there, written by someone she'd never heard of, and Karen realized that she didn't even know how that book had gotten there, in between The Dark End of the Rainbow and My One Square Inch of Alaska. She flipped open the the cover of the book, marveling at the thin paper of the first page and the quote written there: In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance. ― Jeanette Winterson, The World and Other Places: Stories

Karen took that as her cue. She tiptoed across the carpet, and peeked in at her youngest, who was still engrossed in the phone, then tiptoed back across the carpet to the kitchen. She grabbed a stool, opened the door of the pantry so it would not creak, and sat down in the small space, surrounded by canned goods, boxed pasta, and dry cereal.

It would have to do, Karen thought, before she opened the book and began to read.

(Inspired by a writing prompt about...you guessed it...Space.)



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Stress Relief

I've been relying on this a little too much lately. And that's all I'll say about that right now.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SPAMmed

I could have gone my entire life without tasting SPAM. Seriously. As in, on my death bed, "not having tried SPAM" wasn't even going to make my list. But a week or so ago, one of the girls came home with an assignment.
Zoe: Mom, I need to eat SPAM and turnips for two days.
Me: SPAM and turnips? That's it?
Zoe: Yes.
Me: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner SPAM and turnips?
Zoe: Yes.
Me: Snack SPAM and turnips
Zoe: Yes.
Me: Why?
Zoe: It's for extra credit.
Me: What the heck? Who assigns something like that?
Right? Which teacher in their right mind sends out an assignment like that? Apparently, it was for history class. Zoe went on to explain that they were covering World War I and that during that time soldiers could only eat SPAM and turnips.


Something didn't sound right there, so I turned to my phone and looked up when SPAM was invented. And when was that? 1937. Well beyond the WWI years.
Zoe: I know when World War I was, Mom. 1914 to 1918. And I know we're studying World War I, so there must be a reason. I think SPAM is similar to something they ate.*
Me: Fine. I can get the food. And how many points will this assignment be?
Zoe: The teacher didn't say, but she did say she'd make it worth it.
What does that even mean, she'd make it worth it?

After speaking with Zoe a little longer, I began to get angry about the assignment, mainly for two reasons:

  1. What is the point of making my child eat SPAM and turnips and nothing else (except for tea) for two days. What benefit does she get from it? Aside from realizing that she shouldn't take food for granted--something I can teach her at home.
  2. How can the teacher count that as a fair assignment? Not all children can go home and ask their parents--who might be living paycheck to paycheck--to spend money on food that isn't in the budget.

Of course, the fact that SPAM is completely unhealthy also made my blood boil, but Zoe was adamant. She wanted to do the assignment.


Here we are, over a week later. Zoe still doesn't know how many points she received from that asinine assignment. What she does know is that she won't eat SPAM or turnips again if she can help it.

*Soldiers during WWI ate a tinned meat, called bully beef. Reports say it was similar to corned beef and that the bread they ate eventually was made from ground turnips. Hence the food choices.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Yes, I Do

On Saturday night, we hosted two members of the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club. Tim took the older kids to the concert and then brought the young men back here, where they chatted with us, slept, and then had breakfast the next morning. By 9 a.m. on Sunday morning, they were back at the concert locale and probably on the road to Ann Arbor by noon.

Both students were freshmen, one a biochemistry major and the other undecided. I'll call them J and A, respectively, for clarity. J has possible plans to attend medical school, while A isn't sure what he wants to do, but he loves to write. I thought it funny that of all the people who could stay in my house for a night, I'd be assigned kids who shared my two passions of science and writing.

I listened to what both of them had to say about school, their families, and their plans for the future, and what stuck with me the most was A's outlook on his writing.

"I know what I'm writing now will be able to be published, so I'm having people read it and give me feedback," he said.


He doesn't know it, but I've been reflecting on that statement since Saturday evening. Here's this kid who harbors more confidence in himself than I do, despite the fact that I have more experience writing. Here's this kid who believes his story will be published. I know nothing about the topic of his book, nor do I know how well he can craft a sentence, but I do know he has the right attitude--an attitude I need to adopt.

And so from this moment on, I'll be practicing putting my confidence on. I'm going to believe in myself and convince myself that the only one stopping me is me. Do I have a good story? Yes, I do. Have I worked hard on revising the story? Yes, I have. Do I believe that it will be published? Yes, I do.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

T.H.I.N.K.

Yesterday, a post from Dana Gould came across my Facebook page:
And while I agree with what he says, I became annoyed. Because I don't like calling people names, and I do my best to not call anyone a name if I can help it. (Of course, I can't lie: behind closed doors, without little ears around, I have honestly voiced my opinion about many people.)

So I posted the following on my timeline:
I will never refer to Trump as "Cheeto-colored" because that's not the type of person I am. But I work in a very diverse place--one that hosts all sorts of opinions, all sorts of people, all races, genders, and cultures. And yesterday, I walked behind a woman who was on the phone, talking about the "happy dance" she was doing now that the Obama family was exiting the White House. She used very colorful language to describe the Obama family, words that would have hurt them had they been present, and words that I found completely offensive. 
This post reminded me of that incident yesterday, and it also reminded me that change can occur in the simplest of ways, starting with words. Think about the words you use each day; think about treating everyone with respect; think about how we--average citizens of this United States--can help bridge the divide by simply thinking about what we say and how we say it. 
T: Is it true?
H: Is it helpful?
I: Is it inspiring?
N: Is it necessary?
K: Is it kind?
All day, I thought about the lady on the phone at work and the words by Dana Gould; I couldn't shake them and I wasn't sure why. I think it's because I truly believe what I said: that we need to think about our words. Treat everyone with respect. Do our best to be kind to one another. T.H.I.N.K.

Starting small is just fine...perhaps that small start can eventually make a difference.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Other People's Words, II

Yesterday, I informed my four children that I am not against Republicans. After all, I want to raise them to make up their own mind, and to figure out what they believe in, after accessing the facts.

"I was raised by Republicans," I said. "I have voted for Republicans. While I do tend to lean toward the Democrat side of most issues, I don't have anything against Republicans, per se."

The kids looked at me and nodded.

"What I am against is a person like Trump."

But I have said before that sometimes, other people's words are better and more effective than mine. And in this case, John Pavlovitz does the job. If you haven't read his post yet, you can head on over there and do just that.

Me? I'll be sitting here, trying to figure out how to not shed a tear at noon today. So much is in the balance...


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Punctuation Woes (As in, Don't Do This if You Can Help It)

Two weekends ago, a post popped up on a Facebook group page I'm a part of. It said, "I just upload my first book on amazon." Not trying to be harsh, but the lack of correct grammar did have me hesitate. So I clicked on the link and went on over to Amazon, where I found the book and the description. It looked a little like this (but not exactly, as I don't really want you to find it):
Six young children get abducted by men.
Follow their journey.
Are they escape or not?
Yeah, more worry.

And then, I did the unthinkable. No, I didn't buy the book. I simply looked inside the book with Amazon's handy little feature. I cringed at the first sentence, which seemed amateur, at best, but then, I made my way to the dialogue.
"Do you have to do your makeup right now?," I asked. She stopped applying foundation on her face as she gave me a hatred look. "What?," I asked.
Gasp. Sputter. What?

I started to write a simple post on my Facebook timeline, something akin to: That very awkward moment where a person you don't know tells a group you're involved in that they've decided to self-publish and you go and check the book out and realize within the first three paragraphs that they have no idea how to use punctuation correctly and you wonder, "Do I tell this person or not?"

But I didn't want to call attention to myself or have people ask me what the name of the book was. I also didn't want anyone to think that I thought myself better than this person, because I do not. (I can say that I use punctuation properly and can craft sentences at a deeper level than what is shown in this book, but I will not say I am a better story writer, for I do not know if that is true. And, as we all know, writing is so stinking subjective!) Furthermore, if you're not quite sure what's wrong with the punctuation, I'll show you. The sentence should look like this: "Do you have to do your makeup right now?" I asked. (I'll ignore the incorrect use of the word hatred for now.)

So I canned the remark, and was left wondering: Do I contact this person? It is very clear to me that the author is young (I figured this out from the FB profile) and inexperienced (I figured this out from the writing). And while I have nothing against self-publishing, and may follow that road myself someday, this type of writing--the kind that never sees an editor--is the reason why self-publishing gets a bad name.

And so I asked myself: Would I want someone to tell me? The answer, of course, is yes, but the correspondence would need to be worded very carefully, so as not to cause any issues. Which means that I will not be sending any quick email to this author. My guess is that the readers, who we all know can be ruthless, will let this author know exactly what isn't so kosher with this book.

In the meantime, I'm going to head back to my most polished work-in-progress and get on some revisions, as well as check to make sure that my punctuation is practically perfect...


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Views

The other day, I posted a link on Facebook to a very informative article about Planned Parenthood and the funding it gets.

Someone I went to high school with--we were never friends, per se--commented. He said he read the article and felt sick to his stomach, which I found odd, considering the word abortion only came up once, in this sentence: "To really understand what federal funds pay for at Planned Parenthood, you first need to know that federal tax dollars don’t pay for abortions."

So what was he sick about? I'm not sure. But I didn't want a battle on my hands, so I felt that my response was pretty innocuous.

This prompted an email from said fellow. He wrote,
Christina, I apologize in advance if my questions are too personal for your comfort, but I feel compelled to ask. Have you abandoned your Catholic/Christian faith? What experience or experiences have you had that have shaped or caused you to turn away from Christ? I'm obviously making some assumptions with these questions, but seeing your posts lately has caused me to raise an eyebrow in both disbelief and curiosity.
First off, let me repeat that I went to high school with this fellow but I knew nothing of him past that until we became Facebook friends. He and I both attended a Catholic school, one that I spent all four years hating due to the hypocrisy that infiltrated the place. The first day I walked into that school, I felt ostracized, and while this isn't the forum to vent my rage, I could. I remember feeling despondent at having to wake up each morning and go to a school that touted Christian values but that instead was filled with people whose actions were anything but Christian. Four years of misery is a tough thing to get past, but I did. And while I didn't forsake my Catholic/Christian faith then, I probably could have.

Secondly, I have never and will never agree with everything the Catholic church has to say. Why? Because the rules and regulations of the Catholic church were not put there by Jesus or God or the Holy Spirit or even Moses. They were put in place by a bunch of dudes way back when. The Ten Commandments? Well, that's another thing altogether. I actually do, for the most part, try to live my life by the Ten Commandments. But here's the thing...I also believe in religious freedom and the freedom from all religions. So I can't impose my beliefs on anyone.

And that gets me to my belief that while yes, an abortion is not something I would choose to do, I cannot, under any circumstances, tell another woman that she cannot have an abortion. My body is not her body. Her body is not my body. I don't live her life and she doesn't live mine.


But that belief--a woman should have a choice whether or not to keep a pregnancy--wasn't even the point of the article. And that is why I'm annoyed at my acquaintance's remark. The point of the article was to help people understand that Planned Parenthood is there for so many reasons: namely, they provide preventative care, including testing for STDs and Pap smears. They also provide birth control and educational services, all the things a woman (and man) should have, but things that not everyone has access to unless a place like Planned Parenthood exists.

Now I'm the one making the assumptions here, but if he really read the article with an open mind, wouldn't he have understood exactly what it said? I think he and I will agree to have different views on this subject, and in the meantime, in case you're curious, this was my response to his email:
You can ask away. And right now, I am not sure this answer will be sufficient for you. I have not abandoned my faith. I still follow Jesus Christ but I truly believe that abortion is a personal choice. I would never have one, but I cannot tell a woman what she can do with her own body and I do not think that anyone else can. Furthermore, I have seen what happens when women especially do not have good access to medical care. And despite what you might think, PP and places like it use far more of their dollars for preventative care and education, which is so important for everyone to have. 
Abstinence education doesn't work. Even many of the die-hard Christians I know didn't wait to have sex until they were married. They were just lucky enough that their condom didn't break or that the woman was on the pill (and using that birth control shows they didn't subscribe to all of the "laws" of the Church in the first place). They were also lucky enough to have medical insurance. I won't make any assumptions about your family, but it seems to me that you've always had enough money and access to medical insurance such that a place like PP would never be needed. I hope it always is the case. 
While I have also been lucky enough to have medical insurance, I know many who have relied on PP for simple preventative care--men and women who will suffer greatly if this place is defunded. We have so many problems in this country, and I believe that my ability to empathize and work for the social justice issues that we see and to help out those in need is exactly what Jesus would want me to do. I suspect we differ greatly in our beliefs, and if I'm making you uncomfortable, then please, feel free to unfriend me. I will understand. I'm allowed to post my views just as much as you're allowed to post yours. I hope you have a great day and wish you and your family well.

Monday, January 16, 2017

He Had a Dream

In this divided country we live in, I think it's always a good reminder that someone, somewhere had a dream to bring us together.
I have a dream today! 
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. 
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. 
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: 
My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. 
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring! 
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
Excerpted from the speech by Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream. You can read the entire speech, along with footnotes, here. (I've also put a link to a video, but I'm not sure how long the link will be active.)



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rant

Let me say this: Someone who says that anyone can write a book is just plain wrong. Because even if you write the book, every time you open that file on your computer, you think, "What can I do to make this better?" and you're sucked into a vortex or time warp and hours pass and then, you have a new version which could be better, or maybe you actually made it worse, but you can't know for sure until readers actually read it; and even then, after you've gotten fabulous comments from friends, you must find an agent, relying on one little devil of a query letter. You wait and hope and pray and get comfortable with rejection and ask yourself, "Why in the hell am I doing this?" and the only answer you have, because you don't have a published book in hand, is that you love it, love it, love it and can't see not writing, ever. And I think if you don't love it, it's harder to go through all of that and not fold like the proverbial house of cards. So back to the computer I go...


(And thanks for listening. I feel much better now.)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Fill-in-the-Blank

I've had a ton of fun taking writing prompts from over at S.B.'s website, and just yesterday, she'd posted the following: What's in a Title?

The labels under the post read: fill-in-the blank, new titles, one line and sci-fi, probably because the titles come from sci-fi books. Here's the list of titles to fill in...

A Brief History of __________.

The ______ My Destination.

Journey to the Center of _________.

The Invisible ________.

The _______ in the High _________.

______________ Player One.

The Moon is a Harsh ___________.

War of the _______.

____________ New World.

The ____________ Guide to ___________.

I decided to ignore the sci-fi non-requirement and filled the blanks in with a word that came from my week. Because I'd heard of all of these titles save two, it was somewhat hard to fill these blanks in...I kept wanting to go back to the original title!

A Brief History of Influenza.

The Call of My Destination.

Journey to the Center of a Rolo.

The Invisible Tattoo.

The Hottie in the High-Waist Jeans.

Assassinate Player One.

The Moon is a Harsh Pool Player.

War of the Americas.

Lit New World.

The Harlot's Guide to Anatomy.

I'd be curious to know what your answers would be to these titles. If you feel like sharing, please leave a comment! (And maybe, I'll get around to using these titles as actual writing prompts at some point...)



Friday, January 13, 2017

Social Interaction

I found this picture on Twitter yesterday. I think it sums up my point of view pretty nicely.

I'm not sure where the photo originated, but this one came from  here, I think.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Draft Sharing

A friend of mine, (Ami, not her real name) who also participated in NaNoWriMo this year, sent me a text the other night. A friend of hers from college had requested to read what Ami had written in November. While Ami was slightly hesitant to send the piece, she plucked up her courage and sent it over to her ami, er, friend. (I'm cracking myself up here...)

In response to having read the piece, Ami received the following reply:
I'm at Christmas when the mom is away and it nearly made me cry. The imagery is great, sparked something in my mind. Ami I'm completely serious. THIS IS PUBLISHABLE. I wouldn't say this to you if I didn't really believe it.
The text made me a million times happy, and it wasn't even my work that had been read. I'll be curious to see when and if Ami pursues publication. (I hope she does.)

The things I like about this scenario, and the reason I'm posting about it, are these:

  1. Ami overcame the fire in her gut that urged her to resist giving her piece to her friend. It's difficult to share your work with anyone, because we fear rejection, even from friends. But she did it!
  2. Ami's first draft included imagery! I'm not sure I have any imagery in my first drafts; I just don't work that way. I get the words down and go back to finesse the piece and my images and sensory details don't quite make into that first draft. So good on her, as they say.
  3. The path to publication can be a long one, but Ami already has one reader on her side, and that, my friends, is the most important thing. Can you connect to the reader? It looks like Ami already has.

I can only hope that Ami will share her draft with me some day because of course, I'd be honored to read it.




Wednesday, January 11, 2017

These Things I Know, IV

Classes started this past Monday, and as usual, I explained to the students that having a Ph.D. doesn't mean I know everything. "I have been trained as a research scientist. I can form a question. I know how to find an answer to that question. And, I know how to get help when I cannot find an answer. No one knows everything, no matter what the person might claim or how many letters they have behind their name."

Some of the students nodded, and a few sent appreciative glances my way, as if they were relieved to know that I didn't think I was infallible. I've always said I don't know everything, but even when I think I don't know much, I can surprise myself by what I do know.

I know that tension among friends can bring down relationships and that honesty, while possibly causing some hurt feelings, is the best policy.

Writing a blog a day for 365 days is going to be a weary task and yet, I know that it will energize my creative process as well.


People who claim to be living "authentic" lives rarely do. We all know who is "authentic" and who is not. These truly "authentic" people do not tell us they are authentic; they show us.

Facebook has become the bane of my existence, and I will, from here on out, use it solely for writing purposes: to promote my creative work or the creative work of others.

It's difficult to be a K-12 teacher these days. Besides teaching, you must serve in so many other capacities. However, I know that not all teachers belong where they are and have to ask the question: why did you go into teaching anyway?

I am blessed with a fantastic family. In fact, fantastic doesn't come close to adequately describing what I feel for my sisters, my husband, and my children.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Stop

"The dragons will stop this nightmare." The words left Aaron's mouth as if he couldn't open his lips, like they were sewn shut with invisible thread. His eyes, glowing in the light of the moonbeam that peeked between the curtains, dilated then narrowed. "The dragons will stop this nightmare," he said again, the turned and padded across the carpet and away from me.

I sat in my bed, astonished, back against the headboard, knees up, supporting the book I was reading. I had been entrenched in the novela little ditty about a crotchety old man who, up until now, had done nothing remarkablewhen Aaron had interrupted my thoughts. He'd been put to bed two hours earlier (Aaron, not the man) and I had thought he'd been sleeping. And maybe he had been...perhaps he'd gone back to his old habit of sleepwalking and sleeptalking. I guess I'd never know.

I flipped back to the last page I'd read in the book, but my rhythm had been destroyed by a red headed boy, speaking of dragons and nightmares. I closed the book, placed it on my nightstand, and then turned off my light and went to sleep.

A thump on my legs awoke me with a start. My heart raced in my chest and the dim light of the nightlight did nothing to let me know who or what was perched on my legs. It could be one of four cats, or the dog, or who knew...possibly even Aaron. As my mind cleared from the fog that sleep had placed there, I became aware of a presence unlike anything I'd ever experienced. A heat seared my legs from my ankles upward, and before I knew it, a spark had ignited underneath my rib cage. I gasped for breath and wrestled with the covers as I attempted to sit up.

"What the hell?" My eyes registered the thing that sat on my legs. About the size of a German Shepard but with a mouth much larger, I saw a winged dragon (a fire breathing sort no less) perched at the end of the bed. He moved his wings in graceful arcs, and had I not been petrified, I'd have been able to appreciate the beauty in his movements. Instead, I pulled my legs toward my body and backed myself up the bed. The headboard stopped me, but had it not been winter outside, I might have considered jumping out of the nearby window and running away. I wasn't certain my trembling legs would have been able to get me anywhere, though.


Swirling puffs of smoke danced from the dragon's nostrils and a tongue of fire leapt from his mouth as he yawned. He blinked one eye, and then the other, before craning his neck toward me, a look of curiosity in his gaze.

"What are you?" His voice held a gruffness to it I hadn't anticipated. Maybe that's what fire does to the vocal cords, I thought.

"What am I?" What sort of answer did he want? Was there a right or a wrong answer? "I...I'm...I'm a human?"

He sniffed twice and sat back a bit, toward the edge of the bed. "A girl human or a boy human?"

"Can't you tell?" I had my long hair pulled back and I sported pink fleece pajamas. I didn't particularly think that I looked like a man, but who knew what a dragon understood or didn't.

"I cannot see in the dark, although I wish I could." He yawned again and another flame escaped from the back of his throat. "The fire light helps a little..."

I wasn't sure whether to laugh, cry, or scream, but I knew somehow that this dragon, so heavy on my feet, so hot against my skin, wasn't there to harm me. The trembling in my legs ceased and I thought about what else I could ask him. I decided to simply give him the answer he sought. "I'm a girl human, but I do have a boy human. He's my son. He's down the hall."

"Hmmm." The dragon blinked twice, again, and then turned his head toward the doorway. "Down the hall, you say?"

I didn't like the sound of his voice, then. It dripped with something I couldn't identify and I wondered if I'd given up information he didn't deserve. "You can't have him, you know. My boy." I pushed myself up on my knees and shot my hand toward the dragon. His scales stung my hand, and I pulled back my arm, cradling it against my chest. I looked down at my fingers, which had begun to swell from blisters. "What the...?"

I didn't have time to say anything else. In an instant, the dragon disappeared in a puff of smoke and fell back against the mattress. I knew I needed to get up, to walk down the hall and check on Aaron, But somehow, I didn't have the energy. I felt stopped, but I didn't know by what.

(To be continued? I'm not sure on this one. It started from a prompt, but I have no idea where it's going...)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bad Poetry

Hello           , she said, as she waved me in.
The name sailed by my ears,
and almost flew on by,
out the door and down the hall.
But instead, the sound stopped
and tapped at my eardrums.

          ? My jaw fell. My heart stuttered.
My feet stopped and started and stopped again.
For one moment, I stared at her.
I thought about saying something,
anything, about her behavior.
She'd shortened my name without asking me
if it would be okay.
I don't call her by her truncated name,
even though I know her friends do.

And that word says it all: friend.
She is not my friend, and she never will be,
since she asks too much from me
and gives nothing in return.
So while I will allow others to use
a nickname or a pet name for me,
it's because I invite them to do so.

That one? She'll never know the real me
so she doesn't get the privilege of 
shortening my name without my permission.
And so next time, if she pulls the same stunt,
I'll be prepared to correct her.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Blogging Goals

I realize that I haven't addressed the goals for this blog yet. And the first Saturday in January is the perfect time to do so. What I've come to understand over the last year or two is that blogging each day--and getting that time in the morning to do so--is the way I grow best as a writer. Now, the blog posts might not be that great, but just the act of putting a few words onto a page and sending them out to the universe not only gets my creative juices flowing, but it also helps me make my writing better.


So this year, just like in 2015, I'll be blogging each day. With an increased teaching schedule, my time might be limited, but my goal is to have a blog post each day, no matter how small. That could mean I post a picture. It might be a short story. I could post a rant. You all know me rather well by now, so I'm sure you'll not be surprised by what you come across.

What does that mean for you, FRN? You know what it means. Go back to checking in on me early each morning. I'll have a post up by 6 a.m. at the latest.

Looking forward to another year with you all!


Friday, January 6, 2017

What I'm Looking For

On a normal day--one in which she goes to school and I go to work or I sit at my computer and edit or write or grade--I accept her help with a smile on my face. Her little fingers are welcome on those days to do what she thinks is necessary: to push my papers into a pile, to add more milk to my coffee, or to bring me a tissue when I sneeze. But on a day when she's been out of school for almost two weeks and so have her siblings and I'm tired of the questions, the comments, the bickering, and the only thing I want to do is to sit and compose a blog post, then no thank you, ma'am, but I do not need her to take out my tea bag because the tea was getting dark, considering I like my tea stronger than she does. Nor do I need her to eat the legs off of my gingerbread man cookie. She knows that I like my small sugary treat with my morning cup of coffee or tea and that tiny man--he was mine. While I'd take those legs back if I could, I think I'll just get myself another cookie. And hope that she finds a book in which to immerse herself so that I, too, can find a few moments of quiet.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year’s Resolution: Captain’s Log, Day Two.

(This blog post comes from a writing prompt I answered at a Tuesday evening meeting. It is a work of fiction, just so you know.)

I stumble from the bed and stub my toe on the corner of the bedpost.

"Sorry," I say to the wooden frame, and then place my fingers to my lips. "Day two," I mumble. "Day two and you've already broken the promise you made."

"What?" My husband rolls onto his back, and tries to open his eyelids. "Did you say something?"

"Oh. Sorry. Did I wake you?" Shit. I'd done it again. "Nothing, honey. I just stubbed my toe and I was apologizing to the bed post. You know how it is."

“Yeah, I do." He runs his fingers through his beard and wipes his nose on his sleeve. "I think you need to stop that."

"I know, I know. I said I would. It's one of my resolutions..."

"Then stop saying you’re sorry, okay?" He rolls back over onto his side and pulls the cover over his head. I hear him mumble something, but he speaks into the bed sheets, so the words don't make it to my ears. I move around the bed, one hand on the mattress so that I can lift my offended toe off of the floor. It now throbs and pulses with pain. I place my hand on my husband's shoulder and shake him, gently.

His eyes pop open, and he lifts himself partly from the bed. "What? What happened?" The fear in his voice easily reaches my ears.

"Nothing honey. Sorry. Oops. I mean...I...I thought you said something. I was just trying to hear what you said." I slump onto the bed. "Sorry."


Lifting himself up on his elbows, he looks at me. "Doggone it, Sweetie. That's enough of the sorry. Don't you think?"

I do think. I think it every day. But I've been trying since I was a kid to stop apologizing to everything and everyone. "I know. I know. But forty some years of saying I'm sorry when I mean anything but that...it's a very hard habit to break."

My husband's eyes grow wide and he throws back the covers. He leaps to his feet and grabs the television remote. Placing it in front of him, he beings to warble Chicago’s classic, Hard Habit to Break…

I cover my ears with my hands. "No, no. Just no. I can't take it. I'll retract every sorry I ever said if you just stop. Right now."

He stops. He stares. "Do you mean it?"

"I do."

"Okay then. I'm going back to bed." He blows me a smooch, slides under the sheet, and pulls the blanket past his ears again. In less than a minute, the air rumbles with the sound of his snoring. As I pad into the adjoining bathroom to get ready for work, I look back at him, wondering how I had come to marry a man who could be so crazy one minute and dead asleep the next.

"Next year," I mumble to myself. "My resolution next year will be to learn to sleep at the drop of a hat."



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

For One Day

Back in 2003, we moved into a 2496 square foot, 4 bedroom home from an 832 square foot, 2 bedroom apartment. I looked around online last night and found this floor plan of the old place.


I remember the living area fondly: we had plenty of space to put all the books, CDs, child toys, stereo, and television. The kitchen and bathroom? They were both a bit small, considering we shared the bathroom with two children and two cats.

The thing I most remember from the move, though, was how empty the living room of our new house looked when we first moved in. All the toys we had in the old apartment basically fit in the family room of the new house. We could do whatever we wanted with that living room.

And so we did.  And over the next few years, the living room became the play space for two children, then three, and then four. It housed kitchen sets and bookshelves, bins of blocks and bins of dinosaurs, a kid piano and a regular piano, bean bag chairs, Barbie houses, and rocking chairs. We eventually turned 1/2 of the room into our dining area (so the dining area could become a study), and the space we were left with seemed cramped. But until the kids got older, and the number of toys became fewer, I knew life would be that way.

Color me surprised when Melina finally let go of her last kitchen set this past fall. And when we put away the Christmas tree, Tim and I looked at one another.

"That's the least amount of stuff that side of the room has seen in  years," Tim said.


I'm still in awe at the lack of clutter and I'm not convinced the room will stay this way. But this photo proves that at least, for one day, our living room looked somewhat nice (and dare I say, grown-up?).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Gone

The second time I ran into Terry, she hugged me close and whispered in my ear, "It's so good to see you." And by the twinkle in her eye and the curve of her lips, I believed her. It wasn't long after, though, that I realized she spoke those same words to each person she encountered and that I--her friend for years--really wasn't that special.

My heart hurt when I thought of all the times we had spent together. The conversations about our children as we swirled milk into our tea, how we spoke about husbands--current and ex--while we watched our children splash in the pool. I'd see her at school, pull her to the side, and chit-chat for minutes, making us late to our respective appointments. She always had a smile for me. She always had a hug. She always made me feel as though she and I had an extraordinary friendship.


I should have known. The signs were there. A missed luncheon appointment. A text and an email that went unanswered. She defected from our book club and rebuffed my invitation to come for tea. And still, I blamed her behavior on everything else that was going on in her life.

"She's going through divorce," I'd think.

"Those boys of hers keep her busy," I'd admit.

"I'm not sure I like the book club, either. So how can I blame her for the no-show?" I'd say.

After a while, when I realized it had been at least six months since I'd seen or spoken to Terry, I realized what had happened. She'd distanced herself and I didn't know why. But at that point, I didn't care. I had other people in my life who called when the dog died, who checked up on me when I was sick, who sought out my company when it had "been a while." I had never needed fair-weather friends before and I had no desire to start at that point.

And so she's gone from my life. The last thing I plan on doing is wiping Terry's contact information from my cell phone. I haven't told her my plan--I don't think she'd care. I'm sure I'm out of her phone at this point already. But I do wonder what I did, or didn't do, to make this "relationship" crumble. Why had she always seemed so happy to see me when in reality, that couldn't possibly have been the case? I'll never know. What I do know is that I'm moving on.

And the next time I run into Terry? I'm not exactly sure what will happen.

(This piece was inspired by the writing prompt supplied by S. B. House.)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Truth

Editing is a tough gig. As much as I enjoy giving feedback to my writing group partners and my colleagues at Literary Mama, as much as I love to say "Wow! This is awesome," or "Great characterization!" I loathe having to write a paragraph that basically says, "Start over. You need to begin this story elsewhere."

But last night, as I sat in front of my computer, I typed almost exactly that. Not only did I suggest starting the story somewhere else, but I also suggested that the author chuck the last paragraph of the story, among other things Big changes are what I asked her to consider. And I felt awful asking her to do so.

Isn't that the job of the editor, though? Isn't that what we, as writers, ask the editor to do? Yes, it is. But I'm much more comfortable being on the other side of feedback, even when I know what I'm saying is true.

So any of you who I ask to edit my work? Feel free to tell me like it is. Speak the truth. Let it rip. I'd rather you give me the real scoop now, before I try to submit my work anywhere other than this forum. I've learned to have a thick skin...at least in some circumstances.




Sunday, January 1, 2017

Even More Words for the New Year, 2

For the past three years, I've begun the first day of January with a set of words that mean something to me. In 2014, the words spoke about goals; in 2015, they talked about how each person you meet has a role in your life; last year, the words spoke of the fact that your personal destiny depends on you.

This year, I'm planning on focusing on the positive even more than I do already, which means I need to remember one thing:
When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. ~Helen Keller
Happy New Year to you all. I hope this year is one of the best for all of us.