Saturday, May 31, 2014

I'm Ready

It's finally happened. I'm ready to take a Facebook hiatus. (If you're reading this, it's probably not because of anything that you did. I rarely write a post relating to something that my faithful followers did unless that something is positive.) Knowing that I don't have a Smartphone or texting capability, this hiatus should come as no surprise to a few of you. I'm the sort that doesn't like to be accessible at all times, nor do I need to know everything. And sadly, I'm just done with knowing everything.

I don't need to know how unbelievably talented you and your family are. I don't need to know that you're at the bar and grill with your bestie. I don't need to know that the entire school year, which hasn't gone well for you, has nothing to do with any shortcomings you and your kids have and everything to do with the shortcomings that everyone else has. I don't even need to know what song you are listening to right now. Because what's next? That you're at the gynecologist getting an internal exam? At the proctologist getting a similar, yet entirely different, internal exam? That you're sitting in the loo? Having an intimate moment with your partner? That's right, I don't need to know. And furthermore, I don't want to know.

And with the amount of time I don't have right now, thanks to summer vacation, four kids, a cat, a dog, a hope-to-be-adopted dog, sisters, vacations, a husband, friends, and a full life that I am so happy to have, I'm taking a vacation from that social media outlet, and when will I return? I'm not sure.

Just remember, it's not you, it's me.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer quotes

My bones just dissolved...I'm a whoopee cushion.
~ Melina

I love to roller skate in the summer. But I like to roller skate at Skate World, too. Did they have roller skates when you were a kid, mom?

Life is good in the summer.

Summer is my most important reminder of why I don't homeschool.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My 5 Tips for Hitting Bestseller Lists

I love Writer's Digest. Truly, I do. And no, I wasn't paid to say that, although if the magazine wanted to pay me to say it, I would. But seriously, into my inbox each day comes something from Writer's Digest, and most of the time, it's useful.

What arrived today?

A post on 5 Tips for Hitting Bestseller Lists. Now, as you know, I just want to publish my damn books -- I don't really care about hitting the bestseller lists. But I thought I'd read the article anyway, as maybe it was written by my buddy, Brian Klems. So I clicked on the link, but then realized that alas, the article was not written by him. I read the article anyway, that's how enamored I am with Writer's Digest.

According to the author, Gretchen Crary, here's what you can do. I don't plan on posting the article here because, of course, you can just click on the link (duh!). Plus, there are only four things to consider, as listed by Gretchen. Not five. I'm guessing that whatever she wrote in the paragraph before the actual "list" included in the article counts as one tip. However, I trust titles. And I don't like that this title tricked me. And finally, this article did not address the subject that I thought it was going to. I won't call that trickery, just a simple misunderstanding. But still...

Anyway, what I thought the article was going to tell me was how to write a bestseller, not how to hit it after I've already found an agent and had plans to publish. But that's okay, because just today, I have once again confirmed how to actually write the bestseller of the year. For as I browsed the library shelves, I pulled off an Ebook bestseller (now in print, due to high demand) that is sure to top a list somewhere. And why? There are at least five reasons (might as well stick with that nice number):
  1. Naked genitalia
  2. Swingers
  3. Blindfolds
  4. An ingenue
  5. An older, more experienced, man
It was Fifty Shades all over again, I tell you, with zero Oh Mys and no references to long fingers. It lacked character development, a story arc, and good writing. And of course, the book has received at least 4 stars out of 5 in many rating circles.

And so, my friends, what Writer's Digest should have said the 5 Tips for Hitting Besteller Lists are:
  1. Sex
  2. Sex
  3. Sex
  4. Sex
  5. Sex
I can't do it, friends. I just can't bring myself to add that element to my stories in the way the reading public wants. Which means I might be out here a long while, floundering.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

School Ends

Yesterday was it -- the kids' last day of school for the 2013-2014 school year. It's hard to believe the year is over already, but on the other hand, I'm ready. Sort of. We'll see what the summer brings. Wish me luck!

All four kids (obviously)
The rising seventh graders!

Monday, May 26, 2014

This Hand

Is it stealing?
Is it not?
I sit here, scratching my head at the name.
Something that seems so similar
to the one put together by my pal,
my friend, my sister, so to speak.
What constitutes intellectual property?
Does anyone know?
Can anyone explain?
Of course, I know what the definition is,
and really we never had anything copyrighted.
But by golly,
it's not right.
You don't walk up to someone and say,
Hey, I like what you said.
And I think we'll take that and run with it
and come up with something quite like yours,
so much that you can't help but notice
At least I wouldn't do that.
Because you don't want to bite the hand
that feeds you now, do you?
Well this hand
and the hands of my sisters,
might not be feeding you any longer.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Happy Weekends

Third night in a row that I'm carting beer cans and bottles to a recycling bin.

Tara, I'm sure, would say this weekend has been a success.

With good friends like these, I think I'd agree with her.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Short Order Cook

The thing I like least about summer vacation is the role I have to play: short order cook. I've talked about this before, and I'm not here to lament the situation. But as I gathered the ingredients for Melina's lunch today, I was reminded that as of next Wednesday, I'll be making lunch for four, not one. Such is life.

I was also reminded of a short story I wrote. The one that got the ball rolling way back in 2012. (It seems like so much longer than just two short years.) The one that I never shared with most people. The story didn't win a prize (nor was it written well enough to do so), and since I haven't done anything to make it any better, it will never win a prize. So I thought, why not share it here? Feel free to read it, laugh at it, correct it's errors, or print it out and use it as toilet paper. You get the gist.

Short Order Cook

The Danube Diner is the place to be on Friday nights. That’s when I’m there, cookin’ up my specialties. Who am I, you ask?  Nobody but Jackson Fairfield, Short Order Cook Extraordinaire. I stand 6 feet tall, with broad shoulders and olive skin, and my eyes are so brown, you could call them the color of espresso, something we don’t serve at the Danube Diner. In fact, most people in these parts wouldn’t know an espresso from regular Folgers, if you know what I mean. But I grew up wantin’ to live in a city where sippin’ espresso and doing lunch was the norm. You might wonder, then, how I ended up here. At the Danube Diner. 858 Highway 411. Sometimes, I do so myself.

I was the sort of kid that everyone felt sorry for in high school. The product of divorce, I lived half-time with Pops and, in the summer, went to live with Ma out on the farm. To be honest, and I always try to be, summers weren’t much fun. As much as I liked the outdoors, the farm work was so hard -- arduous, tedious and demanding -- that I didn’t have much time for doing what I liked to do best:  write. I’d scrub the animals and compose poems in my head. I’d gather eggs and construct a short story. I’d spread the manure and outline a novel. I often kept a notebook with me, just so I didn’t have to remember everything I wanted to say. In fact, the only thing that kept me going through the long days of summer farming was knowin’ that in the fall, come September and the shorter days, I’d get the chance to go back to school. I’d dream about sittin’ in class, any class really, and writing my heart out.

“Your ticket to better pastures is your writing, Jackson,” Mrs. Millar, my 9th grade English teacher, always said. She knew about my life on the farm, considering I’d written about it so much. She knew I wanted something different, and she wanted something more for me.
Living with Pops was hard, too. I know he worked his fingers to the bone to give me what he could, but what I needed at the time was his attention. He spent long days at the local garage, where he served as manager. On the weekends, he made extra money mowing lawns and taking on light landscaping jobs. We always had food on the table, I always had clean clothes, but I never had him. I would have given anythin’ to ride in the pick-up truck with him to head out to a landscapin’ job. Just me and him, shootin’ the breeze, listenin’ to the radio or tellin’ stories, and makin’ someone’s life a little nicer by way of shrubs. I actually told him as much one day, but he wanted me to do something more with my life.

“Head over to the library, Jackson. I know you like to read and write. It might be your ticket to a better life, you know?” 

Sounds like my dad and Mrs. Millar might have been in cahoots.

Funny how the life you imagine and that which you actually live are different sometimes, though. How the tickets you think you buy and the ones you actually get are different. Sort of like when you buy a ticket for a raffle but then when you look at the fine print you realize that oh, they aren’t rafflin’ off the $10,000 car, but the $500 used one from the local car dealership. And you say to yourself, How did I miss that?

Anyway, how does this all come together?  Well, after I graduated from high school, I packed myself up, bought a used car (much like the $500 one Lucy Cooper won at the high school raffle), and took off for the great beyond. I had a map in the glove compartment, a bag of food, and some money, but I didn’t know where I was goin’. I was just goin’. And I knew that I wanted to make my living as a writer. If Jack Kerouac could do it, why couldn’t I?

I stopped in several small cities along my way (to what, I never did really know), chatted with the folks in town, gathered stories and such, and one day, when I realized that my money was low, I applied for a job. Here at the Danube Diner. Did they have a writer-in-training position?  Well, no. But they did need a short order cook. I guess I forgot to mention that I cooked for my mom and the day farmers, as well as for my dad. I could make a really mean omelet and pancakes as fluffy as clouds. My desserts, especially my apple pie, were to die for, as they say. I figured that diner food was something I could do well, and in the off hours, I could write. Right across the street was a long-term motel. A job and shelter?  That’s all I needed.

I still remember the day I started. Friday, April 13, dawned bright and warm, and I was charged to do something other than driving. I walked into the diner for my shift, not knowing what to expect, and then, meeting the unexpected. That day was a little slow, but as time wore on, things picked up. Each day, I chatted with the people that came through the diner, whether they were stopping for coffee or for some actual chow. I disclosed my secrets of the trade:  how to make the best pie crust and how to grill the cheese sandwiches just right without burning them. I told them of my secret spice that went into the hamburger patties (1/3 of a pound and not an ounce under) and the real cardamom that jazzed up the peach cobbler. And all the while I was doing that, cooking and dishing up food and secrets, I was also serving up stories. I told my customers of my plans for a bigger, better life once I could get published. The people were charming, and once word got out that I could entertain and cook, customers flocked to the diner. In fact, we must have been situated between a couple of bigger cities (I never even bothered to check the map) because who would have thought that a little diner sitting on the corner of Route 78 and Highway 411 would be such a busy place? 

I’ve been here almost two decades now, and there are a few people that stand out in my mind for one reason or another. Usually, I can remember them because of the story I told. Way back now, when I first started working here, a young lady came in that I will just never forget. She was British, and we don’t find too many foreigners around here. She was a single mom with nothing; she was so worried about her family. I gave her a $20 bill and a story. What was that story?  A nice little tale about a boy wizard. He didn’t know he was a wizard, but he soon found out and spent his time at a school for wizardry. I thought it was pretty ingenious that before he knew he was a wizard, he lived with his aunt and uncle, under the stairs of their home. I once had a hiding place in my Ma’s house, under the stairs. I’d sit there for hours, just thinking up stories and imagining myself in other worlds.

It was awesome, the story I had for this lady. It had magic, mystery, intrigue, good and evil, and it would have made millions, I am sure of it. I remember the lady’s name even, at least her first name, because I thought it funny that my name was Jackson. JK, she said it was, and she loved my French fries. She called them chips or something like that, and I remember laughing at her confusion when I handed her a bag of Lays. Sometimes I find myself wondering how she is doing these days. I sure hope she found a job to help her with those kids.

Another time, I cooked up a special Western omelet for a young lady who had graduated from Brigham Young University. She was tired, so tired, from being a stay at home mom. She loved her kids, but just needed to do something more. At the time, I think she was on a road trip of her own, just a few days away, to try and reclaim her energy. I could tell she needed a little adrenaline and romance, so I made up a great story for her.

She came back for an entire 5 days, eating omelets and finding out what happened to the characters, my characters!  I wove a story about a high school girl, living with her dad, who feels out of place at a new school. She finds acceptance and love in a very strange place:  with a coven of vampires who just happen to live nearby. Of course, just to shake things up, I added wolves to the mix; the wolves served as natural predators of the vampires. This lady laughed out loud when I told her of my idea to make the vampires a bit more humane by having them feed off animals, not people. “Sort of like being vegetarian?” she said, and giggled.

One of my other favorite stories poured forth from my mouth the day a woman walked in and ordered one of everything. She was hungry, she said, just hungry. But she was a writer and needed some comfort food. Writer?  My ears itched. She sat on the stools, telling me how she enjoyed writing about dystopian societies. “Have you heard of them?” she asked. Well, I had learned about them in high school. We swapped life stories for a while and then I told her of a story I’d been thinking about for a bit. It was about the world in the future, run by a government that makes kids fight each other (to the death) in an arena. I had started this story back in high school, adding details here and there over the years. The story got bigger and bigger, and I swear I saw this lady, Suzanne maybe, scribbling on a napkin as I droned on. I thought perhaps I was boring her, but the rest of the customers seemed enthralled.
That day, one of the other cooks, T.C., said to me. "You know, man, you could be a writer. What the hell are you still doing here?"
"I just don't know," I said. "I guess I can't find the right story."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Melina Grows Up

We had yet another momentous occasion  here in our house today. Melina decided it was her turn to donate her hair. Fifteen and a half inches were taken off and are currently waiting to be shipped to Locks of Love. Here's the proof:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


121. Open doors. (This can be metaphorical or literal, whichever way you'd prefer to look at it. In my current frame of mind, after having heard a resounding NO from the agent to whom I pitched, I'm thinking that I'll take the literal use of the word.)
122. The crinkle of 1000 thread count sheets.
123. The feel of sweat as it trickles down your back after a good, hard run.
123. Flowering heads of bevans geraniums.
124. Ruthann, Cindy, Traci, and Jen.
125. A hum of creative energy that courses through the body with every blog post (regardless of how cheesy or mundane the post may be).
126. The smell of barbeque (emphasis on smell).
127. Unconditional love.
128. Correct grammar usage (I don't claim to always speak or write correctly, though.).
129. Daisies.
130. Portmanteaus that appear out of nowhere, like anomelty (anomaly and novelty).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Twitter Descriptions

Having used Twitter successfully (or not) for a few months now, I find that I'm more fascinated by the Twitter follower's own description than I am of what they said. Here are some of the more intriguing (or not) Twitter descriptions I've found lately.

@The_Kingsolver: Depauw and Arizona University Grad, Mother of Two, Extremely Successful Author. That description comes from Barbara Kingsolver. Why yes, she is an extremely successful author. Her writing is rich with biology and nature and she uses a large and frothy vocabulary which, apparently, doesn't include the word, humble.

@cbmysteries: Responsible for the Cue Ball Mysteries and some truly awful poetry. Cindy Blackburn can lay claim to that description. And while I have not read a piece from Ms. Blackburn, the fact that she writes awful poetry will not deter me. In fact, I might ask her to share that awful poetry and we can compare our losses.

@kierstenwhite: Hi! I'm a New York Times bestselling YA author. I also give the most awkward hugs in the world. You should probably opt for one of my books over one of my hugs. If you, Kiersten White, need to tell me to choose your book over your hug, then maybe, I don't want to read that book (I like to make my own decisions). And NYT bestselling book means nothing: I've read quite a few that didn't deserve to be there. (I have to be honest and tell you that I haven't read a single one of her books either.)

@megcabot: Author of the Princess Diaries, The Mediator, and Size 12 mystery series (among other books). Cat owner. Insomniac. If you don't know Meg, then you probably haven't read the Princess Diaries. That's okay. Her description is mundane. However it is saved by the inclusion of cat owner and insomniac. All cat owners are nodding their heads. Don't the two go hand in hand?

And here's one of my true favorites:

@abliterary: Literary agent, pizza lover, dance fiend, park enthusiast, and that's just the beginning. There are no limits to what I can do. Yes, Annie Bomke! You've given us a taste of who you are, but just a tiny one. And then? And then you go beyond and inspire us to be a person who has no limits, too. 

Any favorites you care to share?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Curb Alert Etiquette

Craigslist is awesome. Except when it's not.

We've used Craigslist multiple times in the past, and we've never had problems. We've sold things, and we've marked items as free. So either the internet trolls have become stupid, or we've just been lucky up until now. In either case, when someone posts a CURB ALERT under the FREE section of Craigslist, complete with the ADDRESS at which the household furnishings can be found, please do not do either of the following:

1. Ask how much that person is charging.
2. Ask what the address of the house is.

If you live far away and don't want to come all the way out to see if the items are still available, you can contact me. If you live far away and aren't sure of the dimensions, you can contact me. But otherwise, it's a CURB ALERT, dammit. The stuff is FREE. Even if you're not sure you can use it because it might not be exactly as you expected, you might be able to SELL it on Craigslist. Just take it away from my curb, without disrupting my life.

Thank you.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

For Her Sister

The poem Zoe wrote back in December was not accepted by the literary magazine to which she sent it. And because she doesn't want to submit it anywhere else (I was thinking maybe a magazine geared toward children, or one that regularly accepts submissions from children), I'm sharing it here.

By Zoe

Long, flowing hair
Still in her snowman pajamas.
But then, all of a sudden,
she appears in a white dress
with sparkles and pearls
and a ribbon at the back to tie.
With a shiny crown,
a fairy wand with a little fluff of feathers
(just to make it a pretty wand),
and white high heels,
a little bit big for her.
But it doesn’t matter,
she tells me what to do.
Because she is The Queen
and I am the princess
who wears jeans and converse.
With my long hair in a normal way and no tiara.
Then, she changes
from one Queen to another.
Into a mermaid,
into The Queen of the Ocean,
and I am still the princess
but Princess of the Ocean.
I’m just like Ariel, she says
and keeps talking.
My thoughts wander away from her
and her Queen life,
but she tells me to listen
because she is still the Queen
and I am just the Princess.
The princess.
And I have to listen to Her Majesty
even if I don’t really want to.
I ask, How much more time?
Only five more minutes, mom says to me.
Because I have to play with her,
as a favor to my mom.
And Her Majesty also tells me that I have to play.
Just a little longer, she says.
I have to listen, again,
because she is The Queen,
and she is my little sister.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Naked Dinner Party

This is the story of how naked came to dinner, which, as you can imagine, is just another night in our slightly crazy household.

"Argh," Talia said, as her baked beans fell from her spoon, onto her capri pants. "I spilled my beans. Onto my pants." She quickly picked up the errant beans with her fingers, popped them into her mouth, and shot me a sheepish glance.

I looked at her. I could feel the daggers shooting from my eyes so I tried to rein them in. But the thought of doing more laundry practically made me gag. I'd just done some "spring cleaning," which included washing everything in everyone's bedrooms, even the drapes. 

I swallowed my food and put down my fork. "You know, I just did all that laundry. For crying out loud, I'm going to ask you all to eat dinner naked from now on."

The words had barely left my lips when Aaron's eyes opened up real wide. "Oh really? Okay then."

Within seconds, Aaron and Melina had stripped off their clothes, placed their naked rumps back on their seats, and picked up their hot dogs. Those two beasts ate the rest of their dinner completely in the buff. And of course, they dropped nothing.

Aaron stood up from the table at one point and sort of shook his parts out. The girls turned their heads away and rolled their eyes, twittering to themselves.

"Speaking of hot dogs..." I said.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's Tuesday...

And all I can think about is whether or not vodka ice cream is available.

If it is, sign me up for delivery, in large quantities.

Enough to last through the summer and then some.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Just Breathe

My sincere apologies to Anna Nalick; and for one of my dearest feline friends, Lucy...

4 AM and he whines now I'm really awake,
And I realize again that its such a mistake,
That I love him. Evening just isn't his season.
Yeah he walks through the doors, so accusing my eyes
Like I have any right at all to criticize,
Silly girl. He's a cat, not what you say, a demon.

Cause you can't close the doors, he'd be very unstable
His life's like an hourglass, tipped on the table
He'll whine all he wants and wake you each night.
So ladle the brew in the cup
And breathe...just breathe
Oh breathe, just breathe

July he'll turn 15, without the one we miss
He looks up at me, life should be better than this
By his whine you can tell he's been down for a bit
But, my word, it's so beautiful when the cat sits,
Wanna hold him. Maybe I'll just write about it.

Cause you can't close the doors, he'd be very unstable
His life's like an hourglass, tipped on the table
He'll whine all he wants and wake you each night.
So ladle the brew in the cup
And breathe...just breathe
Oh breathe, just breathe

There's a light at each end of this tunnel
You know 'cause his time will come soon and then, oh the woe
And these complaints that you've made, you'll be missing them too
If you'd only try seeing the good.

5 AM and now I'm awake, writing a post
If I get it all down on Blogger, it's no longer inside of me
Threatening the life it belongs to
And I feel like I'm tired and real sorry, too
Cause these thoughts are my journal, crying out loud
And I know I'll feel bad whenever I read them.

But you can't close the doors, he'd be very unstable
His life's like an hourglass, tipped on the table
He'll whine all he wants and wake you each night
So ladle the brew in the cup
And breathe...just breathe
Woah breathe, just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe,
Oh breathe, just breathe.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Midnight, not a sound from the pavement.
Has the moon lost her memory? She is smiling alone. 
In the lamplight the withered leaves collect at my feet,
and the wind, begins to moan.

The music filtered to my ears as I sat and watched Zoe and Talia sing a version of Memory for their voice recital on Friday night. It was the first time their teacher had allowed them to hold a microphone right in their hands, close to their moving lips. It was the first time their angelic voices could really be heard.

To be quite truthful, I could have listened to them sing all night. But as I sat in the choir room and heard the girls nail all the right notes (it's okay to be proud at times, right?), I was transported back to when I was a child, to when my mom would turn on the light rock station as we cleaned the house. To when she'd crank up that song, Memory, so loud that the speakers would vibrate and my chest resonated, and I could still hear the words over the drone of the vacuum cleaner.

Thirty years have passed since those days, but each time I hear that song, I remember so much. Being annoyed at having to participate in the act of cleaning. Realizing that we had far too many knick-knacks to move around and under which we were expected to dust. Thinking that music was a powerful force in my life, and feeling sheepish at the fact that I loved Barbra Streisand. And most importantly, understanding that, even if it only happened once a week, our moment with Babs was a time during which my mother revealed herself: a side of her came to the surface that most often, stayed buried deep.

For my mom wasn't the type to open up, even to her children. She was a practical, sensible, play by the rules sort of mother who thought about what the people up the street would say when she made some of her decisions. She'd never have a blog like this or tell you what she honestly thought (unless you were her child, of course). She kept her emotions and motivations close to the vest, as they say, and she still does. Maybe she could have had more confidence. Maybe she could have had more support from her family. Maybe she was just afraid, of how to parent and of doing something incorrectly. I think many reasons, most of which are unknown to me, play into how she lived her life during that time. Whatever her reasons, though, it wasn't until songs like Memory trilled out of the speakers at full blast that her facade would crumble. A smile would creep across her face and her whole aura changed. She stood straighter and taller and more proud -- of herself and her life -- all while doing something as mundane as dusting and vacuuming the house.

It's crazy to ruminate on those days, it really is. So I won't. But I do have a point, really. Last year, I talked about the times that my mom wore sunglasses. About how she seemed to be able to slip those sunglasses on and find her authentic self. That's really what I feel with Memory, as well. That during the few minutes of loud music, mom threw all caution to the wind, said To hell with what you think of me, and possibly thought to herself, I'm going to be happy and do what I want. For a few minutes, at least, she threw off the shackles that society, responsibility, family, and any other perceived threat had placed upon her and she lived life to the fullest. And if only for a moment, I saw a glimpse of who my mother could be. If she'd just let herself.

I love my mother, I truly do. And this post isn't written to tell her where she went wrong. We all do things in life that we could have done better or differently, myself included. This post is really to remind me of what I need to do every day. What I can do every day, partially because times have changed, for the better. How I can be my authentic self each and every day, in each and every situation, regardless of the trappings of a family, job, and a house. The mother I could be and the mother I am actually have a chance of being one and the same, and I am so grateful for that fact.

I'm also grateful for my mother. No matter what she did or what she does now, no matter how angry and frustrated I've been with her, I've also learned so much from my mom. I've learned how to do things and how not to do things. How to appreciate life for what it is and the power of a strong support system. I've learned how to be a good sister, mother, wife, and friend. Each and every day, when I allow my authentic self to shine through, I think of my mom. And to think of someone often, that person must be pretty special.

Despite the uncanny ability of that song (and others) to resurrect clear, intact, and surprisingly detailed memories, it's often difficult to remember some events. And mom and I? Well let's be honest, we're both getting older. How long will that memory of Memory be with her? With me? At least for now, I still have a glimpse of those moments, when I first recognized that life was beautiful, when I first knew what happiness was. It's a memory I hope lives again, forever.

Memory, all alone in the moonlight.
I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.
I remember, the time I knew what happiness was.
Let the memory live again.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Running Reflections

A long run
on a rainy Saturday in May,
recharges my soul.
And makes me grateful,
so extremely grateful.
Because despite the rain,
at least it's not snow.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Doing Things Right

Have you seen the headlines? The "You're Doing It Wrong" headlines? Like the one the other day, "7 Ways You're Doing Laundry Wrong" on the Huffington Post? And there's a whole series on Slate, not to mention a humorous website.That last one is a comedy of errors: go to the site, view the pictures, and realize just how much common sense you might actually have.

But the other articles, especially those published at Slate, are meant to tell you how to do things correctly. In the laundry article, we learn many things: about dark clothes, white jeans, kids clothes, and multiple other mistakes that happen every time we do laundry. With Slate's series, we can learn how to correctly wrap a burrito, how to make chocolate chip cookies, what ingredient is missing from your not-so-fabulous (even if you think they are) homemade bagels, that you should add potato to your cinnamon rolls (I'm going to try that recipe, I have to say), and that pie dough shouldn't be as scary as it is.

As much as I can appreciate the underlying sentiment of these articles, it is the title of the series or the title of the article itself with which I have problems.

You're Doing It Wrong.

Who wants to be told this on a daily basis? If you're partner were to wake up in the morning and sneak up behind you and say, "Hey babe, those pancakes you're're doing it wrong," I just bet one of the pancakes would find its way onto the nose of said partner.

My problem? I'm tired of having everyone tell me what I'm doing wrong. We're drowning ourselves in a sea of negativity, aren't we? How about telling us what we're doing right? I don't know about you, but on a Friday evening, after a long week of no writing, lots of parenting, and very little sleep, I'd rather bathe in a pool of positivity.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

First Interviews

I haven't spoken much about my new gig as Profiles co-editor for Literary Mama. I don't know why. I think it's simply because I'm busy learning: about the insides of the magazine, how to be a better editor, and what is best in terms of communicating with other editors who are around the world. I'm doing some editing and some writing for the magazine, and really, I don't need to tell you what it's like to sit behind a computer. Many of you do that on a daily basis.

However, I had an interview scheduled with Katrina Kittle tonight, and I thought I'd share my experience. (Because somehow, I can make anything an experience.) If you don't know her, she is the author of five novels, all of which can be found at her site. She is also a huge supporter of the creative arts in and around the Miami Valley. She teaches writing, evaluates manuscripts, and takes part in theater productions as well as runs, reads, and gardens.

I won't go into the interview here. You can hopefully read it someday once it's been put up on the Literary Mama page. But I have to tell you what happened so that (as usual) you can feel better about yourselves.

In short, I made it to the interview at the appointed time. I brought two methods for recording the interview. But then, as my luck would have it, I forgot the list of questions.

It sort of goes along with falling into a chair when I make a pitch.

Thankfully, Katrina was gracious enough to let me borrow her phone. As I stood in the sun, with sweat trickling down what little cleavage I have, I called home, and then scribbled as much of the question down as I needed to jog my memory. From there, we went into the coffee shop and had a lovely time.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Making the Grade

At this time of the year, when the academic calendar comes to an end and we begin our transition into summer, schools begin to talk about many things, some of which effect many of our children. Did your child get straight As the entire year? If not, did he or she at least make it onto the honor roll? And how about his or her attendance? Did your child make it to every single day of class? And if your child did not achieve any of those, then why the hell not?

Of course, our schools don't really phrase anything the way I did with that last sentence, but sometimes the sentiment is there and it comes from one of the other classmates.

For example, this morning I was in the office of the middle school, signing in for volunteer duty. A group of kids was next to me, talking about whether or not they'd be going to the All-A breakfast, which is sponsored by the school. As I learned, some of the children will be going to the breakfast and some will not. Those kids who won't be going are still good students: they received mostly As with a B or two along the way, a report card of which many at the school would be proud and envious. Thankfully, they didn't seem phased by the fact that they weren't invited to the breakfast. So the problem wasn't with them, it was with one of the straight-A students. After a moment of discussion about whether permission slips had been turned in, this student turned to the group and said, "You guys are too smart not to get all As."

The words, by themselves, irritated me. The tone in which the words were said incenced me.

I looked at the kids with eyebrows raised, and because I knew them, I knew that yes, these kids are all very smart. Furthermore, most of the group works hard on their school work. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they will achieve all As does it? And if they don't do as such, who cares? Getting a straight-A report card means nothing. It means you did what you were told and tested well enough to get an A. It doesn't necessarily mean you will retain that information for the long term, it doesn't mean you will be a successful person, and it certainly doesn't mean that you will be kind and a good human being. Which, in my mind (and as you know) is far more important than an A on a report card. My blood boiled as I signed my name on the register, wondering if I should say anything to the child.

I thought only for a moment and realized that yes, I would say something. Because I'm tired of this type of child. You know the sort of child of whom I speak. They are the double-sided straight-A kids. The ones (and not all kids who get straight As are like this) who happen to be a pet peeve of mine: they lack humility, shame others for their perceived shortcomings, and feel as if they are (what we used to call) a-know-it-all. They are ubiquitious and have stood the test of time almost as well as the cockroach. They are the kids who consistently brag about themselves and what they can (or think they can) do. They are the kids who have parents that promote and sell their abilities at every opportunity. They are the kids who truly believe that because they get a good grade, they are better than their neighbor. They are the kids who, when I tell them that it's not about the grade, they look at me as if I am from Mars.

But that's exactly what I did this morning. I turned to the child and said, "It's not about the grade. Getting all As doesn't mean what you think it means. Some of my best students were not the ones that received an A in my class."

The child looked at me and uttered a simple, "Huh." I'm not even sure what I said registered within the brain that sat on top of that child's shoulders. But as we walked down the hallway, I wanted to continue the conversation because less than a month ago I had encountered a similar person: the cute kid. (If you haven't read that post, go ahead and read it, and then wonder to yourself how I get myself in these situations. I think I simply need to stop volunteering at the schools. I jest.) And while my reaction might seem like I'm making a leap you can't keep up with, you have to remember that many of my posts come from a combination of events. The one this morning was simply the latest in a long line of "I'm better than you" moments, ones that I thought, as a 40 year old, I had left behind me.

And so, as I ambled to the classroom, I wanted to say so many things to the child who wasn't even listening to me. A multitude of responses leapt to my lips, some appropriate and some not, many of which I've forgotten. But had I fewer manners than I do, I might have shared what pirouetted through my brain -- that I'm tired of you perpetuating the idea that because you have a straight A average, that you are better and more loved and more wanted than anyone out there. You are not the center of the universe, the center of the school's universe, or the center of my universe. You are a child, and one that must not yet know what is really important in life, because if you did, you would know what I'm going to say. That grades, by themselves, are not important. Show me some hard work, put forth a herculean effort, be diligent and determined. Those qualities are worth far more to me than an A is.

Which brings me to another thing I thought of as I went about my school business and shared my morning with a friend. As much as I love the schools my kids attend, where is the reward for the kids that really do make an effort? For the kid that started out the school year with a C average and hauled ass to pull it up to a B+? Or the child who failed most of the tests in the first and second quarters but by the third and fourth has shown growth in maturity, responsibility, and the ability to pass the tests? Isn't behavior like that worth a breakfast? I sure think so, and I bet many of you do, too.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Waiting Place Redefined

Back in January 2013, I spoke about a state I called the waiting place. At the time, this is how I defined it:

For me, it is the the buffered mountainside, the comfort zone, or simply, the existing state. It is there that I can sit without really living, going about my business because I have to, but not truly enjoying what I am doing. Sometimes, that waiting place is fraught with anxiety, or I might experience plenty of emotions without really feeling any of them at all.  But the place is warm and comfortable. Things could be better or worse, but at least I know and understand all that rests inside the boundaries of the waiting place.

But here I am, over a year later, enjoying what I'm doing, and I'm back to a point I could just as easily (and probably more appropriately) call my waiting place. I find that in addition to all the tasks I accomplish each day, I'm also waiting on so many aspects of my life: I'm waiting to hear back from Annie Bomke as to whether or not she would like more of my manuscript pages. I'm waiting to get word from the Great Dane Rescue office to see if we can proceed with a pet adoption. I'm waiting to find out if my short story will be published in an online journal. I'm waiting for return phone calls, and emails, and letters.

And if I really want to wax poetic about my waiting place, I can include all of the mundane waiting that occurs each and every week (which, truthfully, isn't poetic at all). Waiting for the laundry to tumble in the dryer, the kids to scramble into the car, the dishwasher to clean up the dishes, and the sun to rise so that my day (of waiting) can begin again. My life is a never-ending cycle of waiting. Really.

Well, in case you haven't noticed, I'm not very good at waiting. I've spoken before about being patient, and how very hard it is for me to simply be in the moment sometimes. Especially when I have a bunch of business that won't be wrapped up at the end of the day. My musings on this topic made me realize something very important. The waiting place is mine. It is what I want it to be and clearly, it can be redefined. Which means that I can find within it anything I want to, even an overabundance of patience.

That's that plan, folks. To fill my waiting place with so much patience it becomes a sanctuary for me. You're all welcome there.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wise Words by Marie

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.
~ Marie Curie

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Making Progress

What started out as a saved blog post on Wednesday, turned into a 5,400 word short story yesterday. All from one conversation I had with a friend on Tuesday. How crazy is that?

Now you'll never know which part came from my friend or how much I fictionalized the account (the whole thing, really) but I would like for you to know what the story is about and where you can read it.

And so, I'm going to try and find it a home, somewhere more comfortable than right here at Heptadecagon.

If no one bites, I might just bring it back here and post it for the world to read. It's no prizewinner, but it's a day's worth of work, and proof that (at least to me) I'm still making progress on my dream.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Setting the Table

One of the kids' jobs is to set the table at dinnertime. It's not a large job, nor is it a complicated job, but strangely enough, four kids can make that job into a chore. For whatever reason, it's never been a simple task for them. And two nights ago, I'd had enough. I mean, how many times can you tell someone that you need plates and bowls and silverware? Do I have to remind everyone that a glass of water at mealtimes would be nice? (The kids aren't fans of milk, so thankfully, we don't have that extra complication.) Had my kids had their way, we'd all stuff our faces into a communal trough and wipe our mouths with our sleeves. And then let the dog clean up the plates.

Well, it took over twelve years of having children present, but we've finally found a system.

Here it is:

  • The kids should set the table the same way, whether it is for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • Each child has a duty, and is responsible for only that duty.
  • Everyone clears the table.

How easy is that? Pretty easy, but those three components of the system aren't enough for the kids, obviously. They need concrete details. And so I gave them a few more regulations.

  • Set a bowl and plate every time, even if they aren't sure they'll use them.
  • Set a knife, a fork, and a spoon every time.

And as for the actual duties? Well here they are:

  • Zoe takes care of silverware.
  • Talia places napkins and drinks at each setting.
  • Aaron gets the plates and bowls.
  • Melina takes care of the extras, such as salt and pepper, or ketchup, or taking over a shared vegetable. (Tim says, "Melina takes care of the accessories." Of course she does.)

Table setting may not be a problem in your household, and I'm hoping that from here on out, it isn't in mine. Now, we can go back to much more important items, such as figuring out a system for folding and distributing clothes, or, even better, picking up the dog doo.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Country Music Lessons

Despite what many people think, country music can sometimes teach us a lesson. Or remind us of something we learned a long time ago, but needed to acknowledge again...

(Take away what you will from this post.)

"The Gambler"
Written by Don Schlitz 
Recorded by Kenny Rogers

On a warm summer's eve
On a train bound for nowhere
I met up with the gambler
We were both too tired to sleep
So we took turns a-starin'
Out the window at the darkness
The boredom overtook us, he began to speak

He said, "Son, I've made a life
Out of readin' people's faces
Knowin' what the cards were
By the way they held their eyes
So if you don't mind me sayin'
I can see you're out of aces
For a taste of your whiskey
I'll give you some advice"

So I handed him my bottle
And he drank down my last swallow
Then he bummed a cigarette
And asked me for a light
And the night got deathly quiet
And his faced lost all expression
He said, "If you're gonna play the game, boy
You gotta learn to play it right

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
Know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin'
Is knowin' what to throw away
And knowin' what to keep
'Cause every hand's a winner
And every hand's a loser
And the best that you can hope for
Is to die in your sleep"

And when he finished speakin'
He turned back toward the window
Crushed out his cigarette
And faded off to sleep
And somewhere in the darkness
The gambler he broke even
And in his final words
I found an ace that I could keep

You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
You never count your money
When you're sittin' at the table
There'll be time enough for countin'
When the dealin's done