Archive for October, 2008

If money can’t buy happiness, then why is it for sale?

October 28, 2008

The gloom and doom of the headlines finally started to get to me over the weekend. Yes, I’m one of those who refuse to utter the “R” word, instead referring to the current economic climate as a “bagel” in the manner of an old West Wing episode. But with a news page set as my home page, and my daily surfings including both the local daily AND the radio station’s news page, I was starting to slide into a funk.

So, just offhandedly, I Googled “good news”, figuring that since you can find ANYTHING on the Internet, surely to Heaven, someone must have created a site for good news.

Someone has, as a matter of fact. And my cockles got all warmish as I scanned headlines about people being rescued from foreclosure and 8 year olds with autism earning their black belt in karate. But then I clicked on a headline to read the rest of the story and my cockles froze over again.

You see, the good news is only accessible to subscribers, and a subscription costs money. Not much money, but still…

And one wonders how so much of the world becomes jaded and cynical.

So, maybe I’ll find some good news and share it here. For FREE. Because Baby, it’s cold outside, and with the price of heat skyrocketing, there ain’t many pennies left over to pay for good news that will warm your heart.

From cbs4denver.com:

Denver police are honoring an 11-year-old boy who they say is a hero.

Roman Ross jumped into a pool in his apartment complex over the summer and rescued a little boy who was gasping for air.

On Monday morning Ross received an official Denver police hat, a commendation letter and the Bill Daniels Neighborhood Hero Award at Hill Middle School.

And from standardspeaker.com:

Teachers patrolling the halls of Jim Thorpe High School are trying to catch students in the act.

The act of kindness, that is.

Having faculty scout for good, rather than bad, behavior is one result of a club that started this year after winning $1,000 in the Pay It Forward Contest of the Standard-Speaker.

The Random Act of Kindness Club asks Jim Thorpe students to meet weekly challenges such as to make someone laugh or be especially kind to teachers.

Well, it’s a start. Any other good news to share for FREE? Leave it in the comments!

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Cornucopia

October 26, 2008

I was looking out the kitchen window this morning and noticed – really noticed – that some time in the last week or so, Autumn has really set in.  From that angle, at least, I can’t see any green on the trees, though Next Door’s roses are still blooming. And of course, the whole reason for looking out the window was actually looking AT the window, wondering if it was open a smidge because it’s so darn cold in here!

And no, the heat’s not going on yet – baseball season isn’t even over yet! Every time I shiver, I remind myself of the multiple winters that KIm Hoelzli made it without heat until well into December, a result of the perpetual construction around her place.  There’s no construction currently happening here, but with the cost of heat these days, it’s far too early to turn on the furnace.

This weekend, I’d like to clean up the office, clean out the front hall closet and dust. I also thought I’d like to rearrange the furniture. This burst of domesticity has more to do with the fact that it’s Production Week than anything else.

Girl and The Knee are having their first set of outings today. I’m glad for that, but can’t help being nervous. Is there anything so painful as seeing your child in pain? If there is, I don’t think I want to know about it.

Time to get ready for the day – the schedule demands I wear grown-up clothes for at least part of it. I might go whole hog and put on eyeliner too. Stranger things have happened.

T’is a fowl thing to encounter

October 24, 2008

Kim stole my funky bird. Or rather, I pointed out a short while ago that something she was experiencing was a nice funky bird, and it turns out that she’s decided to put it in HER NaNo.

Ah well. She is entitled, I suppose, since it was hers to begin with.

Still, it leaves me still Funky Bird-less, with only eight seven days to cage one. I’m not panicking about it, since my successful forays into NaNo in the past have always looked like this:

October 30, noon: No, I’m not doing NaNo, are you crazy?

October 30, 8 p.m.: Still not doing NaNo, why would I put myself through the insanity?

October 31, 9 a.m.: I am NOT getting sucked into the madness, oh no I’m not.

October 31, noon: Nope, no way in H*ll. Can’t make me.

October 31, 8 p.m.: Okay, Halloween’s over, let’s eat all the KitKats as soon as the kids fall asleep.

October 31, 11 p.m.: Here I am, wide awake with my brain going ninety miles a minute, but that doesn’t mean I can write a book, are you crazy?

November 1, 12:01 a.m.: Once upon a freakin’ time…

Come to think of it, my UNsuccessful forays were the ones that started with malice aforethought. Or at least premeditation. The ones that worked, I was clueless as to plot, character, setting, etc. right up until about fifteen minutes before the starter pistol fired. So maybe it’s the thinking that causes me the problems. Maybe I should just sit back and see what happens…

I know that I want to write something funny. And that I want the dead body to make an appearance by the end of the first chapter. Other than that, I got nuthin’.

Except for a suspicion that I may be a little more twisted than I realize.

The traditions, they fall by the wayside

October 21, 2008

Today was School Picture Day for the little one, who’s rapidly growing up to be not so little anymore. I didn’t remember it was picture day until several hours after she’d left for school, when I frantically asked my husband, “Did she brush her hair?” This is one of the things I’ve had to learn to let go of, having wilingly sacrificed morning duty.

Remember when they were small? Picture Day was the Most Important Day of the Whole. Year. Next to Winter Concert Day, Halloween, Field Day and assorted other Days, of course. I’d try really hard to wake up early enough to help them into the outfit they’d chosen the night before, fuss over their hair, adding little clips, adornments and pretties. If the “good” shoes turned out to be too small…

Digression: Ever notice how, with little kids, the only time the “good” shoes ever fit properly is on the day you buy them? Why can a pair of sneakers last for at least two months, but the black MaryJanes only get one wearing before they’re handed down?

Anyway, if the good shoes didn’t fit, I wouldn’t worry, since the individual pictures were always head-and-shoulder shots and the girls were tall enough that they’d get placed in the back row for class pictures, where the shoes wouldn’t show.

And off they’d go, and I’d hope like heck that their picture got taken before morning recess, which was usually about as long as they’d tolerate the perfect pigtails before yanking them out.

But somewhere along the line, they got older, and decided their school pictures were their domain, and my advice and input seemed to become irrelevant.  Which has turned out to be okay – I’m usually pretty happy with the picture, regardless. And, admittedly, their pictures look a lot more like “them”, comfortable, confident and happy. This is much better than the gritted teeth, hair wrestled into place, I-can’t-believe-my-mother-made-me-wear-this-dress version.

The Knee and the Girl attached to it hobbled out to the living room today. Tomorrow, she’s going to do it twice. This recovery may not be by leaps and bounds, but step by step works just as well.

Give a little whistle

October 20, 2008

My list of “ideas” for things to write about is growing – the Post-It I stuck on the wall some time ago is suddenly filling up. This is good. This is very good. It means that although I may not be writing again yet, at least not the way I think I should be, I’m thinking again, and I can’t help but feel like I haven’t been thinking for some time.

And when I’m writing again, I’ll be sure to avoid sentences that are as convoluted as that one was.

The girl with the Knee, she is home. An expected day’s stay in the hospital turned into four, but finally, after taking her first steps in a month and climbing FOUR stairs twice (up and down), they loaded her up with prescriptions and encouragement and sent her on out the door.

The ten-block drive home from the hospital was painful. The climbing of five stairs into the house was EXCRUTIATING. I know how much it hurt to watch; I can only imagine how much it hurt to actually DO.

We’ll call it the Knee with a capital for the duration, since every move is made only after careful calculation as to whether or not it will be jar the Knee. From thigh to calf she’s wrapped in gauze and a tensor bandage and it’s all bundled rigid with a very expensive brace that’s not covered by provincial health insurance. Lurking beneath all this is a very nasty looking incision held together with approximately 18 staples.  I saw the incision last night and promptly left the room- nursing is not one of my strengths, even when it’s my own kid.

She’s safely re-ensconced in her sister’s main floor bedroom and equipped with laptop, satellite TV and a whistle to blow when she needs something. In the days to come, pain and boredom will be her worst enemies, but we’ll get through it.

Anyone seen a funky bird?

October 18, 2008

I’ve been thinking the last few days about whether I’m going to Nano or not this year.  For the uninitiated, Nano is short for NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month, which is a very simple title for a very simple concept – write a 50,000 word during the 30 days of November. So simple a concept that thousands upon umpty thousands of writers begin, typing madly come November first. Much fewer finish. I’ve done it successfully twice, and then figured last year would be the charmed third time. Except last year, I cheated by trying to add to something I’d started previously . And since no one keeps score in NaNo, I ended up discovering what every cheater of every ilk discovers eventually-  I cheated myself and didn’t finish.

This year, my first instinct is “no no, no Nano”. I don’t have the time/drive/desire/creative inspiration necessary to commit to the madness. And the very next thought is “Why, why, why not try it again?”

That’s me – keep falling down, keep getting up.

So I’ve been mulling, imagining plots and characters and ideas. That’s allowed, you can think about it ahead of time all you want, you can even OUTLINE, you just can’t start writing the damn thing until after the kids have collapsed into a sugar coma on Halloween night. And what’s holding me up is the lack of a funky bird.

The Funky Bird is Lani’s terminology. It’s what you need to make a book stand out, give it its personality. In Lani’s case, in Maybe Baby, it was an actual funky bird. When it comes to actually selling your book, you’ll need to know where your Funky Bird is.

And no matter how many stories I dream up, I’m always left looking at an empty bird cage, no Funky Bird in sight.

But, as in all things, I’m beginning to realize that maybe I’m just trying too hard. Maybe the secret to success – and almost certainly the secret to my own past successs – is just to write the story I think needs to be written, or that I want to write, and if I leave the window open and some birdseed on the sill, the Funky Bird will show up sooner or later.

Gives a whole new meaning to the term “knee baby”

October 15, 2008

One of the books that I rescue from the discard pile everytime it’s time to clean up our family’s library is a children’s book called The Knee Baby. The flyleaf is long gone, and its matte purple cover, blank but for the lettering on the spine, stands out amongst the Dr. Seuss’s and Golden Books of mine and my children’s childhood.

It is the oddest book – its sentences have a strange syntax, but lyrical, and its illustrations, while beautiful, are nothing like the bright, cartooney drawings or photos you would see in most children’s books. Its story is one as old as time – new baby arrives, and big brother or sister is sad that Momma’s lap is now occupied by someone else. He has to learn to be content with being the “knee baby”, a southern term for the next to youngest child – which in a family of only two children is also the oldest child.

The book has been mine as long as I can remember, and if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear my mother’s voice, reading it to me when I was small. In hindsight, I suppose the book was brought into our home in part because there was a baby brother on the scene.  Now don’t laugh – the truth is, for the longest time, the reason I liked the book so much for so long was because of my little brother, but not the way you’d think.  You see, in the book, it mentions a buckeye tree, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen. Coincidentally, my little brother’s nickname, from my earliest memory, was Buckeye. 

We really have no idea how children think, do we?

Tomorrow, my own baby, the one who was my knee baby for seven years until the arrival of Daughter #3 is having her actual knee operated on. No longer a child, I’m going to hover anxiously while they wheel her into a room, put her to sleep, and slightly restructure part of her knee.  A knee I made (at least partly). A knee I’ve kissed better and band-aided and tickled a thousand times in 19 years.

They’d better be careful. Hell hath no fury like a momma whose baby’s hurting.

But after more than a month in a wheelchair, watching this woman-child tap into reserves of inner strength and resilience I didn’t know she had, watching her smile and laugh and stay determined to change the world standing OR sitting, I know she’ll be just fine. And I will too.

It’s going to be a long day tomorrow. Think good thoughts.

She Bop

October 14, 2008

Like most kids (my experiences with my own validate the statement I’m about to make), I discovered popular music – you know, the stuff they play on the radio and used to sell on things called albums and cassettes – when I was about 12 or 13.  Coinicidentally, my awareness of something called “Top 40” coincided with the advent of the music video. In fact, many cultural dissections (I’m too lazy to look up any specific ones right now) point to that period of the early to mid-80’s as having some kind of significance where music was concerned.  It was much, much easier for our generation to see the artists, who they were and what they looked like in action, without ever having to go anywhere near a concert stage. Just turn on the TV, and voila! There they were.

In the winter of 1984/1985 I was a little more off-track than your average teenager (though not nearly as bad as some), physically, emotionally and mentally in a place I didn’t want to be. One of my favourite ways to “escape” was to wait until everyone else was out of the house, blast the music as loud as I could and sing and dance along with albums that have since become iconic in music history. Purple Rain. Madonna’s Like a Virgin. The Footloose soundtrack.

My other favourite way was to put my Walkman headphones on, loud, and annoy the hell out of everyone around me by singing to music they couldn’t hear.

Then I got a little older, and listened to the music of the crowd I was running with. It was good, but it wasn’t as much fun. And it wasn’t as loud, most of the time.

And then I got a little older still, and started having babies, and who can have loud music in a house where there are babies?

And then I got even older, and had my very own radio in the car, but the people that are riding with me don’t always share my tastes, so cranking the volume isn’t received very well.

But when I’m alone in the car, and a song comes on – one from then, or one from now – that I’m particularly fond of, I turn up the dial as high as it will go in the minivan, and I sing my heart out. I wonder what all those other drivers must think, seeing this middle-aged (there, I said it) lady, in her nine-year-old Caravan, drumming on the steering wheel, crooning her heart out. It’s probably a ridiculous sight.

Sometimes, a kid is with me, and they’re open to my nuttiness, and they sing along too, and I cast my eyes sideways to share a smile with the shotgun-rider. And just for that moment, I feel – at least a little bit – like a thirteen year old kid again. Except now, the music’s a celebration, not an escape. I’m exactly where I want to be. And I can only hope that they’ll keep singing as they struggle to find their own place in the world.

It helps.

And Nancy drew her own conclusions

October 13, 2008

Rhododendrons don’t look anything like I thought they would.

I envisioned a tropical sort of thing, lots of green, spiky foliage, no flowers. A palm tree with no trunk, perhaps. Something moderately pretty, but rather blah. More accent than decoration, you might say.

Ha.

Turns out they’re lovely flowery things, and in fact, include what I know as azaleas. Very cheerful. And poisonous, but that may or may not be of consequence, depending on whether or not you’re planning to eat one.

Silly me. But then, that’s how I roll.

I have the capacity to imagine a chain of events, or a set of circumstances, but not a limitless capacity. Too often, I forget that just because I think I know what might could probably ultimately happen isn’t the ONLY possible outcome.  I think of Frost’s poem:

Two roads, diverged, in a yellow wood…and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference…

Well, yes. But also, no. Who’s to say that both paths didn’t eventually curve ’round and end up in the same place?  And if they didn’t, who’s to say that the “different” is better or worse?

We all end up right where we’re supposed to. Sometimes because of ourselves, sometimes in spite of ourselves, where we are today is exactly where we’re supposed to be. It’s the imagining ahead of time, thinking we know what we’re dealing with, that gets us into trouble. I was all ready to actively seek out some of those rhododendrons and consider planting them in the front beds next year. All because I thought I knew pretty much what they were and what they looked like.

I like them even more now, but not for the front. Maybe the side. Maybe not. It bears consideration.

Good thing I looked before I leaped.

P.S. Babies are bustin’ out all over the blogsphere lately, with both Kira and daMomma expecting (check ’em out in the sidebar) It’s very weird – I’m happy for them, and enjoying the chronicles of Motherhood the Sequel, but I hope there’s not something in the water.

Clearing a path…

October 12, 2008

Joshilyn, who is one of my very favourite writers and bloggers in the Whole. Wide. World. says there’s no such thing as writer’s block. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard before, from many other writers. Mostly writers with at least one book on the shelves and something else under contract, but not always. However, there’s a common theme – even when the writers I perceive as successful confess to having trouble putting words on the page, they still go to great lengths to say, NO SUCH THING AS WRITERS’ BLOCK.

When the words are flowing effortlessly, I tend to agree with them. I don’t disagree with them until I find myself staring at the blank page, each word written as painful to extract from my muddled mind as a stubborn splinter from my finger. When I can’t make the translation from thought to word to sentence, I shake my head and say, “They know not of what they speak. There is SO such a thing.”

But the truth is, there’s not. The writers, like Joshilyn, are right. What they have, and I haven’t had, for a while, is the wilingness to acknowledge the real heart of the problem: I cannot blame my trouble – in writing, or in life – on something I can’t control.

So, without a work in progress, without a contract, without anything more than a few measly blog entries in a few days, I’m going to say it out loud: There’s no such thing as writers’ block.

There is, however, such a thing as blocks we create for ourselves, for reasons we do and do not understand. Let’s call it WRITER BLOCK.

I am the writer.

I am also the block.

There’s nothing standing between me and the blank page but me. Me, of course, being a collection of thoughts, feelings, fears, interpretations and ideas that have somehow gotten themselves so twisted into one knotted mass of UGH that it’s no bloody wonder I feel like I couldn’t write a word to save my life. Plus, I am, by nature, lazy.

No, really.

This isn’t the place to share the UGH, not all of it anyway. But it might could be the place where I work through the process of untwisting it, bit by bit, knot by knot. Unraveling it is hard work. Reading the unraveled bits may be harder still, so I apologize in advance for the eventual ennui. If you stick with me, I appreciate it. If you move on without finishing reading here to Joshilyn, or any of the other wonderful women over there in the sidebar, I understand. But it must be done.

P.S. It occurs to me, after reading yet another novel where someone notices the rhododendrons in the front yard, that I have absolutely no freakin’ clue as to what a rhododendron looks like. Must Google later. I’m probably growing them and don’t even know it.