Sunday, February 28, 2010

Round Two of ABNA

I know all of you were on pins an needles as much as I, but I've just found out for certain that I've made it to Round Two of the Breakthrough Novel contest. That means I was roughly in the top 20% of the entries. Now my chapter selection will be posted online... though when that will happen, I have no idea.

I promise to write you when I know more. Until then, I'll just shiver in my boots a bit, giddy that I made it even through the first hurdle. (Honestly, I'm giddy that I even had the guts to send in another novel!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Meme

Friday is here, and I feel lazy (for once). I found this meme on AmyOops, and I thought it interesting enough to share. Feel free to answer the questions yourself, if you like. If you put them on your own blog, let me know so that I can check them out.

Odd Things about Me (What isn't odd about me?):

1 Do you like bleu cheese?
(Only in salad, in dressing, on toast, on fish, or anywhere else I put it.)
2. Do you own a gun?
(Never. I detest violence.)
3. What color Kool Aid is your favorite?
(Red flavored. Without poison, of course. Don't touch the stuff.)
4. Do you get nervous before doctor's appointments?
(Never. I like that hour I get to spend sans kids, talking about my problems. I especially like clinical massage therapy sessions. I think I could use one of those now.)
5. What do you think of hot dogs?
(Gross. I'm a vegetarian. I thought they were gross when I wasn't a vegetarian.)
6. Favorite Christmas movie?
(I have two: It's a Wonderful Life and Scrooged. Exactly the same movie... only different.)
7. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
(International Coffee's Cafe Vienna. I've tried everything else.)
8. Can you do push ups?
(I do fifty every morning, fifty every evening. But I warn you, they don't work.)
9. What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
(My wedding ring, of course!)
10. Favorite hobby?
(Playing piano, singing, painting, reading, coloring, drawing, dancing. All in one day. I love to write, too, but that is my profession, not my hobby.)
11. Do you have A.D.D?
(No, but I'm a Pisces, and that's bad enough. ADD would put me over the edge.)
12 Do You wear glasses or contacts?
(Yup, but I want lasic so that I don't have to anymore.)
13. Middle name?
14. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
(Water, diet orange Crush--yum!--and, um, Cafe Vienna)
15. Current Worry?
(I worry about absolutely everything. Just read my blog and you'll see.)
16. Current hate?
(Grammatical errors. Ask me tomorrow, and it will be something else.)
17. Favorite place to be?
(In my wingback chair, writing.)
18. Where would you like to go?
(Great Britain.)
19. Name three people who will complete this?
(I never said I was psychic. What kind of question is that?)
20. Do you own slippers?
21. What color shirt are you wearing?
(None of your business, snoopy.)
22. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
(Gross. No.)
23. Can you whistle?
(Yes. My favorite song to whistle is the Star Wars theme.)
24. Where are you now?
(In my wingback chair!)
25. Would you be a pirate?
(No. Vegetarian pacifists don't make good pirates.)
26. What songs do you sing in the shower?
(Anything loud and operatic.)
27. Favorite Girl's Name?
28. Favorite boy's name ?
(Orlando. Yeah, I know, neither of these made it to my kids.)
29. What's in your pocket right now?
(No pockets.)
30. Who last made you laugh?
(My husband, and, no, the details are none of your business.)
31. What vehicle do you drive?
(Ford Mother-With-Kids Windstar Minivan. Sexy!)
32. Worst injury you've ever had?
(Cesarean section. Never really been injured. I did cut my legs up a few times, throwing myself into thorns, etc., but I don't really count any of that. My two C-sections were the hardest.)
33. Do you love where you live?
(Yup, allergies and all. Summers here are spectacular, and I love rain, too.)
34. How many TVs do you have in your house?
(Two, and I rarely watch either.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Correcting the World

I opened my mailbox this morning to find my daily astrology report:

Cheer up and have fun, Cheryl. You may not be able
to resist temptation today, so why fight the urge?
Going with the flow will lead you most likely into a
place of laugher and merriment. There is nothing
wrong with being a bit selfish once in a while. Feel
free to indulge. Your sensitive, outer-worldly personality
will find comfort in a decedent meal by candlelight.
Romance is your ticket to pleasure.

While I won't expound on the accuracy of the reading today (do I ever try to judge whether astrology is accurate?), I was pretty upset by the errors. I adore "going with the flow"--I've had Taoist leanings for about ten years now--but why in the world would I want "laugher"? What the hell is that, anyway?

And since when is decadent spelled "decedent"? Does the astrologer mean "decent"? That might fit better, given that I have two kids to share dinner with, I'm trying to lose a few pounds, and my husband will be coming home late from a meeting south of Seattle today. I'd be happy with a decent meal, honestly. It might even suit me better than a decadent one.

But it isn't just an astrologer who can't seem to handle the English language. Yesterday, an AP article about the shooting near Columbine had at least two grammatical errors. A blog this morning about the speed skating issues (involving the Koreans) ended in this way:

They may have backed into bronze, but as the fourth-best relay
team in the world. Don't say it wasn't earned.

Please don't ask me what's wrong with this. It should look like this:

They may have backed into bronze, but as the fourth-best relay
team in the world, don't say the medal wasn't earned.

Am I irate because I've been grading too many student papers lately? No. I'm upset because whoever is writing these articles is doing this for money--these people are PROFESSIONAL WRITERS--and their stuff is published with obvious disregard for editing.

Enough of my ranting. I'm off to mark up the newspaper with a red pen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Waking up from a long, heavy dream
My head pounding
I pull my eyes up
Just over the seawater line
But my shoulders ache
From the chains
Below the surface.

The air is warm
Touching my hair
Sighing around my ears
In a barely heard whisper.

Should I?
Could I?

I find the first clasp
Cold and heavy
Slip it off my
Far too skinny wrist
And watch the dark of weight
Float silently down
Never to reappear

Another chain follows
Dropping from my left shoulder
Swinging around with a bump
Before it too falls
To the bottom of the sea

I glance around
To see if anyone
Sees me
They do
But they can't stop me
For they are still chained down themselves

Another shove
And both shoulders wrestle free
The biggest weight around my waist
Slips down my hips
My thighs
And with a little clip on my left ankle
Drops away

And now, unfettered
I can swim to shore.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Art of Putting One's Shoes On

I cannot remember the first time I dreamed I was at school while barefoot. Third grade, perhaps? Not only was I walking along the sidewalk without shoes and socks, but I usually sported a silky pair of pajamas. Never naked. Nope, too prudish for that. But my feet were naked.

Shoes are interesting things. No pair is truly comfortable, but without shoes, feet are often less comfortable, especially sensitive feet like mine. I remember how my little sister used to run flat out along our grandmother's gravel driveway, chucking huge white rocks behind her as she sped. I, the sensitive-footed, tiptoed along the driveway, in utter pain, amazed that she didn't seem to feel a thing. I adored shoes, for they allowed me the only means to run with impunity, no matter the terrain.

Kids and shoes are an odd combination. The little boy I watched all last year loved his green alligator galoshes, so he wore them pretty much every day. Shorts + galoshes. Snowsuit + galoshes. Church clothes + galoshes. Such a sweet boy, too, unless you tried to get him to wear something besides galoshes.

Kids go through the "Wrong Feet" stage with shoes, usually by the time they can put the shoes on. Both of my children placed their feet in the wrong shoes from 2 to 5 years of age, so that the toes poked awkwardly in strange directions. I could always tell, too. I'd fix the problem, only for the children to remove the shoes and place them back on the "right" feet.

"Aren't you uncomfortable?" I'd ask.

Their only answer? A weird, quizzical stare back. Of course they were comfortable.

But why am I talking all about shoes? Because my hectic Monday has given me a well-deserved treat. I tested my daughter on spelling, helped with several worksheets, nagged my way around the house, and rushed my kids to school this morning. Then, as I walked from my car into my own college building, I realized that one of my feet was making more noise than the other.

Why was I walking harder on one foot than the other? I tried to compensate. Nope, still louder. That foot felt weird, too. It didn't feel as comfortable. Was it swollen? Was the sock inside twisted?

I finally stopped and looked down. My foot was not the problem. It was my boots.

One black, with a square toe. One brown, with a rounded toe and a seam running down the middle. I'd put on one shoe each from two different pairs of boots.

All these years, and I still haven't learned to put my shoes on properly.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Would You Like to Meet my (Imaginary) Friend?

My son, as some of you know, is best described as "precocious." In a single day my five-year-old can fill his shoes with mud, get called into the principal's office, and complete an adult word search, including terms like "admirer," pronouncing them correctly even if doesn't have a clue what they mean.

But that isn't enough. He also has an imaginary friend named Tres.

I met Tres at least two years ago. Brandon walked out the front door, shut it, and rang the doorbell. Now, this had already been his usual activity for as long as he could turn a doorknob, but since he never left the front porch, I let him do it.

But this time, he didn't ring the doorbell incessantly. Just one polite ring. I waited, but he didn't enter again. Finally, curiosity pulled me to the door, and I opened it. Brandon stood there, waiting. "Hi."

"Hi," I answered.

"I've come for a visit."

"Oh, you have, have you?" What on earth did my son mean?

"Yes. I'm Brandon's friend. My name is T-R-E-S."



Seems Tres, who looked just like Brandon, was a 16-year-old with a driver's license. He'd dropped Brandon off at school, and then had come to play. And thus began our long journey with a new, dwarfed fully employed 16-year-old.

It turns out Tres is quite a wonder. He very willingly cleans Brandon's room, does Brandon's chores, and even plays piano in Brandon's stead. But woe betide you if you call him Brandon...

Tres is also magic. He can talk to his mother without calling her on the telephone (he won't give me her number so that I can call her, either), and he manages all sorts of other amazing feats. This summer he even died. We were camping down near Eureka, California, and as we walked through an extremely cool cemetery in Ferndale, Brandon showed me the very grave where the dead Tres had been laid to rest.

"But it says 'Emma Davis.' Says she was married to this guy John."

"No, that's wrong. You just aren't reading it right. He's there."

"How did he die?"

My son shrugged. "I don't remember."

Astonishingly, Tres showed up at our camper not two days later.

"I thought you were dead."

Tres wrinkled his nose. "No."

"Really? You're alive?"

Again the wrinkle. "Yes. I look alive, don't I?"

I had to admit he did.

Just this last Thursday Tres came over for a sleepover. He cleaned Brandon's room, did his homework, and even gave Brandon's dad a hug so that he wouldn't miss Brandon to terribly. He unloaded the dishwasher, asking me where to put pans, plates, and everything else (he didn't remember where they went). Then, the next morning, Tres buttered himself an English muffin and took off for the bus, letting Brandon return just in time to be driven to school.

I wonder how much longer Tres is going to stick around. Personally, when he stops coming, I'll really miss him. He's a good boy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wielding Power

It never fails to amaze me when a bit of a glitch in my most significant relationship reduces me to a quivering bowl of depressed jelly.

I apologize for the depressed poem of yesterday. I still am a bit sniffly, but my honey has done me worlds of good, just by listening, just by talking, just by turning off the Olympics for a night and paying me attention. Mostly, he's reminded me that my feelings are valid, that my opinion is mine, and deserves my attention.

I'm mostly back to my cheery self, ready to take on the world, but the incident, however brief, has made me wonder...

I was once told a quote similar to "Name whose opinion matters most to you, for you are his slave." It's cropped up several times in my life since I first heard it, and it's always disturbed me, for I realize that I am slave to several.

And, here again, I face my list of Top Ten List of People Who Have Some Hold Over Me:

(sorry, I rewrote it several times, but I couldn't seem to make it less wordy)

10. My students (yes, I actually care what they think... whether they are learning, etc. I care less, though, if they don't come to class, neglect their work, or blame me when a crappy paper gets a deservedly crappy grade.)
9. My sister (she's [slightly] older and knows more, even though we are night/day different)
8. Colleagues (unless they are insane or don't know how to teach)
7. My kids (low on the list b/c they are too young to know what's good for them)
6. My blog buddies (I'd be more afraid, but they are all too nice)
5. My brother-in-law (b/c he's brilliant, and also a writer)
4. My friends (especially the parents, since I don't know what I'm doing)
3. My mother-in-law (b/c she's smart and I adore her)
2. My husband (best friend, compassionate, amazing, intelligent...blah, blah, blah, ad nauseum)

and the number one person?

1. Me.

Yes, other people matter to me. Yes, I want to impress others, to win them over, to get them to like me. But no one is more important than I am. I hold more power over my own happiness than anyone else. I fall out of balance when I forget that.

So, who's on your list? Anybody ready to share?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Ocean

I thought I was moving forward all these years
The land seemed closer
Just a bit more swimming left

But dawn comes
I am not blind for once
Shore is far away
My legs ache
Water coughs my lungs

Not sure I can make it
Seems so far
Too far for all the little
Strength that's left

Should I keep swimming?

Don't know what I'll face if I
Reach the shore

Harsh rocks
To crush myself against?
Am I dead either way?

Will I wish I had kept from shore
Way out there
Far away
And drowned?

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I mentioned last month that my husband and I had been dating for twenty years... and it was 20 years ago that a quite miraculous thing happened. You'll understand when you hear the whole story.

Twenty years ago, Richard and I had been dating for right around three weeks. I was just about to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and he was doing tech, which meant he was the person pulling me up in the balloon at the end of the play.

But that wasn't the miraculous part.

We were planning to exchange presents at a Valentine's Day party, and a day prior I still didn't have anything to give him. I'd thought about chocolates, about all the typical crap, but nothing felt right.

Finally, late into the night, I wrote him a poem. It was a pretty cheesy sonnet, and I won't make your eyes bleed by posting it here. But if I'd really read it then, I would never have given it to him. Three weeks in, I had written him a poem pretty much asking him to spend the rest of his life with me.

A scary thing to send a barely boyfriend who was still 18.

I wrote it in calligraphy on parchment, then rolled it up with a red ribbon, not telling my parents what I'd done so they could talk me out of it. I saved the poem in my coat, and then, when we were together, I handed it to him.

He opened it and read it while I waited, not breathing.

I know what he should have done. He should have shown me his deer-in-the-headlights look, folded it up, gulped, and said we needed to talk (or something like that).

But here's where the miracle happened.

He didn't run. He didn't get scared. His eyes got pretty glossy, though, and he didn't speak right away, but rolled up the parchment carefully and tucked it into his coat pocket. Then we reached the party, and not even five minutes later, he was showing the poem to everybody, bragging on me, telling everybody what a lucky guy he was. I saw several other guys get the deer-in-the-headlights look, but that didn't seem to phase him at all.

Not even three days later, I noticed the poem, carefully framed and glassed, in his dorm room right next to his bed. And it's still there today, on our nightstand, right next to where he sleeps.

The poem was prophetic on my part, but the grace with which he accepted his destiny--accepted me--will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Today, I am grateful for miracles.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hangin' with Harry

I am DONE grading! (Except for a few late papers and some wads of journals, of course). I spent the last three nights staying up late and getting up early, and now my kids and I are chilling in front of the big screen, watching all the Harry Potter movies up to #6.

Okay, so I'm also blogging. But I've been dying to blog all this time... and I had to force myself to keep marking with my little blue pen, keep circling verbs, keep marking works cited pages.

Not. Fun.

I'm considering shifting my grading in ENG 102 next semester to the method I use in ENG 101. I approach it from a publishing perspective. Instead of assigning the student a grade, I assess whether the paper is at an A-/B+ level. If it isn't, I give it back with comments, and the student has to revise it. Three chances to get it there, and if they don't they're out. You see, I hate D's and F's. I don't like assigning a grade to something that really doesn't deserve to go on. I want my students to learn to revise, to correct, to see what kinds of mistakes they make and learn not to make them...

Why I'm blogging about that now, I have no idea. Perhaps I'm just too much in a rut.

No more writing. No more reading. I'm going back to the boob tube, watching my favorite series of films ever (for all their imperfections).

I can't wait for #7, parts one and two!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nipping Off Interests?

An old friend from church called a few days ago, telling me, "Forget about writing novels. You should be a poet! Write more poems like the ones in your blog, and then publish a book of them."

About a month ago, my husband suggested I concentrate on my playwriting, since it's where I write my best work (in his opinion), and where I'm achieving the most success.

I've written several short prose pieces for writing groups lately, and with each one, other writers encourage me with, "You should turn that into a novel!"

So, which is it? According to a professor with whom I interviewed at Indiana State, "No great writers ever achieve success in more than one genre." He was obviously ignoring all the exceptions, from William Shakespeare to Emily Bronte to D. H. Lawrence. Okay, he was obviously an idiot. I knew that then. I know it now.

The truth is, practicing poetry helps hone one's prose, for one becomes attuned to the sound of language, learning to say meaningful things in as few words as possible. And poetry is the best choice on days when I don't want to use punctuation or obey rules.

And prose is great practice for keeping the plot moving, concentrating on more than one element at the same time (scenery, action, dialogue) without losing track. A tough job for this Piscean, yes, but great practice!

Playwriting has similar qualities to poetry, for it does depend on the rhythms of language--yet this language is all spoken aloud, and in dialogue between characters. This dialogue has poetic elements, but it still needs to fit into (usually) more realistically spoken conversation between characters, so the rhythms have to be more subtle.

Even my other pursuits feed into these. Painting helps me visualize setting in prose, images in poetry, and the scenes themselves in playwriting. Colors, shapes, and textures all play into these--textures seeping into my poetry and prose so that readers can feel as well as see what is going on.

Music leads directly into all three genres, helping me practice mood, pacing, and rhythm. I even incorporated a scene of total pantomime into one recent play, set to music played on a bass violin. Even now I listen to music when I write certain scenes or poems, hoping to capture the mood of a piece of music as I write. Some of my characters have theme songs, which I hum as I write.

So do I really need to pick one genre and stick with it? I joked with my husband that none of my pursuits had panned out as of yet, so why abandon any of them?

Honestly, even if one brings me some success, I doubt I'll ever put any of the other ones down.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sunshine and Sickness

Coughing upstairs
Drifts siftingly
Down to the sunlit windowpanes
And we all rest

Nothing desperate
To do today
Just a few musings
A bit of snuggling

Being sick isn't so bad
With a blanket
Covering the hurts

And a bit of tea
Or red gooey syrup
Softens the ache
And stops the pounding

And still the sun streams in
Bluey and clear
On a cold winter's day
Saying hello
And reminding us
How loved we are
Despite the coughing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Rain

Rain drips along the house, calling

I sit in the dark, trying to ignore
The softened reminder
Of the world outside

Papers clog my brain
Students' hopes
Future grades
Present scores

And the rain drips on, singing like a child

I turn back to the world of dry
Arid thoughts
Analyzing red pens
Instructions, advice

And the rain murmurs to me from the darkness

Inside is dry and safe
And warm
A world of known, of comfort, blankets
Safe and soft

Yet I long to step outside
Into the deep of morning
For the cold splash of rain
To wake me from this sleep.