Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top Ten Travesties of 2012

I suppose I should be more positive about the year, given that my personal life has been going very well. But just because my life is in some kind of order doesn't mean that the world is. A LOT of stuff is going wrong, and not just in the U.S. (though my list will emphasize U.S. stuff, since that's where I live, at least at this point).

Here's my list, from pretty bad to truly awful:

10.  The loss of the Georgia Archives. Every state is having to make up for lost federal money, just as they have for several years now, but this is a really terrible loss. Sure, the state will still be sending stuff to the archives, but there will no longer be anybody to sort through it, file it away, or retrieve it when it's needed. Our history will sift into the great black hole, never to be retrieved until we somehow get more funding for it. And we won't. Some day my kids will want to know something, and they won't find out about it. I'd make this higher on the list, but other states have had to do worse. Washington State has closed a bunch of mental health facilities, and those patients have nowhere to go. Will they end up on the street? Many of them probably will, and I can think of no way to stop it from happening.

9.  The slow shift in education towards non-learning. I have a teaching degree and nearly 20 years of teaching experience, and I am utterly appalled by the way students are taught today. Instead of active learning involving visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning, kids are taught to sit still for eight hours a day, pumping out boring, out-moded ideas onto even more boring worksheets, just so that they have the "skills" to pass a test. What happened to actual learning? What happened to the study of a subject in an illuminating, active way, one that would pull students in with interest and involve them in the investigative process? Why are kids constantly told to "shut up" and "do their work"? Are we just training them to work obediently and silently in future office cubicles? Really?

8.  Les Miserables. Poorly orchestrated and badly directed, the film was trying too hard to be "new" and "edgy" and muffed up the beauty of the play--and the original novel--almost beyond recognition. Sure, other movies weren't great this year, but the hubby and I have been waiting for this film since we were dating, when we sat on the front row of the stage musical and saw it for the first time. Only the film of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was worse, but since it came out more than a decade ago, I can't make it an item on this list.

7.  Lance Armstrong. I'm sure he's feeling more pain than anybody right now, but the whole thing was wrong. It's the worst of these kinds of stories, taking what should have been a heroic rise from cancer and turning it into one of the biggest cheats in sports history. Yet he was just like so many other athletes, in the end. It's just that his fall was the farthest.

6.  The new NFL football pants. Sure, lots of sports enthusiasts would point to Lance Armstrong's decided fall from grace as a bigger story, but those horrifyingly see-thru white pants the teams were told to wear this year make the sport unwatchable. Literally. The hubby thought women might actually make up more of the audience if they could see more of men's unmentionables, but I, for one, did not enjoy the sight of a 400-lb. offensive lineman's derriere, especially when framed with the standard white jock strap. Gross! Even more than my own bleeding eyes, I was offended that these guys had to wear the pants in the first place. I'd show a picture, but it would make your eyes bleed, too.

5.  The fiscal cliff. Really? We pay you guys all sorts of money--hell, y'all earn more during your terms than most people in this country earn in a decade, and some in their lifetimes--and you can't get this kind of thing done? You know what happens in a private business if one doesn't get one's job done? One is FIRED. Why you have years of protection that the rest of us don't have with our own jobs is the travesty. Stop whining, stop in-fighting, and get your job done. Now.

4.  Shootings. I thought no shooting could be more senseless than the one in Arizona, which killed a little girl--until 20 little children were blown away, along with 6 school teachers and administrators. The news is still busy trying to figure out why, but there is no answer. There will never be a reason. That day will never be anything but senseless. The psycho who gunned down four firefighters, murdering two of them as they fought a blaze he set himself, proves even more the senselessness of man's inhumanity to man. We create so much pain for each other, for no reason, over and over.

3. The NRA's "answer" to the incident in Newtown. More guns? Really? Take a look at what Fareed Zakaria said about this answer, and about the prevalence of gun violence in our country. Go ahead, read it. It'll tell you all you need to know. The NRA's answer just makes gun violence MORE likely, and the thought of that makes me tremble. My kids go back to school in just a few days...

2.  The cheats who created fake websites and "charities" for us to give money to--both for the hurricane and Newtown and so many other events--who had no intention of doing anything but taking the money and run. I'm sure Dante has a level in hell for you. That anyone would see in the tragedy of others a way to make a bunch of money is heinous in itself. To actually take steps to steal a murdered child's name and create a website, or advertise a bogus charity and pocket the money shows an insensitivity to life and humanity that I simply cannot grasp.

1.  Our consistent inhumanity towards each other. I say this is the worst mostly because it is the basis for all of the other problems (except, perhaps the football pants). Whenever we place anything above people--money, guns, laziness, fear, prejudice, hate, ourselves, fame, etc.--we do evil. We are so quick to blame God for all of this, yet we need to accept the blame. This evil is only tempered by the generosity of so many other people to give to those in need, to help others, to speak the unpopular ideas, to teach us new ways to think, believe, feel, and see. This inhumanity is our worst problem, yet the very problem shows how we can choose differently, if we will only work towards love, mercy, and reconciliation.

So that's it. Far more serious than I intended, except for the football pants, but this year has been a troubling one. Any items you'd put on the list?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Stupids

They are everywhere
Their thick brains
Firing off
Thicker thoughts

They wander everywhere
Onto TV screens
Spouting inanity
In an inane world

They hurt everything
Killing without any reason but hate
Hating without any reason but fear
Fearing for no reason

They follow us everywhere
Pushing their nonsense on us
Expecting us to act upon
Their nonsense

Yes, we are right
They are everywhere
Zombies out to make the world their own
We are right to be afraid

Yet we are so, so wrong
For we are not more than they
We, too, are stupid in the world
We, too, rationalize our own thinking
We, too, believe that only we are right
We, too, want everyone to act as we do
Where we all go wrong is in
Thinking we know everything.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sewing Saturday--Making

I meant what I said about making. And if I could find my digital camera, I'd show you the project I started AND finished yesterday--even with watching THE HOBBIT in the middle of the day.

You see, I bought a laundry sorter for my son. Not for his laundry, mind you, but so that he'd have a makeshift toy box for his smaller toys. The frame itself was great--solid aluminum, lightweight, etc.--but the fabric was cheap and ravely, and, well, it lasted a whole couple months before its seams started splitting and the whole thing started falling apart.

A wasted purchase? Not at all. It took just a few measurements and a raid of my sturdier fabrics to find a way to fix the whole thing. I used double strength cotton in blues just like his bedding, and made a whole new bin. This one wraps around every part of the frame, too, in one single swathe, and after reassembling it, I've created something more solid than a suitcase, and longer lasting. And if it somehow gets stained, it can wash in the laundry.

It's not often that a project turns out perfect, but this one did. Even better, it cleans up my son's toys and makes him VERY happy.

Now to make my daughter a bathrobe! And to find my digital camera so that I can update this post with a few pictures!

How is your making coming?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wanting More?

I can't say whether it's just in the U.S., but it seems like people are compelled to buy more and more stuff in the relentless pursuit of happiness.

Shoppers are rushing back to the stores even as I write--returning gifts they don't want, then spending a ton more on gifts they DO want--as if the stuff will finally satisfy the hole they find in the pit of their stomach.

I don't believe that really works.

The hubby waxed philosophical about this yesterday, shaking his head and saying, "You know, I think I'm happy now. There's nothing out there that I don't have that would really make my life better. I'm content with everything just as it is."

He looked at me for that spousal agreement sort of thing. You know, the oh-honey-I-think-the-same-thing-in-exactly-the-same-way comment. But I realized that I wasn't content with everything just as it is.

Not because I wanted more stuff. Oh, no. I don't like stuff in general, and I'd be more content with less stuff. I'm not content, not because I want more stuff, but because I want to DO more. Looking back over my year, I wish I'd written more, painted more, sung more, played piano more, tried out more new recipes, exercised more, sewn more. And the list goes on.

It probably doesn't make any sense. I just feel driven to do all I possibly can with the life I have. I don't want to waste time on crap. I want to create something real.

So, that's my goal for today--and for every day: Make something.

I plan to sew today--do some mending, but also sew my daughter a bathrobe and my son a toy bin. They'll probably drag on through tomorrow at least, but then I'll have made something. It's a beautiful feeling, too, making something. Better than having stuff. Far better than buying stuff. Creating something may, perhaps, give me the best feeling in the world. It's worth all the work, all the time, all the effort.

Enough blogging. I'm off to MAKE.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Few Disappointments

Christmas morning was great... and Christmas dinner turned out better than I could have expected. The food all turned out well, and making the casseroles the day before turned the whole cooking experience into a relaxed sort of dance. I even managed to play a few Christmas carols on the piano at one point. When does THAT happen?

But then the day turned not so wonderful. We went to see Les Miserables, and the hubby and I were both itching to be impressed. The film did not fulfill my expectations. I can't claim to be devastated, but the director was so fixated on facial expression that he filmed nearly everything in tight shots centered on each actor's face--to the detriment of any cinematography that might illuminate gesture, setting, etc. And his methods for filming meant actors could act--though Russell Crowe decided not to--but only a handful of them actually sang well, and I don't count Hugh Jackman among them. His voice was reedy and annoying, and his rendition of "Bring Him Home" made me positively cringe. Anne Hathaway was absolutely brilliant--truly--and many of the young students and both little kids could also sing--but otherwise the music was gritty and unlovely.

That was not the lowest point of the day, though. My little boy writhed through much of the film, complaining of a stomach ache... which wasn't fake, since the hubby ended up running out of the theatre with him so that he could heave up everything he'd eaten that day. I should have taken care of him, too, considering that I wasn't enjoying the film and I think the hubby was far less exacting than I and had been, up to that point, having a fantastic time.

We made a few hurling stops on the way home, and then my son fell asleep, emptied at last. I watched him overnight, to make sure I was there in case any last bit decided to come up on its own. Nothing did, and this morning he seems okay.

I just hope the hubby finds a time to go back to the movie and see it again--without anything to hinder his enjoyment of the film. Including me. Except for my criticisms here, I don't intend to say a single negative thing about the film to him--especially if he loves it. But I do not want to see it again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas!

I know "Merry Christmas!" is the standard greeting in the U.S., but I've decided that, for this year at least, I prefer the British version. The term "merry" can imply that we're making merry, and that could mean we're just putting on a brave face, digging a bit too much into the egg nog or cinnamon schnapps, eating too many stale cookies, buying too much stuff, and falling into excess in an attempt to "look" happy.

Thanks for the photo, Microsoft Office!
"Happy" suggests a very different emotion. It's one of bliss, of warm fuzzies as one walks through a normal day. Of skipping a bit more, of going about one's normal life with a permanent enigmatic smile, a smile that brightens everyone's day without one even realizing it. Happy is a state of being that transcends the ordinary life, imbuing everything with a bit more sunshine.

So I'm raising my coffee this morning--and to every morning from now until next Christmas--to just being happy. To living with a little quiet joy every single day. To doing something truly beautiful with at least a few of the moments we are given. To fitting beauty and happiness into our daily lives, despite family obligations, work, and other have-tos. To feeling blessed with a bit more sunshine on our hair, despite the rain outside or the cold wind blowing.

Happy Christmas, everyone! And a lovely New Year, too!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 24

This is the last one... and that means I managed to blog 24 days in a row! Thanks for sticking in there with me, Walking Man... how's it feel to be my most faithful reader?

I'm the wee one
The conundrum
The irony

I'm the "reason"
But those who spout
Are just as bent on buying
As those who trim Thor's tree

I'm the life
The breath that started breathing long ago
That breathes now
But I don't breathe of judgment
I don't bring war
I don't cause the hate
I am not at all
What I am painted to be

Please don't judge
Don't assume you know me
Your limits
Box me in
And cover me up

Just listen
To the snow outside your window
Sifting through tree branches
To the padding feet of pjs
To the softness of prayer
To the feel of poinsettia petals
To the whispers of love
All around you

Only then will you find me.

Who am I?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 23

I move like a flash
With a shush of snow and ice
Better than a Zamboni

Need to get around
In the frozen tundra of winter
Without the hassle of tires?

With a horse, some reins
And a glossy me
You can travel like the wind

With a little help from Santa
And a team of magic deer
I even fly.

What am I?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 22

Creamy and delicious
(Or maybe not--
It's up to you)
Spiced with nutmeg
And thick with eggs and milk
I'm not for children
(Especially when laced with rum--
The BEST way to enjoy me)
But just a nip of me
And the holidays begin for real.

Haven't tried me?
Well, what are you waiting for?

What am I?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 21

Only a few more days... I'm just glad I've actually kept at the writing (even if I did only because my kids would be disappointed otherwise):

I'm the present nobody wants
The heavy concoction of
Fruited nuts
And nutted fruits

Solid enough to be a doorstop
Ugly enough to make one gag
(Before one even takes a taste)
Able to last from one holiday to the next

What am I?

I'm betting my kids won't get this. I've never made one of these, and I never will. Thankfully, I haven't been given one in years.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 20

I drift into your ear sometimes
At first a beat, or tinkling tune
Some somber notes, some silly rhymes
The words some famous people croon

I stick without throughout the day
Humming in your head a bit
Accompany you on your way
To shop, to drive, to talk, to sit

I'll never leave your head, you know
Through seasons' changing, on and on
You'll hum me fast or sing me slow
The whole year round, at dusk or dawn.

What am I?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 19

All by myself
I'm spiced with sweetness
Crispy and ready to eat

But you don't eat me

You cut me
Into fat pieces
Frost me up with icing

And this suits me just fine

So go ahead
Decorate me with those gummy drops
The spicy ones in green and red

I like those candies best

Or licorice, or lollipops
To line my windows, doors, and roof
The frosting adds some needed snow

And then I'm ready for display

But pretty doesn't really suit me
Looking isn't quite enough
I sigh for little sneaky fingers
To pull off pieces, nibble up

After all, I'm really meant for EATING.

What am I?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 18

It obviously does no good to schedule a post, since they just sit around in draft form anyway.

Here's December 18, which should have posted at least 24 hours ago (though the time stamp says yesterday):

I'm not meant for naked toes
Though I might seem the softest sight
Put on boots before you go
To tromp along my mass of white

You'll leave big footprints everywhere
Or make a man of some of me
I'll mark your cheeks, but you won't care,
I've blessed your world, and you've blessed me.

What am I?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 17

By now I am covered with flour
The wipings of little hands
And big ones

Don't fret--it's what I was meant for
The drips
The smears
To protect a person's clothes
In a pinch

And with a good washing I'll lose
The stains
The mess
But I'll keep the memories
Of yearly Christmas cookies.

What am I?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 16

Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned
Or a little past my prime
I sure don't last forever
Snuffing dark when out of time

But I'm better than a light bulb
For I shine the perfect light
Soften up the hardest edges
Gentling in the darkest night.

I myself am not important,
Yet illuminate the truth.
Take a long, good look around you
And you'll see the living proof.

The caring in a loved one's eyes
The grief of shedding tears
Holding hands, soft singing, crying
Pain, forgiveness, mercy, sighing
Lighting up this world for years.

What am I?

In solidarity with those grieving in Connecticut and around the world, I light mine. I will light one every day in the memory of those children, parents, and educators until something is done to stop the senselessness of our country's belief that only guns can bring safety. Until we start to see each other as human beings, not bullet receptacles.

Guns bring death. That's all they are for. They can only do what we created them to do. They'll only fall out of favor when we find a more efficient way to kill people.

So I will light mine, every day. And hope.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 15

Think I'm a skinflint, do you?
Think I'm the worst of the worst?
More devil than human?
Beyond recall?

Don't be fooled
Don't believe for a moment
That I'm the only one
For Dickens designed me from you

I'm the you that won't give
The you that seeks money more than meaning
The you with no time for others
No mercy, no sympathy, no sacrifice

I am Everyman
With one exception:
I have learned my lesson in the end
Learned to let go of avarice and love my fellow man.

Have you?

Who am I?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 14

Soft and white
As snow
I go

Warm as hearth
Not cold
Calm as peace
Not bold

Fly with me
Some day
His way.

What am I?

Trying to keep it different here... if you're one of the four people checking this out every day, thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 13

I promise, I had the 12th finished early... but I scheduled it to be published, and I guess it didn't go through.

Now it has.

Here's the installment for today. It's later than I'd like, and the kids have noticed! Darn!

A red and white
Curve of sweetness
Fit for children

If adults let them eat me
On their own

Hook me on a tree branch
Or into a stocking
Or on a little finger

Or break me into pieces
And share me

Who am I?

I won't put the solution to the 12th in yet, since I just noticed the Blogger error. This one's pretty easy, though...

Hope your holiday shopping is finished by now. If it is (and it is for me, thank God), that means you are part of the 18% finished. Supposedly 60% still haven't started.

Then again, it's never been about the shopping for me. I'm off to play some piano Christmas carols!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 12

All is not quite dead outside
For I see that am here
Happy in this winter-wide
Snow wonder world of cheer.

I flit from branch to branch by day
A blot of red on white
The others have all flown away
No other bird in sight

Yet I am here, content to be
The only one to stay
To make my home in winter, me
The faithful bird always.

What am I?

It's the best I could do, given what little time I had. Hope your holiday season is less hectic than mine!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 11

I can't believe I didn't get this done earlier, but I've been running since 4:30 a.m.

Here it is, the riddle poem for today:

I'm an evergreen welcome sign
Friendly to Thor, to winter,
To visitors, both friend and foe alike

I might be plain old needles
Or dressed up with a bow
Pine cones
Tiny presents
Or anything human imagination
Can divine.

But know, if me you see,
That you are welcome, one and all!

Who am I?

(Yesterday's answer--bag of toys)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 10

Hidden in the dark of our magic bag
We whisper to each other 
In expectation

We've been carefully made with one child in mind
And artfully wrapped and labeled
But with speed

Now we feel the rush of wind outside
And our collective excitement grows
As we make the journey home

Who will open us on Christmas morning?
Who will give our short lives purpose?
Who will love us as our maker intended?

We await the rush of joy
The solitary journey down the chimney
To reach our good boy or girl.

What are we?

(Yesterday's answer: Angel)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 9

Floating on the sea of night
I seek out mortal men
To tell them of a wondrous sight
Within the dark, a guiding light
Awaiting all of them.

"Be not afraid!" I softly call
"The Son of God is born!"
Then turn to listen, one and all
And to their knees they softly fall
Before the break of morn.

I'll guide them, and the Magi, too,
The star will light my way
They'll gasp to see the infant coo--
As any who might see would do--
The Savior born this day.

Who am I?

(Yesterday's answer: Christmas Tree.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 8

OMG, I'm still posting! Eight days in a row! When have I ever managed that?

Here's the verse clue for December 8:

See me from a distance
And I look as soft as fur
But touch my top, for instance,
And I'll poke you like a burr.

Don't fret about the way I itch
Just dress me up with lights
And garlands, balls, assorted kitch
In reds and greens and whites

I love it when you ooh and aah
When I am lit, you see,
And keep the kiddos filled with awe
When they sleep under... me.

What am I?

(Day 7's answer: Poinsettia.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 7

I grow against all reason
Against all odds
I am nothing
That you believe me to be.

Red as a rose
But not even really a flower
Though I seem to bloom
In the dead of winter

I don't obey the rules
But I don't care.
I choose my own time to shine
My own way to express myself

I am a lovely Christmas beauty
Blooming in the snow
The perfect sign of hope
When all around seems dead and gone.

What am I?

(Yesterday's answer: A teddy bear.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent Calendar: December 6

I'm fashioned after wild fur
And ferocious growls
But teeth and claws
Have been replaced

Now I'm all stuffing
Fluffed fur
And glassy eyes
Made for snuggles

All the fight in me is gone
I've moved from den
To Christmas tree
To child's bedroom

The perfect companion
Rounded ears and all
For a sleeping boy
In train pajamas.

Who am I?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 5

Now that we're five days into this, I thought I'd let you know how the kids are responding. 


They especially like the idea that each one is a riddle, though they've easily guessed all except Day three (that took a bit of thinking, even with the Clara clue). 

More than likely, y'all are checking out the poetry and gagging (I read the verses through, and I know they aren't great, believe me). Then again, you aren't the intended audience. My kids are. And they like goofy words and phrases--and rhyme--so I'm writing in a style that is unusual for me, for the most part. 

Besides, I'm in a rush each day. And the poem today reflects that feeling, I think. It's also the easiest poem yet. Here's what will be waiting in the drawer for my kids today:

My work is finally winding down
(Believe me, I can't wait)
I'll soon be done, be on my own
Relaxing with my mate.

My bags are almost fully packed
We're all a little tense
To see the stockings stuffed and tacked
To give out all the presents.

But I still have my tasks to do
I cannot rest quite yet:
Mend my suit and shine each shoe
And get my beard curls set

I'll polish all the jingle bells
And feed the reindeer eight
End up the list--which elf can spell?--
And ready for the date.

It's such a rush this time of year
But I don't mind at all
For I'll be eating brauts and beer
Before the New Year calls.

Who am I?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent Calendar--December 4

These humans rush around me
Running, yelling, buying, wrapping
What must all their rushing be
Mailing, panic, shopping, yapping

Yet I know where the magic is
Sitting in my bed of snowflakes
In skies so blue they’re hard to miss,
In sparkling snow, in icy bough breaks
Crackling up around my head.
I listen with my frozen ears
To softest music, kinds words said
If one is silent, then one hears.

I may be frozen, but I feel
My woody arms touch chilly sky
My senses know the world that’s real
While most ignore it, seeking lies.

The music of the universe
Of God and heaven, all around
It finds me on its soft disperse
And vibrates through my snowy ground.

Who am I?

Monday, December 3, 2012

December 3 of My Advent Calendar

So far the poems have gone over pretty well. My two kids pulled them out of the drawers while I was gone to the beach, and with each one, instead of putting in a title, I just gave them the poem and asked, at the end, "Who am I?"

They guessed correctly both times--though with the first one they guessed "Rudolph," so I gave it to them--and they are looking forward to poem #3. If you like, I can list it the same way I do with them, but I doubt any of the poems will be too cryptic for you not to know what the object is...

Still, I'll try it for today.

Even better, if you can guess the positive attribute I'm trying to identify through the object, that would earn you even more points. Feel free to try the same with the first two poems, as well. Each one is dealing with a (very gentle) message. My kids tend to like those, and my son got the second one right away, though the reindeer one from Day 1 didn't occur to either one.

Here it is, #3. Let me know what you think it is. (I warn you now, though, this poem is for my kids, so it won't be hard in the slightest).

I am more than wood
And bright paint
More than trims
And fur
And buttons
Glued on my glistening jacket

I am not a mere peacock
All for show

Look beyond the foppish braiding
Past decoration
My use,
Too long neglected,
Can break what you cannot.

I am stronger than you think
Even as Clara discovered.

What am I?

Did I tell you it would be easy? That last part gives it away completely. (Funny how I act like you are responding, though I'm still writing this post and haven't yet published it. I am so silly!) Beyond the item, what is its message?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

December 2: Gifts

The prettiest ones lurk under the tree
Dressed in the latest style 
Awaiting the morning when children will see
Will open, will glow, will smile

But do not be fooled by the glorious wrapping
Or the price tag, or glittery glow,
The best ones aren't good because of their trappings
The good ones have much more, you know

They come, not in ribbons, or fluffity fluff
But in handholds, in soft, kindly words,
In giving what truly is needed, not stuff
Like the toy of the year, how absurd!

So do not be fooled by the fanciest paper
Or give only stuff you can buy
Reach out and give truly, and be a good neighbor;
The warmth in your heart will show why.

Courtesy of

Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 1: Reindeer

My coat has been brushed over 
And over
For days

Harnesses checked
Bells re-stitched
Onto newly shined leather

My hairy master
Has shown us our path
Again and again

No time to get lost 
That night
Preparation is everything.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

24 Days of Christmas

I'm trying something new this year.

Yes, I'm adding yet another thing to my list of to-do's... because I obviously don't have enough to keep me busy, after all.

Here is the cabinet when closed.
A few years ago, I bought a little wooden chest of drawers as a holiday decoration. On the outside are some friendly looking snowmen, and when one opens the doors of the little cabinet, one finds 24 numbered drawers inside. Each is small--probably big enough to hold a couple of rolls of Smarties or something similar.

Here are the individual drawers...
That's what I've placed in the drawers over the last few years. Candies, tiny toys, or tiny toys with candy in them. But that's never really worked for me. And since my son doesn't really like candy, that hasn't really worked for him, either. And my daughter even got bored with that last year.

But I have a new plan. While candy is a bit iffy, both of my kids LOVE poetry. My third grader brought home an excerpt from Whittier's Snowbound last week, and I pulled out the bigger poem and read some of it to them. I think I was a little bored--man, but that poem is LONG--but they didn't want me to stop reading.

This year, instead of the stupid candies, I'm going to place a poem or little story into each drawer. Nothing epic, just something about the season. Each drawer has a different painted figure on it, so I've been planning out the ideas I'll deal with in each vignette. I'll post the first few here on the days they happen, but since I'll be out of town this weekend (O you magnificent friend who invited me to spend a few days in Florida! Bless you!) I won't be able to tell you about my kids' reaction to each one. Once I get back in town I'll include how my kids responded, even if they wrinkled their noses and said, "That's it?"

Check back all month for your online Advent Calendar. I hope it helps you count your way down to Christmas, making you a little cheerier (or at least more thoughtful) along the way.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Things

I'm totally stealing this from another blogger (with a link to her site below), but it's such a great idea I had no choice but to steal. I've honestly never done this before, and I can't think why. Thanksgiving Day has never been about the food, at least for me (I like the term "turkey day" about as much as others like "xmas" being used for "Christmas"). Football also isn't a draw, as you probably know. But thankfulness, well, that's a big deal to me.

So here it is, my GRATITUDES, my top ten list of things I'm thankful for:

1. Other bloggers--like Sia McKye--think of fantastic blog topics so that I don't have to. And my wonderful fellow bloggers also encourage me, offer me fantastic advice, and show me that I'm not alone in the world.
2. My online and face-to-face community sees the world in new ways and helps me broaden my mind. They remind me what's important and also remind me when stuff is coming up locally (Thank you, Facebook people!)
3. My kids are both helpful, emotionally stable, caring people. They try new things and still take my advice, and though I know it's because they are not yet teenagers, I'm grateful they want my input and encouragement, even if it's just for now.
4. My sister and I are still friends, despite all the stuff we've both been through. Lots of stuff, pretty much all family-related. Yet she's never given up on me, never taken sides against me, never done anything but thing I'm great (and the feeling is mutual!).
5. I still have hope, despite taking off my rose-colored glasses more than twenty years ago. I don't pretend that evil isn't there, but I believe one voice can help, and I am strong enough to speak truth.
Isn't he cute? Here's the turkey
we won't be eating this year!
(Photo credit: NWTF)
6. I have yet to really feel any signs that I'm getting old. No creaking when I get up, no back pain. I'm more fit now than I was when I was half my age. I still have all my faculties, too--okay, so my memory is going, but that's been happening since I was twelve.
7. The hubby and I still care deeply about each other--after all these years, we are still best friends. He neatened the house last night and made dinner. Said it was because he knew I'd be cooking today, and he wanted me to rest the day before. He also said all he wanted for dessert on Thanksgiving was cookies--bless that man!
8. I don't have to cook a turkey. Hurray for being vegetarian! I get to start cooking around 11:30, and we'll be eating our tasty meal by 2!
9. I have time to do the things I love: paint, sing, sew, write, play piano. And though I still don't have enough time, I am not so overloaded with stuff that I don't have a chance to spend time playing.
10. Christmas is just around the corner, and since we don't do much for gifts at our house, I don't have to shop on Black Friday. In fact, I don't even have to enter a store at all. I can get what I need online.

There it is. I have a ton more to be thankful for--a TON--but today these are the gratitudes uppermost in my mind.

What are your gratitudes?

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving Day, people. And hugs to everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Great Books--Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I've found a great book! One of those rare hard-to-put-down-even-when-I'm-exhausted books. It's the beginning of a whole series, and I already can't wait for the next installment. It's Cinder by Marissa Meyer. (Do not confuse with another Meyer author--the writing is far better.)

The cover caught my eye first: a woman's foot with an obvious metal cyborg leg inside. Cinderella in a futuristic New Beijing. But a concept isn't enough to make a book good. Writing makes a book good--or bad, as I've seen far too often--but this one pulled me in from chapter one with meaning, characters, emotion, and drama.

The only criticism I have is that I saw the "reveal" at the end about 300 pages early--and since the book's only 387 pages long, that's pretty early. I tend to see those things coming anyway, so I'm not even sure that's a criticism. I can't remember the last time a reveal caught me off guard. It certainly didn't in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Everyone told me I'd be shocked by the ending, and I finished the book wondering what was supposed to surprise me.

But enough of that other over-hyped book (I've blogged about that one before, after all). This one draws from the fairy tale, and that's the first thing that appealed to me. I ADORE fairy tale spin-offs, unless they are lame, of course. But this one works. It's dark like the original sources, it's hopeful, it's smoothly written, and it might be one I buy the whole series to. The next one comes out in 2013, and two other books are planned after that.

That's all for now. I spent the whole of yesterday painting, and I plan to do some more today, in between bouts of exercise (I have GOT to get myself back into shape!). Have a happy Thanksgiving, don't eat too much, and I'll check back in with you soon. Oh, and read Cinder.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unholy War
War is never holy
Holy is the warmth of held hands
Of a blanket given in cold weather
Of shelter found in a nightmare storm

Hatred isn't holy
Holy is the understanding nod
The freedom found in other points of view
Mercy and forgiveness of both enemy and friend

Fear is never holy
Holy is the sweet embrace
The touch of love bridging across time and space
The moving of one's self beyond one's prejudices

Killing isn't holy
Holy is the body beautiful
The clean, unbruised, un-holed, uncut skin
Of peaceful people

The hate and fear we feel cannot be holy
It is the barrier that separates us from our brothers
From the enemy we refuse to understand
From the friends who would be, if we would only let go of our assumptions

These feelings we call "righteous"
Are the indignations of petty selfishness and envy
The workings of the lowest, meanest thoughts
The thickened wall that separates us from our God

Monday, November 19, 2012

Brush Strokes

Just one stroke
Of cherry red on white
Then another

Not much, I know,
But the strokes add up
Faster than I could imagine

Filling in the space
With color, with crimson sharp
Against green leaf

A flick of brush
Isn't much at all
On its own

But when are brush strokes
Singled out one by one
Set apart


Though the brush strokes
Each are little enough
They become the whole

Be patient
Keep painting little strokes
And see the world form
Swirling into beautiful existence
Under your fingertips.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

To Make or Not to Make

It can't just be me. 

Surely other people find that DOING something productive can also be a load of fun, and sitting around doing nothing is a form of purgatory, at the very least, if not sheer hell. 

I've worked two straight FULL days on a single project, and I'm taking off in an hour to begin another full day, but I have loved pretty much every waking moment of it. Had I chosen to blow it all off and spend three full days in my pajamas catching up on all the recorded shows I have waiting for me, I would not have been half so happy. 

So, am I right? Or am I alone in this? I start my week of hardly any obligations tomorrow, but I have plans for it--and they don't involve pajamas and television watching. I have things to sew, things to paint, things to write and things to rewrite. 

Maybe it's just that I'm a "maker," as Orson Scott Card describes in his series starting with Seventh Son, a fascinating mytho-American set of novels. Maybe I was born to create, and when I'm not creating, not "making," I'm not happy. Even when I was a child, I was easily bored, but instead of asking the typical, "What can I DO?" to my mother, I always asked "What can I make?"

It was the right question for me. And I am salivating my creative prospects this week. 

What about you? Are you, too, a maker? Or are pajamas and boob tube watching your MO for any given Sunday?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Calm of Dawn

No panic
Just the first golden glisten
Of dawn
On the autumn leaves.

No racing heartbeat
Just the wet dew of grass
The tiny frog
Watching from the leaf pile

No fear
Just the rustle
Of bird, of breeze
In the thinning treetops

If I could bottle this
Could link myself to the trees
All day
The stress would never
Overwhelm me

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lights at the End

No, I'm not approaching a white tunnel. No near death experiences here.

But, in typical Shakespeare fashion, I've taken on a whole lot of stuff... for months. Two weekends ago, I finally took a Saturday off. I did end up doing dishes that day, but pretty much nothing else, and it was the first day in months that I'd taken off.

I'm up early to finish grading some papers and prep for class, and I already have a full day of meetings, tasks, and other stuff. Last night my day went from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and I am kind of tired.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is there. Some of the stuff will just end. Other stuff will end because I say so. I'm sort of a sprinter by nature, so I get all excited about something, do it to the hilt, and then let it go when I'm ready. Now I actually have dates in mind, though, and they help me know that all this rushing around isn't permanent.

So, what's ending? Here's a list, with real dates. I know you don't really care, but makes me happy to see it in real words, to pin all this down.

Novel edit (for writer back near Seattle): DONE (finished Monday, actually)
Preparation for local women's shelter open house culminates: November 11 
Last big project for the year is finished with the Firehouse: November 18
Children's Christmas Musical is finally performed: December 12
English Class ends and I turn in grades: December 13

Don't think I'm ending everything, though. I have two classes starting up in January, but by the time they take off I plan to have other stuff finished, too. I've only listed the definite dates. Next week is already looking completely scary, but I'm not too panicked. After all, it's only a week. Thanksgiving week is looking fantastic--Zumba and choir practice are my only have-to's and they don't really count, now, do they? I might even get back to some of my own WRITING that week. Imagine that! At the very least I'll spend a bit of each day playing Christmas tunes on the piano, painting, etc.

What lights do you see at the end of your tunnel? Any definite dates?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Election Prayer

Now I lay me down to bed.
I truly hope I won't be dead
When I wake up tomorrow morning
And see the end of campaign porn-ing.

If I survive, by lucky chance,
My hope as wrinkled as my pants,
May I know who has won the race
To govern o'er this U.S. place.

But if -- alas! -- the race ain't through
If we have counting left to do
And cheating ballots pile around
So no one wins or gains much ground

I'll cry all in my coffee cup
And wonder what the hell is up
With all those people who believe
My choice is wrong, that I'm deceived.

Then comfort me, and help me see
Mine's not the sole humanity,
That other goofballs just like me
Believe and think, but don't agree.

And count me grateful, come what may
That one thing is for sure today:
No matter what these votes have meant
At least I'm not the President.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keys to Happiness

I've been a very busy girl.

I'm sure you've already guessed this (especially since I haven't posted since October 5!). You probably thought I'd dropped off the face of the planet, but, no, it's pretty much the opposite. I've been so busy that by the time I get home at the end of the day, I'm too tired to think or do anything productive.

While I can't say I love everything I'm doing each day, I have to admit I love almost all of it. Most of all, what I'm doing makes me very happy. I'm as happy as I've been in years, and I'm likely to stay that way for quite a while. Then again, even during my not-so-happy stages, I've still found I'm happier than most people.

I'm not going to give advice about how YOU can be happy. I honestly have no idea what makes you happy. Many people are unhappy for years and don't even know it. Others have made it a point to be unhappy. Some choose the angst-ridden poet, or the angry misanthrope, or the grumbling hermit. And that gives them kicks, so I'll let them go on with that. Some have a good reason to be unhappy, but they play it to the hilt, ignoring all the things that might help lift their mood a little. If that is the case with you, and you do all you can to resist happiness, go now and read someone else's blog.

When I am drifting towards unhappiness, it's usually because I've forgotten one of these habits:

[Note: Remember, I said this stuff worked for me. If it doesn't work for you, well, that's not my fault. Make your own damn list. That's what the comments are for, after all.]

1. Live in the moment. Who cares what you're planning for dinner tomorrow? That's tomorrow. So what if somebody said something snide to you yesterday? That's yesterday. Only live somewhere else if you're in a boring meeting--or if you're grading papers. Better yet, live in that moment, and actively work to make the bad task take less time, or make it more fun. Put on tango music when you're sweeping the house. Sing while you do the dishes. Plan your halloween costume out while you help your kids with their homework. I listen to Baroque music while I grade -- I find it goes much faster.

2. Do something selfish. That doesn't mean steal candy from the kids, or eat all the dinner yourself. It means take some time each day to do something you TRULY want to do. Yesterday I worked all day on editing, and while I do love editing, I don't love it as much as painting. So this afternoon I'm painting. I even have it on my list: 1-4 p.m.: PAINT. If you love reading, but don't have time for it, check out a CD book at the library, and listen to it on your commute. Make the kids go watch cartoons while you have your morning coffee. Take a nap. Take a day off.

3. Do something unselfish. When I especially need to feel better, I do something to help somebody else. And I don't expect a thank-you card for it. That's just stupid. Yes, it's polite to send thank-you cards, but most people don't, and if you're only doing it for the thank-you, your motives are selfish. Give a gift to somebody for no reason. Help serve meals to the homeless. Serve your family a lovely dinner, complete with candle light. Clean up the kids' rooms while they're at school. Volunteer at the library. But don't do anything that makes you resentful, or makes you think everybody in the world except you is lazy. You're not better than everybody else. Volunteering is a way for you to show that, to show that you love people and are willing to help them, not a way for you to feel superior.

4. Get your work DONE. This is absolutely necessary to my happiness. I can paint all I want, but if the laundry is stacked up and nobody has any clean underwear for Monday, I ain't gonna be happy. And doing a load of undies isn't going to solve that, either. If it seems like a pain, set it up in steps. Sort the laundry the night before, so it's ready for the morning. Then just attack it one load at a time. And be sure and mark off the task with a big, thick cross-out when you're done. I'm always amazed at how much better I feel when I can cross stuff off my list. Just remember to put fun stuff on your list, too. That's the best chance you'll have to make it a part of your day, too, along with the have-to's.

That's my list. Now I'm off to start laundry. Got anything to add?

Friday, October 5, 2012


Friday has really become my day to let everything go.

Weekends are like the rest of my work week. I'd make Sunday my day of rest, but I am too busy gearing up for the coming week to do that. So I'm left with Friday.

And today has an added bonus: the kids have fall break. So we're off to a state park today, braving the overcast skies and potential rain. We might not get to do paddle boating, but we'll still have fun, I bet. I'll take some pictures and post them on my Travel Tuesday this week (hopefully).

We're also taking the kids to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tonight. It'll be the first time they've seen it live, and I can't wait to see it again! If you don't know anything about it, it's by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the creator of The Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar (and a bunch of other musicals, too).

What are your fun plans for today--or for the weekend? Any relaxing on the schedule? No? Well, why not?

At least pull out a puzzle or something. Think through... what is it you really like to do that you haven't done in FAR TOO LONG?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Greatest FEAR = Greatest CHALLENGE

I am FINALLY getting back to my music!

I sang a solo in church yesterday, mainly because only two baritones were going to be in the choir, making it impossible for us to sing a full choir piece--but the reasons are unimportant.

Funny how singing is the one thing in the world that makes me nervous. Even weirder that my main reaction to being nervous is that I lose my breath. Worse case scenario--and it has happened before--is that I open my mouth and nothing comes out. Yup, it has happened. And I was singing a solo when it did. And it was awful. And even after I'd recovered, and finished the song, it was months before I would consider singing anything in front of anyone again. In fact, it was at least five years before I performed another solo.

But I did get over it. Believe it or not, church was actually what did it. My choir director said, "It's about time you sang a solo."

I just shook my head.

"No, you can do it," she insisted. "You'll sing this one."

Yes, I knew I could do it in the choir room, with a bunch of sweet choir members listening. But in front of a 350-member congregation? I could feel my chest tighten. I would lose my voice, I just knew it.

I practiced, but the feeling didn't lessen... I was going to crack, and it was going to be awful.

But then the morning of my solo came, and another soprano turned to me before we walked in. "Just sing to Jesus, honey." She showed me a stained-glass window at the other end of the church. "He's right there, and he doesn't care if you're perfect."

I didn't look at anyone that morning. Not the congregation, not the hubby, not anybody except that little stained-glass depiction of Jesus. And I didn't crack. I didn't lose my voice. I managed to make it out okay.

I realized something else, too. Jesus wasn't the only one who was pulling for me. That whole group of people wanted me to do well. Okay, perhaps there was a competitive soprano out there who wanted me to stink so that she could get the next solo. But wasn't that the case in any audition I'd had for musical theatre, when other people wanted the same role I was singing for? Of course it was!

But most people wanted me to do well. Even better, most people in the congregation wouldn't have a clue if I slipped up. I could have gone up there and sung crappy karaoke and they wouldn't have known it was crappy. Knowing this helps, too.

The support, though, has meant I can sing. Without losing my voice--it's been about 20 years since I did that--and without refusing to sing at all. I am still more nervous singing a solo than doing ANYTHING ELSE, even after years of practice. I might never get over it, not even when I'm 80. But I'll keep working at it, and the fear will lessen with every attempt.

Now you know my big fear. What's yours? Do you avoid it, or challenge it? I'd love to hear your own story of this. If you've already written it on another blog, just let me know where...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ways We Grieve

I've spent the last few days wandering in and out of extreme grief. I can't count the number of times I've cried. I think yesterday I can only count the few moments when I didn't.

But all people aren't like me. My daughter and I are similar in this--cry all at once, for as long as it takes, and sob at every opportunity, telling the whole world how awful we feel that our little fuzzy kitty is dead. Even now tears are welling in my eyes...

My son has cried, too, though he also runs away from it (or from us when we dissolve into tears). He can only take so much, and he doesn't feel comfortable with the same loss of control. But then he comes back to it, again and again. I found him this morning, still in his bed, tears in his eyes.

My husband holds it all still deeper. His way of grieving? He cleaned up the litter box, donated Skooker's bed, cat litter, and huge bag of food to the vet who took such care of the little one, and picked up Skooker's neatly swaddled body and buried it beautifully in the back yard, with bricks embedded in the soil to mark where our little kitty lies.

His grieving is most useful... I just hope it serves him as well as my sobbing helps me.

I think it helps him grieve. But it also comforts me, and that act of love is one of the reasons I so dearly love my husband.

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments. You have also comforted me, and I've read your comments to my husband, too, to help him.

What is it, friends, that you believe most helps you through the grieving process? I would love to know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Last Cat

This is not what I intended to write about today... but I am all too aware in my life that plans change. My little kitty, whom I have loved for nearly 16 years, is gone. He was very sick off and on over the last few months, but his death was far quicker than I'd expected.

I'm not sure if he had just gotten too deaf, or he didn't have the strength to get up, or what, but he had placed himself on the garage floor when I came home yesterday, probably for the first time ever, and didn't move out of the way when the garage door opened and I backed in. And my mirrors don't show the garage floor. I can't describe the event, but my daughter and I instantly knew what I had done.

He was alive when we left him at the vet's, after a tearful ride in the car nestled in my daughter's arms, but both of his hips had been destroyed, and at least his bladder punctured, and he was far too old and weak to go through surgery and survive. The doctor could tell he had severe arthritis--and we've known this by the way he had walked for a few years--and said it was better that he not live his last month in such pain.

We've had a few scares just in the past month, times when he slept the whole day or had seizures, but I never expected that it would be my fault he would die. My guilt is almost unbearable. I don't think any words can console me, and I'm not certain I will ever be consoled (or that I even deserve to be consoled).

I just hope he died gently, knowing, despite that last hour, that I truly did love him his whole life.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Book Reviews for the Week

Finally, a book that makes me forget I'm an editor and lets me just fall into the pages! It's been months since I felt this way, since I was riveted by an adventure enough to stay up late at night reading, forget to do dishes, and lose myself into the adventure that is SNEAK by Evan Angler.

My only regret is that I didn't read the previous book in the series first. This is one of my Booksneeze books, which means I downloaded it for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers, but it doesn't mean I have to say anything nice about it. At first, too, because this is the second book in the series (the first is SWIPE), it took some time to figure out what was going on. This world is a gripping one, where, in the name of "unity," the government places a Mark on its citizens while they are in their teens--refuse the Mark, and you lose all privileges, from home to job to money to, well, really everything. Yet people choose not to be Marked anyway, for all sorts of reasons. Either that or the government decides, based on a mind reading, that a particular person is too dangerous to receive the Mark.

That's what happened to Logan in the first book, and this second in the series records his journey to Beacon (situated where Washington, D.C. is now, I think) to help the Markless gain their freedom, to stop the government's control, and to restore balance to his world. And it's well worth reading. Gripping, dramatic, with good, clear, complex characters. It's better than Hunger Games by a long shot, and all I can do is hope it takes off in the same way. This book deserves to do well, and I am downloading the previous book SNEAK on my own dime today. This may be the best book I've read all year.

I also tackled a book called HALO, a sort of angel version of the TWILIGHT series. It's funny that only two weeks ago I reviewed ANGEL EYES, and the same sort of thing was happening, but this book is better. It's cover alone is magnificent, and I snatched it up based on the cover alone. The premise is good: an angel sent down to do good ends up falling in love with a mortal while she does her mission. Ill-fated love is one of my favorites (don't know why).

My biggest problem with the book is that the main character is supposed to be an angel, and should thus be above the normal humanness of mortals, but besides her being really pretty, I can't find anything about her that is truly angelic. She just seems to be a rather wimpy, whiny teenager, and that gets on my nerves. She lies to her fellow angels, sneaks out to be with a human she falls in love with, and makes all sorts of stupid choices, as if she really isn't an angel at all.

Her two fellow angels, Gabriel and Ivy (yes, Gabriel is THE Angel Gabriel) are a whole lot more likable, but I couldn't get around the main character's lack of judgment. Her love interest Xavier is a sweet boy, but perhaps, like Edward from the TWILIGHT series, he's too perfect. Every big fear she has turns out to be not so bad. We keep expecting him to react to something, but he is unendingly patient, no matter what. That's sort of the way the whole story goes: we're told to fear something (because the main character does), and then her fear turns out unfounded.

Her best friend at the high school is pretty stupid, and not very nice, either. I couldn't figure out why they were friends at all, especially after her friend got her drunk at a party and then left her. Even their talk of prom was gag-worthy, and though I know the book will have a sequel, I definitely won't be reading it, cover or no cover.

That's all the books I've read this week. I now want to tackle SWIPE and another novel on my Kindle... I'll report back once I've finished those.

Have a great week! And, please, share what you've been reading...

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fun Stuff to do This Friday

Why does Friday seem to be the only day I have time to post?

And why am I up at 3:30 a.m. when I could sleep until 6:30 for once?

Yes, I've gotten myself a bit overwhelmed now, and it's taking its toll. Honestly, most of my stress comes from not having control over my environment. Sure, I can get most of my own work done--the important stuff, anyway--but I spent last night trying to attend to job as art gallery director WHILE also making sure my kids finish their homework, check up on my house when the burglar alarm went off (I think one of the door sensors isn't properly working), and juggle countless other things. Needless to say, I was not the best art gallery director last night. Very distracted.

I am convinced that distractions lead to stress--and too much of it. Multitasking is hard, and the last few weeks I've greeted Friday with a sigh, ready to take a break somewhere in my schedule, just so that I can breathe.

I figure by now that most of you are ready for a break, too. And that break is NOT made up of doing laundry all Saturday, re-grouting the shower (my weekend project), sweeping, taking out the trash, cleaning toilets, grocery shopping, or any of those lovely tasks. Don't kid yourselves. Those are not breaks.

So, what can one do when one needs a break? My first goal is NOT to run straight to food. That never makes me feel better, and it's far more likely to make me feel worse. But I have other things that work better.

First, we have the relaxing things that cost money, but they may just be worth it, especially if one's week has been really awful.

--Get a massage. Sure, an hour-long one will cost $60-$80, but try half an hour, and you'll get most of the same benefits.
--Go to a chiropractor. All that stress (or lots of sitting, bending over computers/papers/children) has likely thrown your back out of whack, and many forms of insurance pay for this.
--Go to a show. Live theatre's great, but movies work, too, as do concerts, orchestras, choirs, whatever. Go to a piano concert, and you might even work in a good nap.

What's this you say? You're broke? No problem! For every one thing that costs money, I have a ton of things that are free:

--Get a movie from the library. You won't believe the selection, even in a small-town library like mine. And it isn't just Schoolhouse Rock, either, although that stuff is very entertaining. If you can afford a buck more, go to Redbox.
--Go for a walk. You might want to time it when the sun isn't too hot (or skin damaging), but a walk by yourself can be a true boost. Just don't take your kids with you. Or at least don't take my kids with you.
--Play piano. Sure, it won't beat a piano concert, but it's still relaxing. If you don't have a piano--or any other instrument--just listen to music. Avoid the AC/DC for once, though. Relaxing is better.
--Read a book. Again, the library is your best bet. You can even download stuff on your Kindle, if you can figure out how.
--Make your house quiet. Give the kids something to do on their own for an hour, and shut off the TV, radio, phone, dishwasher. No wait, keep the dishwasher, and just lean your ear against it. Sounds just like you're back inside good ol' mom... comfy... warm... see, you're relaxing already.

If none of this strikes your fancy, don't stop trying. And don't put relaxing on the bottom of your list, or you won't ever get to it. And then you'll have no choice but to see a chiropractor. And he'll take one look at your spine and break out crying in pity. And he'll tell you it's too late--your bones are fused. Too much stress for too long. No breaks.

And you don't want that, do you?

So get out there and relax! And report back. I'm always looking for more ideas.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fun Friday: A Poem about The Hubby

My children and I often "write" orally--telling stories and inventing all sorts of verses aloud. I wonder at times whether I'm raising them to be writers or just nerds... perhaps both.

Anyway, in the car on the way home from school, we started discussing how people lose their hearing, eyesight, etc., and we all three realized that their beloved father was nearly deaf in one ear, nearly blind in one eye, had issues with one foot, etc. Thus, this poem was born:

Half of Our Dad is Falling Apart

We know that our father looks quite normal to you
His clothes are all neat, and his hair tidy, too,
But his looks are skin deep, his appearance deceiving,
For half of his body is planning on leaving.

While one of his eyes keeps on dutifully looking,
The other is blurring and swirling, and lurking
Inside it are dark spots and pressure abounding; 
Its lazy reluctance is truly astounding.

But that isn't all, for his ears are the same
One is still sharp, but the other is lame
From too many KISS concerts or some other reason
It's left off its senses, gone deaf, bent on treason.

His leg is bum, too, for its knee doesn't work
Locking his hip bone and moving with jerks
And shooting some pain further down to his heel
Which also rebels, going rigid as steel.

One hand is all crampy, its thumbnail is sore,
Its knuckles all puffy, its fingertips four
Either move with some effort or don't move at all
Or ache from his pushups or bouncing a ball.

One nostril works great, while the other is plugged
One shoulder is fine, but one numb and drugged,
One side of his back creaks and groans as he walks,
One side of his lips won't help out when he talks. 

So do not be fooled by this man from the start
For one half of our dad is all falling apart.

Got any body parts that are rebelling at this point? Any of this strike a chord? My students are all in their late teens, but even they claim to have body parts that have stopped working...

Have a great Friday, everyone, and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Writing Wednesday: Why I Don't Need an Agent (Yet)

I don't need an agent.

I don't.

No, I really don't.

I know what an agent can get me. I know that I can only send out my manuscript to a handful of publishing houses without one. I also know that even if I'm allowed to submit my stuff to a publisher, an agent's recommendation will carry more weight. I know that the agent will help me get a good contract, that I'll have a much better chance of making it as an author if I have one.

I know all of this. But I still don't need an agent.

Why? Because none of my books are ready. Not a single one. Because, even if I manage to write the best pitch letter EVER, the book it describes isn't good enough to be published.

Right now all my stuff sucks.

I don't need an editor, either. I don't need anyone to tell me my stuff sucks, mainly because I know it does already. I even know what's wrong with most of the plots/characters/etc. I just can't figure out whether fixing these problems is worth it. Will the novel, if repaired, be any more worth reading?

I don't know. I'm at that awful stage in so many things--painting, writing, piano playing--when I'm good enough to realize how completely awful I am. It's a hard peak to reach, but it's even harder to face when I've done so much work only to realize that most of it's a waste.

So I don't need an agent.

I need a good book to read, a good night's sleep, and a little perspective. Then I'll return to the computer and start editing (again), return to the piano to work on Pachebel's damn Canon in D, and return to my paints to try something new. I do realize this is all practice. I just wish I could see my practicing getting me somewhere.

Perhaps I need a little courage, too. Anybody got some extra courage they can spare?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Travel Tuesday: The Ideal Writing Spot

I will eventually get to real places... I promise. Right now, though, it's so much more fun to travel back into my brain, at least in the parts where they ugly voices aren't living right now.

(The ugly voices are living in most of the dark corners of my brain right now. You'll hear them speak for themselves tomorrow.)

For now, let's consider the ideal place to disappear to and write one's novel. NaNoWriMo is coming up in November, and I'm already making plans. Since I am holding down 8 jobs at the moment, though--yes, I said 8, and only three are volunteer--I can't quite go on vacation. Still, my little writing closet could use a fake window of sorts, one that looks out onto a blissful, almost real scene, as if I'm really on vacation there. Like this one.  

See, there is the lovely little Alpine valley, tucked into the mountains, and I'm sitting in my writing room gazing at the clouds as they float by. *sigh*

Only I'm not writing. And that's a problem.

I need to try something else. I know. How about a beach?

Yup, this is the ticket. A sunset at the beach. For a little added depth I could buy a CD of wave sounds, complete with birds calling and wind blowing. 

Ooh, I need a margarita. Or at least a bathing suit. And sunglasses. 

But I'm still not writing. 

Perhaps the key to all of this is that I need to stop thinking of doing my writing when I'm on "vacation." When I'm on vacation, I shouldn't be writing. I should be on vacation, watching reruns of TV shows I haven't seen in 20 years (or at least five), painting my toenails, swimming, doing stupid things. Not writing. 

Writing is work. It is. It's like my other jobs--it takes some of my time, requires preparation, and sometimes I have to do it when I don't particularly want to. And when I denigrate it by filing it with my "leisure" activities, I don't get to it. And I have to. It's my job. And it's a job I love, one that deserves my time and concentration--without one of these stupid windows.

And that's what today is about for me. I had my Labor Day. I played tennis, watched TV, read, washed my car, and swam with my kids. I played. Sure, I did a little cleaning, but mostly I was on vacation. 

But now it's a Work Day. Let's see how many of my jobs I can get done today... including writing. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Music Monday: Play On

I've been revisiting a bunch of my old CD's lately, and I happened upon one I bought after a concert in Bothell, Washington. It was a concert by An Dochas, a group specializing in Irish/Celtic/Gaelic music, and it's about as rousing a style of music as I've ever heard.

Forget the placid coffee-sipping kind of stuff. This is more like the kind of music to possess the red slippers, to make you skip through the house cleaning everything in sight before you can wonder what the hell is going on...

I have two of their CD's, "Play On" and "What'll Ya Have?" though I like the first better.

It's rather like Zumba music... I can't keep my feet still from the first measure, and before I know it I'm whirling all around the house. It would horrify all of you, I'm sure, but my kids and the hubby are used to it by now. And when An Dochas is playing, my kids are dancing, too. It's rather contagious that way.

Now I just need to get a pair of those clogs to go with the music. And one of those twirly skirts, too.

What music gets your feet tapping? Please share. Even better, how do you use music in your daily lives? Does it help your writing? Does it calm you down at the end of the day? Entertain you on your commute? Well, don't hold back! Get out that twirly skirt of yours and let us all see!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Book Reviews for the Week

It seems ironic to me that so many books lately are imbued with elements of the Twilight series. I'm not sure if it's my luck lately, or perhaps I'm imagining things, but Twilight is figuring in the books I've happened upon lately. The first of these is Angel Eyes, by Shannon Dittemore. 

The book, free from my Booksneeze account (which does not require a positive review, I might add) was the first I've read on my new Kindle (hurray!), and it's premise is pretty cool, really--some of us have real guardian angels protecting us, and they fight real demons, and if we get to know our angels well, and have direct contact with their halo, we get some sort of power. Very, very cool. 

One reviewer of the book said she feel kind of uncomfortable, though, because the book felt too much like Twilight, and she thought those books were, well, sinful perhaps? I don't have the same qualms--if I had any in the past, I tossed them all when I fell in love with the Harry Potter novels. The obvious references to Stephenie Meyer's novels made me uncomfortable for a different reason: this book is BETTER. 

The description opening the book is downright lovely, and except for a few scenic problems when the author seems to forget it's pouring down rain in a scene, only to remember a page later, the dialogue and character interactions make a whole lot more sense. It's a good read, but I expect it's only one of a series to come. Is that a problem for me? Nope. I'll be checking out the next one, most definitely.

Everlasting (Everlasting, #1)
The Eternal Sea (Everlasting, #2)The other Twilight-ish books I've encountered are by Angie Frazier, books one and two in the "Everlasting" series. Yes, another series. That seems to be the MO of publishing today. 

These books are quite well written, even if at times the characters change their emotional mood and inner minds too quickly for my taste. I like the search the books are dealing with--the quest--even though this format is so overused it's starting to make me jaded against reading. 

But then Twilight rears its ugly head, and the part of Meyer's series I have always disliked comes back to haunt me. I've never been a fan of the whole Jacob vs. Edward controversy. Ack! Gag! As far as I'm concerned, if a girl isn't sure which guy she loves more, she doesn't really love either of them. I have little sympathy for a woman who is trying to figure out which guy she likes best. I'm lucky I had one guy to fall in love with, and I certainly don't find more guys to be more entertaining. 

Perhaps I am in the minority. Perhaps there are all sorts of girls out there gasping at the chance to have "two knights tilt" for them, or other such male macho crap. Then again, if a guy I liked made it clear he wasn't sure if he liked me or some other girl better, I'd be outta there, without a backward glance. I just don't get it. 

Unfortunately, even though the situations are really interesting, and all the ship sailing/ocean/storm/travel stuff is good, too, the love triangle thing is not nearly so fascinating. It's the reason I almost didn't read the last book in the Twilight series, for book three nearly turned me off the story completely (and still does). And these books could do without it, too. All they do is make the heroine Camille seem like a creep.

So, what have we learned from all of this? That Shakespeare likes originality, but is a prude when it comes to love relationships. That sometimes referring to a popular piece of literature is silly, especially when one's own work is better. What does all this make me want to do? Open my novels up and revise them, making sure to cut out all this quest stuff and any hint at a romantic rivalry. So I'll keep revising, and reading. How about you?