I started this blog several years ago, during a period of personal transition. I dubbed it my “journey of self-discovery.” It was a means of navigating the shit life threw at me without actually having a nervous breakdown. We all go through such times – pivotal points of change where what was is no longer, but what comes next is unclear. The uncharted path forward littered with the debris of uncertainty and self-doubt.
I have always found writing cathartic and have long been fascinated by the first-person, introspective essay. Especially when written in the vein of philosopher Michel de Montaigne. He dared to pose the indelible question, “Who am I?”, and then spent a lifetime seeking to find the answer through the art of composition. As an introvert prone to spending a great deal of time stomping around inside the cluttered recesses of my own head, I find the prospect of introspection both enlightening and liberating.
So what changed?
My last blog post was nearly 3 years ago. A lot has transpired in the intervening time period. I changed jobs, sold my soul to my daughter’s band booster club, started playing tennis, came down with a bit of cancer, saw my daughter graduate high school then stood on the sidelines as she navigated her way through her first successful semester of college. To say it’s been a roller coaster ride would be an obvious understatement. The highs were invigorating; the lows gut wrenching, at best.
Now, all these years later, I find myself once more standing on the precipice, Grendel’s mother at my back – the ever present reminder of challenges faced; before me, the uncharted path forward, littered with the debris of uncertainty and self-doubt.
“And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood.”
― William Cullen Bryant
I always go into summer with three basic goals:
1.) to write a lot;
2.) to read a lot – preferably while lounging by the pool under a hot Texas sun, sipping a frosty margarita; and
3.) to spend some quality time in nature – just me, my camera, and a blank Moleskine.
I always go into fall wondering what the hell happened to my summer.
It’s an eternal struggle. The “best-laid plans” and all that jazz. The truth is: summer is never as free-flowing and easy-going as I like to believe. It is hectic and frenzied, a precarious balancing act dictated by obligation and commitment – life, love, band camp. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is a fruitless endeavor. Quite the opposite. My summer was filled with moments of unscripted relevance, and it is within these fragments where true clarity is discovered. Here are a few things I learned over the summer…and into the fall:
1. Sometimes the hype is right. I’m not one to blindly follow the crowd. I think it’s fair to say I spend a majority of my time in perpetual lag – always trailing a few steps behind the cool kids. I attribute this to two things: a.) an abundance of ignorance, and b.) an unwillingness to trust in the judgment of others. One doesn’t have to look much further than E.L. James, comic book hero movie reboots, and selfies to understand the latter. I hold firm in my belief that popularity rarely equates to anything worth a damn.
While this line of reasoning is beneficial in sidestepping steaming piles of mindless nonsense, it also tends to isolate me from the more noteworthy components of popular culture. The Showtime series Homeland is one such element.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I make a concerted effort to avoid original programming distributed by pay-cable networks – HBO, Showtime, et al. This has less to do with the quality of the works produced and more to do with my prudish nature. I find the nudity and explicit sex depicted in these shows gratuitous and unnecessary. There is an adage: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I mean, really, explain to me how opening a scene with a main character receiving sloppy fellatio from a handful of naked courtesans contributes to the art of storytelling. It is beyond my capacity for comprehension.
Homeland is the American version of an Israeli series called Hatufim. It’s a spy drama – well-written, well-acted, and character driven. All things that put it right up my alley. The only problem – it’s put out by Showtime, i.e. lots of gratuitous sex with little to no intrinsic value to the overall plot. And so, despite the critical buzz, the media hype, the constant nagging from my inner circle, I ignored Homeland – for four seasons.
Boredom (and maybe a little wine) on a soggy weekend in early June. I binged for two days straight. On the show, not the wine.
Turns out, all that hype was right. Homeland is fantastic. Claire Danes is wonderful (a total nut, but great). Mandy Patinkin is brilliant. Mr. Wickham plays an assassin. An assassin! How awesome is that?
The lesson here: Mr. Wickham makes a great assassin…oh wait…it is really easy to fast forward through all that icky parts to get to the good stuff. Who knew?
Everyone, but me.
2. Nothing beats a birthday at the beach. Birthdays depress me. I know, so cliché, but it’s the truth. I spend half the day contemplating the reality of my own morality, and the rest stuffing my face with cake to mask the pain. Of course, then I feel guilty and spend the next two weeks at the gym trying to undo the damage.
This year, I took a different approach. I went to the beach.
We spent the week in one our favorite places, just exploring. There were sunset cruises and wildlife eco tours; a bit of shopping, a little sunbathing, a lot of food and wine. On the morning of my 43rd birthday, I took a solitary walk along an empty beach as the sun came up, had a photo shoot with a cooperative Great Blue Heron, and ate my weight in mussels.
It was the best birthday ever.
From now on, all my birthdays will be celebrated at the beach.
3. Starbucks has desecrated the sanctity of Christmas. If I can’t have snowflakes and sledding dogs with my overpriced, calorie-laden latte then it is all for naught. We might as well just cancel Christmas.
4. Letting go and moving on. I once wrote a blog about the ten things I learned in my thirties. One of the most important lessons: nurturing healthy relationship, and eliminating the bad. Easy advice to give, tough advice to follow. This is especially true when you fail to recognize the signs of a shifting landscape. No partnership is perfect, of course – be it familial, marriage, or friendship. We are only human, and thus inherently flawed. Yet, if we take care and are vigilant, we are able to forge meaningful and beneficial bonds.
In every relationship, there is a certain degree of compromise and acceptance – the old give and take. My husband snores like a freight train, but he takes out the trash. It’s a trade-off. We make it work. It is along a similar vein that I measure all the relationships in my life – give and take. Is it mutual? Is it proportional? Is it fulfilling? Often these are easy questions to answer. But sometimes I am blindsided by the realization that what was once mutually satisfying, is no longer viable.
For the last year, I’ve struggled with such a revelation. In hindsight, the writing has been on the wall for a long time. I blame complacency. I am a creature of habit, and will sometimes go out of my way to avoid confrontation in order to sidestep the unpleasantness of change.
My epiphany came with an incident last Christmas that to most may seem trivial – a homemade gift given in love without so much as a thank you. Yes, I know. Trivial. In the spirit of the season, gifts should be given without the expectation of reciprocation. But the lack of acknowledgment hurt my feelings – deeply. I’m not sure why it affected me in this manner. I’m not prone to such sensitivity. Yet, it did. I suppose it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. One more thing added to a growing list of irritating and hurtful trespasses. It changed my whole view and shined a light on something that I had long denied. The friendship was dead.
And so, I have spent the better part of the year coming to terms with that reality. It’s been difficult. There is a certain amount of grief that comes with it. And resentment. But I have come to accept the fact that the friendship, in its original state, is gone. It is through this acceptance that I have found peace. I suppose that is all we can hope for in life – peace.
5. Awww moment of the week: This is the part of my blog that I reserve for a picture of something adorable. In light of recent events, I’d like to take a moment to pay my respects to the victims of the Paris terror attacks.
It’s been a while since my last real blog post. Even longer since my last “things I learned” post. I wondered at that.
But only for a nanosecond.
Let’s get to it. What have I learned?
1. I’ve missed yoga. Three years ago I took a yoga class to fulfill a college credit requirement. I registered for the beginning class even though I had previous experience and was probably more transitional intermediate than beginner. I did so out of fear.
A costly miscalculation on my part. As it happened, the instructor was the Antichrist and seemed woefully unaware the course was entitled “Yoga for Beginners.” Think wine-soaked ballerina with severe Adult Attention Deficient Disorder. Who teaches a yoga class set to swinging show tunes?…and sings along…and twirls…oh, so much twirling…She taught the class from her own private padded bubble, offered no modifications, and failed to understand the core principles of yoga.
I have many personality flaws. Chief on the list: Type A. I’m an overachiever. That is especially true if there is something I value at stake. At the time, it was my GPA. I wanted an A and it is not in my nature to quit once I’ve committed.
Oh, the clarity of hindsight.
Three years later, I am still suffering the repercussions of that earned A. My diagnosis: persistent grade 2 hip flexor strain with severe pain and limited ROM. Could be worse. Could be better. But I’m making progress with the help of some wonderful physical therapists. Last week, at their badgering urging, I started to practice yoga again.
I’m not going to lie. The first few dozen sun salutations were rough. But, at the same time, it was an incredible feeling. Of course, I needed an extra day of physical therapy to recover, but they assure me it will get easier. I’m going to choose to believe they are right.
2. The X-Files is returning to television. I’m conflicted. I always loved the X-Files. It was great television. But reboots, remakes, and sequels annoy me. A few years ago, I wrote about it. On the one hand, I am curious to see Mulder, Scully, Skinner, and Cancer Man reunited. They were fascinating characters. On the other hand, I think it is often better to remember something beloved in its original, unblemished state. I probably won’t watch.
Of course, for all of my righteous indignation, I am a total hypocrite. There are two films looming on the horizon – one slated for release later this year, the other next year. Jason Bourne and James Bond. Both are sequels/remakes/reboots. Both make me giddy with excitement.
I thought about arguing the merits of these franchises and how they differ from all the unoriginal rubbish out there. But I don’t need to explain myself to you. Instead, I offer you a peek at the new Bond.
3. I don’t like cherries. I’m forty-two. I’ve spent most of my life believing that I don’t eat cherries because I am allergic to them. Turns out – not true. I just don’t like them.
4. Spring in Texas: Bluebonnets and bees. What else is there to say?
5. Miles Davis makes the perfect background for writing.As a general rule, I don’t listen to music when I write. It’s distracting. I do much better with everyday white noise. Well…unless, it’s “screaming toddler Tuesday” or “”where’s the damn coffee in this place’ octogenarian Thursday” at my favorite coffee shop. The latter is always a special treat. There’s nothing quite so entertaining as a group of filter-free, half-deaf senior citizens out for their weekly breakfast social.
Last week, I discovered Miles Davis. I’ve never been much of a jazz fan. I much prefer old-school soul, sixties R&B, anything touched by the hands of the almighty Sting, and Florence and the Machine. Jazz always seemed like too much work to fully appreciate. Does that make sense? Probably not. Sorry.
Look, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by throwing out some half-baked excuse. The truth is: I haven’t been in the mood to blog. I offer no apology. It is what it is.
So, as some of you may recall (or not…it has been a long time), I’ve been busy doing that whole college thing. It dominated my life for a couple of years, but in May, I finished one leg of that journey. I have to say, I was a little unimpressed with the whole graduation thing. It was anti-climatic and…well…boring. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my accomplishment, but there is this sort of fizzling deflation to it all. I spent a long time entrenched in projects and presentations, lectures and exams. I endured the humiliation of “yoga for a grade”, suffered the frustration of group work, and survived a brief foray into historical geology. All of it accomplished without breaking a bone or committing a single felony. Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did spend two months in physical therapy for a blown hip-flexor after the whole yoga fiasco. But thus far, I have succeeded in resisting the urge to run the instructor over with my car – hence the felony-free status.
I suppose it’s my own fault really (the graduation thing – not the yoga thing). In my single-minded pursuit of that little piece of paper, I allowed myself to develop unreasonable expectations for what it inferred. I elevated its celebratory value to an unattainable height, and summarily, set myself up for devastating disappointment.
The lesson learned here: next time I will skip the commencement and opt for something a little more exciting like watching the Bourne trilogy on Blu-ray in my pajamas and mortarboard, eating take-out, and drinking a bottle of Costco’s finest store brand Cabernet.
My post-graduation summer was low-key – just how I like it. I read a few books, dabbled in a bit of writing, staked out my favorite table at the local bagel shop. I took it easy – a well-deserved break. By contrast, fall has been a whirlwind. My daughter is a high school freshman in the marching band. That’s a blog for another day, but let me just say one thing on the subject: EGADS. Fortunately, this Saturday marks the end of competitive marching season.
I have participated in two Camp NaNo events – you now the one with the adjustable word count? But I’ve never had the time come November to commit to NaNoWriMo.
I’m excited for the new challenge, but a little intimidated. My writing style – the physical act of writing – is slow and tedious. I like to ponder an idea; try it on; strut it out in front of the mirror – really get a feel for it before I buy into it. Definitely not an efficient way to write fiction and needless to say, my current word count reflects such. That will have to change, of course. Otherwise, I will be doomed to failure. I think I’m up for it, though. I’ve started a new project, fallen down the research rabbit hole, dusted off the old Scrivener, and fleshed out a workable plot – albeit rough.
It’s been a while since I have taken the time to sit down and write one of these blog posts. It’s not that I haven’t learned anything, it’s just that I have a case of the lazies.
So, what have I learned?
…that field geology is not my thing.
This past semester I took a historical geology class to fulfill a science requirement. It was an interesting class, challenging and time-consuming. I learned a lot and that’s always a good thing. The course was geared toward geology majors, and I was a little apprehensive about that at first, but my fear proved unfounded.
I rocked that class.
<see what I did there>
However, one of the things my professor required for course completion was a bit of field work. He believes that he cannot allow his students to walk away from historical geology without at least one day in the field – mud covered rock hammer in one hand, chunk of fossil-filled platy limestone in the other.
Okay. No big deal. I can do that. Dig around in the dirt for an afternoon, maybe find a fossil or two, identify an unconformity or a fault, take a strike-dip measurement. Not my favorite things, but whatever.
I did a little research on the site where we were to do our field work. It’s a place on the North Sulphur River known to contain Cretaceous period fossils. According to a few maps, the site boasts a park of sorts with an outbuilding and concrete stairs leading down the steep river embankment. Okay, no big deal. I can do that.
The day of the excursion was rainy, a chance of severe weather loomed, but we went anyway. We are geologist, a little thing like a tornado watch isn’t going to scare us – or so our professor told us. The site was in the backwoods of nowhere, down an overgrown two lane farm to market road – and not where we thought it was. There was no outbuilding, and there were no stairs, but there was a trail – or so our professor told us.
Now, I have to tell you, my professor is an older man – late sixties, almost seventy, but he is the most energetic person I’ve ever met. If Indiana Jones were a geologist, he would be my professor. He is also a dirty rotten liar. There was no trail, only a runoff path that spilled down a sixty degree drop through overgrown brush and misshapen trees into the river bed thirty feet below.
Sixty degree drop; thirty feet below.
Oh. Did I mention it was raining? Yeah, so the ground had turned to slick as snot clay mud. You know that stuff, right? It might as well have been a sheet of ice.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am not an outdoorsy person, and the whole scenario was so far out of my comfort zone, I felt like I might drown in my own anxiety. That nagging voice of reason in my head was doing his best Lost in Space impression, “Danger, Will Robinson. Danger.” But I ignored him. After all, I have expanded my horizons in recent years, ventured into uncharted territory, overcome a few of my more benign phobias. I could do it.
Right. So, I took a deep breath, sat down on my butt and did the crab crawl – inch by inch, down into that fucking river bed. I spent two hours trudging through mud so thick it stuck the bottom of my shoes (I grew two inches) and caked the hem of my jeans. I foraged for fossils, took a strike-dip measurement, almost dropped my compass into a mud puddle, and suffered the indignity of a really bad hair day.
Then I clawed my way back out, up thirty feet (at a staggering sixty degree incline) inch by fucking agonizing inch.
And it only took three weeks for all the cuts and bruises to heal. Bonus.
The experience ranks right up there with whale watching from an inflatable raft in the middle of the churning Pacific. I’m proud of myself for doing it, but I will never, ever do it again. Ever.
…that one of my new favorite things to do is sit in a bookstore coffee shop with my daughter sipping a cold frappy, nibbling a calorie heavy treat, and reading a good book.
…that sometimes blog spam is amusing. I normally don’t pay much attention to it – just hit the delete button and move on. But today I found this attached to one of my reading challenge entries:
Thats just because youre still mad at him for winning the starting RF job over your man-crush last April.
It’s like I’m in a fight with someone and I didn’t even know it. Such drama.
…that the 10 hour drive to South Padre Island is so much more fun than the 11 hour drive home.
…that we have entered that point in tennis season where I am again forced to question my long-standing Federer allegiance. I can forgive a loss at the Australian Open to Murray, but a loss on clay to Tsonga in the quarterfinals? I’m at the breaking point…seriously. If Federer doesn’t step up on the grass in London, I’m out. I mean it. For real this time.
…that there is an Atlantic Green sea turtle named Allison at Sea Turtle, Inc. on South Padre Island with a prosthetic flipper (think boat rudder, only for a turtle) to help her swim. Go read about her – and all of the good work this amazing organization does – (here).
…that I will take a Stats class over Art Appreciation any day of the week. I had two objectives going into this summer – knock out a couple of required courses I have put off because I know they will suck and get a tan. Well, it’s only a few weeks in and I’ve already failed. No, my tan looks great, but I seem to have hit a hurdle with that other thing. It turns out I’d rather jab a stick into my eye than sit through 10 weeks of art appreciation, and its endless string of mindless “art” projects and presentations. I couldn’t drop it fast enough. Of course, now I have to take an extra class in the fall to make up for it, but I think art history will suit me much better. I sure hope so. On a side note, Stats is going to work out just fine. Who’d have thought?
…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my sweet daughter and her band awards. I’m not proud or anything…
…that Historical Geology is not going to be a cake walk.
From the course material:
“The study of sedimentary rocks can involve many scientific disciplines. Considerable knowledge of mathematics, biology, and physics is required to fully understand the mechanics and processes associated with weathering, transportation, lithification, the preservation of life forms, and the postdepositional alteration and changes that may occur.”
My horror at seeing the words “mathematics, biology, physics, and required” strung together in a cohesive sentence was only compounded by my professor’s declaration that Historical Geology is not for the “faint of heart.” And, just when I thought for sure it couldn’t get any worse, I spied logarithms in lab assignment number two.
Excuse me while I vomit.
It seems college algebra has risen from its darkened mire to torment me once again.
Of course, maybe it won’t be so bad. The first thing I thought after I typed the word “mire”: low energy environment; muddy sediment with fine clay particles; decaying animal and plant matter; peat; bituminous coal.
…that I have been paying out-of-state tuition for the last several semesters even though I live in the state, and haven’t moved since my house burned down in 2006 – which was prior to my enrollment. It took two full hours to convince them I haven’t been commuting in from some faraway place every semester – you know, to take advantage of their renowned education opportunities.
I’m not sure this is the spirit of efficiency Max Weber had in mind when he penned the six characteristics of bureaucracies.
…that Roger Federer has made it into the semi-finals of the Australian Open. This is usually the point where he lets me down and has his ass handed to him by Rafe Nadal. But maybe there is a ray of hope this year. Federer’s chief rival is out with a knee injury. Could this ensure victory for my favorite aging Swiss tennis pro?
I think. Maybe. Yes.
Wait? What’s that?
Novak Djokovic defeated David Ferrer today to move into the finals at the Open?
Update: Federer lost his semi-finals round to Andy Murray.
Update 2: Djokovic defeated Murray for the title. I’m okay with that.
…that Beyonce Knowles – aka Mrs. Jay Z – likely lip-synced the national anthem during President Barak Obama’s inauguration. Big freaking whoop. I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but do I need to remind the media that there are more important things happening in the country and around the world? Don’t make me list them again. I’ll do it, you know.
…that I have been nominated for a couple more blogging awards. I am getting behind in my acknowledgements. Let’s see if I can fix that.
From Kitty over at kittyb78, I received a nomination for the Versatile Blogger Award and the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.
If you guys keep this up, I’m going to get a very big ego and begin to channel my inner Sally Field again. You know how messy that got last time.
(please, don’t stop)
Thanks to Jazzy, Kevin, and Kitty. Go check out their blogs. I’m sure you will enjoy them as much as I do.
Okay, as always these things come with rules and regulations. I’m going to try to combine them to save space and time. First, here are some interesting – or not – facts about me:
I am a hardcore grudge holder. I’m still mad at the snot-nosed brat who broke the personalized license plate my dad gave me for my bike when I was ten. Her name is Melissa, and she is the devil.
Last summer, I taught myself how to swim. I’m not going to be competing in the next Olympics, but I can get myself from one end of the pool to the other without drowning.
I still prefer traditional print material to digital, though not because I think physical books are somehow superior. I just can’t seem to remember to charge my eReader.
As an introvert, I find a lot of social interaction exhausting and awkward. I’m learning to adapt, though there are times when I wish I had a t-shirt that read: “Do this introvert a favor and shut the hell up.” Too much? I’ll have to work on that.
I am addicted to the History Channel – H2, not the one that plays hours of Pawn Stars and Top Gear, the other one that plays marathons of Ancient Aliens. A girl has to have standards, right?
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist – until my dad told me I would have to board a boat, sail out onto the ocean, and dive into the water. You know, with all those scary things that live underwater. Yikes.
I love picture frames. The only issue – I tend to forget to have photos printed to put in them. So, all around my house you will find frames displaying generic photos of people I don’t know. I’m looking at one right now on a shelf in my office. I should fix that.
I like to cook, but I hate cooking dinner.
Okay. That’s all I’ve got. I’m not all that interesting.
Now some questions from Kevin:
What is your favorite time of day and why? My favorite time of day is first thing in the morning, just as the sun in coming up over the horizon. I love the stillness that comes with dawn. For me, there is nothing more peaceful.
How and when did you first discover your passion, whatever that passion is? I first discovered my love for writing in the third grade when I penned a short story based on the Aesop’s Fairytale the Tortoise and the Hare. I wrote it as a class assignment, and it wasn’t received well, but the process really did foment my passion for the written word.
Hopefully, you’re familiar with The Breakfast Club for this question. When you were in high school, in which social group did you best fit? I suppose I was a social misfit, though likely not in the true sense portrayed in the movie. I was always introverted, unpopular, and walked to the beat of my own drum.
Where do you write your posts and why did you choose that place? I write anywhere I can find a quiet corner: at school in the common areas between classes, gymnastics practice, the bagel shop, the coffee shop, the library, the carpool lane. Just about anywhere and everywhere.
What always makes you laugh and why? This is going to sound cliché, but my daughter makes me laugh. She is probably the funniest person I know. Sarcastic, witty, insightful, cynical, silly – she’s the whole package. I look at her sometimes and wonder how I got so lucky.
If you could appear on a televised talent show, what would your talent be? Oh, geez. I can wiggle my ears. What kind of show do you go on to highlight that talent?
Which flower reminds you of happiness? Big fat yellow sunflowers, bluebonnets, and poppies.
What is your favorite book and why? Pride & Prejudice. What’s not to love?
It is important to eat your vegetables, but which vegetable to you always resist/avoid eating? I honestly cannot think of a veggie I will not eat. Fruit on the other hand – I hate apricots and mangos.
What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? I love to curl up in my favorite chair, with a cup of tea, and read something frivolous.
Who is one celebrity, past or present, you would like to meet – what would you ask that person? Jennifer Garner. I’d love to ask her why she keeps making all of those pathetic Rom-Coms. Put us all out of our misery and bring back Sydney Bristow.
Passing these along is tough. Not because I don’t know anyone deserving, but because I know a lot of people who are. I’m going to stew on this for a while.
…this week’s awww moment of the week is brought to you by a girl and her dog.
“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be.”
– George Carlin
I learned during the holidays…
…that snow on Christmas is nice.
Lingering snow the day after, is not.
I’m not a winter person. If given a choice, I’d pick 105 degree summer heat over frozen precipitation any day of the week. Unfortunately, the weather Gods don’t always take my preference into account when doling out snow days. Such was the case on Christmas day. It hit early in the afternoon, just as we were sitting down to lunch. The flakes were big and fluffy, and set a pretty scene. A bit of Christmas magic. That’s never a bad thing. However, I’m a big believer in the power of moderation. A quick burst of snow, followed by a rapid melt is ideal. That way by the time I have to get out – because it’s all about me – the white stuff is gone. It’s not that I’m incapable of driving on it – I lived in Iowa one winter in the early 90s. You learn to adapt or you don’t leave the house for 6 months. No, I’m more concerned with the other guy’s driving ability. Unfortunately, mother nature was not in a giving mood and the temperature the next day did not rise above freezing. I left my house prepared to be overwhelmed by stupidity. I was not disappointed. Ten minutes into my commute some jackass in a super sized SUV swerved in front of me and slammed on his brakes just as we were about to pass over an ice-covered bridge.
These are the moments in life when I wish I had a real Bond car.
…that after whipping up nearly 25 dozen cookies, 50 mini pumpkin pies, and 6 batches of fudge I am so over baking. Totally. I may never bake again. Ever.
On a bright note, I only gained back 3 of the 10 lbs I lost during the semester sampling all those baked goodies.
I am always struck by the level of relevancy given to the K clan by mainstream media. Call me a killjoy, but I think there are more important things going on in the world than what’s going on their collective uteri.
…that my daughter does not share my taste in Christmas music. Most of my favorite songs were recorded during the early days of rock & roll, and it only makes sense that the holiday tunes I gravitate toward come from that era. Number one on my list is Darlene Love’s Christmas (Baby, please come home). I like to crank it up and sing it proud – from the gut, as loud as I can.
My daughter is not impressed.
Me: The snows comin’ doowwwnnn/Christmaaasss/I’m watchin’ it faaallll/Christmaaasss/Lots of people aroooooounndd…
Megan: Ew, Mom. What are you singing?
Me: Darlene Love. Don’t you just love it?
Megan: Um, no.
Me: How can you not like Darlene Love. She’s the queen of Christmas.
Megan: No, she’s not. Rock & roll Christmas music is so lame. The classics are so much better.
Me: This is the classics, baby.
Megan: <shrug> Whatever.
…that I’m getting too old to stay up drinking until midnight on New Year’s Eve – and that’s okay. I was in bed by 10:30 pm, up at 4:30 am on New Year’s Day, and at the gym by 7:30. A fabulous way to begin the year, I think. Much better than sporting a hangover all day.
…that I’ve been nominated for a blogger awards – well three actually, but I’m only going to address one today.
I love blogger awards. They make me smile. It’s an ego thing.
This one comes from jmmcdowell, an archaeologist turned novelist – I think that may be the coolest thing ever. She was gracious enough to pass along the Booker Award to me as a new follower of her blog. Thank you, jmmcdowell! Go check out some of her excerpts from Buried Deeds.
The Booker Award dictates that I list five of my favorite books. I was nominated for this award once before, but never came back to it. I must say, there are so many books I love it is really hard to pick just five.
1. Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen. I first read this novel in the ninth grade. It was required, and I hated it. I thought it was as tedious as Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (which I also hated – and still do). When I was in my twenties, I picked it up again, and fell head over heels in love. Since then, I’ve read it at least once a year. My paperback copy is worn and faded, the pages dog-eared and water-logged from too many lazy summer days by the pool lost in Regency England. Pride & Prejudice is a truly timeless love story whose colorful characters are as familiar to me as my own family. And it is one of the few stories I love with a happy ending because there can be no other conclusion for Lizzy and Darcy. I feel all warm and gooey just thinking about it.
2. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold – John le Carre. This is a new addition to my favorites list. I only finished it a few weeks ago. There are so many things that appeal to me in this book. 1. It’s a spy thriller; 2. It’s set during the early years of the Cold War when the wall was new and Khrushchev ruled the Soviets with an iron fist of oppression. 3. It is a tale of conflicting ideologies, and a race to outsmart a perceived enemy; 4. It has a complex main character – Alec Leamus – who struggles with his own morality and humanity while doing what he thinks is best for Queen and country; and 5. There is no happy ending – because a man like Leamus can know no peace. Brilliant.
3. Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank – This classic was also required reading in the ninth grade. But unlike Pride & Prejudice, I was sucked in by the story and the characters from the opening scene to the telling last lines:
“We won it. We really clobbered ’em!” Hart’s eyes lowered and his arms drooped.
He said, “Not that it really matters.”
The engine started and Randy turned away to face the thousand-year night.”
– Alas, Babylon
I’ve always been fascinated by the Cold War and what life might have been like had that conflict turned hot. Alas, Babylon is a fascinating study of the human condition and explores the what ifs of life after a nuclear apocalypse. The raw devastation of this story scared the hell out of me when I was 14. I love that.
4. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott. In 1974, my Nana gave me the entire Alcott series. Of course, I was only two and didn’t appreciate the gift – and wouldn’t until around the sixth grade. I’ve read them all, but Little Women is my favorite. I loved Meg’s quiet resiliency, Jo’s wild spirit, Beth’s gentle heart, and Amy – well…I’m not sure I ever really liked Amy, spoiled brat that she was. I cried when Beth died; fumed when Jo chose the Professor over Laurie even though it was for her own good; and rejoiced at the lives the March sisters carved out for themselves during such trying times. I lost most of that series of books, including Little Women, in the house fire six years ago. My heart still aches.
5. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck. I love this novel. I really do. This was another required reading from early high school – sophomore year. How do you describe Of Mice and Men? Heartbreaking, disturbing, eye-opening. Ultimately, it is a story of friendship and the deep love that comes with it. No, there is no happy ending in this one either. Yes, I like it that way.
Now to pay it forward. I’m going to choose to pass this award onto a few writerly blogs I enjoy. Of course, there is no obligation for any of my chosen recipients to participate.
I’ve made some progress with the outline. For me, it’s a slow tedious process. I have waffled a bit on one particular element – to kill a character, or not. Usually, I don’t have a problem with this, but I like the guy. I’m having difficulty letting him go. I’ll get over it.
The first blow took Leo Baxter by surprise, the second drove him to his knees. – Retribution
I’ve been staring at this sentence for a week. All in all, it’s not a bad first sentence for Leo’s introduction scene, even if it’s a little cliché. I think it’s a good pushing off point for the event that spurs Anna to reenter a life she fear and loathes. I just wish I could come up with the sentence that comes next…and the one after that…and the one after that…and so on. Even now, as I stare at it, I am perplexed.
This is a pivotal scene, and I’m well aware of what I need to accomplish. It’s just a matter of getting the words to flow. I’m sure they will eventually come to me. Probably when I’m in the shower with shampoo in my hair and no writing materials within close proximity. Or better yet, at the gym on the elliptical with 30 minutes left on a 45 minute workout. I’ve tried keeping a note pad and pen with me at the gym, but I’m not known for my grace, and well, I’ve almost fallen off trying to jot down an idea.
Anyway, what else have I done with regard to Retribution since I last saw you?
Well, that’s not exactly true.
I feel I was able to accomplish part of last week’s goal. The outline is coming together. Leo’s scene is not. Therefore, I did not advance my word count this week. Not a big deal. It’s not always about the word count.
Next week’s goal: Continue plugging away at the outline. Make a firm decision on the elimination of a certain character. Finish Leo’s scene.
Anna’s scene is rough, and bare bones, but it’s out of my head and down on paper. Most of it works, some of it needs improvement, but that can come later.
That brings me to Aaron.
How do you solve a problem like Aaron?
(Yes, it’s alright to sing that the way the nuns at Nonnberg Abbey did in The Sound of Music. I won’t tell.)
I’ve said it so many times – Aaron is a pain in my ass. However, I think he and I have come to a degree of understanding. He will play a less significant back up role in this story. His only real involvement – to briefly aid Anna’s quest by using his unique skill set. In doing so, I promised not to kill him off before the mid-point. I thought that was an excellent compromise.
Oh, and I’ve also changed his name. Aaron and Anna. Oy. What was I thinking? He will now be known as Lenk Schuyler. Don’t judge. This new name fits his role and serves a purpose.
In addition to the above scenes, I also worked on reconstructing my outline. For those of you keeping count, this is version #5. I’ve made a lot of progress with that. Most of it is handwritten and as I type up my chicken scratch, I have expanded upon scenes and themes, and will continue to do so.
So what’s the low down skinny?
Last week’s goal: Two workable scenes
Actual accomplishment: One workable scene, a character redesignation, and a partial outline.
Word count: 1688
Next week’s goal: Continue with the outline – map through to the rising action, at least. Write Leo Baxter’s inciting incident scene.
I have dipped my toe back into the writing pool. It’s been a long time since I embraced my WIP and allowed it flourish. Of course, I still have 3 finals to get through before I can completely commit myself to Anna and her plight.
In the interim, I’ve started to assess where I left off, what needs my immediate attention, and where do I want the journey to take me (and Anna, of course). When last I left you, I had decided Anna needed a brother – a dysfunctional brother with penchant for trouble. He’s a thief with problems. Most of which become Anna’s. In September, I was having trouble writing his introduction scene, and by the end of it I wanted to just kill him. Purely a selfish urge on my part. I didn’t like him, I still don’t like him. I resent what he is doing to my story. Irrational? Maybe a little.
I am starting fresh with the outline. Yes, for those of you keeping track – this is outline number 5. My favorite number. A good omen? I’m going to go for optimism here and say, yes.
So, today I am working on two scenes:
Aaron – an introduction to a thief (in action). He will nearly die. I will enjoy writing that part, I think. Of course, he will not die because this incident will spur Anna to reenter a life she left behind a long time ago.
Anna – an introduction. Her life after the thing that happened years ago that sent her into seclusion. I do have a great opening written for her in my previous draft. I am going to recycle it as a flashback scene. It was too good to give up. (I am going to choose to ignore Bill Chance’s voice as he tells me: “If you love it, delete it.”)
So there you have it.
Word Count: 0
Next weeks goal: Drafted introduction scenes for Anna and Aaron.
I’ve read the Agatha Christie a dozen times. I know who killed poor Mrs. Leidner and Miss Johnson, and how Hercules Poirot brilliantly deduces the crimes. After the semester I’ve had the last thing I want to read is scholarly works – Schiffman and Pagels are out. And as I said above, I’m a little sick of the spy game right now. I want something a bit more frivolous. Something that doesn’t require too much thought.
5. Gorky Park – Martin Cruz Smith: I’ve seen the movie. Loved it. I count it as one of my favorite Cold War murder mysteries. But, it is a little on the dark side.
Not recommended by Goodreads, but a book I downloaded to my Kindle a couple of weeks ago:
6. Bound: J. Elizabeth Hill: I am actually in the process of reading this novel. It comes from my WP friend over at Word Flows. It’s her first publication and has received some great reviews. I’ll be the first to admit magic and fantasy aren’t something I gravitate to when choosing reading material, but so far it’s a captivating and intriguing story. Go check this one out for yourself.
So, what are you reading? I’m open to suggestions.
…that finding a link between Truman’s Cold War policies and the civil rights movement is easy. Writing a paper arguing the connection is not. I can’t remember the last time I wanted to bang my head against my desk….oh wait…yes, I do. Last semester when I wrote that paper about Thomas Hobbes and absolute power.
…that waiting for my professor to grade the above-mentioned paper is excruciating. Generally speaking, I am a pretty patient person. I don’t get too worked up about things, and I’m far from someone who requires instant gratification. Except when it comes to my writing. I think, in part, this speaks to the level of insecurities I have about my own ability as a writer. I worked hard to construct a meaningful work, and when I submitted it to my professor, I was confident I hit the mark. Now, more than a week and a half later, I’m having doubts. Did I take the topic in the right direction? Is it in-depth enough? Is it too detailed? Have I made a persuasive argument? Should I have picked this particular subject matter knowing my professor is a Cold War enthusiast?
As you can see, the wait is killing me. I have gnawed my fingernails to the quick and am currently resisting the overwhelming urge to drop by his office unannounced or send him a string of stalker emails with the following:
“Have you graded my paper yet? Have you? Have you? Have you?”
“Did you like it? You liked it, right? Say you liked it. You didn’t like it, did you? Damn it.”
“Please, please, please Dr. P, grade my paper. I need to know. Like, now. Before I die from not knowing.”
“Ugh! Tell me!”
…that despite my best efforts, I’m still prone to bouts of resentment. I like to think that I have evolved enough to rise above the pettiness and spite that comes with disdain, but in truth, I have not. I’ve complained ad nauseam about my group project. It’s been the bane of my existence for weeks now. Last Friday, we did our final presentation. Two of us earnedan A. The rest of the group…well…frankly, got a free A to boost their lagging course grade. And yes, that boasts of bitterness. And no, I don’t care. I’m not feeling overly charitable at the moment. I have marked them all off my Christmas cookie list.
…that I’m going to have to take some sort of statistics class. That really pisses me off. So much so, that I can’t bring myself to find any humor in it. Give me a week or two.
…that my spare bedroom furniture will soon be gone and I will be the proud new occupant of my very own home office space. I’m over the moon about it. My family is pretty stoked, too. They will finally be able to venture into the kitchen without being leveled by my stink eye for disturbing my creative vibe.
…that I’ve lost ten pounds since the beginning of the semester. Stress is a hell of a diet plan. I don’t recommend it. I’m a firm believer in healthy weight loss – i.e. eating rabbit food and sweating like a pig. However, I’ve got to say, it’s kinda nice knowing I’m going into the holiday baking season with a little wiggle room. Bring on the snicker doodles! And the chocolate peanut butter fudge, and the peppermint almond bark, and the cocoa ginger crisps…
…that I think I am looking forward to the holidays.
I’ll give you a minute to absorb that.
Okay. Are you good? No one needs medical attention?
I’m not a big fan of this time of year. I dislike the clutter, the crowds, and the commerciality of it all. Yes, this makes me a jerk. I’m alright with that. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (because it bears repeating) – my ideal holiday involves sun, white sandy beaches, and a margarita – or ten. I make no apologies for myself.
I feel a little different this year. I find myself wanting to drag out that damn tree and all its messy trimmings. I’ve bought a half a dozen Christmas gifts, scoped out a few more, and ordered my Christmas cards. I even R.S.V.P.’d to an annual Christmas party I have successfully avoided…well…always. Of course, I’m not sure this last one counts. It’s being held in the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and I’ll admit to an ulterior motive in accepting the invite.
I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I fear someone might have forgotten to wash their hands and has now infected me with the Christmas spirit. Not cool, people. Not. Cool.
…that Princess Kate is going to have a baby, and is suffering from a bad bout of morning sickness. Okay, I love the romantic notion of the Royals as much as the next gal, but is this really front page, above-the-fold, news? Call me a killjoy (it’s okay, I’ve been called worse), but I think the looming fiscal cliff, the UN recognition of a Palestinian state (and the Israeli reaction), the absence of good faith negotiations and compromise in government policy making, the implication that the Syrian government may be contemplating the use of chemical weapons, the moving of Patriot missiles to Turkey, and…oh yes…the new Egyptian’s president’s move toward a totalitarian government just a tad more important than a Royal bun-in-the-oven.
But what do I know.
…that I do love a story without a happy ending. Why? Because life is messy, and happy endings are the stuff of legends and fairy tales. Cynical? No. Realist.
I just finished John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. It’s an early Cold War spy thriller set in 1963 when the Wall was new, Germany was divided, and Khrushchev ruled over the Soviet Union. The thing I love about this story is that there is no clearly defined good guy or bad guy. Certainly there is the fundamental clash of ideologies – individualism and democracy vs. totalitarian socialism, but what you see in this novel is a questioning of morality on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and the lengths each will go in order to advance their political belief systems. I found it a fascinating study of human nature.
“A man who lives apart, not to others but alone, is exposed to obvious psychological dangers. In itself, the practice of deception is not particularly exacting; it is a matter of experience, of professional expertise, it is a facility that most of us can acquire.” – John le Carre
“People who play this game take risks. Fielder lost, Mundt won. London won – that’s the point. It was a foul, foul operation. But it’s paid off, and that’s the only rule.” – Alec Leamas
And as always, I am amazed by le Carre’s ability to weave such an intricate story with arcing tension without the use gratuitous action.
…that this blog entry seems to be nothing more than one big negative rant-fest. My inner rebellious self seems to be in a bad mood this week. I shall have to work on that.
…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by my silly dog, Rocco. I went a little snap-happy with the camera this week and he let me know it was not cool. It’s the same look my daughter gives me.
I’m on a bit of an early Cold War era spy kick right now. Two reason for this: I am writing a paper for my African-American history class that explores the Cold War’s influence on the civil rights movement; and I recently picked up a couple of John le Carre novels at my local second-hand bookseller.
I don’t have the luxury of a lot of free time this semester. I spend most of my days immersed in a bubbling vat filled with school, work, and family obligations. However, I have been able to sneak in a few minutes here and there – mostly in the carpool line – to delve into the 1963 classic The Spy who Came in from the Cold and the dark world of aging British spy, Alex Leamus. It’s not a book packed with action. Indeed, most of the story plays out within Leamus’ head as he struggles to find moral justification for his life’s work. I find his introspection fascinating. John le Carre is a master of his craft, and I am more than a little jealous of the intricate and thrilling story he weaves – without blowing anything up. Amazing.
Alright, so now that I’ve bored you to tears with my spontaneous book review, let’s get down to business. I’ve learned a lot this week. Some good; some not so much; all of it meaningful to my journey of self-discovery.
I learned this week:
…that I missed having the BFF around. This week she and I were able to meet in the middle of the day, on a whim, for a little coffee and girl talk. It’s been years since we’ve lived close enough to do that. It was a fabulous way to spend a Thursday afternoon.
(rant of the week)
…that sometimes I expect too much from of my higher education experience – and my professors expect too little from their students. As I’ve said before, I am in the midst of the group project hell. In general, I struggle with these sort of things because a) I am a control freak; b) anything less than perfection is failure; and c) I am an introvert who finds prolonged interaction with people I don’t know (or necessarily like) exhausting. It is no different with this project, though I do generally like the members of the group.
This assignment is two part: written paper and oral presentation. Everyone has an individual part to play, but success is contingent upon cohesion. Bearing this in mind, I took my portion of the paper to my professor for help with an unusual citation. I would hate to get it wrong and the group grade suffer for my incompetence.
He took it from me, read the first line, looked up at me over his reading glasses and said: “Are these your own words?”
I said: “What? Of course, they are my own words. Why on earth would you ask me that?”
I glanced down at my paper because, by this time I couldn’t remember what I had written to illicit such a reaction. It was a simple opening statement, short and to the point. No fuss, no muss. No ten dollar words. Nothing complicated or provocative. As you might imagine, I went through a medley of emotions: shock, indignation, anger. He backtracked then, but the damage was done. I walked away from the conversation feeling irritated, more than a little offended, and wondering why I was voluntarily subjecting myself to such nonsense.
Over the next few days, the group began to email me their portions of the paper for editing. My professor’s cynical attitude solidified before my eyes. It turns out that decent writing in these sort of survey courses is not necessarily the norm. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted by the lack of quality, and dare I say, effort, I found in their work. While I understand everyone has different writing skills and styles, I had expected by this stage in the game, they would have gained the ability to produce a passably intelligent product – with complete coherent sentences. You know, with a noun, a verb, and the occasional adverb or two thrown in for good measure.
I was wrong. Lesson learned.
…that my dog’s most prized possession is his raw hide chewy thing, and it is imperative that it be kept stashed in a secret spot until it is time to finish it off. As a novice dog mom, I am perplexed by canine behavior. Cats are easy and predictable. They expect to be fed, acknowledged upon demand, and left alone to nap wherever they choose. Dogs are different. Mine reminds me of a mischievous toddler – left to his own devices, mayhem ensues.
While in the backyard this week, I watched Rocco dig feverishly in a remote corner. I went to investigate. He was burying his chewy thing. I’m not sure why he thinks such a drastic thing is necessary, but there was an air of desperation in his actions. I suppose he could be worried about a cat uprising. He is, after all, the only dog in a houseful of felines. He would be stupid not to feel a little paranoia. I’m sure even as I type this they are plotting something diabolical. Hmmm…it seems I understand Rocco a little better than I thought.
…thatSkyfall is the best damn Bond movie I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen them all. Multiple times. In the beginning, I wasn’t thrilled with the choice of Daniel Craig for the part. When they announced it, I was peeved. He didn’t fit. He wasn’t right. I swore I wouldn’t see Casino Royale. I was convinced it would be complete shit. Then I saw it. I was speechless. Bond had evolved. He was grittier, rougher around the edges. There was a vulnerability emulating from him, giving him a new level of humanity and mortality. Despite all of my efforts to the contrary, I liked the film- I liked Daniel Craig as Bond. I went into Skyfall with high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with another review. If you like this sort of thing, go see it for yourself. Tell me what you think.
…that my daughter has suddenly decided that jeans with rhinestones on the back pockets is not so repulsive after all. I’m not real sure what to make of this sudden shift, but rest assured there is a boy involved.
…that last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a ladybug I stumbled across in the garden. He was an uncooperative subject who dodged my best efforts to shoot him from his more photogenic side. It was almost as if he was mooning me. Surely not.
I’ve written in some capacity since the third grade. My first completed work was an alternate ending short story inspired by Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare. I was very proud of that story. I sat for hours, hunched over my desk, No. 2 pencil biting into my short stubby fingers, the eraser worn to the quick, and labored over every single word. When I finished, I felt proud. I had written a story. From beginning to end. I turned it in to my teacher, confident that I would earn an A for such blinding brilliance. It was a great story.
My teacher saw things a bit different. The evil Mrs. Rupe promptly tore my work to shreds, citing a laundry list of flaws, mistakes, and shortcomings. She gave me a C.
I always hated Mrs. Rupe.
I’m not bitter about it. Really. Though, I do hold a special place for her at the top of my list of unforgivable grudges. She was a miserable human being who should have retired from teaching long before 1980. But for all of her petty viciousness, and she was awful for so many reason beyond just giving me a C, she did teach me a few important lessons: writing is subjective, rejection is a rite of passage, and criticism keeps a writer grounded.
Of course, such lessons are meant for those who can actually finish something in a timely manner without falling victim to the hazards cluttering the road to success. I seem to be having a bit of trouble navigating that thoroughfare, at the moment. Or perhaps, it’s my mode of transportation that is faulty. I blame the outline – I think it has a flat.
For several days, I’ve struggled to write a single scene, introducing a solitary character. My trouble started when I made the decision to give Anna a brother. His name is Aaron and he is a total pain in my ass. I thought he would add an emotional depth and focus to the story, but instead he’s done nothing but cause me heartburn and an endless headache. The latter may be from banging my head on my desk out of frustration. I’m not really sure. It’s hard to differentiate.
The way I see it, I have three choices: delete him completely – move on and pretend he never happened; kill him slow and painfully – my novel is titled Retribution; or scrap the scene as it is and start over.
Oh lord, maybe I should tweak the outline again…ugh.
Yesterday, when I sat down at the computer, my intent was to write a new blog entry updating my outline revisions and finish last week’s “Things I learned.”
That didn’t happen. I just wasn’t feeling it. I was having one of those days when every neuron in my brain was misfiring. Ideas banged around inside my head like jumping beans, but I was powerless to capture and harness them.
Eh, it happens sometimes. So, I checked my email, trolled Facebook, hit a few entertainment sites, and wondered if Catholic school is really the best choice for Suri Cruise.
That’s when I noticed the date.
Hmmm…it appears that I have survived the month since my 40th birthday without suffering any adverse side effects. A stark contrast to a decade ago. Turning 30 nearly did me in and I spent four years recovering. However, the years that followed were a time of great personal growth for me. I discovered a lot about myself, the world around me, and my place in that world. Here are 10 things I learned in my 30s:
10. Eating junk food makes you fat. In my twenties, this was a foreign concept. I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted, and suffered very little in the way of consequences. In my thirties, my body rebelled. All of those excess calories translated into excess pounds and my jeans size suddenly expanded – from size 4 to size 14.
9. Losing weight requires effort – and sweat. With excess weight gain comes the desire to shed those pounds. Of course, laziness and gluttony made me fat and my first instinct was to find a method to lose without exerting too much energy. A quick fix. I tried the Cookie diet, the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the starvation diet, the “screw it I’ll just stay fat” diet. I bought pills and potions and patches. Nothing worked, and why would it? The fact of the matter, and something I had to learn the hard way, is that if you want to lose weight, you have to change your lifestyle. And by change your lifestyle, I mean you must put down the potato chips, get your ass up off the couch, and sweat – a lot. Every single day for the rest of your life.
8. Love the skin you’re in. Cleanse, hydrate, and moisturize. Do it twice a day, everyday and your skin will reward you with a healthy, youthful glow. Trust me on this.
7. Change is painful; change is good. I’ve never been one to embrace change. Early on in my thirties, I shied away from it, built a nice safe bubble around my life, and stared out as the world passed me by. Then suddenly, that world shifted. In the span of just a few months, I lost my home to fire, my father to cancer, and learned my mother had breast cancer. In the blink of an eye, everything changed. It was devastating, yet empowering. I discovered through it all, that I am strong, capable, and resilient.
6. Take heart in lessons learned. Contrary to what I like to tell myself, I don’t know everything. I have found that life is more than happy to fill in the blanks. I just have to pay attention and take heed.
5. A happy life begins with happiness within. In Henry V, Shakespeare wrote, “Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.” I’ll admit, I’ve never completely comprehended the true meaning behind Shakespeare’s words, but I like the quote just the same. To me, it embodies the struggle of self-acceptance I endured throughout my 30s. I am a personality fraught with flaws and quirks and insecurities, and I have learned to like me just as I am. After that, the rest came easy.
4. Being a joiner is not a bad thing. I am, by nature, an introvert. I prefer to stand on the periphery – watching, assessing, judging. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that – most of the time. However, to fully engage with life, I found that sometimes I have to step off of the sidelines and into the fray. It’s scary, but the rewards are endless.
3. The only way to conquer fear is to face it head on. Anyone who knows me, or reads my blog, knows that I have a laundry list of phobias. I am scared of flying, boating, drowning, camping, bears, sharks, brain-eating amoeba, and math. If there is one thing that I learned in my 30s, it is that one can’t live their life defined by fear. It stunts personal growth and makes for a boring existence. So, in the last few years, I’ve gone whale watching in an inflatable raft (yikes), taken a sunset cruise into the shark infested waters off the Keys, flown a dozen or more times, and taken four semesters of math – back to back. I’m still working up to camping with bears and swimming in a lake full of brain-eating amoeba. I don’t feel the need to rush.
2. Nurture healthy relationships, eliminate the bad. Relationships are hard. They are even harder when they don’t work. It took a long time for me to accept that sometimes it is best to cut my losses and walk away. Once I did, I was free to devote my energy to the relationships in my life that do work.
1. Youth is relative. If you perceive yourself as old, you are.
Usually, I post these self-shaming updates on Sunday, but I was too busy watching Roger Federer reclaim the top spot in men’s tennis.
One must have clearly defined priorities, right?
In between break points, I did manage to pull myself away from the television long enough to take a good hard look at my WIP. I haven’t really done that since JuNoWriMo ended. I was a little scared, but it wasn’t all that bad. There are parts that work, parts that don’t, parts that scream WTF. It could have been worse. It needs to be better.
After reading through 90 or so pages of material, I decide that Anna needed a brother. So, I added him, and then I killed him. Cold, I know, but necessary. It will add an emotional element and focus to the story that I felt was lacking. Of course, adding (and killing) an important new character means that the underlying dynamic of my story has changed and therefore, an outline revision is in order.
I can’t tell you how much that thrills me. You know, because outlining is my favorite part about the writing process.
Moving on. I want to take a minute to acknowledge and thank Julie over at Word Flows for the Lucky 7 Meme Award she tossed my way a couple of weeks ago. These sort of things always put a smile on my face. Thank you, Julie!
Of course, this one is a little different from most. It requires giving up a piece of my WIP for the world to see. That’s not something I am comfortable doing outside of my writing group. If it had been anyone else, I would have bowed out, but for Julie, I will do it.
The Lucky 7 Meme Award Rules are as such:
1. Go to the 7th or 77th page of your work in progress.
2. Go to the 7th line of the page.
3. Copy the next 7 sentences or paragraphs. Remember, they must be as they are typed.
4. Tag 7 authors.
5. Let them know they’re it!
So, here are my 7 lines – unedited and raw.
That’s all I’m willing to give.
“Rome, however, remained constant. The streets and lanes were still narrow and winding, paved in worn uneven cobbles. The stucco facade of the old buildings were still faded and covered in graffiti. Smart cars, motor bikes, and scooters still clogged every conceivable inch of space. Life moved on.
Anna inhaled. Even through the fog of her grief, it felt good to be home.
She didn’t live far from the piazza, just around the corner on the Vicolo Moroni, a street so confined she could touch the walls on either side. Her flat was on the top floor of a Renaissance era structure the color of salmon. A heavy wrought iron gate shielded an intimate courtyard with a bubbling fountain and potted orange trees from view. The entrance to the…”
There you have it. Doesn’t tell you much, does it?
***There seems to be a formatting difference. In Word, this excerpt is truly 7 lines.
…that two months of twice weekly physical therapy sessions for a yoga-induced hip injury will result in thinner, more defined thighs. I still have hip pain, but my thighs look much better in a pair of shorts.
…that while I was able to eke out 30,000 words during JuNoWriMo, I am now questioning the relevancy of about half of them. I suppose the point of the exercise isn’t to create a work of literary genius, just to get the juices flowing. I succeeded in that, though I think I may need a big roll of Bounty to sop up all of that flowing juice.
…that the agony of defeat is a bitter pill to swallow (whoa – cliché much). For weeks, I have engaged in a battle of wills with the bunny who lives in my front bushes and has made my ornamental sweet potato vines a dinner staple. I tried everything short of the BB gun the scary man down at the local home and garden store suggested to deter his incessant munching, but nothing works. He continues to dine freely, and my garden looks like it was hit by a swarm of locust. I have come to realize that I am waging an unwinnable war against a rodent whose addiction far outweighs my need for the coveted “yard of the month” honor. I am going to bow out now before I end up sitting on a bar stool next to Elmer Fudd and Carl Spackler slamming whiskey shooters.
..that I have become numb to Texas summers. This week my mother asked me if it was hot outside. I said, “No. It’s only 95.”
…that Katie Holmes has left Tom Cruise. I really wish I had something witty to say about this, but in all reality, who didn’t see this coming? Tom Cruise, that’s who.
…that nothing sucks the fun out of doing something nice for someone than the expectation that it be repeated for everyone. Feeling obligated to do or to give something, especially when it involves someone I don’t particularly care for, tends to bring out some of my least attractive personality traits. I become spiteful and petty, almost competitive in my passive/aggressive rebellion. I’m not proud of myself, but that won’t stop me from finding a new more creative way to avoid doing what everyone expects me to do without uttering a single word of protest.
…that I didn’t learn all that much this week.
…that this week’s awww moment is really more of an ahhh moment. This week we went to our local lake to partake in the Fourth of July festivities and fireworks show. I snapped this picture from the bank while kicking back, watching the half-baked drunken crowd, and crunching on a sno-cone. It was a fabulous night.
You might have noticed that, with the exception of a few photographs, I’ve been largely absent from the blog in recent weeks.
Or then again, maybe you haven’t.
That’s okay. Sometimes, I don’t even notice when I’m missing.
June turned out to be busier than I anticipated. I had an impromptu week-long visit from two of my nephews, participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, turned forty, traveled to our nation’s capital on vacation with the family, and had an unexpected sharp increase in caseload at the office. This inability to adequately judge my level of anticipated activity seems to be a recurring theme in my life. You would think by now I’d have worked out the kinks.
As you can imagine, all of this activity came with a laundry list of new things learned. Over the last month, I learned…
…that no matter how you try to spin it, turning forty sucks. And, please, spare me the “forty is the new thirty” bullshit. Turning thirty sent me into a depression so deep it took four years to recover.
…that my nephews think that I may not be completely human. Here’s how that conversation went:
Nephew #1: Aunt Peggy, don’t you ever get tired of typing (I was working on my NaNoWriMo word count).
Nephew #2 (in a hushed voice): Aunt Peggy is a cyborg.
This revelation was followed by a fit of giggles. Of course, in response, I gave them my best stink eye. I have a reputation to uphold, after all. This earned me a fresh round of giggles. It seems my stink eye needs an upgrade. I’ll have to work on that.
…that as humans, we have been conditioned to stand in line, to patiently wait our turn. It is ingrained in our psyche even as we whine and cry and complain about it. If you have ever had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. or any tourist hot spot, for that matter, you know that a great deal of time is spent standing in line. There are lines for transportation, lines for security, lines for admittance, lines for viewing. It is the way the world works, and something that we’ve come to accept as the natural order of our day-to-day lives. It brings us comfort, gives us a sense of organization, and takes the thought process out of our hands.
At the National Archives, they like to mix it up a bit. Sure, they shuffle you in like herds of cattle. Force you through a line for the metal detector, another to search your bag, then corral you into a long snake-like line at the base of the steps into “the vault.” However, once you cross the threshold into the room that holds our nation’s most revered documents, the rules of the game suddenly shift. You will be instructed to go against your intrinsic nature. Lines are not permitted. You must move freely about the room and view the displays at your leisure. Such a radical departure from the norm will cause you to cast a panicked look at the person standing behind you. They will appear as shell-shocked as you feel. No lines? Crazy talk. That’s simply not the way these things are supposed to work. Of course, in reality such instructions are futile. Humans behave invariably in the manner in which they are most accustom. On my visit to the National Archives, that’s exactly what the masses did – they filed into the room, walked directly to the exhibit at the far left, and worked steadily to the right, in a nice neat single file line. Myself included.
That’s the most barbaric thing I’ve ever heard.
…that in large metropolitan areas where public transportation is consistently utilized, there are rules of etiquette that must be followed when riding the escalators that lead to and from the underground metro system. Stand to the right, or get your ass run over. Lesson learned.
…that my family doesn’t understand or share my love for history. This week I learned that some of the Dead Sea scroll fragments, along with other artifacts from the time period, are on exhibit just up the road in Ft. Worth. So thrilling! After a little digging, I discovered that in addition to the exhibit, there will be a series of lectures offered on varying subjects related to the scrolls and their impact on the history of Judaism and beyond. I enthusiastically shared this news with my husband, my mother, my best friend, and my daughter. All of them metaphorically patted me on the head and said “you have fun with that.” I guess that means I shouldn’t buy them a ticket.
…that taking 5 days off in the middle of Camp NaNoWriMo is detrimental to the success of the project. I did manage to rack up 30,000 words in the first 20 days. That’s pretty darn good for me so I’m going to take a page out of the Book of Sheen and declare myself a winner.
…that the path that hugs the Tidal Basin and offers up a view of the Jefferson Memorial across the water, looks better in my head than it does in person. I will now have to adapt a scene I’ve already written to accommodate the lack of suitable spots for a clandestine meeting. Bummer.
…that my daughter thinks my detailed character profiles complete with photographs are “cute.” I’m not really sure, but I think she is mocking me.
…that last, but not least, this week’s (month’s) awww moment is brought to you by a duck I encountered while visiting the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. I had the distinct impression that he was a waterfowl on a mission. His waddle was very determined.