Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Too Austen-tatious?

What can I say about my little blog background fixation? I like variety.

But I also thought this was a good background, and as if it weren’t appropriate enough, it was called “Lost in Jane Austen.”

It just so happened that I was on a Jane Austen quest today, even. Within the last year or two, the BBC (I think?) reproduced all of her novels on film to be shown on “Masterpiece,” and I didn’t get to see them all. So I wanted to buy one or two using some Christmas money.

Went to Barnes & Noble. Couldn’t find what I was looking for, so had to ask the cute young guy behind the counter. I fully expected him to give me that tolerant look that most young men his age reserve for, well, women of my age. Who are looking for Jane Austen tapes.

Instead, he was so knowledgeable about the Jane Austen movies that I learned quite a bit. And got a great tape, on sale, even.

Where were these wonderful, knowledgeable young men when I was young?

“[Mr. Elliot] is a man without heart or conscience; a designing, wary, cold-blooded being, who thinks only of himself; who, for his own interest or ease, would be guilty of any cruelty, or any treachery, that could be perpetrated without risk of his general character. He has no feeling for others. Those whom he has been the chief cause of leading into ruin, he can neglect and desert without the smallest compunction. He is totally beyond the reach of any sentiment of justice or compassion. Oh! he is black of heart, hollow and black!” ~Jane Austen, Persuasion

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlepeeps

The above picture has nothing to do with this post. It’s just a Christmas card that I got from my talented writer friend Becky. Be sure to click on it to see it bigger. Isn’t it adorable??!!

Anyway. Every year, during the panic of before-Christmas shopping, I struggle with rude people. I’m seeing more of them when it comes to certain types of behaviors. A friend of mine mentioned that she’s noticed it, too, and she thinks it’s because of the way reality shows emphasize competition. They glamorize greed. Unfortunately, I agree.

I've had a few too many people play “chicken” with grocery carts this year. I am weary and hostile…which means I’ve allowed other people's rudeness to negatively influence me.

Fortunately, every Christmas season I also have at least one stranger teach me a good lesson. This year’s came from a woman in Target. There was nothing especially outstanding about her; she was just a person who seemed to have what I would call an aura of decency.

I kept encountering her in different aisles, and she was always polite. She said, “excuse me,” didn’t hog aisles, and took turns. She had a lovely smile that left me feeling warmed and cheered.
At one point two little boys went by her, and the youngest dumped over a display. When the older boy (who was only about five) cleaned up the mess, I overheard her offer to help. Then she complimented the little boy on his sense of responsibility. I left the store feeling good as a direct result of this brief encounter with a total stranger.

Later on, I thought back about this. Because she was pleasant, did I think she was weak? Not at all. She came across as elegant, secure, and socially and emotionally polished.

And as for the rude ones…do they come across as strong or superior? On the contrary, pushy, greedy people come across as desperate, shallow, and ignorant to me.

So this year I’ve been trying to remember the Target Lady. I keep reminding myself that I take charge by allowing my own good cheer possibly to influence others rather than allowing others’ negativity to get to me. It's helping. I notice that the more I smile and enjoy myself, the more pleasant other people are...and the more the rude ones just seem to disappear. Thanks, Target Lady.

Hope you got as much of a laugh as I did at the above card. And have a merry day and a wonderful holiday.

From president John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural address, Jan. 20, 1961:
“…civility is not a sign of weakness….”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Doug Does Haul with Boundless Hollerin', fa la la la la, la la la la

Magpie’s (mmm—Magpie’s!) is on the other side of Old Town, and three of us—Linda, Becky, and I—were hungry for a late lunch/early dinner after the book signing.

“You mean you’re going to ask that little man to haul our fat asses down the street ?!!” That was roughly what Linda gasped when Becky flagged down the reluctant-looking man pedaling a little Christmas-decorated carriage pulled by…a bicycle.

My fat ass actually wounded poor Linda. We were literally crushed in.

We asked the little man hauling our asses what his name was. Doug. I held my breath and sucked in when Doug stared pedaling, as if that would somehow reduce my gravity. He strained. I helped by mentally willing the whole contraption to go. Slowly, slowly we inched forward, gaining momentum as Doug furiously pumped his legs.

Bless his merry macho muscles, Doug made it. We cheered so loudly that a gracious passer-by offered to take our picture to commemorate the momentous occasion.

I noticed Doug was not waiting for us when we were done eating.

“Get your bun off my paper.” ~High school kid speaking to a girl who was leaning back so that her rolled-up hair was on his desk

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bah Humbled

My head ached, and traffic was unbelievable. Already late for the book signing, when someone stole my parking spot I did more than bah and humbug. I am ashamed to say that I let out such a blood-curdling scream that a passer-by heard me through my closed windows and looked frightened. When I finally did park blocks and blocks away, I dove out of my car and started running. My boots were never made for these ancient, red brick streets. But as I ran, the miracle began to set in: this was Main Street Saint Charles (Missouri) over Christmas.

The festivities have grown over the years, and it is spectacular. Here was a real-life version of those nostalgic little Christmas towns that people try to capture in ornaments.

As I sprinted down the damp streets, an old-time, velvet-cloaked Kris Kringle waved a gloved hand at me and smiled a genuine smile. Smoke billowed the scent of roasting chestnuts from the street corners. People hugged their mugs in icy hands, breathed in the chocolate-scented steam, or cradled homemade cookies in their mittens. Bundled, pink-cheeked children clung to their parents’ hands and tried to keep up, jiggledy-frolicky bounce, pom-poms dancing.

When I finally got to Main Street Books, Vicki was there to greet everyone in a scene right out of a Christmas calendar. Upstairs sat six smiling friends: Linda O’Connell, Becky Povich, Theresa Sanders, Sherri Stanczak, Pat Wahler, and Patsy Zettler. Below are (far left to right) Pat, Becky and Linda.

The parade started shortly after I got there, and we had a great view from upstairs. We met many new people, saw some beloved old friends, and as always, laughed.

Stay tuned for Part II—Doug Hauls Asses.

Minister at a service we attended on Christmas Eve, 2006: “Love wins.”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Chicken Soup for the Soul...Canned Soup for the Body

Seven of us St. Charles/St. Louis authors will be signing books this Saturday, Dec. 12 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. at Main Street Books in Old Town St. Charles.

If you bring in a canned good to donate to a local food pantry, you will receive 10% off your entire purchase.

Hmm...books...friends...soup...Old Town...? I can't think of too many places I'd rather be over the Christmas season! Hope to see you there!

We know what we are…but not what we may be. ~William Shakespeare