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.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rock of Ages

Not too long ago, I was riding in the car with my young adult daughter and mentioned the Rush concert that was coming to town. She giggled and said she thought it was funny that I knew about bands like Rush. She said it without the least bit of irony.

Anyway. A few weeks ago I watched part of a televised Deep Purple concert on TV. Oh, the memories!

My first favorite album ever was Deep Purple’s Mark I & II. It wasn’t even mine. I used to beg, borrow, and steal it from my older sister and then play it over and over and over again.

My mother used to tell me to “turn that banshee music” down. I remember thinking to myself that if I was ever the mother of teenagers, I would let my children play their records nice and loud. Ear buds weren’t the only things I didn’t foresee. There was a time in the pre-ear bud era—a very brief time—when some of their music sounded suspiciously like disco. The horror!

But one day, a miracle happened. As I sat at my computer, I heard, deep within the bowels of my son’s basement lair, the distant rumbling chords of “Smoke on the Water.” Turns out there was a game called Guitar Hero, and guess whose era those heroes were from?

I opened the basement door. “Is that too loud?” my son called up. Silly boy. He was born in an age when ear buds were the norm, after all. He couldn’t help it.

“No! Turn that music up!” I hollered. I was so proud.

Oh, the memories.

What was your first favorite song/album?

I fit into me now. I have an organic life, finally, not necessarily the one people imagined for me, or tried to get me to have. I have the life I longed for. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I could be. There are parts I don’t love—until a few year ago, I had no idea that you could have cellulite on your stomach—but not only do I get along with me most of the time now, I am militantly and maternally on my own side. ~Anne Lamott, Plan B Further Thoughts on Faith

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Improper Poll: Under the Umbrella

A couple of days ago, LindaO’Connell at Write from the Heart wrote about bumbershoots, or umbrellas. This made me smile, and not just because of the fun word. Whenever I think of umbrellas, I think of my mother and the way she was always trying to foist one off onto me.

When I was younger, I loathed umbrellas. They were clunky, dorky things that only nerds carried. They were second only to the rubbers we used to have to wear to protect our shoes from getting wet. Whenever a boy would pick me up for a date and it was raining out, I would rush out the door as fast as possible thanks to absolute terror that my rather naïve mother might caution me to be sure and take rubbers. She never did, thank heavens, but she sometimes called after me to take an umbrella.

Even when I was an adult, my mother persisted in giving me umbrellas, often disguised as gifts. I thanked her and stashed them away—usually under my car seat. It was only after she died that I noticed the way they sometimes came rolling out from under my seat when it was raining, and this time, instead of feeling annoyed at those incessant umbrellas, I smiled.

When my daughter went to France, and later off to college, I presented her with an umbrella. I could tell by the look on her face that it would never get used, but as her mother, I felt an obligation to pass along the tradition, not unlike passing a torch.

A few years ago, I started actually using the umbrellas. I am not cool, and I no longer care. In fact, the rejection of coolness is at the heart of the matter on a literal level as well. It’s not that I care so much about looking like a drowned rat when I go someplace, but I hate being damp and cold.

Funny it’s only now that I really get the message: I will shield you. I’ve got you covered. These days, umbrellas make me smile.

How did your mother manage to humiliate you?

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Like the blue light special, the big toe in the morgue, the slow wildebeest in the herd… I’ve been tagged! Thanks so much to Sioux of Sioux’s Page for thinking I am worthy of tagging. Or maybe the reasoning was that I’ve been blogging so seldom lately, I’d possibly miss it? HA! Nice try, Sioux, but no such luck! I will now attempt to answer the interview questions, just like a sleek starlet being interviewed by Conan O’Brien. Only I’m not sleek. Or a starlet. And instead of wearing a little sparkly dress, I am wearing workout shorts whose only workout is seat stretches, along with my beloved Sketchers sandals that look like the orthopedic devices they give you after foot surgery.

What are you working on right now?

Am trying to come up with something for Chicken Soup’s Overcoming Challenges book. But I do have a book started that I would classify as dystopian fiction for young adults.

How does it differ from other works in this genre?

My goal for the book is to appease all of my inner critics at once: the human being critic, the woman one, the mother, the teacher, the reader and the writer. For example, if you were to ask me if I liked the Twilight saga, I would tell you that, as a human being, I always look for themes with a little more depth. As a woman, specifically one who has dealt with people with destructive control issues, I was unhappy to see some of the unhealthier elements of the relationship between Edward and Bella romanticized even though I definitely saw the seductive appeal of the love story itself. As a mother, I was grateful for the theme of self-control. As a teacher, I was thrilled that it got so many children to read. As a reader, I had some mixed feelings but found the conflict and a lot of the plot elements appealing. As a writer, I was impressed that author Stepheny Meyer created a story that was irrefutably compelling and entertaining to a wide range of ages, not to mention successful.  

So one thing I hope to bring to the table is my ability to approach a YA book from all of these perspectives. The thing that makes me want to run away from the table, however, is how hard it is to please all of the inner critics sitting around that same table arguing with each other, like Maxine and her dysfunctional family at Thanksgiving dinner. And let’s face it: until I have a finished book, it’s all just talk, none of this matters in the slightest, and nobody eats that Thanksgiving dinner.

Why do you write what you do?

Interesting question, especially for a Writin’ Ho like me who’s loved just about every kind of writing at one point or another. That’s why I’m Spongebob one day and Squidward the next, and Mr. Krabs the day after that. As a kid, I wrote nothing but poetry and fiction because the stories of my life hadn’t been written yet. The more I’ve lived, the more that weight of real, concrete life has pulled me into nonfiction. Now that I’m old enough to have lots of experiences to write about, creative nonfiction has been a natural choice, and it seems like there’s a decent market for it. Plus those stories mean something to me because they are true. They’re who I am. But the fact is, I am also someone who knows young people, and I know what they read. Trying to write fiction again is fun, even though that works against me in ways. It feels enough like playing that I have to fight guilt along with everything else.

What is the hardest part about writing?

Getting all of those critical multiple selves to work together well enough to actually finish something before they kill each other off and take the work with them.

Now I’m supposed to tag three people, but I don’t know anyone who participates in this type of thing who hasn’t already been tagged. And I don’t want to tag anyone who doesn’t want to play, because that’s just like being the cootie kid who goes around poking people. So, if you want this, TAG, YOU’RE IT!

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~Thomas Mann

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Trying Toads

I’ve been trying to challenge myself more, writing wise, and it just so happens that  Imaginary Garden with Real Toads provided some pretty compelling inspiration in the artwork of Kathryn Dyche Dechairo.

For L

Broken heart, broken vase

Broken vow, ripped lace

Broken promise, broken face

Mending done, shield in place.

It doesn’t matter what they are unhappy about, you will get the blame. If they treat their children badly and cause their children to become angry, you will be blamed. If they loose their job, have car trouble or just can’t seem to catch a break, you will be blamed. You may go months at a time without seeing them or talking to them, but you can bet that if something goes wrong, you will be blamed. ~Cathy Meyer, About Toxic Ex Spouses

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Torture by Shopping

I’ve been trying to find a dress for an event. Although I’m not much of a shopper, dress shopping has never been as bad as, say, swimsuit shopping. Or even finding the perfect pair of jeans. In fact, it used to rank almost on the “sort of funnish” end of the shopping scale. Used to.

Now it ranks somewhere down around getting a mammogram, except for that time I had the really bad tech who made me scream ow ow ow oh dear God stop stop stop NOOOO it won’t go any flatter because she obviously went to the mammogram school where the manual had been poorly translated from another language. Whereas in English, the manual reads, “Flatten to a pancake,” this woman’s manual said “Flatten to a crepe,” or maybe “Flatten to the thickness of a bubblegum bubble right before it bursts.” Because I seriously thought it might.

So dress shopping is now only slightly better than that and something I only resort to when absolutely mandatory. This time, though, I had two problems. At Store #1, where I usually have the best luck, there were large groups of teens looking for homecoming dresses. That was fine with me, though why they were shopping in MY area when they had their own is beyond me. Still, their ebullient personalities made me smile. That is, until I heard one of the girls crammed into the dressing room right next to mine whisper, “There’s no room in here—I’m going to find another room. Is there someone in the one next door, do you think?”

Her friend told her there was. Since I had by now figured she was referring to my room, and I was in almost the most serious state of undress achievable in a dressing room and with no time to struggle into something, I tried to make some noise—like clunking hangers around and clearing my throat.

It didn’t matter. I knew she would climb up and peek over. Knew it. I knew it because deep down, I knew that little teenaged girl. We all do. She was the girl your mother thought was a bad influence, the fun one in the crowd when she wasn’t embarrassing you, the one who probably should have been on A.D.D. meds even long before A.D.D. meds were invented. By this time I was shuffling and clunking and coughing like mad, but she was the kind of girl who pays absolutely no attention to such things. I had my back to her, but I could tell she’d peeked by the snorting and snickering and giggling that took place for a good five minutes. Thank heavens the mirror was on her side and I was facing away, because for all I know, I could have been her teacher.

At Store #2, I was blessedly alone. The only problem was, some of those dresses have a high spandex content and are surprisingly hard to get off. A couple of times I was so zipped up, tangled, or otherwise ensnared that panic set in. I was like a wild animal in a trap with fur flying. Claustrophobia hit and I struggled and perspired and hot flashed, then tried to calm myself down—which is not easy to do when you’re bent over with your arms pinned over your head, and your head partially stuck in an armhole—to think about how to escape from there. Chew my way out? It seemed like a distinct possibility when I’d think of the alternative—calling on the sales force to help extract me like a farmer trying to birth a hefty breach calf.

At Store #3, they had mirrors that reflect your backside, so I got a glimpse of what the climbing girl saw. Oh, horrors. I truly had no idea. I still feel so stricken, I’m not sure I can ever recover as long as that view is burned into my brain.

In the end, I walked out with a dress only because I’d realized nothing was going to look super cute, but I could, in fact, wear one that still managed to perform some optical illusions and hide that horrifying view that the teenaged girl saw. And as for the girl, I also decided the sight itself was suitable punishment, however cruel and unusual.

Lord Grantham: “They say there’s a wild man in all of us.”
Lady Violet: “Maybe, but if only he would stay inside.”
            ~Downton Abbey