24 December 2011

Long Lay the World

For the past two Christmas seasons I've had a blog waiting for its time. Chewing at my thoughts.

It starts with the line "I have a bone to pick with George Bailey." Just a few observations about the movie: It's a Wonderful Life. Some potentially controversial, potentially clever or potentially crap. Possibly criticizing Capra's Christmas Classic. "What? Less than glowing things to say about the Mother of all Christmas movies?"

Not today. Maybe next week. Maybe next Christmas. Sorry Clarence.

I feel the need to talk about Christmas Tradition.

Parenting was impossibly difficult and defeating for me. I just COULD NOT DO IT WELL ENOUGH. It simply wasn't possible. Isn't possible. There are a few things however, that I somehow nailed. At least things that I felt like I nailed. Christmas Traditions was one of them.

The first one I hold way up over my head as a great thing: Every Christmas until the year they moved out, my children woke up in their own bed.
I loved this about my own childhood. I woke up, ran into the living room, noting happily that the cookies and milk were gone and some new shiny toy or bike had been left by Santa as I'd slept in the next room. We did not travel on Christmas Day.
Because of my love for this, I told my children's grandparents that very first year, "If you want to see us on Christmas, you'll have to come to us." We did not pack up presents and our Christmas pajamas and drive to Yakima, Edgewood or any other family location. That would not have been a real Christmas, but a sad substitute. Christmas morning at home. Period.
Then even after they moved out, my kids would still come home some years and spend the night Christmas Eve so they could enjoy that same tradition they grew up with.

The second tradition I love and take some pride in is their yearly ornaments. And I am NOT talking about those cliche Hallmark collections here, thank you very much. No imagination in that, at all. Starting the year they were born, except for Brian who came to live with us when he was six, each Christmas, my kids received their own new ornament. With their name and the date. And if possible, relating to something significant about their past year: A clay figure on a miniature snow board the first year Brian learned to fly and fall down snowy hillsides. A little ceramic snare drum the year Colin started playing percussion. A tiny snow globe with a girl kicking a soccer ball inside, hanging on a string the year Ciara went out for soccer.
They love their collections. And I loved the yearly hunt for the perfect one. Every Christmas when we decorated the tree, they each unpacked and organized their previous ornaments in order, recalling and retelling the significance of each and eager to see what the new ornament would be. Then each taking their turn hanging their personal assortment on the evergreen boughs.
And at the age when they moved out of the house, each had their own cherished collection of at least eighteen ornaments to start out on their own.

Also each year, after attending Christmas Eve service at our church, our family drove through a few favorite neighborhoods on the way home, to 'ooh' and 'aah' over pretty Christmas light displays. And as we drove, taking strict turns picking our favorite holiday carol, we'd sing in the car together. Some of us picking the same song every time.
Lynn: O come All Ye Faithful.
Me: O Holy Night.
Ciara: The First Noel.
Brian: We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Nana (my Mom): Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Colin: The 12 Days of Christmas. We tried to save Colin for last.

Another tradition we enjoyed was reading just before bedtime on Christmas Eve. Each year, cozy and warm, in our Christmas jams and in the red glow of the Christmas tree (because my personal tradition and preference was all red lights), we would read two 'stories':
  • First, T'was the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore
  • Then Luke 2:1-14; the Gospel of Luke's record of Christ's birth.The King James Version being my favorite for this. "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree..."
I treasure each of my family's precious Christmas traditions.

As of this year, each of my children are now married and starting to create Christmas traditions of their own.
One of which I should have seen coming but instead was proceeding blindly through the Christmas season just like I knew what I was doing.....

My Grandboys are all going to wake up in their own beds tomorrow morning. This will have a dramatic affect on my Christmas morning.

It is just as it should be.

I fell into the old habit of thinking we'd all get together in the same house. The house in which we've spent Christmas morning for the past 20 years. Of course assuming the Grandboys would all be there but completely forgetting about that 'Christmas morning at home. Period!' thing.

When I asked my daughter-in-law a couple weeks ago what time they would be over for Christmas morning, she said, "We're staying home. We're not going anywhere all day Christmas. People are welcome to come see the boys if they want to. But we aren't going anywhere." Genius. Of course. I felt stupid that it had not occurred to me.

The other Grandboy, living in Richland, is staying home as well. It turns out my kids feel strongly about the Christmas morning tradition they grew up with. I love this.

Another consequence of the traditions I've nurtured and cherished is that I don't have any of their ornaments on my tree. There is not a single familiar ornament when I look over. I'm fine with this but it is a little hard to remember it's Christmas. Or that the tree in my living room is my tree. My three grown children each have a Christmas tree standing in their new homes with their young families, decorated with, among others, the ornaments they grew up with. Feels like a good way to start a tree and tradition of their own. My tree this year is quite small and so doesn't need many ornaments. Mostly it has decorations of paper and chocolate. With a multi-color light string. Not sure how I feel about every change.

I'm having some type of Out of Body Christmas Experience this year. The first year for me without any of those tradition moving forward, including living in a different house. In some ways it might as well be mid-January or early November. Simply doesn't feel like Christmas. This is not necessarily a complaint but an observation. Change is important and a constant opportunity. But I keep having to remind myself that it is the day before Christmas. There are still gifts left to be wrapped but my heart is not into it. (Maybe that Apathy Fairy was paying attention after all.) It started off a perfectly cozy and quiet Christmas Eve that I might have appreciated upon reflection but then it sort of melted into a completely ordinary day. I spent a good portion alone, which was odd yet surprisingly comforting and then even when given the choice of company, I preferred to remain alone. I've never had a Christmas Eve, or Christmas Season, for that matter, like this one.

I get to visit two and a half of the four Grand-kiddos tomorrow. I can't wait. It's 10:20 p.m. Christmas Eve. They should each be tucked in by now. All a bit young to understand what's coming tomorrow morning. Even so, there is nothing better than spending Christmas with a kid.

I wonder what next year's Christmas chapter will be titled for me.

14 December 2011

Empathy for the Anti-Apathetic

Begging for some apathy here! God, how I wish I could be more apathetic sometimes. It looks so, so, so I'm not sure what, but it really looks like it.

A relief, maybe?
I remember so clearly during some of the most disheartening and lowest points in my marriage when I actually got onto my knees praying to care less. The price of full investment is quite steep. (Often while on my knees, my well sharpened rationalization skills would kick in and ask myself 'Would he truly prefer a wife who cared less?' I found this hard to imagine, yet that was precisely the case.)

And on most days, I'm happy to pay the high price because I wouldn't want to be the type of heartless soul who doesn't give a shit. But once in a while......a day, or a person, or an issue gets the best of me, beats me down to a bloody mess and I wish I could just wish it away. The passion. The caring. I wish I may. I wish I might. Poof. Gone.

Indifference looks very sweet from where I sit some days. Give me indifference.

At the same time, there's also part of me that thinks in a silent declaration to people in my life: "Be very, VERY careful what you wish for."

"Oh well, whatever, never mind," sang Kurt Cobain.

11 December 2011

I Hate Sucking!! (Or Learning to Excel at Imperfection...)

My parents put me in violin lessons in second or third grade. Now today this would not be so outlandish but this was in the early 70's and back then the default parenting mantra was not "sign them up for everything," as it is today.

I was an enthusiastic and energetic (precocious) child. I think someone must have told my parents that they should try to find an outlet for all my genius yet unruly and sideways momentum.

So, the violin. It was terrible. I was terrible. I hated it. I think I had to learn some patriotic song. Can't remember which. And then play in front of people at some point. It was terrible. And I sucked. Needless to say, it didn't stick. I can't remember anything about playing the violin. Except that I really liked how you stuck out your little pinky finger down at the end of the bow. Made me feel unusually ladylike. And that I learned how to hold the violin between my chin and my shoulder. Look Mom, no hands!!

Then in fifth or sixth grade they put me in saxophone lessons. Alto sax. Guess why. That's right because we had free access to an alto sax. My Uncle Mike played it in marching band and was happy to let me borrow it. We are estranged now; I haven't spoken to him since fifth or sixth grade.

The saxophone. This was terrible as well. I hated it. It was just an opportunity to suck at a much louder and more squawk-y level. And it was frickin' heavy, that thing. Did I mention I walked to school ten miles each way? In the Yakima winters? Uphill both ways? It was terrible. I sucked at just lifting it up off the ground. I'm not a tall person now, imagine my height in elementary school. The perpetually cracked reed and I could look at each other square in the eye. A stare-down. The goose-call-like instrument won! I played one recital or concert or violation of the Geneva Convention or something and I believe that was the last time I touched that thing.

Then in high school when my sister started taking piano lessons, I stomped my foot and said that I wanted music lessons too. "Drums, please." "No," said my father. "Too loud." Shit. Okay then "Guitar, please." (The guys who taught guitar at the music store where my sister took piano were foxy (...the 70's, remember?).) Conveniently enough, we had an acoustic guitar in the extended family so this worked out well.

Until I went to my first lesson and the instructor told me I'd have to clip my fingernails. Now I don't care how cute this guy was, in the era before acrylics, long nails were a virtue, probably a sign of royalty. Long beautiful nails were not something you could purchase if you had 45 spare dollars and 45 spare minutes.
No thank you, handsome older man with curly blond hair, brown eyes and a mustache.

Then when my children began taking piano lessons, I thought, while they were gone to school each day, I'd sit down at our piano and teach myself to play with their Piano for Beginners work books. I'd sung alto in my high school choir; I knew how to read music. Every Good Boy Does Fine, right?

I plucked my way through a couple of basic songs but I was not willing to suck at Old McDonald long enough to get any better. I was terrible. Frustrated. And would not be teaching myself how to play piano.

I am now 49 1/4 years old. And it feels a little bit late to be learning my first musical instrument.

Then you know how things tend to happen exactly as they are supposed to happen...

While poaching my daughter's Facebook account recently (with her permission and in order to see some of her photography), I noticed a former boss of mine was wishing her father-in-law Happy 101th Birthday. And that he began professionally dancing at 75. And began writing at 93 years old. (I own one of his books, myself.) Suddenly I felt much younger.

So I decided that before my 50th, I'd learn an instrument. Drum set. I want drum lessons. (I KNOW!)

Now, when I looked back at how I pretty much hated all previous attempts at an instrument, I was a bit worried about my ability to commit to sucking long enough to get 'good' at it.

I kept talking about it but not doing anything. I looked online for drum teachers in the Gig Harbor area. Nothing was really clicking or lining itself up for me. (That's a real thing, you know.)

My son plays drums. He is actually quite gifted this way. Kind of a natural. But I really didn't think it was a good idea to have him teach me. Seemed like a recipe for a killing spree. Plus I thought he'd scoff. I hate scoffing when it's aimed in my direction. I was just sure he'd point and mock and never believe that I'd really follow through. I wasn't going to ask him. I wasn't. I wasn't. I was decided. Period.

Then one day when I went to his house to watch his two boys for a couple hours, the words "Colin, do you want to teach me drum set?" flew out of my mouth before I could stop them.

To which he replied: "Yeah, sure. When do you want to start?"
"Thursday," I blurted out for no particular reason.
There was more discussion to follow but I really can't remember any of it as I was in some kind of coma for the rest of the day.

Well, that was easy. But then I remembered the drum set was stored in my ex-husband's garage. My ex-husband who lives alone in a four bedroom house. "Hmmmmm....you know what would be so cool," I thought to myself. "If we could set up the drum kit in one of the empty bedrooms and Colin could teach me out there once a week."

I knew my ex would mock and laugh, for sure. But I was used to this and didn't care too much, so I called and asked him if we could work something out. He didn't even scoff a little bit. "Sure," he said. "I'll clean out Ciara's old room." Later that week I got a text that said 'The room is ready. Brought the kit in from garage. Drums all set up."

I could not believe this. It was all happening so easy. No fussing. No resisting. Especially from two men in my life who have a lot of practice resisting me. Everything was lining up perfectly. (I told you it's a real thing.)

Now the only thing left to fall into place, or not, was me. Would I be able to stick with it? Would I be willing to suck long enough to get to the point were I could play (or completely butcher) 'Come Together' for my friends and family?

I took my first lesson and LOVED it. It is the first music lesson I've ever taken that I had a great time. I was atrocious but it was so fun. A blast. And my son, it turns out, is a great teacher. Even with his mom, which I think is saying a lot. I paid him in cash and Fig Newtons.

Check back with me in couple months so I can give you my progress report and any gigs I might have lined up.

Do you think Hell's Kitchen would ever have a Beatles' Tribute Night?

01 December 2011

Giving Thanks

One Gratitude Post for each day of November 2011: Check.

November 1 - I am grateful for gratitude.
November 2 - I am so grateful for Microsoft Office. Word, specifically.
November 3 - I'm grateful for Sharpies.
November 4 - I'm crazy, I mean grateful for a cut, crisp, slick styled, sharp dressed man.
November 5 - I'm grateful for the symmetry of nature.
November 6 - I am grateful for the 'extra hour' this weekend.
November 7 - I am grateful for a glimpse of personality.
November 8 - I am grateful for my right brain. Bless her heart.
November 9 - I'm grateful for my favorite kid movies.
November 10 - I'm so very grateful for the laughter of a child.
November 11 - I feel deep gratitude to all American citizens, past and present, who have served our country in the military.
November 12 - I am grateful when I stumble upon a new treasure.
November 13 - I am grateful for the 13th day of every month
November 14 - I am grateful for a good, juicy list.
November 15 - I'm grateful for the technology that I'm not addicted to
November 16 - I was and remain all gratitude for my window
November 17 - I am grateful for every word so far.
November 18 - I am ever grateful for the aforementioned co-worker: Midge.
November 19 - I am grateful for movie quotes.
November 20 - I am grateful for opportunity to grow and learn a new way.
November 21 - I'm grateful for a good reader.
November 22 - I am grateful for your feedback.
November 23 - I am grateful that I have unconditional permission to write a full-fledged AWFUL rough, sloppy, shitty first draft.
November 24 - I'm grateful for libation free-license
November 25 - I am grateful for the magic that is this boy. Connor.
November 26 - I'm eternally grateful for room service.
November 27 - I'm grateful for contradictions and exceptions.
November 28 - I'm grateful to be so wrong sometimes.
November 29 - I'm grateful for the energy of gratitude.
November 30 - I am, as ever, grateful for men with facial hair. And I am grateful for the pants on the dining room table.
It's been a very good month and I'm thankful. 

30 November 2011

Congratulations, novelist! You won!

"And now, 50,000 words and one month later, you are a NaNoWriMo Winner!"

I'm grateful for the pants on the dining room table.

If it weren't for those pants, I'd have never started writing my 50,000 words on November 1, 2011.

And now on November 30, it's late. I'm sitting in my living room with a fire in the wood stove, the water out there in the dark, quiet tonight and right here with me is my first reader of these words. (There was no reading allowed until 50,000 was reached. Or more like "I won't read it until you reach 50,000.)
Every time he laughs I have to know what part he's reading. His eyes water with laughter. Is there any better form of encouragement? I'm so grateful.

Even though November 2011 is over and I reached my goal:
50,000 words, BABY! I'll keep at this story until it tells me it's finished.

When it's done, I'll need some readers for pre-editing feedback.
The story is called Hiding Madore.
Think about whether you'd be willing to read it for me and then (gulp) give me honest feedback so I can go back in for the 're-write.' Meditate on it. Light a candle or whatever.

I'll be in touch.

29 November 2011

Flying in the Face

I'm coming right up on the end of November:
  • National Novel Writing Month
  • the month of a gratitude post each day
  • the National month of the pomegranate
  • and the month also known as Movember
I'm exhilarated and sad at the same time.
I'm jacked because I wrote my 50,000 words, people. I did it. From the 1st, starting at 12:01 a.m. (actually sitting up in bed with my netbook upon my lap) to this morning (11/29) around 11:00 a.m. I wrote 50,104 words. My novel. My first NaNoWriMo attempt. I'm so pleased.

Now, this is not to say that I was able to type the words 'The End' this morning. Because when I look at it realistically, I'm probably only about 1/3 of the way through telling the story of the seven women in my book. But I've accomplished the first hurdle, which was 50,000 words in thirty days. A couple of words over my goal and a day early. On October 31st, NaNoWriMo Eve, I did not think I could do it. I'm grateful to be so wrong sometimes.

I've posted a statement of gratitude for every day this month. Some days this was easier than others. It got better as the month progressed. And now I find myself with just tomorrow left but not really wanting to stop. I've enjoyed these daily thanks. And I'm grateful for the energy of gratitude.

I am, as ever, grateful for men with facial hair. Happy Movember. Nice job, men.
I wish you'd hang onto it a bit longer than just Movember. "All I want for Christmas is...."

Now speaking of men, facial hair or not, I have to let the other side of my thoughts have their fair share. I wrote a few words about some of the men to whom I could not explain my attraction. (Just some...) Now I'm going to take a moment to express my inability to explain the opposite.
Here is a list of men for whom I DO NOT get the attraction. These men, I believe have been generally thought of as attractive, pop culture-wise. But I simply don't get it. And this may seem rather harsh but there are a couple of men on this list that I have a hard time even looking at long enough to try and figure out what people see in them. Explain it to me if you want to.

Patrick Swayze
Brendon Fraser
Jamie Foxx
Robert Pattinson
Joaquin Phoenix
Tiger Woods (even before)
James McAvoy
Justin Timberlake

And the "Okay, I get it but I disagree" list"
Hugh Jackman
George Clooney
Benjamin Bratt

Who do you 'not get?'

27 November 2011

Simply, No Accounting

If someone were to tell me, "I am so attracted to you but I'm not exactly sure why," I think I might be a little offended.

And yet...

Is there anyone in the world to whom you are deeply, but unexplainedly attracted? They simply do not fit your standard criteria for attractive?

I mean, if you were to announce that you find Brad Pitt quite handsome, no one would bat an eye, right? No surprise.

But if you were to mention aloud, 'Holy shit, that Bob Costas really does it for me,' you might get some quizzical looks.

My Partial List:
Bob Costas (The aforementioned)
David Caruso (What the hell, right?)
Joe Buck
Kevin Calabro
Will Patton

When I look at this incomplete list, the most striking common denominator that I notice is intelligence. It is my impression (and PLEASE God, do not enlighten me if I'm mistaken) that they are each quite intelligent and articulate (or they play one on TV).

And as far as I know, and again please do not go enlightening me, they are not complete and utter ass-holes. Sometimes that is all one can hope for.

I'm grateful for contradictions and exceptions.

It is too a word!
Webster's says: "Rarely used adverbial inflection of the adjective unexplained

26 November 2011

Talk Dewey To Me!

If the title to this blog post is not already printed on a t-shirt or bumper sticker somewhere, then I want the rights to it.

There are some very common vacation destination desires that I lack. There are places on the planet that I think would be wonderful to visit but at the same time, some other, more commonly held (popular) locations, fail me.

New York City is one.

Now, up until today, only under the right circumstances would I have been happy to take a trip to New York City.

The Conditions being:

On someone else's dime with no financial restrictions.

With someone who really knew their way around NYC (but whose company I would have to ADORE).

When it wasn't freezing cold nor muggy and hot.

With front row ticket to Michael Buble at MSG during my lengthy, non-rushed stay.

But today as I was working around Word Count 43,130 of my novel, I needed the name of a high end, well known NY hotel. (My head says "I know there's one that starts with a 'P.' What was that one again?)

Fortunately I couldn't remember The Plaza and consequently, during the Google search I stumbled upon this place, which doesn't fit my needs for the purpose of my novel story line but absolutely does fits my needs in other more important ways. http://www.libraryhotel.com/index.cfm

Go there now. This place looks too cool. I'm going.

One of the tabs on their site is titled: The Dewey Decimal Concept. Be still, my old school heart.

They have a room called The Erotic Literature Room.

I wear a garnet and diamond band on my left third finger, symbolizing my commitment never to get married again.

But if I die and come back as some rookie who has no such commitment, this is the location at which I will have the ceremony, the reception, the extended honeymoon and all subsequent meals for the rest of my days.

Haven't you always wanted to LIVE in a beautiful hotel? The entire top floor. All mine.
That Eloise had it made, in my nine year old opinion.

I'm eternally grateful for room service.

Go take a look at the website. This place is for me.

Isn't life great?

25 November 2011

Stay A While

"Take off your shoes, BB!" Connor insists.

He has learned through trial and error, over the first two and half years of his life, that you aren't allowed to leave his house unless you have your shoes on.

I wonder how many times he's heard, "Connor, get your shoes. We can't leave until you have your shoes on."

He has thus surmissed that if someone comes to his house and takes off their shoes, they can't leave.

"Take off your shoes, BB!"
Connor buying a bit of insurance that I will be there for awhile.

I am grateful for the magic that is this boy. Connor.

24 November 2011

Barbie's Messy Mimosa

I'm no gourmet cook.
I am a good cook but it is by no means my calling in life. And I don't LOVE it.

I do not make my own recipes.

I do not cook for fun. I cook for food.
For good food, however.
I do make a few things really well (truffles, quiche and omelets among them) and everything else, just regular.

Today I created a new drink; I'm calling it a Messy Mimosa.

I love champagne. I had half an orange and a pomegranate (in honor of Notional Pomegranate month).

I put four slices of orange and a slew of pomegranate seeds in the bottom of a glass. This particular pomegranate was particularly juice so all of those red drops went into the glass as well.
Then I poured in the champagne. With the sparkly foam. So pretty and pink. With delicate little bubbles clinging to each pomegranate seed. And if you watch it the gem like red seeds will sink to the bottom, then float back up to the top. Again and again. In time-lapsed pomegranate TV. Tastes a bit like an intoxicated fruit salad.

If you see a few typos and broken grammar rules just know that I'm on my fourth Messy Mimosa.

I think it would taste good with a splash of orange juice in it as well. But then there's less room for the champagne.

My first drink creation. I'm grateful for libation free license.

Happy Happy 'Thank you' Day!

23 November 2011

Only 7 Writing Days Left!!

Back in the day, Little English 101 on the Prairie, your first writing attempt was called a Rough Draft. The permission to be less than perfect, in that first go, was implied.

"Dear Mr. Peterson,

Barbie has my permission to begin this story very badly indeed.
(She'll try to make up for it in the end.)

Yours truly, St. Francis De Sales (your friendly Patron Saint of Writers)"

When my children went through their public education, I guess the educators thought Rough Draft was too complicated to understand so they called their first attempt, "Sloppy copy."
The dumbing down begins....

Okay, fine. Whatever! *cringe*

Have you ever had something in your life for which you are so grateful, that you couldn't really remember life without it?

Well, I kind of have this with Anne Lamott's book Bird By Bird. Anne has written quite a bit. Some of it I like fine; some I couldn't manage to muddle my way through. Her fiction stuff was NOT my favorite. I recommend her non-fiction without reservation (unless you are a George Bush fan, in which case I have reservations about said recommendation).

Bird By Bird makes up for it all. And oddly enough, I cannot remember how I came upon this book. One of my many previous book clubs had Blue Shoe as it's inaugural selection, that may have been my first exposure to Ms. Lamott but I'm not sure exactly.

Some of the chapter headings of Bird By Bird are:

  • Radio Station KFKD

  • Jealousy

  • School Lunches

  • Short Assignments

  • Index Cards

  • Shitty First Drafts

It's the last listed here that I struggle to remember for personal application as I write.

I cannot count the number of stories I've started (fuckin' GENIUS stories, mind you) that I never finished because that first draft went so badly. So very badly.

And yet someday you and I might be having a perfectly friendly and frank conversation and I'll say 'Oh yeah, I know just what you mean. I wrote a story about that very thing once.' But what I really mean is "I started to write a story about that very thing once!" Somehow it's just not the same, is it?

This month I'm attempting to write a 50,000 word novel from November 1st through the 30th.
I knew from the first word that my pre-existing condition Perfection-itis was in for the big hurt.

Just prior to November 1st I was on the NaNoWriMo web site and saw words like:

  • "Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft" But the pain is why I do this, right?

  • "It's all about quantity, not quality" WHAT?

  • "Lower your expectations, take risks and write on the fly" I think I'm going to be sick.

  • "You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing." Define 'good.'

  • "Permission to make mistakes"

  • "Forgo the endless tweaking and editing, just create."

  • "Build without tearing down." Excuse me?

  • "Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together!"

Oh my GOD, we're all gonna die. Or at least, I am.

Dear Barbie,

You have permission to write a really horrible, terrible, shitty 50,000 word first draft with 50,000 holes in the plot.

Yours mostly, ~ B

(Mr. Peterson was never as harsh a critic, as I am on myself. Bless his heart.)

Call my writing what you will.

I am grateful that I have unconditional permission to write a full-fledged AWFUL rough, sloppy, shitty first draft.

Whether I have the courage to use said note, is another matter entirely.

22 November 2011

As I Hydroplaned to Work Today...

...I was thinking about more movie quotes.
............................. of how grateful I am for interactivity.
............................................................. for audience participation.
..................................................................... for flippin' COMMENTS.

Take a moment.
See the movie quote post below.
Tell me YOUR favorite movie quotes.
Guess which movies my favorites come from.
Leave a comment, anonymously if you must. But just comment.

What say you? (Lord of the Rings Return of the King)

I am grateful for your feedback.

21 November 2011

Read Me A Story

Since June, my work commute has gone from twenty minutes to fifty, one way. If I'm lucky.

I thought this long drive would be a 'price' to pay for getting to live where I really want to live. But thanks to audio books, I actually look forward to it each day.

Now I've loved audio books for years. Ages before Kindles, Nooks and other such newfanglery.
Long ago, audio titles were once thought of as primarily for people who had trouble reading for whatever reason.

One former fellow book club member of mine said it was cheating to listen to instead of reading the book selection. I was pissed. Them's fightin words!

As much as I love audio, the reader is the deal maker or breaker for me.

I loved the book Cold Mountain when I read it for South Hill library's book club years ago. But later, when I went back to listen to it, I couldn't get past the second chapter. I wanted to love it, but alas. I think Charles Frazier is an amazing author, but a 'not great' reader as far as audio books go. Yet, when I listened to Thirteen Moons, also by Frazier, but this time read by Will Patton, holy shit what a difference. The perfect blend. I highly recommend it.

The opposite can be true as well. A branch librarian recommended The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency years ago. I read the book. And frankly, it was completely flat. It read like a straight line. Absolutely unsatisfying. I remember wondering why people liked this book so much.

But then, and I cannot for the life of me remember WHY, one day as I was leaving Tillicum branch to head home, I grabbed the audio version and fell in deep dark love with the reader: Lisette Lecat. Like listening to Meryl Streep read to me.

And speaking of Meryl Streep, have you ever listened to her audio version of The Velveteen Rabbit?
Every night for three months, I had to walk away from my infant son and go home, leaving him at Children's Hospital until I could return the next morning. Before I left, I'd push play on a little tape player that sat at the head of his 'bed,' and Meryl Streep would read him to sleep with the words of Margery Williams,
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

I wish you could listen to these words here, instead of reading them.

Maybe that's when I truly fell in love with listening to books. 1987.

I'm grateful for a good reader.

20 November 2011

Scratch That

I might have just recently been heard to say "I love knowing where I stand."
With that in mind, I am grateful for opportunity to grow and learn a new way.
I was reflecting on how not knowing exactly where I stand can be quite unsettling.
And how it's a bit uncomfortable.

But I might actually get off a little bit on the adrenaline that goes with not knowing.
For one who can lean sideways toward her controlling nature, it is probably very healthy to be not in control.
But it makes me NERVOUS!

19 November 2011

Such Squeamish Youths Are Not Worth Your Regret

I am grateful for movie quotes.

I love a good movie quote.

My favorites fall into two categories.

Category One:
Those lines that I love every single time I hear them, but I do not necessarily use them in regular conversation.

Every piece of this is man's bullshit. They call this war a cloud over the land, but they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, "Shit! Its rainin'!"

Anti-wrinkle cream there may be, but anti-fat-bastard cream there is not.

I am not kidding you; I'm not. Someone is going to publish your book. Someone is going to read your book, and realize what you've done.Because YOUR BOOK is amazing. YOUR BOOK is a work of genius. YOUR BOOK is going to change the world.

Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say YES!

Hey, I know this is a tall order but I need you to do me a favor and try not to be so perfect.

Are you crazy? A man in a really nice camper wants to put our song on the radio! Gimme a pen. I'm signin.' You're signin.' We're all signin.'

I have not the pleasure of understanding you.

Category Two:
Those I tend to use in regular conversation:

I care!

Hello the house!

I found my moving buddy.

Important safety tip. Thanks Egon.

I will talk to this leg.

Isn't there anybody who loves me?

Back off man, I'm a scientist.

Gentlemen, the lunchbox has landed.

These are not the droids you're looking for. Move along.

Sounds made up.

18 November 2011

Chasing the Clouds Away

I love when I know exactly where I stand.

I know this is my Left Brain talking but the imagination part of my right brain is so incredibly over developed that I go to hyperactive speculating and that is rarely a good idea.

I get a little squirmy when I am left wondering.

I've often reflected that one little slice of why parenting is such an incredibly impossible job is that one can never really REALLY be sure how you're doing. There is no weekly, hard copy, progress report so that you can adjust accordingly as you go. Instead of finding out twenty years down the road that maybe you had it all wrong. (Another post entirely.)

Maybe we should go back to the system they use in some public school systems: Progress Reports.

I might have an addiction to fact. I hope that's not true. But probably.

One of my favorite co-workers is someone with whom you KNOW where you stand. Period.
Minute to minute sometimes, but I'm all good with that.

I do not want to find out six months from now that I've been doing something that made her job more difficult or simply bugged the shit out of her. I want to know now.

So just speak up.

It is not that I need her to be constantly 'happy' with me. I do not. In fact, if she were always happy with me, I'd begin to wonder about her sincerity because life does not work that way.
If she's pissed, then I say 'Okay, good to know. Thanks for telling me."
I appreciate someone who has the fortitude to be up front. Good or bad.

When did we become a society that is so afraid of telling the truth for fear of upsetting someone. God forbid.

Don't you want to know?

Or do you just want to be allowed to continue (spoon fed) believing that you're all good, when in actuality you are driving people crazy?

Luke warm is the WORST. Do not be in that wishy washy, passive-massively unattractive state! Don't do it. In the words of Anne Lamott "this is a BAD idea!"

I am ever grateful for the aforementioned co-worker: Midge.

17 November 2011

Turning into a pumpkin with carpal tunnel

Midnight is a bitch, you know? I never felt this way until this month of this year.

It is November 2011. And among other things it is National Novel Writing Month.

In years past, I've heard about National Novel Writing Month. But I've always heard about it just after November 1.
(November being the aforementioned Month.)

So missing the kick off, I always resolved to do it the next year. But who remembers to put something called NaNoWriMo on their calendar a year ahead of time. The idea is that on November 1 you start a novel. Something you have not yet started to write at all. Except maybe in your head. Outlines seem to be tolerated but otherwise, virgin fiction.

The goal is 50,000 words by November 30.

So this works out to 1667 words a day. For 30 days! 50,000 fricking words.

Does that sound like a lot to you? Try it. Start with Once upon a time and don't stop until you reach your word count. But (and here's the rub), it should be in the form of a story. You may not, as it turns out, write the same word 50,000 times and call it good.

So the bitch about midnight is, at 11:20 p.m on any given night, let's say I've written 1300 words but am still 367 words short.

My tired eyes over-rule my desire to continue and I start to nod off. "Okay off to bed with you." I am only 367 words short. Not bad. I worked an eight hour day, with a two hour commute. Get some sleep. Right? Well, here's the deal. I may have gone to bed only 367 words short of my goal but when I wake up the next morning, I am now a whopping 2034 away from that day's goal. Shit.

26, 087 words to this point. Just a bit off my mark. We'll see how this goes. I am grateful for every word so far.


I heard it was also National Pomegranate Month.

And that it is something called Movember, http://us.movember.com/

Now, for the record, I have long been a proponent of male facial hair, not for just one month a year.

I went in search of more information on Movember and stumbled across the fact that it is also National Beard Month in the United States. (I love my county!)

This was a fun website to check out:

and also....

Happy Movember indeed.

16 November 2011

Black Crows and Day Old Doughnuts

The coolest thing happened at work today. Black Crows.
"She talks to angels." Not that kind of black crows.

It was late in the day for the majority of people in my department, in my building. But generally, I work later than most.

I enjoy that part of my day. When most every one else has gone home to set their alarm clock for the next day.

But on this unusual day there were still quite a few people around. Anomalously.

A year ago, our department underwent a remodel. It was an interesting and torturous adventure. (I still have two boxes waiting to be unpacked.)

When we moved back to real desks, mine was next to a window. I was and remain all gratitude for my window. Thank you. Thank you.

One of my co-workers, nearby but not next to a window, said it was now my job to keep him informed of any snow fall. Diligently since, I've watched and reported back, as needed. There hasn't been much action for months but I'm still watching. Feels like at any time, I might be back in business here.

Today the skies grew very dark, even for this time of year. They were that stunningly dark, gunmetal gray that seems computer generated for some epic action, super hero movie when something wicked this way is about to come. (Cue the ominous music... dun, dun, duhhhhhh.) But is was all organic and real. And impressive.

Now, I'm not reporting this event to my fellow co-workers because often in a group of people, I'm the only one who tends to get impressed by such weather related phenomenon. So I'm just appreciating the view alone and going about my very important work. But then against the abnormally dark sky, some thing black catches my eye. Then many, many things black catch my eye. Suddenly dozens and dozens of black crows (like there are any other color) have taken flight and filled the air directly outside my window.

"Come look out my window!" I yell over my shoulder, to whomever is left in my department.

And they aren't flying to or from any where. They just seem to be flying in loose circles and ovals and ellipses and other soft curvy shapes. Then in divine choreography, they'd all land in the few trees across the parking lot and across the street. For a few moments of eerie peace, the air would be clear of birds and only full of clouds. The fast moving, churning type of dark gray clouds. Then like someone flipped a switch, the crows all took flight again. Diving and gliding and floating. Combined crow chaos. Then all back to their spot on a branch or wire. For a few minutes. Then in a menacing group swoop, all in the air again. Many more than I could count. Flocks and flocks. Like they were all in town for a convention.

I've never seen anything like it. I want to use the word phenomenon. (And I just did.)

Black Crows and doughnuts today. Will wonders never cease. It was an especially good day. Did you see those crows?

15 November 2011

Hands Full

I'm grateful for the technology that I'm not addicted to.

When I drive, I always use a Bluetooth hands-free device. When the law about cell phones and driving in our state took effect, I was a little put out because I would now need to go buy some gadgetry thing that I was living fine without. But I got one anyway. And I use it. And have now gotten to the point where I don't like talking without it, whether I'm driving or not because frankly I can hear you better with it, than without it.

When I'm at work, I use a hands-free head set that allows my hands to be free to type as I'm helping (ideally) someone on the phone. I can also cruise around the building and am not tethered to my PC.

So now between home and work, I very commonly have some thing plugged into my left ear.
Today I stopped by one of our branches to make an IT Branch Visit (I love these!) and 'worked' there for about two hours before I went to my eight hour shift in my department. Before starting the branch visit, I turn my phone off and stow it away.
However at the end of my visit, I realize I've walked around that branch talking to people and speaking IT for two hours with the ridiculous blue tooth stuck in my ear. I've grown so accustomed to having something in my left ear that I no longer even notice.
THIS IS A WARNING SIGN! The first stages of something that I do not want to see the second stage of.

So today, I've decided to be grateful for all the other techie devices that I am not dependent on.

If you call the Helpdesk and it goes to voicemail, you'll know that it's me trembling in the corner trying to kick my head set habit.

14 November 2011

One Man's List

Perpetually behind. Always trying to get caught up. That is a terrible place to live. I know these people. And some days I am these people. I hate when that happens.
To live in a constant state of defeat. Failure.
Cheerful blog today, no?

I love those days that are so easy to live with as I lay my head down at night. I mentally look back at the list with which I began my day and mentally check off the accomplishments.
Feels good.

  • Swept the kitchen.

  • Laundry.

  • Breakfast.

  • Dishes.

  • Posted on one of the blogs.

  • Shower

  • Made the bed. (Clearly these are not in order of importance.)

  • Got my headlight replaced.

  • Sewed a stray button.

  • Paid a couple bills.

  • Made some business phone calls that I've been putting off.
And this doesn't include the commute, work, writing the novel and all.

When I lay down tonight, this list of checked off items will feel good. I'm just going to need to be careful not to think about the list of things I had hoped to get to but didn't.

I am grateful for a good, juicy list.

13 November 2011

Happy Thirteen!

I am grateful for the 13th day of every month.
And when it falls on a Friday. . . . sweet!

12 November 2011

Following Flow

I love when I stumble.

We stroll along thinking we know so much, that we have so much figured out. Then we stumble upon something.
At times it's the type of 'trip up' that requires one to exercise her dusty humility.
It is hard to learn something new when going our regular, daily, full-speed ahead.
It is for me.

It's when I slow down, whether by my own choice or not, that I stand the best chance to absorb a lesson waiting there for me.

At other times, instead of the bumbling, tumbling type of stumble, it's the happy chance of stumbling upon something, like looking down and noticing a fine treasure in your path.
I love when I stumble upon a gem like that.

The second author to read at the aforementioned author event began not with introducing herself or her book by name but instead by saying, "I believe in following flow." I was struck. And frankly missed the next few things she said.
Following flow.

She didn't say "I'm going to go with the flow," and then proceed to explain the connection between the work of the author just previous to the poem she was about to read.
I believe in following flow. I love this energy. It feels like my choices are simple: I can struggle and strive through out my day. Or I can Follow flow.

When I first heard the phrase "Follow your bliss," I felt the same way.

I am grateful when I stumble upon a new treasure.

11 November 2011


I've written here and else where, pretty extensively, about Veterans Day, Memorial Day and such. I feel deep gratitude to all American citizens, past and present, who have served our country in the military.

The evening prior to Veteran's Day this year I attended an author event at a local library. One of the authors read an excerpt from his book about combat in Vietnam.

After the readings and during the consuming of chocolate cake I went up to him to say something regarding Veteran's Day. I stammered a bit. This has happened to me before where Veteran's Day is concerned.

Do you say 'Happy Veteran's Day?' Happy? Like Happy Fourth of July. Or Happy Birthday? Some how seems wrong.

Standing with this man it was easy to say, 'Thank you for your service to our country.' We knew each other previously. It wasn't like walking up to someone in uniform out in public to say Thank you.

I may be cynical but if I walk up to someone in public and say Thank You out of the blue, they might wonder if I'm a little touched. Or at the very least question what I mean. Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a country where service men and women were so accustomed to being thanked that they'd know exactly what I meant by Thank you?

Don't get me wrong, I am not afraid or hesitant to speak an entire sentence to a perfect stranger. (Ha! Are you new here?)

"Thank you for your service to our country."

I can do this. I have done this. Although it's incredibly hard to do without tears falling from my eyes.

As it turns out also incredibly hard to TYPE without tears falling from my eyes.

Thank you Veterans.

10 November 2011

Monsters and Light

Did you notice that reference to Monsters Inc from yesterdays post? Well anyway, here is the rest of my thinking in gratitude to a good kid's flick...

My intent for yesterday's blog post was much lighter and quicker than it ended up being in the end.

Not apologizing. Just saying.

There are plenty of Pixar Disney Dreamworks matchy matchy movies out there. I've stopped trying to keep track of which production company produced which kids films and which companies are working with or owned by another of those big dog companies. But from what ever source there is a good number of that type of film that completely missed the mark for me.

The previews looked hilarious but then I'd eventually watch the actual movie and wonder what happened to the movie from the funny previews.

Happy Feet? What happened there, I'd like to know.
Shark Tale, give me a break.
Shrek 9, 10 & 12?
Polar Express. That one was just sad. Sorry.

I put off watching Monsters, Inc. Even though I could see the previews made it appear funny, I'd fallen for that one too many times. Sure it was going to be a big snooze, I'm not sure how it was that I ever watched it but I did.

And I loved it from the very first time. Now this movie was made in like 2004? Give or take. I'm not here to review seven year old movies. Although maybe there is an untapped market there. I'm writing about it here because until recently I really had yet to identify why I love it so much.
Sharing movies, books, music that are special to you can be a bit of an intimate experience, if you let it.

When I shared this movie with someone who had never seen it, the special was lost on him. It played for him like one of those mass production, high budget, marketing down your throat kind of animated features that seem to come out about every two and a half months.

I wanted to be okay with his luke warm, take it or would rather clip my toe nails review. Live and let other people watch whatever crappy movies they want to, right?

But I confess, and I rarely do this, I took it a bit personal.

I couldn't figure out why it bothered me that this movie did not rate higher. So I meditated on it a bit and tried to just get to the basic question: Why did I love it so?

This is a movie about a world in which the power source is the screams of children. Now, I'm not so uptight as to be offended by this. Funny, monsters coming out of kids closets to make kids scream, harness the power and move onto the next kid. I'm in.

But then by a serendipity and happy happenstance, one of the top producing monsters discovers that the laughter of a child is a much more potent power source than screams ever were.

For me, it narrows down to Edgy v. Sweet. (Okay, I know a little bit black and white but I don't care.)

We live in a society that thrives on pushing the envelop of edgy. How far can we go? How raunchy, ugly, dark, sinister and evil can we get? Startle and repulse!! More more more.
The power of it may seem addicting.

But shouldn't we consider the possibility that there is more 'power' and 'glory' to be had from laughter and light and love and the sweetness that we dismiss as dull and boring because it isn't edgy enough.

Maybe my take is a bit simplistic for you but I think we should revere and hold up the sweetness of life. And stop glorifying the gore and the filth that shock and thrill us in the worst possible way.

I'm so very grateful for the laughter of a child.

09 November 2011

"Answer the stripe question!"

Gotta love a good kid's movie, no? I know I do.

I'm grateful for my favorite kid movies.

I adore the movie Toy Story.
Anne of Green Gables.
Many of the Disney Classics: Peter Pan, The Jungle Book (to which I know the words to every song), Robin Hood, Mary Poppins.
I love Winnie the Pooh, but only the ones narrated by Sebastian Cabot and where the animation includes the turning of the pages.
The Grinch
Charlie Brown
Princess Bride
Harry Potter & the Sorcerers Stone
Is Wizard of Oz a children's film? I think it is.
I could go on.

The two specific movies that prompt this post are Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc.

Nemo was a huge hit before I sat down to watch it after it came out in DVD. The marketing was through the roof. This, for me, is often an indication of something I should avoid. But somehow I ended up watching anyway. I cannot remember whether I watched it alone. In bed. Or any other details except that as I watched it the very first time, my chest tightened. And it was just a tiny bit hard to breathe.

Do not mistake me:
The voices of Albert Brooks (one of my all time favorites) and Ellen DeGeneres were incredible.
The animation was wonderful. Amazing. In these respects, for me, the hype held up.

But at the point in the movie when the lovely wife and mother fish has been killed along with all but one of her baby fish eggs and this damages the father so deeply and so profoundly that he was, from then on, never the same person or parent again, it hit me like a truck.

I feel the strong urge to paste all the Marlin and Nemo quotes here that pierced me when I watched it. That pierce me still, every time.

I am Marlin. The forever scarred parent who no longer trusts the world or his own abilities to look out for and truly protect her child. Her first born.

My first child appeared to be healthy when he came into the world. But before he was two day old he had gone into congestive heart failure and was being rushed to Children's Hospital.

I could write a long blog post, a good number of long blog posts about that experience. In fact it seems I cannot write about this enough to really heal and recover from the event itself.
But today I mean to speak to the damage left behind.

In every single scene where Nemo's Dad does everything within his power to protect his child, even to the detriment of his child, I relate. I relate so strongly in fact, it physically angers me. I want to defend and argue for that parent who knows nothing but fear.

When Nemo is excited about his first day of school, but Marlin reminds him that he should not be so excited because the ocean (their world) is not a safe place. I understand and even agree.

MARLIN - All right, we're excited. First day of school, here we go. We're ready to learn to get some knowledge. Now, what's the one thing we have to remember about the ocean?
NEMO - It's not safe.
MARLIN - That's my boy. So, first we check to see that the coast is clear. We go out and back in.And then we go out, and back in. And then one more time--out and back in. And sometimes,if you wanna do it four times--
NEMO - Dad..

Marlin tries to talk Nemo into waiting to start school in a year or two, no hurry. He's terrified that something beyond his control is going to happen to this kid. If he turns his back for a second, DANGER DANGER. So he tries to keep him close. Shelters him. Monitors and controls his every activity.

Observing my parenting with this child over the years, you might find yourself calling me over protective. But I just call it FUCKING TERRIFIED.

I never managed to get from under that fear. My son is now twenty-four years old. With two small boys of his own. It's easy to look back now and think 'what was I so worried about,' but we never knew if he'd live another year. There was never a point at which any of his doctors looked at his father and I and announced "We're out of the woods." Never happened.

I wish I'd found a way to breathe all that time. It takes a lot of your energy to hold your breath for that long.

I wish, I wish, I wish I'd been able to do it differently. But I could not.

I am Marlin.

Nemo: Dad, you're not gonna freak out like you did at the petting zoo, are you?
Marlin: Hey, that snail was about to charge.

But instead I wish I was Crush, the turtle Dad Dude. With Squirt, the kid Dude.

[Squirts falls off the back of another turtle and off the current]
Marlin: [freaks out] Oh, my goodness!
Crush: Whoa. Kill the motor, dude.
Squirt: Whoa! That was so cool! Hey dad! Did you see that? Did you see me? Did you see what I did?
Crush: You so totally rock, Squirt! So gimme some fin. [They slap fins]
Crush: Noggin'. [bump heads]
Crush, Squirt: Dude!

I am grateful for a seemingly silly movie that can, as it entertains me on a purely superficial level, also remind me deep down of some personal truths.

Marlin: How do you know that nothing bad won't happen?
Dory: I don't.

08 November 2011

Play Time

I'm taking an on-line class at work on Customer Service. Tier 1 Support Specialist. I really like the class. I wish I had more time to devote. And I wish every one, every where were required to take it.
Or that I could wave my Magic Wand and that every one every where would just be instantly endowed with the principles of this course.
Oh well.

The unit I'm in now is called Ways to Enhance Creativity (in relation to problem solving during customer support). One of the assignments was to list five new ways in which I am going to supplement and enhance my current work space to encourage more creativity, and support thinking increasingly with my right brain when I assist callers on the Helpdesk. (Because, as I've learned, as logical and efficient as my left brain can be, she is also quite rigid and linear when that might not be the best thing.)

The not unattractive instructor of this class puts a heavy emphasis on the concept of Playing with a problem instead of Working a problem. The distinction here resonates soundly within me. Much of the lesson was on converting one's work station into a creativity center with playful aspects incorporating all the senses.

So I made my list of five things:

  • Get a goldfish

  • Order a mini Zen garden

  • Buy a bright red Lady Bug shaped computer mouse on-line

  • Play more Baroque music (which is proven to stimulate alpha brain waves like no other form of music.) I'll have to give up disco, I suppose.

  • Oh now, I can't remember the fifth one but I assure you it was a very good idea and I did receive 100% on the assignment.

But as I 'played' with this assignment, I realized I already have some creativity inducers going on over here.

  • I have some mini wind chimes hanging at the entrance to my cubicle.

  • I have Calvin & Hobbes strips and pictures pinned to my walls

  • A window to let me take in the clouds and other weather outside.

  • I regularly have a vase of fresh flowers adorning my space. Sometimes two vases.

  • I have a couple of real live plants.

  • A hot pink pinwheel

  • A sand dollar from my beach

  • Midge in the next cubicle

  • Library books with amazing images, beautiful watercolors or mind-blowing pop-up creations on display

  • An Origami crane and a white globe

  • Multiple audio books on my shelf to choose from depending on my mood

  • And until someone tripped over the stool beneath it, a frog shaped garden sculpture being used as a candy dish filled with color coordinated Jelly Bellys. (Bellys, is that right? Looks wrong. But not as wrong as Bellies.)

I am grateful for my right brain. Bless her heart.

07 November 2011

The Sound of Your Smile

I answer the Help Desk phone for IT Support in a library system. There are a bunch of branches in our system. Like 16 or something. And we have a ton of employees. I haven't counted lately but three or four hundred maybe. I am not sure. The exact number is not important.

Many of these staff members will never have any need to call the Help Desk. And so I'll never hear their voice on the other end of the phone.

Many others do, however, have repeated need to call the Help Desk. Frequent Fliers. Or Repeat Offenders, depending on your primary outlook on life. Myself, I enjoy my oft' calling coworkers.
And of those, my favorites are the ones where I can hear their facial expression.

Impassive, whether in person or on the phone, is NOT one of my favorite states. I appreciate animated. Screw stoic. I like to hear a person's smile or grimace or squint as we speak on the phone.

I deeply appreciate those who will put themselves out there. Why repress? Isn't that kind of tiring and constipating?

I believe in celebrating the demonstrative, emotional, impassioned people in my midst. I enjoy those who will let their true nature show through a bit. Let it out.

In that work setting that can be so sterile and impersonal, I am grateful for a glimpse of personality. I want to hear your facial expression, please.

(You know, unless of course you are really mad at me, then go ahead and just keep that to yourself.)

06 November 2011

Falling Back

"What one super power would you choose?"
"Time travel."

I don't even have to consider all the others. I decided this question long ago. If I reach back in this blog's archives, I'll probably find an earlier post on this.

The time change twice a year always feels like a little time travel teaser to me. The hint of something I can never really have.
It's too bad, too. I would be very good at time travel, I think. I'm positive, in fact, that I'd make the very most of such an opportunity.
"With great power comes great responsibility..." and all that. I'll not go into when I'd travel to and what I'd do when I got there. Because then you'd know my Kryptonite secrets.

I am grateful for the 'extra hour' this weekend.
I'm grateful for the ability in blogger to make this post look like I wrote it yesterday.

05 November 2011


I've made a tentative and temporary commitment every Saturday morning this month at 8 a.m.
Can a 'commitment' really be tentative and temporary? Probably not.

Anyway, the point of my point is that I decided to get up at 6:15 a.m. on a Saturday morning, to get ready, leave my house at 7:00 a.m. to be 'in town' to attend this pseudo-commitment by 8:00 a.m.
This seemed like a fine idea when I made it.
I have Saturdays off.
I'll get in town nice and early, maybe take myself out for a nice breakfast afterward.
Have the whole day ahead of me.
(You have to read those last three lines with a trilly sing-song lilt to your voice, like this is the best idea ever and you don't have a care in the world.)
So Friday night comes and I know I should be heading to bed, early morning and all that. But I'm not tired. Read in bed for a while, still not tired. Turn off the light, wait for a bit. Still not tired.
Did not get much sleep at all. From beginning to end. Even if you could piece all the little snippets of dozing off together.
The alarms shrills at 6:15. A.M. What was I thinking? I do not want to get out of bed. I do not want to get dressed. I do not want to do this.
I grumble tumble my ass out of bed. 'I need to go to at least one so I'll know if it's worth it every other Saturday this month.' Right?
I splash water over my head. Eat something left over from yesterday and start my car.
It's still frickin' dark outside. What the hell.
I'm fifteen minutes late getting started on my hour drive. 7:15 and it's still DARK!
"Just do it once and then you'll know."
I console myself with the sure knowledge that there is going to be no traffic from here all the way into town at 7:20 on a Saturday morning.
On the way, I start across the Purdy Spit when I notice this color in the sky that I rarely see. Purple. Deep, deep blue clouds against a lightening violet sky with pink streaks swiped across is sweeping strokes. Morning.
I don't see morning like this very often. The couple of trees leaning inward along the Purdy Spit are silhouette black against the wakening sky. Very cool. Striking.
I hit the on ramp to 16 and the striking nature of nature is lost by the survival instinct not to get killed in traffic. Watch the road. Pay attention. Drive safe. Check. Check. Check.
I attend my early morning function with a feeling that I may do this again next week. We'll see. I'll reserve judgement.
I proceed through my day that is to include a good deal of driving, visiting, laughing, driving, waiting, talking and driving. Picking up, dropping off. Shopping, wrapping. Parking and driving.
When the meat of my long day is behind me and I'm finally headed home from town, I'm driving back across the Purdy Spit and I notice the color of the sky. Purple.
Deep, deep blue clouds against a darkening violet sky with pink streaks swiped across is sweeping strokes. Evening.
Same trees leaning toward the roadway, away from the water, warped by the wind over the years. Dark and skulky in silhouette against the sky that is nodding off for the night.

From the book ends of my day, I'm grateful for the symmetry of nature.

From the heart of my day, I am grateful for the honor of knowing my daughter. She is one of the most amazing and cool people I have ever met. I am indeed a fortunate woman to know her.

04 November 2011

Crazy 'bout a Sharp Dressed Man

What happened to men wearing hats as a rule? And I am NOT talking about a frickin' base ball cap. Have you seen The Sting. It did really well during award season the year it came out. Best Picture, Best Direction, Editing & other impressive stuff. Best Original Score. Who doesn't know the theme to The Sting forty years later?

Art Direction and Costume Design were, for me, the most impressive, however. And also the most sad.

What happened to a man's pride in himself. Suits and hats? Polished shoes.
Let me do that irritating thing and answer my own question.
Dressing up isn't edgy enough. There is so much currency in 'edgy' for so long now that I'm afraid we'll never get back. And men are the trailblazers here: edgy movies, edgy music, edgy vocabulary, edgy games and toys.
Some how the genius gender of males have come to the conclusion that dressing up, taking pride in their appearance is some sign of ... of... of what? Weakness, femininity? Are you a wimp if you look nice?
Boy my efforts toward posts of gratitude are listing severely to the side this November. That was not an apology. Just an observation.

ZZTop is not my style but when something resonates, you should not question it. They sing: "Silk suit, black tie, I don't need a reason why." I wish this were true.

I'm crazy, I mean grateful for a cut, crisp, slick styled, sharp dressed man. Too bad there are none anywhere around any more.

03 November 2011

Sharpie Me In!!

This gratitude thing is important to me but I keep pushing the blog post off until later. Not the most grateful energy.

I love school supplies. Notebooks, Binders, Mechanical Pencils, Uniball gel pens, Highlighters, Colored paperclips, College-rule notebook paper. I love it all. And Crayon! Don't even get me started on the 64 box of Crayons.

And Sharpies. Man, what is not to love about Sharpies, right? Well, they are permanent. I don't always love that part. But, you know it says permanent right on the pen, so we can't say we haven't been warned. And Fine Point Sharpies rarely stay fine, no? That nice crisp point in a new Sharpie really is quite fleeting. Other than that?

I love Sharpies. I remember the year they came out with Sharpie colors other than black, red and blue. They came in purple, yellow, gray, pink. Good colors all.

Today I was talking to one of my writing buddies about getting together soon. We realized we both have the next few Fridays free.

"Well, hey. Come out to my house," I said. "We'll have a little mini NaNoWriMo writers group out here by the water."
"I can't do it this week but I am putting it in my calendar for next Friday," she said.
"Okay this is going to be great. Pencil me in," I said automatically. Then quickly retracted. "No, not pencil. Sharpie me in!"

Lately in my social interactions there's been a lot of 'Yeah, we need to get together.' Or 'That's a great idea, let's do that.' But then it never happens. Not even bothering to pencil it in. This is bullshit. We don't even really mean to follow through. It's just false agreement. No way to treat each other, in my opinion. We take our friends and our friendships for granted. The few good people that we manage to make a real connection with deserve more than an obligatory but empty agreement. Shouldn't we treat those few who make it past our social filters with more care and respect? More gratitude?

We might stop offering after a while. And that would be a sad day. Indeed.

I'm grateful for Sharpies. Sharpie me in your schedule and I'll Sharpie you in mine.

02 November 2011

Word Play

I am so grateful for Microsoft Office. Word, specifically

You probably will not often hear me start a sentence with the words "I am so grateful for Microsoft...(anything)." Especially lately.

And yet.

Microsoft Office Word, in spite of how I feel about technology in general, is one of my favorite bits of software. Now granted I've tried little else by way of word processing but I've grown so accustomed and familiar with Word that the thought of going without makes me a little nervous.
The only other product I'm remotely familiar with is Microsoft Works. A product I think Microsoft may have made intentionally frustrating so that Word would feel so much more slick and grown up.

It feels odd that during a month in which my goal is to shine a light on gratitude, I would list something as common place as a word processing program but I must be true to my heart.
My 'asdf jkl;' proper finger-placement loving heart.

2000 words yesterday. Nice, no?

01 November 2011

November Gratitude

I must confess here at the start that I might be off to a rough beginning. My gratitude tends to be leaning in a 'Thankful for the lack of bad things' direction. For the record, I am opposed to that way of thinking.

"Well, at least things aren't worse."

"He's not a bad guy. He never hits me or cheats on me."

"I'm just glad it didn't cost us more."

I do not believe the absence of a negative equals the presence of a positive. I want to feel the abundance of the positives. Not merely be happy that things aren't worse.

I'm grateful to be aware of this distinction. I am grateful for gratitude.

I'm grateful for the bald eagle I saw circling over Key Center as I drove through today.
I'm grateful to be sitting next to a fire, next to the Sound at the end of my day.

31 October 2011

Repeat the Sound of Joy

A couple of Novembers ago, I wrote a Gratitude Post everyday for thirty days.

November 1, 2008:
My first post, in a line of 30 other posts, was titled - "I Won A Major Prize!"
I just went back and read it again. I'm pretty good. http://myscarletletters.blogspot.com/2008/11/most-wonderful-time-of-year-is-cresting.html

I decided a couple weeks ago, that this would be good year to do it again.

Everyday for the month of November, the month of Giving Thanks, I will take a moment each day and post something here for which I am truly thankful.

I believe deeply in the power of Gratitude. If Gratitude were a religion, I'd sing in the choir. Alto section.

But instead of a religion, Gratitude can be your spirituality if you choose. I try to choose Gratitude as much as I can. (Some days it's harder than others, of course. But 'in general' and all that.)

Now since deciding to commit to 'Grateful through out the month of November' again this year, a few things have come up. Figures. Including one other month long commitment.

But I've decided that this is okay. A greater challenge, yes, but I'm short and wiry and up for the duration.

I may not paint my nails all month.
I might not have time to wash my hair, balance my check book to the penny or get my toes kissed as often as I'm accustomed, but it's just for thirty days, no?

So Happy November's Eve.
I hope to see you here tomorrow.

"I can do it."

18 October 2011


I remember my daughter coming home from school a number of years ago using the word 'random' to excess. Suddenly everything was random. And it drove me crazy. (Do you remember "like" from the eighties? Do you remember "like" from last week?)

Random was a perfectly good word before everyone started throwing it around all misappropriation-like. I called foul! 'Vocabulary Abuse.'

"Wow, that was so random!" she would exclaim.
I love you Sweetie, but if you say 'random' one more time tonight I'm going to do something, I'm not sure what. But when I'm done, you'll be saying "Wow, that was so premeditated!"

There are some blog posts for which there is no rhyme or reason. So naturally, today as this one was cooking in my head I kept thinking of the word 'random' but the vocabulary trauma I've sustained is too great and I just can't use it for my title. Besides deep down, I am not sure I believe in random. Quite the opposite, in fact.

That being said....

  • Lately my hair has a will of its own. And it seems no matter what I do, I still walk out the door each day with a bit of Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction going on. It really has no correlation with my energy, so if you pass my in the hall try not to be frightened. I promise I will not harm you in any way. No retraining order needed. Your pet rabbit is safe with me.

  • Today I sat in a restaurant enjoying a quiet bit of breakfast when I noticed that Bonnie Raitt was singing Angel From Montgomery "Just give me one thing that I can hold onto," from the speakers over my head. Then Joni Mitchel sang Help Me, "I think I'm falling in love again. When I get that crazy feeling, I know I'm in trouble again." After genius Joni, the Beatles came on and I'm thinking this is going to be a good day! I can feel it. As soon as I leave here, I'm going to go buy a lottery ticket. But then the Eagles began Desperado. "I hate the fucking Eagles, man!" Enough said.

  • I spoke to someone earlier who works in a public library; he said today he overheard a teen boy and teen girl talking in the stacks. And everything was 'epic.' This book is so epic, that book is so epic. Then the boy picks up a book and says, "This is kind of epic."

  • In spite of the aforementioned Eagles, today was a better day than yesterday. For this I am grateful.

  • Fall Colors: Time to change from Pompeii Purple to An Affair In Red Square.

  • Today I walked past a huge bin of books that are to be disposed. On the top of the pile was the book: The Care of Fine Books
Remind me you're out there, when you get a moment.

15 October 2011

Where Did I Put My Barbie Mask?

I can't remember the source but once I heard a statistic about people's greatest fear. It was years ago and I was probably sitting at my desk in the corner of my room with the mindless drone of the television somewhere behind me.

According to the survey people's number one fear is being found out as a fraud.
Without another word of explanation, I understood exactly. A bell rang within me.

You'd think the number one fear in our country would be death or physical suffering, the loss of a loved one, economic failure or if the commercials are to be believed that you be found drinking an uncool brand of beer or driving an inferior car. But the minute the news reporter or commentator said fraud, I knew.

It is not fraud as in embezzlement or scamming an insurance company. Nor mail fraud or bank fraud. But something perhaps more common and insidious.

Roughly, the definition of fraud is a deliberate deception of another to obtain something unjustly.

So if our greatest fear is that someone discover that we are a fraud then we must have a sense that we are frauds already. We must believe it our self. I think I find it amazing that people were willing to even admit this as a fear. But upon hearing the statistic, I knew it was me. That I feel like a fraud. On a very basic, functional level everything feels like an act. A front. That the real stuff is too raw and frightening to reveal. But that mostly we do not let ourselves think about it. That we have to behave in a certain manner to be allowed. To exist.

But that if we showed our true center, we would not be allowed.

One of the most startling quotes I've ever read is by Marianne Williamson:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." (A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles", Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3])

Somehow these two are related within me. Connected. Even as they seem to stand in direct opposition of each other, I feel a fuzzy symbiotic relationship.

It's true; my greatest fear is to be discovered a fraud and that I am powerful beyond measure.

I have yet to work this out. Does this resonate with you at all? Or am I barking?

13 October 2011

Things We Said Today

Is there any better way to start a blog post than with a Beatles' title? I think we both know the answer to that question.

Lately I've given a lot of thought to all the things we tend not to say.
The truth we tend not to tell.

For instance, and this is a purely hypothetical scenario, say you have a co-worker that you consider a friend. A welcome smile in the murky Black Sea of the work place. This friend is someone you genuinely enjoy. Someone with whom you get along well. And easily. The jokes come freely and frequently. You may actually depend on this person to make your job more tolerable. Hypothetically, of course.

But then suddenly, you realize it's been a couple days since you've heard from this person. You don't run into each other in the same way you usually do. You shoot a clever, irreverent email but there's no reply. You wait a bit. Who knows, right? Sometimes people have bad days, bad weeks, bad careers at work. They don't feel like being social, cheerful and such. Sometimes people take vacations. Are out sick. Right? Right.

More time goes by but somehow things do not feel the same. You begin to suspect that maybe something is 'wrong.' Did I say something to offend this person? Did I step over some invisible line?

Now, keep in mind that this purely hypothetical person is NOT a close personal friend. They are, however, one of your favorite people at work. Someone with whom you can't wait to joke about some ridiculous thing. A person with whom it's okay to be yourself within the social restraints of work. But this is not someone with whom you can sit down and trust with your heart wide open. And now this is a problem.

Because with that intimate, personal friend you can say the words "Feels like something's up between us. Things feel different and I want to make sure we're all good. Did I hurt your feelings? Or offend you some how?" With a good friend you should be able to do this. (Although I'm not sure how often we do...)

I believe in this type of honesty. I love clear air. If I care for someone and I believe they care for me, then the air between us becomes priority. Even urgent, at times. I have the most difficult time with things that hang in the air between myself and someone that I like and appreciate.

I don't give a shit about things that hang in the air between myself and the asshole who cut me off in traffic five seconds ago.
Between myself and the people at work who seem to go out of their way to make my job more frustrating and difficult.
Between myself and someone who has proven them self to be a small, overcompensating, arrogant prick. The air between those people and me can be filled with the entire contents of the Smithsonian for all I care.

But for those people whom I appreciate and treasure, on whatever level, clear air is my goal. I hate, hate, hate the feeling that something is off with someone for whom I'm grateful. It will keep me up at night. Drive me to distraction, wracking my brain trying to figure out what I might have said or not said. Done or not done that may have left something in the air between us.

The problem inherent with this hypothetical situation, along with many actual situations just like it, is a social expectation for deception. We are actually expected to lie.

"Hey, Erika. I haven't heard from you in a while. Is every thing okay? Are you upset with me?"

You and I both know that the expected reply to a question such as this is an adamant, "No, no. I'm fine. Everything is good." Even if the truth is something completely different.

Seriously, what is Erika going to say? "Well now that you mention it, I am quite pissed at you." Right. Who really speaks truth in such cases?

Now my purpose in this post is not to vent about someone at work (so stop trying to figure it out), I said hypothetical remember? But instead to express my sadness that we can't just talk to each other. That we are discouraged from being true. So many layers of social correctness. Our ever-present social shields standing strong to protect us from genuine interactions that might put us at risk.

Do you ever wish you could just speak straight to someone? Because they're worth it. Because you are. Just release the restraints. Then trust that they can take it? Do you wish? I do.

06 October 2011

Don't Believe Everything You Think

I 'blog' almost constantly. In my head.
A running monologue. An unequal mix of Johnny Carson, Jerry Seinfeld, Janeane Garofalo and Tony Shaloub as Monk.

My mind is continually talking to you here, in the form of a potential blog post topic. They all start with a slow simmer, I add a few more ingredients: pinches and splashes of stuff to bolster the basic mixture. Turn up the heat. Until we are at a rolling boil.

But more often than not, by the time I sit down to write, or dish up, the stew has become cold and congealed. There are very few things in the world that are better in their congealed form. I don't even like typing the word congealed. So no more of that.

Where is the Mother of Invention when I need her?

No one appreciates new gadgety technology more than I do. Actually that is not true. Most everyone appreciates it more than I do. Is it ironic that I work in IT but am mostly just annoyed with new tech stuff? Or is it just a coincidence? (Can you explain the difference?)

That being said, when someone invents the software or app or whatever that will convert my thinking directly into my blog, or a best selling novel or whatever, that is when I will be happy to stand in the glorious Seattle rain, outside Best Buy all night to be the first in line. Debit or Credit?

Did you know that in my head there are no 'whatevers' at all?

As a matter of fact, in my head, all of my prose (on my blogs or elsewhere) is perfectly spelled, punctuated and appropriately grammarized. I am ever witty, clever and original. Each point eloquently articulate and fascinating. In my head.

And even when I do manage to get something down on paper. Okay not paper, but you know what I mean. It often feels like a mess of mixed metaphors and dangling participles. What happened to the way it was laid out in my head? Who thinks up this shit?