Thursday, December 09, 2010

Meet Hailey

Here's my new granddaughter, who came into the world on Monday, November 29th. While I have plenty of photos I could have posted here, this is the one that I like to think is a glimpse of her future personality.

To those naysayers who don't think babies can smile or laugh, I believe you are wrong.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


If I had need of a new online identity, Disenchanted would be my choice. Not that Disenchanted would be available - even in the fictional scenario in my head 13,694 people have already tried to claim it, and it is currently owned by a 13-year-old girl who hasn't even lived yet.

But when you've lived as long as I have, you've probably earned your disenchantment. Because life is kind of like being kicked in the teeth over and over again. (Unless you're that guy from the mattress commercial who says, "Ask me why someone who has never had an ache or a pain" loves an expensive mattress that people who actually have aches and pains can never afford. I'd personally like to kick that guy in the balls, and watch him experience pain for the first time.)

I've been thinking about life as a kick in the teeth a lot lately, and I wonder if everyone is kicked in the teeth an equal amount of times, or if some people take more kicks than others. How about celebrities? Does someone stand in for them, to take the teeth kicking on their behalf? Or does life just automatically favor the beautiful and give them even more beauty?

And what role does a positive attitude play? If you get kicked in the teeth and tell yourself it wasn't so bad and it could have been worse, does it really hurt any less? Is it easier to have a positive attitude if everything around you is already positive?

I'd appreciate it if someone could decode what I've written and get back to me with some answers.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Baby I'm-A Want You

Last Sunday I photographed a 12-day-old baby. That was new to me; I've always done weddings or teen/adult portraits. And I got paid for it, which was nice. Here are a few. I can't explain my new preference for sepia-toned photos.

I can't wait to photograph my first grandchild (a girl) in a month.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

So Let it be Written, So Let it be Done.

Along with the much anticipated viewing of The Wizard of Oz around Halloween every year, and Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer at Christmas, a highlight of my formative years was watching The Ten Commandments annually at Easter. (We were nothing if not predictible.) My sister and I would gather together with Roger, the boy next door, for a viewing party. I secretly admired John Derek's bare chest, in whatever way an 11 or 12-year-old girl can, and we all memorized THE most important line in the entire film, spoken by Yul Brenner as Rameses: "So let it be written; so let it be done."

I write that to explain my bio-blurb over there to the right, which says I am a "screenwriter, photographer, artist and washed-up mechanical bull rider." These are the labels I've given myself, though the world may not agree. While it's true I've totally given up riding mechanical bulls, I was never as good at it as one might think. And it may be true that I take photographs, but I don't do much with them, and I certainly don't make any money at it. I've dabbled in oil paints, almost completed a very large self-portrait, and finished a few small oil and watercolor paintings, yet few people have ever seen them. And - in my head, at least, if not on paper - I'm writing the screenplay that will make me famous. Or at least able to quit my day job.

So call me a liar if you wish, but I cling to these labels as things which at least partially define me, and I've written them for anyone to see, so that they will be done.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Hindenberg and Other Possible Disasters

My most recent distraction has been the 40 acres bordering us to the South, owned by a German man and his German wife. Erich passed away about a month ago. Dropped dead right there on his way into the shower of a heart attack at the age of 80, which is as good a way as any to go, I suppose. As we were given first chance at the place, we've agreed to buy it, for a price at once daunting yet reasonable, and it will be up to our sons to pay for the damn thing when old age and retirement poverty prevent us from doing it.

So there's the more practical part. The romantic part - the one I cling to when I find myself dreading the coming days when we must "tighten our belts" as my husband likes to put it - is that the land has so much potential. It's a slice of Germany, planted with firs bordering the big pond, and paths between. My own Black Forest. And this morning the pond, previously hidden by green-black, floating icebergs of moss, was miraculously unveiled and filled with life. Small bluegill darted near the shore and around great, slow moving grass carp and koi, all of them between two and three feet long, appearing unweildy and metallic like a dozen Hindenbergs. Oh, the Humanity. And among them, The Golden One flashed orange like the evening sun falling behind a cloud.

Yesterday evening, while walking along the edge of a woods, I decided to pick up a few hickory nuts. Under one specific shagbark hickory tree were a couple of dozen very large nuts. I was confused at first, because normally, a hickory nut is slightly larger than a grape, and these were huge - about five times the usual size. And though the nut inside isn't cured yet, they were beautiful, large and flavorful. (I may have discovered a hybrid. Which makes me laugh, because my dad was nuts about nut trees, and I never thought I would be.)

It's a fair trade-off, I guess, to be poor, but rich in land and all that it provides.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Moment.

Driving up the long driveway to home last night, I had a moment. My husband and two of my sons were in the soybean field below the house, unfolding the booms of a herbicide sprayer. My oldest son has been unofficially out of the military for nearly two weeks, using up leave until his official separation date of June 11. My youngest son is enjoying the summer that precedes his senior year of high school - that is, when his father isn't working him like a slave, and meanwhile, my middle son was working at his job ten miles away.

For one brief moment, my good fortune shone on me like a beam of light: my sons were all at home and safe...including the one who served two tours in Iraq.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Half the Woman I Used to Be

You probably didn't read it in the news or on any celebrity blogs, but I've been sick for about the last eight weeks. It all began with what I thought might be food poisoning or a virus. I was in gastronomical pain for four days, which subsided to unbearable pain and then finally to the terrible discomfort I'm still living with. When it was clear that this was no ordinary virus or bacteria, I thought it might be my gallbladder, since it's common on both sides of my family. So I went for a gallbladder ultrasound, which came back clear - except for the mysterious spot on my liver. The doctor announced that it was "most likely benign," but he wanted a CT scan of my entire abdomen to check things more closely. Once again, the gallbladder was clear, and the spot on my liver was apparently a hepatic hemangioma - something like a strawberry birthmark - which isn't uncommon. But the CT scan revealed a cyst the size of a tennis ball on my left ovary.

When I thought about this discovery, it made sense. I'd been joking that I felt like I was pregnant, because my feelings of extreme discomfort mimicked everything I felt when I was pregnant, and which I assumed back then was the beginnings of gallbladder trouble. That is, pain under my right rib, extending to my breastbone, and even numbness from side to side around the lower part of my ribs. And then there's the thing where every evening, my belly feels like I'm in at least the third month of pregnancy.

I went to an ObGyn for a pelvic ultrasound. He announced that the cyst was the type that wouldn't go away on its own, could potentially adhere to other things surrounding it, and would have to come out along with my ovary. Since he seemed to believe that my 'upper digestive' symptoms couldn't possibly be connected to the cyst, I went ahead with a HIDA scan of my gallbladder, which measures gallbladder function - even though I was convinced the results would be normal. They were.

So I've learned some things. One: doctors don't know everything, and often, I think, women know their bodies best. I'm more convinced than ever that once I have surgery to remove the cyst, all my other symptoms will magically go away. And two: even if you are a self-proclaimed hypochondriac, you should still listen carefully to your body, because there's always the possibility it's really trying to tell you something.

My surgery is Wednesday at 8:00 a.m., and I'll admit I'm a little scared. They plan to do the surgery laparoscopically, but depending on what the doctor finds, they may have to open me up. But I'm still not so frightened by that as by the fact that I have high blood pressure, and I smoke. Then there's also the fact that they're removing one of my ovaries (which I assume hasn't been functioning anyway, so what's the big deal?)

But I joked with someone at work this week, who I won't see again until I return to work, that "the next time you see me, I'll be half the woman I am now." He's an older guy who still likes to flirt with the ladies, so it wasn't exactly a surprise when he said smoothly, "That's still twice as much woman as we need."

Anyway, wish me luck. I'll try to blog again by Thursday so you'll know I'm still alive. ;)

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Favorite Photos from the Weekend

My youngest son, Cord, went to his first high school prom last night. Earlier in the week we'd dashed to the nearest tuxedo rental place at nearly the last minute, where a tailor asked him to fill in a form with his name and address. None of my sons have ever cared about their handwriting, and Cord's C's look like L's. So when the young girl at the computer later entered the order for Cord's tuxedo, he became Lord [last name]. We laughed about it at the time, and the girl made no effort to change it.

When I went to pick up the tuxedo on Friday, I used my best British accent when I asked for Lord [last name]'s tuxedo.

Here is milord (on the left) and his friends:

Since the light yesterday evening was so beautiful (overcast after a rain), I came home and shot some photos of my middle son and his girlfriend. This is a favorite - a shot I copied from a photo my niece did of a couple and their John Deere tractor.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Everything Old is New Again

Yesterday, while getting lunch at Subway, there was a cute girl, about 20, in line in front of me. She wore a North Face jacket and blue jeans, and cowboy boots - with spurs attached. She reminded me of me.

I used to be her in the early 1980's, and though I never actually owned spurs, I wanted them. I wanted to go on a pack trip in the wilds of Wyoming. I took care of five horses - three of my own, and two which belonged to my sisters-in-law. I went to rodeos, spent all of my spare money on tack and horse feed, and listened to Country Music almost exclusively.

My favorite singing artist at the time was, of course, George Strait. There were songs of his (especially if they had a rather plaintive violin solo) that made my heart almost burst with a longing to Go West, to lasso some cowboy out there and saddle him with a bunch of kids.

Instead, I married a farmer, and together we sprouted three boys. When I found out I was pregnant the third time, I said a prayer: if this can't be a girl, at least let him be able to sing.

He was a boy. It wasn't until he was five or six years old that I recognized his singing ability, when he would do this impression of an opera singer. The vibrato and tone at such a young age was amazing. But I couldn't get him to really sing until much later. And now that he is 17, the only time I get to hear it is either when he is in the shower, or when he's riding with me in the truck. His artist of choice is George Strait, and when he sings along, I am silently enthralled. It takes me back to who I used to be. I drive slower just to soak up as much of it as I can. And honestly, it is almost like hearing George Strait in stereo. Perfect range, perfect pitch, perfect vibrato. The trouble is, I doubt he will ever do anything with it. He is talented in so many other ways that singing falls by the wayside. But it might be okay. If this was a gift intended just for me, I'll take it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wood Sprite

This is what I was doing on the evening of April 15th, when I should have been working on taxes:

And I spent most of the day today playing with these photos (and others) in Photoshop Elements. The best thing about today was that there were no deadlines to be met. You can find the model's blog HERE

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Five O'Clock Shadows

While looking at photos of Gerard Butler just now *ahem*, I ran across an article which said, "Researchers in Britain have found that women are more attracted to men with stubbly chins than those with clean-shaven faces or full beards – in fact, the fair sex prefers them for love, sex and marriage."

It's nice to have my own instincts confirmed. I've always been a fan of the five o'clock shadow, and the darker the shadow the better. I'm not, on the other hand, a lover of beards. Once the length of facial hair gets beyond a certain point, it stops being sexy for me.

This is about right:

Or this:

Beard stubble even makes what might otherwise be a baby face, acceptable:

And totally changes my acceptance of an actor, along with my perception of his skill:

(Oh, yes. Titanic, who?)

I will even accept it when a man's facial hair grows in a little white trashy:

(Especially if he is hot, to boot.)

But the award for the most perfect five o'clock shadow goes to this man, based on depth of color, panache, and all sorts of other adjectives:

I believe I've proved my point. You're welcome.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

It wasn't unpleasant.

My mom phoned me this week to let me know that a church member (who opened her home to our small congregation when we didn't have a place to meet, and who has been battling pancreatic cancer for about the last year) had been told by her doctor that the end was probably near. My mom went to visit her on Wednesday, and suggested that I send her a card.

On Thursday I forgot all about the card until evening and it was too late. So yesterday after work, I bought a card, wrote a note inside, addressed the envelope, and then was suddenly freaked out by the fear it wouldn't be delivered in time. So I called my mom and told her so. She said, simply, "Then take it to her." This freaked me out even more. Not surprisingly, I'm uncomfortable with dying. The image of the last days of my husband's uncle, who also had pancreatic cancer, are still vivid in my mind. I remember his eyes looking into mine in those last hours, and it was as if his soul had already been in transition. I don't know how else to describe it.

So I called my husband to ask his opinion. He said, "Deliver it yourself." So I called a co-worker who always gives good advice, and he gave me permission to not go. Oddly enough, his contrasting opinion is what gave me the courage to drive to her home and visit her.

I'm glad I did. She sat up in her bed while I visited. And though she was a shadow of her former self, she was in good spirits - whether for my benefit or her own, I'm not sure. She seemed to genuinely appreciate my being there. And her last words to me were, "I'll be fine. I'll see you someday. Either here, or somewhere else."

It's strange how I have very often had the intention of comforting someone else, and I was the one who ended up being comforted. Like everyone else, I suppose, I've always had a fear of dying. Facing it seems to take the sting out.

Afterward, since it was right on the way home, I went to visit my Aunt and Uncle, both of whom have recently dealt with huge medical issues. My Uncle loves to talk, and is always thrilled when new ears show up. He told me (not for the first time) about how he is allergic to wasp stings. He discovered it while they were building their house. He said he began going into anaphylactic shock, and thought to himself, "'Well, I'm dying.' And it wasn't unpleasant."

So maybe it's not. For those fortunate enough to not die painfully, maybe it's like being wrapped in a blanket of peace.

As I drove home afterward, I was suddenly aware of what felt like the weight of an arm across my shoulders. I've had this experience before, of feeling as if someone has put their arms around me. Then I felt a tingling on top of my head - almost like a ruffling of my hair - and it was so intense that I reached up and scratched my head. I know I'm a bit strange to think so, but it felt as if my dad was saying, "I'm proud of you."

Monday, March 29, 2010


Her lips were berry-stained and ripe. In her arms she held a basket brimming with summer, and summer was in her. It twined around the crown of her dark head, and tucked itself behind her ears. She danced through the dewy grass with lithe grace to the music of birdsong, clutching the basket to her breast like a lover. She sang, and the sun cleared the clouds like a smile.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Woman of Leisure

I'm curled up on the sofa with my laptop, still in my pajamas. When I woke at 5 this morning, after having fallen asleep only four and a half hours before, I felt pretty sick and nauseated. It was enough to put me off even trying to go to work, so I went back to bed and slept until 8.

After a cup of coffee, I'm feeling a little better, but still have a weird, nagging headache that has made me undecided about going to work. If I'm feeling sick, that should be the end of the story, right? But I know that one day away will put me one day behind.

I was thinking earlier, my body all warm and cozy beneath this rich, chocolate microsuede blanket, that I wouldn't mind being a woman of leisure. Then I thought, I wonder how much work it would take to become one? which seemed sort of funny and ironic to me. Seriously, attached as I am to some of the people I work with, I'm not really committed to the job itself, and it wouldn't bother me to leave it. So what would it take? Writing a novel or two? Learning to paint masterpieces in oil that people are scrambling to buy? Inventing a social networking site? A co-worker mentioned the other day that he was surprised to discover that his neighbor's son was the founder of the site, and his neighbor had initially invested in it. Why can't something like that happen to me?

I would just like to feel I was doing something to make the world a better place. Something besides keeping airplanes from falling out of the sky. Don't get me wrong - I think airplanes not falling out of the sky is important - but I'm only indirectly holding them up there. With massive stacks of paper. Like a modern day Atlas who doesn't require any real strength.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I suppose I'd just like to vent for a bit, since it's the time of month for venting. I'll just form a list, shall I?

1. I wish people at work would stop asking me how to spell things. Did you not graduate from high school? Do you not have spell check on your computer? Do you not have a Websters Dictionary just behind you, collecting dust on the shelf?

2. Every once in a while, I go through a period of feeling very unaccomplished. It's as if my life is meaningless, and I haven't really contributed anything to the world except three wonderful human beings (which should be enough). It's happening now, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Most days I feel so overwhelmed by my job (which I hate more and more every day), that I don't have the energy to do anything creative. It may have a lot to do with having barely survived another long winter, as these times of self-reproof seem to occur in February/March.

3. Why would anyone trust The Government?

4. Speaking of government, here's something that has been bothering me for a long time. America was founded on the backs of hardworking, self-sufficient men and women. Where have they all gone? I suppose I have quite a different perspective than some people, since I'm married to a farmer who is one of the hardest working people I have ever known. Living in the country encourages self-sufficiency, and it seems to me that (speaking generally) it's city people who expect the government to take care of them, and rural people who want the government to leave them the hell alone. This was illustrated to me on the local news one day last summer, after a huge amount of rain. A journalist was asking a woman in a car about the condition of city streets, and she replied that the sewer drain had been blocked by debris all day, and when was the city going to come out and do something about it? Like a complete maniac, I yelled at the television set, "Why don't you get out of your freaking car and clean it yourself?" It's what I would have done, but maybe that's because where I live, there is no government to help out. And besides, we take a certain amount of pride in being able to take care of ourselves like real adults.

5. I hate when I buy a cosmetic (most commonly, lipstick), then find out immediately after unsealing the product and using it that it's all wrong for me. What a waste of money.

6. I've pretty much run out of steam. More later, maybe.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Outlaw Jesse James

From the beginning, I've observed with some curiosity the love affair between actress Sandra Bullock and motorcycle builder Jesse James. It seemed to me the classic bad boy/good girl combination, which is rarely a good idea. But I wished them luck.

Over the past five years of their marriage, Sandra has blossomed. I'd been thinking recently - especially while watching the film The Blind Side - that being in love has given Ms. Bullock an inner glow she didn't really have before. Add to that her recent box office successes, and she appeared to be on top of the world. We women are suckers for love; you only need to look at the popularity of romance novels to see this. And this woman was clearly in love.

But now, the rumor is out that Jesse James had an 11-month affair with this woman:

I can't know what went through the man's head when the alleged affair began, but I suspect it was something like this: I need to take a shit. I don't feel like shaving today. I'd like something to eat and a cold beer. I want to have sex with something - preferably a woman my wife, but she is off making a film and this tattooed chick seems to be more into me than Sandra does at the moment.

So here we have a hint about several things:

1. If you want to have a husband, a man might be a bad choice.
2. You should never place all of your happiness in the hands of another person (man or woman).
3. There's no accounting for taste.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My feathered friend.

This is Paulie. Paulie joined the family about twelve years ago, when we ran into him in a pet shop. I'd wanted a small parrot for a while, since I knew that was all I could afford, and when I saw this little green-cheeked conure perched unhappily in a cage, his chest bare of feathers because he'd plucked them all out, well, I felt sorry for him. By contrast, the sun conure that shared his cage was brilliant in every way: cheerful, sunny, brightly colored. But there sat Paulie, naked before the world and wanting only to be loved for who he was. I fell for it, and I'm pretty sure I got a discount for buying him naked.

It took a while before his feathers grew out. I knew they would - self-pluckers usually have some kind of psychological problem, and I figured he wouldn't go crazy as a result of living with us. Turns out I was right, surprisingly.

I know he looks sweet enough, but he's actually a little shit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Newton's Third Law of Motion

I just made a mental breakthrough about work.

When I first started this job, I loved it. I looked forward to being here everyday, because I was busy but not overwhelmed. Then the powers-that-be decided none of us was efficient enough, and we weren't smart enough to figure out how to be more efficient on our own. So they paid a consultant HUGE dollars to figure it out for us.

The result? Certain areas became more efficient and streamlined. Meanwhile, more work was created in other areas.

Newton's Third Law of Motion states, For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It's all about balance. You can't lighten the scales on one side without weighing down the other, and my side is carrying all the weight.

Monday, March 15, 2010


My husband is a practical man. I don't suppose he is to blame for this, since he was raised by folks who lived through the Great Depression and who believed that only one gift (probably socks) was an acceptable thing for a boy to open on Christmas morning. But I blame him anyway, because in the process of being married to him for over 24 years he has ruined me. And I don't mean 'ruined' in the Biblical sense, although that's true, too. What I mean is that I have come to accept that I'm never again going to get what I really want for Christmas.

I can illustrate this perfectly by using only two examples:

EX. 1: One year as Christmas approached, it was obvious that our television was going out. Do you know what I wanted for Christmas? Probably diamonds. Do you know what I got for Christmas? That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I got a television set. Have I mentioned that I don't watch TV all that much?

EX 2: My husband had been complaining about the mountain of clutter which always manifests itself after ten or fifteen years of raising children. So that year on Christmas morning, I was surprised and rather grateful to find that Santa had left, beneath the tree, several plastic storage containers, all shiny and new and ready to fill. But wait! There's more! All wrapped up in pretty Christmas paper, totally unable to camouflage itself, was a brand new toilet seat.

Above and Beyond

Urban Cynic is trying to help me blog every day by giving me topics to choose from. I ended up failing yesterday, because I got caught up with doing housework and laundry, and then drove almost to Kentucky with my son so he could meet his girlfriend on her way back from Tennessee. And I'm about to partially fail today, because the topic I chose is 'the nicest thing anyone has ever done' for me, but I'm stealing a story I wrote two years ago at Myspace.

My father passed away after suffering from a massive stroke on March 11, 2007. Because he went so quickly and unexpectedly, I was haunted by his death and by questions about whether we did everything we could.

Almost one full year later, my youngest son began losing the use of his legs, and doctors discovered that he had a blood clot pushing against the nerves in his spine. He underwent emergency surgery to remove the clot at the same hospital where my father died. My son's surgeon was phenomenal. Talk about a good bedside manner! He was the kindest doctor I've ever met, and I will forever be grateful to him not only for literally saving my son from paralysis, but for figuratively saving me from it as well. Here's the story:

It was one year ago today that my dad had his stroke. I might not have remembered it if I hadn't spent the afternoon at the hospital where he died.

For a whole year, I've been pretty haunted by my dad's death. Second-guessing everything, including whether we should have opted for surgery. I think my misgivings were caused by the fact that I was never there when the doctor spoke to the rest of the family.

So today, when [my son] had an appointment with the neurosurgeon who operated on him, I decided to ask for his opinion. I have to tell you what an exceptional guy Dr. Bellew is - intelligent and good at what he does, with an aura of calm assurance and an uncanny ability to connect with people.

I said, "Can I ask you an unrelated question?"

He said, "Sure."

So I explained the situation with my dad, and told him that what bothered me most was that in a life or death situation, my dad would have fought for my life, but I didn't feel I had fought for his. And do you know what his answer was? He said, "I can look at the films with you, and let you know what I think."

So he led me down corridors to a room with computers, where all the films are archived for who knows how long. He typed in my dad's name. Dad had a lot of films, some of them from years ago. It was like seeing some weird kind of history of his body. Dr. Bellew pulled up the CT scan - 2007/03/11, 16:36. It was pretty freaky - a year ago almost to the minute. He took me through the complete scan. Pointed out every detail, including the line that indicated pressure squeezing against the opposite hemisphere of the brain, and all the dark area which clearly indicated that my father would never, ever have been the same person, even with surgery.

That's how Dr. Bellew performed brain surgery on me today. Since I was sired by a guy from Missouri, I guess someone just had to 'show me.'

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Story of My Tattoo

I grew up with the belief that tattoos were for sailors and dope heads. So it wasn't until the tattoo became popularized by the general public and girls on Spring Break in Florida that I actually considered getting one myself. Then my son's former girlfriend, and the Swiss exchange student who was living with her decided they were getting tattooed, and they invited me to go.

My love for angels and birds had made me an instant fan of the wings on the FedEx box in the movie Castaway. So when I didn't see anything I liked in the tattoo shop, I attempted a drawing of my own, which was supposed to look like this:

...but came out, according to the tattoo artist, looking like a heart in a basketball hoop. Obviously he didn't share my artistic vision.

What I ended up with was what I like to describe to people as "wings that have been ripped off of a dead bird." Now, don't get me wrong. The color is beautiful. The feathers are detailed and gorgeous. But the raw bones at the top sometimes make me feel like a biker chick...which I am not. When I wear white, I feel as if people are wondering what kind of hideous birthmark I was born with.

So do I regret it? Yes and no. I'm grateful for the experience of having been through the entire process. The romantic in me believes that the intent behind my tattoo (the FedEx wings) later manifested itself into my job with FedEx. But do I want to be reminded of this permanent marking later in life, when my skin is sagging and wrinkled and someone has to change my diapers? Absolutely not.

I realize that a tattoo is a very personal thing. I think it may be an attempt to leave a trail of who we are and what we've experienced. But the truth is, that makes about as much sense as a scout trying to erect a trail marker on his horse.

The true legacy is to leave our marks outside of our own skin.

My Own Huckleberry

My father was brilliant. If I had to categorize him as a character in a fictional world, he would be the absentminded professor. One moment he would try to use trigonometry to help me understand 3rd grade math; the next, he would be completely unable to remember where he left his car keys.

In my younger days, he had a marked duality that made him formidable. It wasn't until I became a working parent myself that I began to understand this: the pressures of making a living, combined with the task of raising four responsible human beings, can be overwhelming. At his best, he was kind and approachable. When at his worst, it was his voice that intimidated. But even then, my biggest fear was only that the neighbors would hear him yelling. My second biggest fear was being whipped with his belt. While I think it only happened to me once, the sound his belt made traveling through belt loops was enough to bring me in line, and I can still hear that sound in my head.

Naturally, I appreciated the times he was approachable. And my favorite childhood memory of him is the Summer nights when he would sit in the backyard with my sister and me, pointing out the hazy constellations that hung above our bright city, and telling stories about when he was a boy in Kansas City, Missouri. His boyhood adventures took on an almost legendary status in my mind. The stories were so big and so brave, that it could have been Mark Twain telling me about Huckleberry Finn. But it was those stories that made him human, and much more real to me.

In the following years, he became just a father again. It wasn't until about forty years later, during an impromtu lunch and what would be the last time I ever saw him "living," that he became real to me again. He opened up in a way I will always treasure - about his dreams and all the things he loved. And that hour I spent with him might be my favorite memory as an adult.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I was just going through my posts and noticed there are several drafts I started but never finished. Things with such tantalizing titles as End of a Summer Which Never Began, Life Like a Movie and Movies That Should Have Had Sequels. And as much as I would love to find something of substance beneath the titles, it's not there. Just like all my published posts!

But I shall not despair! One of these days the drought will end, and I'll discover all over again that I'm a writer. Or, at least, that I want to become one. Because I'm not yet ready to give up on the dreams of the five-year-old I once was.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Cadence of Words

I remember the first time I was captivated by the lyrical words of Dylan Thomas. I'd read the poems for which he is most known, of course, but they failed to strike a chord in me. Then a friend recommended that I read Under Milk Wood, a collection of Thomas' stories which was first published in book form in 1954. (The book has never been out of print, by the way.) I felt his words had the cadence of a lullaby. Cadence comes from the Latin word cadere, meaning to fall, which seems especially appropriate in this case. Dylan Thomas weaved a spell, and I fell.

In the intervening years, the rise and fall of his voice has been my muse, and a beat I return to in order to hear my own words. Thomas was a master of word sounds. It seems he was fond of words that hissed, and is it any wonder? He was born in a place called Swansea.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes, he writes. And

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

A journey through his words is like a summer day in a blackberry patch. Here, a phrase, soft and spattered on the tongue. And there, a thorn to prick you, in case you dared to sleep.

Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrogered sea.

His words make my heart swell with an elusive longing. My fingers tingle with the promise of phrases almost ripe and unplucked; words that cling stubbornly to their stems until, finally, they dry on the vine.

It's little comfort that the words are there somewhere. What I need is a thing to help remove them. Maybe, like Thomas, I ought to take up drinking.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Everyone wants to make their own mistakes.

One of the things that puzzles me the most about human nature is an unwillingness to follow advice. As a teenager I was especially resistant to it, and I often said (or at least thought to myself), "Let me make my own mistakes!"

And I did. My modus operandi was to, whenever possible, not make decisions. Instead, I allowed life carry me like a river. A sort of very boring, slow-moving river that would be the absolute opposite of a thrill ride. When faced with a major decision (or even a minor one), I would consult a Magic 8 Ball. Or I would establish an invisible yes and no on a table top or my knees, then alternate between them with my finger, saying:

Engine, engine, number 9,
going down the Chicago line.
If the train should jump the track,
do you want your money back?

And then I would have to make another decision. If I was riding a train, and the train derailed, would I ask for my money back? Well, I guess. And if I was injured, I might even file a lawsuit against the railroad. I mean, really, that's not a hard decision to make. So, yes.

Y - E - S spells yes
and you are not it.

And there would be my answer, which mathematically is always 'no' if you have alternated between the two choices by syllable and chosen 'yes' to the 'do you want your money back' question, and 'yes' if you would be stupid enough to forego monetary compensation.

But why put yourself through a train wreck at all? Not sure about college? Just don't go. Get a job at the first place you go looking for one. If it's that easy, it was meant to be. Thinking about marriage? Get pregnant - accidentally, of course - which sometimes but not always assures a ring on the finger. And if a ring happens, it must have been Fate! In the years that follow, don't even consciously plan your other pregnancies, either! They'll happen on their own.

In the event your 'plans' of being just a wife and mother don't pan out, and you get tired of working at a particular job, someone you know will always know when there is a job available somewhere else. You won't necessarily make very much money, because, remember, you refused to make a decision about college, and colleges didn't come to YOU, and if you don't have that little piece of paper that says you are smart, no one else will think you are smart and pay you accordingly.

And for heaven's sake, DON'T SAVE ANY MONEY! A few years ago, about twenty-five years too late, I read a neat little book called The Richest Man in Babylon, a collection of parables on finance. Probably the most important advice contained in the book is to pay yourself ten percent of everything you make - and then don't touch it. I remember thinking, I wish I had read this book 25 years ago! But, would it have made a difference? No. And do you know how I know? I gave the book to my oldest son to read. While it's possible he didn't read it at all, I still told him about the ten percent thing. And he hasn't taken my advice. So I told my middle son about the ten percent thing, and he hasn't taken my advice.

So, go ahead everyone. Don't listen to me. Make your own mistakes. I know you want to. Go on and flip a coin or eenie-meenie-mynie-moe your life-altering decisions. Or don't decide at all, and just give Fate the job.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Who could have a day this bad?

I watched the first half of Gone With the Wind last night. It's been a while since I've seen the movie, so it felt a bit fresh to me. And as I watched Scarlett deliver a baby for the wife of the man she loved, escape a burning city, be kissed and abandoned by Rhett Butler, and drive a dying horse home to Tara only to find her mother dead and her father crazy, I decided I've never had a day that bad. We should all consider that comparison, even though my example is fiction. But you don't have to look very far in the world to find bad days even worse than that.

I'm very happy at the moment. So happy that I just spent the morning shining up my house and cleaning windows inside and out. It helps that it is 50 degrees F outside. This afternoon I will devote myself to oil painting.

I looked at the boys basketball statistics for the Indiana High School Athletic Association last night, and discovered that my son was listed as 38th in the State for the number of rebounds per game. This morning, the Indianapolis Star listed him as 13th in the State. Frankly, I'm amazed. His school is one of the smallest in Indiana, and his team doesn't have a very good record. Mom is pretty proud.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Look out, Vermeer, here I come.

I'm ready for my next form of therapy. On my lunch break, I bought a 30 x 48 inch 'gallery wrap' canvas upon which I plan to brush a masterpiece. Well, that's the plan. I'll be using a technique known as glazing, for which Johannes Vermeer was well known. Without boring you with too many details, glazing is a method by which colors are placed on a canvas in very thin layers using an oil-based medium. After a layer has dried, and another placed on top of it, the colors become not physically but optically mixed, thus creating a luminosity in the painting.

The key words there are 'after a layer has dried.' This project is meant to be a work of patience, above all else. My tendency to rush things is legendary, and I'm hoping to prove I can wait. A little.

This is why I'll be painting in my husband's heated 'shop' - the same place my cat resides. The wood stove keeps the place at an almost constant, arid 80 degrees. It's hard to say whether oils will dry faster in those conditions, but I'm betting on it.

And if not...well...I'll be patient. What's the hurry?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cuckoo Cigarettes

Several years ago, I sent a carton of Swiss-made, Russian cigarettes to a writer friend of mine. When asked how in the world I got them, this is how I replied:

After the cigarette plant's great purple flowers are buzzed by bees, their long, graceful stems (which look like ivory cigarette holders) begin to sprout tiny white cigarettes. This happens in a valley somewhere between the Alps and the Red Sea. The plants are nourished by pure mountain water and the pale Swiss sun. A pretty maid named Adelheid tends the plants carefully, protecting them from night creatures such as foxes and bums. When at last the moon is full and the cigarettes are ripe, Adelheid picks each one by hand and packs them into small boxes.

She gives the boxes to Tobias, who strings them on red ribbons from the legs of cuckoos, who have been fortified for their long flight on cheese and chocolate. The cuckoos are trained to make the arduous journey to Ukraine almost overnight. Sometimes they are shot down over Moscow by MiG fighters. Finally, the birds arrive at the home of Ivan and Kiska Solovyov, where they are fed Borscht and the cigarette packs are removed from their legs.

Then I order cigarettes on the internet and they're sent by international airmail from Ukraine, which takes about 5 weeks.

The cuckoos are much faster.

So I do have an imagination, after all. Occasionally I'm capable of writing fanciful things. But it's been a long time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prompted by a Bot

There was an email in my spam box just now from Polina. Polina asks in her subject line, "Hey, why do you not write?"

Well. That's a very good question, Polina. Why DO I not write? Because not writing is what I do.

I watched a film called Finding Forrester a few nights ago. The film stars Sean Connery as William Forrester, a reclusive writer who published one critically acclaimed novel, then disappeared. Forrester reluctantly takes under his wing a young black writer, Jamal Wallace, whose talent blossoms under Forrester's mentorship.

One of the scenes that stayed with me was when Forrester tells Jamal that "you write your first draft from the heart, and the second draft from your head."

My problem seems to be writing from my head too much. My head is full of critics who don't want me to write at all. It's funny; the critics think everyone else writes beautifully. The critics believe I have nothing important to say, and above all else, nothing interesting or entertaining.

This is why I do not write, Polina. I could give you a hundred other excuses, but I have given you the most valid reason. So stop emailing me.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Call me The Light Bulb Bandit

After an already shitty day, my husband informed me this evening that the new owner of our former house (our former landlord's son) is telling people that we took all the light bulbs with us when we left.

Well...light bulbs are expensive. And I'm so frugal (NOT) that it only makes sense that I would steal light bulbs that might be considered "fixtures" by someone else.

No, I didn't take your f*&^%ing light bulbs, you douchebag. The only fixture I can think of that didn't have light bulbs in it when I left was the ceiling fan that hasn't worked for 15 years.

People are idiots.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


This morning I watched some animal program that showed the largest cat in the world - a liger - half lion, half tiger. This was especially surprising to me, because I thought the liger only existed in the imagination of Napoleon Dynamite.

I've become sort of an odd creature, too, since the move. You might call me by my latin name, Ancilla analus. My OCD has really kicked into high gear. Speck of lint on the floor? No way. Little orange flag sticking up from behind the satellite receiver? Gone, because it wasn't one of my colors. Bread crumb on the countertop, I laugh at you before I pinch you between my fingers and throw you in the trash. And heaven forbid there should be a streak on the glass tabletop. I hardly recognize the person staring back at me from the mirror as she battles a speck of something on the glass.

Too bad my behavior is only the result of newness. Give me a couple of months, then you can come over and hunt for dust bunnies under my sofa.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


A few days ago I happened to pull up actor Johnny Depp's IMDb page, perhaps by accident, and I was stunned to see what he's working on simultaneously. Fifteen films in development. Two films in pre-production, two films in production, and three films in post-production. I realize, of course, that he isn't doing all of this alone, but just having committed to all those projects might be overwhelming for some.

This led me to thinking about the creative process in general. Is it fair that some of us spend most of our lives doing things we don't want to do? I don't think so. I would love to be constantly involved in creating something beautiful and lasting. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. At all. If creativity were measured on a scale of one to ten, I would be somewhere near...let's see...minus 100.

On the other hand, I do spend eight hours a day, five days a week making something. If I was a sculptor...but then again, no...(Elton John reference), I would have created, by now, about 100 Davids. My efforts in working for someone else might have yielded a few War and Peaces. Because, really - I'm not bragging, since it's the truth - I am the world's most prolific Aircraft Maintenance Work Card Package Creator.

So eat my shorts, Johnny Depp.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Elusimuse

Rather than write some painful thing that would resemble nails on a chalkboard, I'm going to sleep, then try again tomorrow.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Out With the Old; In With the New

That phrase is especially meaningful to me this year, since we moved to a "new" home the first week of December. In fact, I turned over to the landlord the keys to our old house only the night before last. As much as I hate to admit it, I had a few emotional final moments at the old place, especially since I'd lived there almost half my life, my boys were raised there, and the rumor is that the old house is going to be torn down.

I've never been sure why I become attached to inanimate objects, somehow attributing to them a human quality. A little crazy, I know, but I do it anyway. So when I said, just before I walked out the door for the last time, "Goodbye old house; I love you," I felt that the house understood, and forgave me for abandoning it.

So today I'm a bit lost. Trying to embrace the new, but not exactly having bonded with it yet.

I guess that's what the next 364 days are for.