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Archive for November, 2010

A Name Changes

November 30, 2010 2 comments

 

A spark set to the sidewalk, her feet ignite
like flint in the dark, footsteps
a blaze of stars and friction, leaving
a trail of tinder and trepidation.
(Freedom comes slowly
because it must be taken.)

Somewhere, the echoes
begin to die down, and the only other illumination
is the moon, with its Sandman allegiance,
edging an infinite path, where the dream-people
don’t notice a single woman on the run.

All the night has given her
is a bulk of shadow, refuge for flight
and the day’s indifference, a pinch of flame
that gives no warmth, the luster of each footfall spark
nearly drowned out by the wind,
but still, she runs.

The whole landscape looms, ominous
in the dark, an absolute antique
that will turn new when the sun
starts to sing its early morning hymn,
calling the birds, changing the eyes
from sleeping to sleepy, and wrestling
the leaves to the ground,
to cover the consequences
of flames given to the night.

The Woman –
she will stop, crook an ear
to what’s behind her, Babylon
in all its glory, where life springs up
out of green grass and keeps the blue moon
almost always at bay –
the Lady will return to Babylon
but she is the Lady no more.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Breakdown of Dinner

November 25, 2010 2 comments

On the menu, from scratch:

  • string beans with seasoned bread crumbs
  •  spicy mushrooms in red sauce
  • candied yams
  • mashed potatoes
  • stuffed mushrooms
  • a turkey that requires two days of cooking
  • stuffing
  • brownies

The wound count:

  • One burned finger
  • One slightly sliced finger
  • Various scratches from fending off the dog (SWEET JESUS, I can’t tell you how many times he nearly burned himself on the oven)

Hours Spend Standing/Cooking So far: Upwards of ten hours

Hours of Sleep Lost:

  • One. I woke up an hour earlier than I had to. Oops.

A Meal That Tastes like My Mom’s Cooking, with Lots of Family:

  • Priceless.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Categories: Uncategorized

Thanksgiving, Traditions, and What Dante Forgot

November 24, 2010 3 comments

Thanksgiving has always been a big deal in my house. When I was little, we would make the crazy trek to visit both sets of grandparents – having breakfast with one and dinner with the other. Breakfast usually involved my grandmother’s awesome corn muffins, which are still the best I’ve ever had. Dinner had pretty much every kind of yummy food you can imagine, with a few of our personal traditions thrown in there – antipasto, stuffed artichokes, and chocolate pudding for dessert.

Of course, things don’t always go according to plan – like the time my aunt forgot to defrost the pumpkin pie (which might be the reason we switched to pudding). Or the time that my grandmother ate all the stuffed artichokes (one of my favorite dishes that she made just for me) and had to make more – the night before Thanksgiving.

This year, I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner, which means I’m a small whirlwind of chopped veggies and cleaning products – although not in the same instance. That’s not sanitary. Roughly ten people will be descending for Turkey Day, and I have my mother’s disease of Have Too Much, instead of Not Enough. I’m fairly certain there will be enough food to feed a small army of really hungry ninjas – which is totally fitting, because I’m sure someone will get hopped up on sugar and enact a ninja version of the Tasmanian devil.

Of course, cooking for that many people means I started yesterday. I even had Julie and Julia on for a little while. I managed not to let the puppy get in my way, but it was not for his lack of trying. Today, I have brownies to cook, stuffing to make, yam sauce to put together – and that last one is a trip.

Last year, I read the recipe wrong, and it took me an entire decade to get the sauce to thicken. It was a circle in Hell that Dante forgot.

Live and learn, my friends – and try not to drop the turkey on the floor like one of my aunts did, while I was on the phone with her, many years ago. Still one of the funniest things ever.

A Bit of Flash Fiction

November 22, 2010 2 comments

 

In the past month, I entered a contest. It was not something in my general wheelhouse — it was sci-fi writing. It was flash fiction. In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve read much sci-fi since Ender’s Game, but the genres so often blur and overlap. I have a slightly difficult time telling certain kinds of fantasy writing from sci-fi. It completely boggles my mind.

But that’s not the point. I wrote two very different stories for that contest and only submitted one. The one I didn’t submit was the weaker of the two. Since I can’t fnd any current use for it, I’ve decided to share it with you all.

                The boy is dreaming, again. He’s been asleep ever since the Accident. But no one talks about that. It was, they said, the end of the world.
                Me? I don’t think so. I think it is the beginning of the end, which is a very different thing. It means there’s still time. Still hope. Some way to stop the madness.
                But the boy is dreaming, again. And we are all very frightened. There are only twenty seven of us, now. We started out with fifty, even. But the wolves have become bolder.
                The sun didn’t go out like everyone claimed it would. There were scientists who insisted that the world would end in fire. Others, ice. The truth is that it began to decline into darkness. It wasn’t nature that did it. It was us. We were too careless. We wanted too much. Someone crashed a rocket or a bomb into the sun. I don’t remember. It all happened so fast.
                Now, it’s dark and freezing. We live by firelight. Bonfires. No one can tell when it’s day. We don’t even keep calendars anymore.
                And the boy, he dreams. But how can he dream in the middle of this? I don’t know. I wish I did. Perhaps he’s more resilient than the rest of us. I haven’t been able to tell him, though, about his parents. About what…happened. My fiancée was with them. They’d gone out to find food. Only one of them returned. And she had died very quickly.
                The wolves have become bolder. Still, the boy is dreaming. Tossing in his warming bag, edged close to the fire. He looks so peaceful. Serene. Full of hope.
                I don’t think I am full of much hope. I don’t…
                It doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t have to live through this. He should be able to play and run – not worry about what lingers in perpetual shadow.
               It would be a kindness to end it. He wouldn’t have to suffer. He’d be able to dream forever.

Running Away

November 21, 2010 6 comments

 

I remember once, when I was little (under seven years old), I was upset about something. It was probably something particularly inane, like a missing Barbie doll or feeling ignored for whatever childish reason.

I packed a basket with clothing and told my mother (tearfully) that I was running away. This basket didn’t have a lid. It seemed huge (how would I have carried it down the stairs, without tripping over myself?). And I’m fairly sure that it was winter, and I wasn’t able to get my snow suit on without some assistance. (It was hot pink and AWESOME.)

So, in the middle of winter, armed with a basket of what that probably consisted of: my Mary Lou Retton t-shirt, underwear, my treasured blanket, and jeans – I threatened to run away from home. I didn’t. But I remember feeling, passionately, like I should’ve been. In retrospect, I should admit that I had a flare for the dramatic, and I was the biggest ham since Green Eggs. (Note to self: burn all childhood videos, especially the one of me singing to the dog.)

As an adult, or a supposed adult (I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll never quite grow up – and I’m okay with that), I still have those feelings, sometimes.

It’s an entertaining idea, really. A frightening, potentially brave, decidedly crazy fantasy. Pack up the car, or a suitcase, and just…go. Be a new me. Be somewhere else. Just go on a different journey. Start over. Start from scratch. Leave everything behind.

That last bit is what stops me. Because, as much as I’m somewhat disappointed in certain aspects of humanity (or lack thereof), I don’t like leaving people behind. If it were just me, though – I might actually do it. I might just disappear. But as promising a notion as that seems, in reality it is a rather daunting task.

I think, sometimes, we all need to escape. To remove ourselves from situations. To take a break. To unplug. To be unreachable for a while. I’ve been entertaining that thought for a while and there always seems to be a reason NOT to.

But I think there’s moment where all reasons transform into excuses. That is a dangerous thing.

So, it isn’t the New Year, yet, but I’m going to start now. I’m going to stop making excuses. I’m going to give myself permission to run away now and then. I’m going to make a list of the things I can change – and do my best to forget what I can’t.

I may not pack a basket full of clothing, sure. But it’s a start. And I think I’ll begin with watching lots of DVDs today. If I can convince the Dog to sleep. Or chew something other than my feet. Or my pants. Or the wall. (He’s adorable, I swear.)

Categories: Random Musings

Evil Nighttime Brain

November 19, 2010 4 comments

 

You never realize how trivial your brain is, until you can’t fall asleep at three am. Thoughts emerge from under rocks of Shame and Mundane and Excitement and Panic. These thoughts range from the banal What did I do? to Did I turn the light off downstairs? to Tomorrow’s my birthday! to What am I doing with my life?

When I can’t sleep, it’s as if my brain goes into hyperdrive, cataloguing and parsing out everything that a) is wrong, b) could go wrong, or c) I’ve done wrong. It’s a smorgasbord of anxiety and ridiculousness. In the middle of the night, all those little worries become insurmountable demons, monsters with teeth and terrifying What-Ifs. What-ifs, I know, will kill you dead if they can – paralyze you until you can’t even breath without feeling them in the air. I try not to deal in them, because they don’t help.

But the Evil Nighttime Brain? Loves What-ifs. It loves to indulge in missing, concluding, blaming, fearing, and feeling an extreme sense of OH.MY.GOD – what is wrong with you? Because in the dark, it’s always so easy to blame ourselves. It’s so easy to give into the doubt and the worry. And whatever else seems to lurk in the shallows and recesses of our Black Lagoon-like minds.

Of course, I always marvel at how absolutely ridiculous my brain is when I can’t sleep. Occasionally, I’ve had an internal night monologue that goes like this:

Man I don’t like clowns. I wonder if it’s because of It, or that episode of Buffy with the nightmares. There was a clown in that. But there was also the time what’s his name got hit by a clown [true effin’ story, btw]. I mean, you only really see clowns at the circus, so I can just avoid the circus. But the have snow cones. I love them, damn it.

At which point I realize that not only am I NOT sleeping, I’ve having a discussion with myself about clowns and snow cones. Clowns, btw, are not cool. I am like Booth from Bones. (Remember when he shot the clown on top of the ice cream truck?)

I don’t know why worries seem to pile up at night. Perhaps it’s because we, as people, tend to push them away during the day, in favor of getting whatever we can/need to done. Then, when we finally give ourselves a break and try and get some rest – we can’t push that stuff anyway, anymore.

You know that Alanis Morrissette song? “Did you think about your bills? Your ex? Your deadlines?” That is what happens. I think about all that stuff and more, when everything is finally silent. I know this happens to other people. We are a nation of people who cannot sleep, because of a thousand reasons (bad economy, ahoy!). So, people take pills or drink too much.

We think, foolishly, that there’ s a magic cure for everything. Take a pill, and the bad things in the world go away. Instead of dealing with the issues, we’re just putting them off. Like switching off a light. Poof – it’s gone.

But it’s really not. It’s still there. And whenever you’re vulnerable or in crisis, the Doubts come out. So, I suppose the moral of this little story (not that I am one to speak of things like that. I’m not Aesop) is to drag things out into the light, when you’re better able to battle them. Don’t back away. Don’t keep biting your tongue. Don’t take a magic pill to solve your problems. (But, by all means, pick up a few magic beans. I’ve always wanted to see a giant and a golden harp.)

Don’t let your Evil Nighttime Brain get the better of you. Someone, please put that on a coffee mug, won’t you? I think another cup is certainly in order.

Autumn

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Who killed the leaves?
They do not say. The sit silent
on the ground, scattered like stars,
a hurricane of colors, a small reminder
of life before death.

The sunflowers have gone, shriveled
and shepherded into shadow,
and if you ask where they were,
few people will remember enough
to tell you – the forget-me-nots
will simply snicker in their graves.

The air now feels like winter, a gale
of frost and chilled steel, winds
squealing about like a shroud, icing
the river, slowing the blood,
and numbing the marrow.

Who killed the leaves?
I do not know. But all the people stop
and stare, eyeing the transformation,
eyeing the wreckage, questioning the crow,
the pale grass, the unmourned
moment where life became death,
and a last chance was lowered into the ground,
heaped with dirt, and left
where the bell tolls in October.

Only time
can reason it out, expose the earth
for what it holds, surprising
who remains in the Garden
come April.

Categories: Poetry, Writing Tags: , , ,

Life as I Know it

November 16, 2010 5 comments

At present, I look vaguely like Helena Bonham Carter. At least, my hair does. It’s piled on top of my head haphazardly. I am wearing clothing that normally would never see the light of day. (I promise that doesn’t include ballet shoes or anything with tulle.)

I’ve forgotten how cold it gets at night, especially standing outside for varied lengths of time. I have nearly lost my voice from having to use the word no. I must’ve run a mile last evening alone.

(I should also admit that I fell asleep in a chair.)

And I haven’t written a word in days. I do, however, have a notebook that has hastily scribbled ideas. It is purple and leather.

But that’s all ok. Because his face kind of makes up for it. The puppy, that is.

As soon as he gets the idea that outside is for going to the bathroom — and inside is where he lives — life will be golden. He was raised in a barn (literally). I’ll post pictures when I’m able.

Now, will someone be kind enough to bring me another mug of coffee? Pretty please?

Categories: Uncategorized

Learning How to Be a Writer (Or Dealing with Awkward Silences)

November 11, 2010 2 comments

 

There are conversations I don’t like having. These conversations usually begin with an innocuous seeming question. This is merely a clever disguise for a lightning sand conversation, which then brings the burst of fireswamp fire, and if luck is not with me, the ROUSs.

Things like, “Are you seeing anyone special?” or “What do you do?” or “Why aren’t you married yet?”

These things are the Gateway to Awkward. But the “What do you do?” is a flaming hoop that bounces, and I usually try and jump through it as quickly as possible – the conversational equivalent of, “Chug it! Chug it!” Hold your nose, and swallow the medicine. As fast as you can. There is no sugar for it.

“I’m a writer.” [blank, or possibly curious look] Then I’m usually asked, “What have you published?”

 At this point, I try and hide. Or I pretend to choke. Or I mutter. Or I just talk very fast in the (vain) hope no one will understand me – and no follow up questions will be asked. (This rarely works.)

 I’ve had a few poems published. A couple of articles. I’ve written two books. None of my short stories have seen the light of day, yet. I’m shopping the second book around, and I’m still vaguely hopeful about it. Because I like the story. I had fun writing it. And I think the characters are interesting.

 But will it sell? I don’t know. That is not, however, the current point.

 As a writer, I often walk around feeling vaguely fraudulent. Like I have adopted a clever disguise, and I’m playacting. When I tell someone that I haven’t published a novel (yet), I usually get asked, “Why not?” as if agents and publishing contracts are something you order from a catalogue or off of the television.

 “I’m in the process of looking for an agent” is often met with, “Weren’t you doing that last year?”

 Er, um. Yes? But here’s the thing: I haven’t found one, yet. It can be about as difficult as finding a job in this bloody effin’ mess of an economy – which, by the way, affects everything, from agents to book-buyers.

Being a writer takes time and talent – and I have at least one of those things. (Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be here all week.) It has never once occurred to me to give up, which either means I have tenacity, faith in myself, or I am incredibly stubborn. (Possibly a mixture of all three, but I won’t tell you the proportions for that particular cocktail.)

I am, however, lucky in a lot of respects. I have family and friends who believe in me, even when they suspect I might be crazy. There are people in my corner, so I’m less likely to pull a Hemingway every time I get a rejection notice. (If I can find it, I NEED to share with you the worst rejection I ever received, with the name redacted of course. It was traumatic and childish all at once.)

I’m also lucky that I have people in the writing world that I consider friends. People who have been through the trials, tribulations, and trenches – and have emerged victorious. (No name dropping, but you all know who you are. One of you has purple streaks in her hair. Another has fabulous taste in clothing and shoes. And I owe another a long-deserved drink.) This means if I start to panic, or I’m worried about something, I can ask a question. And I do.

There is a sense of camaraderie. (This is the very first time I’ve been able to spell that word correctly, EVER.) There is a sense of, “I’ve been there. I know what you mean.” I’ve also been at this a while that I know a few things, so I can advise others (minimally, in my opinion, but still).

So, I’ll deal with the awkward silences. They’re par for the course. A right of passage, I suppose. Until I can point to my novel, and go – Look, Ma! Top of the world!

Well, that might not be exactly the words I’d use, but still. Without the awkward silences, how could one appreciate the (future) thunderous applause? Or, in more realistic terms, without the error, I can’t learn. Without the difficulties, I would not appreciate the eventual wins. Let’s face it – if everything came easy, and everyone got exactly what he/she wanted without having to work for it, what fun would that be? It would be boring. And we’d all be very bored.

Plus, every writer I know does not write because it is his/her job. He/she does it because of love. Because it’s like breathing. It’s necessary for life. The same goes for every other artist. A painter paints. A sculptor sculpts. A photographer photographs.

We see what we see. And we want you to see it too.

A Sign of the Apocalypse: A Jonas Brother Does Les Mis

November 10, 2010 5 comments

 

You know, I’m sure that if there’s ever an apocalypse, there will be signs. Something absurd, like monkeys will begin to spout sonnets. The farm animals will begin to speak. Perhaps I will finally assent to the fact that baking chocolate will never taste like chocolate. (A cruel trick of my childhood.)

Unfortunately, I am hoping that a Jonas brother performing in a Les Misérables concert isn’t one of them. Oh, I wish I were joking. I really do. Because it is my belief that the Brothers have the combined musical talent of petrified dirt. (Can dirt be petrified? I don’t really know.)

I know that’s a mean thing to say, and somewhere Jiminy Cricket is wagging his finger at me. But putting aside the fact that I have trouble distinguishing the Jonas Brothers, AND the fact that I find their collective dressing habits very Saved by the Bell meets the 80s, I think that the Jo Bros are like Hansen, except HORRIBLE. Granted, I don’t enjoy Hansen, but they can carry a tune.  I’m also not a big fan of boy bands, which means I never had a NKOTB lunchbox. (Mine was BATMAN, thank you.)

Les Mis is one of my favorite musicals. I can’t tell you how many times, as a teen, I pretended to be a vagabond roaming the streets of France, gearing up for the revolution. “A Little Fall of Rain” STILL breaks my heart, and I always thought Marius was a fool, and he should’ve noticed Eponine. But we’re not here to discuss plot.

I Youtubed Nick Jonas performing in the concert, and he is not very good. Yes, he hits the notes, or most of them, but his voice is not strong enough to play Marius, and I (unfortunately) don’t believe a word he is singing. He has the emotional depth and maturity of a blueberry scone (random Buffy reference).

 Somewhere, I have the 15 year anniversary concert on tape. I no longer own a VCR, so it’s packed away. As a child, I had the double disk CD of the original London cast. Few people can match Dave Willets’s version of “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” (I’m pretty sure that he isn’t part of the original London Cast, but I’m not 100% sure. I can’t find the CD, currently.) I have a lot of random compilation tapes (yes, TAPES) only a vague knowledge about where it’s from.

When Lea Salonga played Eponine, she was resplendent. Absolutely perfect. I would listen to her sing the dictionary, honestly. I would’ve loved to have the 25th anniversary concert on DVD, but if it includes a Jonas (who possibly ripped off Jason Mraz?)

The Broadway girl inside me is breaking a little. Next time, people, hire Neil Patrick Harris. Not only is he AWESOME, but he can sing. That’s talent – not good marketing.