Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Who Me? A Writer?

This semester I wrote a lot of clean, crisp pieces; pieces I never would have thought I was capable of. I also wrote some pieces that landed with a thud on the floor (which I staunchly defended and attempted to justify - with a "What do you mean everything isn't perfect?" attitude). Sorry. Anyways, at the beginning I said I was a McCloskey wannabe, which at the moment I felt was true. But now it's not. Well, not quite true. I don't think anyone can be another writer - to attempt to mimic his style would be disastrous. I absolutely adore his books - but it's because of the connection I have to their history - their meaning to me. Soooo, where does that leave me? What do I gravitate to now as a reader? What captures my interest? What makes me smirk and giggle? I love funny kid's stories! Whether my kids love them or not (which they do) I can't resist a good, absolutely outlandish, hilarious children's story. Maybe it's because those sweet sappy kid's stories (with titles such as "Use Your Manners" and "The Colors of Fall") bore me to death. Give me some action, some fantasy, something impossible that seems so true... and do it all in less than 20 colorful pages of riveting, page-turning anticipation. Nothing's worse than drudging through a bedtime story that puts me to sleep. That's what I've wanted to write. And now I feel better equipped to do that. The biggest thing I've learned this semester is to "cut out the fat" from my writing - to leave room for the reader's imagination to do some of the work. So what if they don't get the same interpretation as me (ahem... words from a certain instructor), as long as they are getting something. Any previous attempts I've made at writing one of those "absolutely outlandish, hilarious, action filled, riveting, page-turning" stories has, without a doubt, landed with a resounding thud on the floor - and then in the trash can. I was always trying to tell too much, give too much away - you knew what was going to happen on the next page because I gave away every possible freekin' clue to set it up on the previous page - so why turn the page in anticipation? Sigh. So, I've still a long way to go, but I'm packed better for the journey. Someday I hope to publish... that might be just a dream, but at least I'll have something. I'm ready to try again, and again, and again, and (gulp) revise, and revise some more... my plan for winter break is to work on "roughing in" two ideas that currently are on about 10 pieces of scrap paper scattered in various locations throughout the house... now where did I put those?

Week 16 - Revision of Week 5 (10/04/04)

We've always joked about how 'Charlie Brown' our Christmases were growing up. The tree was always lopsided and topped with an aluminum foil star (which incidentally was perched atop the tree via a toilet paper tube). The presents under the tree were sparse; in fact several of them were merely recycled toys regifted amongst siblings. Sometimes we felt we were being cheated...or did we? It seems that those feelings of being cheated I so vividly remember are in fact a fabricated memory of my materialistic, commercialized, pea-sized adult brain. If I think hard enough about Christmas Past; the memories are pure, true, and far from disappointing.

Christmases of the years gone by were a magical time... I mean, I swear I saw Rudolph's nose guiding the jolly guy's sleigh one Christmas Eve when I was at the ripe old age of six. I even rubbed my eyes and watched to see if that light blinked like an airplane. I never told anyone about that night for fear of ridicule; but if you had asked me at that moment in time if Santa was real or not, I would have bet my brother's life on it (hey, I was a believer, but I wasn't stupid!).

Two traditions I have tried to bring with me are opening one small gift on Christmas Eve, and letting the kids get into their stockings before we are all up. I tried to bring three; but my beloved refuses to allow an aluminum foil star atop the tree - bah humbug. Every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember we always got to pick out one small gift from under the tree and open it. This was a tedious process of weighing out our options... which one to chose... which one? Our parents probably figured it would curb our appetites and make us sleep in a bit longer in the morning. Yeah right. Hence, the second tradition. Christmas stockings hung on the stair railing were the greatest thing to dump out at 5:00 in the morning. It was perhaps the only house rule we all abided by: we did not have to wait for Mom and Dad to get out of bed! Of course, it was always stuffed with the same items from year to year, except for the occasional change in candy. We got an orange, some nuts, a book of lifesavers, bubblegum, a toothbrush, and loose, unwrapped generic hard candy (which consequently would be covered in stocking fuzz). It might have been the same old stuff every year, but that was fine by us. We would dump them out, separate the goodies, and then the bartering would begin. "Who wants grape bubblegum? Anyone want to trade their orange for my walnuts? I hate cherry lifesavers! Trade ya for your butterrum."

Each year we would get one "big" gift, which by definition had to be under $20, and "family gifts" were things like Chinese Checkers or Twister. Even though we would painstakingly pick out what we wanted from the Sears Wishbook, we knew odds were pretty good that we would get only one of those items, some other cheaper toys, and a lot of clothes. Funny though, I can't remember being disappointed. What I do remember is the year that we were totally surprised by brand new sleds outside the front door. Or the year that my brother gave me his favorite silver toy van, wrapped in a saltine box - it felt more like winning the lottery.

Of course, Christmas day always included the traditional game of Monopoly; or whatever new game may have come our way. This tradition still holds true at any family gathering - we simply must play at least one round of Monopoly - on the same board that is riddled with chicken grease, markers, pizza sauce, hot chocolate stains, and God only knows what else. Yes, God only knows what else... I have a feeling He's big on nostalgia too. Mom always said she felt bad about our Christmases growing up, but I can't seem to remember why she would.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Week 15 - Journal 3

My Christmas Wish List...
  1. Lose 30 pounds.
  2. Okay, 20 pounds is acceptable.
  3. A treadmill for above reasons.
  4. To feel better physically (see #1-#3).
  5. To spend more quality time with the kids (laying on the couch is not considered "quality").
  6. To fall in love with my husband all over again.
  7. To win an arguement now and then.
  8. Maybe some anger managment classes.
  9. To graduate - clearly this belongs on next year's list, but it is a "wish" list.
  10. Since this is a wish list, I'll take a personal chef and trainer to help with #1 - #4 too.
  11. Better throw in a lawyer... for my defense when I kill the personal trainer for ticking me off.
  12. To be efficient, organized, and on time.
  13. A laptop (for some reason I think this would help with #12)
  14. A new wardrobe. If the wish list fails, I'll need the next size up.
  15. To get out of debt (so, theoretically, that scratches #3, #8, #10, #11, #13, and #14).
  16. A perfect job that I'm absolutely crazy about.
  17. Okay, a job that I like and will pay well enough to help with #15.
  18. Happiness and Security.
  19. Contentment.
  20. To love myself.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Week 15 - Journal 2

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.... Okay, getting in the mood for holiday cheer hasn't come as easy this year, but I'm getting there. I'm guessing it's called burn-out.... If...I ... Can... Just ...Make...It.... One...... More.....W...E...E...K. One of the kids Christmas presents came today (with a scolding from the UPS lady for shopping online again - is it a bad sign when you feel the urge to give the UPS driver a sympathy card for making them drive up this cussed hill every week?) nay, we must pay for a couple of weeks salary in the long run. Anyways, the present. She's going to love it - and what a bargain - go mom, go mom, shop Amazon! Yeah, that holiday cheer is creeping up on me; can't wait to see the kids faces on Christmas morning! I guess I'm the one who drives me crazy thinking about how much to get, or how much I want to get and can't -whodathunkit? Hmmm, exactly who commercializes it? I mean really... I know the kids are going to be crazy about what we've gotten them (of course, then in like fashion they will drive me crazy with what we've gotten them.) Oh well, my vacuum cleaner will eat quite well for the first few weeks after Christmas. Between four of the gifts I have so far for the kids there is an accumulated total of approximately 210+ small, kill your bare feet in the middle of the pitch black dark night, pieces - and that's not including the 1000 piece bucket of legos I haven't got yet. Go mom, go mom....

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Week 15 - Journal 1

'Tis the season to be jolly..... fa la la la la, la la la la. Yeah, right. How did a season that is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Christ turn into the most demanding, frustrating, commercialized holiday out there? Every year I say, "Now Self, your not going to blow a bunch of money on things the kids don't really need. Self, just pick out a few toys that they really want and stick to it. Self, put that credit card away. Self!" Before I know it I've purchased twice as much as I should have, and spent three times as much! I blew $150 last weekend, and have 3 toys to show for it. I'm not even sure where all the money went -but it ain't in my pocket anymore. Of course, this year we've hit an all time low - my in-laws picked up some Gameboys for the kids (per our request), and we still have to pay them for those too! Arrrrggghhhh! I've got to draw the line, I've got to be strong, I've got to stop spending money I don't have. All this in the name of what? Is this what Jesus' birthday has come down to? Stop the insanity!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Week 14 Theme

Dear Josie;
I hate my life! My parents won't let me do anything. They're always asking me where I'm going, who I'm going with, and when I'll be back. I'm so sick of it! They say they trust me but they won't get off my case. Supposedly I'm "old enough to make my own decisions" (their words), but when it comes right down to it they always raise their eyebrows and guilt me into making the decision they would have. Like a few weeks ago; a bunch of my friends were having a party over the weekend. I was upfront with my parents and told them that I knew there wouldn't be any parents there (big mistake!), and that I was not going to drink, so I really wanted to go. I always missed out on these things because I usually was working - I had that weekend off. (So you see, I'm responsible enough to work, pay for my gas and insurance, etc.) Anyways, that's when they pulled out the, "Well, I don't think it's a good idea...but I guess the decision is yours" crap, and raised their eyebrows expectantly at me. Of course, they know I don't want to let them down, so I always fold and do what they consider to be "the right thing". It just stinks! What do I have to do to make my parents see that I am mature enough to handle these decisions on my own?
Sign me
Ready to Make My Own Decisions.


Dear Ready to Make My Own Decisions;
You asked me what you need to do to make your parents see that you're mature enough to handle decisions on your own? Simple - move out. Since your all grown up now and are ready to face the crap the world throws at you, then do it. Get your own place. Pay your own rent. Buy your own groceries. Heat your own house. Pay your own electric bill. Take care of your own phone bill. Buy all your own clothes and other necessities. Make your own decisions. Don't like the sound of all that responsibility? Then stay where you are and trust your parent's judgment. From your letter it sounds like they've done a pretty damn good job of raising you so far. Your responsible, you work, your honest, and like it or not, you care what your parents think. That's saying something not only about your character, but the character of your parents. It sounds like your whining because your parents don't give you open permission to party with your friends (and probably other events that could be considered questionable). Why, I bet you even have a curfew! I'm sure you've heard this before; but has it occurred to you that your parents care about you, that they care what happens to you? You might not have planned on drinking at that party, but all it takes is one or two drinks to impair your good judgment. Your parents trust your judgment and do ultimately leave the decision up to you - your just ticked off because they're usually right on the nose! My advice to you is relax; someday you'll see the wisdom of your parent's advice (like when your my age and have kids of your own). They're trying to do their job and watch out for you the best they can. Don't stop being the responsible and honest person they've raised you to be. And please don't stop caring what they think.
Josie

Friday, November 26, 2004

Week Thirteen Theme

"What's that scar on your hand from?"

When she glances down at her knuckle, the lights fade around her; spotlight up, and the back drop is lit with a screen of butterflies in a meadow.

Thoughfully rubbing the spot on her knuckle she takes on a distant look, and a michievious grin.
"Oh, I was trying to save the world, one butterfly at a time. It was your uncle's 7th birthday, and your grandparents had decided that he was mature enough to handle a pump-action bb gun."

"What's a pump-action bb gun? Does it take batteries? How many?"

Laughing, "No no, no batteries. It was a bb gun that you would pump the handle on to make the bb come out faster. The more air you pumped into it, the faster and harder the little bb came out of the gun."

"Cool! Can I have one? Pleassssseeeee?"

"No, I don't think so - not yet. ("Awwwhhhhh....") So, anyways, your uncle was all gung-ho about using it, he was running all over the yard shooting at anything and everything. He even tried to hit the antenna on the roof; missed though - he wasn't that good. Nanie had told him before we went out that he had "better not even think about shooting at her song birds, or he'd lose it on the first day". Unfortunatley, that left other flying things up for grabs."

"Butterflies?"
"Yup."
"I know where butterflies come from... they come from a can-cune!"
"A cocoon. ("Yeah, that.") So, like you guessed, your uncle decided butterflies would make good target practice. I figured he was such a bad shot that there was no way he'd beable to hit one of 'em flying around."

"They fly really fast, don't they? They go like this" (demonstates with arms out wide, swooping around the room, making airplane noises).
"Uh-hu. But then he found one soaking up the sun on a flower. It must have been sleeping or something 'cause it didn't fly away when he held the barrell up to it. I just couldn't stand the idea of him blowing that poor little butterfly to smitherines."

"Cool!"
"No, not cool. So, without thinking too much about it, I stuck my hand over the butterfly just before he pulled the trigger."

"Ooohhh... that wasn't very smart."
"No kidding. Needless to say, he pulled the trigger and my hand didn't move in time. Boy, you should have seen the look on his face!"
"I bet he got in BIG trouble!"
"He sure did, lost his gun the first day he had it. Of course, I got in trouble too for getting in the way. I didn't lose anything, but I've got this scar."

"Yeah, now when you look at your hand you can remember that you shouldn't get in uncle's way when he has a gun, cause he's not a very good shot."

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Week Twelve - Generic #2

TOP 10 SIGNALS WOMEN SEND: AN INTERPRETIVE GUIDE FOR MEN

#10 A SIGH - Used as a first resort to signal that something is amiss; this could range anywhere from a bad hair day to "I think he forgot my birthday". A peck on the cheek is inorder, as well as a mental rundown of dates just to be sure.

#9 A SIGH, FOLLOWED BY "WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR SUPPER?" - this is an inadvertent request to eat out tonight, order take in, or at least get some help with the process.

#8 AFTER A MEAL - "DID YOU LIKE IT?" - more than likely tonight's meal was an attempt at a new recipe that probably took a minimum of 1 hour to prepare - answer carefully... comments to avoid are "ehhhh...", "okay", "different", and "I ate it didn't I?".

#7 QUESTIONS SUCH AS "DOES THIS LOOK OKAY?" - insecurity alert! Proper responses include "Is that new?", "Wow!", "Looks great!". Caution: stay away from "Have you lost weight?" unless you are sure there has been an attempt made; otherwise this will backfire with a retort such as "Why? Do I need to lose weight?"

#6 "THE LOOK" - a nonverbal warning signal - generally more serious than the sigh, and used in instances where a line has either been crossed or is getting pretty close. The improper response is to raise the eyebrows and say "What?"

#5 THE TERM "WHATEVER" IS USED TO END A CONVERSATION - "whatever" is secret code for "You're a moron and there's no sense in continuing this conversation with a moron."

#4 A CONVERSATION THAT WAS ENDED WITH "WHATEVER" IS FOLLOWED BY A CLEANING FURY - although this may appear as harmless, take heed: cleaning furies are a woman's stewing time; she chews, chomps, and stews over the aforementioned conversation with the moron. It's generally best to leave the site for awhile - perhaps to get flowers.

#3 AN OBVIOUS SULLEN MOOD COMBINED WITH THE RESPONSE "NOTHING" WHEN ASKED WHAT'S WRONG - something is wrong! Unless you are very confident that it's okay to leave a "nothing" alone, this response must be followed up by personal attention and a listening ear. Sit, ask again, and shut up.

#2 PRIOR TO CLIMBING INTO BED AN EXHAUSTED "I'M SOOO TIRED" IS ANNOUNCED - this actually means what it says, "I'm sooo tired.", which also means "Not tonight."

#1 THE CLASSIC "I HAVE A HEADACHE" AFTER CLIMBING INTO BED - chances are you missed many signals today; a review is in order. Also, chances are that tonight you will have plenty of "reflective" time to think about those signals.