April 29, 2011
Last week, Anita Grace Howard started a game of “blog-tag”. The topic, Seven Things You Might Not Know About Me, has garnered some very interesting responses from readers and bloggers alike. Ashley Graham joined the game on her blog with some surprising details about herself.
Now, I’m tagging you. If you have a blog and want to play, leave a comment so we can stop in and view your post. If you don’t have a blog or don’t want to play on your blog, take a minute to leave a comment and share something about yourself.
Here are seven things you might not have known about me.
1. I wanted to marry Moe Howard when I was four years old.
2. The small town I lived in when I was in fifth grade didn’t have a girls’ softball league. In protest, my best friend and I joined the boys’ baseball league. I was/am no athlete. What was I thinking?
3. I pulled an all-nighter reading THE SCARLET LETTER by Nathaniel Hawthorne. THE SCARLET LETTER a page turner? I couldn’t put it down. I re-read it a few years later, wanting to see if that first time was a fluke. It wasn’t.
4. The main character in my book bears an uncanny resemblance to my Rock Band avatar.
5. I love music but I can’t sing. I can’t even hum. Let me illustrate the true awfulness of my voice: I had to sing a solo for choir tryouts in junior high. I remember it vividly— the third verse from We Three Kings. When I was done, everyone burst out laughing. Actually, this episode probably explains a lot…
6. I hate onions. Do you have any idea how many things are made with onions? There’s no escaping them.
7. Autumn is my favorite season: bright colors and indescribable blue skies, leaves crunching underfoot and the call of geese, the chill breeze that tickles bare skin and leaves goosebumps, and the wonderful aroma of wood burning fires, and musky leaves. And nothing tastes better than freshly pressed cider and that first donut, warm from the fryer.
April 26, 2011
In my relentless quest for knowledge, I came upon a shocking discovery that shattered basic truths of my childhood.
I offer you the truth about Cinderella.
Cinderella’s father was a weak, shallow man who gave into his young daughter’s every whim, avoiding confrontation and discipline at all costs. Cinderella’s fits of rage at being refused anything were legendary throughout the near countryside. Her mother was the only person courageous enough to use the phrase, “No, you may not” with her. Although the tantrums, screamings and tears were trying, Cinderella’s mother did not fear them.
But her mother died and Cinderella became more difficult. Her father realized he could not control her. Leaving Cinderella in the care of the servants, he traveled the far countryside in search of a new wife. There was not a woman in the near countryside who would have him.
In no hurry to return to his enfant terrible, he wooed every woman unfortunate enough to cross his path. In the course of his meanderings, he happened upon a widow with two well-behaved daughters. He pursued her, hoping she could tame Cinderella. His dash and charm soon won the widow over and he insisted they marry without delay. The widow, hoping to include his daughter in the merry festivities, wanted to postpone the nuptials until Cinderella could be sent for. However, fearful the widow would change her mind after meeting Cinderella, he insisted upon haste. They married, and with her two daughters journeyed to his home.
Whisperings among the townsfolk began soon after their arrival. The father, maintaining he must be about managing the estate, was rarely at the manor. The stepmother was left with the care of her wayward stepdaughter. She would not treat Cinderella differently than her own daughters, nor would she tolerate Cinderella’s behavior. Rumor had it that Cinderella had finally been made to comb her hair, say “Please” and “Thank you”, and clean her room (she only allowed servants in to serve her breakfast in bed).
When she turned sixteen, the battle between Cinderella and her stepmother began in earnest. Soon the countryside near and far was abuzz with the goings-on concerning Cinderella. She was hanging out with a bad crowd, spending nights in the forest smoking and drinking. She lost interest in her appearance, wearing rags and not bothering to wash off the ashes from the rowdy bonfire parties she attended.
Things came to a climax when Cinderella pilfered gold coins from the stepmother’s hidden drawer, some of her stepsisters’ jewelry, and then went on a three day bender. She tottered home ragged and smelly.
Her stepmother, at her wits’ end, grounded Cinderella for a month, going so far as to post foreign mercenaries outside Cinderella’s doors and windows. The stepmother recalled a recent brouhaha when another young girl’s lover had been caught climbing up to her bedroom on her hair. As an added precaution, Cinderella was locked in the highest tower of the manor, because her hair didn’t quite reach the ground.
Then an invitation to a ball so grand that it took place over the course of three nights, arrived from the palace. The dates? The last three days of Cinderella’s grounding. Although Cinderella begged, cried and threatened, the stepmother remained firm. Cinderella would not attend the ball.
Cinderella’s father returned home after hearing disparaging remarks about his character and neglect of his family, and unsettling rumors of his daughter’s escapades. He was outraged by his wife’s decision to keep Cinderella from the ball. Still, she would not be swayed. She really cared for the girl. Maybe missing the ball would force her to come to her senses.
Cinderella’s father refused to attend the ball with his wife and her daughters. He spent the evening drinking with an old friend, Charles Perrault, bemoaning the sad turn his life had taken and wishing he could leave behind an untarnished legacy. Charles was empathetic, well aware of the trials of marriage and of raising teenagers.
The next day, Charles, inspired by the father’s plight and intrigued with the notion of rewriting the father’s history, penned a short but captivating work of speculative fiction, Cinderella or The Little Glass Slipper. He was so pleased with the results, he included it in his Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités: Contes de ma mère l’Oye. (Tales from Times Past with Morals: Stories of Mother Goose). Concerned that the inaccuracies might tarnish his own reputation, he published the work under the name of his son Pierre (Perrault) Darmancourt. The rest is history.
Or is it? The cruel deception of Cinderella’s rags to riches story renders suspect all the fairy tales we have come to love and believe. I, for one, will read them will a little more skepticism than I once did.
April 23, 2011
I cannot believe it’s been exactly six years since I last saw you. I remember you were eating strawberry Cool-Whip, right from the container. Then you went to work in my van. I never saw you again. Well, seeing you in the casket doesn’t count, because it didn’t look like you; it wasn’t you.
I still miss you so much that I try not to think of you too often or listen to songs that remind me of you. How eerie it was (still is) that on the way to mom’s that day, you made me listen to that Bruce Springsteen song, Paradise. You said it was the closest description of heaven you’d ever heard. I listened to it a million times after you died. I couldn’t find heaven in it at all.
That’s why you were going to work that night. You wanted the extra money to go to the Bruce Springsteen concert. It’s all so clear still. I’m glad. I relived that two hour drive to mom and dad’s for months because I was so afraid I’d forget.
Remember that Bush song that played on the radio? Glycerine. I wondered what it meant and you expounded at length. I looked up the meaning after I got home. You were so full of crap; you really had no idea why Gavin Rossdale wrote it.
Remember the snow? I was so nervous. I hated (still hate) driving in the snow. You were kind of pompous because you were a truck driver. “I’ve driven over a million miles. I know how to drive in the snow.” Maybe. But driving in the snow is what killed you.
The kids miss you. You were one of those uncles that let them play video games or watch movies that I didn’t approve of. Instead of paying bills, you showered them with gifts on birthdays and Christmas. You let them ride in your big truck, or drive Dad’s pick-up even though they didn’t have a drivers permit. You taught the two boys and Daughter³ to fight with lightsabers. You had always won battles against Son¹. I remember the day he won his first battle against you. He was so proud. You babysat and changed diapers, you listened to my older girls and treated them like grown-ups. They all love you very much and although D³ was only two years old when you died, she talks about you often.
I never went through the anger they say is a stage of grief. I knew you were meant to go and that you were better off and much happier. I knew if I could just ask and it would bring you back, I wouldn’t. It would have been selfish to do that to you. You were one of those people who never really grew up and that made life here tough for you.
I wish I could talk to you though. I was so curious what you would think of Gavin DeGraw. Now I wonder what you would think of the Kings of Leon. I wonder what you would have thought of the last Star Wars movie. You were so excited to see it, but you died about a month before it came out. I thought it was good, but I cried because you weren’t there.
The hardest thing about your death was that you died alone in an ambulance. I wished I could have been there. One day, as I was praying for you I realized I could be there with you. I prayed so long and fervently that God would let you feel me with you when you died. He can do anything, and He is outside of time. I knew He would do that for me, because I wanted it so badly. Then I imagined holding your hand from the time you crashed until you died in the ambulance, and I kept telling you it was OK because your big sister was with you.
I’ve learned about death since you’ve been gone and hope. Your loss is infinitely unbearable, and at the same time because of faith it is infinitely bearable. The next time I see you, you can tell me what you think of Gavin DeGraw, Kings of Leon and Revenge of the Sith. I’m sure you’ll have much to say.
April 20, 2011
We all have them. Guilty pleasures that we’re embarrassed to admit we indulge in or we admit to them with a sort of shameful pride.
These are the first three that came to mind in no particular order.
Guilty Pleasure 1-Tuesday evening, a box of Cheez-Its, a glass of wine, and What Not to Wear on the TV. I don’t watch much TV. It’s hard to get the remote in a house of seven. But my family knows not to mess with me when What Not to Wear is on. They also know not to mess with the Cheez-Its. If I’m in a good mood I’ll share.
Guilty Pleasure 2-Kings of Leon song “Sex on Fire”. The first time I heard it I didn’t quite catch all the lyrics, but I really liked the song (especially those drums!) I knew I couldn’t listen to it around the kids. Then I decided to look up the words. Wow. I was alone and I blushed. Now it is a guilty pleasure I do without. I guess that makes it more of an ex-guilty pleasure.
Guilty Pleasure 3-I don’t exercise. I take great pleasure in that because I do not enjoy it. I’ve paid my dues. After wrestling with my weight for years, I got really serious about it. It took me about five years to lose forty pounds and keep it off. I stopped exercising for a while but I didn’t want my weight to creep back up so I started again. Suddenly I was gaining weight. No, I wasn’t eating anymore than I had been. No, it wasn’t muscle. It was a paunchy little gut and my pants were too tight. So I stopped exercising, the paunch vanished and I haven’t gained any weight. That works for me.
Of course, I walk around in my four inch heels (that tones the calves) and I run up and down stairs all day. I think that must count for something.
Potential Guilty Pleasure 4-D² (second child/second daughter) suggested that my penchant for rock ballads is a guilty pleasure. I disagree. There is no guilt or shame in liking and listening to (even if it’s a million times) a good rock ballad. In fact, I think this is a topic for another post: The Best Rock Ballads of All Time.
Do you have any guilty pleasures that you want to admit to? BTW-I’m not talking about adult guilty pleasures. There are other places to share those.
April 18, 2011
You gaze lovingly with pride at your bundle of joy. You’ve nurtured and labored for so long. The pain, the sacrifice, the years of waiting are all behind you. No, I’m not talking about having a baby. I’m talking about writing a book.
You know what happens after a mother has a baby, but what happens when a writer finishes a book? Publication is a long, complicated process and querying (writers shudder at that word), the first step, is the most difficult.
Querying is not something you can understand or empathize with if you’ve never experienced it. Imagine (just go with me here, OK) you’re a new parent, certain that your special baby will enrich the world even if it’s only with a coo that makes people smile. This is the feeling a writers have about their manuscripts (it’s not a book until it’s published).
Let’s say you’ve heard about a new hit reality show, “The Life of Adorable Babies”, that promises to be the perfect opportunity to share your special bundle of joy. But to get an audition, you need an agent to represent you.
Your first step in procuring an agent is your child’s photograph. This photo is crucial.
Hundreds parents are bombarding agents with photos of their special children. Only a few are chosen. Therefore, you can’t submit the typical photo of a smiling baby. It must be so creative and striking that an agent chooses to contact you over the others to discuss the possibility of representing your child.
What a dilemma. Your child is adorable in so many ways: sleeping, smiling, drooling orange carrots. She’s even adorable when she’s screaming for heaven’s sake. How can one photo possibly communicate the uniqueness of your child? But one is all you get.
For a writer, this photograph is called a query letter. We get about three hundred words or one page to interest an agent enough to want to get to know our “baby” personally. Trying to condense a labor of love that has cost sleepless nights, worn out brain cells and many years of one’s life into one minuscule page is very daunting. But writers do it because we want to enrich the world with our labor of love.
After working almost as hard on the query as the book, a writer begins sending it to agents. Surely each agent will see it’s uniqueness and clamor for the opportunity to represent this work, just as you imagine they would see the uniqueness of your baby in his photo.
Agents are busy people. Their primary job is to represent current clients, a full-time endeavor by itself. Yet they somehow find time to read the hundreds of queries they receive each week from unpublished writers. These queries become the dreaded “slushpile”.
Imagine sending your baby’s photo, knowing its fate may be the “slushpile”. But you’ve followed all the guideline and requirements, and darn it, your baby is so cute. How could anyone resist?
Then you begin getting responses. Most of them are form responses:
“Dear Parent, Your baby is not what we are looking for at this time. Keep in mind that other agents may be looking for babies like yours, so don’t be discouraged or take this rejection personally.” Hmmm.
Some of the responses are more personal:
“Dear Ms. Parent, Although your baby shows promise, he is lacking a certain sparkle in his eyes and freckles. The babies we represent have freckles. We will have to pass at this time. Best of luck to you.”
“Dear Mr. Parent, This baby has potential, but I would have liked to see curly brown hair instead of straight brown. I also feel that if you had waited until the other top front tooth had come in, the smile would be more engaging. Of course, there are other agents looking for exactly this kind of baby. Don’t give up.” Ouch.
After a certain number of rejections, you begin to doubt–maybe your baby isn’t as special as you thought. Or you get defensive and angry (I certainly never did) and you decide those damn agents don’t know what they’re talking about; it’s their loss.
You’re faced with a choice. Plow ahead or give up.
You may decide to take another photo (or rewrite the query ten times) and send it out to other agents, hoping one of them will see the unique sparkle in your baby’s eyes and take a chance on her. Or you may decide that your skin is not thick enough and the world will have to be deprived of the joy that is your baby.
April 15, 2011
I’m not exactly sure what it means to have it all.
Maybe Halle Berry is an example of a woman that has it all. Brains, beauty, talent, that body, a baby, a flourishing career and Gabriel Aubry.
Nope. She doesn’t have it all. So I googled “you can have it all”. Here’s a small sampling of the results:
- A Woman CEO’s View: No, You Can’t Have It All
- Christina Aguilera Says Women Can Have It All
- The Myth that Women Can “Have It All”
- Note to Working Women: You Can Have It All
- I want the house to stay clean.
- I want the laundry done properly.
- I want my children to have a good education academically and morally.
- I want to have Cheez-Its and mochas more often.
- I want to get out of the slushpile.
- I want to spend more time with my husband.
I already know the first two are impossible, therefore I can be certain I will never have it all. I’m OK with that.
I’m not OK with what the “You Can Have It All” mentality did to you and I.
It made us feel that we were less if we chose a career over a family or a family over a career. And if we chose both, it made us feel inferior if the stress of a career and family took it’s toll on us. It actually diminished us.
The most damaging result of the “You Can Have It All” mentality is the effect it had on relationships between women. We were made to feel that there was only one right choice, but nobody ever agreed what that was. Women began to eye each other suspiciously. Some felt superior to those who made different choices. Others became very insecure in their own choice. Many were resentful. The choice they were taught was correct left them unfulfilled and unhappy.
Even now, gatherings have the potential to become uncomfortable ordeals, each group with its own impenetrable circle: working women with children, stay-at-home moms, and working women without children, mixing only when necessary with superficial niceness.
I say we change the slogan of womanhood from “You Can Have It All” to “You Can Do What You Are Called To Do”. That’s not very catchy. Oh well, we don’t need a slogan.
Let’s just meet for coffee or martinis and trade stories about our unique lives in the trenches.
April 12, 2011
Love is complicated. So complicated that the definition of this tiny one syllable word has twenty-eight different meanings.
Many meanings. One commonality–we all want it. And once we have it, we want to know how much of it we’re getting.
“How much do you love me?” Child to parent. Wife to husband. Boyfriend to girlfriend. Sister to brother. Friend to friend.
We may ask with different words or nuances, but in essence it’s always the same question.
We listen expectantly for the response. Even as we listen, we watch intently because actions really do speak louder than words. We can be told we’re loved five hundred times a day, yet words can be so empty, even the most meaningful.
We’re not sure it’s love until we see it. But what exactly are we looking for?
Fun? Attraction? Rapport? Affection? Fidelity? Forgiveness? Tolerance? Pleasure? Intimacy?
These are some of the things that draw us into various relationships and keep us there. They contribute to the leap from like to love, but they don’t prove love.
I suspect it boils down to sacrifice.
After S² (second son/fourth child) was born, my husband began bringing mocha lattes to me. It sounds like a small thing. It was huge. That man went to Caribou Coffee every day for over a year. For me. Sun, snow, rain or sleet–no matter what his morning schedule was. He never got one for himself.
The sacrifice becomes clearer as I look back. I appreciated it at the time, but I also began to expect it. The very few times he didn’t go I was disappointed, and I am ashamed to admit that I would actually ask him to go get one. Without complaint he would go.
All the flowers, the laughs, the time spent together, even the trials we’ve weathered showed me he cared. In the sacrifices, some great and others small, I saw love.
April 10, 2011
It was one of those things I swore I’d never have. I also swore I’d never wear four inch heels. Those things have a way of coming back to bite you.
“You need to be on Facebook if you’re going to do a blog,” my friend, Artisté, told me.
I hated to admit that she was right, but she was–all of the “Starting a Blog” blogs agreed on that. So I got a Facebook account.
Here is the first post on my wall (It’s more than a little pathetic):
“Remember your first day of high school or college, before you knew your way around but everyone around you knew where they were going? Intimidating. That’s how I feel right now in the vastness that is Facebook.”
After that, I sat staring at my wall or the news feed hoping the more I stared the more I would understand. I learned it is not a process of osmosis. I had to figure it out myself.
Artisté helped as much as she could and referred a list of people that I might want to friend. I mistakenly thought they wanted to friend me, so I clicked on them all, even those I didn’t know.
But as I began to friend and be friended, I grew excited. So many conversations going on between people I knew that I could join. So many people I had lost touch with. I couldn’t wait to say “hi”.
I sat once again staring at the News Feed. Suddenly, it wasn’t like the first day of school anymore. It was like arriving late to a class reunion. All the people I was excited to see seemed to be in the middle of a conversation with someone else as I stood awkwardly at the entrance thinking: What is the polite way to break into their conversation? Will they think I’m an idiot? What the heck am I going to say/write? Other than “Hi, how have you been?”, I had no idea.
I would strengthen my resolve and click on someone’s wall. Then stare at the screen paralyzed because I still had no idea what to do or say. I would call to one of my daughters, (I hate whining, but I think that is what it occasionally sounded like). They were very patient. If they rolled their eyes, they did it behind my back.
“I need help. What am I supposed to say?”
“Just go on a wall and write something. You’re over-thinking it.”
“They’re in the middle of something with another person. I don’t want to interrupt.”
“You’re not interrupting. That doesn’t even make sense. You just post something.”
I know that one day I’ll be comfortable on Facebook. I’ll leave the nervous freshman in me behind to become the confident sophomore, posting a trail of humorous comments and little snippets on walls throughout its vast expanse.
Maybe after I finish writing this post and drinking my glass of wine, I’ll give it one more try. Well, it is getting late. I think I’ll wait until tomorrow.
April 8, 2011
It’s just around the corner. No, not bathing suit season. Flip-flop season.
OK, this needs some set-up. I’m short (barely five feet) and I like shoes. When I was in high school with very limited cash flow, I bought cheap stilettos and wore them often. Hence my problem– Bunions.
Well, I’m still short and I still love shoes and just to make things intersting my husband is six feet two inches tall. I still wear high shoes and I still have bunions. They are not pretty.
To hide the bunions, I fought the open toe shoe craze and I never wore open toe sandals in the summer. Talk about misery. Not the bunions. Trying to find gorgeous closed toe shoes and sandals.
The only plus is nobody ever saw my feet so I didn’t have to worry about what they looked like. I could ignore that obnoxious but hard-and-fast rule that says visible toes must be polished.
Last summer I threw in the towel, swallowed some of my pride and bought three pairs of open toe sandals. Then I headed out as fast as I could for a pedicure, the second one I’ve ever had.
The nail technician doing the pedicure told me that I had to be vigilant removing the dead skin from my feet, especially my heels. That is the tell-tale sign that a person is not taking care of their feet. It is the first thing people notice, even more than the polish. Seriously?
A few weeks ago I watched a video about fashion trends (clothing trends not shoe trends). Someone left a comment that they couldn’t believe the host’s dried out heels. Ouch.
Why are feet so important? Women who have more on their minds than what they wear (for example a mother with lots of small children and very little free time), or women who are obviously not interested in fashion take the time to polish their toe nails in order to wear flip flops. This is not a comment on how they choose to dress, rather on how extremely important foot decorum is in our society.
I understand that some woman want their feet to look nice. Polished toes and smooth feet certainly are more attractive. I don’t understand why this rule applies to everyone, even those of us who could care less.
I just don’t get it. Why is the appearance of a woman’s feet so important? Couldn’t the rule be something like eyes must have mascara or lips must be glossed? It would be so much easier.
April 6, 2011
Our friends’ baby died recently. He was only three weeks old. Words cannot express their devastation. Words cannot express my sorrow and love to them.
Yet words are needed in this situation to express the inexpressible. A warm hug and a sympathetic look only goes so far. There are many compassionate people who have the gift of comforting those who are grieving.
I’m not one of those people. I’m always at a loss for words when faced with someone’s heartbreaking loss. I find myself murmuring platitudes and looking at the floor.
My youngest brother died tragically six years ago this month. Before his death, I had never experienced the death of someone close to me. We were very close. I was his big sister and he was my baby brother, but as we grew up we also became good friends. His loss literally broke my heart. For months afterwards, people would ask me how I was doing. I knew their words masked the inexpressible. Still, there were times I wanted to glare and ask them how did they think I was.
I remember clearly that I wanted to talk about my brother. I was so afraid that if I stopped talking about him it would mean I had forgotten him. The most comforting words I heard in those awful months after he died were: “Tell me about your brother. What was he like?” Not many people asked.
Nor is it a question I ask others, so afraid the memory will be painful and not wanting to cause more pain. You would think after my experience I would know what to say to someone who’s lost a loved one and when to say it. Even now that first thing that pops out of my mouth is a clumsy, “How are you doing?”
I saw my friend a few days ago. “How are you…” I stopped. “I’m sorry that’s a stupid question.”
She was very gracious. “It’s OK. I know what you meant.”
“I would love to get together when your up for it, ” I told her. “I’d love to hear all about your baby.”
There were a few tears, but I knew I didn’t need to feel bad about causing them. “I would love that,” she said.