Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cryptic

Something's going to happen, you can bet on that. Something big. Bigger than a bread box? Maybe. Bigger than the Empire State Building? Not that big. Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. But something is going to happen. Soon. How soon? Tomorrow? Probably not. The day after that? Maybe. Maybe in a week. That's a long time to wait. My interest is peaked, and I want to know now. Sorry. I shouldn't have told you, I guess. I'm not very good at keeping secrets. But I can tell you this . . . something's going to happen. I wish I could tell you more, but it'll have to wait. I'm not good at waiting. I might go insane with wondering what it is! You shouldn't have told me! Oh, I haven't told you anything yet. But IT is going to be fantastic. I'd better shut up about it. Have some wine, will ya? All right. It's killing me. I know. It's killing me too.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Iffy Jiffy

I don't know if I've told this story here before, but it's a memory which still manages to crack me up, so maybe it will have the same effect on you. A long time ago when I still living at home, my mom bought a jar of peanut butter with the words "BAD—DO NOT EAT" written on it in black permanent marker. My brother and I asked her why in the world she would buy something like that: food with dangerous warnings written on it? A closer inspection showed its seal had been broken under the lid. She said she didn't know, and put it in the cabinet.

"Well, you're not going to eat it, are you?!"

"I'm not going to throw it away." You have to understand Mom's positiong: she grew up in the latter stages of The Great Depression and never, ever threw an ounce of food away. Why, one time my brother took a bite of an apple, threw it in the trash, and Mom dug it out of the trash then handed it to him. "Eat it." I know that example can only slightly explain her strange need to adopt an unwanted container of peanut butter. Or whatever reasoning she came up with to actually some of it.

Two days later Mom said she didn't feel very well; she's dizzy. It might be the peanut butter.

"You'll throw it away then, right?"

"Maybe."

Another day passes, and the dizziness has gotten worse. "Yes, it must be that peanut butter." My brother reached into the cabinet and threw the peanut butter into the trash.

Mom looked at it with forlorn longing. We watched her ruminating between food waste and death.

She chose waste. Good old waste.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Henry

I'll tell you a little story about my dachshund Henry, because he's my other kid. We wake up early, really early every morning. I make the coffee, he goes outside to do his business. Then we get Julia up and get her ready for school. He sits in the front yard and waits for the bus with us. Always has, even as a puppy.

His big treat every day is a walk around the block. One day in the fall I forgot he had gone out front after a neighbor had stopped by, and later couldn't find him. I frantically combed the neighborhood, drove around the block with my head out the window just hoping he'd show up. Sure enough, he was on the sidewalk taking his own little walk without me. I tried to get him to come to the car, but he became scared and ran off. I drove up the house and there he was on the front porch waiting  . . . as if it'd never happened. "Did you notice anything missing?" I asked, picking him up. "Like  . . . me, for instance?"

A few weeks ago he got out when a salesman came around, and an hour later I hear a bark at the door. I let him in, just sure he'd taken his own little walk again. "Oh hi Henry. How was it?"

He was going to do it again today. I saw him heading for the sidewalk, ears all perked and legs in a jaunty trot. "Oh no you don't. Come here." I slipped the harness around his neck and tied him up. All he had to wait was about five minutes for Liam to get on the bus, then we—WE—would take our walk.

Anyone else have a dog story? I know Cro might! Lay 'em on me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Duo

Here's my Julia with all the lilacs we picked yesterday from the back yard. And another with Liam. They're both being sooooo cool.

My sweet girl. 
Liam is standing on a stool so he can be tall like Egon from Ghostbusters. Have I told you how much he makes me play that game with him? I haven't? Well, just know that it's a lot. 

Room for love

Kate Winslet was on a talk show today speaking about a book she co-wrote called, The Golden Hat: Talking Back to Autism. It's to bring awareness of the silence Autistics endure. I believe the book's contents are pictures of children along with various celebrities, who all don a black felt hat as a symbol for the silence, and also for the hope of breakthrough. As Kate so beautifully said, expressing yourself is every child's basic human right. The book will be out tomorrow.

There's nothing more devastating to a parent then finding out their child has some kind of disorder, especially one that keeps them from progressing in a "normal" society. I thank God every day for the progress Julia has made. First, I credit her for working hard. Then her teachers and peers. Then me. It's a group effort. I admit, I chose the less invasive route, keeping things organic; I didn't want her to go to a million sessions of therapy that she may or may not like or even respond to. I kind of knew that her best way to develop was in a regular environment. So basically all her therapy came at school in little chunks every day. I could have sent her to every therapist under the sun, and maybe I should have. But something told me it would stunt her on an emotional level. I've watched her react to people telling her to DO THIS! DO THAT! and I would see her shrink into herself and cut off her responses. We'd get in the car and OH, Julia's back.

But in the beginning, I was scared. Why wasn't my little girl saying anything? Then I'd get mad because she wouldn't listen. I'd be right there speaking to her and she would walk off somewhere as if she hadn't heard a single word. It was so frustrating to go out in public and not be able to control my own kid. Then I was sad. So sad. Would she ever have a normal life? What did I do wrong? I must have been a horrible mother! And then, why? Why me? Why Julia? I was so alone. None of my family wanted to come over and visit or babysit. But I started to formulate my own thearpy. I read and read and read to her, and asked querstions. Even if she didn't answer, I still asked. Then I used puppets to teach her how to say her name. "Hi, my name is Toby the dog. What's your name?" I'd say it for her, "My name is Julia." Months passed and she finally walked into the room and said to me, "My name is Julia," and walked out.

Now, you wouldn't even know. She's a beautiful, delightful bright girl. Artistic, funny, loving. I had to wait many years to hear her say she loved me, and now she says it all the time. A mother's greatest gift.

Sometimes she will come up to me and say, "Mom, I remember when this or that happened," and it was from a time when she was lost to the world—or so I thought. Just remember, no one is ever lost. No matter the disability, every human is taking in and experiencing the world around them. Can you imagine how painful it would be to not respond, not laugh, not say your name? Can you?

You can help by being open-minded and by giving love. There's always room for love.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Happy Things

I have a few favorite things that I'd like to share with you, so that your life will be a crapload better than it already is. Of course, you may not like these things at all. And for that, I pity you, I really do. Here they are:

Fruit Roll-ups have put out a natural-ish product that has real fruit, kind of like they way they used to be. They're really good. When I was a kid these things always hit the spot, along with a Jello Pudding Pop (heyheyhey) and some Lemon Coolers. You remember those cookies? I wish they would come around again too, but alas, it doesn't look like it'll happen.

Nordic Naturals strawberry flavored cod liver oil. I know, sounds absolutely gross, but I love this stuff. A teaspoon or two every day makes my brain work much more efficiently. I can really tell the difference.

A McDonald's hazelnut cappuccino. I shouldn't like these things, but I do.

Carrots. Yep. Just good ole plain carrots.

Emergen-C, acai berry. When I need some extra energy, or I'm starting to feel a cold coming on, I drink one or two of these and feel better in a snap. The powdery flavor took a bit of getting used to, but now I love them. My kids do too.

Brown sugar. It makes cookies so much softer. White sugar is not only bad for you, but will dry out your confections and make them crispy. Don't worry about it making your cookies darker, it's worth it.

Vinegar. Another way to soften confections. The flavor cooks out and you end up with a richer dough.

Red Cider Vinegar. Drink a little bit diluted with water every day and it will help break down your cholesterol and improve your skin.

Sugar and baking soda scrub. This is what you can use your white sugar for. Add two tablespoons of each in a small container with a little bit of water, and scrub your face (or hands) gently in the shower a couple times a week. Just watch those dead skin cells slough away! Don't add the water until you're in the shower or the sugar will dissolve too fast. Many people think that those apricot scrubs from the store are good for their skin, but they can scratch and scar.

Real books. I have books everywhere. Oh boy how I have tried to enjoy reading on an e-reader, but I love the feel and smell of a real book. They're my friends. Really.

Dr. Pepper. I want one now.

Laverne & Shirley. Every night. Every, single, night.

Libraries, especially in the summertime.

Driving at night with the windows open.

My kids.

And so much more that I can't even list it all. What are your favorite things?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Shy Writers vs Social Writers

How many of you are going to see The Hunger Games this weekend? I won't be just yet, but it won't be long. I heard something about the author Suzanne Collins that I found interesting: she's not really into all the press and fame of being a best-seling author. I don't think that's unusual, but I do think there are writers out there who dream of such fame, and would love to walk the red carpet, get interviewed on major talk shows, etc. If you think about it, though, aren't most writers introverts? I know I am. Yes, a writer wants recognition for their work. But deep down, writers just want to write. And many of us began our love of writing because of our love for reading. It's hard to read and talk to folks at the same time, hence the introvert tendency!

But I'm being sterotypical. I know there are plenty of writers who are extroverts, and who love the social side of it.

What type are you? Do you dream of making it big someday so that you can attend book signings and premiers? Or do you just want to be able to write without any interruptions?

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Good-bye light and good weather

Day three, and the rain has momentarily stopped, but there's more to come. Oh well, it's good for the garden and all those spring flowers. But I wouldn't mind a bit of sun, no I wouldn't. The kids had Spring Break last week, and they had the best weather for it. Every day was 70 degrees or higher. Perfect, perfect weather. We played on the swings, drew with sidewalk chalk, kept the windows open, rode bikes. Ah, the good old days. But now rain. Oh, well . . .  at least it's not snow. We didn't have any this year, but believe me, I don't want any now. It's too late to come around!

It was hard getting the kids back into school mode. Julia was sort of glum about it. She likes school, but  lately she's been asking if it's the weekend yet, and when it's the weekend, she asks if it's still Saturday. Today she was slow to get on the bus and I had to sort of nudge her along; her face was so sad looking out the window. I usually get a handful of kisses blown my way, but not today : (

Henry the dachshund and I have a routine of taking a walk every day, but with this rain there's been only a few short, soggy walks. He lies around with a pathetic, guilt-inducing expression, and sighs a lot. I think he left all his toys out in the rain, that might explain it. And he's too depressed to go out and rescue them from another deluge. If you know dachshunds then you understand the desperation which has plagued his life. He won't accept treats, and he barely eats. All because it's raining. I might go out a save a squeaky ball for him this afternoon. That should cheer him up.

Someone needs to save us from this cloud!Send a raft! A ray of light. Some chocolate. I'll take anything.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Green coffee, anyone?

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone. This is usually a time of transition from winter to spring, so that's one reason to love the day. Being part Irish, I love the day 'just because.' I love the parade, I love corned beed and cabbage, I love the green grass sprouting up with drops of dew. I've never understood why it's turned into a day of getting plastered though. Like Marti Gras. To me, it's a day to see all things new and fresh. To enjoy life and nature. How about you, what do you do for St Patty's Day? Are you wearing green? Not yet? Pinch! Much luck to you, my friends in the year ahead.

Rub for good luck:



And here's a scene from Brigadoon. The magic town is located somewhere in Scotland, but some of the same Irish ideals apply.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Charles Dikkens . . .

My niece and nephew will be over today so I won't have access to a computer. Here's a video to keep you entertained while I entertain pre-teens. I see lots of YouTube, tag, and cookie-making in my future.

The best sketch ever. Ever.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Getting Serious

Has anyone here thought about, or already completed, getting an MFA in creative writing? I think most deadlines for application are in January, so I'd have a year to think about this. But it's really weighing heavily on my mind. I do not think a person needs to have one to be a good writer, but it does help narrow the focus so that a writer can have time to read the best work, and to aspire to produce the best work. 15 credit hours would be set aside just for writing a thesis, which I believe would be a completed novel, or collection of short stories (both of which I've already done, ironically enough). Why, you ask then, would I care when I already have a book coming out? Good question. And I'm not getting any younger. Why am I considering this? I don't know. I guess just want to be the best writer I can be.

The other thing I'm considering, and it's almost as serious as an MFA, is this A to Z challenge. Probably gonna do it, but geez that thing is a tough gig. I did meet some really great people last year so it's totally worth it. And if I slip, then OH WELL. You guys can all do a shot when I miss a letter!  Happy April, *hiccup.*

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Small Presses Can Achieve Great things

Just wanted to post a link for this article about small presses getting respect in the publishing world. http://www.kansascity.com/2012/03/09/3479512/small-presses-thrive-in-book-critics.html Of course, it's no surprise to me!

Also, don't forget to check out BookPage every once in a while. It can be found online or in print at your local library. To me, it's one of the best places to find new releases and author interviews. I haven't gotten used to Goodreads yet, which is ridiculous. It's like a party line for fast readers. I can read fast but I'm just so darn ADD. I'm working on it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Phantom

I just wanted to let you know that there's a wonderful production of The Phantom of the Opera playing on PBS this week. It's absolutely gorgeous so don't miss it. I used to listen obsessively to the Michael Crawford/Sarah Brightman version on cd, but hadn't been able to see the whole show until now. Thank you Great Performances and PBS.




It gives you chills.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Premonitions





We are approaching the one hundredth anniversary of the Titanic disaster. I've always had an insatiable curiosity about the Titanic, from everything to the ship's architecture to the people who sailed (and perished). The amount of premonitions which surfaced afterwards always fascinated me: some heeded, some ignored. They came in the form of dreams and bad feelings in the gut. Again, not all were listened to. One that was eerily exact came from an American author named Morgan Robertson. In 1898 he released a novel called Futility which later had its title changed to The Wreck of the Titan. It wouldn't have been remembered past its time had it not almost completely mirrored the Titanic disaster in 1912.  Here are some of the uncanny details taken from Robertson's fictional account of a luxury liner that crosses the Atlantic, hits an iceberg and loses a great amount of passengers due to lack of sufficient lifeboats.

Robertson's Titan: Sailed in April, 800 feet long, 3 propellers, speed of 24-25 knots, 2,000 passengers aboard, 24 lifeboats, watertight bulkheads: 19, Engines: triple, side of damage: Starboard.

Titanic: Sailed April 10th, 1912, 882.5 feet long, 3 propellers, speed of 24-25 knots, 2,230 passengers, 20 lifeboats, watertight bulkheads: 15, Engines: triple, side of damage: Starboard.

It's uncanny. No one could have come up with these details to such an exact extent. And likewise, no one would have gone to such lengths to replicate them after having read the book. Perhaps it was an early warning from the cosmos in the hopes that someone might listen and avoid such a disater. Sadly, it was not taken.

You can read most of the book here if you'd like.

Have you ever had a premonition that made you think twice?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Decision . . .

I've made a very tough decision, but it's been brewing for awhile. I've decided to stop performing musically--at this time. Later on I might do it, but currently it brings too much grief to be worth my time. I am fairly good at writing, and I do enjoy it tremendously--it brings a lot of peace. I enjoy music tremendously as well. But I can't do both. This whole year has been me trying to do both and failing. At the root of the problem is my body dysmorphic disorder--seeing myself as ugly. I don't think I'm ugly when I look at myself in the mirror at home. I love myself and think I look fine. But when I go out, and especially when I have to perform, it's awful. I feel hideous. Then somebody takes a pic of me and I just die inside. I've tried so very hard to get over this problem, but it's still there. When I write, I feel beautiful. It's just me and the words and the amy that is the amy I love, not the monster amy that is ugly beyond words and stupid and a failure. So you can see why I'd make this choice. I have a talent for music, but it's destroying me, literally. Trying to pursue it this past year has really messed with my writing: the blog, keeping up with other writers, promotion, etc. That takes a lot of work.

So, it's sad, but I choose the path that will ultimately (and presently) bring me a happier life. I also need stay focused on Julia and Liam--so it's their happiness as well.

But I did have a dream last night where I announced that I'd stop performing and a lady began to cry. Now I know in real life that ain't gonna to happen. At least in my dreams someone will remember Amy, the songwriter. It's been such a hard struggle. Maybe if I'd had that nose job a few years back, haha.

Now, on with writing.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chevy

I've mentioned this before, but part of Mom's duties at our local library were social services. This included loans of food, money and clothing for the needy in town. But mostly mom was a library clerk, something they've never credited her for doing. But back to the social services. While she was handing out money so people could pay their bills, we were barely making it at home. I remember eating dry spaghetti and bullion cubes many times before grocery day. It was always so lovely when the house was full of food. My tummy would hurt so bad from overstuffing myself with cookies and whatever treats we'd been able to buy. But sometimes those shopping trips happened only because Mom had given herself a loan, just like the other folks, but not like the other folks. One day, and I remember this because it was summer and very hot, Mom brought home a trash bag full of doughnuts that the bakery had been about to throw away. As she pulled open the trunk to her car, and showed me all the smashed and gooey doughnuts, the thought went through my head that this was wrong—no person should eat food out of a trash bag, not even a doughnut. But when she brought home a bag full of donated clothes that had already been picked through by the needy, I felt neither excitement or sadness. I was already wearing my sister's hand-me-downs so more, or where it came from, mattered little at that point. There was one shirt I grew to like, and this is more of the tomboy coming out in me—it was brown with a big green toad on it that was made with a shiny, puffy decal. I just loved that shirt. It got so that I wore it almost every other day. But then one morning at school a boy came up to me on the stair leading to third grade reading. He looked me in the eye and said, "That used to be mine." A wave of shame spread through me, my cheeks lit up with a hot blush. As soon as I got home I tore off that shirt and never wore it again.

Being poor isn't a sin. I look back at these things and I feel a sort of melancholy about it all. Like I lived a modern day Dickens novel, if you will. Being poor is great for your soul. And there's always that camel thing. However, I've heard many times that when asked, most people would say they'd rather have money. I would too. It's like driving around in a hot Ford one summer, and the next a nice, air-conditioned Chevy. I'd rather take the Chevy.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Hill

Do you remember your first bike? Mine was brown with big tires that could get through the mud and do pop wheelies like Evel Keneivel. When we went to the store for my birthday I had a choice out of all the bikes, but the brown Huffy was the first thing I saw and I was afraid that if I said I didn't want it Mom would change her mind and buy me something cheap instead, like a puzzle. So, even though she kept pointing to all the girls' bikes that were sparkly pink with rainbow streamers, I said no. No, I want this bike.

Sometimes I had to act like a tomboy just to get through the social trials of the neighborhood, so having a boy's bike could be quite lucrative in the scope of things. It did, indeed, secure me a spot in a little competition the boys had been having the last few weeks. Construction crews had created a huge pile of loose dirt while working on a sewer ditch, and so that became a part of a obstacle route, with the finale riding up the hill without falling backwards. The whole thing started at the east end of the forest, winding through, ending up at the west end—near the Koniziter's house. Each time I followed the track, I was able to cut a few seconds off my time, but I could never get to the top.  If I felt gravity pulling me backwards, I'd veer to the right and pedal back into the forest to start again. The trick was having enough speed and pulling a pop wheelie at the right time, which acted as a sort of power boost to cut through the forces of inertia. Several boys had made it but I was, sadly, still a failure.

That Friday evening, after everyone else had gone home for dinner, I looked at my brown Huffy and decided to try the track just one more time. I could do it—I'd gotten so close before. The boys, and all their celebrating, had distracted me. Surely this time I could get over the hill. When I did, I'd knock on all their doors to tell them about it. They could believe me or not.

I started strong—it felt good to be in the forest all by myself with dusk reaching through the branches, though it was cold and I wished I had brought a jacket. Following the creek, I ran over branches and rocks, moss, the old stone bridge. It all became a blur as I approach the last, great obstacle. First confident, I now felt the adrenaline seep from my stomach, leaving only doubt and fear. My feet refused to listen. This time would be a success.

Loose dirt fought against the Huffy's tires, like butter. Birds shrieked from the darkness of the trees go home, go home. But I couldn't. Not now. All those boys had to know I meant business. That I could accomplish things too. Girls weren't weak, we didn't just want dolls and dresses, though I did want those things from time to time. But right now I wanted respect. I wanted to hold my head high.

As I approached the top of the hill, gravity began to pull me backward. I leaned in and ground the pedals as hard as possible. Then I attempted the pop wheelie. Lean in, pull up fast! But I must have pulled back too hard and the Huffy and I began to tumble backwards. Nothing would save us now. I knew it, like someone falling to the earth without a parachute knows they're going to die. We floated in an arch, landing down at the bottom—bike on my left.

I told myself it was okay. They hadn't seen. If they had seen it would be much more of a devastation. It was dark when I walked the bike past all their houses. I felt the shame of having tried and having lost. Many years passed before I realized how good it was that I'd tried. That I'd had the inclination to want to win. Wanting and trying are better than safe and not knowing.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Story's Up

Another bad migraine today, but I think it's from the weather that just passed through. I noticed that as soon as the front passed, the pounding stopped. There's nothing worse than waking up and feeling that ache and nausea. My first thought is always, "How am I going to get to the coffeepot without hurling?" I'm so used to these stupid things though. Advil and Excedrin love me.

So . . . I can finally say that my story "Gossamer Boy" is up for reading. It's now in the spring issue of From the Depths--the second entry I think. There is a bit of, erm, cussing and graphic material. Yes indeed. So, just a warning there. But I wouldn't have written it any other way.

Take care everyone!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stare

It was interesting reading everyone's favorite childhood books and those posters (or swords!). When I think back to my childhood room, well, the first thing that comes to mind is that my sister and I had to share. And then I remember all the fights we had, and how someone got bubble gum on my new Holly Hobby bedspread and I had to live with it until puberty. Then I think of how my sister always got what she wanted, even my friends. And then I remember playing tag in Jennifer Cook's front yard, and everyone was so fast and I never stopped being 'it.' Then I remember Midnight Tag and Bloody Murder Tag (scary!) and T.V. Tag, which is where you have to yell out a T.V. show title before getting tapped. Then I remember the kid who used to ride his bike up to our front window every evening so he could watch our old black and white set--just for something stupid like Mork & Mindy. He'd pedal across the street afterwards and we'd all go to bed as if it had never happened. Not sure why Mom didn't just invite him in. Then I think of Mom's famous turkey loaf (comes with its own gravy!) and Sara Lee cherry cheesecake, almost unthawed. Then I think of how every other Wednesday was shopping night at the local supermarket. It had buzzing lights and a meat butcher who'd come out wearing a blood spattered white robe, and he'd stand there talking friendly to Mom with a cleaver swinging around in his hand. And the water fountain way in the back that we all had to get a sip from. We'd always stop in there on summer days to parch our thirst, and then pretend we'd lost our shopping money. Then I think of the whole town, and how every house had a set of eyes, how every person there seemed to know that things weren't always right in our house, and that their house was always right, somehow. They never had to sneak IOU's from work, or wear hand-me-downs, or pick nits out of each other's hair on the back porch. Or maybe they did. Sometimes I'd walk home from school and stare at the sun. They'd told me it would burn my retinas and make me blind. Something in me wanted to make them sad, regretful. I don't know why.

Do you believe?

Fifty-Five years ago on November 22, 1963, president John Fitzgerald Kennedy rode alongside his wife Jackie in a motorcade through the crowd...