Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reading! But Not as Much as Usual

I was reading a lot there for a while but then I got busy with Easter, Passover, out of town guests which have still not stopped (two sets of friends coming this weekend!) and home construction. I've still been reading, but nothing that has blown the top of my head off as much as Haven Kimmel and I fear I'm ruined forever now.

After A Girl Named Zippy, I had this amazing feeling of joy that when the book ended, it didn't really end because there was a sequel!!!!! She Got Up Off the Couch was just as good, if not better, than Zippy. I tried to read it slowly to drag it out because I knew once I finished that it was all over for me. No more Haven Kimmel memoirs left and since finishing it, I've gone back and forth trying to decide which book I liked better. I can't decide. The sequel is darker in some ways, but so poignantly written and I tend to like darker stuff. I can't say which is better. They are both stunning. Read these books at once.

After finishing those two, everything else has paled in comparison. It's almost like the feeling you get when you go to bed on Christmas night knowing there's nothing left to look forward to anymore. It's all over.

I searched around on Amazon looking and looking for a book that might bring me as much joy.

First I read Wade Rouse's Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler. It's a memoir of his time working for the very rich, entitled and idiotic and it definitely hit home for me, having worked for the same types myself for many years. If you liked my old blog from when I worked at the country club, you will really enjoy this book. For me, it caused post traumatic stress disorder flashbacks where I began to hallucinate Lilly Pulitzer prints.

Then I read Heather Armstrong's memoir of postpartum depression It Sucked and Then I Cried. I know, I know. I'm not a Dooce hater. I'm more of a Dooce indifferent-er. I am generally not a fan of her writing style on her blog and I wanted to read her book because of my own similar (though way way milder) experiences and because I wanted to see if I could understand her success better. The writing in the book is a bit different than in the blog and better than I expected, but her writing voice gives me an anxiety attack. There's exaggeration for exaggerations sake and then that's exaggerated some more. That's her brand and she's made millions from it. I also realized some of the key to her success, besides showing thousands of women that they aren't alone, is that she makes us see that it's possible to be a hipster and a mommy at the same time and that mommies don't have to be jumper wearing, smug frumps. Still, I didn't love the book. I didn't hate it either and there were many parts I could really relate to - probably more than I'd care to admit. Yes, I'm jealous of Heather Armstrong. She's met Gwyneth Paltrow AND Arcade Fire, takes anti-depressants and stays skinny, made millions from blogging about not much of anything and actually enjoys spin classes. I don't think she's a bad mother and I don't begrudge her success, but I just felt kind of ehn and ambivalent about her book and I attribute that entirely to that hyperbolic writing voice that honestly made me nervous and on edge as I read each page. I see why people like her, but I think I'm a little more of a book snob and having read Haven Kimmel and Mary Karr's memoirs, this isn't in the same league, but you know, it isn't supposed to be.

The other day I saw the author of a book about hoarding on The Today Show and as I seem to be on some kind of hoarding kick, I bought the book before the segment was even over. Gotta love the Kindle for that kind of instant gratification. The book is called Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee and Randy Frost. It's a non-fiction book, but not a memoir and it's incredibly fascinating to me. I think I really need to figure out why I'm so obsessed with hoarding and why I feel compelled to watch it on TV and read books about it. One good side effect is that reading just the first chapter of this book caused me to do a massive closet purge and enact some serious austerity measures regarding my own acquisition of crap. I can't put this book down, which is rare for me in a non-narrative book. It's just so damned interesting and well written and holds my attention. If you read and liked Dirty Secret or if you like the hoarding shows on TV, follow up with this read. It's really good.

I'm not sure what I want to read next, but I've taken to downloading tons of free samples onto my Kindle and entertaining myself reading them before I buy the actual books. I have quite a number to go through before I decide, but I'm thinking I want a fun summer read, so I may go young adult and just read The Hunger Games already. I've been talking about it for a year now. Any ideas for summer reading?
Monday, May 23, 2011

How to be a Better Writer (Wide Lawns style)

A while back, someone asked the famous blogger Miss Britt for advice on how to be a better writer and she replied and I was jealous, for I wanted someone to ask ME how to be a better writer. This is not because I am a better writer per se. I'll be the first to admit that writing is something I have decidedly not mastered, but while I'm not going to sit here and have the balls to call myself the greatest writer in the world, I can, without apology, say that I am an authority on bad writing. I've taught enough writing to high school and college students and sat in enough workshops with people who really wanted to write, God bless them, that I have read a lifetime's worth of terrible writing. 

This week I got grounded from the Indie Ink Challenge because I slacked and my boob got infected and I half assed my challenge and didn't get it in on time last Thursday. Still, I wanted to contribute to the world of writing in some way and although not a solitary soul asked ME how to be a better writer, I've decided to give unsolicited advice. In my writing classes I have bitten my tongue so many times that it's a wonder I still have one. When dealing with individuals, sensitive types who write, one must be kind and delicate. On the Internet though, with a pack of strangers you can say whatever the hell you like, so I'm going to give good writing advice delivered in a manner that I could never get away with in a professional setting.

Here are 21 bits of advice on how to be a better writer:

1. Read - This should be obvious but many of my students want to write and refuse to read anything at all. I don't care what you read. There are books and magazines about every possible topic known to man, so find whatever you are interested in and read about that. If you want to read US Weekly instead of Derrida then have at it. Reading is reading and the more acquainted you are with the written word and with reading instead of just hearing language, the more ease you'll have with writing. Reading should be fun. Read whatever you want.

2. Write - Duh. You wouldn't believe how many people I know say they want to be writers and they won't sit their asses down and write anything. Many of them are more enamored with the imagined romantic life of a writer than with the actual writing part of being a writer. To these people I say two things: stop trying to write and just read the stuff you like OR sitting in a bar, rolling cigarettes and looking dirty does not make you hip, edgy, Charles Bukowski or a good writer. It makes you stink, both at writing and literally. Go home, get a shower, turn the computer on and write something.

3. An ampersand in the middle of the page (and other similar attempts at cleverness) does not make a cool and postmodern "story." That is some lazy assed bullshit. Again, write something. Don't decorate a page with nonsense.

4. Stop going ape shit with pronouns at the beginning of sentences. Also, it would help to know what pronouns are in the first place before not going ape shit with them. Bad writing is often marked by a repetitive sentence pattern that goes like so: Pronoun verb blah blah blah. He did this. She did that. Change up your sentence structure and patterns throughout a piece of writing to avoid this.

5. Name your characters. Lately I've noticed a disturbing trend in the line of pronoun ape shittery where no one wants to give their characters names anymore. It's all anonymous He and She. Why? It sounds pretentious not to name these people. Who are they? Then, if you do name them, please give them names appropriate to the times in which they were born and their social status and don't give your heroines stripper names unless they are actual strippers.

6. If you have written something, especially but not limited to poetry, which contains the following imagery, please rethink what you're writing and do an extensive edit: hearts, dripping blood, flames, pain, daggers, roses, black roses and red roses in particular, thorns on said roses and the boy or girlfriend who just dumped you.

7. Do not, under any circumstances except very good satire and probably not even that, write about vampires. Vampires need to get back in their coffins or go underground or wherever they sleep and rest for a good twenty-five years or so until we can drag them back out again and reinvent them for a new generation of angsty teens. I think we need a new monster and it shouldn't be zombies because those need to stagger back to their graves for a while as well.

8. If you write fan fiction you need an ass beating. I know that fan fiction has gotten some people started writing in the first place, but stay away from it. Make up your own characters and ideas. Imagine your own magnificent worlds. Don't riff off of someone else's.

9. Don't write the first thing that comes to mind on any given topic or writing prompt. We humans aren't usually that effortlessly original. Whatever you think of first is pretty much what everyone else thinks of first too. Keep brainstorming and write about the fifth or sixth thing that comes to mind. This technique has helped me get published a number of times. I'll see a prompt or challenge or a call for submissions on a topic and I'll try to imagine what everyone else will write about and then I'll turn it on its head and write something totally unexpected, finding a new angle on the subject so that I stand out.

10. If you don't have a good hook, I don't want to read past your first few sentences and neither does anyone else. Be mindful of that first sentence. Make it unexpected and surprising. Use an unusual image, sentence structure or piece of action.

11. Start your story in the action. In my creative writing classes so many students struggle with how to begin. Too often they'll want to write about a trip they took and they'll write four useless, boring pages about getting up and going to the airport and flying there and it will have nothing to do with the actual trip. If you find yourself beginning with your character getting up in the morning this is a massive red flag that you're starting in the wrong place. CSI doesn't start with its detectives getting dressed for work. The show starts when they find the dead body.

12. Everything you write should have a point to make about something. The best writing makes connections. It shows us a facet of the human experience, making us feel that we are not alone. Try to figure out what point you're going to make before you start writing so that you have an objective. Even the simplest experience, in writing, can be about something more profound. Look for the greater meaning in everything and then use your writing, fiction, poetry, non-fiction, whatever, to illustrate that greater meaning.

13. Subtlety is sublime. Do not beat the living tar out of your reader with that point you've decided to make. You don't need to lecture your reader about the meaning of what he or she is reading. Readers like to be detectives and find the meaning for themselves. Give hints and clues along the way. Be stealth. It's more fun for everyone.

14. Please don't write run-on sentences they make you look stupid. Long live the coordinating conjunctions. Use them. Punctuation is good. When I read anything full of run-ons, even a facebook status update, it makes me want to choke the writer.

15. Avoid writing about personal drama while you are in the middle of it. This is big people. I've made this mistake a couple of times and it's a fast track to a train wreck if you do it. Write about the personal dramas that have already played out. You'll have gained some perspective and you'll know the ending. You won't sound like a freaking lunatic. Save the venting for your journal and turn it into a more serious piece later on.

16. Sleep on it. Sometimes when we write, we'll get caught up in the creativity and become delusional as to our own brilliance. Other times, we'll get stuck and agonize endlessly over some nitpicking element of our project until we're paralyzed. Both scenarios are cured by putting the piece away for a while. Sometimes overnight, sometimes a week or a few or a month or two. I've come back to things years later. After a break you can see your writing with fresh eyes again so you can revise like a reasonable human being.

17. Don't write in a manner that is so obscure and dense that your reader can't understand you. Writing is about reaching out and connecting to others and if you haven't done that you've failed at your mission. Writing is about letting people in, not shutting them out. Just tell us a story simply and beautifully. What happened? To whom? Why? Let us know that we're all going to be ok in the end somehow.

18. Don't kill off your main character. I don't know why my creative writing students always insist on doing this and thinking they are the first person to ever come up with such a wild idea.

19. Don't be Tobias Funke. Arrested Development was one of the greatest television comedies of all time and one of the show's best characters was Tobias Funke, a clueless cheeseball who wanted to act in movies so desperately that he did everything wrong, proving himself an over-eager amateur with talent only for making a fool of himself. Beginning writers remind me of him a lot and I too have been guilty of a few Tobias-isms. If you don't know what I'm talking about, get the dvds and start watching and never include glittery confetti with your cover letter.

20. Some stuff needs to happen. This should seem obvious, but it isn't. In a story (even true ones) there's action, not a bunch of people sitting around talking with no discernible point. Action. We like action. Blow some shit up (metaphorically for the most part).

21. And oh, the endings. Endings are hard. It feels like you need a conclusion to wrap it all up but how do you do that without sounding sentimental and corny or repetitive? If you must, then keep it short, but better yet, just end on an image. Let your reader go with a picture in his or her head to remember. These endings are always the ones that move me the most deeply. Like this. There you are, at your computer, your hands about to strike the keys. You with the light from the screen on your face, about to write something brilliant.
Thursday, May 19, 2011


Oops. I didn't get my Indie Ink Challenge in on time this week! I was going to try to slip in at the last minute right now, but I can't get into the spreadsheet that tells you your challenge and challenger.

It's been a rough week for me, I have to admit. I haven't been feeling well. We had a big scare with the baby Saturday night. Turns out she had an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite and she's ok now, but I found a little lump in her neck now and I think it may be a cyst (unrelated to the mosquito incident). On top of that my father in law was here for ten days and just left and since Monday I've had mastitis, which sucks more than you can possibly imagine. It's horrendous. My poor boobs have hurt in more ways than I even imagined possible since I got pregnant and had a baby.

I decided to take a little Internet break, except for a brief moment of ordering shorts online. I needed to do a major closet purge, which I did and boy was that an undertaking. I took a ton of crap to the consignment shop and the rest to the Goodwill. Now I can see why I used to stand in my closet looking at a bunch of junk thinking I had nothing to wear. Turns out it was true and I really do have nothing to wear. I need a fashion consultant to help make me over, but that's for another post, I think.

I had really wanted to do my challenge this evening. I was supposed to write a story (I DO NOT WRITE FICTION) which included an exchange between a male and a female in which they basically said nothing to one another. It was quite passive aggressive and pointless and ended with the guy asking the girl what she wanted him to do and she said she didn't want him to do anything and then he said (I guess) that he wouldn't and she ended with the word "Exactly."

There are three words which I believe need to be banned from the English language:  Awesome, Absolutely and Exactly. I hate when I'm trying to talk to someone and they won't stop saying "exactly" and "absolutely." I make a point to never do this and I should win some kind of prize for never once having ever called anything "awesome." I just won't do it.

The pointlessness of the conversation I was asked to include in my story reminded me of why I like texting so much. It reminded me of a phone exchange and really, the characters were so disconnected from one another that the people talking could have represented two strangers, side by side talking on the phone, so that we were hearing two, one-sided conversations.

I can't stand talking on the phone. I never call people. This drives my husband crazy. I think talking on the phone wastes too much time and with texting I can just get to the point without the whole greeting part and the even worse trying to hang up part. Texting is more efficient, at least how I do it. You can get a couple lines out of me, but I'm not going to sit there staring at a teeny screen trying to type with my thumbs. Not my style either. Surprising, isn't it? Considering my long-windedness in essay writing, you'd think I could text all day long, but no.

I'm going to go finish cleaning my closet.





Mmmm Hmmm.

All right.



Mmm Hmmm

All right.


Talk to you soon

You too


Uh huh

Saturday, May 14, 2011

From Purple Hair to Plates in the Lips

Sometimes when I look at my innocent, little six month old baby, I imagine all of the utter bullshit and nonsense this child is going to put me through when she's a teenager. I won't resent her for it, for such is the way of adolescents and lord knows, I'll be getting my just pay back for whatever foolishness I made my own parents endure.

The thing is, when I was a teenager, what we thought was bad twenty years ago, is now mild compared to what the kids today are doing. At the same time, what we did back in the late eighties was probably downright horrifying compared to what our parents did twenty and thirty years before that. Each generation tops the shock of the previous.

But how can that be sustainable? What could possibly be left for the babies born now (what are they called? Generation Z?) and how much worse could teenagers get than what they are now? I shudder to think of what these kids will grow up to get into that my old brain can't even conceive of.

When I was a teenager, the whole "goth" thing was just getting started and it was extremely shocking and not at all commonplace like it is today. After that, certain brave and exceedingly cool kids started getting into body modification. These days, every other so and so has a tattoo or a few, but back then tattoos were reserved for bikers and extreme trailer trash, so getting a tattoo was a super, huge massively big deal and good for years of shock value. Back then if you had a tribal tattoo you were seriously cutting edge. Twenty years later every douchebag in an Ed Hardy shirt has them all over.

I remember when the piercing thing started. Gen X-ers again were mild in comparison to today. My friend got her nose pierced with a diamond stud so tiny it always looked like she had a miniscule zit. You could barely see the thing, but oh my God, the horror of it all. People talked about her nose piercing for months.

Since the summer of the first Lollapalooza, I've seen the crazy things that kids will do to themselves escalate. We thought we'd done all there was to do back then by dying our hair Ronald McDonald red with Manic Panic, having double ear piercings on one side and by making out with boys who had dreads, but we'd barely scratched the surface of what we thought was so wild. By the time my sister got to high school everyone was piercing their tongues. Then their nipples, God forbid and the only girls left without their bellybuttons pierced were locked behind the walls of religious compounds.

In my classrooms in the past couple of years it's been common to see students with huge holes tunneled through their earlobes and various studs and spikes coming out of all parts of their faces (usually infected). So what's next? What kind of crazy shit will Baby Lawns' generation find to do to themselves to top all of this?

In the past week, I've seen three troubling trends in body modification. Apparently now, a lot of people are getting dental veneers to look like vampire fangs. This is idiotic (freakin Twilight, I hate that book) but it's not undoable. You can always get veneers removed, thank heavens. What you can't undo is elf ears. I saw on the news the other day that people are going to cosmetic surgeons and paying thousands of dollars to get their ears cut into points to look like elves or Vulcans. Worse still than elf ears, I saw a guy who had tattooed the whites of his eyes to make them permanently blue. Can you even imagine? These things trouble me greatly, because like I said before, how can you top tattooing your eyeballs??

I think I may have figured it out and I'd like to put it in writing to mark my words. By 2016 kids will be putting plates in their lips and stacking metal coils around their necks. In fact, I'm surprised no one's done either of those things yet.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Real Diamond and a Real Screw-Up

This past weekend I won a story contest in my local newspaper by writing about how my mother sold her long awaited diamond ring so that I could go to my dream college when I was seventeen. The stories had to be short and mine was, but what I wrote didn't tell the whole story. For Mother's Day, I focused on the nice part of what happened - what my mother was willing to do for me to have the education she didn't get. I left out the part about how I squandered her sacrifice and screwed up royally, setting off a chain of screw ups that took me over a decade to end.

I was a high school drop out. I got my GED with a bunch of people from jail when I should have been starting twelfth grade with my friends. I went to a semester of community college, taking only classes I liked before I ran off to New York, where I'd moved from the year before, to live with my boyfriend. Yes, I was barely seventeen when I did that. I tried community college up there, taking art classes this time and withdrawing from math after a couple of weeks. My boyfriend was an artist and I wanted to be like him. I was always good at drawing. I won a fire prevention poster contest in elementary school. I liked art and I liked the idea of a bohemian artist's life. My boyfriend had applied to an art school in Boston and had been accepted. He was leaving and I couldn't go along, while at the same time, all my friends who hadn't dropped out of high school were getting ready for college life too. Most of them were headed to the Ivies, because although I was a loser, my friends certainly weren't. But I didn't want to be a loser. I wanted to be an artist and I wanted to make up for the shame of my GED by going to college too. I applied to Bennington College, an extremely small, extraordinarily expensive liberal arts college set in the idyllic Vermont countryside, as a transfer student.

Bennington worked for me because it was beautiful and quirky. They didn't require SAT scores, barely wanted a transcript and they were more tolerant of things like GEDs and patchy high school records. They seemed to overlook my failing of the tenth grade and subsequent attendance of summer school at an academy for disturbed teens. Remarkably, in spite of their permissiveness, Bennington is a pretty prestigious college. A lot of famous people have gone there and the school has an excellent, if somewhat notorious reputation. Remember "Less Than Zero"? The school they were home for the holidays from? That was Bennington. Anyone read A Secret History by Donna Tartt (amazing book)? That school was Bennington too, with nothing but the name changed.

Getting into Bennington was a huge deal for me. I was shocked they accepted me and it was my chance to redeem myself for all that I had messed up in high school. This time I'd study and do my work. I'd stay organized and not let my personal life interfere with academics. Better yet, I'd be a couple hour bus ride from my boyfriend in Boston and all my friends in the Ivy Leagues. I felt like I was one of them again, not some trailer park, white trash drop-out who lived with her boyfriend when she was only sixteen.

My mother sold her ring to pay for tuition at Bennington, which was at the time, the most expensive college in the country. And I went there for all of three and a half months.

It's a long story of why I dropped out yet again. I can only say that I was too young and too broken. At the time the wounds of my childhood hadn't begun to heal and where most people emerge from childhood with a few scars and bruises, mine, with my sensitive and anxious nature, was more like a full limb amputation. Back then, I didn't believe that the world loved me back. Set free without the ties of my family or the protection of my boyfriend who dumped me over the phone shortly after arriving in Boston, I could not control my terrible need to prove that I was lovable and that need took precedent over everything. Sometimes it still does. One day I'll fill in the details.

Revealing this makes me feel like I didn't deserve to win that contest. I wanted to be so happy, but I wasn't. I'm always trying to win things and have been since I was little and used to obsessively try to be the hundredth caller when I heard the song of the day. My trying to win is that same need to prove my worth, the same thing that got me in trouble and caused me to waste my mother's generosity and the opportunity she gave me.

I'd like to hope that I've made it up to her by now. I entered the contest because I couldn't think of anything I could give her that would show her how sorry I am for what a screw-up I've always been.
Monday, May 09, 2011

It Should Have Been Simple

It should have been simple
to explain
that I am a creature of the depths,
a fish that lives
in the midnight zone,
that I emit my own faint glow
as I drift.

It should have been simple
to understand
why I cannot live at the surface,
that needing the weight of water,
I would burst
even if you drew me up
inch by inch over hours.

It should have been simple
to see,
so let me say it another way -

When I stand beneath the sky,
I feel like you
would feel on the floor
of a deep ocean trench
under the pressure
of uncountable pounds of brine,
at once shattered
and flattened.

This poem is my response to this week's Indie Ink challenge in which Random Girl asked me to write a poem (A POEM????) entitled   "It Should Have Been Simple" (it wasn't). I challenged Flaming Nyx to write about a time when a proverb proved false. For the complete list of challenges, visit Indie Ink on Friday. These challenges have been incredible and I encourage you to check out the blogs of the other participants. I've discovered several, excellent new reads.
Sunday, May 08, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

Hey everyone! Happy Mother's Day.  I'd planned to write you a nice, inspiring story today, but unfortunately I ate something bad last night and have spent the day in bed feeling under the weather. I've finally emerged and am going to limp over to my parents' house for a BBQ. It's ok though. I've had a nice first Mother's Day anyway and there will be many, many more.

Wishing all the mothers and grandmothers, foster moms, adopted moms and anyone who has ever felt like a mom in any way to anyone, a very happy day.

(If you are local, please check out my winning story in today's Sun Sentinel on the first page of the Lifestyle section. I won something!! Again! I'm on fire over here.)
Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Hairy Situation

All week I've been despising my hair. Nothing about it looks attractive or how it ought. I look a sight and it seems like no matter what I do, my hair always looks like the hair of those somber, miserable looking, weather hardened women you see in old tin type photos of pioneers. You know, women who lived in sod houses and bathed once a week in a freezing cold stream and washed their hair with lye. That's exactly how my hair looks.

This hair hatred is part of a vicious cycle that I've been stuck in since my seventh grade permed mullet grew out. My hair is either long and straight or short and straight. When my hair is long, it's flat and I hate it and do nothing but slick it up in a sloppy pony tail. I'll go on like this for a while before deciding that it might have more polish and perhaps pouf in a nice bob. So I'll go chop it off for Locks of Love and enjoy it until I have to wash and style it myself. Am I the only person who tries to go as long as possible without washing my hair after the stylist cuts and dries it because I know once it gets wet that it will never, ever look like they made it look in the salon ever again? So then I'm stuck with flat hair that's short. I'll get mad that I can't put it in a pony tail. I think I look unfeminine. Then there's this annoying thing that my hair does when it's short. One side will turn under in a beautiful page boy, but the other side will totally rebel and flip outward and away from my face and no amount of heat, product or regular beatings will get it to turn inward. That flip enrages me and then, because I can't get my short hair to look how I want, I'll decide to grow it back out, but this time it'll be different. I'll learn to put it up. I'll braid it. This time will be different.

Except it's not and the cycle starts anew.

Right now I'm at the hating my long hair and thinking I'd look more polished and chic with short hair stage. I've been coveting many the side parted, sleek bob lately.

I always thought my problems would be solved if only I had curly hair. I love curls and volume. If I could have big, Texas beauty pageant hair I'd probably be in heaven. But big fancy hair takes work and needs styling and while I am great at makeup, I can't do hair to save my life. My hair styling skills stop abruptly at pony tail. Not that I haven't tried, but my hair is the texture of a quarter horse's mane. It doesn't cooperate and never will. If I try to put it up, it won't smoothe and little pieces stick up everywhere like tufts of grass for the five minutes that the hair style lasts before unraveling. No pin can hold it in. Let's not even talk about curling. I've tried every curling device that exists on this planet and my hair stays perfectly straight.

But people with curly hair want straight hair. Curly haired people are always petting my head with sighs about how their hair is so unmanageable and frizzy and how all they want is straight hair.

In fact, I don't think I've ever met someone who liked his or her hair. I guess hair always looks better on someone else's head. Human beings are never satisfied. We always want the opposite of what we have. This certainly doesn't exist in the animal kingdom. Imagine a Yorkie lamenting his greasy, flat tresses and wishing for the Pomeranian's volume. A poodle doesn't long for a collie's straight coat any more than a short haired cat wants to be a Maine Coon. So why can't people, myself included, just be happy with what nature gave them?

So what do I do? Cut it or leave it? Break the cycle or keep it going? Can I ever be happy with what's on my head?

Maybe I should invest in some really cute hats.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How Useless is My Cat?

My cat is so useless that now that she is an outside cat, she stands wailing at the front door to come in when she has to go to the bathroom. It hasn't occurred to her to go outside, not with all that loose topsoil in the flower bed. She thinks she can only go in her litter box, so she'll wait at the front door, doing the cat equivalent of the pee-pee dance until I let her back in and then she'll run to the box like she's about to explode. And one of the main points of letting her outside was litter box eradication! Rolling around in the dirt outside appears to be a favorite activity, as does tracking it in the house when she's done, but pooping in the dirt? Nope. My cat's too good for all that.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Coincidence of Opal (??)

They never got me the rock polisher. I have no room to complain though because one year I got a microscope, which I used to look at my own scabs more often than the slides that came with it, and one year they got me a small organ. Not an organ from a body, which would have been equally as exciting, but a little organ that sat on my lap that I could pick out songs on if I tried hard enough to remember the tunes. I had wanted those things as badly as the rock polisher. I'd circled their pictures in the Wish Book as soon as it arrived around Halloween and hoped for two months to find them under the Christmas tree.

I wanted the rock polisher because I believed that all stones were secretly jewels waiting to be polished. I thought if I could collect gravel from the driveway and pebbles from puddles that I could put them in the rock polisher, tumble them around and they'd come out as diamonds, which I could then give to my mother the next time I got to visit her. Sometimes, if it had been a while since I'd seen her, I'd try to picture her face in my mind, but I could never get the features exactly right, though I always remembered her hair and her accessories. She wore strands of gold necklaces; several at a time. She liked rings. She'd given me a tiny gold band with a green stone and when I'd outgrown that one she gave me another I'd liked better with a frosty purplish stone. I knew she liked jewelry, things that glinted and glittered, color, gold. I knew she'd love the gems I made with the rock polisher, except my father and grandparents never got me one.

I started a rock collection. It was inspired by the gift shop at the Luray Caverns on a trip to Virginia I took with my grandparents. They'd let me pick out some of the pretty rocks they had for sale in bins. I chose fool's gold, which I could easily pretend was real gold when I played. I got a lot of wear out of that fool's gold. I panned for it in the swimming pool, carried it on my imaginary covered wagon when I played that I was a pioneer and I used it as parts of various treasures in some of my other scenarios.

Along with the fool's gold, I kept chunks of quartz, feldspar and jasper (all bought in the gift shop too) in a tin can with scenes from the movie "Snow White" on it. We'd gotten the can at Disney World and it had come filled with root beer flavored hard candies. I liked the can filled with rocks better. 

Rocks in gift shops are much prettier than rocks in the wild. I'd dig and hunt in the creek behind my best friend's house, in newly plowed fields and at the bay's muddy shoreline looking for stones to collect, but they all lacked the flash and shine I sought. Their dull dustiness disappointed me. Perhaps if I'd had the rock polisher, I thought, I'd be able to reveal the true beauty of the stones surrounding me.

On a school trip, we visited the Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC and I immediately decided that I wanted to live there. In the museum, I mean, not just in the city. Not only did the Museum of Natural History have a gift shop full of beautiful rocks, it had an entire wing devoted to minerals, gems and rocks of every kind even rocks that had fallen to Earth from space. I could have stayed in there forever staring at all the crystals, jewels and stones and wanting to pop every polished gem in my mouth because they reminded me of hard candies. I associated each color with a flavor: cherry cough syrup garnets, lime Jell-o emeralds, bubblegum pink sapphires, toffee tiger's eyes, honey topaz. I spent my allowance that week on a chunk of amethyst in the gift shop and once I got home I licked it but it didn't taste at all like purple popsicles.

My mother's mother had an oval, Wedgewood blue jewelry box and when I went to see her, I'd ask her to show me her jewelry. The grandmother I lived with also had a jewelry box and in it were two treasures - a purple pearl my grandfather had found in an oyster and a piece of amber with a bug in it. While these were wonderful things, my mother's mother had better stuff in her box. First, she had something she called a bellybutton jewel, which was exactly what it sounds like - a jewel you stick in your bellybutton and apparently it was part of a bellydancer's costume. How my grandmother came to have something like this I still don't know. It was red as a Luden's and faceted. One side was sticky, I guess so it would stay in your bellybutton better once you put it in. I begged her to leave it to me in her will, and as she is still alive I don't know if she did, but I'm still hoping. In the Wedgewood box were also bars of silver with scorpions engraved upon them. My grandmother collected silver, thinking it was an investment. She also had flat discs of black onyx. They reminded me oddly of cats somehow in their sleekness and these were one of the few stones with which I couldn't associate a flavor. The other flavorless stone was an opal. My grandmother had several pieces of opal jewelry including a big opal ring and a gold chain with an opal pendant. My mother had one exactly like it.

I loved those opals and how they reminded me of the sky or of oil spilled from boat engines swirled on the opaque surface of the bay. Blackbirds too, possess this same mysterious iridescence when the light hits their wings at the right angle. Impossible opals. What made them glow? How could they be all colors at once? I revered opals above all other stones and decided that when I grew up I'd wear an opal engagement ring and an opal tiara. I wrote stories and poems in which I compared a lot of things to opals and I wondered why they weren't more popular.

I never see people wearing opals anymore. I guess they were stylish in the 70s and fell out of favor. My mother doesn't have her opal necklace anymore, just as I no longer have the Snow White can holding my rock collection. I never got the rock polisher, but it doesn't matter now because that would have been gone too and I never would have been able to polish a stone that could compare to the opals that still rest inside the Wedgewood jewelry box in my mother's mother's bedroom.

This post was my response to this week's Indie Ink Writing Challenge in which Miss Ash asked me to tell her a story about The Coincidence of Opal. I admit I had a hard time with that one, so I just decided to focus on my childhood love of all things mineral. Let's hope that Melissa does a better job with my challenge where I asked her to describe someone she knew through what other people say about that person.
Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Return of Chocolate

Remember how I gave up chocolate for Lent? I almost did it for the whole 40 days but on the Wednesday before Easter I had a total breakdown of self control when I saw a chocolate covered butterscotch from Sees Candy in my waiting Easter basket. I momentarily forgot my chocolate fast and ate it. It was only a small amount, but still. I am a deeply flawed human being and weak willed I suppose.

In any event, that was about all the chocolate I had. I imagined a big chocolate frenzy on Easter but it didn't happen. For one thing, we didn't have chocolate desserts at our friends' house where we went (my family doesn't celebrate Easter because of the Passover overlap). I brought a coconut cake and that satisfied my sweet tooth enough that I didn't have a taste for candy. Imagine that. 

And every day since? Nothing. I bought some frozen fudge bars and nary a craving. It's like all that giving up of chocolate made me stop wanting it forever. It no longer seems as important as it once did, like I don't even think about it anymore. Weird, huh?

I have this poor chocolate bunny sitting in my fridge looking very angry (why does this chocolate bunny have such a sullen expression?). Every day I toy with the idea of eating him, but I think I've anthropomorphized him so much that it seems cruel to eat him. That damned chocolate bunny is going to turn me into a vegetarian if I keep thinking about it, so I probably should stop thinking about it and just bite his head off before he becomes a permanent fixture in there with the iced tea and almond milk. 

One of my other motives in the whole giving up chocolate thing was that I was hoping it would help me lose some more baby weight. I lost weight, but not anything unusual. I think nursing the baby helps me lose about a pound or so every week or ten days and as I discovered a new appreciation for carrot cake during the almost 40 days without chocolate, I think my weight loss plans were thwarted by cream cheese frosting. Oh well.

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