Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Defining Resolution

All right.  I give up.  I shall write a blog about resolutions.  I am plum out of  ideas anyway, and the notion of bettering oneself and catching the wave of collective resolve is undeniably in the air, and on the internet. I have read several blogs about what the past year has brought others, and since I have really no exciting news to share about agents, publishing, reviews, accolades or any other glad tidings of merit hailing from my little empire, I shall skip that part and get on with it.   

 “Resolutions” are a familiar enough notion, however, upon closer examination, Webster’s description held more than I anticipated.  The definition of “resolution” to which I will be adhering is “the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones.”  Though the whole bit about “the subsidence of a pathological state (as inflammation)” sounded intriguing.

 Perhaps many of you can relate:  As a writer, embarking upon my second novel, still trying to market the first, developing community, creating a strong online presence, tweeting, blogging, pinteresting, palavering, querying, researching and commenting, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at all that must be done to arrive at my desired future of publication, with the distinct possibility that, even with my best efforts, it all might go unheeded, and unheralded by others.  It is, as my father used to say, “Like swallowing a rope”.  Gulp.

So, what’s a girl to do?  Turn complex into simple. 

“What can I do today?” 

“What am I moved to do right now?”

And remember, “The process precedes the destination.”

We write because there is a story to tell.  We read because it brings joy.  We commune because it is our nature. We resolve to aim, to strive, and to better ourselves to provide purpose to our lives. 

So go ahead!  Capitalize on this season of resolution, and make a few of your own. What would you choose to determine over the next year?  What seeds will you broadcast, and what harvest do you hope it will bring?

A "Happy New Year to Everyone". 
May your harvest be plentiful.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Call to Writers...

To my fellow writers and most gracious readers:

If you are reading this, "Thank you!" first of all, since trying to get read seems to be my number one goal these days.  (Ahhh.  The pathetic fate of the writer.)

My goal with this blog is to connect with other writers seeking that same slush-pile redemption, that golden-ticket we all want/need/crave to make this time-consuming hobby/obsession legitimate.  We want to be read—Dammit.  Read, hopefully published and in my most immediate case, develop one of those super-cozy-karate-kid type relationships with a fabulous agent who gives me ice-cream, actually reads my manuscript and tells me I’m brilliant.   (Or at the very least says, “Well—I dunno ‘bout this one, but I’ll give ‘er a try.")

If so inclined, please sign on as a follower to my blog, and I shall return the favor.  Perhaps together we can create a community of like-mindedness, and not feel so desperately alone in our struggles for recognition and publication. (That's smacks a bit desperate don'cha think?) If you do sign on as reader, please do comment.  Nothing spreads the warm-fuzzies around like a well-placed thoughtful interjection by others. I shall do likewise—with aplomb.

A few things you should know about me:

*Typos are a fact of life with me.  I’m thinking of making it my signature.  (Like Hemingway and the period.) Forgive me in advance.  I’m writing with a screaming toddler on one leg and a hormonal pre-teen on the other.

*In the last “American Girl” quiz my daughter gave me, I turned out to be “a corn dog”.  Go figure.

*I am a total techno-weanie-gearhead about English history, (especially the Renaissance) and I am prone to long-winded treatises which may end up sounding like a high-school sophomore’s term-paper.

*I am dreadfully old.  Forty-six at last count.

* My book is YA historical fiction/non-fiction

*If you still want to be my friend, I’ll be loyal till the end. (And I’ll read you!)

 I’m tired of watching the cool kids at lunch have all the fun.  I'm a "can-do" kinda gal and so I figure, let’s form our own club—and get busy! (Judy and Mickey would!) Who knows what might happen? 
At the very least, online comraderie, sunshine and perhaps a picnic with friends.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

How to know if you're watching too much "White Christmas".

Even I'm sick of my own proselytizing.  Here's some lighter fare for the holidays...

You know you have watched too much “White Christmas” if…

1.   You develop an unnatural craving for liverwurst and buttermilk.

2.      You Google “scat-back” to find out what Bing means about the brunette.

3.     Yellow socks become a must-have! (With garters, or course.)

4.     Your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor becomes “Waverly-Graverly”.

5.     You want to wash your face, your hands, your hair with…snow!

6.     Danny Kaye becomes a little too attractive…in that funny-guy sort of way.

7.     You strive to light a match with your thumbnail.

8.     Vera Ellen’s waistline begins to looks normal.

9.     You find yourself saying, “Gee!  I wish I were back in the army…”

10.   You know the BEST things happen while you’re dancing.

Feel free to add your own!



If you know what all of these mean you have watched far TOO MUCH ‘White Christmas”!  Time for George Bailey…


Sidenote:  Holy Crap.  I am now older than Bing Crosby was when he starred in “White Christmas”. Oh--what a world...




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

After watching Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" for the third night in a row...

Have you ever noticed that so many of our cherished holiday classics deal with transformation?  Old Scrooge is the prime example, and George Bailey definitely fits the profile, (though his self-interest is less malicious). The Grinch must be mentioned of course, and even young Rudolph undergoes his metamorphosis from “Dud” to “Dude” in just under an hour.

I find it pleasantly edifying that we as humans root for the underdogs in these stories.  I cannot think of another species that does.  Usually with our animal brethren weakness is sought out and killed, ostracized, or left behind so as not to tax the tribe, (as with young Rudolph) yet here is a prime example of our human large-heartedness in action.  We actually champion that odious, mean-spirited old codfish Ebenezer, waiting, as patiently as the Spirits do, and we rejoice when our heroes make their transformation from greed to gratitude, from darkness to light.

At this, the darkest time of the year, we surround ourselves with festive, colored lights, a tradition stemming from an earlier time, when the dark and cold of winter was much more keenly felt.  In many cultures, the Winter Solstice, or the rebirth of the sun, was heralded with much joy and anticipation.  Those lights we hang today serve to remind us that the season of darkness is transitory, and light will once again triumph over the dark--at least temporarily.

Transformation in Nature is inevitable, but in our own kind, we must make the choice. And as Scrooge himself so poignantly notes:  Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On Traditions and Other Holiday Clap-trap

“Tradition is the illusion of permanence,” or so sayeth that old urban oracle Woody Allen in his movie “Deconstructing Harry”. 

At this time of year, so rich with tradition, many times we do things simply because they have always been done. Take the ubiquitous Christmas tree:  Most know of the pre-Christian origins, and the “ever-green’s” symbolic meaning of everlasting life in the season of cold and dark when most of nature is dormant. So, in our funny human way, each year at this time, we go out and kill the very thing that represents eternal life, the only green, living thing around the bleak and wintry landscape, and we drag it home and stick it front and center, breathe in its lovely piney, fresh smell and bask in its wildness.   We hang ornaments made by wee hands and sticky fingers, lovingly drape its fragrant boughs with sparkly, golden garlands and twinkling colored lights.  And then, when the dressing is completed, we turn off all the lights in the house and bathe in its luminescence. 

See what has happened?  Merely by this ritualized act of tree-decorating, (completed last night I might add) I have become a changling; issuing forth sentimental yule-tide oozings  and proselytizing squishy holiday sentiments.  By Jove!  The ritual worked!  Why am I surprised?  After all, the purpose of all ritual is to change the individual involved in some way, launching them into an altered state.

“And the purpose being?”  One might ask. 

To connect with life; to connect with those that have gone before--our ancestors, who did many the same things. Perhaps their very memories still run through our veins, in much the same manner as blood type or inherited conditions like blue eyes, or high blood-pressure.  The socially accepted reasons for participating in the ceremony may have changed, but the results can still be similar.

I think we should feel free to ad-lib and creatively design our own seasonal traditions, keeping those that resonate with us, and discarding those that have lost their meaning.  Just think, perhaps  a cherished custom you begin this year, may be the one your Great-Great-Grand-child decides is stupid and meaningless, and they decide to chuck it! 

Whatever traditions your family decides to embrace, give a nod to the ghosts of Present, Past and Future.  Our past can make up who we are, but our present moment is up to us.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Kissing the Blarney Good-Bye

A woman I know just died.  She was expecting it, though I wasn’t; and even though she was elderly, it still came as quite a shock. 
After hearing the news, I found myself running over all the stories she told me about herself and her life; about how Sean Connery used to be her milkman (He was “full of himself”), and how she had been a child stage-star who eventually sold her accordion for her first house’s down-payment.  I reviewed and rehashed all the little, precious tid-bits she had shared with me, searching for something it seemed-- a remnant of that bright beautiful person to keep with me, though she was gone. 
She was a spry woman, with a keen wit, and every time I saw her, she would say, “Look out, here comes the Queen of Blarney!” and I would affect a bow to her Highness or some such nonsense.  I thought it was quite humorous that she had thusly labeled herself!  It seemed the perfect nomenclature for such a grand personality as she, though in stature she was quite petite.
It wasn’t until just before she died when she asked, shyly one afternoon, for my name.  She confided that had not known all this time, which is why, she said, she always called me the “Queen of Blarney”. 
“Me!”  I spluttered.  “I thought you were talking about you!”  We had a good laugh on that one, we two Majesties of Rubbish, both.  I must admit, I was flattered.  But then, Blarney would be.
All these musings on this woman friend gave me pause:  After we “shuffle off this mortal coil”, all that remains are the memories of us that others carry with them. We have no say as to whether their recollections ring true or hollow, and whether they choose to remember the good stories or the bad.  But it does give one pause to ask, “What stories will be remembered about us and our lives shared with others? What shadows will persist after we are gone?” 

Friday, December 7, 2012

On taking oneself too seriously: Grudges in the twenty-first century

There was a time when many thought it noble to duel—to the death even, over petty grievances or slander uttered against another.  Feuds have been fought for millennia, in all cultures; grudges passed down from generation to generation, biases and prejudice metered out like bitter pills, fuel for the feud. 

But how could one benefit from the holding of a grudge?  I can’t see it being an empowering state; taking time, energy, and power away from the individual bent on keeping hostility close to his or her heart. (Imagine x-ray of shrinking Grinch’s heart.) Ultimately, one holding a grudge is saying, “I am in the right.  And I will prove it by never giving in.  Not never.  Not no-how”.

Why is it important to us as humans, to have those others—for whom we don’t give a fig anyway-- see us as being “in the right”?  If we know the truth, shouldn’t that be enough? Why does it matter what others think and why is it so difficult to own up to our own mistakes? Perhaps this defensive reaction could in fact be some sort of humanistic survival trait, like adrenaline, or smiling when embarrassed.  (Chimps do it when they’ve erred.  It makes them appear meek to other chimps who want to throttle them.)

A good friend reminded me that mistakes are inevitable, but if one learns from them, then the mistakes are well worth it. This perspective is definitely the higher road, (and this friend is definitely the higher-road-sort-of-chap) for what else, really, would one deign to choose? Faults, gaffs, muddles and blunders are the substance of life, a learning tool for the human-in-training, an evolutionary whetting stone of sorts, upon which we hone our humanistic self to our sharpest, finest instrument possible.