Monthly Archives: July 2012

Step One: First Page of My Novel.

Standard

Hi there.

This is awkward.

Ok.  If you’ve been following me,  you know I’ve been working on a book.  I just finished the first draft of it thanks to a huge push from Camp NaNoWriMo and two friends who were very persuasive about getting me to commit to the Camp.

I have met, via the blogosphere, a published writer who has become somewhat of a mentor to me, whether she likes it or not. She offered to do a critique of my first page and that would be her guest blog spot on my blog, this here “Grass Oil by Molly Field” which would be tomorrow. So, for you all to get in on the action (if you wish), here’s the ultra-current first page of my book, tentatively titled, Miriam: Recovered.

Miriam’s SUV bounded into the parking lot at an assertive clip, scraping the spoiler under its oil pan casing.  She would have sent a smaller car into next week had that driver’s preternatural instinct failed to move forward at the precise divinely inspired moment.  Miriam steered into now empty parking spot, shifted into park and sat there for a moment.  She looked up from her dashboard and her eyes landed on the giant white “E” monogrammed in Edwardian script on a maroon awning and curtain protruding from the rear of a white brick colonial-style building in the parking lot next door.  The awning belonged to the Everon Funeral Home as fate would have it, and it shielded the shiny black hearses and their contents from public view.  She sighed and wondered if doing any of this because of a dream was really so necessary.

If it weren’t for her friend Julia compelling her to go to see a professional, Miriam would surely be doing something else.  But the fact of the matter was that she was in straits and she needed help.  If Julia knew anything, Julia knew a crisis.

Resigned to reason, Miriam unlocked her door, stepped on to the running board and then to the pavement. The sun was doing its best to warm the earth through the winter chill.  Tightening her coat’s belt around her waist, she then adjusted her handbag over her shoulder, shifted her weight forward, exhaled with purpose and pressed on, entering her therapist’s office building through the rear door.

O my God, she thought to herself as she stared at the ornate faux Oriental rug in her therapist’s waiting room. I’m doomed to be in this place forever. In this hole of ‘what the what’ until I die. Once the kids are gone, I’ll be like my mother. Waiting to die. Looking for my value in other things; the books I read or the magazines that sit on my end tables waiting to be thrown out. Not even opened. Like the paintings on the walls, gathering dust on the rims of their frames. What a whacked out existence this has become. It’s not even 9 am and I’m already pissed off.

End tables. What the hell is an end table? I mean, really? Why did someone come up with them?

Still here? Ahhh… good. I was so nervous just then.

The next phase, as I mentioned above is to show you my mentor friend’s review / critique.  She said she is offering “a extremely practical critique, offered as a mentor/professional writer.  I intended your goal to be reaching towards publication, and I was trying to help you reach that goal.”  So I realize that if I’m terrified now showing you all that first page, then well, I expect to be throwing up from anxiety tomorrow when I show you what she said.

So… tell me what you think if you wish and you can totally do it in the comments section. If I wanna be a Writer, I have to grow some skin.

Thank you.

Somebody Tell A Joke…

Standard

One of my favorite FAVORITE FAVORITE movies of all time is “Moonstruck.” The film is a masterpiece.

One of my favorite moments in that favorite film is at the end, when the entire family is sitting around the breakfast table. Loretta Castorini (Cher) and her new lover, the brother of her fiancé, Ronny Cammareri (Nick Cage) have yet reveal their very speedy but apparently authentic love for each other and they are waiting for Ronny’s brother, Johnny, to return from his apartment after flying home early from Sicily because his mother has made a miraculous recovery from a life-threatening illness.

Here’s a great clip between Cher and the amazing Olympia Dukakis after Loretta’s return in the morning from her date with Ronny to the Met.

After that doorbell, Loretta’s aunt and uncle come in very concerned because they don’t have their bank bag after giving it to Loretta the day before to make a deposit for them…

Look, if you haven’t seen the movie — I don’t care HOW OLD YOU ARE, you have to. It’s a bucket list item. It really is.

During that scene, more and more things reveal themselves: a silent war between Loretta’s parents, for instance, and things are obviously tense … after a long and uncomfortable pause, Loretta’s grandfather, the patriarch of the family says in a very somber tone, “Sumbuddy tella joke.”

My grandmother was a tremendous pun-maker.  I loved her wit and timing.  She was very tall and aged when I grew into knowing her, but I loved being with her.  She had a gentleness and true concern and fondness for children.  She was human, she had her stuff, as we say, but I don’t remember it ever entering the picture other than her preferences that spawned from her OCD affliction.  Those preferences were mysterious and confusing, but mostly obeyed (and sometimes mocked) by her grandchildren. Although I do remember one of the cousins submitting to our mob-like curiosity who eventually went upstairs when we were in our teens against Gramma’s numerous request/commands.

this is my mom, me and my gramma (my mom’s mom). i was about three then. no, i was not demonically possessed.

When our cousin came downstairs s/he said (I can’t remember who did it) that it was a normal upstairs bedroom place.  Nothing scary or crazy or mysterious.  I remember I was sort of let down.  No bloody mannequins or chests of gold?

One of my favorite jokes (really puns were her specialty and I love them always because of her) Gramma ever told was “A ham sandwich walks into a bar, sits down and asks for a menu. The bartender says, I’m sorry, but we don’t serve food.”

I realize I have gotten serious on my blog the past few days and while I think that is important to do, I’m also looking for some levity.  So, because I have some puns (my dad sent them to me about a two (ack! two!) years ago), I thought I’d share them with you …

Here are some puns to lighten things up around here… a couple are sorta meh, a few are sorta cheesy, a few are excellent and they will all make you have some reaction…. most likely a chuckle or groany chuckle.  So, without further ado…

“Puns for Educated Minds”:

1.  The fattest knight at King Arthur’s Round Table was
 Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

2.  I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .

3.  She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4.  A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

5.  No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

6.  A dog gave birth to puppies near the road; she was cited for littering.

7.  A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

8.  Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

9.  A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

10.  Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

11.  Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

12.  Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway.

 One hat said to the

 other: ‘You stay here; I’ll go on a head.’

13.  I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: ‘Keep off the Grass.’

15.  The dwarf fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

16.  The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

17.  A backward poet writes
 inverse.

18. In a democracy it’s your vote that counts; In feudalism it’s your count that votes.

19.  When cannibals ate a
 missionary, they got a taste of religion.

20.  If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.

21.  A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons.  The stewardess looks at him and says, ‘I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.’

22.  Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other
 and says ‘Dam!’

23.  Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the
 craft.

  Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it
 too.

24.  Two hydrogen atoms meet.
   One says, ‘I’ve lost my electron.’  The other says  ‘Are you sure?’ The first replies, ‘Yes, I’m positive.’

25.

  Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal?

 His goal: transcend dental medication.

26.
  There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that
 at least one of the puns would make them
 laugh.
  No pun in ten did.

Thank you. (I’ll be here all week! Baaaahahahaha!)

connecting.

Standard

the last few days have left me feeling a bit woo-woo in the head.

the weather around the world is frightening and creepy.

the entire penn state thing makes me want to throw an anvil at … something. but i am impressed with NCAA’s very swift and decisive actions and sanctions. that organization — on the outside — seems to have its act together. too bad the Vatican won’t do the same for its survivors.

sunday was the one year anniversary of the Oslo massacre.

then of course there’s the still stinging news of the shootings in colorado. there’s stuff going on everywhere. that sucks.

then i read this morning on my phone that China’s state-owned CNOOC Oil company had struck a deal to buy a Canadian oil company, Nexen for a little over $15 billon. Facebook’s debut — remember, this is a company that is mostly about nothing which reminds me of Seinfeld’s tenet that it was ‘a show about nothing’ — valued it at about $100 billion, but today’s valuation has it hovering between $50-60 billion. where am i going with this? i’m going here: that i’m concerned about peoples’ and the market’s values of things. i’m thinking we are upside-down: that more people know who Kim Kardashian is than Albert Einstein or Ruth Bader Ginsberg or Benjamin Franklin or Sandra Day O’Connor or Hillary Clinton or Thomas Jefferson or Margaret Thatcher or Magellan or Henry VIII.  i’m concerned that an oil company could somehow –ever– be worth less than a virtual social media company. and i’m concerned that i will be forced to learn Mandarin in my sixties (but that’s a whole other post) …

i wondered last week if people really ‘get’ each other anymore. i was talking on the phone (remember those? we used to hear each others’ voices on them) with a friend about peoples’ insatiable needs to be seen — smartphones aren’t used for calls much anymore, data has outpaced voice since 2009 — and the dopamine-like effect of the >ping!< of the device letting us know that someone had an opinion on something we 1) said or 2) also had an opinion on.  i also wondered whether i myself can be off the grid. i can. i loved it on vacation but i do like to hear about what’s going on in the world because that’s how i stay connected and not aloof or indifferent. but i do wonder about the value of all this data in my head as there is little i can do about any of it.

.  .  .

i was on a date with my husband at our favorite thai place. a young couple walked in and i wasn’t sure they were on a date. but as soon as they sat down they took out their smartphones and started to check them. facebook statuses? text messages? emails? i didn’t hear any noises from the devices, nor did i hear their voices.  they weren’t talking to each other. i was wistful about it. i joked to myself that maybe they would call each other on their phones to talk about what they were doing or he could ask her what she was wearing right then or what they were going to eat or what they should do next.

there is nothing wrong with connecting online as long as you remember the world around you. sometimes we feel invisible, unheard or forgotten. i have decided that it’s because we do it to ourselves, when we feel disconnected (unheard or unseen), we create a hole, a place of existence for ourselves where no one can find us and then when they don’t find us (or don’t bother) we feel invisible or unheard then we get mad; we feel left out or left behind.  it’s weird: be careful of what you wish for. sometimes we create these cycles ourselves.

do you know about Frank Warren’s book PostSecrets (it now has a website)? i remember seeing in that book an anonymous (they are all anonymous, and they are POWERFUL) submission someone wrote about his/her multiple body piercings (paraphrasing): “people think i pierce myself for attention and to get looks. i don’t; i do it to repel people because i feel disgusting.” and i think about the lack of connections or the failed connections or the connections that people want to make but don’t because they are desperately afraid of being rejected.

i sense that people are as self-conscious about feeling good as they are about feeling bad. they don’t want to share when they are feeling good because someone else out there may not be. that’s not really healthy; it’s sort of codependent. the inverse of this of course is the person who is self-conscious sharing when they are feeling bad; that they will bring people down or no one will relate to them. this is also not healthy.  we are all happy and sad, down and up, lost and found, seeking and losing, remembering and forgetting… we need to remember to allow ourselves to feel vulnerable enough to truly connect with someone else.  remember that? remember talking to people? i hope we still do this.

i will admit that i’m down about hearing so much bad news lately. earlier today on my facebook fan page i purposely requested to hear some good news. previous to this request, i pledged to put up positive images or stories (which i do anyway) but i wanted to put those things up as a distraction (not a dismissal or negation) from the sadness that seems to be pulsating throughout the world. i must be careful: i don’t mean to imply that i don’t tolerate bad news. i do tolerate bad news.

i later realized that when i asked for the good news, i was: connecting. i was hoping that someone would lift me up.  and they did because the things they shared with me all had to do with living and connecting with other people. one of the most selfless was about a young man ministering communion to a homebound neighbor. talk about connecting

thank you.

UPDATE: resources in other articles:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/08/is-the-internet-making-us-crazy-what-the-new-research-says.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/jul/29/internet-addiction-hooked-digital-technology

per no one’s request. login to life.

Standard

note: this is a glimpse of my ongoing processing about the movie theater tragedy in colorado. i have cognitive dissonance when i use the words “shooting” and “movie theater” — i simply can’t accept that someone could do this other human beings. 

i’m in a “no caps” mood today. i’ll use proper grammar and punctuation, but today i’m feeling pretty elemental.

i remember feeling how i also feel today: as if i am hunkering down. reassessing. taking stock. getting perspective.

i live in the metro washington, d.c., area. it’s also known as “ground zero.”  where i live is about 18 miles southwest of the state line.

i was here when the “DC sniper” was on the loose. we hunkered down then. i can’t remember that coward’s name. there were two cowards, actually, who stole days and months from us, caused us to live in fear.

i was here when 9/11 happened at the pentagon. we reassessed then. i only remember one guy on the flights; he looked like evil incarnate with his dead eyes and expression.

i was here when the lady chose my local target store (less than a mile away) to be her final resting place as she shot herself in the electronics section (just adjacent to the children’s section) about three months ago. i took stock then. i don’t know her name. i didn’t go back there until three weeks ago (before we left for vacation) when i went to get my dog the xanax his vet prescribed him due to his stress from July’s fireworks. it didn’t work, in case you’re wondering. i haven’t gone back since.

i tend to not bloviate (one of my favorite words, btw) about controversial things because i tend to polarize. i wrote as a post today from my super fantastic efficient twitter account (which i’m still learning how to maximize) “sometimes the best opinion is no opinion” and i still agree with that.

i was here when the tragedy occurred at a movie theater 1,668.8 miles away and almost 48 hours ago. i am getting perspective again.

i went to sleep not knowing about it. i woke up full of hope the day before that happened, thursday. i was in a great mood; i went to yoga, had a wonderful session.  and then i threw the kids in the car to meet a friend i’ve only known from facebook — that was very exciting. she is a friend of my cousin’s and we also met her beautiful and clever little boy, a six-year-old cartoonist i happen to adore. when we came home, the cleaning ladies had finished fixing my house from our messiness. then i took the kids to the pool and i was trying not to embarrass the inept lifeguards. then Thing 3 had a soccer event.  Thing 2 had a basketball game and he finally got a foul against his mark and i was very proud – he stopped the other guy on a drive that looked promising – but not proud enough to buy him a Slurpee at 8:30 when he really hadn’t had a proper dinner.

so then we had some pizza and then we took Murphy for a walk; the sky was filling with lightning and i knew a storm was on the way.  we walked to a nearby pond and we usually go to another one, but when we were ready for our turn to the second one, my youngest said, “mom, i’m scared. can we just go home now?” and we changed course and went home.  the lightning increased and the air pressure changed.  the wind picked up and when we were about a quarter mile from our house, i told the boys to get going, that i would kick off my flip-flops and run home barefoot with the dog. the rain started and it was cold, big drops.

later that night, as the weather was reminding us who’s boss, our family talked in our bedroom about summer trips and the movies and just being a family. i exploited tickle spots (the hip flexors are an excellent spot on my middle son) and we reminisced about vacations and strategized about the upcoming camps. we must’ve been together on our queen-size bed for about an hour. Thing 1 (14 and our oldest) asked if he could just sleep at the base of the bed… he’s 5’7″ and weighs about 135 now. he was kidding. sort of. the wind outside was loud and the rain was merciless.

“out! off to bed! get out i love you.” we said to them all and kissed them and their chlorine-y or showered hair goodnight.

 .  .  .

the next day i saw only the headlines of the movie theater shootings on my smartphone which i wish were stupid. i did a little yoga and then reported for my first day of a new very part-time job at the front desk at a local health club. i was pretty excited and i didn’t fixate on the movie theater in aurora. i had to learn where the fire extinguishers are, where this is and that is and when we clean the towels (every 45 minutes) and where the gloves are to pick up the towels because they aren’t DNA i am familiar with (uuuhhhh…) and here’s the incident report for when someone has a stroke because someone has died on our courts here “in here? the person actually died?” i asked, “well, i don’t know,” the trainer said, “but i think so… i wasn’t working that day and i didn’t ask anymore about it…” and i’m thinking, “did you have anyone sage smudge the place? get it blessed by a priest? what about the bad juju?” and then she went on all sing-songy about this is where we make coffee, but never after 11 am, this is where the disinfectant wipes are because people throw up and bleed and the bathrooms are … we had this incident in one of them and the cleaning people don’t come until after we close and…  my head was swimming, not from the deluge but from the detritus….

suddenly i’m not so sure i want this job anymore.  it’s not because i am above it, it’s because time is fleeting and i really should spend my time doing something i’m totally digging. i have time to figure this out though.

the best thing i heard yesterday at the club was from a potentially former co-worker who is a grandmother. she said, “with children, the days drag on but the years fly by.” and i thought about that. i clocked out. and when i did, i remembered the story about the movie theater and i also thought about how this job at the front desk means i’m the first person someone would see, a mad gunman or suicidal person say, as s/he approached the entrance to the club. i have determined that any job worth having is the one you love and i don’t know if i’d love doing what the front desk does. i’m totally sociable, i can work a room like the best of ’em; i’m an extrovert and all that, but the shooting at the movie theater makes me feel like hunkering down again.

when i came back from my first day of training, my husband was at the table eating his lunch and smiled at me, “how was your first day of work, honey?” and i smiled. Thing 1 came and asked the same question. i smiled and explained that i was half intoxicated from the deluge of information.

 .  .  .

i just returned from a run. i run on paths not near the streets, i have chosen the paths for years. i usually take my dog but sometimes he slows me down and today, i didn’t feel like dissuading him from chasing a squirrel or sniffing a rock. i wanted to think about colorado;  determine what i felt about it and how i could articulate it.  i also learned today why i could run jog a 10:30/mi pace during my vacation in canada and not here: because the roads that border a great lake in canada are flat. my time today was 11:30/mi. it’s better than when i started in january by a minute and i’m totally OK with that. i ran jogged. i did something.

i like the paths away from the streets because drivers who text drive off the road and kill runners, pedestrians and people like me: slow runners joggers. i also prefer the privacy so that when i feel like stopping and crying because i’m hating my jog that no one will see me. i also like the shade under the canopy of tree leaves. i like to see the moss on the path and the water rush or trickle over the rocks in the creeks. i haven’t brought my cell phone because it’s the size of a pop-tart. i am afraid of weirdos on the path.  i haven’t seen any but well… no one expected the sniper, 9/11, the virginia tech shootings, the movie theater. assessing. maybe i’ll bring my phone.

i refuse to look for stories about this movie theater incident. a friend who lives in colorado wrote a powerful post about the legacy of the dark knight and she solidly avoided glorifying this perpetrator while focusing on the sadness of our country’s mental health system. i saw on a recent Time cover that every day a US service member commits suicide. i also read a while ago that every 14 minutes someone in the US ends their own life.

this incident, suicides and other tragedies (Oslo, for instance, whose one-year anniversary is tomorrow) that have prompted yet another reason for me to get perspective, hunker down and reassess my life have left me only with questions about people and their unattended sorrows. these people are everywhere. i don’t mean to say that in a pitchforks and torches “let’s get ’em!” way, but in a “we are one; we all hurt” way.

surely … we have to remember who we are. we are not one-dimensional screen zombies with status updates and likes obsessions and youtube addictions… RIGHT?! please tell me we are more than this. please.

i heard a story about a week ago about a fatal hit and run in nearby arlington where people who were un/loading a metro bus walked RIGHT PAST this individual (it’s on the bus’s camera) who might’ve still been alive and NO ONE DID ANYTHING. not even the bus driver. no one called 911, no one helped him. no one touched him. one guy crossed himself and kept walking. the man died there.

i don’t understand what’s happening to our world. we are connected by screens and logins and @s and #s and invisible binary and digital codes but we are not connected to one another anymore. we need to login to life or we will die inside.

as for the movie theater: where is the ‘reason’ in this tragedy? i am often a professor of kismet, karma, fate and destiny; that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ that phrase brings me peace. i often remember the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila which basically says “we are all are exactly where we are meant to be.” tell me, with all due respect, st. teresa, how the 12 people who are now dead were exactly where they were meant to be. where is the ‘reason’ in this event?

my head is all over the map about this. i want to hide my children. put up walls. trust no one. use only my home gym. stream movies. mill my own wheat and buy a cow and milk it. one last trip to costco should do it.

last night i played with my youngest son who is eight in his room. we built a lego house. it’s sort of a roofless home with a giant windmill attached to the side … i’m putting a picture of it here. i can’t really explain it other than to say it reminded me of osama bin laden’s place without the porn room.

the lego house that Thing 3 built. he wouldn’a had a second floor or that turret off of it if i hadn’t found the steps and then built the supports beneath them. this is his third rendition. the first two were huffed and puffed down by Big Bad Wolves also known as Thing 1 and Thing 2. i feel this one is gonna be OK because 1) i helped build it and 2) i helped build it.

i want to say that our good plans and loving talks with our sons outweighed the bad plans of that man, but something tells me that’s not quite how it works. we planned our lego day the night before, during the storm when we were talking on my bed, probably while that madman strapped on his body armor, checked his tear gas cartridges and inserted the deadly rounds of clips into his guns and loaded up his car to kill 12 people from age 6 to 51.

i am staying away from the politics (guns) in this matter. i have my opinions and i … *sigh* (really, profound sigh) will keep them to myself. i live in an area populated with senior officers in the military whom i know and love and i am infinitely grateful for the service they provide but i wish they didn’t have to do it at all. many of their wives are like sisters to me.  this is virginia, the old dominion, the commonwealth of the first colony in the united states. i do not have a gun, but i understand the sensitivity of the 2nd amendment and the passion of people who wish to protect it. i am not posting anything about this matter to make friends or enemies. thursday i thought i was certain of whom i was going to vote for in november. now i just know i am reassessing everything.

i am trying to determine what makes sense and what doesn’t.  what’s worth my energy and what isn’t. i don’t know what’s happening to our planet. i used to (and still hope) that love outweighs hate (i wrote a blog post about the incidences those words show up on the internet per Google). that peace outweighs anxiety, but…

i considered and then looked at past posts on my facebook and twitter and blog, my fervent interest in not overexposing myself to too much; to be humble, to have realistic expectations and not put too much value on the things TRULY that don’t matter: opinions of strangers, love from outside sources, the meaning of success, rejection from people who don’t know me… and the sting of rejection from people who do know me.

what i am realizing is that life is full of defining moments. we help determine them. we can sit and hem and haw all we want about life: brand people, deny people of ourselves, deny them of our love and compassion. deny them (and ourselves) of their company to supposedly take a stand, to be something else, but does it matter? i mean, does it matter to be That Someone?

i hear the wails of the firetrucks and police cars outside my home, about a tenth of a mile in the distance on a big road nearby.  i remember my oldest saying when he was youngest, “do you hear them mom? the firetrucks are crying.” and i’ve never felt the same about that sound since.  they are crying.

today, i have assessed thus: that at the finish line, all i want to know is that i did the right thing. i’m going to keep logging in to life; i am going to keep trying to connect.

thank you.