Monday, December 20, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Well, the days in the year are dwindling and Christmas is upon us once again. I love Christmas. It is the candle burning in the long, dark night of Winter. It is the song filling an unwanted silence. Christmas is the golden ring in the carousel as we spin through our lives. I can close my eyes to the crass commercialism that Christmas has become, and in the still of my heart I can hear Christmas like a whisper and feel an ageless magic drifting on the breeze in the frosty air. Christmas comes on dove's wings, gently and with peace. I wish it lasted all year long.

My children are grown. I'm sure they have their own ideas of Christmas. I hope it is poetry and light and enchantment. Maybe some of the magic left when they grew up, but I hope enough lingers that they can still feel it and remember what it was like to believe...although, I'm not entirely certain what they believed once upon a time.

I know what I believed...that a fat guy like Santa could not possibly fit down a chimney. I believed that if reindeer could fly faster than Superman (who I knew wasn't real), they still couldn't make it around the world in a single night -- not when they had to stop and let Santa deliver presents at every house along the way -- not to mention the obligatory eating of the cookies and drinking of the milk that most children left out as a token of thanks ( if not outright bribery) for the jolly old elf. I suspected that all those guys in red suits sitting on department store thrones could not be Santa. Also, I thought it would be creepy if Santa really did watch me all year long to ascertain the whole "naughty" and "nice" behavioral aspects of my juvenile tendencies. I mean, what was the deal? Was Santa a Peeping Tom lurking on the periphery, a well-intentioned voyeur? And how well could a fat guy in a fire-engine red suit hide anyway? Sure, it made for a  good story, but, you know, I can't remember ever believing any of it. Ever.

I asked my mother for the truth when I was six years old. She stammered for a moment, then told me it was all magic...that Christmas was magic, and that you had to believe in magic for it to be true. She said I could choose to not believe, but then the magic would be gone and Christmas wouldn't be so much fun anymore. Well, I ask you...where is the fun in doubt? I wasn't one of those kids who could tell themselves, "Okay, this is going to be better all around if you just buy the story." I couldn't play along. The truth was, I didn't want to believe something if it wasn't true.

And so, that Christmas Eve when I was supposed to be blissfully slumbering while visions of sugar plums danced around in my innocent little head, I forced myself to stay awake. Patiently, I waited as those hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning merged. Gradually, the lights went out. The house grew silent. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below. (Sorry, I got carried away). After waiting for what seemed an eternity, when I was sure my parents would be asleep, I crept into the hallway from my room on little cat's feet. The moonlight shone through a window in the front of the house. I had a good view of the living room and the Christmas tree in the corner. But wait...a light was shining into the room from the kitchen! Was Santa in there rummaging around for more cookies and milk? I could hear a sounded like a quiet muttering of expletives. Why would Santa be in my kitchen in the wee hours of Christmas morning cussing in undertones? Silently, I crept into the room and peeked around the corner. This was the moment of truth! Sitting at the kitchen table was not Santa, but my dad! He was trying to put together a Christmas present for me. It was a doll house...a doll house that came with assembly instructions in Japanese and a bunch of parts that didn't fit together. His belly may have been full with eggnog, but his old noggin was filled with frustration. I was jubilant, however. Here was all the proof that I needed.

"Ha!" I jumped into the kitchen, my little finger pointing accusingly at my father. "I knew it!" I shouted. "You're Santa Claus!"

Bad timing, that.

My dad was not amused. It was two in the morning. He was tired. He was miffed. He was busted. "Oh, you think you are so smart, don't you, little girl? Well put your own *&#* doll house together!" That was one of my first lessons on the differences between myth and reality.

My dad was used to my pragmatism, though. And he did love his little girl. He next tried to explain to me that Santa had left the doll house, but was really pressed for time what with having to deliver so many presents to so many boys and girls, so Santa had asked my dad to put it together for me. Yeah, right. I knew better. I also knew better than to say "yeah, right" out loud. For once in my life, I just let it go. It seemed important to my dad. Still, I had seen all that I needed to see. I had figured it out. And, you know, I don't think it made Christmas lose its magic for me. If anything, it was a relief to finally have an answer. Besides, I had realized at that tender age, that the magic of Christmas went much deeper than Santa or presents. (Still, once it was all put together, I did love that dollhouse.)

No surprisingly, the Christmas when my daughter, Jenny, was seven years old, she came to me with the same doubts nagging her. I stood with my back to the wall while little Jenny sternly posed her question. "Is Santa real?" she demanded. I stammered. "And don't lie to me," she insisted, "because I'll find out."

"You want the truth?" I asked her, hesitating only a moment. She nodded. So, I bent down and took her little hand in mine. I searched her eyes. She was her mother's daughter. Nothing but the truth would do. And so I told her no lies. She was satisfied. (Although, I did caution her to not tell the other children).

The next time we were at the mall, though, she still wanted to talk to "Santa." It was kind of like when the Grinch stole Christmas, but all the little Who's joined hands and sang anyway. The magic was still there for her. When Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she smiled and told him she wanted an "oil change." Go figure -- she was kind of a strange child sometimes. Pragmatist that she was, however, she didn't have any thing on her brother. When her brother, Kyle, was three years old, he told Santa he wanted a credit card. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving...

Now, all these years later, my kids will be here for Christmas. My daughter will bring her husband and my son will bring his fiance. I will also get to share the day with my husband, my mom and dad, my sister, brother, and their families. I also plan to visit my mother-in-law (who is home-bound) and take her some food, presents, and lots of Christmas cheer. It will be a wonderful day.

When the day is over, I will step outside. I will look up into that big, dark sky. If it is a clear night, I hope I can see the Milky Way glowing, its light white and dusted with stars. Ah, Christmas! The magic is eternal...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Big Thank You!

It's been pretty exciting around here lately -- first, Lindsey over at Dangerous with a Pen sent me a Versatile Blogger Award. Then less than a week later, Carol at Artzicarol Rambling bestowed upon me the same honor! You both absolutely made my day, and I am most happy to accept the award and pass it on to other deserving bloggers. And according to the rules, I will now list seven things about myself:

1. My first language was Japanese. I was less than a year old when my family moved to Okinawa and I spent a large amount of time with Yoshiko, who spent most of her time caring for me. Yoshiko spoke no English, but I picked up Japanese very quickly! Today, I don't remember a word of Japanese, but I will never forget Yoshiko!

2. My favorite color is indigo.

3. My favorite car was an acqua-colored MG Midget that I bought back in 1975. I miss driving that little car -- it was so much fun!

4. I have a cockroach phobia. I am terrified of the things! Working in a science museum, I have had to handle snakes, tarantulas, and even scorpions. No problem. But cockroaches? Ugh! Too creepy!

5. I love broccoli almost as much as I love chocolate. Hmmm...I'm thinking...maybe I could saute some broccoli with a little bit of orange zest in a chocolate sauce with some chili powder or chipotle...

6. I don't wear high-heels. They are too dangerous. The last time I wore high-heels (back in 1982), I went to get out of my van, but my heel got stuck in the hem of my dress and I fell out of the van and broke my leg. Come to think of it, I don't wear dresses much any more, either. Jeans with a nice white shirt and white canvas Keds have never gotten me in any trouble.

7. My mother tells me that as a toddler I used to eat dirt. She says it was an added treat if there happened to be roly-polies in the dirt (you know, those little brittle wormy looking things that like to curl up into tight buggy fetal positions) -- they added that extra crunch. So, I apologize to all those little bugs I ate and I hope they are all happily cavorting in roly-poly heaven where there are no three-year-old kids squatting in the dirt and patting out mud cakes with bugaboos stuck in their teeth.

Now for the really fun part. -- I get to pass on the Versatile Blogger Award to seven other bloggers. It's really hard to choose because I have come across some great blogs out there, but here goes:

1.Laura Eno at A Shift in Dimensions.
2. Suzy Turner.
3. PV Lundqvist.
4. Kate Higgins at Kate's Pictures and Words.
5. Carole Anne Carr at caroleannecarr.
6. Melissa J. Cunningham at A Writer's Reality.
7. Jennifer Rose at Wonder Turtle Soaps.

Please take a moment to check out these wonderful blogs and congratulate the writers.

Again, a great big "Thank You" to Lindsey Brooks and Carol Riggs. I appreciate the award and the wonderful writing and blogging community that makes writing and reading so much fun!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Fire Tree

One afternoon last week I walked past my front hallway and noticed the glass on my front door glowed like orange-red flames. The leaves on the  maple tree in my front yard had donned autumn garb and came knocking...a tree like fire casting its light right where I lived. The hallway lit up, a stained glass shower of autumn bliss. I could feel the warmth soaking my soul. I could feel the season, silent but gloaming, dusky and daunting...daunting because I can now feel the autumn in my bones. I've lived through Spring and Summer, danced and chased passions. Now I am in the season of respite. The flame is alive, but I know Winter is coming. It's all part of the process -- part of the circle that is Life. I'm completely cool with that.

My father reminds me of Winter. I look at him and know that most of his life has passed. He lives in memories of times long gone, when the trees were green  and sprouting. Ah, glory days, alive and vibrant and all the time in the world. I'm sure it passed too quickly for him -- I know it did for me. Still, there is comfort in recollections. My father's whole world is now in the past. He tells the same stories over and over again. He can't remember today --  yesterday is a vibrant  hue of his favorite colors, though. Yesterday is where it's all happening for my father. Yesterday, when he was young...

I can sympathize. I haven't reached the season of Winter yet, but I've definitely crested the proverbial hill and the down slope is in sight. I'm slower. I forget stuff. There are "droops" in places that used to be "perky."  There is more to see in the rear view mirror these days. I have more doctors' appointments. And, God help me, it seems like I can't have a conversation with a doctor any more when every other word doesn't end in "oscopy."

Ah, but my Dad...what goes through his mind these days? His life revolves around doctor's appointments and medications. His memories are his joys. The future is something he doesn't think much about any more. How sad....

He used to catch promises floating on breezes -- now he has trouble catching his breath. His heart used to beat with anticipation -- now the beat is irregular and labored. His eyes used to shine -- now they fade into shadows and close when confusion baffles him. The other day he asked my sister if she knew David had gotten married. David is her son. She planned the wedding. We tried to play down the question, like we all forget details from time to time. The truth is, though, that the clouds have come to stay and they will grow heavier as Winter progresses.

Soon, the fire tree will be bare. Orange-red will fade to white and eventually blur. Winter comes. But, winter always gives birth to Spring.

So, I will be happy to share this Thanksgiving with my father and all my family, while we are all here and able to enjoy each other's company. We will make some new memories. Maybe my father will remember them. Maybe not. I will remember, though, for I am in Autumn and the fire tree glows like promises that will never fade. I am still able to fan the flames. For this I am thankful. I love you, Daddy, and I wish for you all a very happy Thanksgiving!  Peace.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Haunted... I love that word! It feels so delicious on my tongue! Ummm...Halloween... I can taste the season -- apple cider, sweet, spiced pumpkin, popcorn balls, and licorice jelly beans. Oh, and the scent of bonfires and burning leaves -- ahhh, autumn acapriccio. I love the way the leaves fall from the trees all orange, gold, and red, the way they crush under my feet as I walk in crisp, clean air . Halloween...that mysterious time when the veil between worlds is at its most gossamer, when goblins, ghosts, and ghouls are greeted like long-lost friends. comes to me like a yearning.

I have no problem with ghosts. I have been surrounded by them my whole life. I think I once lived in a haunted house. I have worked with ghosts. Things have happened that I can't explain. I know what it is like to be haunted.

We all have ghost stories. I remember one night a few years ago... I was up late at night chatting with a friend. We lit a candle, sat on the floor, and shared a bottle of cheap wine. What could be more conducive to a good ghost story?  He told me about the time he had been house sitting for a friend. The house was old and creaky and sat back on a deep lot in the woods. Pretty spooky stuff already, right? Well, my friend told me he had been drinking some really good Jack Daniels from the homeowner's private stash that night, though he swears that had nothing to do with what happened. A storm had moved in --  the wind was blowing, the rain was pelting, and my friend was delightfully doused in liquid libations. Suddenly, there came a sound outside the window, a meloncholy, mournful sound. He said he saw a figure floating in the air near the window, a solitary, soulfully woeful being, glowing in the gloom.

"A ghost," I whispered, entranced.

"Maybe," my friend said, "but it might have been Jesus."

"You saw Jesus?" I asked. "What was he doing floating outside the window during a storm?"

"Playing a guitar," my friend responded.

"Well, that's pretty cool," I had to admit. "What did Jesus look like?" I just had to know.

"You know," my friend told me, "he looked just like Ted Nugent." I haven't heard that before!

Okay, so maybe that isn't really a good example of a ghost story. Did I mention I used to work in museums? For several years I worked at a museum built around a pre-historic Native American ceremonial burial site in the historic downtown district where I live. There were certainly ghost stories associated with that location. I also worked at a little one-room schoolhouse that had been built in 1912 and was converted into a museum during the 1970's. I couldn't walk into that building without encountering a myriad of ghosts from the turn of the century. Thankfully, they were all happy ghosts. I think that is what history really is -- working with ghosts.

The most poignant ghosts I ever encountered, though, came to me out of the blue. I was stopped at a traffic light one day near the elementary school my children had attended. I looked at the building. I looked across the playground. I could see them all... so many little ghosts. I saw field days, open houses, spring and fall carnivals, cake walks, and May Poles. My precious babies were among all those little laughing ghosts. It was almost more than I could bear. I had to pull off the road, into a parking lot. I was crying and shaking. God, how I longed for the past! I am so proud of the people my children have grown up to be today and I love them dearly, but I wanted to feel the arms of my babies hugging my neck again. I wanted to hear their laughter in my ear. I wanted to kiss their rosy little cheeks! I wanted just one more day with my children, back when their worlds were sooo big and full of promises. I wanted YESTERDAY. I have been haunted by that vision ever since...

And I wouldn't have it any other way. I hope those ghosts never leave me...I hope I am eternally haunted...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feeling all Twilight Zoney...

We've all had those moments when we are reading a book or watching a movie and we'll stop and say to ourselves, "Oh yeah, like that could really happen!" But, let's face it, sometimes life does take a surrealist kind of turn off the beaten path. In those moments, we know that reality can indeed be stranger than fiction and we don't need Rod Serling along to narrate the journey.

Such was the case one Saturday morning in April of 1981. My mom had decided it was time to make a pilgrimage to Tuscaloosa, Alabama from her home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. These trips to visit with her family were routine. Unfortunately,  my dad had to work that weekend. My sister, Patti, and I did not want Mom on the road by herself. (Remember, these were dark, ancient times before cell phones, and GPS systems). Although Patti nor I felt particularly compelled to roll with the Crimson Tide that weekend, we made a pact, agreeing that since neither of us wanted to go, we should both go. After all, misery loves company. And I figured the more, the unmerrier, so I dragged my daughter, Jenny, (who was only four years old at the time and, therefore, had little to say on the matter) along for the ride.  So it was we found ourselves unwilling wayfarers snaking along the narrow curves of State Road 331, heading north on a humid, gray, cloudy day. Could it get any worse?

Of course it could. I was sitting in the back seat with Jenny going through my mom's collection of cassettes. (I told you these were dark, ancient times!) All she had were a bunch of short hand transcriptions from the office and one Oak Ridge Boys tape. I begged my mom to turn around and let me go back and get my tapes. She refused, saying that it was bad luck to turn around on a road trip. Well, I mumbled something about it being incredibly bad luck to be stuck in a car for six hours with only one Oak Ridge Boys tape. (And before anyone goes coming down on me for dissing the Oak Ridge Boys, let me say that I have absolutely nothing against the Oak Ridge Boys -- it was just that I was sick of that song, "Elvira." I mean, I couldn't turn on the radio without hearing that song. It was all over the TV. My life in 1981 was saturated with that song! Giddy up, oom poppa, omm poppa, mow mow!) For the first three hours we listened to the Oak Ridge Boys. At the top of the fourth hour, I opted for the short hand transcriptions.

Well, it was during that fourth hour that we stopped at a McDonald's in Montgomery. (I was feeling a little guilty about dragging poor Jenny along, so I thought I would placate the kid with a Happy Meal). By the time we ate and made it back to the car, the sky had gone from merely gray to bruised and spitting, rain dribbling like saliva from those dismal clouds. That was when my mom's powder blue Buick decided it wasn't going anywhere. The car wouldn't start. Mom kept turning the key in the ignition and pumping the gas pedal. She was rewarded with a grinding noise. After a few minutes, she conceded defeat and ran back into McDonald' to use their phone.

By now my sister, Patti, who happened to be in her last trimester of pregnancy, by the way, was feeling more volatile than the rolling clouds above us. Patti had always had a flair for colorful language, but during her pregnancy she had become most fluent in profanity. Oh, the things my sister said sitting there in that parking lot on that rainy Saturday morning! "$#!!* piece of $#*+!" she extolled. "Oh, Mom thinks she has something here -- she's got a Buick! La di da! What she has is a #*!*$!!* piece of General Motors $#!+!"

During this diatribe, Mom crawled back in the car. The rain had gotten harder and she was soaking wet. "Someone in the restaurant recommended a good garage," she said. "It's just up the street, so the tow truck should be here soon."

"$#!+!" was Patti's response.

"You know," Mom said, shaking her head, "this car was acting funny all last week."

"What?!!!" screeched Patti. "You knew this car was 'acting funny' and you came off in it anyway?!!!"

"I had to," Mom insisted. "Our other car was dirty!"

I could see the veins bulging on my sister's neck from the back seat. Her face was red. She was blubbering. "And you tell me I don't have my priorities straight!"

I couldn't help thinking we were all going to laugh about this someday. But not that day, though. Jenny was already bored with the Happy Meal trinket she had gotten minutes before and was whining to listen to "Elvira" again. The one good thing that had come out of all this was that as long as the car wouldn't start, there would be no music.

The tow truck showed up about a half-hour later and towed us to the garage. We all piled out of the car while a very nice young man climbed into the car and positioned himself in the driver's seat. He tried to start the car, but to no avail. "Might be the battery," mused the nice young man.

"It's not the #*!#*-+#* battery!" Pregnant Patti was frothing.

The nice young man was clearly befuddled and much agitated by Patti's hostility. He did something under the hood and played with the ignition until he finally got the Buick to whimper. After a few false starts, the engine roared to life. He drove it around the block while we waited in the garage. When he returned a few minutes later, he left the car running out in the rain. He told us it was probably the starter and we would be fine as long as we didn't turn the motor off. He was dismissing us. On top of that, we had to run through the rain to the car. Patti had clearly miffed the nice young man and that was his revenge. Blustering, Patti waddled to the car like a duck. Mom, Jenny, and me made a run for it. We were almost at the car when Jenny slipped and fell face first into a mud puddle. When it rains, it pours.

So, it came to pass that we found ourselves back on road, limping out of Montgomery and on the home stretch. The highway was desolate. Jenny sat in the back seat of Mom's Smurf mobile with mud drying on her face and cuss words streaming out of her sweet little baby mouth. (She was giving my sister lessons in profanity, Patti actually taking notes). Mom was eerily quiet. Through it all, "Elvira" blared through the speakers. Finally, I snapped. I couldn't take it anymore -- I was sick of that song! Not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, I took it all out on the Oak Ridge Boys. I said terrible things about their music, things I didn't mean. And while I was still disparaging the band, my mom looked in her rearview mirror and said, "Oh, my..."

"Oh, my...what?" I asked.

"It's the Oak Ridge Boys." Mom responded.

I turned and looked out the back window. Sure enough, a big tour bus with "Oak Ridge Boys" emblazoned above the windshield was following us. I smiled and waved demurely. The driver waved back. A bunch of guys came from the back of the bus and waved. I threw kisses. Mom and Patti both called me a hypocrite. I told them I was being practical -- we were out in the middle of nowhere in the rain in a car that could die at any time. I was just making friends.

Those wonderful Oak Ridge Boys followed us all the way to Tuscaloosa. I kept waving and sang "Elvira" as loudly as I could. Giddy up, oom poppa, omm poppa, mow mow!

Life was sure strange.

Oh, one interesting little side note -- when we got to our destination in Tuscaloosa, nobody was home. Did I say life was sure strange?

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Feel Pretty...

       My nephew is getting married this weekend. While I certainly wish him and his lovely bride a long lifetime of happiness, I don't know if I will be able to forgive him for forcing me to go shopping. Oh, I'm not talking about shopping for wedding presents --that I can cheerfully manage. No, I had to go shopping for a dress. A dress for myself. A dress I could wear to his wedding. You know, a dressy dress. Something that requires me to wear shoes -- shoes that do not have rubber soles! Now you see where I'm coming from.
       Don't get me wrong; I can shop all day for books or music. I can set up camp in a candle shop or hobby store. I love browsing for the perfect wine or the freshest truffle. God knows, I will spend hours joyfully perusing non-perishables and assorted sundries at the local Winn-Dixie. And, boy-howdy, do I enjoy clicking that little "add to cart" button on that there internet. But, please do not ask me to shop for clothes. Especially not clothes for myself. My entire wardrobe consists of four pairs of blue denim jeans and four white shirts. These go very well  with my classic white canvas Ked's sneakers. (For a more formal occasion, I will wear socks).
     I think my fashion reluctance goes back to an Easter Sunday when I was four years old. My mom  had taken me shopping for my Easter outfit a few weeks earlier. And, oh, what a lovely outfit we found! The dress had an underskirt of taffeta with folds of the palest, most enchanting shade of pastel green gauze and silk skirts cascading over a myriad of lacy, starched petticoats. There was this big bow that tied in the back. Rounding out this ensemble were a pair of white patent leather shoes with sweet little baby-doll straps, a pair of white gloves, an Easter bonnet adorned with pastel petals and lacy ribbons, and finally, a shiny new white purse with a star-shaped snap on the front and a beaded handle that looked so precious in my little white-gloved hand.
       As I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror on Easter morning, I felt like a princess. I was certain that anyone who looked at me would think I had been enchanted with a magical radiance by some fairy godmother. I was so proud...maybe too proud.
        I left my bedroom and airily glided into the living room where siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles had gathered, all anxiously awaiting the call to choose who was riding with whom to sunrise services. I was poised. I was graceful. I was waiting for a compliment. That was when a couple of aunts I saw once a year only on Easter mornings called me to stand before them. They looked me over from head to toe. Finally, one of them asked me if I felt all right. The other aunt clucked her tongue and said, "My, what a thin, frail, sickly child I looked." I was devastated. I didn't look pretty at all. (I had been very ill as a child, constantly in and out of the hospital and doctor's offices because of a kidney ailment). Suddenly, I hated wearing that beautiful dress. I detested my new shoes. I wanted to tear that Easter bonnet from my head and send it sailing through the air across the living room like a frisbee. The purse and white gloves now reeked of ridiculousness. I felt like a cockroach in an Easter basket.
       Funny how some memories stick with you. So, here I am more than half a century later, still hesitant to get dressed up. I don't want to draw attention to myself. I don't want to invite scrutiny. I just want to wear my blue jeans and white shirt and fade into the wallpaper. Sure wish my nephew had opted for a casual wedding.
       Oh, well. Maybe it won't be as bad as the time I went to my cousin's wedding wearing a dress that looked just like the bride's! (True story, I swear). It just goes to show that nothing good can come out of making me go shopping for clothes or forcing me to get dressed up!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Tall Tales and Pet Pigs

       Well, here I sit thinking it is time to write another blog. What should I write about, though? It seems I used to have much to say about very little, but I find the older I get, the less I have to say. Of course, this is a source of consternation... I mean, the older I get, the more life experiences I have, right? With that comes more wisdom, more  anecdotes in the cookie jar, more observations, and more, more, more slices of prosaic pie putamen to ponder. Hmmm...why don't I have more to say? 
       I mean, I know people who wake up one morning with crow's feet, sagging upper arms, increasing recollections and waning memory, and they are a fountain of words. Take my father, for example. In his youth, he was a man of very few words (which was a good thing, because with a wife and two daughters, it was problematic for him to get a word in edgewise). He bided his time, though. These days he is a conversation stalker. He will ruthlessly chase people down to talk at them. He will corner his prey and begin a story that may have a basis in truth, but an avalanche of embellishments. He will lick his lips and rub his palms together as he recounts countless tidbits of titillating information from times so long gone that no one dares argue the facts. (And make no mistake, facts are a nuisance for my dad, God bless him). As many spinners of yarns will tell anyone who crosses their paths, facts can really get in the way of a good story. So, it is with a grain of salt and a pound of doubt that we give credence to tales of our fathers...which is not to say they lie. Rather, they know how to tell a good story.     
       Having said this, I remember a Christmas dinner a few years ago. We sat at the  table, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and the cherished collective acquaintances, all relishing the joy of the day, aglow in the amiable familiarity of family and friends. The food was palatable and the wine freely flowed and so began a tale by my father...a tale that came out of nowhere and quickly enthralled us all. It involved a Christmas from many years past and the memory of a family pet, Pygmalion the Pig. All was well as long as Pygmalion was a sweet, tiny little porker of a pig. Problems ensued, though, as Pygmalion grew. Alas, that sweet little porcine pet became a surly sow, wont to wreak havoc on the unwary. Woe to the milkman, the post man, the deliverymen, and unsuspecting solicitors. Woe to the neighborhood children and their better behaved pets. Eventually, Pygmalion became so mean, that she had to be dealt with most severely. Here, my father wipes a tear from his eye as he tells us of the decision to put that poor pig to sleep. We all sigh, wipe at our own tears, and try to swallow the lumps in our throats. It is precisely at this moment that dear old Dad says, "You know, it took seven bullets to put that pig to sleep." You could have heard a pig...errrr...I mean pin drop! And, of course, you guessed it -- Pygmalion the Pig was the Christmas ham that year!
       Conversation came to a halt. We all eventually picked our jaws up off the table. Needless to say, none of the kids wanted Grandpa to tuck them in that night. As for me, I still shudder to this day if anyone says "sleep tight" to me. Poor Pygmalion...
       Anyway, I digress. Maybe someday, when memory mingles with reality and delusion, I will have more to say on all topics. My father, who was until recently a man of few words, will be my inspiration. I love his stories and, God help me, I will speak in the tongues of those who tell tall tales and, like my father, maybe I won't let facts get in the way either!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What a Week!

       Well, it's been a pretty exciting week! I've just published my first novel, Strange Loops, as a Kindle book at Amazon. Actually, it is a book I co-authored with my daughter, Jenny. We had so much fun writing it together and it feels good to actually see it as a finished product now!
       So, what to do next? I'm thinking of publishing a childrens' book I wrote and illustrated a few years back. It will probably be a lot of work to format it, but I had so much fun with the last one that I'm ready to dive in to a new project.
       The best part of the week, though, was having my family here for my birthday. Jenny and her husband, Ken, actually live just up the street from me (which I love!!!), and my parents live only a couple of miles away which is also very nice. They came bearing gifts (thank you, everyone!!!). Jenny, who is a wonderful baker, made me the most beautiful, delicious chocolate cake with this divinely creamy peanut butter icing. It tasted like a giant Reese's cup, which must truly be the food of the gods! My son, Kyle, and his girlfriend, Kristina, came all the way down from Atlanta to help me celebrate. Kristina's mom, Sandy, also came over to join the party. Honestly, it doesn't get any better than family and good friends and I am so happy that they were all here for the festivities! We feasted on pizza, beer, and wine before we cut into that scrumptious cake I was telling you about. Ahhh, Heaven!!! I won't tell you how old I am, but I will say that I'm old enough that it was a really big deal to me when the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. (Dinosaurs did not sit behind me in Homeroom, though.)

My beautiful birthday cake!
(Thanks Jenny!)
       Now you would think things couldn't get any better, wouldn't you? Family, good friends, good food! Well, let me tell you what happened next; right in the middle of the party, Kyle walks over to Kristina and gets down on one knee. Then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out this gorgeous ring and -- you guessed it -- he proposes to her! We all knew it was coming, but Kristina was stunned and delighted! She cried and she said "yes!" So, this will be the year I got a new daughter for my birthday!

Kyle and Kristina admiring her ring!
      I hope everyone had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I know it will be difficult for me to ever have a better birthday than this one and I am so grateful to all the wonderful people who made it so special for me. Thank you one and all!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Welcome to my New Blog

Welcome to my very first blog ever! Although I have been writing for over forty years, I am a little slow to embrace new technology. Admittedly, I am very intimidated by all things cyber. I'm learning, though. So far, my computer has not gnashed its teeth at me nor hissed nor even mocked me for my timidness. It's a start...

Anyway, I have recently completed my first novel, Strange Loops, with my daughter, Jenny. If all goes according to plan, it should be available as a Kindle book at Amazon soon. Pretty exciting! I am in the process of formatting and proof-reading now.

The conception for our book was not typical -- actually, there was no conception at all. There were no outlines for plot, characters, or setting. Sounds like a pretty lame basis for a story, right? When we started writing, neither of us had any idea where we were going. We didn't even know it would eventually turn into a story. The fact that it did turn into a story was a perk. What happened was this:

Jenny had just moved to Hawaii. We have always been very close and that little island out there in the Pacific seemed sooo far away from my home on Florida's Gulf Coast. Of course, we emailed each other and talked on the phone, but one day we decided it might be fun if we had a project to link us. That was when we decided to write our book. Jenny would write the first chapter and email it to me, then I would take the second chapter and email it back to her and we would continue, alternating chapters, but never discussing what would come next. Sometimes we would deliberately try to write each other into corners just for kicks. Sometimes we would try to out-weird each other. All in all, it made for a raucous good time, but imagine our surprise when we realized a story was actually manifesting out of all this silliness. It wasn't long before our book took on a life of its own and started leading us! Within a few months, we were ready to start putting it all together and editing. After several re-writes, the next step was to approach literary agents and publishers.

Well, let me say that writing a book is a whole lot easier than getting somebody to read it! First of all, the book we ended up with is very hard to classify. Primarily, it is humorous. It has elements of science fiction and fantasy. It's about family and friends. It touches on philosophy and religion. And, oh yeah, one of the main characters happens to be a talking monkey with a God-complex. Well, a couple of agents actually said the story sounded intriguing, but they were concerned about its "commercial viability." Turns out agents don't really care how well something is written if no one wants to buy it. Go figure. But, Jenny and I figured some people may want to buy it. I mean we both love to read and we are just as apt to pick up something quirky as we are something mainstream. We think there are probably other readers who feel the same way. After all, there was a market for Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, right? So, who can resist a story about UFOs, alien abduction, parallel universes and boiled peanuts? (Aside from literary agents and traditional publishers, that is).

And that's where we stand now. After multiple rejections and the consequential despair, we have decided it's time to stand up and take matters into our own hands; we are going to self-publish! We shall join the cyber community of ebooks! We shall join hands and overcome the prejudices of the mainstream industry! We shall exercise control of our own fates, and, dare I say, we shall seize the dazed! Look for our book, Strange Loops coming soon!