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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Never Discount The Humble Prayer

This morning while standing at the bus stop with my youngest son, I asked him if he would like to say a good morning prayer-that's what we've always called our morning prayers...'Good Morning Prayers' because of the faith it takes to believe that it will be a good morning if God wills it and it is a good morning because God let us see it to begin with.  Anyhow, he began his prayer in true six year old fashion by saying the first thing that popped into his head.  This morning it was prayers that he and every other kid in our neighborhood-he even named them one by one-would get on the bus safely.  I peeked at him during this solemn exchange and noticed his eyes darting along the road, the sky, the horizon.  I thought about mentioning to him to keep his eyes closed but I noticed that he never faltered in his prayer.  Then I began thinking about suggesting things for him to pray about but chose against it.  To pray, in my humble wisdom, is to have a conversation with God.  It's an opportunity to thank him for a multitude of things, to ask for a few particulars-usually those things troubling me most and lastly it is to hope that in those words, whatever should happen-is HIS will.

Cullen finished his recitation of the names of the kids in our neighborhood-he even referenced "...and that boy that lives across the street from Elizabeth and Ashley."  He signed off his prayer with a "in Jesus name we pray, Amen."  When he did this I knew he was praying just fine for a six year old.  As far as I can see it, he's got the mechanics of praying down just fine.  He knows WHO he's praying to, he knows WHAT he's praying for and he SIGNS OFF his prayer demonstrating his faith-"...in Jesus name".

Just after finishing his good morning prayer a gust of wind blew by.  He looked up at me, demonstrating with his hands as he spoke, "you know...that wind is gonna take my note up to God...".  I nodded my head in unspoken agreement as he continued, "...it takes good morning prayers and nighttime prayers to God in notes."  I thought about this and silently conceded to myself that it was a mighty fine way of thinking about the whole thing.  It also made me realize that the gust of wind this morning was fairly strong, so it must be carrying quite a few heavy notes to God.

Cullen's humble little note will reach God-I'm certain of it.  Along with a multitude of more elaborate and poetically crafted prayers.  But God, I'm sure when he opens it, will see the humbleness of his prayer and he'll see that the words in it came directly from his heart and his faith.  I hope it makes God smile-I know it did me.  I also know that I'll never stand in the wind or feel a gentle breeze and think of it as simply being just wind, ever again.

~Gail

Saturday, November 27, 2010

When Things Aren't Quite Right...

Some days seem to go by with me hitting a bump in the road now and again...nothing too much out of the ordinary, but other days aren't so good.  Those leave me with an icky feeling.  Instead of hitting the bumps in the road I'm more or less wading through the ditch along side it.  The ditch is full of dark brackish water and mud, trash from passing motorists, brambles, rotting leaves and probably creepy things like snakes.  In that ditch is everything that you can see from your car window, but usually overlook when your gaze travels on to seek prettier scenery.  But when you're in that ditch you can't exactly look over all that stuff...or try and pretend it doesn't make you feel the way it does.  Because when you get mired down in all of life's difficult times, you feel like you're gonna be sinking in that ditch forever and you're just waiting on something to bite you.

When I'm standing in the ditch it gives me a strange foreign feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It's a worrying ache that gnaws at me.  The gnawing makes me feel as though I don't fit so well in my own skin.  I also experience jitters-like the kind you get when you get jacked up on too much caffeine and sugar and you can't stop shaking.  Then, for some darn reason I end up getting all reflective and self-absorbed.  I question everything that has ever happened in my life and everything that might happen in the rest of it.  In some ways I guess I get all hypochondriatic (is that even a word?).  I wonder and worry about every pain or passing feeling and I try to read into each one much more.  What if something is really wrong?  What should I do?  Oh crap-this feeling really stinks.  When is that snake gonna strike?

I remember feeling this way when I was younger and trying to explain it to my Mom.  I think this is probably the same thing that happens when my own daughter comes to me and says, "Mom, I feel weird".   As a parent I feel sort of helpless as I try to reassure her that it's perfectly normal to feel weird now and again.  Feeling weird is yet one more part of life.  But I can secretly admit that the feeling is hard to ignore.

When I was younger I would do my best to take on the weight of the world.  I remember my Mom trying to reassure me that everything was going to be alright.  I would work myself up into quite a frenzy and before I knew it, the frenzy would win.  Can you say 'Panic Attack'?  Not a good feeling.  But Mom was there to remind me that even when things are feeling weird and we feel out of sorts, we need to remind ourselves that we aren't really the ones in charge.  She reminded me that what's going to happen, is going to happen.  That we should trust in God and that he knows what is right for us-even if we're clueless.  Mom suggested I recite bible verses and so that's what I did.  John 3:16 and other ones that we were taught at Sunday school.  And each night when I fought back a panic attack, I'd arm myself with one of those verses and use it as a shield.  I took comfort in those verses then and now.  I let the feelings brought on by those verses permeate me.  Flood me and fill me with a peace like none other.  True, those verses don't really get to the root of the problem, but they empower me with courage-both then and now.

So the next time you find yourself standing in that ditch, trembling, alone, afraid and close to tears, just remember that there can be no courage without fear.  And that someone much greater than us is gonna handle it all anyway.  Look around you, find a loved one and get a hug.  Hold someones hand, sing a little hymn and let that peaceful feeling fill you.  Pretty soon you'll be back in the car and you won't see the stuff in the ditch so much.  And that's when you can look at all that pretty scenery and enjoy your life again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Valley

Look around…can you see? Trees and rocks and plants. Over there in the shadow of those old oak trees lies a stream. It’s been here forever-or as close to forever as you and I could imagine. Indian children once played in that stream, their tribe bathed in it, drew water from it, drew life itself from it. They lived up there on the rise in the shelter of that mighty hill. You know they planted corn here, and squash and beans too. They hunted deer and rabbit and everything else that traverses these woods. God put them here for a reason, though they didn’t know God then. But they knew that they’d been blessed to be put here.

Close your eyes, sharpen your ears and listen to the muffled sounds. With so much to dampen the noise around us it’s easy to miss hearing everything that’s going on in these woods. The squirrels busily looking for food, finding it and tentatively digging a spot to place it-to store his good fortune.


A rabbit is resting in her warren, just over there beneath the root of a fallen gum tree. She has just given birth-life again-many in fact, five or six little ones for her to nurture. The babies are there, eyes tightly shut, furless, helpless and completely innocent of the world just outside the small entrance to their home. So unaware of the fox or the hawk, the cougar and the bear, all those other creatures that God put here, right beside the Indians.

Can you hear the leaves in the trees? They brush each other in the wake of the breeze and make music. Whether we realize it or not, they speak to our souls on a level we don’t appreciate. Listen to them and remember their songs, they are fleeting just like us and without them our souls would suffer.

Still have your eyes shut? Can you hear the stream? There are several large boulders rising from the water. The clear, cold water never stops ebbing alongside the blues and grays of those massive rocks. Rocks worn smooth by running water from many millennia. Those boulders are witnesses to many things. So many moons, too numerous to count, to animals perching on them long enough to take a sip of water from the stream or to bask in the warm sunshine on brisk days. They’ve witnessed humans-all kinds of people from all ages. They’ve witnessed birth, life and death. They’ve been warmed by the sun during drought and they’ve hidden beneath rushing torrents of flooding. At the base of those boulders where the stream tugs and pushes, the water is slowed and in those somewhat stiller places are tiny crawfish and tadpoles. Tiny fish call the bellies of these boulders home. They swim and dart through the stream, sometimes fighting against the current of the water, searching for whatever it is they eat. After feeding they return to the safety of that big boulder.

Do you smell the richness of the earth? Keep your eyes shut and move a step…the scent is slightly different. A unique blend of everything God put here. That’s something else…did you notice the breeze? It’s nothing like the wind that stirs on top of the mountain. Here the breeze swirls around you, caressing you, reminding you to reach out with all your senses and notice things. The leaves and needles from last year’s fall are molding underfoot, being slowly reclaimed by their great host.

Do you smell the wildflowers? They’re delicate warm scent is dancing on the breeze. They’re subtle too; not flashy like some flowers. In this valley they grow in small bursts of color where the sun can reach them and warm them. Growing in small clumps, they remind us life is small and fleeting. They also tell us that no matter where we are, God is with us. Can you smell the hearty pine and the pungent cedar? Evergreens―always awake even through the cold of winter; they remind us in the depths of winter that there is still life here. Sentries for the forest; always present they provide the green when all the other trees sleep.

Now open your eyes and look around. The valley isn’t a hole we’re in―it’s not a low spot in life―it is shelter. It allows us to stop and reflect, to see everything around us. True, it doesn’t have the same majesty and glory like being at the top of that mountain. But the valley is renewal, with the stream and the rich earth and the plants and animals-it’s to cherished because without the valley, we wouldn’t understand and couldn’t appreciate the mountain peak.



Friday, September 17, 2010

Part II

Confliction incarnate was what sat quietly eating a bowl of kimchi (fermented cabbage soup) on the park bench that day.  Kyung Soon O'Malley...the only child of three generations off-the-boat, town Mayor Ronald O'Malley and his beautiful Korean wife Kyung Mi.  Kyung Soon was a beautiful but volatile creature.  Having inherited her shocking red hair and pale skin from her father and the straight, thick hair texture from her mother along with slightly slanted brown eyes, she was the epitome of all people born Irish-Korean. 

Kyung Soon had been brought up in a strange environment.  Her mother was all quiet--exuding the gentile, peaceful personality of a docile housewife while her father was Irish to the core.  The result was born in Kyung Soon.  She carried herself with a regal shyness born of empires.  However, that composure could fracture and splinter in an instant.  A wicked tempest brewed under her skin and it took merely a hint of provocation to unleash it. 

Kyung Soon, now 22, had recently begun working at the only bank in town.  She was using her lunch hour to both eat her lunch and walk her white miniature poodle named Kashi.  This wasn't a problem as she only lived one town block from the bank.  Dressed in a fancy pale blue linen suit, Kyung Soon was sitting on a park bench in the shade of an oak tree.  She had spread a white linen napkin (embroidered with the O'Malley coat of arms) across her lap and was eating her kimchi from a fancy porcelain crock.  Kashi sat at her heels, barking randomly at the passersby.  First there was the odd jogger, then an old lady with the squeaky walker, followed up by a couple of young mothers pushing their wailing toddlers in strollers.

Kyung Soon ignored her dog as it barked and instead relished every bite of her lunchtime treat.  Kimchi made using her mother's old family recipe was a rare treat.  Most days her mother cooked for the delight and happiness of her father.  So a typical meal in her home was more often Shepherds pie or boiled potatoes with cabbage.

Kyung Soon had inherited a particularly garish piece of jewelry from her Irish grandmother whose tastes had ran somewhat eccentric when she had been alive.  But Kyung Soon loved the heavy silver necklace and it's odd hanging bauble in a way that most couldn't understand.  Since Kyung Soon had a fantastic lineage it also stood to reason she would be allowed to have unusual tastes' in bling.  So, while the long, heavy silver chain strung round her dainty pale neck stood in sharp contrast to her features, it also pointed out her familial diversity.    It contained several faux round emeralds set into the chain at varying intervals and one large, rectangular faux sapphire set in the center of a small wooden pendant-clearly in the shape of an Irish pub sign.  It was as every bit heavy as it looked and though its overall weight and craftsmanship made it solid and strong, the clasp that connected the ends was oddly old and frail.

When Jolly the squirrel spied the jewels as they sparkled in the sporadic dappled sunshine, he knew in an instant he had to have it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Part I

Jolly was by far one of the most curious and clueless of his kind.  An Eastern Gray squirrel with a penchant for the shiney, he was the first of his litter mates to half-climb, half-fall out of the nest his parents had built high in the arms of a large oak tree.  His mother was the one to save him from the clutches of a large brown dog who was bent on killing him.  While he didn't realize the danger he was in, he was none the less surprised and delighted by his mother's show of enthusiasm when she rescued him.  His litter mates had ran up and down the limbs of their great tree, chirpping and squeaking and making all manner of noises.  They did this in an effort to try and distract the dog, encourage their mother and save their less than intuitive brother.  When she finally managed to get him safely to the tree, just beyond the jaws of the monster, she couldn't decide who needed the chewing out more-her offspring for his unintelligent actions or the dog that had tried to eat him.

When questioned, for he still was unaware he'd done anything wrong, Jolly confessed that it had been a shiney candy wrapper blowing in the wind that had originally caught his attention.  His love of bling had almost been the undoing of both he and his mother.  His mother had gone a little grayer that day-if such a thing was possible.

Within weeks of his first brush with death he'd managed to accumulate quite a few things whose glimmer and sparkle had caught his attention.  Candy wrappers-that smelled just as good as they looked along with a few loose coins and a ladies hair clip.  A small shiney quartz stone with sharp edges that sparkled when the sun hit it just so and a large, silver paper clip he'd discovered near a park bench.  While his littermates learned the art of locating and collecting food, Jolly was absentmindely discovering the joys of trash cans, gutters and the nearby electrical substation.

It was on a beautiful spring day when he and his family were skittering around the park, his parents busily teaching the family ways to survive everything from cat attacks, avoiding flying predators and Papa Squirrels top three reasons to avoid snakes when Jolly's eyes were suddenly caught by the bright glinter of a ladies necklace.  Since his parents had failed to mention humans among the list of "to be feared and avoided" he had no reservations concerning approaching her and appropriating what he thought was a pretty sparkle.   Little did he know that his actions and their unfortunate results would end up turning the world of the local human populace upside down for a time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

305 Spruce Street

The greeting was nearly always the same, "Hi, Hon!" as any of the grandchildren walked through the door.  We never knocked-we just walked right in.  Through the glass-slatted door that opened in the kitchen and just to the right into the living room where we would all stop and turn to our right long enough to hug our Grandma who sat in her blue recliner.  Sometimes a short line would form and Grandma seemed to be a bottleneck but we'd all take turns hugging her.  She always smiled at us---never a scowl or frown.  Then, as our Paw-paw who sat across the way started teasing us, we would make our way to the other side of the living room.  He would call us each by nickname---never by our given name.  The grandkids would allow the adults to sit in the swan-necked chair or on the stiff red couch.  The kids all sat on the floor Indian style, spread haphazardly around the room.  There we would spend a few minutes answering questions about how we were or what we'd recently learned in school.  After the first few cursory minutes the kids would each begin the inquiry.  Was there anything to eat?  Most often it was cookies-Fudge Stripes, Oreos or chocolate chip...always in the cookie jar in the kitchen.  Paw-paws after-dinner mints, peppermints or lemon drops could be found in the glass candy dish that sat on the stereo in the living room.  On hot summer days there were ice pops, ice cream sandwiches or ice milk.  And on the really good visits there were fresh pecan pies, pound cakes or chocolate cake.  We drank Coca-Cola from glass bottles, fresh homemade lemonade or iced tea. 

It was a good thing that we had plenty of cool drinks and treats around.  Our Paw-paw didn't want an air conditioner installed in his house.  He insisted he couldn't breathe in air conditioned air.  As a result their windows were always full of box fans.  Somedays it was so hot in that little brick house that we would end up moving outside to sit in the shade on the carport in metal lawn chairs.  The kids would fight or take turns (depending on our mood and whether or not there were nearby adults) swinging just behind the house in the swing made from an old ferris wheel seat.  The swing was metal mesh and heavy.  Most often it was cool to the touch since it was situated in the shade of an old gum tree.  It was mounted on large metal pipes that were fitted together and put into the ground in cement, Paw-paw would paint them silver every once in a while to keep them shiney.  The swing was painted whatever color Paw-paw had painted the ceiling of the carport.  We'd beg the adults to push us and the lucky times they did we rode high.  We would all stretch our legs out far and try to touch one of the low-hanging leaves on the gum tree.  When that old swing would start creaking and groaning from use our Grandma would take a swipe of Crisco and put it on the hinges to stop the squeaking.  Our grandparents carport was more than just a place to park the car.  There were chairs sitting out there and visiting was something done on a regular basis.  That was when people still visited each other.  It was nothing to be sitting on the carport having a talk and have a great aunt or uncle pull up for a visit.  Pretty soon the carport would be spilling over with visitors and the adults would be hollaring at the kids to shut the kitchen door because they were letting flies in.

I recall a few times the car being backed out from the carport and setting up the handmade wooden quilting frame for the ladies to work on quilts together.  Aunts and great-Aunts would gather in wooden folding chairs and sit there for hours.  They patiently stitched and talked and us younger girls would sit down long enough to pull through a few perfunctory stitches before running off to play in the yard.  I don't know how many quilts were made on that old quilting frame.  The frame, along with a wonderful old rocking chair and several other neat things at Grandma's house were handmade by my great-grandfather.  It seems that back then there were alot more "things" around a person's house that could tell a story.  Not like today's world where things are purchased on the fly and have no personal connection.  I recall several quilts that those ladies made that were special and very unique.  Crazy quilts and log-cabin quilts made from the old scraps of clothes that were threadbare or ready to retire.  Patches from my Paw-paws Coca-Cola work shirts were sewn into those quilts along with bits and pieces of clothes from other family members.  We could look at those quilts and feel as though we had part ownership in them.  Each of those quilts told a story and they seemed warmer as a result.

My grandparents yard was a good size but I always thought it was huge.  But I suppose that's what a child's eye can see.  The vast expanse of sloping green grass was broken a little over halfway across the back yard by the imposing pecan tree.  The tree was big and had low-growing limbs that we all itched to climb on but we weren't allowed to climb that tree.  Half the yard was fenced in-this was to keep neighborhood kids out or to try and keep grandkids in-maybe a bit of both.  Two mature cherry trees in the far corner of the yard produced unbelievable amounts of cherries and Grandma would bake pies and make cherry preserves.  Grandma's kitchen was always hot and steamy when she canned.  For a number of years there were two plum trees she also made preserves from but I recall hearing adults complain about them.  Apparently the wasps and yellow jackets would hover over the over-ripened fruit that had fallen on the ground.  Eventually those trees were cut down.

During the day if we were outside with her, our Grandma would tell us the names of the birds as they flew through or landed in the yard.  When we were young and didn't know any better she would tell us we could catch a bird if we could put salt on their tail.  There is absolutely no telling how much salt we ended up dumping in that back yard in our bid to catch a bird.  On summer evenings we would wait for the lightening bugs to appear and then we would run around catching them-it was like winning the lottery.  We would fill up a mason jar with those things and watch in amazement as they lit up time and again.

The far left corner of the back yard held a homemade brick pit for cooking barbecue but I don't recall ever seeing it used.  I did hear stories about how my Grandfather's clothes once caught on fire but I'm not sure if the barbeque caused the accident.  Another highlight of the yard was the clothesline and the poles that presented climbing challenges.  I can only speculate the number of times we hung from the ends of those giant "T" poles.   We would take turns shimmying up and down them every chance we got.  Grandma used her clothesline whenever she could because running the clothes dryer was expensive.  It would also heat the kitchen up something aweful.  Add to that the gas stove in the kitchen and you could imagine the heat inside.  Grandma cooked on it every day.  Her kitchen was always full of the smells of a good Southern cook.  Pawpaw would cook breakfast on the weekends-which was always a scream because he would lace up in one of Grandma's old cooking aprons.  He was tall but had a slight belly that the apron would stretch over.  During one such breakfast I remember Grandma loaded up her piece of toast with a huge dollup of her homemade cherry preserves.  I commented that she put too much on her toast and that our mom didn't allow us to eat that much.  Her response was that she liked to taste it on her toast and she didn't skimp on jelly.  Grandma kept a lazy Susan on one end of the table and on it were stored all sorts of condiments along with jelly and jam. 

I remember the day my Grandparents bought a new dining room table to put in their kitchen.  Grandma promptly covered the table with a plastic table cloth to protect it.  I also remember them sitting down to breakfast together and watching as Grandma set out Corelle cups with saucers for them to have their coffee.  I thought it seemed awefully formal to put out a dish to catch runoff coffee when you already had a perfectly handy plastic table cloth to do the job for you.  But I suppose that was something else they had-a set of niceties instilled into them by another era.  Grandma would always pour Paw-paw his coffee and refill it for him while we were sitting at the table.  As a side note, dishes were also washed, dried and put away after every meal and definitely before everyone went to bed (boy would she freak at my house!).

It's strange how some things stick with us.  The little things that we recall.  Like the Reader's Digests magazines sitting on a skinny iron table in the only bathroom they had.  Grandma kept a notepad and a Websters Dictionary in there too.  She would write down any new words she might come across in her reading and look them up-so she could commit them to memory.  That old dictionary had quite a few miles on it.  There was an old metal bell mounted on a plaque that was placed high on the wall outside the bathroom.  It had some poem written on the plaque about using the bathroom.  Ringing the bell was supposedly a nice way to remind the person in the bathroom that there were others that needed to use it.  Ringing it constantly (which is what we kids did) was just plain annoying.  We never had a bell at my house-we just yelled through the bathroom door at whoever was on the other side to hurry up.

When we were allowed to spend the night I always slept in the front guest room.  Grandma had a single bed in her sewing room on the back side of the house but it was usually covered in sewing implements.  So I slept in the front room where there was a double bed situated right beside a window.  At night Grandma would take one of the box fans from the living room and place it in the window beside the bed.  The window sills were wide enough to hold a box fan and the windows themselves were the old crank-out variety.  There were feather pillows on that bed and I always had a devil of a time getting them to fluff up enough.  Occasionally the sharp end of a feather would poke through the pillow casing and I'd pull it out.  I thought that was pretty neat.  We didn't have feather pillows at our house.  That same bedroom had an old picture of Canadian Geese flying low over a marsh on a bright blue day.  It was hung on one wall of that room and I would spend hours gazing at it.  I loved the large fluffy clouds in that picture and I can still remember in my minds eye how it looks to this day. 

On Sundays we sometimes got to visit with our cousins at our Grandparent's house.  We would play hide and seek or tag.  We'd have secret meetings on the steps that led to the basement or we'd get permission to play ball on the basketball court or the tennis court.  We also went to the park just across the way that was in walking distance.  Hours spent on monkey bars or the merry-go-round would wear us out and we'd come home exhausted.

Their home was on Spruce Street.  It was situated just up from a creek that ran through town.  When a sudden summer storm would hit, the creek just below the house would rise quickly and sometimes spill over it's banks.  Heck, it would even cover the road.  After the storm passed Grandma would lead us down to the creek through the rising steam on the street and let us witness how high the water had risen.  She was always cautious...I don't recall there being a time when she didn't warn us all of the dangers of storm runoff.  She would latch on to our hands like vice grips and threaten us if we stepped too close to the rushing water of the creek.  There were times when we all felt like her worry over us was a bit extreme-making us get home by dark and be in bed shortly thereafter when there were still plenty of other neighborhood kids out playing.  Or pulling us into the house when strange cars passed by a little too slowly.  But now I think I understand some of her worry.  It's difficult enough to raise your own children and not over protect them but to have someone else's children in your care makes it even more precarious.  I'm glad she was the way she was.  I'm glad they gave us what freedom they could.   I'm glad for every memory I have of their home and I could probably write many pages still.  But what I've written were some of the highlights from a childhood and grandparents that made a lasting impression.  I miss you guys!

~Love, Gail

Monday, July 26, 2010

To All the Guys...Remember Me?

Do you remember the first time you saw me?  Probably not.  I was just an awkward looking, freckle-faced girl that sat and giggled nervously as your gaze stopped only briefly on me.  That might have been the first time you saw me-but I'd seen you at least a hundred times before.  Well, that's if you count the actual times I watched you from a distance and the other times when I dreamt of you.  I spent hours watching you play ball, riding a bike, a motorcycle, a skateboard, and even when you went swimming or fishing.  There were so many times that I sat and waited anxiously...hoping and praying that you'd just come by-that you would see me...that you'd speak to me.  

You were perfect-at least in my eyes.  I'd hazard to say you were amazing.  In my daydreams you were always the hero and I fantasized about you finding some clever way to catch me.  In my dreams it was you chasing me.  I'll bet you don't realize that you were the first boy I kissed.  Yep-in my dreams you did.  And it was everything I'd hoped for.  In my dreams you noticed me-the real me and you were just as crazy in love with me as I was with you.  It was like that for years.

For years (I know, that sounds crazy-huh?), I watched you from a distance and daydreamed.  Always wishing that I was someone you'd be interested in.  I reached a point where I was actually brave enough to speak to you and after stumbling over my own words a few times I was actually able to form a coherent sentence.  Eventually I even started hanging around you and your friends.  I tried to do things to get your attention-like climbing higher in the tree than anyone else just to impress you.  I also tried to be just as tough as you...just as cool.  I never cried when I got hurt-I was tougher than that.  I never considered myself a sissy girl.  But you never seemed to notice.  You never saw the girl that was silently screaming "Hello-I'm totally in love with you!"   Nope-you just saw me as another friend-just another friend who also happened to be a girl. 

More years went by and I slowly matured.  But to you I was still just an old friend with a smattering of freckles on my face and skinned-up knees to prove I could do anything that you or any of your guy friends could do. I did everything I could to keep up with you. But it was only because I wanted to be near you.

I gotta tell you that I hated your first girlfriend...(come to think of it I hated all of them). She was so wrong for you. I tried to warn you but you wouldn't listen.  I was mad when you chose her and later I was happy when you broke up. I know that's probably a mean thing to think but I won't lie. I wanted to rip her hair out, I wanted to punch her in the face, and for a time, well, ...I wanted to be her-but only because I wanted you to want me. When you broke up with her I thought for the briefest moment you'd noticed me-but it turns out there was someone else you'd noticed. Someone more popular, someone more high maintenance. I have to admit that for a while I was envious of the cheerleaders and the preppy crowd. They seemed to possess something I didn't.

Time has a way of making each of us bloom in one way or another.  It's taken me years to figure out that all those other girls don't possess what I have.  True, they were pretty and popular and they had their own kind of beauty-but I'm different.  I'm not afraid to get my hands dirty or my hair wet.  There are times when I love to dress up and get all girly but it also doesn't bother me to go without make-up.  I'm not afraid to throw on the first clean clothes I can find so I can run to the store.  I'm not overly glitzy and I don't pretend to be someone I'm not.  I like to have fun but not at the expense of everyone around me.  I laugh at funny things...and I'm gonna laugh so long as no one gets hurt.  I delight in things with substance.  I see beyond the airs people put on-I always have.  My inner beauty is something that shines brightly-but that shine is for a select few...I don't allow everyone to see it.  There is so much more to me than you could imagine.  So much more everything.  I tried desperately all that time to show you.  I wonder, did you ever really see me? 

Sincerely,
The Girl Next Door

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Good Book

Okay, for those of us that read frequently, some even CONSTANTLY, we know when we've read a good book.  A well-laid plot, good character development, vivid descriptions, unexpected but believable twists and turns.  Insight into other worlds.  Those are the mechanics as I see them.  But how do you measure a book in terms of it's "goodness"?  Well, here's what I think:

Regardless of the reader's genre preference a good book will draw the reader in, transport them to the time and place of the character(s) and will submerge them in the emotions that are experienced.  The reader will empathize with one or more characters and will subconsciously find a place among the cast.  Although it might seem cruel to some I've always thought that if a book can make you cry-either tears of sadness, rage or joy-then most likely it's a good book.  Not because I believe in making folks feel bad-but I believe in making folks FEEL.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Day with Dementors


Anyone who has read J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter series knows about Dementors.  Those dark faceless creatures shrouded in torn black cloth that silently attack the unknowing and suck the soul from their victims.  The Dementors are described as leaving the person feeling cold, as if all the happiness has gone from the world.  It's a frightening idea if you really consider it.  Humans thrive on happiness.  It's what we seek.  Happiness is something different for everyone.  Some folks are happy because of happy things-fuzzy puppies, ice cream cones, etc.  Other folks get their jollies by dark things.  Either way, we all seek personal happiness and gratification in one form or another.

The title of this blog is A Day with Dementors.  To me it is the perfect description of what it is like to be depressed.  I want to describe to my audience (all three of you-lol) what it feels like to go through a day with depression.  It's not gory-but it isn't pretty either.

The alarm goes off...I force myself from the bed and begin my day because other people are counting on me.  I don't really care about getting out of bed.  I like sleeping-in the world of sleep I feel.  My dreams are a reminder that there is a part of me that still feels and I cling to sleep like a life raft.  Sleep is pain free-mostly.  Sleep, while refreshing to some, doesn't make me feel all that better when I'm awake.  I don't wake up ready to take on the world.  My body and energy haven't been renewed.  I wake up feeling blank.

Blank.  Yes.  That pretty much sums up what I'm feeling.  Either blank or profound sadness brought on by being blank.  Fear that my life will continue to go this way.  Will I ever feel again?  Will I ever take pleasure in simple things?  Will I ever laugh again?  I've almost forgotten how to laugh.  Sometimes I force myself to laugh so that others won't think something is wrong...so they won't suspect how I'm really feeling.  But it's not real laughter.  I don't feel it.  And I'm not really fooling anyone.  They can see it from the dull look of my eyes and my avoidance of things most people enjoy.  My voice when I do speak is automatic, almost as if I'm working from some pre-rehearsed script.  I force myself from bed.

Time for breakfast.  That should make me feel better.  Didn't eating bring me pleasure at some point in my life?  I'll eat something really tasty and totally bad for me.  That'll make me feel better.  I find something lacking in nutritional value and scarf it down.  I enjoy the flavor as I eat so I prolong the experience by eating slower...or if I'm really bad I'll eat twice as much.  Afterwards I do feel-but only guilt.  I shouldn't have eaten that-it was bad for me.  I'm smarter than that.  Oh well...keep moving forward.  Prepare breakfast for the others.  Suggest something nutritional-at least someone will benefit from that wisdom.  I see the family off to work and school and feel as if I've jumped one of the hurdles in my day.  Afterwards I'm hit by sadness at seeing the work set before me.  I look at it and wait for some revelation to hit me as to how I can get through it but nothing occurs to me.  Once again-I'm blank.  My life is a palette of black, white and all manner of grays.  Bleak at best.

Suddenly I feel tired.  I'll lay down and just take a short nap.  Maybe that will help me power back up.  Two or three hours later I'm woken by the telephone ringing.  I'm miffed-why can't they leave me alone?  All I want is to sleep.  I'm so tired.  Duty calls.  I force myself from my nap and try to find something to eat that will jolt my system awake.  Maybe if I can get going again I can get a few things done but as I look around I'm totally overwhelmed by everything I have to do.  I leave.  I'm sure there are a few things we need from the store.

At the store I fill the buggy with all manner of things.  Things to make my job easier.  Things to clean with, things to organize with, things to decorate our home.  My mood is elevated slightly.  I'm experiencing a shoppers high.  At least I can feel something.  I load my purchases in the car but by the time I reach home I am overwhelmed with guilt and then once again, I'm blank.  The feelings I had were short-lived.  I hate this "non-feeling".  I avoid friends.  I cut myself off from the world.  Television?  It doesn't matter.  My scope has been narrowed to such a small point that I can only see just in front of me.  The rest of the world is not my responsibility.

My family returns and I make an effort to smile.  To laugh.  To interact-but I really just want to be left alone.  They love me.  I know they do.  I should try harder.  But love won't make the Dementors leave.  They are there-hovering-shifting silently and invisibly around me.  Sucking out my soul, slowly absorbing my life force and pulling me away from the world.  I need to find some way to hang on.  Some way to shield myself from the depression they wield.  I'm not a wizard and I don't possess magic, but I do know there is help.  I've been told I don't have to live like this.  I decide to try and fight off the Dementors but I know I can't do it alone.  Thank God I live in a day and age when something can be done to fight back.  I start visiting a therapist.  A diagnosis is made-medicine is prescribed and slowly the dullness fades.  The blankness is slowly being replaced by moments that are...what?  I've not felt this way in so long that I'd forgotten.  Is this what it feels like to be normal?  To feel?  I find myself laughing at things, I find myself wanting to be with people and wanting to help others.  I see that the answer to fighting the Dementors isn't easy...it's a battle-daily, sometimes hourly-but I keep fighting.  I enjoy the victory.  I see those around me happier.  I want to do things now.  It's almost as if I can see the full spectrum of color in life.

I hope I always feel this way.  To feel-sometimes an impossible thing for someone with depression.  To be filled-to be filled with emotions and to revel in pursuing happiness. 

I hope Rowling doesn't have a fit that I'm using one of her creations to demonstrate a point but that's what it feels like to be depressed.  It's a daily battle-one that many people don't understand.  But I guess I've been one of those people that the Dementors see as an easy target.  Or maybe I just have such a remarkable life force that they want me specifically?  I'll try thinking of it that way...I'm not marred by depression.  I merely possess something they want.  They'll continue to follow me-but I'll continue to fight.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Looking back...

I've reached a pinnacle in my life and the view from here is, well...somedays pretty nice and some days I look back in the valley that I just climbed out of.  I go through a myriad of emotions when I look back.  When I look back here is a small some of what I see:

Days spent in the hot summer sun, floating in a pool or climbing trees.  Climbing one branch higher just so I could peak over the edge of a nest to see the baby robins and laugh when they screamed out for food.  I also see standing barefoot in the middle of a creek and enjoying the feel of slick sand and smooth pebbles under my feet as the cool water ran over them.  I see hours spent riding motorcycles and camping out while in the company of good friends...almost to the point they were like family.  I also see riding in a canoe in a mountain stream and thinking it was the most wonderful thing in the world and how lucky I was to get to ride in it.  I didn't have to paddle-that was great in itself.  I see visiting national parks from the mountains to the coast and learning about all sorts of fantastic things out of doors.  I see picnics eaten at tables set up on the side of the road and getting to share in a bucket of KFC-I wonder if it's just me but I remember KFC tasting so much better back then.  Hot dogs and ice slushies from Kearney's hot dog stand and bread burgers from Jimmy's BBQ.  Chicken pie suppers (yes-there was alot of good food down in the valley I'm seeing now!) and food cooked on the grill.  Trips to the airport where Dad would buy us each a bottled Coke and a 3 Muskateers bar before taking us "around the pattern" once or twice. 

These are a smidgen-just a few of the things I remember and can see when I look back in that valley.  I know I shouldn't be so preoccupied with the way things were...I should be looking ahead-there's obviously more mountain to climb.  I know I can't turn around and go back into the valley...I've got to keep climbing.  I'm hoping someday I'll look back when I reach that next pinnacle and look back to see things in this valley that make me feel as happy as those that came before.

~Gail

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"I Don't Owe You a Thing"

I added a new friend today on Facebook.  He is someone that is related to someone that I actually know (haha).  I debated adding him at first but after inspecting his wall I relented and confirmed him.  I haven't even met the kid but after reading a few of his comments that he had posted on his FB wall, I could sense that he was a bit angry with someone or some people, maybe life or heck, maybe even the universe.  His comments sparked a great deal of thought on my part and those that know me will admit that getting my wheel spinning can be a dangerous thing.  So I'll try and share my wicked train of thought with you all though sometimes it's like chasing a rabbit through thick brush.

We don't owe that kid a thing.  I remember hearing my mom (yes, I'm talking about you again mom) saying "I don't you owe you anything".  Now that I'm a parent and I think about this, I once again shake my head and realize her wisdom and can admit that she wasn't as full of it as I once thought she was.  And I'd like to expand as a parent a little on what she said...

True, I brought you into this world, and I've fed you, and clothed you and sheltered you.  I've even nursed you when you were sick and corrected you when you were wrong and more still I've even punished when you went against me.  But I've also praised you when you did right and I've tried to celebrate when you've accomplished.  I've even gone so far as to try and entertain you-i.e.- any time I've heard "I'm bored...there's nothing to do".  I've tried to give you a leg up when I could...and God knows I wanted to give you a bigger leg up than I could.  God wanted me to do all that.  Because that's what he programmed good parents to do.  But when you really get down to brass tacks, beyond all that, as your parent, I don't owe you a thing. 

As parents that's got to be one of the toughest lessons to teach our kids because we spend all this time-years and years and years-giving to our children.  Toys and ball games and education.  Movies and pool trips and vacations.  Candy treats, soda pops and junk food.  Nutritious meals and cooking lessons and how to get the best deal at the grocery store.  Let's face it, in the animal kingdom we seem to have written the book on how to take the longest to bring your offspring to maturity.  So when they reach that golden age when we suddenly stop giving or at the very least when the well begins to dry up a bit, they're left standing there almost hyperventilating.  Thinking about this made my thoughts jump track and head in a different direction-follow me...I promise it's related.

My neighbors son is 15.  He wants a job.  He wants to LEGALLY earn some money.  He's looked around and tried to find something local that he would/could be allowed to do and nobody will hire him because he isn't 16 and/or he can't drive.  I recall that you can get a job when you're 15, you just have to get a work permit (at least that's what I was allowed to do when I was that age...the law may have changed, heck, that was when Pluto used to be a planet).  Anyhow, try as he might he can't seem to find a job. 

I got to thinking further about this and I realized something-well, two things actually but here's the first one-a hundred years ago kids were EXPECTED to help on the family farm or in the mill or at the local grocer's by doing whatever was necessary to help the family.  It was a team effort. 


If little Johnny wanted to eat come winter time, his rear end would be busy pulling up weeds in the garden, plowin' the back forty or shoveling horse excrement from the stalls. 






 Little Sally would be in the kitchen snapping beans, shucking corn or helping mama put up the veggies Little Johnny helped grow.  The littlest Sally and Johnny would be set to work picking rocks out of the garden or setting the table. 

They'd also help feed the old nag in the stall or help herd the goats.  Point is-it was a team effort-and it worked.  It worked, because everybody worked.  If you were big enough to get around, you had a job-however big or small it might be.  When kids reached adulthood they'd already know what it meant to work their fannies off and to know that when they did, they would see results.  It was never a question of when or if they would work-they always worked.  So I imagine Pa and Ma didn't hear quite so much whining about having to work as modern parents hear.

Okay, next point-my neighbors son that wants to work is prohibited in a roundabout way by legal restrictions designed to protect his health and to prevent employers from overworking or abusing our youth in some way.  That's all fine, well and good.  

Our youth aren't allowed to drive farm equipment because it's too dangerous (and I agree with that law), or lift things that are too heavy, or spend too much time planting and working tobacco because it's too hot outside.  We haven't made them work as they've grown and the result is we've ended up raising soft kids.  We've also made it so unpalpable for employers to hire kids that they no longer want to fool with it.  They tell the kids to come back when they're sixteen and have a license-they tell them this because it's a pat answer and they a) don't want to be the ones to give the kids their first job because that requires them to hold their hands and/or b) know that if they wait, someone older will eventually come along and be willing to do the work. 

As for the whole farming thing-they know that they can hire migrant laborers-here either legally or not-that most likely won't complain about having to work long, hot hours and are jumping at the chance to work because they're desperate.  They need to feed families or send the money back home.  They also won't complain when they hurt their backs from having lifted something too heavy or straining something...they won't file complaints with anyone or try to get workers comp.  They don't require any amount of paperwork.  It's like hiring a ghost that busts his transparent butt to get the job done.  Once they're done-you pay them and they're disappear like vapor.

Okay, are you still with me?  This is the part of my blog where I try to tie it all together and sum it up.  Modern Little Johnny-from way back up at the top of the blog, bless his little heart, is still mad at the world.  He's soft because our society makes him that way. 

Sorry Lil' Johnny.  In our societies attempts to make the workplace safer for you, we've over-loved you.  

As parents we forgot to tell you each time that we gave you something that we really don't owe you a thing.  When we let you stay inside on hot days to play games we thought we were being kind but we weren't.  When we fed you, sheltered you and gave you an allowance without making you earn your keep, we were doing what's called enabling. We've made you what you are.

As I write this my oldest son is walking around outside in the yard as his father mows the lawn.  I sent him there to pick things up and move them out of the way for his dad.  He's probably cursing me to the firey pits of hell. 

You see, I didn't allow him to go with the neighbors to their pool-he started to argue about the unfairness of it but the mushroom cloud you may see on the horizon is me as I blew up at him.  I tried like the crazy at first to modulate my voice and explain things to him in such a way as to make him understand.  He's a teen now, without the ability to process the things I say.  But I don't want to raise him to be soft.  And I want him to hear me and hopefully he'll retain the same words of wisdom my mom tried to impart to me-she didn't owe me a thing-and I don't owe him a thing.

P.S.-If you're a parent reading this-remember we have to work harder to make our kids understand.  Even if they seemingly ignore what we say when we say it-they retain a bit of it.  Hey, if I could remember it, anyone can.

P.P.S.-If you're a lawmaker and you're reading this-help parents help their kids-let's try and think of a way to change things.  Is there any way to make it so we can raise our kids right-so they aren't quite so soft?  Is there any way we can make our kids as eager to get out in the heat to earn a few bucks as the migrant workers seem to be? 

P.P.P.S.-If you're a kid reading this-nobody OWEs you anything.  You gotta work for what you get in this world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Deep Thoughts with Gail

Today's strange topic that I'd like to touch on is issues.  (My horoscope deigned to suggest that I have some deep issues inside me-pulease!  I scoff.)  All people have issues!  As I see it, people fall into two categories.  The first-those that are breathing.  The folks that are breathing, well, you've got issues.  The second-those that are not breathing.  If you're not breathing either you've got BIG issues or you HAD issues. 

Having issues doesn't define us.  The issues themselves don't make us who we are.  It's how we handle them that determines our worth. 

For example, a millionaire might have issues with an ex-wife, alimony, child-support, stock portfolios and how well the man who cleans his car does his job. 


On the other end of the spectrum, a camel herder might have issues with a pregnant camel whose baby is breach or perhaps his son has lost the last camel leash and he can't afford to buy a new one.  Maybe he can't trade his camel because it has a bad back or a sprained ankle.  Let's face it, no one wants to get a lemon-right?

Now, if we compare the troubles of the millionaire with those of the camel herder, who has bigger issues?  If you said neither, bing, bing, bing...you're today's winner.  The problems the millionaire is facing are just important to him as the problems the camel-herder has.  It's the ability to stop and see the issues, for Christians it's important to pray for guidance about them and then the amount of grace we use to handle our issues, that's how we're defined.  The millionaire can smile as he signs his alimony and child-support checks and he can take five minutes to chat with his car cleaner and set things straight.  The camel herder can do his best to save the baby camel or he can leave it be because a camel with a bad back or a sprained ankle isn't all that likely to run off.  If the camel passes on, he can open a desert side restaurant and sell camel steaks cooked hibachi style.  Then he could use the money made from that to invest in a new camel.

As long as we face them head on and accept the challenges we face with grace, we can overcome the issues.  This is something that I have to remind myself of quite frequently.  I'll need to remember that especially today since my horoscope warned me of my deep issues.  But hey, at least I recognize that I have them.  Oh, and by the way, if you think you don't have issues-here's a newsflash-you've got bigger issues than the rest of us.

~Gail

Sunday, May 30, 2010

PLAID ROOTS

It hasn’t been all that long since I first began to have serious thoughts about my roots. Probably only since my mid-thirties has it become important to me to understand and share with my children where we come from. Sure, I can give them my pat answer of “we’re 100% American mutt” but in honesty, that no longer satisfies me. The older I become the more I realize that families are like plants, some of them are like trees and others like weeds. Either way they all have roots. Some roots run far and deep while in others they become short, twisted, and root bound.

The families whose roots that run far and deep are the same ones that take a deep pride in who they are and where they’re from. Their roots grow a mighty tree and each person knows exactly where they reside on its branches. These families make that extra opportunity to meet and spend time with each other, to regale each other with old family stories and revisit their history-they tend their garden and nurture their tree and it grows strong with its far-reaching roots.

The families that neglect their roots and only look to the future lose sight of where they’re from and forget they have roots. They lose hold on their past and become like the short temporary roots of a weed. They tend to thrive when the conditions are right and eventually some wither and decay. The seeds of the plant scatter and travel only as far as the wind will get them. I use these analogies because our country is a motley collection of international misfits. Incidentally, I use the term misfits affectionately here. For many different reasons each and every one of us are here…some born here, some not…but we all have a past. Some of these communities embrace their past more tightly than others, but none more I think than the Scots. The Scots arrived in our country during its conception and planted their families in the corridor of land stretching in the hills along the Eastern seaboard. The hills of Appalachia reminded them of their own dear Highlands and they labored in and along those hills to plant their roots. Their families grew and flourished and they fanned out across the land to put down more roots.

To strengthen those roots they gather annually in clearings along the Smoky Mountains to keep their customs alive and to have what I think of as “The Mothership” of all family reunions. Days are spent living amid one another-it’s like some really cool camping trip. Tents bearing clan names written boldly on large, brightly colored banners also display ancient clan crests’ and clan-specific plaids.

Kilt-clad laughing children run around just as merrily now as they did one hundred years ago, and young girls dressed in beautiful plaid costume display ancient dances to the sounds of bagpipes and drums. Walking amid groups of bagpipes and drums, you find yourself stepping in tune to their beat. At any given place, you might find yourself between multiple bagpipe groups. Each group shares its own haunting sound not necessarily to compete with the next, but rather to pay tribute to their history.

Traipsing the area reveals varying smells that combine with sights to inundate the senses. Wood-smoke wafts from slow burning fires built to cook all manner of meat. Vendors sell traditional Scottish fare such as meat pies and haggis pockets. Fresh crumbled scones covered with strawberries and the prettiest, heaviest cream you’ve ever had in your life are sold to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Proud Scotsmen dressed in the original air-conditioned kilt walk with a kingly bearing. Here’s a tip―never call them sissies―these men are not sissies.

Ancient games and competitions designed to display strength and stamina that were part of the history of dear Alba (Gaelic word for Scotland) are kept alive at each of these gatherings.






And if the wind is just right, you might even catch a glimpse of Scottish jewels.

Scottish food, music, and dance along with other old world skills are presented at the gatherings to pass them on to the next generation. If you see something Scottish that someone is wearing, chances are someone is selling a similar item somewhere on the grounds. Parades are held at these gatherings that rival any other parade in our country.



Being there and walking amid the families-for that is what they are, makes me wonder if I have any Scottish blood in my own ancestry. The sights, sounds and smells all tempt me and I feel a kinship with the people there. I want to be a part of this special gathering. I feel compelled to say to the world that I’m part of it all. Am I Scot? How can I be represented? Please say I’m a member. That’s when I spot the tent that houses my clan. Pride swells in my chest and I know my family is here! I’ve spotted the tent that houses Clan MacBubba. I smile when I realize it isn’t about what “Mac” you are or aren’t, if any part of you is Scot, you’ll know it because your roots are plaid.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Only a strong woman...

You know, I'm on my "women are the superior sex" soapbox this evening because today I bravely took a carload of kids (four of them, three didn't even belong to me) and three parakeets on a forty-five minute (each way) journey to a vet's office in North Raleigh.  I spent at least forty-five minutes in the vet's office for an exam that took less than five.  I drove back home in heavy afternoon traffic with an ailing parakeet on my shoulder while the two other parakeets argued consistently the whole way home.

I offer all this information because in hindsight I see where no man would have undertaken a journey like that.  They would have merely barked "impossible" and been done with it.  This just goes to show that while I wasn't exactly overjoyed by the prospect, I undertook it with all the grace and patience I could muster. 

Women rock.

~Gail

Monday, May 24, 2010

Gardening

I think I've figured out a sure fire way to find out if a person is cut out to be a gardener.  If you've got what it takes to be a gardener, just try walking past one.  If you can't help but to reach down and "just pull up that weed" then chances are you've got what it takes.  For example, a short while ago I strolled out to the garden to see if my Nasturtium seeds had finally germinated and while there I reached over to pull up a weed.  Well, weeding is sort of like eating potato chips-you can't stop at one.  Before I knew it I was moving around the garden pulling up every large weed I encountered.

This in turn leads me to another point-someway, somehow, gardeners know what a weed looks like versus something they intentionally planted.  The non-gardener sees only weeds until a plant is a two feet high and sporting vegetables.

Shhhh-don't tell anyone but I chat with my plants.  Telling them just how proud I am of each and every milestone they've reached.  (I know, it probably sounds ridiculous to someone that doesn't garden-it's yet one more way to see if you've got what it takes.)  Cruising along pulling out the bigger weeds I was saddened when I found something had been chewing on the leaves of my pepper plant.  I got really ticked off when I found a gaping hole in one of the young tomatoes...not the plant mind you-which is bad enough in itself-but the actual fruit!

My Grandma used to say that a watched pot never boils.  The same sort of applies to gardening-if I watch my garden too much it seems to grow slower!  I do a whole lot better if I force myself to check on the garden every other day.  Doing it that way I can see the growth of the plants more easily and not stress that I'm overdoing things.  Which brings me to another point-it's possible to "over love" a garden.  My mom once told me that she used blatant neglect with her houseplants and it worked pretty good for her.  "Oh yeah...I leave them alone until they start to look pitiful and are gasping for a drink of water.  That's when I water them and I think they're grateful for any amount of attention."  lol...

Finally, a gardener is willing to do whatever it takes to keep their plants thriving-this means going to extremes like carrying buckets full of water to the garden when the hose just doesn't quite reach, or picking those ugly giant green caterpillars off the plants to prevent them from being eaten alive.  It means being willing to try any number of old wives tales to keep the deer and rabbits from destroying everything.  And through it all a gardener doensn't lose patience.  Gardening, at it's best is a weird, green, labor of love.

~Gail

Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's Not Writer's Block...

It's just a temporary inability to gather the right words together and form interesting sentences.  haha.  I've been sitting in front of my computer for a long time now, glancing at FB, reading the odd email that pops in, even viewing, and re-viewing the Doppler radar on the local news station's website (boring!).  I think it's because I've also been thinking about ways to restructure the beginning of my manuscript to make it better.  I actually came up with one last night.  I think it's very plausible, it's unique, and it'll grab and keep the attention of the reader.  However, I can't seem to get in the "groove".  My writer's mojo has been hexed.  Someone must have a little cloth voodoo doll of me and they are sticking a vacuum up to the head of it and trying to suck all the thoughts out.

When I first began writing my novel, I could hear my character pretty loud and clear.  Now that I mentioned making some pretty big changes to her story, well, I think she's a little ticked off.  She refuses to talk.  I hope it doesn't take too long for me to get my mojo back.  To "get in the groove".  Tell you what; I'll formally apologize to my character now.  I'll do it in front of the world via the worldwide web.  Maybe she'll be able to move past this little kafuffle in the road and we can keep on truckin'.

Giana-if you can hear this, I'm sorry.  I know how upsetting it must be for you to tell me your story-all the intimate and even the gory details and for me to suddenly come to you and say, "btw, we've got to change some stuff, cut out a substantial part of the manuscript and tighten the plot up..."  It must be very frustrating for you.  You've entrusted me with telling everyone the things that happened just like they happened.  I feel your pain hon.  It sucks.  Well, I hope you'll forgive me, but I want everyone to know how special a character you are.  The world deserves to know you better.  The world should understand you as a person and not peg you by where you are or where you've been in life.  I want them to see the real you and I want them to connect with you.  I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make your manuscript the very best it can be-but I can't do anything without you.  I'm here when you and if you change your mind-and I still believe in you.

Thanks,
I remain your author and biggest fan~Gail
P.S.-If you're the one with the little voodoo doll sucking the words out of my head with a vacuum, please stop.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Australia

For two days in a row this week, my horoscope has suggested I write. I experienced giddiness each time I read these posts by the way! Yesterday after reading the second post I thought to myself, well, the planets have aligned and spoken-so let it be done. I asked Cullen what subject I should write about and he enthusiastically suggested Australia. So here goes...

Ahhh...Australia, "the Land Down Under". A continent allowed to develop away from the rest of the world, laden with a wealth of unique treasures. When I think of Australia, here are many of the things that come to mind. The Sydney Opera House, Aborigines, Kangaroos, Dingoes, Budgies (parakeets), Great White Sharks, the Great Barrier Reef, the deadly box jellyfish, Crocodile Dundee, Men at Work and their popular single "Down Under", Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackson, and the late Heath Ledger. It's also a former English penal colony(so I've heard) and last but not least, pictures of Australia almost always depict that great big red rock sitting out in the middle of nowhere.

For many folks there is a keen fascination with this country because of its unique wildlife, abundant flora, and varying cultures. Truthfully-there are some countries I'd like to visit for the visual and gustatory (yes, I'm using new words today-woohoo!) pleasures, but those pleasures would be secondary when I consider Australia.

While Australia is brimming over with olfactory, gustatory (btw, it means dealing with the sense of taste), and visual delights, I think the most amazing part of visiting there would be auditory. I could sit around for hours and just listen to the Aussies talk. In all honesty, the Aussies would likely laugh as much at my pronounced Southern accent as I would laugh at their accent. A laughter born not from humor but at noting the differences in how we've bent and twisted the same language.

Few countries would entice a visit from me for this reason, but Australia is definitely at the top of my list. I can just see it now in my mind's eye; we would arrive in the airport at Sydney and I'd be so distracted by the swarms of Australian accent that it would probably take a push from my husband for me to recall that I actually have to leave the airport. I would come home from my trip many days later with sore cheek muscles from having grinned ear to ear the entire time. I don't care for general bodyaches but I think a sore face from having smiled during the entire trip would be proof positive that the vacation was a success!