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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!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 4

Okay, I've got to say that since I began writing my manuscript a little over a year ago I've read many a book. And I've learned SOOOOO much from reading books and even listening to Audiobooks. If some of the books I've read can get published-then my manuscript (at some point in the not so distant future) should have NOOOO problem getting published. Some of the books I've read and finished and then asked myself , "um...did I miss the plot?" Which leads me to a personal gripe.

If something in a story is totally unrealistic, how can I give credence to the remaining part of it? Here is my for instance: Yesterday I started listening to a new audiobook. The female lead has met, jumped in the sack with and fallen in love with the male lead within the first two hours of meeting him. Here you have two characters that know absolutely NOTHING about the other-they've merely been thrown into a perilous situation together and suddenly they're jumping each other. Would this-in any sane, normal persons life really happen? I think not. (It hasn't happened to this writer). Now, if this were about two dogs, a female in heat and a male with only the desire to procreate, I wouldn't have a problem believing it. Maybe I should keep listening to the book and just pretend the leads are dogs?

Okay, enough ranting.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Shout Out

There are several people that I need to thank-not because I'm a published author-but because I'm still trudging ahead and haven't given up.

First, my sister-in-law Laura, aka Dobby (after the House Elf in the Harry Potter series), has been, well-there isn't a word that really sums up all she's done. I'll thank her formally when (notice I didn't say "if") I get my story published. Laura has been more than she knows...her encouragement, knowledge, ideas, critique, and praise (hallelujah!) have really kept me going. She's my "just keep swimming" person like Dori from Finding Nemo. I guess I could say she is "infinity" because everything she is and does is never-ending. I won't say more because it would probably make me start crying and then my whole day would end up going to pot.

My neighbor Janice and her husband Mike (aka Burt-a character in my story) for reading, listening to rants, providing feedback and inspiration.

My mom for-well-I've already sort of addressed what she's done in another post...but she continues to see in me things that I can't seem to see myself...thanks Mom.

A new friend-Kim D. in South Carolina. For reading my story like all the others-bit by bit, and providing me with much needed feedback.

That's all I have to say about that. Hope everyone has a fantastic day, enjoy the blessings and keep on swimming!

~Gail

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 2

I spoke with an editor via email yesterday. My first step up to the edge of the cliff overlooking the harbor where writers, editors, agents and publishers steam in and out all day. Her name was Cassandra and I was so excited she didn't bite my head off and spit it out! LOL. She ended up answering several questions that I'd had floating around in my head and the information she provided was very helpful!

As for contacting someone in the industry, I suppose I've been nuturing a fear of all things in the writing industry and seeing everyone out there as being either cutthroat, malicious, intellectually stuck-up or maybe some combination of the three. I've heard so many things like, "oh, be prepared to send your manuscript to (insert large number here) agents before anyone will look at it." That's fairly disheartening news to a person who has spent the better part of a year at a keyboard typing a story, revising the plot, editing grammar, etc. So Cassandra proved to me that editors are humans-she was very kind and I'll send her all the business I can!

Well, I made a promise to my mom that I wouldn't stop trying to see to it that my manuscript makes it into print and I'm going to do my best to honor that. She believes in me-and I accused her she did so because she was my mom. She swears up and down she would never lie to me about books. She's read her fair share of them and insists that while my manuscript might not hit the best seller list, it is definitely a story worth reading. I know I can trust her judgment in that respect-she's read more books than I could reasonably shake a stick at!

Well, back to whittling on my manuscript. .. ~Gail

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 1-My little blogger thingie

Hello world! This is day 1 of my blog. Why do I feel compelled to add a stardate or maybe record this entry in military time? Nevermind...I've chosen to call this my blogger thingie since I'm learning on the fly. Setting up this blog in an effort to broaden my horizon a bit...perhaps make some friends in the clandestine world of writers and maybe find something to hold on to in this sea of self-doubt.

Why write you ask? Well, why not? Mom always said I had an overactive imagination-so I might as well put it to use.

I'm working on editing and whittling (technical Southern writing term) my manuscript into a more savory bit of fiction. I'll write more about my manuscript later-suffice it to say I'll probably bore some folks to tears.

Gail