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I like making New Year's resolutions, and I try to make ones that I'll enjoy keeping. My resolutions are pretty similar, year to year--play my violin. Do fun writing challenges like NaNoWriMo. Live joyfully. Nurture myself, my son, and my friends. Eat healthy, enjoy exercising. Swim laps. Pray. Think positive thoughts and have gratitude. Yup, each year's goals are a variation of the previous one's, but that's OK. What's wrong with reminding yourself to think positively and take steps to reach your dreams, whether big novel-writing ones or little swimming ones? Why not use the excuse of New Year's Day?
Every year, I resolve to play Red, my violin. And each year, I try--but half-heartedly, nothing like the enthusiasm I had in high school. Part of it is my compulsion to write--that takes up most of my time and enthusiasm, leaving me drained. But part of it is that my playing sounds so awful, and I keep repeating the truism, "Practice makes perfect," but it's frustrating, remembering how I could play concertos easily before, and now I screech when playing the simplest of tunes. Yet, every year, for the sake of the violinist I once was, I resolve to try.
When my husband filed for divorce, since we had a kid, the court system forced me to sit through a film emphasizing the importance of your kid seeing the other parent. Oh, you may think he/she is a bad influence--but you are wrong! No question about it! If you want your kid to turn out normal, gotta have both parents involved. In fact, do you really want to go through with this divorce thing? I remember a woman sobbing in the back, talking about her fears of her husband abusing her child, and her child not wanting to visit him.
I'm at a write-in at a writing studio, but I don't feel at all as inspired as when at Dunkin' Donuts. It's too quiet! I like writing to "It's All About The Bass," "I'm Happy!", and other bouncy pop tunes. All I hear here is the occasional sound of the heater, the percolating of the coffee pot, clicking of keys, scratching of pens, rustling of papers. I'd rather hear the old guy complaining about Obama (much as I disagree with him!), a father calmly telling his preschooler to settle down, an older customer asking a worker how school is going.
I think I like cozy mysteries mostly because they are series books, reminiscent of the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Judy Bolton books I loved as a child. There's a comfort in knowing you'll be reading about the same characters again, be it Nan, Bert, Flossie, and Freddie, or Nancy, Bess, and George, or Judy, Horace, Honey, and Peter. What fun, opening up a new book and visiting old friends again! So as an adult, I enjoy hanging out with Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Father Brown, Stephanie Plum, Sidney Chambers, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, and Charlie Harris and Diesel.
January 6, Epiphany, subzero snowy cold. For the last time, I play my Pandora Christmas stations; for the last time, Christmas cards are up and the tree lit. I'll miss the Christmas brightness in the January and February darkness--but how I'll appreciate spring, and at least I can walk out there in the snow; before my knee surgery, I couldn't. One of my New Year's resolutions is to think positive thoughts, and I'm trying! For now, the Hallelujah Chorus plays through my computer speakers and I sip flavored coffee and am happy. Tomorrow, I'll find other joyful music and decorations!
Just did something silly--paid one dollar for online German lessons--but then had to hurry and make sure it didn't auto-renew for twenty-five bucks a month--yikes! One dollar I can do, smile. I do miss being almost fluent in German; it would be cool to get some of that back. I took German for three years in high school and two years in college, and the college classes were especially intense, as they were taught in German! I don't know why, but I like the guttural sound of German; it feels so close to English. And yet, twentieth-century German history scary.
I cheat when I'm writing. I check email; I check Facebook and even take time to read articles. I wonder if other writers here cheat. Most look so serious, but I like that the woman across from me, blondish-gray hair, maybe about my age, smiles widely as she pens words in her notebook. I like when people find joy in writing, rather than complain their pens or keys are drawing blood from their emotional selves. Sure, writing is work--but it's like a professional baseball player constantly talking about the agony of playing before millions of people. Shut up already, grin.
I'd love to write a mystery for kids, but my brain doesn't think in terms of mysteries. What kind of plot could I have? Someone stole something, or someone lied, or--what? And I have trouble thinking in terms of bad guys vs. good guys; I always think that there's a reason that bad guys are bad. Weren't most people in prison victims of horrendous childhood abuse that ended up wrecking their lives and then others? Still, I love reading mysteries. Could I write one with a flawed but not-bad villain? Maybe if I started with what the "bad" guy did?
Why do I enjoy "cozy" mysteries? I discovered Agatha Christie mysteries in high school; not sure if I first read The Blue Train or The Mystery of Roger Ackroyd. They were my mother's, although she never read anymore. She said she couldn't read after the electric shock treatment for her nervous breakdown. As an adolescent, I pooh-poohed that--just read, I thought! I've learned a lot since then, and I feel bad--how horrible to lose the gift of reading. Cozy mysteries are especially fun, with friendly recurring characters and exciting but not gruesome plots. How sad my mother couldn't enjoy them.
I get so scatterbrained--I hope I didn't accidentally toss a five-dollar bill in the tip jar! I see a one and a five in the cup and fervently hope the five wasn't mine--but I can hardly fish it out and examine it--for what? No way to identify fingerprints or DNA! Oh well, if I did accidentally drop it in the tip cup, some worker will get a treat, and I won't starve. Dunkin' Donuts is a luxury anyway--although a cheaper place to write than Starbucks or pricey independent coffee shops. And how I love writing away from home sipping coffee!
Walking to Dunkin', a young woman stops me. She's Asian, I'm guessing Korean, with two men, one younger, one older. In halting English (although much better than my Spanish or German!), she asks, "Where is Lincoln Park?" Um, the zoo? They all nod, yes, the zoo. Our neighborhood doesn't get many tourists, and we're three miles from the zoo. "Three miles!" she exclaims, pointing to the map on her phone. "I live around here--no zoo." I laugh, "Would be nice, but..." The older man's eyes smile, and I think--is he what BK, my high school crush, would look like now?
My grandmother and my mother had superstitions: If you leave home and have to come back again because you forgot something, you should sit down for a minute before going out again. (Makes sense, as you probably were feeling frazzled; better to calm down before heading out again in traffic.) The traditional ones: Don't walk under ladders; throw salt over your shoulder if you spill any; breaking a mirror means seven years bad luck. Putting a shoe on the table meant you'll have a fight (yeah, putting shoes on tables doesn't seem like a way to ingratiate yourself to others).
I have mixed feelings about newspapers choosing to show images of Mohammed. Of course, I believe in free speech--of course, I decry all violence--of course, the attack on Charlie Hebdo was monstrous. But whether or not threats of violence exist, if we know that a group of people find showing a certain image to be extremely, offensive and hurtful, why wouldn't we be kind and say, "OK, no problem." Free speech is a critical right--but as I know that the "n" word is abhorrent, as I know that deaf people hate to be called "mute," I respectfully avoid those words.
What mystery do K and C solve? The new kid is a puzzle.
"Why doesn't he talk to anybody?" C wonders.
"Maybe he's shy," K says.
Walking home from school, the friends try to figure D out.
"But even when we say hi first, he doesn't say anything."
"Maybe he's nervous?"
"We're not scary." C laughed.
"Maybe--maybe he's sad."
"Why would he be sad?"
"Maybe he misses his old school. Maybe he misses his old friends."
"I bet that's it!" C exclaimed. "You got it, K!"
"So--what do we do? How do we let him know we're his friends, too?"
Claire is a mind reader and a detective.
"I know you're hungry," she tells Tiger, the cat.
"That's why you're meowing. See, I've solved a mystery!" she brags.
"Sure," her brother Josh says.
"And I know what you're thinking," she tells Spot, the dog. She takes the ball from his mouth. "You want to play!" She tosses the ball to him. He runs and barks.
"Yeah, Sherlock. What am I thinking?" Josh asks.
"Hm." She stares at her brother. He turns and grabs a pop from the refrigerator.
"Ah ha! You're thinking that you're thirsty!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands.
My favorite Christmas memory: My son and I went to 8 a.m. Mass, then walked to the Davis and saw Sherlock Holmes, then discovered a Trattoria, fancy with white tableclothes. Then we saw "Invictus," about Mandela supporting the rugby team, trying to unite all people of South Africa, black and white. What stood out was the scene where the players visit the tiny cell where Mandela spent years. And yet, Mandela forgave. How could he have that strength in his soul? Afterwards, I sent my brother D. a Christmas card. He, alone of my half siblings, had never accepted me.
She could never forget the winter of 1978-79, and cold beyond weather. Mountains of snow to climb to reach bus stops, buses over half an hour late, below-freezing below-zero windchill temps days on end. One newspaper comic strip showed icycle-shaped people shivering at a bus stop, and wasn't that the winter that prompted the election of Chicago's first and only female mayor? But so much in her life was cold back then. She had friends, no family, never knowing if she'd get a holiday invitation from well-meaning friends. What joy now to be the one who hosts holiday family get-togethers.
What is there about Darcy that has so many of us females drooling? Of course, the Colin Firth portrayal helps, especially the wet shirt moment! But his portrayal in the novel is what does it. I think it's that he changes, and that he respects Elizabeth for her strength--something not that appreciated then, not even always now. Rereading Pride and Prejudice, I realized that Darcy wasn't so much proud as shy and socially awkward. Elizabeth and Darcy love each other as people--I think Elizabeth first took a second look at Darcy when his housekeeper described him as being unfailingly kind.
What had life been like for her grandmother? During Great Depression Prohibition-era days, she'd brewed whisky in the bathbub; she was a widow with four kids, the oldest four years old. An Irish immigrant who couldn't read and write, she scrubbed floors and worked as a maid, and often that wasn't enough. She had her demons, too, that got them evicted, kids staying with relatives of at the convent. Her love of the drink, and her rages. Why had her sisters and brothers been the one to get the learning, she stuck minding them all and helping with the shop?
Thank God for positive people. Just read an essay by a successful writer about dealing with her envy of more successful ones, and suddenly I feel better about my own struggles. I write as much as I can. Daily is good--but if illness or sadness throws a physical or emotional wrench between me and my notebook and pen, hey, that's how it goes. I write as much as I can, as well as I can. Let me try to feel that way about work, too, as I rush to meet a deadline. I'll do my best. Pharrell's "Happy" plays now--appropriate!
My year so far? Work has been OK but lonely; at the main site, people are so busy and swamped that I don't hear from anybody, and I don't know if my revisions will be what they want. I applied for a mentorship and am praying and crossing fingers. I helped one of my critique group buddies by revising a very short story in my voice. My son and I visited A in the hospital; M and I visited J. My son watched my little nephew while parents were in Ireland; my son is back in school and loving it.
-the most memorable summer day
-the hottest passion ever experienced
-the heat of anger
-ways to stay warm
-the hottest summer you remember
-whether you're a winter, summer, fall, or spring person
-the warmest place
-feelings about heat and cold
-the hottest foods
-how life is different in summer
-a character in the heat of emotion
-a perfect summer day
-how a character spent his/her summer vacation
-the warmth of love
-being in hot water
-staying warm in winter
-enjoying warmth while inside
-a heated argument
I hate when tiredness, shyness, whatever overcomes me so that I don't say the right thing. After breakfast, H. apologizes for talking too much--but she didn't, and I enjoy listening, but somehow words were lost in the disorganized murk of my brain, so I hope she doesn't feel bad. Sigh. I'll email her as soon as February arrives to ask about planning our February breakfast! Hope, too, that I feel less tired as the day goes on, as I have to work and clean and also have a creative writing event tonight, where we'll drink wine and write and share!
I remember Super Bowl 1986, still recovering, not very successfully, from being dumped by T; I'd separated myself from his circle of friends who had been my friends, too. Instead, J became my best friend, and I found emotional nourishment visiting her vibrant welcoming Italian family for weekly mostaccioli meals. J and I talked on the phone almost every day, sometimes for hour-long chats, and she listened, understood my rejection feelings. On Super Bowl Sunday, I met Y, another friend of J's, downtown, and then we headed to J's where watched the game, screaming at the TV and sipping beers.
Jan. 26, 1967. The Big Snow. I was eleven, in the midst of the happiest year of my childhood, maybe my life, where I had a best friend and lots of friends and we ate sandwiches and ran about the playground together every day. These were nurturing friendships; unlike most of my childhood, I wasn't teased at St. A's. That day, snow began--and didn't stop. Kids who had stay-at-home moms were sent home early; a lot of teachers left early, too. My best friend and I and other kids of working parents were sent to the office where we colored.
I like the story about going to the mall with Auntie J, except nothing happens, there's no problem to be solved. It's just a nice happening. Sure, it's interesting that Auntie J. uses a wheelchair and honks her horn when it gets crowded. But that's not a problem needing solving. If I were writing an essay, it would work, as really, shopping with J. solved a lot of problems--when the rest of the world was cold, she wasn't. But picture books are different. I'm trying to remember or think of a problem. What if the little boy gets lost? Hm.
Must remember not only my resolutions but my words of the years: positive and gratitude. Need to feel more positive and less critical both of myself and other people, and start by noticing the small good things I do, the small good things other people do. And be grateful, for what people do and for Life and what God-whatever God is--has given me. I have a loving son, good siblings, friends who like me, a job I like, the gift of writing, sight and hearing (for now, anyway), successful knee surgery, a wonderful critique group, and affectionate cats, of course!
Visiting the mall with Auntie J. We take two buses. I wear my snowsuit. We hurry into the mall. "You're late!" Auntie J. says. But she's smiling. She's talking to the security guard. He smiles, too. "Here." Auntie J. gives me a toy. Mom pushes Auntie J.'s wheelchair and we go into the mall! Auntie J. buys a doll for her niece. Mom buys a skirt for work. Auntie J. is mom's shopping cart! When there are too many shoppers, Auntie J. honks the bicycle horn on her chair. People stare, and we laugh! At the end, we eat burgers!
I wish I didn't always think of myself first, that I wasn't the kind of person trying to think of the next thing to say rather than just listening. I feel so sad for J., losing her husband, yet there's part of me jealous of all the support she's received from the entire neighborhood, the fact she was married for thirty or more years to her best friend, and that she was able to have a bunch of kids. Those aren't very compassionate feelings, and my son has noticed that J. always seems sad. My own insecurities make me unkind.
Last day of January, so I'll try to finish 100-word posts. Really love this site and the structure it gives for brief prose! I love reading the posts: we all seem to be creative types writing about what Life means, whether by venting about annoyances or actually contemplating existence. Inspiring.So cool, too, when you realize the writer lives in a different city, country, or continent! At the end of the month, I reread my own posts to remember my journey and obsessions. Of course, I cheat; the post on the 13th may have been written on the 23rd!
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