Thursday, September 30, 2010

Magi's Gift: Part III

Cass had always been brought up a lady. Her behavour was groomed and polished like a prized horse. Such expectations were not surprising for someone of her stature. Royalty by both birth and marriage, she was dubbed the luckiest of her and her sisters. The envy of all women.

Not only had she and her sisters been born princesses, her father took special favor in Cass for she was the one who most resembled him. A man of few words and a wide grin, he often took her aside for lessons in the things that "mattered", according to him, of course.

By the age of eight Cass was able to sail her own boat. A one-person skip that the two of them had spent a summer rigging up. When she was ten she learned how to ride horses, both English and Western saddles. Naturally, she rode like her father. Side saddle made her feel clumsy and foolish, so it was a banished thought. Age eleven she was a skilled marksman with a bow; twelve saw her learning how to chart courses for sea and learn the patterns of the stars and planets.

All of this "boorish man" influenced knowledge made Cass's mother cringe. She had only been blessed with three daughters; not one of them was going to be seen as anything less than a lady. When she could she tore her daughter kicking and screaming to etiquette classes. It was here that Cass learned how to walk, sit, stand, and talk properly. She was to learn how to set a table, how to cater to guests, how to host dinner parties, and how to care for children.

Under the insistence of both her parents, Cass was becoming quite the well-rounded individual. She outshone her sisters without hesitance and it was agreed that she alone would come to rule the kingdom. Obviously her parent's had yet to hear of their daughter's desire to marry a young man she had only met once at the annual Autumn Masquerade. And that by marrying this stranger she would not only inherit one kingdom, but become Queen of a second.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hello, Spatulans.

It has been a long time since I have had the pleasure of posting on the Fantastic Spatula. A lot has been happening/has happened. The last I wrote I was packing for a giant move to Montana (~2,600 miles north-west from my home-grown town) and preparing for an art show, which was to be held the night before Miss Lucy and I were to embark on a cross-country road trip.

Well, it is done. And it is done good. The art show had an amazing response for all artists involved and was the most fabulous, artsy send-off I could have ever asked for.

Lucy and I had a fantastic road trip. We slept at awesome retro hotels, ate mounds of delicious food (A breakfast in Custer, SD of french-fried potato chunks with onions, peppers, ham, cheese, and green chili sauce on top and Bumbleberry Pie from Bobkat’s Purple Pie Place also in Custer with a strawberry, rhubarb, blackberry, huckleberry middle and flakey, buttery crust), prowled through several trinket and knickknack stores (tiny rubber chickens, notebooks with Sabrina Ward Harrison artwork plastered on the front cover, used bookstores that housed once-read first editions and an owner who had a story for each book), listened to many road trip mixed music tapes, saw more sights than you can shake a stick at, read to each other, thought to each other, talked about whatever to each other, held each others hands when the panic of moving miles away from home attacked (OK. OK. So, Lucy was doing most of the hand holding when my panic attacked).

The move was a success. I have an apartment in a building smack dab in the middle of downtown. The apartment building itself was once an old hotel used during the time a passenger train passed through town. I have two jobs, the first at a vintage clothing and costume store, which I adore, and the second as a housekeeper for a hotel, which I am fortunate to have in order to pay bills. I am loving wandering the streets, getting comfortable in the town, enjoying the night and day life, meeting new and unique people (my apartment complex is full of writers, artists, musicians, grad students), and I am also doing a lot of getting to know myself.

Which leads me to the subject of today’s post. Alone.

I have been doing a lot of alone in my new home. As an introvert, for me, being alone can be both uplifting and depressing. Being alone gives me time to unwind, to think about stories and characters, to project and craft, to better know myself. Being alone also gives me time to dwell on the “what if’s,” to contemplate why I’m not where I think I should be, to ponder other people’s expectations about me.

Why the dichotomy? “Is Miss Kemp bipolar or something,” you (hopefully don’t) ask. Well, I don’t know why the dichotomy. I don’t know why one pleasant afternoon of aloneing can suddenly turn into an I’m-so-lonely sob fest. I don’t know why a lonely morning sighing over tea and toast can turn into a glorious trek through alone time that afternoon. I do know, however, that I’m not alone (ah ha!) in noticing this.

A friend recently broke it down for me like this…

“Solitude is used to define the glory of alone. Loneliness, to define its darkness.”

I enjoy the solitude of alone. The loneliness, not so much. But, sometimes, doing alone can be difficult or even scary. How do you do alone all by yourself when you are out of practice and don’t know what the hell to do? How do you do alone when you are too scared to try?

My project for Wednesday’s (Starting Next Week!) is going to be a guide on doing alone. Each Wednesday I’ll post a different thing to do alone and take you step by step on how to do it. The previous week I will have done that very thing and documented it with a video or pictures as proof that alone can be done.

My hope is I’ll do more things by my self and that solitude won’t wilt into loneliness who then curls up on my oh-so-small love sofa sobbing into a pint of mocha chip ice cream. I’m not saying that won’t happen some days, but I’m not going to call my Wednesday’s posts “How to Be Miserable and Lonely and Sob Into A Pint Of Mocha Chip Ice Cream.” Besides, I’m pretty sure most people know how to do that already. If you don’t know how to do that... I don't want anything to do with you (just kidding... kinda... maybe I could take lessons from you how not to sob in my ice cream when I'm lonely bummed out. Cause I don't like the salty in my mocha chip).

I also hope that Wednesday’s “How To Do Alone” posts will serve as a starting point for those of you who, like me, may sometimes get a little anxious about doing alone.

Now, here is where you fantastic spatulans come into play. I already have a list of things to do alone, but I want you to send me more ideas and things to do alone. I know all of you are creative people. Some of you have great things to do alone and do them frequently. Others of you may have great things to do alone but have been afraid to do them.

Post your alone ideas in Wednesday’s Blabbity-Blab (that’s Blogger for “doobly-doo,” which is YouTube for “Comment Box”) and I’ll start a list. I’ll take one week to do each of your alone ideas (if they are within my budget and I don’t deem them too-explicit-for-kemp). I’ll document it and feature it on a Wednesday’s post. Cool, huh? Yeah, I thought so too.

Anyway, I’m going to go now, and sob into some mocha chip ice cream. Just kidding. Really. I'm going to walk back home, have dinner, read some Full Metal Alchemist, and then go to sleep because I have to get up uber early tomorrow and go housekeep… So, goodnight lovely, fantastic spatulans. I hope you are having a great week. And don't forget to gimme your ideas for a "How To Do Alone."


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Changing Gears

Sounds like a car show title, doesn't it?

Don't worry. I'm not going to start prattling on about brake horse power or power to weight ratios. I mean that I am changing the theme of this post, giving those crazy characters a rest.

Truth be told, I'm writing this rather fluffy post, and you'll see in a bit why I say fluffy, because I've had a rather trying couple of days.

I went out Sunday to go to the store, only to find my window smashed in and my car a little dented.

I don't know what happened or why, but I was understandably shaken by it. My poor little Jeep! So, Monday I had to drive around with white trash bags taped over my window. Classy. Today saw my window repaired, but while I was running errands for work a tree fell and the whole block was closed. I couldn't get back to the office. Great, right? Nope, not for me; I had time sensitive work to be done.

So it goes without saying that my nerves were a little frayed. (Did I mention that I had submitted a short fiction piece to NPR's Three-Minute Fiction? Yeah, nervous about that too.)

Fortunately for me, there was a surprise waiting for me at my parent's house. Puppies! As soon as I set eyes on those little darlings all my griefs and woes just melted right away. Of course, I knew I had to share the magic of cuddly baby animals with you all. Are you ready for a cute overload?

Say thank you

You all know I harp on Banned Books Week.  Well, it is this week and I have to mention it.  Instead of my usual rant, I'll offer a challenge.  This week, thank one person who taught you to read voraciously, not just what was 'right' but what sparked your interest and made a difference in your life.  It can be a teacher, parent, librarian, friend, or LeVar Burton.   You can thank them in person, by phone, email, handwritten letter, Twitter, or Facebook.  Or blog.  (Here's mine: thank you Mommy and Daddy!) 

When you meet the challenge, leave a comment letting us know who you thanked and how you did it.  Kudos to the most creative. 

Happy reading!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Those Were The Days

I originally sat down tonight to write an entirely different post. However, when I actually wrangled my mind down long enough, the things that I wanted to express just wouldn't translate from brain to binary.

When this happens, and it often does, I tend to go flicking through my old writings looking for inspiration.

What I found this time, were not words, but photographs. Still reminders of the past, of people gone or forgotten. Of lost loves, former & forever friends, good gatherings, and grieving good-byes.

One photograph in particular stood out at me. It's that moment in a movie when one of the players is searching for something else and their hands run across a token they had long since stowed away for safe keeping. A pause, a stillness in the rush, just long enough to remember all the faint whispers caught on this silver paper.

What brings that moment out in you? Do you have a photograph that takes you back? Or perhaps it's a picture taken long before you were born- and it reveals to you something you never knew about someone else? That is how it is for me, at least.

The picture I found this evening is one of my grandparents. Even though there is nothing about it that would win awards or accolades, it holds such meaning for me. A beautiful and candid image, it portrays a happy moment in the life of my grandfather and my nana.

I can't possibly say how grateful I am to have been allowed to hold this little treasure.  Especially now that my loving Nana is currently in assisted living. She has to ask me who's birthday is when in which month now, and she is becoming more and more forgetful. It doesn't slow her memory down about the night that a friend snapped this portrait.

"It was a dance up in Danville! We used to go to them every Saturday night. Your grandfather danced with every woman. I shared him because I knew he was coming home with me! We always had the best time. And we could really move!"

So tonight, Nana, I dedicate this entry to you- and to the memories that never fade.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Getting to Know You

Cheesy title, I know. Forgive me.

Can I just say how much I am starting to love love love character developement? Well, I am. It is so much fun to just start writing and let the characters' personalities bubble to the surface on their own.

I am so thankful to Miss Lucy for starting this blog, for without it poor François would still be sitting all alone in his swamp and I would never have found out what a card he is.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Enduring Ephemera

Okay, so this isn't ephemera, but it has outlived its creators and serves a purpose they never intended.
Things: they surround us, overwhelm us, but do they define us? 

I work in a museum and love attending museums in every city I visit.  They are full of things, sometimes beautiful things, sometimes ordinary things that were meant to go from one time use to waste basket, but these ephemera became treasured parts of museum collections.  Death happened to great artists, theologians, statesmen, and great ordinary folk, but some inanimate object that entered their possession outlasted them and became a revered connection to the deceased.  Those things shape the history that is told about them and the way future generations understand them. 

I often stop to look around my life at my things -- the spools of thread inside a vase, the tiny rock that sits on my desk, the platters above my cabinets -- and I realize they might outlive me.  It is humbling and a little infuriating to know these objects can have lives that span hundreds or thousands of years, but I get a mere sixty more if I am lucky.  And when I am gone, should anyone care to know me, they will look at my things. 

 Look around.  What do you have that defines you?  If someone was going to piece together a story of your life based on the things in your home, what would you keep and take special care of?  What would be the first thing you discard?  What would you pass on?  What is keeping you from doing those things today?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Recalling Your Truth

A little Lucy: The Artist in Reverie & Avid Grape Kool-Aid consumer.

What have you always known to be true? I ask you this because it's something that we tend to forget. A familiar truth that we pass by every day and forget that it's there. So tell me, what is it that you know to be true? To be real? What is about you that makes you feel so charged and magnetic? 

For me, I have always known that I was an artist. Of some sort. I'm not a specialist in any medium, I am sad to say. I love to paint, but I'll never be as awe inspiring as my Godmother. I love to draw, but being around skilled artists at work all day makes me feel shy about showing my sketchbook. I'm not a bad photographer, but I won't ever capture beauty the way that Shannon does. I've been a journal writer since the age of nine, a poet since thirteen, and a blogger since sixteen. Yet will I ever measure up to the likes of Sabrina Ward Harrison, e.e. cummings, or Gala Darling? Hardly. 

So if I'm not a prodigy or a savant or even particularly dedicated in any one area, why do I bother? 

Easy. I'm addicted. I can't not do what I do. Simple as that. I couldn't stop even if I tried. I'm hooked. If anything, you could say I'm an Exploration Artist. Or just call me curious. ;) 

For almost three years now I can say that I am both lucky and grateful to be gainfully employed as a graphic artist. Whether or not I will always be so, I have to remind myself that what I do for my bread and butter doesn't have to be the same thing that feeds my truth. 

I have learned that just because you may work in a less than satisfactory position, or even if you do work that you love, it doesn't mean you aren't living out your own truth. When the gnawing of the muse happens, creative types like us will always find a way to get our hands dirty in our novels, paintings, carvings, and dreams. The Beatles wrote song lyrics on napkins, great poems have been scrawled out on envelopes, Harry Potter revealed himself to J.K. Rowling while she was on the train. What is stopping you? Whatever it is- you can get rid of it. 

You can get rid of your doubt; your guilt; your shame, and your fear. 
All you have to do- is remember. 

So I ask- what have you always known to be true?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Melancholy Mood

You will all have to forgive me, my post today is a bit... maudlin. Regular hijinks will resume next week.

Today's post is for my mom, in a round about way. Every cloud may not have a silver lining, but all clouds, eventually, fade away.

(oooo, I'm so deep!)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Banned Books Week

September 25-October 2 is Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association.  Banned Books Week (BBW) celebrates our freedom to read, even if we want to read unpopular or unorthodox viewpoints.   Or, in many cases I’ve heard recently, books that other people do not feel are “good” for us.  They make books sound like breakfast cereal, breaking them down into what is healthy and unhealthy, filling or not, something that can be denied to us by a paternal shake of the head.  In fact, ALA records show parents are the top initiators of pulling a book from library shelves. 

Why does this happen?  I understand parents want to protect their children, but most of what I’ve heard recently are not attempts to protect toddlers or elementary school kids, they’re directed toward older teens.  This boggles my mind.  In all my years, I never remember my parents telling me no when I wanted to read a book.  Once my mom mentioned that a series I thought was Nancy Drew-esque was really more teen romance and asked if that was something I wanted to read then or wait on.  Mom was good to point out the subject matter, but it was more of a book recommendation than an authoritative NO.  My parents let me read whatever I came to naturally.  I read memoirs of Holocaust survivors meant for adults, and I was ten or eleven at the time.  When my brother finished first grade he was reading books for a 10+ (or was it 12+?) reading level.  My parents didn’t tell him that he couldn’t understand them; they talked with him.  They answered his questions.  He loved books.  He’s 18 now and he’s not psychotic, which leads me to my next question.

What are we protecting them from?  As adults, are we protecting the children or preventing them from asking questions we do not want to answer?

Please weigh in.  I have a couple articles I want to share with you, but I want your thoughts first.  Did your parents prevent you from reading certain books?  Parents, I want to hear from you, too.  What is your view of pulling books from library shelves?  When does protective nature become paranoia?  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lessons From the Baba Yaga IX

The Door That Led to Nowhere

While Baba wasn't expecting this many visitors, you would have never known it by watching her. She enjoyed every minute spent with us and never treated any of us as a burden. My days were still filled with chores as they had been, but Baba took her time with the little ones. In the evening she and I still had our ritual: one hour before bed time to just sit and be together. I cherished the time more now as it was almost the only time we ever saw one another.

While the days were growing shorter the atmosphere in the little hut gradually changed as well. The young ones had brought the light of day into the house. And, like little children tend to also bring, there was joy and merriment most of the waking hours.

But Baba demanded order and respect. Whenever it was time for bed, or bath, or food, what she said was law. Now the infant was rarely any trouble. Infants, in their nature, will let you know exactly how they are feeling. It was a particular delight to Baba to have such a small daughter to raise. Most of the time she never let the baby out of her sight; she was always hovering like an anxious mother hen.

After some time had passed, it became clear that Baba was slipping out of the house leaving the older sister to watch over the baby. Baba would simply instruct the girl to watch over her sister for a few minutes, and she would disappear thru a door in the kitchen. I had seen her cross the threshold several times myself, but never knew where she went once she stepped through.

Once, when curiosity had gotten the better of me and Baba wasn't looking, I crept to the door and quietly turned the knob. I had expected to see some grand study; a room lined with books of spells and a cauldron in the center. Or at closet full of trinkets and toys.

Much to my dismay, however, there was nothing behind the door. Not even a room. No floor, no ceiling, not even any cranky stairs. Indeed, the door went to nowhere. Just another opening to the outside.

I was used to things on Baba's homestead being slightly on over the line of imagined lunacy, but even this was a extreme for an old witch like Baba.

Immediately my mind began filling up with ideas and fantasies about why this door was so important to Baba. And why had she been trying to keep it a secret? If it was truly just another door, why was there nothing on the other side? What could she possibly be hiding behind there? And would I ever find out?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I need to think of a title...

Gee, folks. I can't seem to get away from these characters!

I'm not going to make excuses, it is too much fun writing for them, and I'm just glad I've found a purpose for everybody. It's also fun too see how they all react to one another. But, I do wonder what Charlotte is up to...

And hey! Look who's back!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lessons From Baba Yaga VIII

The Making of a Family

Here's what I know. Baba was utterly flabbergasted by the arrival of two young girls because she was only accustomed to having to deal with one. I had been an unannounced guest myself. So there she was, an old bent woman now in charge of dealing with three youngsters. Even I knew this was going to be rough.

Baba never lost a beat though. She ushered the children in, shedding their wet clothes, and offered the oldest girl new ones from a dresser she kept by the door. Dutifully, the older girl dressed herself and then her infant sister. Baba ushered them to sit on the footstool in front of the fire. I was to watch over them and make sure nothing happened while Baba scrambled about the kitchen fetching food and warming goats milk.

When she emerged from the kitchen she had a plate prepared of leftovers for the eldest. Who, without waiting, hashed it down gratefully. Baba lovingly scooped up the baby and stuck a bottle of milk to her mouth.

Within minutes, food and milk were devoured and any fright or unknowing had been replaced by comfort and genuine love. I cleared the dishes and bottles while Baba played with the baby and burped her. Her big sister wrapped her legs around her and fought to stay awake.

"Well now, three daughters have been brought to me! Something must be shifting within the loom of time." Baba sucked on her bottom lip as she thought and rocked the baby gently. "Hm. Well, first thing's first. You all must get a good night's sleep, and I will consult with The Garden. Don't be afraid my dears, everything looks less scary in the morning." A comforting smile put the oldest into a state of ease. She simply nodded at Baba and I, and then fell asleep.

Baba with the baby, and I with the sister, we four trotted up the stairs to my sleeping quarters. The stairs, never letting Baba pass before, grew wide and welcoming as she stepped up them. They knew she was bringing pitter-pattering feet for them to enjoy.

I had had the fortune of sleeping in a large bed all to myself. Tonight I would share it. I secretly hoped not for long. Little ones like her had a knack for wetting the bed just as you would fall asleep.

Out from a closet Baba pulled out a cradle. Fresh linens and pillows had been stored nearby as well. Each of us slid into a deep and easy sleep. Baba instructed me to come get her should either of them wake up fussing, as she doubted the stairs would be as nice to her twice in one night.

I nodded my understanding and knew nothing else of the world until the morning.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

"It is what it is."
[A catchphrase a friend of mine is fond of. You know who you are.]