Thursday, January 28, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
It was a blast; we drank tea with our pinkies out while talking about music and acted very civilized. For about five minutes that is. Then we devolved. Conversation turned from music to men and we began to call the soup pornographic.
Still, it was all good fun. And now I am reliving more of the childhood innocence that I called magical last week.
I am currently sitting curled up in my chair, in my pajamas, eating cookie dough and I’m watching Jeremy Clarkson drive some Royal Marines into a beach assault in a Ford Fiesta. I know, it doesn’t make much sense, but it doesn’t have to. This, what I’m doing, is the grown-up equivalent of watching Saturday morning cartoons.
And that’s exactly what I wanted.
It’s jolly hard to find something innocent and child-like to do that is also interesting to you when you’re 25. So then, my answer was to upgrade. Playing dress up and having a tea party with stuffed animals has given way to talking about the attractiveness of Shemar Moore’s abs with your best friend while drinking tea from a mismatched set.
It’s not enough to simply act out what you thought was magical in childhood. You have to adapt it to fit who you are now; so long as you feel that childlike thrill, does it really matter what form it takes?
If it ever clears up and the ground again is firm beneath my feet, I may go into the woods and find my cache of dragon eggs. And although I am a bit beyond frolicking, I may just sit and imagine what it would be like to have a host of dragons at my beck and call; you know, for world domination.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Have you ever felt like the odds are against you? Then you find out they really are? Last week, I read that agent Jennifer Jackson signed five out of 8004 queries in her slush. That’s 0.06%. Of those five, two were debut authors. Janet Reid signed fewer.
I knew the statistics before I read the post. Industry experts estimate there are four million unpublished manuscripts out there, and all those authors want their babies to find a home. Usually those numbers make me work harder. Last week, however, I had a case of the I’m-ruining-my-life-with-this-writing-crap blues.
During the I’m-ruining-my-life-with-this-writing-crap blues, I obsess over what I could have been doing instead of writing. I could have called my siblings. I could have heard my baby sister plead with me to ease up on her boyfriend. (Never!) I could have actually learned tennis scoring from my brother. (Unlikely, but possible.)
Or I could have faced the legion of dust bunnies hiding in the laundry room. I could have played Mario Kart and finally kicked my husband’s fine fanny.
Those things are important to me, but so is writing. And, apparently, it is important to my husband. Last Thursday, he rescued my jump drive when I threatened to throw it into the garbage disposal. He talked soothingly as I huddled on the couch certain I’d ruined my life. It was tough love when he said this fear and doubt is a form of self-sabotage.
So I slunk to the computer the next morning and started to write. I remembered that most days the odds don’t bother me because the writing is enough. I don’t need to have my worth as a human being validated by publication.
It turns out that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Just a day later, the World of Blog affirmed I am not the only lunatic—I mean, bipolar artist--I mean... Nathan Bransford calls this feeling the “Am I Crazies?” Anne Allen’s response made me proud to be part of the team of crazies slaving away for the Tralfamadorians.
So what is the point? I’m choosing to be obstinate. I am a fairly level headed, well educated woman who’s deciding, with the support and prodding of her husband, to pursue a dream that by all definitions is out of reach. I'm sticking with it during the I’m-ruining-my-life-with-this-writing-crap blues.
What do you want? Are you cowering on your sofa watching whatever inanity prime time television offered up, hoping that the desire will go away? Or are you spitting in the eye of statistics, giving a wedgie to reason, and biting your thumb at doubt? Are you following the Dori philosophy? Are you willing to make magic in a world where it is as rare as glass slippers and condominium-sized peaches?
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Hello friends & Fiends! Welcome to the 3rd installation of "5 Minute Magic"!
(The first two may be found here & here!)
This week is all about getting your laugh on.
We've all heard how "laughter is the best medicine", and have felt the effects of a good chuckle hopefully more than once in our lives. Multiple studies have shown the positive effects that laughing has on our body. Affecting our hearts, blood flow, cortisol and endorphin levels, immune systems, and blood sugar! Proof? Try looking here, here, here, & here!
Now while I would recommend spending more than five minutes with a friend or three, cracking jokes and weaving tales, sometimes all we have time for is a quick pick-me-up to get us to the end of the workday. Often while on my lunch break, I'll plunk myself down in front of my computer and pull up a never-fails comedic clip on ye olde youtube. My personal faves are: Robin Williams, Top Gear, Tim Minchin, anything from Monty Python, and Louis C.K. (for the more raunchy comedic moments!).
Here are some of my favorites!:
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
For example, when it comes to watching movies, I will inevitably choose explosions, gun fights, and gratuitous violence over romance, weddings, or Amy Adams. (Just kidding, Amy Adams is the cutest thing on this planet.) My television viewing consists of two programs; one is about profiling serial killers and the other is about sexy supercars (oh yeah, anyone else loving the new Ferrari 458?)
The only romantic thing I truly love is Romance era composers and poets. (Although Byron could still kick your ass six ways from Sunday.)
So, I was bound and determined to write something snarky and completely unrelated to real life. Once again, though, the font of my wit was dry.
Then, my mother reminded me of something. She told me she had been in the woods and that she had found my cache of dragon eggs. And then it all came flooding back.
I grew up in the country, so there was no TV for us as kids, apart from the news and public broadcasting. We had to be resourceful if we wanted to keep ourselves amused. That's when I found my dragon eggs. They were just a few large, oval rocks, but I was absolutely convinced they would hatch if I kept them warm. I put them in amongst the roots of an elm and covered them with moss and leaves.
And I went back for years after to check on them; I reasoned that as dragons are such long lived creatures, it would make a certain amount of sense that the eggs would take a while to hatch.
It seems a little silly now, of course, but isn't that what childhood is all about? Being silly and thinking that there would be a whole slew of dragons in the woods given enough time. I could very easily imagine that I would walk down there one day and discover the wee things gamboling in the dried leaves. Then we would have a blast running through the trees and playing in the creek.
You know what, folks? I miss that. I miss waking up with the hope that there were dragons behind my house. I miss playing make believe and dress up. I miss believing that magic really does exist.
So, here is my plan. I will have tea parties at every possible opportunity. I will play dress up, even if it is just while sitting at my computer to write. And while I don't think I can convince my brain to believe in dragons again, I will imagine what it would be like if they did exist.
What am I, chopped liver?
Oh, bugger, forgot about him.
Monday, January 18, 2010
The magic of the long weekend is when you can forget it’s Monday and go about your day until seven o’ clock rolls around and your husband looks at you and says, “What are you going to post today?”
And you have a harried few minutes as you go through your list of ideas, marking off some as too serious, some as too tedious, some as too trivial. And then you remember there is a reason that you didn’t have to report for duty today, a reason you could have spent all day working up the perfect post.
It is a day when a tiny notation was added on the calendar block to remind us what came before. I leave the words of today’s name sake to remind us not to think of only what came before.
We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’
…We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
-Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
Today we think of what will be. We think of how we can walk into tomorrow, seeing how far we’ve come but not turning a blind eye to the civil rights of the immigrant or the lesbian, the refugee or the child. We care about the civil rights of the person battling the pernicious legacy left in our jokes, in our media, in our minds, in our perceptions of our histories, and in our gut reactions to one another. We pledge that our concern will last beyond today.
Will we be satisfied? Will we believe those before us healed all the world’s wounds? Will we believe the magic of dreams ended? Or will we pour the waters that cleanse and heal?
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Then, when music cd’s came out we could mix our tapes from recording directly from CD. We didn’t have to wait for our favorite song to play on the radio. It was cleaner but it still took a long time and sometimes you wouldnt have the CD that had your favorite song and you would have to wait until allowence builds up to buy the CD. Then of course the mixed tape became the mixed CD.
Now it's so easy to get your favorite songs. Download from iTunes, royalty free music sites… pirate… *cough* not endorsing pirating music *cough*
But, there is still the magic in making the perfect mix for a friend. There's is an art to mixes.
Certain songs lead in to other songs even if they have no connection by genre. You start off the cd with a bang and coast to about number six with various ups and downs. Number six is always tight. From there the mix progresses to the softer songs, if you must, then picks back up and ends with a bang or a heart-wrenching song that makes you feel like you could break or fly – take your pick, its your mix.
It's also a challenge to pink songs that your friend would actually like. I know I could not put Coal Chamber or OTEP on a mix for my friend Ben. He would probably disown me. I could put certain punk songs on Christal's mix but no Bad Brains. These two have a certain style and its fun to find music they would like in my style.
So you ease them in with something familiar, something they recognize. They may not know the band or singer but if they catch a twang or a sound of a voice that resonates with them it can work.
It’s also a challenge to throw something silly into a mix of serious music, or rap in with indie chick. These things can be done, but it takes massaging, it takes tweeking, it takes a bit of magic to make that perfect mix.
Here are two play lists one for Ben and one for Christal.
For Ben/For Christal
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Whoever or whatever I was chatting with had a real knack for not understanding the problem I was having and that actually got me thinking. Knacks. Some people really do have knacks for things. Haven’t you ever watched someone do something neat and tell them they have a knack for it?
Then I remembered that this has been written about before, and by a far better writer. Orson Scott Card wrote a series of novels called The Tales of Alvin Maker, about an early America that had a little bit of magic left in it. There are people in the story who use magic, but Card calls it “a knack.” Some of them can start fires, others can heal wounds, and still others can read people like open books.
Any of this sounding familiar? Haven’t we all heard of stories like this in the real world? There are people out there who can do some mighty out of the ordinary things. Haven’t you ever wondered, what if?
What if these people really do have some kind of magic in them? What if magic isn’t something mystical and shrouded in superstition and legends? What if magic, in some form, is real?
Is it possible that these people are the wizards, mages, witches, and enchanters of our dreams and fantasies? Doesn’t it give you a wonderful feeling to think back to all those fairy tales and myths and wonder if there is a grain of truth in them? Morgan le Fay could have been a real woman who simply had a knack for seduction.
I wrote last week that music had the power to move the soul. What if those composers who are considered the greatest had a knack for music? What if the artists we treasure had a knack for painting?
Interesting, isn't it? If there is any modicum of truth in what I've written, think of all the magic out in the world.
Now doesn't that just make you happy?
Monday, January 11, 2010
You might remember that one of my goals for 2010 is to read 100 books.
I thought I’d share with you what was first out of the gate. I’m going to skip the synopsis. If you’re interested, you can find that here. Click on the book on my bookshelf to see details and other people’s reviews.
The Education of a British Protected Child
I’m typically not a fan of essays. They can be insightful, but they can also ramble and list toward the sentimental, especially if they are taken from speeches. Perhaps these essays approach my peeves when Achebe knows his audience personally, at least better than he knows the general reader, but they include the reality rendering insights that made me love his novels. Let’s face it, I’ll read anything he writes.
While the essays are compiled around themes, they can stand alone. It is a great book to have on hand if you only have a few minutes to read and you want something that will stretch your world. On a misanthropic note, it is also good to keep the coworkers away during lunch. They think you’re an intellectual.
The Illustrated Man
Ray and I have a turbulent relationship. I love him, and then I’ll hurl him across the room. The Illustrated Man maintains our status quo. There was a story I simply skipped. I’m sure its message would be apparent if I gave it a chance, but I cannot get past the overbearing influence of a 1950s white male. Some stories make me laugh out loud. If you have a bent for theology in science fiction (which I’m convinced beats those snotty old German boys any day), go for “The Fire Balloons.” You’ve probably read some of these stories in your freshman English lit courses, but give them a try in a ratty Bantam paperback and not a high school anthology. If nothing else, it keeps the coworkers away at lunch. They think you’re one of those scary sci-fi geeks.
Milagros, Girl from Away
I purchased Milagros months ago when I heard the author speak. Meg is vivacious, hysterically funny, and gives crystalline observations about life and fiction. I thought if Meg conveys any of herself into the book, it is something I want to read. The good news is she did. The bad news is Milagros lacks Meg’s spunk.
Milagros is juvenile fiction. That isn’t an insult. It is marketed for children. Like all children’s books, it tackles “adult” issues but can mix them with magical realism. Many of my favorite books fall under this category. Sometimes Meg nails the blend of mystical and mundane; other times it can be a bit jarring.
It is a brilliant debut novel, but I hope her future books will eliminate the generalizations and tone down the overt personifications. Her biggest strength is the use of metaphor and simile: “Whispers. Gossip. Humiliating family stories. All of these scraped and rattled behind Milagros, fastened miserably to her like noisy tin cans on a string.” Read it, even if it is only to make your coworkers think you have arrested development.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
It has been one hell of a journey these past three weeks and I apologize for the lack of posts. I’d attempt to explain myself but the explanations would only be interesting to me. Ok, I take that back. The explanations are pretty interesting but I’d rather not explain myself here.
Speaking of explaining yourself, I used to ask myself, “Why can’t you just be you without explanation?” One “resolution” I’ve made for myself this year is to be brave enough to just be me without explanation.
But that’s another post. This post is about the magic of tea. Tea has been a comfort for me these last few weeks. Especially this week since I’ve been sick. Everyone has been reminding me to “drink more liquids.” Well tea is nice and warm and liquidy. So I’ve been drinking lots. Of tea, that is.
Something happens when I wrap my hands around a warm mug of tea. The steam rising up from the fragrant leaves. Honey, milk, two sugars or one, lemon, however you take it, tea warms the spirit.
Especially on cold days, when I feel like a miserable old bear that has been rudely awakened from the middle of his hibernation sleep, a cup of tea will make me warmer towards people and towards myself.
Hot tea relaxes me. One sip and, “Ahhhh, thank goodness for everything.” It’s all right if I have to get up early in the morning for work or if I have to drive 30 minutes to another town to attend a board meeting.
If I have tea I can conquer with goodness and joyness and will readily wield hot tea in the faces of all who oppose me! OK, that would only work if the tea was scalding and if I actually wanted to throw it in the faces of my mortal enemies… or just some crumby people.
But when drinking hot tea I feel as if I have no mortal enemies and there are no crumby people. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not some self-appointed super hero with a Dr. Horrible type trying to get me with a Freeze Ray. But sometimes, everyday life feels like a page from a comic book.
“Captian Skemp threw herself at the villainous stack of papers in her inbox!” KAPLOW! KABLAM! “Take that you stack of sh**!”
Hot tea. Yeah. It calms the beast inside me. But, I’m not the only one who thinks a mug of hot tea is magical.
A friend and I were standing in the kitchen one night drinking tea (no way!), when my friend told me of a study that showed holding a cup of warmth can actually make you happier and warmer to other people.
My friend was right. According to a Yale University study, seems holding something warm, like a hot cup of tea, really does make people feel warmer towards other human beings, happy even.
So drink up the warmth and goodness and magical happiness that is hot tea.
While this post is about tea, I am not prejudiced to other hot liquids. (Hot buttered rum, coffee, warm milk, hot chocolate)
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Dear Ladies & Gentle Nouns,
I've decided to kick off a short series of articles I've dubbed, "5 Minute Magic". Each article chop full of things that can enhance, thrill, encourage, and otherwise magicate, (Is that even a word? It is now!), our lives.
And what better way to start off then five minutes of sweet indulgence? For those of us who are in the throws of Winter, (20 degrees = heatwave), nothing is more awesome than a piping cup of hot chocolate.
Now, I'm all about just dumping a packet of chocolate dust into a cup of boiling water and calling it a day. However, I went trolling about the internet and found a delightful little recipe that I think is a shoe-in for being classified as "Magical".
- 3 tablespoons instant hot chocolate mix
- 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch chili powder
- 1/4 cup milk
- 3/4 cup boiling water
- In a large mug, mix the hot chocolate mix, chocolate syrup, cinnamon, and chili powder. Pour in the milk. Add the boiling water and stir.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I have been sitting here, dredging the very depths of my mind, trying to find something to write about; I've been waiting for inspiration to strike.
Now, I keep music playing in the background of basically everything I do. Cleaning, driving, playing games, and writing, everything. But its usually just that, background music. Something to keep the dreadful silence away.
I was sitting, waiting, hoping for something to spark my imagination, when my player shuffled from Seals and Croft (Summer Breeze!) to the Mad Song from the opera "Lucia di Lammermoor." If you've seen The Fifth Element, then you've heard it. It's the Diva's song, minus the techno bit.
As my mind was open and quiet, the music seeped in. I listened. Truly listened. The singing, the orchestra, all of it was suddenly indescribably beautiful. I don't mind telling you that I got a little teary eyed.
The aria ended, the next song cycled. The Universe had to have been watching me at that moment, because Chopin's Nocturne No. 19 began to play. I lost it. I wept. No, really, I did. (The Carrington women have a weakness for Chopin anyway. This piece in particular is my kryptonite.)
And then it hit me. A little bit of everyday magic had just occured. It had happened before but it never really occured to me how powerful the effect is.
So, as I wipe the tears from my eyes, I wanted to ask when was the last time you sat down and listened to music? When was the last time you let it sink in and move you? If that's never happened, then I highly recommend that you try it.
Monday, January 4, 2010
All this talk about resolutions and following muses reminded me of the importance of deviations. True, I was the one touting resolve a week ago. But sometimes, even with the strongest determination, things come up that make you take a detour.
During a trip to
Then I returned home and the lovely Lucy had a museum exhibition. Among the art was a photograph of yours truly. I was touched. However, that didn’t cause the goose bumps and tingling nose that come right before I cry.
Here is the photograph.
At that time, I was studying for my masters, on the road toward a doctoral degree studying Hebrew and Old Testament. I loved the study. I liked teaching, but it wasn’t for me.
Lucy captured a moment of truth. I had one way to go, but I was deviating from it. It was difficult. If I stayed, I had the support of family, friends, professors, college advisors, even the congregation of my home church. If I left, I had a lot of explaining to do.
I left. And I have not looked back, not even once. An unexpected deviation has given me an intriguing job and the time to pursue my dream. As you’re plugging away on those resolutions, don’t forget to leave room to follow uncertainty or seek a different path to where you want to go. There is never just one way.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
She is quite like a child in many ways. She will keep me up all night long crying out to me and trying to get my attention. And like any child, the longer you ignore her, the louder (and more obnoxious), she gets. No child, or muse, likes to be kept waiting.
So here I am, at near two in the morning, and I have been trying to put my muse to sleep for at least three hours. She isn’t particularly fond of the idea. She wanted to play dress up, dance around the apartment, and jump on the bed in fuzzy slippers.
Gertrude, as I have taking to calling my inner child-muse, has taken to being instantly wooed by anything Walt Whitman. So tonight, in accordance with our late night soup snack, we read the preface to “Leaves of Grass”, and a few blips of “Song of Myself”. I think that Gertrude loves the idea of Whitman because she is also quite fond of sexual innuendos, she can find a "that's-what-she-said" jokes in things that I am sure dear Walt would have never even thought of. (And indeed, he is probably rolling in his grave even as we type.)
Many other attempts at taming the muse were made as well. (Anything to get a colloquy babe to shut the hell up, right?) We proceeded to try and paint our nails. An attempt that left my nails looking more Picasso than Da Vinci. I only manage to sabotage one hand before Gertrude realized any attempts at femininity are futile.
When that didn’t work, we turned to the faithful lullaby of music to try and soothe the savage beast. Again, no dice: Gertrude would not have it. She wanted something more, something different, not the same old humdrum routine that usually works on her.
Just when I thought I could count on her to be quiet long enough for me to get some rest before I had to be all bright and cheery for church in the morning. She figures out another way to delay my slumber. Muses aren’t the type that will let you get away with things being “just okay”. They will shake you up and melt you down until they have rendered something that they consider feasible to use for their own devious devices. Jerks.
I shouldn’t be so harsh, though. Gertrude has been tried and true. Thru thick and thin she has gone above and beyond the call of duty as a muse to help me sort thru the muck of my issues until I have reached a peaceable, tangible, and often creative solution. She still makes me use clichés though. As a humbling tool, I’m convinced.
But whatever her reasoning and logic, or lack thereof, I am sure of one thing: that there is always a reason for what she does.
Muses, like Gertrude, are of a higher order. Somehow, they manage to communicate with a higher being, and attempt to translate to us lowlifes what the heck is being said. I’d like to think that Gertrude and I have a good working relationship, and that more often than not, she gets thru to me.
This isn’t to say that I am perfectly open, perfectly willing all of the time. I am, in fact, really stubborn especially when I am tired. I would be more than happy to just go to bed and toss and turn all night, smearing my freshly painted eyeliner, than sit at my computer in the kitchen and tick-tack-type away. Yet here I am, at two o’clock in the morning, making sure whatever it is that Gertrude has to deliver is heard. No matter how late it gets.