Monday, July 31, 2006

Creative Sentencing

I recently read a news article about a handful of judges throughout the country who have dragged out some common sense and are handing out punishments that fit the crime. For instance: a woman who pretended to be a Hurricane Katrina victim in order to get free rent, sentenced to clean houses. The article went on to say that Judges are skittish about doing this because of criticism from the public. The general population is most comfortable with seeing criminals, so matter how minor their crime, warehoused in prison. No matter how much it costs them.

I find this public attitude very frustrating. We have staggering numbers of repeat offenders, proving that prison doesn't work. Anyone that has raised kids knows that grounding doesn't work. Incarceration at any level is nothing more than a temporary fix. Murderers, rapists, the extremely violent - they belong in prison. But so many other criminals would actually be rehabilitated with a different kind of punishment.

When my kids were young, there was a pack of teenagers who cut all the Christmas lights on our street as a prank. My kids were little and this scared and upset them. The boys were caught and punished, I think they had to write an essay to the judge or something. The following Halloween the same group broke every jack-o-lantern on the street. Hmmm... I guess they didn't learn much from that essay. For cutting Christmas lights I think the punishment should have been to replace and hang every string plus some hours volunteering at a soup kitchen. At the time I wanted them assigned to community service- at my house. I had this really nasty garage that could have used the attention of such ambitious young men.

The judicial system isn't the only thing broken around here. When the illegals were picketing, and all of Washington was worrying about who would do those menial jobs the illegal aliens do if they should all go home, I wanted to scream at the TV. When did we become such a mamby-pamby, woosy, prima donna society? And if we have so many jobs that no American will do, why do we still have welfare? I have a simple plan for fixing just this type of thing:

Step 1: Deport all illegal aliens. This will free up a bunch of jobs.
Step 2: Institute a country wide flat tax in lieu of the federal income tax in place now. This will result in the loss of many IRS jobs, those people can go fill the spots once filled by the illegal aliens.

The added bonus to this plan is that a flat tax would generate enough money to pay off the national debt in very short order. Seems simple enough to me.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

July Updates

This is Miss O'Hara, the Terra Cotta Vineyard cat. She checks things out on the dining pavilion before the people arrive. Must have recognized a kindred spirit to have made an appearance while we were there.

July has raced by like a hurricane, my body has made it to the end of the month, but I think my mind is still back there somewhere around the 4th.

Tico: Final editing requests have been sent to Sandra for suspicious Circumstances and Theresa's book, Last, is off being formatted. The cover is done. The submissions list is still closed, several reviewers are having a little summer break. One full edit and review sitting on my desk, with one review to mail back.
Newspapers: Three articles published, three in the can for the next issue, leads for this week in hand and with the changing season, I'm not worried about having leads for the coming months. Vase articles, two sent, one ready to be written and pictures of five to be written.
Books: Willow needs a synopsis and mailed out, Pitch needs rewrites, Million and Ambassador are languishing about in my overstuffed head. Miserable failure this month in regard to them.
Day Job: Hopelessly behind, somebody drug me from 8-4 and put me out of my misery.

The family is in a muddle as usual. Pap still in a cast from a blister... jeez. Princess is still having trouble with her back from the car accident, she has an appointment with the doctor next week.
Grandgirls Mom has returned to the East for the weekend, but seems to be doing well with Bean. Soup and the Prof Squared are busy as usual. The garden is a mess, the house is a mess and I will fail weigh-in today. Beans curtains are done, her bedspread and throw pillows are not. I was too busy to even post on Friday, which means I missed the Friday Fantasy... Unacceptable, this week I will be the Sunday Somnambulist: too easy, a fleet of personal assistants.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Vase and A Ramble

This vase lives on the bridge in my small town. It's a painting of the old train station. That old train was the difference between a town eeking out it's own survival and a town that was able to thrive through the income derived from shipping out the pottery and coal produced here. We need the contemporary equivalent of a "means to sell our ware". Most of the potteries have closed down, the one or two left are struggling.

The first of my articles came out in Our Town this week, two of them made the front page. The vase articles are on the front page of the other paper, and Thursday I had an offer from another paper. This should make me happy, it's paid writing work despite the fact that my background isn't in journalism. It's not that I'm unhappy, any kind of validation regarding whether my writing is marketable or not is always welcome. The tear sheets are invaluable, the people that read the articles and start recognizing my name - very important. But, I'm mourning the loss of time I usually use on one of the novels. One of them languishing in a drawer, waiting to get sent out, one that needs editing, two with a fledling start, the characters bound and gagged so they won't harrass me while I write for money for awhile. I'm reminded again, to be careful what I wish for....

Thursday, July 27, 2006

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Isn't that just a stunning view? It's from the upper dining pavilion at the Terra Cotta Vinyard. We've been taking advantage of their steak bake nights for a couple of years and now our favorite winery just won a gold medal for one of their red wines. Well deserved, I've certainly ingested enough of it to vouch for its excellence!

It always makes me laugh when I tell people I'm originally from California and they look at me like I'm some kind of nut for leaving. "But it's so beautiful there!" they gasp. I want to say "have you looked in your back yard lately? It's beautiful in Ohio too!" The drive to the vinyard is just breathtaking, four miles from the highway through rolling green hills and lush trees. I can't imagine there's any other place on earth more beautiful.

A little rant is necessary today. My printer just died, as always at the most inconvenient time. I toddled down to the local Staples store to replace it and found the newest way the technology industry has found to fleece the people. The last time I bought a printer, they were expensive. But they ran like mules for several years. Now you can get a printer that copies, prints, scans, e-mails and remembers your birthday for under $100. They get you with the ink, $64 a set. Jeez.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hump Day Hooray!

The artist calls this vase "redwinged black birds". It's on the loading dock at the Appalachian Potters Guild. In person, that yellow part is shiny gold, beautiful.

The schedule says dinner at the Terra Cotta vinyard tonight. Always a good day when someone else is cooking for me!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Someone to Watch Over Me

Today is one of those days when I need a babysitter more than my grandgirls. It started by waking up two hours earlier than I usually do. Thrilled at first with the extra hours added to my day, I turned off the alarm so it wouldn’t wake the dog when it went off at its usual time, and trotted downstairs to attempt to get some things done.

Attempt is the operative word here. The clothes I wanted to fold from the dryer were still wet. Pap was asleep in the library so I couldn’t dust or vacuum. The cats were asleep on the newspapers I needed to take out for recycling and my computer was not booting up in any way that could be considered even remotely acceptable. Frustrated I decided to go take a bath. Big mistake, the combination of quiet and warm reminded me that I was up two hours before I needed to be. One minute I was reading a book, the next my neck was breaking and the book was floating cover up in the vicinity of my feet. I crawled back upstairs and went to bed, forgetting all about the alarm.

Totally disoriented from waking up late, it took me three trips back to the house before I could get on the road to my day job. First I forgot my keys. When I went into the house to get the keys I left my purse laying on a chair and had to go back and get it. I finally started the car, looked in the mirror to back up and saw my hair sticking out in every possible wild snarly direction. Once I got to work I had to circle the building twice to find a parking space, court today. There was a stack of “reminder” notes on my desk from my assistant, a list of e-mails from the editor of one of the papers I write for with “suggested changes” and the MAN that hired our current webmasters informed me that it was MY job to fire them. I refuse to even attempt to guess at how he came to this conclusion, I’m sure it is a result of his lack of a backbone.

Lunch was no better. The invalids are so sick of each others company the animosity is running off them like sweat. Pap made sloppy joes for lunch (nothing even resembling my list of favorite things to eat), so I choked one down in between sympathetic clucking to whichever invalid was crying the blues in the same room I was in. Princess got that wild eyed, frantic look in her eyes when I got ready to go back to work and begged me to stay. So sad, she hasn’t done that since she was four and used to cling to my leg to keep me from going to work… it worked back then.

It’s not yet mid afternoon but I’m considering going back home and straight to bed. The final straw to this crazy day was catching sight of my feet. One in a white flip flop and one in a black flip flop.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mucky Mondays

You talkin' to me?

Photo by Waldo of this crazy duck that decided to pose for his camera. Which has no relevance to the following post, but the duck is just so darn cute!

One of the front page stories in the paper today was about the loss of funding our local ceramic museum is preparing to face. I hate to be a know-it-all (big lie, I love being right) but I remember saying to a board member back when the college took over the museum from the historical society "What would a college want with a museum? What they want is the land, but they'll play nice and be such a subtle roadblock it will look as if the museum failed on it's own." Well... here we are and the most telling line in that article was that funds were available, but the college was not going to apply for them. Sad, any time you lose art and culture it weakens your community and emotionally bankrupts your people. What will be next? The library?

Princess has still not recovered from the mac truck hitting her little car. She's having trouble with her back and has been to the doctor three times in a week. She can't lift anything, Pap's in a cast for his blister.... and still not out of the dog house. I'm in invalid hell. I think the Prof. squared will have to do without my assistance this week, I have literally run out of time to do one more thing. Grandgirls mom is behaving over at Bean's. Maybe I'm wrong this time, maybe she's seen the light and will actually straighten up her life. We can only hope.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Concert on the Lawn

Clay Guy in the studio with some of the big vases ready to ship out to artists. He's over six foot tall... these are BIG vases. I just love this project, I'll be boring you with pictures as it develops for some time! In his defense, I made CG stop his work (mixing slip this day, a very messy job) so I could take the picture. He doesn't normally walk around in dirty shirts. (There, are you happy now CG?)

Library Lo and I escaped for a little fun at the Lancaster Festival yesterday. I've lived here for fifteen years, and I can't believe I've never heard of this festival. It's nine days long, a celebration of arts of every kind. Our purpose was to see the Saturday night concert, this day featuring The Pointer Sisters.

It was a perfect night, clear and cool. Seating is on the lawn (unless you're a Hurst or a Gates and can afford one of the tables in front of the stage... looked crowded and uncomfortable to me, I'm glad I'm poor). We toted our lawn chairs up to a spot in the chair section, carefully selected based on it's view of the stage and proximity to the porta pottys (me and Lo can't afford to be very far from facilities). The concert opened with an hour of music by the festival orchestra followed by The Pointer Sisters and ending with one of the most phenomenal fireworks displays I've seen, straight over the top of us. Breathtaking with the orchestra playing in the background.

Some things that caught my eye during the concert... little girls spontaneously dancing in the aisle when the orchestra played, the sullen teenagers next to us who couldn't keep their foot from tapping during Neutron Dance, the elderly couple doing a vintage swing dance (at half speed) on the bridge and the overall great behavior of the hundreds of children attending this concert of music that was probably as alien to them as the outer banks of Mongolia. It's important to expose kids to all kinds of music, all kinds of art. They aren't competent to make their own way from birth to 18, parents need to take the reigns because our next great composer or artist won't come into the world knowing that's what they are. We have to show them.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Grandgirls reunited. Now that all three of them are back in the same area, perhaps that little one in the middle will get a taste of normal life. When the other two were rescued with the help of their Dad, I started a short story I will probably never finish. Fictionalized sufficiently to protect their identies, and clean up the lack of flow that is real life, but the facts are true. We have to do better regarding our nation's children. Children's Services is broken. I'm sure the employees of this department are kind, caring people overloaded with too much work, but we can't continue to ignore the problem we have to fix it. The story is here to get it off my hard drive.

The call came at three in the morning, like these calls always do. That time of night when you’re deep into the subconscious fairy tale of your wildest dreams. So far from the natural world that waking to the ring of the telephone is like kicking up from the bottom of the cistern through sand.
“I can’t understand... you’ve got to slow down.”
I can tell from my husband’s voice that it’s our oldest daughter. The mother of our grand girls, our lost child.
“Yes, we’re coming. Pack a bag. Give me the room number.”
I hear him fumbling for a pen and paper, knocking over the cup of water we keep on the night table, his bottle of pills, and my glasses. I know I should be leaping from the warm cocoon of our bed, throwing on clothes, racing to the rescue of my, our, child and her progeny. That’s what good mothers do; at least that’s what they do on the Hallmark channel. But my heart rebels at seeing her, again, wallowing in squalor. Drunk, high or beaten, those are the only reasons she calls, and always at three in the morning.
Mack drives and I’m supposed to navigate as we pull out onto the highway for a three hour drive to her latest location. We share the road with bored policemen and the occasional truck, not enough traffic to keep us alert to the various twists and turns of our route, too much traffic to talk about the continuing drama that is our oldest daughter. Mack finds a talk show on the radio, relieving me of the duty of providing conversation to keep him awake. Left to my own thoughts, they turn as always to what went wrong.
We named her Julianne, a moniker that rustles up the vision of blonde sausage curls adorned with fat satin bows, and white socks ruffling over patent leather shoes. For much of her life, she fit her name, despite her sleek auburn hair and aborhorance of anything too girly. She was a precocious toddler rattling off nursery rhymes, a witty grade schooler entertaining her classmates with observations of their teachers, and then she went to middle school. Julianne tried many things. Softball, band, the student paper, she never seemed to excel at any of these endeavors, and spent most of Junior High and High School blaming her peers, her teachers, and me for her lack of success. As her younger siblings followed her to high school, each shining in one thing or another, we helplessly watched her searching for her niche. By the time she started dating at 16, she’d changed her name to Jules, and taught herself to lie successfully.
Mack pulls into a gas station to check the map and stretch his legs. In the dim light of this early morning, he looks like the young man I married as he trots across the parking lot to get us coffee. I imagine that under his baseball cap his hair is still lush and dark brown, his chest is still broad and tanned instead of scared by heart surgery. Laying my head back on the seat I close my eyes and pretend this trip will end at the crystal blue lake of our honeymoon. Long lazy days walking through shady woods or rocking gently on the bow of our rented boat, hip to hip, hands entwined under the blazing sun.
“You okay Sarah? Ready to roll?”
I assure him I’m fine. We pull back out onto the highway and I wish I would have paid more attention to life back when we were young and beautiful. Maybe we would have noticed what we were doing wrong with Julianne.
We reach the city during the peak of morning rush hour. Mack finds a new radio station and hums with the music as we creep along in the bumper to bumper traffic. I think about the things I know to be true: Christmas is my favorite time of year, it always rains on Mother’s Day, Mack loves Sarah, and Sarah loves Julianne, Wendy, Beth, Ben and Amy. We met on April fool’s day, were married by the fourth of July and had Julianne on our first anniversary. There were money problems, sexual issues, growing pains of every kind over our thirty years of marriage and the birth of five kids. We bickered about housework, cars, yard work and television shows. But the only thing we ever fought long and bitterly over was Julianne. It is only because Mack loves me that we’re making this trip today.
We idle in traffic next to a billboard admonishing against the evils of child abuse. One eight hundred save a child or some such nonsense. I know that the system is broken. We’ve tried to work within it. We’ve seen that in a system overcrowded with abused children, those that are only neglected are not the priority of Children’s Services or the police. Shining stars, like my grand girls, can be reared like wolves with nothing more than a lecture from the authorities. That is the American tragedy, these damaged children that will someday rule the world. I wonder what kind of adults they’ll become. If a Julianne can emerge from a home more full of love and laughter than grief, what will happen to these children jaded by life before they’ve reached puberty?
“There’s the exit, Sarah, help me look for an opening so I can get over there.”
Mack pulls across two lanes of traffic ignoring the honking horns and angry gestures from the drivers he cuts in front of to get to his exit. I close my eyes and will myself not to grab the dash, not to stomp on the imaginary brake on the passenger’s side. He’s driven all this way because he thinks it’s what I want. He thinks I still have the power to straighten her up, my, our daughter.
Julianne is sitting on the curb in front of the motel room. Head in hands, I can’t tell right away if her eye is black or her lip is swollen. It dawns on me in that moment, that I didn’t even ask Mack why we were driving halfway across the state, what was our mission now that we were here? Mack turns into a parking space and turns off the car. He sighs as he drops his hands to his side, a lost, forlorn sigh that breaks my heart and makes me long to pull his head down into my lap and rub his back until he falls asleep. The moment is broken by the sight of Jet and Arial, peeking out the door behind their mother.
I feel abnormally happy when Julianne stands up. Her face is unmarked and she’s nearly as wide as she is tall. The weight gain is a sign she’s not using to me. Her crack days kept her jittery and thin as a willow branch, with sores and scrapes all over her body. She’s dressed in her work clothes. Julianne works at a neighborhood bar and grill, her plastic name tag is stamped “Jules, Everybody’s Baby Girl”, and I wonder what exactly that means. Her hair is a tangled mess, trapped in a scrunchy to get it off her face, she’s not wearing make-up, or fidgeting or talking ninety miles a minutes.
Mack grabs my arm as I start to get out of the car.
“She wants us to take Jet and Arial for awhile, until she gets on her feet. Honey, I know the burden will be on you, but I can’t leave them here again.”
“What about the baby?” I ask him. My spirits fall when I see him shake his head no.
The seedy hotel room is a disaster. Empty beer bottles, moldering pizza boxes, clothes, toys and dirty diapers cover every surface. In one bed the latest of Julianne’s bums feigns sleep, in the other, the baby, Daisy, is sleeping fitfully in a tangle of dirty sheets.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ramble and Fantasy

I kinda like this new life of mine. Being Friday, I don't go to the day job (reason for celebration in itself), but spend the morning interviewing interesting people instead. I have a 5:00 deadline for any stories, and this week that's no sweat because two of my three are already submitted, the third needs a quote from todays interview and it will be gone... the fact that I can't imagine this schedule ever getting boring, talk in the mornings, write in the afternoon, leads me to today's Friday Fantasy:
I would like to tear down my house and replace it with a grown up sized, multi-level, tree house. It will require the instant appearance of a very large tree, but heck, it is a fantasy. One of these levels needs to have a swimming pool, I really need some exercise and that's my favorite kind. I'll save the top for my studio. From there I'll have an excellent view of town and the surrouding hillsides. Exit from the tree house will be by zip line, inside there will be no stairs, just escalators from floor to floor. I'll need a cook, driver and gardener, anyone want to volunteer for the job?

The picture is of Ophelia in a full out pout. Princesses little kitten is getting bigger by the day and now it's ON between those two. Since this day is a full out ramble... I must mention some very nice comments that arrived from Anonymous: thank you for dropping by, if you'll leave your name next time I will happily return the visit!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

mad,Mad, MAD!

Have you seen the news today? Desperately seeking my happy place! This picture also by my talented friend Waldo. Unfortunately, it's not helping!

The news... homeland security people use their government issued credit cards to swindle the American public after hurricane Katrina. It's just making me sick. Big screen TVs, paying double for rescue boats and then half of them unable to be found, a beer making kit, a warehouse full of dog booties. The list just goes on and on, and the real question is WHY?

This makes me crazy on a number of different levels.

I'm a small town treasurer. We have 22 employees (not counting the lifeguards in the summer). According to state law, in order to purchase a lightbulb it requires a form documenting what is to be purchased, who from and for how much. This must be signed by me and the administrator. The form is then assigned a purchase order number and the light bulb can be purchased. Once the invoice arrives, the information is put on a list that must be approved by a six man council before the item can be paid for. Tedious, yes. But there has never been so much as a missapropriated penny in this village.

In 2004 my small town flooded. We lost everything on the first floor of the municipal building. The safe and it's contents, file cabinets full of documents, computers, police radios.... it was terrible, and even that wasn't half as bad as what the residents were suffering with the same amount of water in their houses. Eventually FEMA came down to help us sort things out. We lost nearly $400,000 worth of equipment. In order for FEMA to replace anything, we had to have three quotes for replacement, a report from a professional saying it had to be replaced rather than repaird, a request form, a picture and full description of the item. From the initial request for the next eighteen months I had to file a report saying we had the item. Tedious? Oh yes. Also unneccessary.

But handing out 25,000 credit cards willy-nilly is just ridiculous. I've always said if you throw temptation into the face of even the most honest people, they will eventually give in. We need new government leaders, we need to revamp these crazy agencies. Anything with a title so long its better known by its initials must be overhauled and streamlined. Clear Congress, Clear the Senate, clear anyone in government from the President on down and let's start over.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Need A Navigator

Ruger and I are two grumpy travelers. I must remember for the future that when Dark Daddy says "left" he means "right". Thank goodness nobody was bleeding or unconscious... they'd have died before I ever arrived.

It was my intent to skip out of the day job an hour early, which I did. I was then going to drive thirty five minutes from home for a visit with two of my dearest, oldest friends. Two hours later, after I'd toured the same stretch of road four times, and had a pay phone steal the last two dollars I had in my wallet, I gave up and headed home for my writers meeting. I hadn't been in the house five minutes before Pap explained this error in my navigation (left rather than right). Just to aggravate matters more, he added "from that pay phone you could probably see his house." Has no one explained what a precarious position this man is already in without adding that??? Jeesh.

The first stories for my new job are due by Friday. I have interviewed, researched and written the three I plan to send in. In fact, two were finished by last Saturday, edited, polished and ready to go. But I just couldn't send them. I've spent the last several days imagining that the minute I hit "send", the stories would come flying back from my editor saying she'd made a mistake hiring me, every word was crap. I spent two days reading an old edition of the paper and agonizing over whether my writing was better or worse than what they already had. With time ticking away, I changed the title of my favorite story four times. Finally, today, Clay Guy says the equivalent of "just send them for Pete's sake!" So at lunch, I sent one. At two I checked my e-mail and there were three letters from my editor. My fears had to be confirmed, my writing was so bad she had to tell me three times! One would be "your writing's crap", the next would be "who do you think you are pretending to be a writer" the last would be firing me before I'd ever seen my by-line on a newspaper.

I opened the first one and there was just one line: "I have only one word to say...AWESOME". The other two were asking if I'd sent pictures, and then apologizing because she failed to see the line where I told her I'd sent pictures. I also had a letter from the graphics guy saying my pictures were good! That was just a lie though, I'm a terrible photographer, I need my sister-niece to come be my partner. She not only takes great pictures, she can also write. We could start our own newspaper. I can't even describe how happy this made me.

The good news is it's highly unlikely that I'll ever be an arrogant writer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Warning - Parenthood is not for the Weak or Wimpy

The most frustrating thing about parenthood is the fact that once the little darlings enter the world, you can NEVER get them off your mind. It’s like one dormant quadrant of your brain comes to life in brilliant, neon, pulsing color. We worry about them in the same way we must probe a throbbing tooth with our tongue, or pick at a scab on our knee. Parenting books should come with a warning label.

My five kids range from 19-26. for the most part, they are independent, responsible young people. Logic dictates that if you have five children and four follow a path highly acceptable to society, conduct their individual lives in a way that brings respect and honor to themselves and their family, are known to all and sundry as happy, generous, kind people, you should say you've done your parenting job well. That isn't how it works.

When only four of the five are doing well, there's another quadrant of your brain that springs to life, this one spewing steam and lava, spotlights crossing paths above it, a really mean guy yelling into a megaphone: "You've messed this one up! Come one, come all and see the disaster this couple has created!" I think I told you yesterday that the prodigal had returned home. Grandgirls mom is back and despite having spent the entire day with her, I can not figure out how she turned out the way she did. I can't figure out how her mind works, I can't decipher the truth from the lies that spew from her mouth. How do you know when T is lieing? Her mouth is moving...

My intelligent, internal woman berates me constantly for blaming myself, but when did she ever have a kid? As I recall, she was the one clamoring about "population control" back when I was wishing on every shooting star for a baby. Years of soul searching and rehashing always reveal the mistakes we made with all the kids, but "all" is the key word. There wasn't any thing we did as parents to push her into premarital sex, drugs and a tolerance for the most extreme kind of self-inflicted poverty and misguided devotion. Easy to say, but my protests are no match for that guy with the megaphone.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back to the Real World

I'm doing my best to find my happy place today, without much luck... it's Monday, that means the day job.

This beautiful picture was taken by my friend Waldo Schmidlapt... who once started all my days with beautiful pictures of clouds but has suffered a computer crash and hasn't the time to reload all the addresses... sigh*** it was a great way to start the day.

Yesterday, as I was feverishly scribbling notes about a local community theatre preparing to open their season with Fiddler on the Roof, I remembered that I was supposed to be at Dark Daddy's on Saturday. Hmmm... I haven't had any hate mail from him, so maybe I lucked out and he also forgot about our date. I forget many things now days, and have for some time. That's why it's so surprising to me that I can remember the smallest details of the interviews I've been doing for the paper even without my notes. Proof, that when you love what you do, it comes easier. Kristin over at blueridgewriter summed this up beautifully on her blog yesterday.

Prodigal is home again, with daughter and one on the way. Its hard for me to know what to say. She chose a lifestyle so alien to me, made decisions that are clearly poor over and over again. Now she's dependent on the kindness of her sister Bean. Hopefully this time it will work and she'll remember her upbringing.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Friday Fantasy - On Saturday

An example of the Vase In Place project going on along the clay corridor, better known as Muskingum, Perry and Athens counties - pottery land USA. This one was painted by Susan Stubbins. What a cool project, these vases are 7 foot tall and weigh 167 pounds. There is an entire cast of characters that make them, paint them, haul them around and display them.

So busy writing about my interview, I ran out of steam before I got to the Friday Fantasy. That can't be! Here is this weeks:

In a perfect world, all men would live on an island (without ferry service). Marriage would be a thing of the past. When we girls needed something like the lawn mowed, the sink fixed, a dinner date or sex... we'd take the cruise liner out to the island and fetch us back whichever man fit our needs at the time. The fellas would be supplied with all the weaponry they'd need to fullfill their hunter-gatherer needs and we'll even hook up some cable so they can watch all the sports and wrestling their little hearts desire. There would be some exceptions, of course. Gay man can stay with us if they want to, men who are afraid of creepy crawlies or think exactly like we do. Its a perfect plan don't you think?

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Peek Into The Mind of An Artist

Today, on the first day of my new job, I interviewed a living testament to the resiliancy of women. Sorry men, I haven't seen a one of you that's recovered from adversity with the grace and sheer joy I saw in this fine woman.

Her story begins like many, one of eleven children in a tar paper shack, deep in the mountains of West Virginia. Abandoned by her mother, victimized by her father from age 9 to 13, friendless, and lonely, she created an imaginary friend. What happened next is what sets this artist apart from others who've experienced similar difficulties.

As I panted after her up the three flights of stairs to her top floor studio, it was easy to see the girl she once was roaming her native hills. The halls are lined with her paintings, brilliant fanciful works in every shade of blue and her favorite purple. I was moved by her ability to capture not just the look of what she was painting, but the mood of a moment in time. She paints her memories of a lonely girl dependent on the kindness of one neighbor and the protection of an imaginary friend. She paints the plight of women everywhere. A mother, her baby clutched to her chest, racing through woods, the fear and sadness in her eyes burning from the canvas. A woman bowed under the weight of the world's standard of beauty. Her studio is stacked with paintings. More canvases of the imaginary stories she entertained herself with as a child, some florals, and prominently placed next to the door, a three dimensional rendering of the tiny shack set amongst the mountains. Beautiful in it's simplistic style.

"That's what people see from the outside..." she says when she catches me studying it. "no one ever knows what's really happening inside." She tells me she was the first of her family to graduate from High School, the only one to go on to College. She talks about how her older sister escaped their hideous family life and despite never learning to read, managed to land a job and come back for her. Our artist payed it forward and went back and rescued the sister beneath her. I ask her, when? When did you start painting? That too is an amazing story.

She tried to draw just once as a child in school. Her class listened to a radio show after which they were told to draw a picture of the story they'd just heard. She drew a phoenix, rising from the ashes. Her picture was selected to hang in the place of honor over the radio. She tells me then, this is the only time she can remember being deliberately mean to anyone. The class bully pulled it down when the class was away at lunch, tore it up and stepped on it. When she saw what he'd done she got mad. "He knew I was poor and he knew I was ugly, but he didn't know that I was also fast." She chased him out of the classroom and pushed him down the stairs. And that was the last time she tried to draw anything until her mid thirties.

A farming accident left her broken and bedridden in the living room of her home. Helpless with two small children, she was rapidly descending into depression when a friend intervened and forced her to try painting. They hung the blank canvas over the top of the bed and she tried, soon spending every day painting, and every evening getting the paint and turpentine washed off her body. By the time she'd recovered enough to move to a wheelchair, she was frustrated with her self taught efforts. "It's like a musician who can play by ear but doesn't know the notes to write on the paper" she said. She enrolled in art classes at Kent State.

She's had her own gallery, served as a curator for a museum, raised two children and leads the art community in her town. She is as bright eyed as a pixie and continues to turn the nightmare that was her beginning into the light that is her present by sharing the stories she created as a child through a series of three fantasy books.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What's More Valuable Than Money?

To a struggling writer, there isn't anything more valuable than tear sheets. Visible proof that you write well enough for someone to print it. We'll do nearly anything to get them... write for free, write about people and things we hate. We'll meet ridiculous deadlines, go to the ends of the earth to get that story our paper is asking for. For me, six months worth of tear sheets from just about any paper equals hallways full of portals opening. I have lists of jobs I've applied for, received a positive comment back immediately followed by "send your tear sheets". It was frustrating and felt like a vicious circle I was never going to escape. But today I can hear the bolts being thrown back, the creak of old hinges as the heavy wooden doors slowly start swinging open, today I start writing for Our Town News. A little paper, but a start and a paying job. Woohoo! What's more important than money? Tear Sheets!

Before I start prostituting my talent for a by-line, a centering moment of rational summation is necessary. There are, of course, other things more important than money: the love of family and friends, a good dog, honesty, an amusing cat, a great hair day (which isn't today, but I think I saw one around New Years)... I have an embarrassment of riches. Okay enough rationality.

Woo HOO, I've got a paying writing job!!!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Unsatisfying Wins

France and Italy were tied in over time at the World Cup final. With just minutes to go, Zinedine Zidane, from France, head-butted Marco Materazzi, from Italy, in the chest and was ejected. France went on to lose on penalty kicks. This drama was, of course, broadcast all over the world.
If I were an Italian, I'd be demanding a "do-over". Unsportsmanlike conduct or not, there's no glory in winning by a technicality. Despite Zinedine's bad behavior, he was still named most valuable player - another dent in the World Cup - cup.

I was raised with the cliche "cheaters never win", as a kid I didn't understand the true meaning of this phrase. My friends frequently beat me at Monopoly by cheating, there were students who scored better on tests than me by cheating and my own kids considered cheating at board games part of the game. Athletes achieving amazing feats through the use of steroids were big news in my lifetime. Looked to me like cheaters not only won, but won big. It wasn't until I was older that I saw those kinds of wins are transitory things, perhaps a momentary rush, but nothing for the long term, esteem building future.

I feel the same way about most of life. A promotion gained from anything other than the quality of ones work, is an empty win. Self-publishing a book - empty win. I feel like anything gained by means other than hard work or creativity are empty gains, soul stealing little incidents that whittle away at the very heart of the perpetrator. These people who spend a lifetime cheating and stealing their way to victory... what do they see when they stand and look back at the end of their life? I hope I will see the steady succession of failures that ultimately led to my success.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Maudlin Monday

Ophelia led the protest against getting "frontlined" today, not that it did her any good, I'm the human and I know fleas are not acceptable. She can't scare me with those alien eyes.

I just detest Mondays. As if the day job isn't horrible enough, on Mondays I get to work all day and then go back for a meeting at night. "Death by boredom", I'm sure it's possible. Some good news in my e-mail, Library Lo is back, my girl down under is feeling better and I got the most amazing letter about a baby rhinoceros seperated from its mother during Katrina that has been adopted by an ancient tortoise. The pictures were too cute!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Twisted Reality

Frustrated with all the pictures of Isobelle that I've been posting, Ophelia, the Dowager Queen of Winter Street, demanded some cover time. Fat, lazy...ugh, royal... thing wouldn't even sit up to have her picture taken. She knows she rocks.

Weigh-in day went okay for me - 3 more pounds down this week. Poor Princess lost nothing... gee, too bad! I'm really not gloating - that's a lie, yes I am. Unfortunately, she's a type A personality with an extremely competitive edge, next week she'll kill herself to beat me.

Guilty pleasures - for some people those are alcohol, chocolate, Harlequin romance books. My guilty pleasure is reality shows. I say this with a bag over my head, because, jeesh, even I know they're ridiculous, but I can't help myself! I started thinking about what I'd do for money when I was a kid because of a song, the title of which I can't remember. The conversation came up again when that movie with Demi Moore came out - the one in which Robert Redford offers her a million dollars to sleep with him once and just talking about it breaks up her marriage. Pap was horrified when I said I'd definitely sleep with Robert Redford (in his prime, that's how old that movie is) for a million dollars. Quite frankly, I'd do it for free. Morals or no morals - Robert Redford! I've thought he was amazingly cute since Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid came out. But I digress....

In examining all the outrageous things I'd do for a million dollars, I definitely have to include sleeping with Robert Redford. I wouldn't eat anything weird, I wouldn't hurt, mame or kill any person or animal for any amount of money, I wouldn't denounce God or my family, or get naked in public. About anything else is fair game. Thus, my fascination with reality shows. It started with Survivor, then Big Brother came along, quickly followed by American Idol, America's Next Top Model, The Biggest Loser, Hell's Kitchen, Treasure Hunt ... even old Ted Nugent has got in on the action. I've watched people competing to be Donald Trump's apprentice, trying to win jobs as designers, decorators and the next Martha Stuart. It's absolutely embarrassing how much interest I have in watching people compete with each other for money.

The intelligent woman inside me groaned vociferously when I tuned in to any of these shows. To quiet her down, I had no choice but to rationalize my way to an acceptable answer for the old girl. It goes something like this:

I'm a writer living in a very small town. Where else, in just one short hour, can I gather the necessary information I need for constructing a variety of interesting and diverse characters for my books? These shows are a study of human interaction, man's inhumanity to man, the frailty or strength of the human character. Okay, it's lame, but it's my story and.... you know the rest. Gotta go, Project Runway is on....

Saturday, July 08, 2006

If you see this girl, run! Yes, there she is, the slave driving, matricidal Princess of Pain. Lucky for me she went out tonight, saving me (and poor Ruger) from miles of dog walking or more exercise videos.

I'm thoroughly and completely sick of my own company today. It isn't that I don't have plenty to do: second edits, consumer review, synopsis of Willow, rewrites...housework, sewing for Bean... the list is endless but none of it is what I WANT to do.

It's a beautiful summer night, clear and warm. Perfect for pulling up a stool on the edge of the dock at Woody's, listening to a great band with a view of the boats hovering just off shore. A good night for a visit from a mysterious stranger, someone who's actually seen more of the world than our small corner. Someone who would be just as interested in talking about the best play they've ever seen on a small stage as the relative benefits of a flat tax. I feel too young to inhabit this body, too old to make the party scene.

So, what do other people do when they're bored? When burn out threatens to make you spontaneously combust?

Death of the Disco Diva

I'm thinking of 1978, Air Force boot camp barely behind me, motherhood a distant dream in front of me. By day, I was the buttoned up, Airman of the Month, secretary to a very junior Captain. By night... I was the disco queen. (***note to Mert - stop laughing! Remember YOU came of age in the very ugly 80's!***) Dancing came easy to me, show me the steps and I could do them, with practice, I did them well. Hustle's of every kind: New York, Jersey, Swing, Latin, I could do them all, stone sober or drunk. I played a little tennis in those days, strictly hacker, but I had a backhand, forehand and when my brain said "run left", my body cooperated. What has brought back all these moldy old memories you ask? A little disc of torture Princess has contributed to our exercise routine.

It's called Cardio Dance Blast (you can thank me later for warning you). Looks inocuous enough, pink cover, I like pink, with a picture of an average looking brunette, smiling, leaning comfortably to the side, lots of bright white teeth. Princess swears I'll love this workout ... "You like to dance, Mom, this will be easy for you!" Another cute little girl with lots of white teeth. Eventually I'll learn to avoid these people.

I watched it first. From my comfortable position in my favorite chair, nursing my tenth bottle of water for the day, it didn't look too bad! A little cha cha, a couple of old disco moves, a little stripper dance (minus the stripping) tossed in. Hah! Piece of cake for an old exdancer like me. And since I'm honest, it isn't all that bad, unless you're closer to 50 than 40 and you've spent the last few years in closer proximity to a computer than a treadmill. I feel like a marionette operated by a four year old. My legs and arms do not want to move in the direction the perky little leader is shouting out. My mind says "grapevine, grapevine, together, cha cha cha", my body is still grapevining while my mind is cha cha chaing. Let's not even discuss where my arms have gone to in the middle of all this. Princess finds it immensely funny, I'm sure she laughed off 2 or 300 calories in my inaugeral attempt.

Now I'm mad. I may have to color my hair to cover the gray, wax off a better mustache than my son can grow and live with the stretch marks of five kids... but time will not steal my ability to DANCE! Princess is away at work and the DVD payer beckons... thank goodness for pause, repeat and skip.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fantasy Friday

Last January, my writer's group discussed the difference between "goals" and "dreams". As writers, the "goal" is to finish writing the book, submit fifty short stories to magazines or any combination of other tasks necessary to get one's writing noticed. A publishing contract is a dream. Goals have to be things you can achieve from your own blood, sweat and tears. Dreams require a hand from someone else.

On our way home from Columbus today, Princess and Bean were discussing their dream romantic moment. Studly guy would pull up to their work place in a helicopter, limo or excellent sports car and carry them away. Shades of Richard Gere storming into the factory to carry Debra Winger to her new life from An Officer and A Gentleman, a movie these girls have never seen.

What do these two disparate paragraphs have to do with each other? I believe a life devoid of dreams and fantasies is a wasted life. A life mired in the practical and ordered leaves no room for personal growth. I also believe that everyone has the ability to dream and should exercise that skill at every opportunity. From owning a yacht to turning your business into a fortune 500 company - dream big, so big that you can't possibly achieve it without help from someone else. That will keep you noticing the people around you, and enable you to extend the hand someone else needs to achieve their dream.

In addition to dreaming BIG, people need to fantasize outrageously. From winning the lottery to seeing a unicorn, fantasize to remind yourself that the world is so much bigger than what we can see, there are still mysteries to unravel and things to learn. A fantasy can also be an interesting way to examine you core beliefs. Do you believe the things you do because someone told you to or because you really believe them?

Fridays on this blog are going to belong to fantasy - mine and hopefully some others (**anybody out there????**). Because its been a hard week, my Friday Fantasy is my own personal tropical island, ecologically balanced and lush but without me having to see all the bugs and creepy crawlies that come with such an environment. In the center of this island, I'll have my house made of stone, ten self-cleaning bedrooms with bathrooms and walk in closets. A self stocking kitchen and self decorating great room for instant parties. Visitors arrive simply by calling them on the phone. Transportation around my island is courtesy of Julio, who finds me the most stunning, interesting person he's ever had the pleasure to meet. I, of course, find his advances inane and keep him on staff for the comic relief. Talk to y'all later, I have a date with a mint julep and a white sandy beach....

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thursday Updates

Ruger has joined forces with the Princess of Pain to whip me in shape. Do you see that drill sergeant-like look in his eye? The foreward thrust jaw, he means business. He's ruthless. We went out last night for a leisurely little walk around the neighborhood. He made me run, Princess made me run far. Pocks to both of them. Weigh-in day is Sunday, there's not enough exercise in the world to work off what I've been eating this week. What kind of sadistic, maniacal person invented cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies?

Pap still languishes in the hospital, there are a number of aggravations regarding this state of affairs. Number one being: why would you let a blister get so infected that it actually kept you in the hospital for a week? Even with insurance, his negligence is going to cost a fortune, and he's still not dealing with our problems. Sounds cold and mean, doesn't it? But after twenty five years of marriage, this is not an isolated incident but a repetitive behavior. Suicide by diabetes. I can think of quicker ways.

Rewrites on Pitch continue slowly. Some days I think this one should take a place in the drawer and be forgotten. But I so love brave little Tia. Outlines for Ambassador are coming together thanks to Clay Guys hard work. This weekend I'll start the synopsis, query and cover letter for Willow. Mud City still lives in rough form and is alive and well in my head. I've made a mess of my web site which means it's time for a date with Dark Daddy. Thank goodness he doesn't get cranky about my lack of aptitude when it comes to anything technological. Personally, I credit his computer brilliance to my ineptitude. He had to learn quickly how to fix my mistakes! Still reviewing Flacks, second edits on Suspicious Circumstances and I've heard nothing about the freelance job with Our Town. The day job continues to be a bottomless pit of work I have no chance of ever catching up with.

Tomorrow I must take insurace cards to the hospital and pick up Pap's paycheck. Not looking forward to the drive.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

How Do You Define Family?

Isobel is checking in today to remind me to quit mooning around worrying about things that can't be immediately changed and start finishing my current book. She wants to know how it ends.

Pap decided to pick up a phone and apologize. I'm sad to say it didn't help. There was no explanation for "why", so there is no resolution to the problem. But this blog isn't about problems. It's about friends, family and those special people that blur the line between those two groups and become "framily".

I'm so lucky, I have Mert, my girl down under, Dark Daddy and Tat, Library Lo, and Clay Guy. People whose homes you could show up at on Christmas Day and not feel like an intruder. People who take your side, even when you're wrong, and then tell you the truth once you've regained some semblance of rationality. People who have no expectations of you and don't get mad when you fail to call them for months at a time, or forget their birthdays. These are the people who'd try to give you a kidney if you needed one. We say any kind of outrageous thing to each other, and never get mad or bored or annoyed with each other. I have an abundance of riches when it comes to framily.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Warning, Never Marry a Creative Person

There is a part of me that feels very sorry for people who marry musicians, artists, writers or comedians. When things are happy - it ends up in their work. When things are sad, yup, right there in their work. For all the world to see, which, if you're the creative person, is the point. It's not enough to just FEEL, we have to EXPRESS. The country group, Rascal Flats, has absolutely summed up my feelings right now. A new song, to replace my tainted love song:

I should be out in that driveway stoping you
Tears should be rolling down my cheek and I
don't know why I'm not falling apart like I usually do
and the thought of losing you's not killing me.
I feel bad....
That I can stand here strong, cold as stone, seems so wrong...
I feel bad, that I don't feel bad.

Can you imagine being married to an artist? You stumble by their latest show and there's your picture painted with arrows through your eye, or a foot protruding from your forehead. If you've married an interior decorator, and you come home to find your entire house has been painted pink... she's probably done with you.

I can let myself be angry over wasted time, sad about just throwing
love away.
I almost wish my heart was breaking, but I can't lie
All I want to do is turn the page.
I feel bad, that I don't feel bad.

There's a lot to resolve, so much to do to make two lives out of one. And I do feel bad, that I don't feel bad. Pap has several fine qualities, unfortunately, the deal breaker is his modus operandi.

I feel bad that I don't feel bitter, alone
I just feel that's it time to move on.


This year's 4th of July will be remembered for thunderstorms outside... and in. Poor Ruger is so afraid of thunder and lightening. At the first sign, he runs for cover. I would do the same if there was a desk in this house big enough for me to duck under. Speaking of big... Princess and I lost a combined total of 4 wopping pounds after our first week of pain (3 for her, 1 for me). How much does that suck... 7 days of pain for one lousy pound. Of course that doesn't count the 250 pounds of lieing dead weight that was also shed this week. Speaking of Pap...

In his typical manic depressive, passive aggressive fashion, rather than tell the truth and save his 25 year old marriage, he's checked himself into the hospital. For a blister on his foot. I know, my interior intelligent woman is just shaking her head and mocking me like crazy. Because I'm usually a nice person, I'm sure I will eventually drag up some compassion and make an attempt to understand whatever mental illness it is that makes him unable to admit he's made a mistake. But maybe I won't, because look at where compassion and understanding has got me so far. In the mean time, while I'm feeling bitchy and very mean - I'm using that energy to get some organizing done around this dump. All his little flotsam and jetsam into the trash. His weird trophies and collectables straight into a box and down to the basement.

A male friend once told me that the true difference between men and women is how they treat relationships. He said that men will dither and float, come and go before they actually throw in the towel. When a woman is done. She's done. There's no changing her mind. I agree with him to a point. Men start dithering at the first sign of trouble, and float back when the storm has blown over. Women are done when we say we are, because we've been working on the problems, and know a lost cause when we see one.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

If You Don't Know Me By Now

If you don't know me by now, you will never, never know me....

That used to be our song, mine and Pap's. He picked it, way back in the beginning when our marriage was young. We could be across the room from each other, but when this song came on we snapped together like magnets, to slow dance and nuzzle under a disco ball, a harvest moon or around the toys cluttering our living room floor. When little incongruities popped up in our marriage over the years, the words to this song would play through my head and I'd accept his explanations clapping the intelligent woman who shares space in my noggin in gags and chains.

All the things that we've been throughYou should understand me like I understand you Now girl I know the difference between right and wrong I ain't gonna do nothing to break up our happy home

Independence in more than one way this weekend. The details are unimportant, enough to say he was caught red handed and when confronted, still chose to lie. There wasn't even a fight, the entire confrontation took less than half an hour, because there is no hope of resolution when one person refuses to tell the truth. He has lovely eyes, Pap, large, guileless, deep blue pools. When he looked directly at me and lied, it was as if the intelligent woman burst out of her bonds and cranked on a movie of our twenty five years together, the film stuttering and stalling on all those incidents I'd chosen to ignore, despite the fact they'd made no sense at the time.

We've all got our own funny moods,
I've got mine, woman you've got yours too

I'll be the first to admit I'm not easy to live with. I'm an off and on housekeeper, as a writer I need a good bit of alone time, I don't like to cook. I have an exhaustive list of interests, a circle of friends that are only mine and I accept people just the way they are, without conscience thought to color, creed or sexual orientation. I love a good debate as long as everyone plays by the rules. I don't mind confrontation, as long as everyone is honest. I am a devoted mother. As a wife, I am loyal, available and faithful. If that wasn't enough for him, he should have said so.

Just trust in me like I trust in you
As long as we've been together it should be so easy to do

Empty words at this point. If he were to say them to me, I'd slap him. I can't trust a liar. When I talk to my girls about relationships, I tell them to take marriage seriously. Everyone has their quirks and annoyances. But there also must be a line you draw, and clearly enunciate to your mate about what is the deal breaker. Whether its infidelity, home labor or number of children... if there is something that you know you are absolutely unwilling to accept in your marriage, I tell them to talk about it. For me its honesty. If you can't tell me the truth, we have no foundation to build anything else upon. So to Pap, who has been banished from home tonight, I've saved the last two lines of what was once "Our Song":

Just get yourself together or we might as well say goodbye
What good is a love affair when you can't see eye to eye

Independence Weekend

The newest addition to our family here at the house of perpetual remodeling, Princess' new kitty, Isobel. Wretched little creature, she has no respect for anyone's property and is hopelessly addicted to iced tea. She is as annoying as a cat can be, climbs curtains, knocks all the pens off the desk and torments poor Ruger until he begs to go outside to get away from her. Despite this bad behavior, she has the ability to remind us all not to take life too seriously. To remember to take time to play. An important message for a house full of work-a-holics.
This is the weekend before the 4th of July. A celebratory reminder of our fight for Independence from England. For some years, all holiday's have been an excuse for the retail market to act like they're making their last sale forever. Fireworks, a 4th of July standard, have become so regulated for safety that they've become too expensive for our small town. Home fireworks have been outlawed in my state, but people still smuggle them in and already I can hear the pops and cracks of this illegal contraband. Despite these changes to our American traditions for Independence Day, my frustration with our National leaders, I am still proud to be an American. The 4th of July still reminds me of the tenacity and sheer luck of those that founded and fought for this country.