Friday, June 29, 2007

It's An Age Thing

I just have to say-getting old sucks.

I'm not necessarily talking about myself, mind you, although I admit to a disturbing and noticeable slow down in my ability to do anything physical this summer. For instance, ever since I planted flowers a couple of weeks ago, I'm barely able to straighten my back out, and my knees have been hurting suspiciously, particularly at night.

But, I just returned from a visit to my aunt and uncle, which is what really prompted my opening remark. They're both in their early 80's, still living in the house they bought in 1956 for $3,000. But he's got Alzheimer's and is terribly hard of hearing. In the last three years, she had angioplasty, colon cancer, and now osteoporosis and severe arthritis in her knees, which has nearly crippled her.

They have no children of their own. But, I grew up in the house across the street from them, and it was to their house that I'd run when I was ticked off at my parents, or needed a favor, or just wanted to chill out in front of the TV and eat Frito's and drink Coke. My aunt was always good for a ride somewhere, which came in handy since my mom didn't drive. My uncle loved shopping, and was never so happy as when he was driving me to the bookstore or the mall, and buying whatever I happened to pick out. He carried on that tradition with my son, too.

When I was three years old, my uncle bought me a box of candy for Valentine's Day, and he never missed giving me candy on Valentine's day. He'd drive over to my house no matter what the weather, and leave it inside the door if I wasn't home from work. Two years ago, for the first time in 48 years, I didn't get that box of candy- he simply didn't remember it was Valentine's Day.

It breaks my heart to see them like this. He's driving her kind of crazy, to be honest, with his inability to hear or remember anything she says. Everything is a huge chore for them these days, and now the neighborhood grocery store where they've shopped for the past 20 years is closing. My aunt says she's ready to give up.

"I've lived long enough," she says wearily, when I kiss her good-bye. "It's time for me to go now."

I once read that elderly people sometimes begin to crave death much as you might crave the ability to sleep when you're weary. You know that feeling when you're so tired you feel nearly sick, and you just can't bear to keep you eyes open another minute?

I'm starting to see how that might be possible. As I said, getting old really sucks.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Poetry Thursday

Shifting the Sun
Diana Der-Hovanessian
When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses. May you inherit
his sun, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn't.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.
When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.
I am an Armenian - I offer this poem to my friends Sherry, Elaine, and Julie, who each lost their father this month. May your path be illuminated by the light of his memory.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Avoidance

There are a couple of things I'm avoiding in my personal life right now- you know the kinds of things I mean. Phone calls that are difficult to make, because you're afraid of the answers you might get, matters that need to be discussed, but seem too fraught with emotional baggage to bring up. The things that keep getting passed on to tomorrow's "to do" list, and somehow end up never getting done at all.

I suspect that most of us have a secret cache of things we avoid in our lives. Now that I've developed this regular writing practice, I'm discovering there are some things I avoid there as well.

Like re-writing. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was considering revising Dear Samantha, the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo last fall. And though I talked about not knowing where to begin with that process, my feelings are really more about not wanting to begin that process at all- I'm avoiding it big-time. So I put those pages back in their bright yellow folder, and conveniently lose them in the pile of other things demanding attention on my desk- my morning pages notebook, my daily lists of things to do, a pile of correspondence from my day job. I see them there, right now, staring balefully at me, yet I persist in writing this post, continuing my pattern of avoidance.

Something else I avoid in my writing is research. The narrator of Dear Samantha is in treatment for ovarian cancer, and I know a good part of any serious revision on this novel is going to require research into treatment protocols for this disease. This same narrator is also a musician, but since she's in a chamber group, and I'm not terrible familiar with chamber music repertoire, again I know I'll need to do some research, find and study some examples so I can provide the kind of details that bring the musical scenes in the book to life.

No matter how much we love our creative endeavors, they all have aspects we tend to avoid. I'm very familiar with areas of avoidance in my musical life...fingering and tempo. I clearly remember my first lesson with my college piano teacher. I complained bitterly about the way she made me revise all my fingering on a Mozart Sonata. "I could play this perfectly if she'd let me use my old fingering!" I whined. At first, these new fingerings were clumsy and slow. Grudgingly, I came to accept they did indeed work better and make my playing more efficient. And it took me years before I came to accept the metronome as my friend. (I'm a speed demon at the keyboard as well as on the road!)

This morning, I finally made one of those difficult phone calls that I'd been avoiding so assiduously, and things worked out better than I might have hoped. In the spirit of that success, maybe I'll be inspired to tackle something I've been avoiding on my writing "to do" list as well.

So, how about you? What do you avoid in your writing life or in your other creative endeavors?


Sunday, June 24, 2007


As I sit in my "writing room" tonight, I hear the distant echo of fireworks, early Independence Day celebrations from a neighboring community. I love fireworks - the surprising explosions of color that fill the night sky, the anticipatory thunder announcing their appearance. In my mind's eye I see marvelous eruptions of color - reds, greens, purples, blues- in spectacular and surprising patterns, emerging like kaleidoscopes in front of my eyes.

I'm still easing into this summer routine, these days that suddenly have so many more hours than I've been used to, hours when the sun keeps shining long after I expect it to have sunken to sleep in its bed on the western horizon. All this extra time reminds me of these fireworks that I love so much - hours that explode in front of me like brilliant gifts, evoking ooohs and aahs from the depths of my spirit. What should I do with this unexpected gift of time~should I write? play the piano? walk the dogs? ride my bike? read? weed my flower beds? call a friend?

"I'm restless," I said to my husband, "yet I don't feel like doing anything."

"Then don't," he replied, an easy answer from someone who never seems disturbed by that persistent itching of obligation and imagination, the combination of which drives me to incessant and often unnecessary activity.

So I took to my chair and sat, listening to children playing merrily in a yard whose location I couldn't quite identify, but reveling in their summer joy wherever it might be. Slouched in my plastic Adirondack chair, my feet propped on a square table, I sipped cold white wine and turned my face toward the blood red sun, still fixed proudly in the evening sky.

We have just passed the summer solstice, (from the Latin sol for sun and sistere for standing still) the time when the earth "stands still" in a moment that has come to mark the separation of seasons. Time seems to stand still for me in during the summer, unmarked by the many obligations that fill my fall-winter-spring days. During those seasons, I feel myself on a perpetual merry-go-round of frenetic activity, and life becomes a whirling dervish that makes me dizzy and seasick. When I turn my calendar to June, it's as if I've jumped off the ride and landed smack on my knees in the sand. Suddenly, the world stops spinning at its mad and hectic pace, and I sit for a while, dazed and confused, trying to get my bearings in this new and quieter place.

I have made no plans for this summer, no lists of things to do, no resolutions about what I hope to accomplish in this all too brief respite from the hustle -bustle of life during the academic year. My only plan is to focus on the solstice - on standing still and experiencing the marvelous and unexpected explosions of color, the fireworks of summer.


Sunday Scribblings-I Have A Secret...

The secret to success. The secret to long life. The secret to a successful relationship. The secret to losing weight. The secret to youthful looking skin. The secret to parenting. The secret to happiness. Secrets, secrets, secrets...

The media teases us everyday with promises of solutions to life's problems, inferring that this information is closely guarded and kept by a priveleged few magazine editors and infomerical directors. Is there really a "secret" to attaining these elusive states?

I rather doubt it. I just finished reading Mary Morris' new memoir, River Queen, in which she writes about her father who recently passed away after living to the ripe old age of 102. When asked the secret to his longevity, he always replied, "Nothing in excess."

I suspect that advice could be the secret key to unlocking the Pandora's box of eternal questions life presents us. If we work, play, eat, and drink in moderation, life becomes healthier and a lot more bearable. Whenever we get greedy~for food, satisfaction, excitement, or money~we often find ourselves with more trouble than we bargained for.

There's no secret to understanding this advice - it's really just common sense.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Is This Really Necessary?

Ahh, summertime, and the livin' is easy. This past week has been soooo quiet and slow, I find myself wandering around the house almost...dare I say it?....bored. Ironically enough, it seems my office job always slows down in summer, and, coupled with summer recess for all my school and church music activities, I suddenly find myself with lots of free time.

So, what have I been doing to pass the time? Starting a vigorous new exercise program? Working like a demon on revising my novel? Doing all kinds of good deeds for my many friends and neighbors?


Mostly this week, I've been loafing. I figure I've earned a few days of goofing off. For instance, this morning, after the ritual walking of the dogs, I hopped into the car and headed off to do some errands. I made an amazingly fast run through the drive-through at the bank, then an even quicker trip to Home Depot to pick up a couple more hanging baskets of petunias. Before heading on to the grocery store, I decided to stop at the Panera Bread next door to Home Depot, and indulge myself in a mid-morning coffee break.

At 10:45, the place was quite deserted, so I had my choice of tables, inside or out. With a cloudless blue sky, gentle breeze, and temperatures about 72 degrees, the choice was easy. I settled into one of several empty tables, sipped my coffee, while desultorily looking through a copy of the morning paper someone had left behind. Ahh, peace~what a treat!

Suddenly, a young woman burst through the door, followed by her male companion. I barely glanced up, because I was busy watching a mother duck leading her five babies across the grass toward a small decorative pond. The couple settled into the table behind me - they were both in their early 30's, dressed in business casual, and carrying some paperwork with them.

"I didn't mean to be so late," the young woman started explaining, in quite a loud alto voice. "My damn clock somehow got screwed up and I didn't wake up until about 20 minutes ago."

"No problem," her companion said. "Let just look at the schedule for next week, and we can...."

Loud electronic music begins to play. "Shit!" the young woman says. "Hang on. I've got to get that."

At this point, I decided to try and tune all this out, finish up my coffee and move on. After all, I'd been enjoying myself out there alone for all of 20 minutes - what more could I ask?

"Well, that is just all f...ed up!" came the young woman's vehement cry. "You just tell her there's no way in hell that I'll put up with that! That just really makes me so mad!"

A moment of silence.

"No way! You can just tell her to go f... herself! Yeah! Allright. Okay, Mom. See you later."

Now, I'm really not a prude, and I readily admit to using, well, colorful language on occasion. However... is this kind of verbiage necessary? And, in a conversation with your mother, while sitting in a public place with a co-worker?

There appears to be a trend toward using four letter words as normal adjectives in daily and very public conversation. It seeems to me a mark not only of disrespect, but of total igonorance. Had I been sitting at that table with a young child, would she have bothered to moderate her language? I rather doubt it. Because this young woman seemed totally oblivious to the fact that her words and tone could be offensive. She also seemed totally oblivious that anyone else was in the area, as is she and her concerns were the most important things going on in the universe. Once again, I found myself shocked and dismayed at the amazing self-centeredness that people can display.

Shaking my head, I tossed my empty cup into the trash, and headed toward my car, determined not to let this display of bad behavior spoil my day. That would just be too f(oul)ed up for words.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Write on Wednesday - Right On!

In my blog surfing today, I came across this video, the kind of rags to riches story that makes me so excited I could jump up and down. It's the story of Paul Potts, a shy, unassuming young man, a salesman in a place called Cell Phone Warehouse, who auditioned for Britain's Got Talent, (the UK version of American Idol) and took the entire nation by storm with his ability to sing opera. On Monday night, he won the competition, and with it a record contract and an opportunity to sing for Her Majesty the Queen.

Simon Cowell judges both Britain's Got Talent, and American Idol. In one of his comments to Paul Potts, he commented that he was exactly what the creators of the show had in mind - an opportunity to put the spotlight on an ordinary man with an extrordinary talent. Until 2 years ago, I had never watched American Idol. I was completely turned off by the snippets I saw in previews or on the news, and thought all the contestants were unbearably "screechy," a phrase Simon himself uses on numerous occasions. For some reason, I started watching in 2006, and was just hooked. Mostly by the fact that ordinary people were suddenly given this opportunity to shine, to have their dreams come true in this magical, fairy tale sort of way. Like Chris Daughtry, who entered the show in 2006 as a 29 year old automobile service manager with a garage band, and now has CD that's gone platinum several times over. And this year's Melinda Doolittle, a professional back up singer who "never saw herself" as being outfront- it was amazing to see her come out of her shell and claim her rightful place at center stage.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? It's really about daring to dream, and having dreams come true. Whether you're a singer, an athlete, a scientist, or a writer, it's about having hope in the possibility of making your dreams come true. As one British journalist said about Potts' victory, "It's really a win for all us, the little people who have a dream they hope will come true."

And it's about knowing what you're meant to do. In this video, Paul Potts admits that he's never had a lot of confidence in himself, and sometimes had a hard time in school. But when he sings, he says, he always feels like he's where he should be and the world seems to come right. Finding that place where the world comes right is crucial, not only to success, but to happiness.

Writing is one of the places the world comes right for me. Music is another. With Paul Potts for inspiration, maybe I'll dust off a few of the dreams I've been harboring and see if they might come true.

So, how about you? What makes the world come right for you?


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One Deep Breath-Wildflowers

lavender blanket
covers the hills
with soothing fragrance
~other wildflower inspirations are here


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sunday Scribblings-Eccentricity

I'd rather fancy being an eccentric - one of those people that others might shake their heads about, but go away smiling nevertheless because their little idiosyncrasies are so endearing. People like my Aunt Edna, who never went anywhere unless she could take her goat Wilbur with her. People like my cousin in law Jerry who always brings a stack of scientific journals with him when he comes to visit and promptly installs himself in a corner to read them. Or people like my Uncle Bob, who spent worlds of time sending joke mails to his friends and relatives - my mother was the recipient of regular mailings from the National Enuresis Center - and you'll have to look it up if you don't know what it means.

Actually, that reminds me that I do have an eccentricity or two of my own (no, not enuresis!) I have this thing about words - if someone uses a word and I don't know the meaning, I become
extremely restless and irritable until I can look it up. It's very annoying to me to think of words being in existence and I don't know what they mean.

I suppose you could call my habit of leaving an inch or so of liquid in the bottom of my coffee cup an eccentricity. My husband calls it annoying, especially when he picks the cup up expecting it to be empty and finds the dregs of my cold coffee still puddled in the bottom. But he really doesn't have that problem anymore, because after 35 years of drinking coffee with me, he's finally figured out I'm always going to do that.

And maybe it's eccentric of me, but I cannot go to sleep at night unless I have a book in bed with me. Usually I'll read myself to sleep, but last summer we had a power outage, and I was in a panic because I couldn't find my book at bedtime.

"What do you need the book for?" Jim asked, puzzled. "There's no light to read by."

"I know," I answered. "I just need to hold it until I go to sleep."

Not very interesting eccentricities are they? Perhaps when I'm (really) old I'll develop a fascinating set of odd behaviors that will be the envy of all my duller friends. Until then, I'll just have to get by on my few meager quirks, and hope they're at least slightly endearing to someone.

You can read about other ( hopefully more exciting) eccentricities right here and you can read my other Sunday Scribblings post right here


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Official American

This morning, at the Miami Convention Center, my daughter in law was one of 3,000 people who swore the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, becoming full fledged American citizens. Actually, she was one of 6,000 people, because there was to be a second ceremony beginning at 1:00 p.m.!

We had no idea what to expect when we headed toward the convention center at 7:15 this morning. Within a block of the place, we could already see the masses of people and cars cramming the surrounding sidewalks and roadways. None of us handle crowds very well, and it was little disconcerting when the security guards abruptly separated us into two lines, sending Nantana off on her own before we had an opportunity to settle on a meeting place or exit strategy. With a lot of neck craning, we managed to catch of glimpse of her as she entered the convention center, so we at least had an idea where she was seated.
The ceremony itself was very nice, and included a video presentation called "The Faces of America," a photo montage portraying immigrants throught the country's history, comments from the national Secretary of Immigration, and, of course, the mass swearing of the Oath.

I was particularly interested in the "roll call" of nations being represented. As each applicants country of origin was read, they were to stand and remain standing. Of course, since we were in Miami, the great majority of new citizens came from Cuba and The Dominican Republic. But, there were also at least 50 other countries represented as well.

For Nantana, this brings an end to almost nine years of dealing with the INS, a process she and Brian began back in 1998 when they applied for her K-1 visa (or "fiancee's visa" as it's also called!) They've spent lots of time and money making sure they followed all the proper procedures and did everything correctly. When she decided to apply for citizenship, she did all the research, studied hard, and scored a perfect score on every test. That's the kind of woman she is - she gives her best effort to everything she does, and she gets things done the way they should be. She deserves every right and privelge associated with being an American citizen. This country is lucky to have her - and so is our family!

Congratulations, Nantana :)


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Revision and Retreat

Last November, I participated in the madness that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and completed a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In all honesty, I was quite surprised to have finished. I fully expected this project to end up on the cutting room floor, as they say in the movies, as so many of my other ill-fated bright ideas have a way of doing. But I did finish the novel, and it was a coherent story all the way through - in other words, I didn't cheat and start writing gibberish just to make my word count. As a matter of fact, the last 10 pages are, to me, the best part of the whole book.

Anyway, after I uploaded the final draft on November 30, I promptly hit Ctrl-S and I haven't given it a thought since. That it, until I ran into a friend from church who told me she was in the process of revising her first novel, while beginning to write her second. She happened to have "won" the services of a writing mentor for one year, and was utilizing this to help her with revisions. She meets with her mentor, a novelist and professor of creative writing, who advises her on ways to make the characters stronger, advance the plot line, and generally help decide what works and what doesn't.

I started thinking about pulling out my little book to see what I've got. So, I printed it all out (88 pages, Arial 11, single spaced) and put it in a bright yellow folder. Yesterday morning, while enjoying my morning coffee, I gathered my courage and started reading.

It was a really interesting experience for me, because I had written it all in such a frenzy last November, that I had completely forgotten most of what I'd written about. Of course, I recalled the basic plot, but I had totally forgotten most of the details and how I had moved the story along from point A to B. I found myself getting quite interested in this story, simply because I had forgotten so much of it in the whirlwind to get it done.

Having re-read most of it, I'm now thinking it might be worth revising. Trouble is, I have no idea where to start, and unlike my friend, I don't have a professional mentor to help me along.
Revisions are always a problem for me - I have a hard time seeing where things are wrong and thinking of ways to fix them. It's part of my personality I think ~ in general, I'm quite easy going, and tend to be happy with the status quo. So it's hard for me to read with a critical eye - even my own stuff. I mean, I know it's not perfect, I just don't know what's wrong with it!

In the coming weeks, I'll be perusing my writing library for some advice on how to go about this business of revision. In the meantime, I'll be on a little retreat, starting tomorrow, as we're traveling to Miami to attend my daughter-in-law's "swearing-in" as an official American citizen :)

So, how about you? Do you have a revision process that works for you? Have you read any good "how to" advice about revising?


Monday, June 11, 2007

One Year of One Deep Breath

with words on paper
memory frozen in time

One year ago, One Deep Breath began offering us the oppotunity to share haiku based on a weekly prompt. The challege of this poetry is to capture the essence of an image or experience in just a few carefully chosen words. The best haiku read like an exhalation of one deep breath, the kind you might experience when a moment of beauty strikes your heart.
Thanks to Susan and Jennifer for encouraging us to stop each week in the midst of our busy lives and ponder the wide world, searching for that special something that catches our eye in just a certain way, then pare it down to its essence and write about it.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Practice Makes Perfect

I received a very cool gift today from my blogger friend Deirdre - it's a vintage (circa 1979) chapbook from The Writer's Chapbook Series, entitled Talking About Writing, written by Ursula LeGuin. Ms. LeGuin is probably best known as a science fiction writer, but she has quite a dry wit and humor, which is in evidence throughout this engaging little booklet.

"People come up to you if you're a writer," she starts out, "and they say, I want to be a writer. How do I become a writer? I have a two stage answer for this," she continues. The first stage answer to this question is: You learn to type."

This reminded me instantly of an old chestnut musicians hear a lot: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!

It's really a very basic truth for a musician, and I don't know why as a writer, I don't think the same way. Because the second stage of Ms. LeGuin's answer to the question of "How do I become a writer?" was: Write.

I've had writing dreams and inclinations for most of my life~they've run side by side with my music inclinations, although I've "done" more music than writing over the past 50 some odd years. But for every performance, every concert, every competition, even every rehearsal, I've done probably three times as much practicing in preparation. I would never think of going out onto a stage without practice, practice, practice. And not just of the pieces I'll be performing. Practice for a musician involves all kinds of other things - like scales and arpeggios for the fluidity in the fingers and wrists, Czerny and Hanon for speed and flexibility, practicing the piece with hands apart, or starting from the back and working your way forward... in other words, we come at a piece of music from all sorts of angles in order to get it up to performance quality.

Why not do the same with writing? Somewhere in the back of my mind lurks this notion that you don't sit down to the page unless you've got a nearly finished product at least stored in your head. You don't bother writing something unless it's going to be published, or, at the very least, submitted to something. Why write if it's not going to be read?

For the same reasons I sit at the piano all those hours. Because it takes practice to perfect the craft. Your fingers get stronger, your ear becomes more sensitive to what the composer is trying to say. The more you write, the better your facility with words, with putting sentences together, with description, with get the picture.

And "practice" shouldn't be a dirty word. My mother always bragged to other parents that she never had to "make" me practice the piano, and it's true. I loved practicing - I loved playing, which is they way I thought of it.

Since I've been blogging, and doing morning pages, I've started thinking of writing as a "practice" in the way people speak of yoga or meditation as a practice - a habit that enriches your life spiritually, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. I enjoy playing around with words, so I do more of it. I study the craft of writing, I take apart my sentences and re-arrange them for the fun of it, I sit with a dictionary or thesaurus looking for better words to use. And I do all this with no objective other than to enrich myself and improve my ability.

How about you? Do you practice writing? do you consider your writing a "practice" in your life?


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

One Deep Breath-Architecture

Avebury, England, May 2005

stone circle
ancient spirits
wander here
faceless mystics~
set each stone
by hand?
This stone circle in Avebury fascinated me, just thinking about the reasons for the arranagement of stones, and wondering how in the world those ancient people got the stones in just that order. By the way, that's not an ancient spirit dressed in black wandering among the stones - it's just me :)
For more architecturally based haiku, go here


Sunday, June 3, 2007


No matter how busy life gets, I never stop reading. So even during these past few weeks when things in my regular life have been crazy, I've always had the comfort of a good book to come home to. Here's a few that have sustained me during the mayhem of April and May~

The Luncheon of the Boating Party, Susan Vreeland~Based on the Renoir painting of the same name, this book is a fictionalized account of Renoir and the friends he gathered to paint on Sunday afternoons at this terrace cafe. Narrated in turn by Renoir and each one of the subjects, which include his future wife, the story is a delightful and imaginative look at the artist at work, and la vie de France during the time following the Franco-Prussian war. This is one of my favorite Renoir paintings - it's so full of detail and joie de vivre. I've often thought it would inspire a wonderful story, and Susan Vreeland has done a marvelous job creating a slice of the artists' life.

The Sweet Life, by Lynn York: I picked this one up at the airport, and it turned out be a captivating beach book. The story of Miss Wilma Swan, choir director and piano teacher in the little town of Swan's Knob, North Carolina, her new husband, Roy, and the startling changes wrought upon their lives by the advent of Wilma's teenage grandaugher, Star, who comes to live with them. It's a charming family story, with a memorable cast of small town "characters" reminiscent of Jan Karon's Mitford series.

The Knitting Circle, by Ann Hood: The first of two novels I've read that feature knitting as the vehicle for women to form friendships and work through dilemmas in their lives. Ann Hood's novel is a poignant, understated story about a mother grieving the loss of her five year old daughter. When the novel begins, Mary Baxter is unable to pursue any of the activities that once gave meaning to her life, including her relationship with her husband. Through the women she meets in The Knitting Circle, who have each overcome their own personal disasters, Mary is able to share her own story and begin the long road back to life once more.

The Friday Night Knitting Club, by Kate Jacbobs: Another group of women joined by their interest in knitting, this novel is a bit more lighthearted and humorous than Hood's story. The crisis in this tale comes at the end, after we've become attached to Georgia Walker and her 13 year old daughter, Dakota, proprietor's of Walker and Daughter Knit Shop, where the club members meet each week to hash out not only sweater patterns, but life changing events. This is a fun read, full of characters that are instantly recognizable and likeable. Both this novel, and The Knitting Circle are part of a new genre of books that I really like to read~novels where the reader meets groups of women characters dealing with various life concerns, forming friendships, and bonding together in pursuit of a common activity, one that, in itself, becomes therapeutic for them.
Of course, I've always got a writing book or two going, and lately I've been working my way through the Gotham Writers' Workshop Guide to Writing Fiction. You can read more about what I've been learning from this collection of essays if you visit Moving Write Along (my other blog dedicated to all things writing related).


Saturday, June 2, 2007

Sunday Scribblings-Town and Country

The Big-7 was my favorite thing in the little town of Leitchfield, Kentucky. Dimly lit and cool, even on the hottest of summer days, this old fashioned "department store" was the place to go in town if you needed housedresses, overalls, or straw hats. Deep and cavernous, with sloping wooden floors that announced your progress through the store with a symphony of creaks and moans, the Big-7 was the spot to be if you were "in town" on Saturday mornings. The clerks greeted every customer with a cheery "How y'all doin' today?" and sent you on your way with "Y'all come back now, y'hear!" I always insisted my mother buy something, anything, because I didn't want to hurt their feelings by leaving the store empty handed. (Actually a pretty smart sales strategy, if you think about it!)

The Big-7 was only one of many things that were different about the country. We visited my mother's hometown every summer, and the plethora of relatives scattered throughout the countryside was a never ending source of delight for me, an only child growing up in post -WWII suburbia. There were cousins of all ages to play with, and big family dinners every night, the table groaning with fried chicken, homegrown beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, and fresh baked pies heaped with ice cream we took turns cranking out of the wooden ice cream maker.

I loved our visits to the country - with the exception of trips to Aunt Dessie's house, which lay at the end of a winding one lane road skirting a deep wooded gorge. I was always petrified a car would be coming the other direction and force my dad's big Buick off the road into that bottomless pit. Once we got there, things weren't so great either. Aunt Dessie's house was right across the street from a huge chicken farm, and the odor emanating from that place on a humid summer day was indescribable. Didn't bother Aunt Dessie, because she'd lost her olfactory sense many years before - in self defense no doubt.

Yep, country life was great - at least for those two or three weeks every summer. By the end of that time, though, I was ready to trade barefooted treks through the hills for concrete sidewalks and my new three speed stingray bike. And after a couple of trips through the aisles of the Big -7, I had pretty much exhausted my interest in Osh-Kosh coveralls and was ready to roam the new indoor shopping mall at home.

There is definitely a romantic sort of appeal to life in the country, and it calls to me every now and then, especially with the pace of life here in the suburbs growing faster and more complex every year. As they say, the grass is always greener...and I'm pretty sure I'd find myself leaving the Big-7 before too long and going in search of a little more variety and excitement - not without buying something first, of course.

for more town and country tales, head on over here