Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tah Dah!

Drum roll please.

(clears throat)

Ladies and Gentleman, it is with great pleasure that I announce the completion of NaNoWriMo 2007.

No more waking up in the middle of the night, crawling out of my warm bed and firing up the laptop so I could make my word count for the day.

No more staying up late to write just a little bit more, so I could be ahead of the game come morning.

No more hauling the laptop everywhere just in case I have a few minutes to write in between rehearsals.

You would think I'd be feeling a huge relief, as if a great weight had been lifted.

But, oddly enough, I feel a bit sad. As tough as it's been sometimes to keep the momentum going, to find the time to sit down and get those words on the screen, it's also been very satisfying.
And that's what I like best about this annual writing challenge. I like knowing that I can do it - I can have the discipline, the perserverance, the creativity, to write 50,000 words in 30 days. They're unpolished words, but they are a very good start on telling a story I wanted to tell, on bringing to life an idea that's been kicking around in my head for quite a while.

I had dinner with a former co-worker last night, a young woman I am so fond of. She was my "alter ego" at work for a long time, and we were perfect working partners. I miss her in my office life, but we make it a point to get together every few months and catch up.

She just ran the marathon here in Detroit - the whole 26 miles - in spite of having a strained muslce. Now, I simply cannot fathom having a body that could run for 26 miles - it boggles my mind. The trick, she says, is in good training, and in knowing how to pace yourself. The reward is the pure satisfaction of crossing that finish line, knowing you've set yourself a challenge, worked hard, and completed it.

Sort of like writing 50,000 words in 30 days. When I told her about my own personal writing marathon, she was flabbergasted.

"I could never do that in a million years," she said, shaking her head.
"Right back at ya," I told her.

We all have areas in life where we excel, things that excite us, motivate us, bring us pleasure. Setting challenges for ourselves in those areas and then succeeding in completing those challenges is what helps us rise above the petty and thankless tasks that often take up so much of our time.

I will definitely sleep better tonight, knowing I've completed one of mine.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

SIlent Night, Snowy Night

Tonight, there's an added dimension of stillness to my quiet Sunday evening at home. A gentle sprinkle of snow is wafting down, and its already covered the grass with a thin blanket of fluffy, wet flakes.

Normally, I don't care much for snow, but even I am not immune to the subtle pleasure of this first snowfall, particularly since I'm snug and warm here inside my house, the new Josh Groban Christmas tunes playing softly in the background as I write. Thanksgiving is now officially over, so I'm ready (I think) to start celebrating the Christmas season.

As a working musician, the entire month of December is a wild merry go round of rehearsals, concerts, and community performances. So the Thanksgiving weekend is sacred to me. Every year I use these four days as a mini-retreat, to prepare myself for the frantic four weeks ahead.

These past few days have been a good respite for me. I've accomplished what I needed to - kept up my novel writing, did enough practicing to get me through the concerts coming up next weekend, returned some phone calls and e-mails firming up plans for next week, and even managed to catch up on all the laundry and grocery shopping. But I skipped church today in favor of a good walk with the dogs and some extra writing time. And I served leftovers a couple of nights in a row, rather than cook. I sat in my favorite chair Saturday afternoon, and read a good book (The Rest of Her Life). I might have even dozed off for a while.

Tonight, since I have the house to myself, I'll be taking a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers out to the den where I plan to indulge in an absolute orgy of chick flick TV on the big screen -Private Practice, Dirty Sexy Money (on DVR), and Brothers and Sisters (live).

Days like these become small harbors of peace and tranquility, where I can rest to prepare for the rapids I know lie ahead.

Just a few more hours before the onslaught begins. I plan to make the most of it.

How about you? Where do you find your small harbors of tranquility in the midst of life?


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sunday Scribblings-Misspent Youth

Ah, youth. Mine was such a long time ago now, I barely remember it.

I do recall spending it doing whatever I could to win favor with my parents, my teachers, and my friends, which meant I was being the "good girl" who did her schoolwork, practiced lots so she could play well at all her concerts, didn't stay out late, drink, dance, or go to bars.

I never allowed myself the luxury of goofing off, I was never willing to risk the possibility of screwing up, I would never take a chance on looking foolish.

How boring.

If my youth was misspent at all, it was in the opposite of this term's colloquialized meaning. Rather than frittering away my time so that I would never amount to anything, I amounted to way too much, way too soon. When I was 23, I had been married three years, and was caring for a toddler and a home.

Technically, my youth was over.'s the funny part.

Now that I'm in my 50's, I often stay out late with my friends, we goof around and act silly, we sometimes drink too much wine. I go quite a bit farther out on life's limb these days, and I don't really care whether people think I'm a "good girl"- well, not too much anyway.

Perhaps when I'm in my dotage, I'll look back fondly on these days of "misspent middle age."

At least, I hope I do.

for other's tales of misspent youth, go here

and here is the number one Google search result for the words "misspent youth" ~very cute!


Friday, November 23, 2007

The Day After

Don't know about you, but I have no intention of venturing anywhere near a store this weekend. Even if I wanted to go shopping, I wouldn't, just as a small protest to the holiday buying frenzy that retailers try so desperatly to hurl us into at this time of year.

We took the dogs for a nice long walk in the park (although Jim nearly got frostbite trying to take some pictures), spent some time cataloging a treasure chest full of old coins that belonged to my in laws - a task we've been meaning to do for months now.

Tonight we're having dinner with some friends and then seeing August Rush. I'll let you know how it is.

It will certainly be better than shopping.


Thursday, November 22, 2007


Holidays are all about traditions, aren't they? Each family develops their own, and, whether they're good or bad, we seem to get stuck on repeating them until some fateful incident forces us to do things differently.

Thanksgiving had more traditions for me than most holidays, maybe because it's a food-family centered holiday, rather than a gift/party/event centered holiday. When I was a child, I was always awakened about 7 am by the sounds of my grandmother stirring around in the kitchen, getting the turkey stuffed, whipping up the pies. She insisted on getting the turkey in the electric roaster at least 6 hours ahead of time. She would complain a lot about all the work involved in these holiday meals, yet she'd never let anyone help her.

My grandparents lived with us, and my grandmother was pretty much in charge of the kitchen. My mom was always cooking along beside her, but there was no doubt about who wore the head chef's hat. My grandma's been gone 15 years, and my mom has since revealed to me that it simply drove her crazy, the way my grandma took control of all the meal preparations.

Who knew? I was just a kid, my grandma was a wonderful cook, and I loved to eat. So I have some really happy memories of Thanksgiving - while unbeknowst to me, my mom was quietly having nervous breakdowns.

When I became an adult, married, and with a home of my own, my mother in law became our Thanksgiving chef. It was the only meal I really knew her to cook. She would come to our house (which used to be their house, after all) and prepare the turkey from start to finish - meaning she was around for most of the day. It would take a lot more words than those available in one short post to explain why this was enough to drive Jim and I to drink. Suffice it to say, I too have suffered my share of silent nervous breakdowns on Thanksgiving.

Over the years our Thanksgiving table - while never large - has now dwindled to just three -Jim and I, and my mom, who usually cooks in her kitchen, of which she is now in total control. It's a quiet day, a small meal really, but we still eat too much and the dogs get too many tidbits.

That's traditional too, isn't it?

But I give a silent nod to my grandmother, who may be bossing the angels around in heaven's kitchen as we speak, and one to my mother in law too, whose craziness is only too familiar in the Alzheimer's facility she lives in.

They are part of my Thanksgiving canon of memories and traditions
, and I'm grateful.

May you all enjoy your Thanksgiving, your traditions, new and old, and good memories of days gone by.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Read Write Poem-American Sentences

Four ancient women, memories gone, sit silently, watching TV.
Inhabitants of their own small world, everyone else is excluded.
I'm just one more smiling stranger, even to the one who birthed me.

These are my American Sentences, a poetic form originated by Allen Ginsberg, which might be considered the western version of haiku. They consist of a single sentence of seventeen syllables, written in a linear fashion.
"The format of American Sentences allows no excuse and serves as a reminder of the conditions, situation, atmosphere and shadow of the moment." writes Paul Nelson, in his article on this interesting poetic form.
My sentences were inspired by a visit to my mother in law, who has Alzheimer's Disease.
You can find more American Sentences at Read Write Poem, and new site for poetry sharing.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

My Sunday Night

Every Sunday evening, Jim rehearses with his men's chorus. He leaves at 5:30 and usually doesn't get home until at least 9:30, sometimes later if the guys go across the street for pizza and beer after practice.

So, Sunday nights are all mine.

Of course, it's not like he bothers me when he's home. After all, he's mostly in our little family room, glued to his new Sony Bravia High Definition TV.

And I'm mostly in my little office, glued to my Dell Inspiron 8600.

But on Sunday nights, if I wanted to, I could play all my old Eagles and Phil Collins CD's and dance around the living room.

I could watch my favorite chick flicks like The Hours, and The Way We Were, and Love Actually, and Somethings Gotta Give.

I could eat hummous and grape leaves, which he can't stand the sight or smell of.

I usually don't do any of those things, but its kind of fun to know I could - if I wanted to.

Here's what I did tonight:

I practiced handbell music with real handbells instead of spoons (don't even ask).

I taught the dogs to play hide and seek, which involved them getting a lot of treats.

I finished my daily word quota on the novel.

I had a glass of wine and read my November issue of More magazine.

And in five minutes, I'm going to watch Brothers and Sisters on TV.

That was my Sunday night. It was fine.

I hope yours was too.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sunday Scribbling-What I Carry

The older you get, the more baggage you carry, and I mean that literally and figuratively. From bags under my eyes, to saddlebags on my thighs, my physical burden can be pretty tough to tote sometimes.

Emotionally - well, yeah, that gets heavy too.

I think I'm carrying around quite a few "woulda, shoulda, coulda's" in my emotional handbag - I suspect we all are. They're buried pretty deeply down there, along with the loose change, the ATM receipts, and used up chewing gum discarded into wadded up bits of Kleenex.
Everything from "shoulda stopped at the grocery store on the way home, 'cuz we're almost out of milk," to "coulda had enough money for a trip to France if we hadn't bought that second house in Florida." They're all there, and they rattle around a lot, particularly on long drives alone in the car and in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else is asleep.

But something else I've noticed about getting older - I'm getting better at throwing stuff away, especially stuff I know I've outgrown and won't be using anymore. It doesn't do me any good to keep carrying those regrets around. It's kind of like those size four pants hanging uselessly in the back of my closet - they're just painful to look at, so toss them into the rummage sale bag.

Why carry any more burdens than you have to, right? But hand over some excitement, some new dreams, some great plans, and I'll happily fill my emotional carry-all with those. That's the kind of baggage I'm looking for now.

for more carry on's go here


Friday, November 16, 2007

Up Late

It's almost 1:00 (a.m.) and I'm still here, curled in my easy chair, the Dell Inspiron serving as my own personal heater, with assistance from Magic who has managed to insinuate himself in the corner of the chair beside me.

What am I doing, still awake in the wee hours of the morning?

Earlier tonight, while sitting in a dark high school auditorium, struggling to stay awake through a (fairly competent) production of Arsenic and Old Lace, I realized (with a mixure of horror and resignation) that I had managed to let myself get about 2000 words behind on my novel.

How did this happen?

This has been a week where the s&*t has hit the fan, as they say. Meaning that those occasions when people have said "could you? would you?" every so nicely, and I have replied "I can, I will," every so foolishly, have all come home to roost.

I am crushed, dear reader.


So tonight, as I was driving home in the cold and dark, still struggling to stay awake, I thought to myself - okay, you're done. Why are you putting yourself through this novel writing nonsense, adding this extra burden on an already overloaded schedule? Nobody's making you write this novel - it doesn't matter in the slightest to anyone whether you finish it now, or next August, or the 12th of Never.


It matters to me.

And that's why I'm still up. I've been writing.

Because all that other stuff - the extra work I've been doing to help my boss, the bell concerts I'm playing to sub for a friend, the visiting, the shopping, the chores - those are all for other people. And we all know how much I abhor letting people down.

The writing -well, sure, it's just for me. But why should I be any more inclined to let myself down than I would all these other people I'm always so willing to open a vein for?

Anyway, I'm caught up on my word count - at least until tomorrow (which is actually already today, isn't it?)

But I will keep writing.

After all, I wouldn't want to disappoint myself.


Novel Excerpt...and a Contest

The Wedding Dress
Section One - Anna Grace Livingston, 1919

Anna always loved this time of day, this late afternoon hour just after supper with the sun settling in behind the pine trees, the length of the front porch finally cast in cool shadow. She would come outside after helping Mama wipe the dishes, pour pitchers of water over the huge ferns swinging gently from the rafters, and settle into the rocking chair, book in hand, ready to read until the the afternoon heat abated.

But all the while Andrew had been in France, fighting in that awful war, Anna's restful afternoons on the porch were spoiled. She felt anxious sitting there, the long dirt road leading from town staring her in the face, the road that might bring an ominous stranger bearing the worst of all possible news.

She would glance nervously at the dusty road, squinting for a moment against the sun's glare. Her imagination ran wild with tales she'd heard of smartly clad soldiers in dress uniform, black armbands adorning their sleeves, soldiers that always came in pairs, knocking politely on your door, hat in hand, to deliver news that would shatter your life forever.

"There's no use in thinking about such awful things," she would firmly lecture herself. "I just have to believe with all my heart and soul that Andrew will come home safely."

And, so it was on that day not six months ago, she had remained busy refilling her pitcher, pouring fresh water into each fern's dusty bed, while the sun eased itself lower into the evening sky - so busy that she almost didn't see the lonely figure trudging toward her, dressed in the unmistakable khaki colored puttee's that looked so odd on boys barely out of knickers and more accustomed to overalls.

Catching sight of this stranger, Anna literally felt her heart sink, powerless to stop the pitcher as it slipped from her hand, shattering in a million shards of glass on the wooden floorboards. The seconds passed like hours, her gaze fixed on this solitary man coming ever nearer, until the first glimmer of recognition began to dawn. This lonely figure, thin and long legged, one arm swinging familiarly at his side, the other - wait, the other caught up in a sling!-but there, at least, definitely there - and yes, the shock of blond hair catching the last flicker of sunlight. This was no stranger, she realized. Impossible as it seemed, it was Andrew.

He stopped abruptly when he caught sight of her slender body come flying off the porch, and he continued to stand stock still while she raced over the yard and down the road to meet him, heedless of any rules of grace or propriety, her own blonde hair coming loose from its pins and streaming in the breeze behind her.

"My God in heaven!" Anna cried, throwing her arms around him, almost pulling back in surprise at the frailty of his body, aware that she could feel every rib as she pressed her own torso against him, and then pulling him even tighter into her chest, willing him to take strength and sustenance from her.

Andrew’s one good arm enfolded her and he buried his face in the fragrant smell of her clean, sun warmed hair. Anna felt a deep shudder pass through him, and she pulled back, raising her eyes to meet his.

And then her heart sank once again. Staring off into the horizon beyond her were not the bright blue eyes of the boy she had loved and sent sailing off to war, determined to lead the victory charge for freedom. These eyes were empty and dim, filled with nothing at all like hope or pride.

They were the eyes of a stranger after all.

Anna shook her head, trying to clear the memory of that moment from her mind.

“Andrew will be just fine,” she told herself, as she had so many times since that day six months before, willing herself to believe, and in her fierce belief, make it so.

She rose quickly, dropping the mending beside her on the cushioned seat of the swing, and strolled to the end of the porch once again.

Was that dust swirling up around horse’s hooves, she wondered. She craned her neck to see if she could catch a glimpse of her father’s dark hat.

Smiling broadly, any disturbing thoughts erased from her mind, she grasped a handful of her long skirt and flew down the porch steps, in much the same way as she had on the day just dismissed from her memory. This time, she knew exactly what to expect from the man heading toward her.

Her father was coming, and with him, the material for her wedding dress.

Write Stuff has a contest for us NaNoWriMo writers - a nice diversion from the long hours spent noveling. We post an excerpt from our novel, and readers can vote for their favorites right here.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

NaNoWriMo-Another Week Has Come and Gone

Each week, we NaNo writers receive a lively pep talk in our email boxes from a well known author. To get us revved up for week one, novelist Tom Robbins advised us to ditch any detailed plans we might have for the evolution of our novel, and let it evolve into being as we go, powered by instinct and a sense of adventure. "If you know the whole story in advance," he wrote, "your novel is probably dead before you begin it."

Last week, mystery writer Sue Grafton helped us crawl out from under the blanket of self doubt that begins to creep in - along with fatigue and waning enthusiasm - during the second week of writing. "The important point," she advised, "is to keep up your momentum regardless of the fact that you might stumble now and then. Most people you know have never written a novel at all, let alone pounded one out in a jam-packed thirty days."

Today, Sara Gruen talked about the many ways life intrudes, despite our best intentions. A sick dog and a broken foot have landed her far behind her projected daily word count. If you're behind, stop worrying about following the trajectory of your story in a straight line. "Jump around and write the fun bits," she writes, "like food fights, and disastrous sex, and escaping in-laws, and apes with unlimited credit!"

Here's my mantra for this project, the personal pep talk I give myself when I'm trudging to the computer to work on my own daily word count:

Don't think, just write.

Don't think about going back and rewriting the part where Treesa and John meeting at the USO dance. Don't think about whether I should reveal if Andrew Sutton's death was suicide or an accident. Don't think about why Treesa's daughter is so against the idea of marriage. And above all, don't think about the laundry I should be doing, or the medical records I should be reviewing, or the bills I should be paying.

Just write.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Writer's Island -Friendship

"A bottle of beer," Kathryn thought, her eyes drawn to Paul's muscular arm giving Cody's weathered tennis ball one more toss. "I'll take him a cold beer, and then I'll tell him."

Kathryn rummaged through the fridge, shoving aside milk, orange juice, and several bottles of Chardonnay chilling on the shelf. There must be at least one bottle of Corona, left from last weekend when Paul had helped her spread mulch in the garden.

Yes! there it was. She grabbed it quickly, pried off the cap, and threw open the back door.

"You thirsty?" she called out.

Paul looked up and grinned. "You bet!" he said, dropping the ball and rising to meet her.

Kathryn gazed appreciatively at his long legs, jet black hair and olive complexion, the slight swivel to his hips when he walked, and the radiant 1000-watt smile he always greeted her with.

"Thanks, friend," he said, raising the bottle in mock salute.

"My pleasure, " she replied.

Friends like Paul certainly didn't come along every day, Kathryn thought. Since they met two years ago at Lyon Oaks dog park, he had become an amazingly important person in her life. He and Rosie, his Akita, were like family. Paul was always there to lend a helping hand with projects around the house, to watch Cody when she had to travel on business, and had even proven invaluable while she cared for her mother during these last months before death.

"That one's a keeper, Kath," Treesa would say, her sallow complexion and hollow eyes brightening at the sound of his voice. "You'd better not let him get away."

"Mom, we're just friends," Kathryn insisted, busying herself smoothing the sheets on the hospital bed or checking the medication dispenser. "I'm sure Paul has much more interesting prospects than an almost- 40 year old professor."

"Friendship can turn into something more, you know," her mother would respond slyly.

"Not this time," Kathryn stated. "Now, are you up to taking a walk around the yard before it gets too chilly?"

Darn her mother, Kathryn thought, sitting down on the porch step next to him, she had been right as usual.

Both dogs came to join their respective masters, Cody flopping down on the grass and rolling onto her back, her red tongue lolling from the side of her mouth. Rosie was more refined, and positioned herself next to Paul like the perfect sentinel, blue eyes fixed on him with reverence.

For most of her life, Kathryn's dogs had been her best friends. Having this friendship with Paul had been a marvelous new experience for her. She loved hanging out with him, joking around or talking seriously, working on projects around the house or playing with the dogs. It was great having a human best friend for the first time.

She took a deep breath, and glanced over at him sitting companionably beside her in the sun.

How was her best friend going to feel when he found out she was having his baby?

~this friendship story will eventually end up in The Wedding Dress, the novel I'm writing for NaNoWriMo. For other thoughts on friendship, go here


Monday, November 12, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: M is for...

I can't choose just one...

Magic and Molly: Is it wrong to love two small, furry animals so much? I hope not.

Music: I've loved it every since I can remember, love listening to it, but love making it even more. My best memories (aside from the ones of my family, including the aforementioned Magic and Molly) have to do with music.

Michigan: I know, yesterday I was complaining bitterly about winter here in the Great Lake State. I really do feel betrayed by winter. However....every other season here is beautiful.

Midlife: It's where I am right now, and nothing's going to change it, so I have to make the best of it. It also means dealing with another big "M" word in the life of women - menopause. Ick. That's all I have to say.

Me: Aside from the aforementioned "M" word, the rest of me is doing okay. I know I've been lucky, and I'm happy with (most) things going on in my life. What more could I ask? (Well, if you really want to know...)


Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Season of Discontent

Today was not a good day.

Winter arrived today- cold and damp the likes of which you can only feel in a state surrounded by five lakes, biting little flakes of snow snipping at my nose and eyelashes. At the risk of alienating those of you who adore winter, I have come to the realization that I'm not made to be a winter person. The last few days running errands in the cold feels twice as hard - no, ten times as hard - as it does in the warmer weather.

My entire body is in a state of rebellion - my sinuses are clogged, my ears ache (a new symptom, for I've never had earaches, even as a child), my throat is swollen, and my lower back feels weaker than cheap styrofoam.

How rude.

To top it off, people here are CHRISTMAS SHOPPING.

I don't approve.

Not yet. It's just too early. Santa Claus should not be arriving (by helicopter!!!) at my local mall. Now, added to the discomfort of cold, I have to deal with hoards of holiday shoppers, grappling over sweaters and socks, 25% off today only between the hours of 7 and 10 am.


I am sorely tempted to crawl into my cave and stay there until it all passes (or at least until I can get to Florida, although God knows when that will be).

Oh my, please forgive the negativity expressed herein.

It's just the season.

PS~Melissa just reminded me that Starbucks Peppermint Mocha's, (in red cups) are now available.

Maybe I'll live after all.


Speed Lines

We must always look at things from the point of view of eternity,
the college theologians used to insist,
from which, I imagine, we would all
appear to have speed lines trailing behind us
as we rush along the road of the world,

as we rush down the long tunnel of time -
the biker of course, drunk on the wind,
but also the man reading by a fire,

Speed lines coming off his shoulders and his book,
and the woman standing on a beach
studying the curve of horizon,
even the child asleep on a summer night

speed lines flying from the posters of her bed,
from the white tips of her pillowcases,
and from the edges of her perfectly motionless body.

~excerpt from Velocity, by Billy Collins

I'm a speed demon - I love to drive fast, windows down, sun roof open, wind whipping my face and blowing my hair. I love riding my bike fast, working my way to the crest of a hill, the split second at the top before letting go, and then the flying down, almost airborne, keeping my balance only by the grace of God. Sometimes, in airplanes, I get this ridiculous urge to open the window, and feel the rush of movement at 550 miles per hour.

But I'm also a control freak - I like - no, I need - to be in control of the speed, to be pushing forward into it the acceleration, not at the mercy of it.

When I look in the mirror these days, I can almost see the speed lines streaming behind me.

And it scares me.

Perhaps that's why I feel such an urgency about everything, why I find myself pushing and rushing to accomplish so much every day.

I'm just trying to stay ahead of my speed lines.

But that's a losing battle, isn't it? Eternity will catch up, and "the time will arrive to stop for good."

Until then, I'll keep pedaling as fast as I can.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunday Scribbling-Right and Left

"Turn right here! No, turn left, right here! "

"Oh, gosh, we missed it."

This conversation happens fairly frequently when I'm driving somewhere with my friend, Pat, who directed the high school choirs that I've been accompanying for the past 14 years. I consider her a teacher extraordinaire, as well as one of my dearest friends, even if she isn't very good at directions.

Our partnership works for many reasons, and most likely because we complement each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Pat is the epitome of a right brained personality.

And me? You guessed it.

Once we ran into a former student at a restaurant. He introduced us to his friends by saying, "This is Ms. H, my music teacher, and this is Mrs. Rowan - she's Ms. H's left brain."

Yes, that was me, scurrying around behind her picking up the purse, the keys, the music she left behind. That was me, organizing the schedule, sending the registration forms for festival in on time, double checking the calendar to make sure there wasn't a concert she had forgotten to tell me about.

That was also me, listening to the choir sing beautifully, or watching a perfectly crafted musical or theatrical production she directed, and understanding that a mind so full of creative ideas simply didn't have room to store mundane things like keeping track of keys, or schedules - or directions!

Nevertheless, being the other half of someones brain gets tiring after a while. I took a "sabbatical" from my left brained duties, and went to work in a nice, quiet office where my organizational skills came to good use.

But I missed being around all that creative energy of hers, the way she sees rainbows in every rainy day, the way she seems to bring out the best in even the most troubled kid. She encourages my left brain to lean a little more to the right, prompting me to take a few of the creative risks that have enriched my life, and keeping me in balance with myself and the world.

And have I inspired her left brain to work a little more efficiently?

Yesterday, she told me about a recent shopping expedition to a local mall, where she was wandering through the parking lot headed toward her car when her eye was caught by a distant rainbow. Marveling at the unexpected beauty of this treat, she stowed her packages in the car and drove off, eyes still on the multi colored drama in the afternoon sky.

She left her purse on the ground in the parking lot.

Luckily, some other nice, left brained person found it, searched out her ID, and called her home. They met at a nearby coffee shop later on that day, where she retrieved her purse completely intact.

I guess it all balances out in the end.

here are more opposing views on left and right


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Stepping Up

After seven days of novel writing, I've developed a routine of sorts - wake early, do morning pages to "prime the pump," and then settle in to write for an hour or so. I've been trying to stay about 500 words ahead of my allotted 1667 words per day - so far, so good.

As I mentioned last week, this year I've been more "up front" about participating in this project ~ which definitely provides additional incentive to complete it~and has also forced me to reflect on my motivation for spending all this time and effort on something that's (1) not required; (2) not going to earn any money; and (3) not "perfect."

One simple answer is, "because I can." In the past couple of years, I've found all these words lurking inside my head, I've met characters who beg to be brought to life on the page, characters whose stories wish to be told. I've discovered that word play affords me the kind of satisfaction others might get from running marathons, or woodworking, or gardening, or any other life enriching activity.

The satisfaction is in the doing; the reward is in the completion.

The other motivator is a little more complicated, but the words of a recent country song say it well...

When you get the choice,
To sit it out or dance,
I hope you dance.
The older I become, the more convinced I am that life is all about trying new experiences, about overcoming our fears of failure, fears of being not good enough, fears of looking foolish. Happiness comes when we allow ourselves to climb to the mountaintop and stop being afraid to fly, when we step out onto the floor and move into the dance.
Writing is one of the ways I dance.
And so, I find myself in a good place (so far) with this November novelizing.
May the dance continue.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Change of Seasons

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. — Anton Chekhov

Take nine minutes (you have to use all nine, you can’t go over), and create a text picture, using your best “show don’t tell” skills. Any format (fiction, essay, verse) is acceptable; and it’s expected that your writing will be raw, so don’t stress about editing.

We knew it was too good to last, those October days bestowed on us like a blessing, each one more radiant that its predecessor. Every morning, wakened by fierce rays of sunshine pouring through our bedroom curtains, we opened our eyes in surprise. Another beautiful day, we'd think, marveling once again at our good fortune.

The earth itself seemed as nonplussed as we were, and trees arrayed themselves in their gaudiest finery, shameless in flaunting their scarlets and golds, until sometimes we averted our eyes, embarrassed by such naked splendor.

But today, in one flip of the calendar page, it's gone. Charcoal colored clouds, angry as a mob of belligerent teenagers, rumble across the sky, quickly surrounding the sun as it tries valiantly to muscle its way through. An aggressive wind whips dry golden leaves into a frenzy. They whirl anxiously around my feet, skittering goblins across the pavement.

We root through the closet, searching for long forgotten mittens and warm coats, sighing at the endless repetition of nature that has brought us to this place once again.


this post prompted by Cafe Writing


Monday, November 5, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: L is for...

"You are such a lucky girl..."

People have been telling me that my entire life.

Lucky to be so smart, pretty, healthy.

Lucky to have such wonderful parents, husband, child.

Lucky to have cute dogs.

Lucky to have (two) nice houses.

Lucky to have a good job.


I don't dispute my good fortune. But occasionally I do feel anxious that it's all going to catch up with me, my luck will run out, and disasters will begin raining down on my head.

I'm acquainted with people like that, their lives plagued by one misfortune after another, as if the proverbial black cloud has taken up permanent residence over their head. Why is that? They're basically good people, who don't "deserve" the bad things that happen to them anymore than I "deserve" all the good things that have happened to me.

"You make your own luck in this world," my dad used to say. And I guess many of the good things in my life can be attributed (at least to a degree) to my own efforts. Hard work, clean living, and all that.

But still, there are plenty of people in the world who work hard, respect others, take care of themselves and their families, and seem to have the worst luck in the world.

I guess it's just one of life's unexplainables.

I guess I'm just lucky.


It's Begining to Look A Lot Like - WHAT???

I can't believe it, but my local radio station is already playing "All Christmas Music All The Time." ( I won't be listening to them anymore until January 1, but I'm sure they don't care about that.)

However, this reminds me that I'd better start making my list - and checking out my checking account.

Here's a great way to get some online coupons and save a ton of money on your holiday shopping -

You can get coupons from stores like Sharper Image and Best Buy (great for all the neat electronic gadgets that Jim and Brian like so much), from clothing stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Eddie Bauer(for my mom and my girlfriends), and even from Pet Smart (better not forget Magic and Molly!!) Personally, I'm going to grab some coupons from Dell, and leave them in strategic places with pictures of the 8" x 11" notebook computer that I'm hoping will end up under the tree with my name on it!

This site will save me loads of dough on my holiday shopping.

Check it out.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saving Daylight

The government has given us a gift today ~the gift of time. One precious, extra hour, to be used however we see fit, all thanks to William Willet, an Englishman who first proposed this concept of saving daylight back in the early days of the 20th century.

I like the idea of saving daylight, for I am a day person through and through. Darkness agitates and tires me~I don't see well to drive, even with headlamps on bright. My mood improves incrementally as spring lengthens into summer and daylight lasts ever longer. Conversely, as the equinox begins to shift, so does my temperment. When the sun sets outside my kitchen window before I've even begun to think about dinner, I could simply howl.

As for suddenly having an extra hour in my day, certainly if you've ever read anything I've written you know how precious time is to me. The barrage of items scrawled on my daily "to do" list always outpaces the number of hours available, so being gifted with an extra one is like gold.

So what will I be doing with this precious commodity? As I go through my day, I'll be asking myself the same question. Is this my extra hour, while I'm taking a longer than usual walk with the dogs? Is this it, puttering around Borders, where I intend to go later with my 40% off coupon? Or have I spent it already, getting up at 4:30 a.m. (which was really 5:30 a.m.) and working on NaNoWriMo?

A blog buddy of mine wrote about some of the ways she would use an extra hour in her day if we should be so fortunate to have one every day (be still my heart!). She includes a number of altruistic activities, and I'd like to think I, too, would use extra time for good deeds - visiting my elderly relatives, running errands for my neighbors, packing food baskets for our church's pantry. If I had the luxury of 25 hours every day, I hope I would be so inclined.

But since the 25 hour day comes only once per year, I confess that I plan to be totally hedonistic in my use of those 60 minutes. After all, how often do we get a freebie like this - especially from the government?

How about you? How do you plan on using your extra hour today?

This post prompted by "Pick Three," Option Six on the November menu at Cafe Writing


Friday, November 2, 2007

Seven Wonderful Words

Choose seven of your favorite words, one of several inspiring prompts on the November menu at Cafe Writing...check it out if you're doing NaBloPoMo and need an idea, or NaNoWriMo, and need a break!

Percolation~a word that recalls my mother's Corningware percolator, hot coffee bubbling up inside the glass top with its own nifty little rhythm...

Dervish~ as in "whirling," which calls to mind a the excitement of gyspy dancing, spooky firelight, an music from a squeezebox...

Lovely ~actually, I prefer the way the British say it - "luvly," meaning "just ducky"...

Arabesque~a graceful ballet movement depicted in the sound of the word - and also one of my favorite pieces of music for piano, written by Claude Debussy...

Cavort~doesn't that sound like fun??

Transcendent~a power I only wish I had, to place myself on a higher plane...

Please~a politeness, but also an exclamation, as in "puh-leeze"...


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Off and Running

Things have been rather quiet here of late, time and energy that might otherwise have gone toward thinking and writing, far better spent in time with my son and daughter in law, who have been with us for the past couple of weeks.

And things may continue to be quiet, at least here at the Byline. For though my visitors are heading home in a few days, my time and energy will return to writing, but this time to the great novel writing effort that takes place each November.

(trumpet fanfare) NaNoWriMo.

Last year was my first foray into this madness, my first venture into fiction writing at all. When I signed up, I never imagined I would finish.

But, I did. It wasn't terribly difficult to do - oh, I had a few moments of panic in the middle of the second week (apparently a normal occurrence during that period in the process), but I sailed through until the end, crossing the 50,000 word mark several days shy of the deadline.

I admit to a bit more trepidation this year. Last year being my initial effort, I didn't feel quite so pressured to complete it. So what? I figured. I'll give it a shot and see what happens. I kept the entire project completely under wraps - no one (except my blog readers) knew I was participating. Once I was done, I printed out all 120 pages of Dear Samantha, put them in a folder, and tucked them safely away in the cupboard.

But this year, having once completed (or won, as the NaNoWriMo folks call it), the expectation is much higher. How stupid will I feel if I don't finish this time? Am I just a "one shot wonder"?

I went to bed last night nearly convinced to throw in the towel before I even began. Better not to start at all, I reasoned, than to start and fail.


This morning I awoke at 3:30, and couldn't go back to sleep. The usual worries started their familiar roiling in my mind, but underneath them was a nagging voice urging me to get up, start writing, don't waste this time.

So, I did.

Ensconced in my big green chair, steaming hot coffee close at hand, one dog curled beside me, the other on the ottoman at my feet, I started out on another journey into a land of make believe with a group of people I'm already getting to know much better. A couple of thousand words later (well, 2,844 to be exact) I'm once again feeling excited and energized about this project.

Just do it, the now famous Nike slogan advises us. Good advice, for writers as well as athletes.
Once you begin it, you're in it.

So, forgive me if my posting in the coming weeks is erratic, or if I seem to have tunnel vision about this novel business. It's quite all-consuming, and I may need a place to brain dump periodically.

And for the rest of you who set off this morning on the great novel writing adventure, I wish you godspeed and good writing.