Wednesday, December 31, 2008

out with a rant

my daughter meg sent me an article posted at the wall street journal's web site. it's about a russian academic named igor who's been predicting that the US has a fifty percent chance of collapsing by 2010. what upsets me isn't that this guy thinks that - it's a free world, he can think what he want, after all, and of course he says stuff like that; im sure it's bought him a very nice life in an otherwise not so nice place - and it isn't the idea of the US collapsing by 2010.

what upsets me is not that the wall street journal has published this information - though i have to ask myself why - but that my daughter thought i'd be interested in the first place.

why'd she send it to me? well... i have a feeling its because the article scared her. and when you are afraid, a young mammal instinctively turns to its parent. this is real fear, too, the real fear that was unleashed by the fudd/barbie campaign. now it's got no platform and it's howling like a wolf in our streets.

i was told just last night by an otherwise intelligent (at least i think she's intelligent) person that we are "in pre world-war-two conditions" and she's gone out and bought herself a gun. this is not someone who lives in even remote an area as i do. this is someone who lives in a neighborhood - on a street - presumably one full of kids and traffic and ordinary people living their lives. and she's terrified.

well, i'm not. maybe there's a fifty-fifty chance the world could end tomorrow - but i doubt it. maybe there's a fifty percent chance the us could collapse and there'll be rioting and martial law and fire in the streets... but i doubt it.

however, let's say the absolute worst happens and the world goes dark. im still not afraid.

are we such weenies we can't see the potential?

ive been doing a lot of thinking about king arthur lately. my new story is set against the backdrop of an arthurian archaeological dig, and to figure out what they might've found (no more silver cauls for me, thanks!) i've been rereading a lot of my old arthur stuff.

it's interesting to read the history set against the backdrop of THESE dark times, because it does, let's face it, feel like the barbarians might be at the gates. old things ARE collapsing - look at bernie madoff. people are talking about the institutions and the people affected by his fraud, but what about the systemic poison that he and his cronies pumped into the financial system while no one was looking?

so if we're talking about systems collapsing and walls tumbling down, i'd say there's a few systems that need such serious overhauling i don't see why it would hurt to start over again with something else. i think there're plenty walls that could stand to come down. every time an empire falls we're given another chance to put something better in its place. maybe instead of cowering on our couches behind our guns and bags of chips, we might begin to imagine what that Better Thing might be.

but the Powers-That-Be - including those who run the wall street journal - have no interest in creating a mindset that encourages people to think of alternate realities in which the Powers-That-Be might not maintain control. instead, people like igor the russian, are paid to say things that are pretty much guaranteed to scare people, and other people get paid to make sure that as many of us as possible know what he thinks.

people gripped by fear are the easiest to control.

so what does king arthur have to do with all this? when the western empire began to collapse in the late fourth, early fifth century CE, britain alone among all the provinces organized itself into an independent state, and held back the barbarian onslaught for nearly a 100 years. this is the real legacy of arthur, why his story shines like gold through the ages, as encrusted with petty aduluteries and incestuous children and fantastical events as it may be.

it's not REALLY about a king and a bunch of knights and round table and a funny old guy with a long white beard who makes magic. it's not even about how personal flaws bring down great leaders though that's the part of the story most obvious to see in real life.

it's about how when the lights really WERE going off and the barbarians really WERE at the gates, a group of people banded together to preserve all that they could of what they loved about their way of life. it was britain that stood as civilization's last stand in europe, the bulwark between the pillagers and the irish nuns and monks, where the light of antiquity burned beneath their frantic fingers. if the irish saved civilization, as thomas cahill claims - and i like to think ;) - it was the romanized british who made it, to some degree, possible.

and so, i have no doubt that should the worst really happen and should the us really fall - though i REALLY don't believe it will happen: the Powers-that-be dont REALLY want that to happen (they just want us to believe it COULD happen) - out of the chaos will come those of sound mind, strong body and great heart, in whom the spirit of arthur and all he has come to stand for, continues to burn.

and maybe something even better, something radically different from anything that's gone before - will be born. maybe we've reached the place at last in our evolution where we can do that, where we can understand that not everything we bring from the past is good, that not everything we were told we should believe is true. old ways and old beliefs MUST die, in order for new ways and new beliefs to take their place. we must ask ourselves what is it that we cling to from the past, and how well does it continue to serve?

the darkness is coming, you say? i say, all the sooner comes the dawn.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

to 52,350 and beyond

according to literary legend, mary shelley wrote frankenstein in a feverish haste over the course of some ridiculously short period of time - like three days - all by hand, of course.

maybe this is a monster in its own way.

yesterday evening, after i printed out the days work, i mapped out the final chapters. it appears there's somewhere between 11 and 13 of them. at an average length of 3,000 words a chapter, i can tell from here the story will come in somewhere around 80-85,000 words. longer than i expected, and still a first draft... it's possible the book - if it's ever published - will end up in the neighborhood of 90 to 100,000.

this book, believe it or not, has hit a few shoals here and there along the way... the next few chapters are probably going to be rough - my last few certainly have been (many many thanks to my Faithful Reader for her immediate and constructive feedback both about what's working and what has not). the middle for me is the worst part of the book - that shadowy underground where anything can happen and probably should. as my dear friend rose noted in her comment a few days ago and on her own blog, delving into the dark is a critical part of the creative process. you HAVE to go to the place where You Don't Know What Will Happen Next... because if you don't... at least... if *I* don't... then neither do the characters... and what's the fun of that?

so here is what i have learned to do when i (or the story) seem to be stuck on the edge of an abyss and have no idea what should happen next. i ask myself... (and the characters) what's the last thing i'd want to happen right now? who is the last person i'd want to talk to? and... where's the last place i'd want to be?

once i can answer those questions... that's exactly what happens next.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, December 29, 2008

narrowing the gap

by working backward in story time - from the end to the place where i am now, i have a firmer grip on size of the gap. and in fact, my subconscious seems to be as capable of working backwards in time as forwards - as i've pushed on through the linear beginning to end arc, the backwards arc has grown to meet it.

in other words, where i initially had to fill in story time from sunday after until thursday evening, now the gap has shrank from monday morning til wednesday afternoon. it all feels amazingly organic, the characters feel as they have minds - goddess bless them - of their own. it helps tremendously when the characters take over a story. thats when all i have to do is type. my word count stands at just under 47,800 words.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

muddling through the middle

i have a beginning. i have an ending. what i lack is a middle. what's funny is that i don't need that much of a middle - having plotted out the story, i see i really only need to fill up four days' worth of story-time. my notes on the ending cover three pages, so the good news is i have a very clear idea of where i'm going. the bad news is, i have no idea how im going to get there.

this place in a story always reminds me of the time i led a group of friends to a restaurant in philadelphia situated on the river. at the time, i'd moved out of the area only a few years previously, and i remembered a walkway that connected the restaurant to other attractions along the river. so out we went purposefully to the end of the pier, only to find that the walkway had been removed, and that a space of about twenty feet of dark greasy looking water (this was philly, after all) separated us from our destination. i remember looking at restaurant, so close and yet so far, and thinking... i wonder how we're supposed to get there from here?

fiction is sometimes like that. you take a path you think will get you to where you want to go, and at some point realize you're slightly off the mark for whatever reason. then the only thing to do is what we did - backtrack and try another route.

however, this plunge through the unknown feels a bit like sticking my foot in that dark and stagnant river.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

closing in on 40,000

i haven't blogged the last few days not because i've been busy with christmas, but because i've been Writing... Writing the way i used to write, Writing the way i remember Writing when i was a kid, and Writing was something i did for fun, not because anyone said i had to.

this is the best kind of Writing i know how to do.

it's the kind where the world around me disappears, where the characters step out of the screen and start to do things on their own, and characters you weren't expecting appear out of nowhere, or even, sometimes, the bushes. it's like watching a movie, reading a book and playing make-believe all at once.

the trouble with this kind of Writing is that it's the only thing i want to do. interruptions of any kind, even biologically necessary ones, like sleeping and eating, become only means to an end. i go to sleep not because i'm necessarily tired but because i can wake up in eight hours and start all over again...i eat, not because i'm necessarily hungry, but because i can feel my brain craving certain chemicals, certain compounds.

it is also, by its very nature, a most solitary pursuit, and for me, the OtherWorld, especially once i find myself well-esconced, is a most seductive place.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

why i believe in santa

many years ago, when katie was just a little girl, christmas was always a time of not just magic and wonder and all the happy holiday things, it was also a time of treading on eggshells around my ex, who had such impossible (and conflicting) expectations of everything and everyone, that jesus christ, the virgin mary AND the angels all working together would've found it nearly impossible to satisfy. i most assuredly trust and believe that THEY could all do it, but not within the limitations of the human instrument who'd signed up for the task. but i digress.

one year, i remember coming home from church, with ray close to exploding in one of his Moods. for some reason i sent katie to the basement to get paper towels, and was so focused on pacifying ray, i forgot the gifts were out, in full view. and katie still believed in santa claus - even though she was plenty old enough to realize how important it was to keep daddy Happy.

and so katie was sent for the towels, and i forgot about all the presents, and she came back with the towels and never said a word. many years later i found out why.

i think it was meg, who was maybe three or four, who was asking questions about santa. all of a sudden, katie, who i didn't think still believed in santa, said, "oh, i know he's real."

i remember it took me completely aback. "what?" i said, at this unexpected reinforcement from an unlooked for ally.

"i saw an elf," said katie. "it was that christmas, you sent me to the basement to the get the towels. i saw all my presents, and then i looked across the basement, and hiding in the workbench, i saw in Elf. he looked back at me and he watched me while i walked across the basement to get the towels. so ever since then, i know it's Real."

did katie see the Elf? i believe she did. i believe that Something stepped in that night, Something that knew how important it was to keep a child's faith intact, Something greater and better than the something that was happening upstairs. because katie believed in "santa claus" that belief was a Channel for divine grace to assume the shape It needed take to keep the connection alive. i like to think that Belief is still there, matured perhaps, into something less definable than a jolly old man in a bright red suit, but There, as part of whatever it is that gives her, as kathy so graciously noted, strength and clarity.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

on whether pigs have wings

"the time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax... and whether pigs have wings."

i love lewis carroll. no other writer, it seems to me, more perfectly captures that sense of nonsensical absuridity that has so often characterized so many moments of my life. it certainly characterizes my interactions with the person i like to call mister ex.

mister ex and i have been apart almost as long as we were together. this spring in fact, marks fourteen years since i filed for divorce, fourteen years into our marriage. so you'd think, so much time having gone by, so much water washed over the dam, so to speak, you'd think maybe he'd be Over It by now? nah, gentle reader... not a chance.

long ago i realized that part of the problem is that it is always better to be the one who does the leaving as opposed to being the one who gets left. however, mister ex has not only not moved on - despite being remarried - he continues to blame me for the poisoned relationships he has with our (mostly adult) children. what's really sad is that not only does he remain unable to understand what behaviors drove me away, he doesn't understand what behaviors continue to keep his children at arms' length. they are simply too healthy to want to have any kind of relationship with him, except on their terms, and he... goddess bless him... doesn't get it.

he just - poor guy - doesn't get it. he doesn't understand how he shoots himself in the foot, he doesn't understand demands and bullying and manipulation don't work with healthy people. he doesn't understand why they can't buy into his dysfunction. it's frustrating for them, because the older two - 28 and 23 - have attempted to get through to him on numerous occasions. no child wants to divorce his or her parent. he doesn't get that, either.

it makes me sad to think of him, in the same little row house we lived in, his law practice collapsed, his future dim, all the brave bright promise i saw in him tarnished like silver gilt. there was something good in him - our children are all beautiful and strong and healthy. but there was also something very damaged, very broken, at such a fundamental level, i doubt he has the ability to reach inside so deep.

why did god let me be born to the kind of parents i had, he asked me one day, in the midst of what i believe to be the one truly lucid period in our entire relationship, when for one brief shining moment i believed he might get better.

i dont know why he let that happen, i replied, but then he sent you me and the kids. yes, you had lousy parents, but look who you're with now.

but he couldn't, and apparently, he still can't. the demons that live inside his head continue to project themselves onto other people's skins.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, December 22, 2008

baby sun

the first day of the of the new sun dawned crisply blue and icy. it feels about as absolutely wintery as a day could be. the puppies shook themselves and even buddy thought twice about diving into the monstrously high snow banks left by joe the plowman.

but as i keep telling myself, if november is the long slow slide into the dark, then january is the slow cold crawl out of it. spring can't be too far behind. i believe, i believe, i believe.

inside, the tree is decorated, the stockings are hung, the candles are positioned. even a few of the cookies got baked... and i have over 32600 words written!!!

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

thoughts on the last day of the year

".... light and life to all He brings..."

it always amuses me how many christian carols can be turned into pagan ones by making the simple substitution of "sun" for "son." the fact that these two words are homophones in english can't possibly be an accident, can it?

tonight is the longest night of the year. the solstice occurs tomorrow.

if november is the long slow slide into the dark, the next few weeks are the long slow (cold) crawl out of it. for the ancient celts and other indigenous peoples the magic of this time was as a threshold place - a point in time where one thing turns into something else. our more linear way of thinking has turned this understanding into an ending and a beginning, and consequently, we have lost something in our broader culture, i think, something that might make it easier for more of us to comprehend and appreciate shades of gray.

the woods are snowy, dark and deep outside my writing room window - the sky is pearly pewter, the pristine snow has blanketed everything in white. the only spots of color are the pale green splotches on the otherwise gray trunks of the birches. only the ravens, stark and black, swoop and scream through the pines across the ponds. winter has arrived, precisely on schedule.

and yet, when the new Sun rises tomorrow, i know the Light will only grow stronger, and spring will not seem so far away.

the candle i lit at dusk yesterday to honor my great-grandfather's passing, to honor the end of the old Sun, burns steadily on my altar. sleep sweet, pop, and send us someone to buy the house!

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, December 19, 2008

good news

out of darkness, comes the light.

and sometimes from the most unexpected sources. those of you gentle readers who have been following my story from the beginning know that my grandmother left me saddled with a behomoth of a house at the jersey shore, situated on what is quite possibly the noisest corner in the entire town now, a rambling 27 room mansion the size of a battleship.

this thing has become the albatross around my husand's neck. it was my grandmother's desire that it pass out of our family and so, i have accepted it must be. it's time to let it go... in the midst of the worst real estate market since the depression, of course.

nothing my grandmother ever did made things easy. on anyone.

but today, we got a smidgen of good news, from the oil company no less. apparently there'd been no usage since the last fill up in september. that meant the heat was off, and they advised us to send someone to turn it on, lest the pipes freeze. but the really good news was that no usage and no change in the level of the gauge means no leaks.

of course there's no leaks, i can hear my great-grandfather, pop, scoff. he's the one who built the house. i can hear him grumbling on the Other Side: i sank that tank in the ground - you think i used some shit thing that would fall apart? for my own house? the rest is a mixture of english and italian, all unprintable.

i mentioned this to my father. i can't imagine pop would've put anything next to his own house that wasn't absolutely perfect, i said.

you're right, said my father. he probably lined it with rubber and sealed it in concrete. the ground around it will dissolve into the ocean before that tank ever leaks.

there was always something about my great-grandfather you could count on. today is the anniversary of his death. a small portion of the sale of the house he built will go to ensure the education of his great-great-great grandson. not a bad legacy for an illegal immigrant who swam ashore in new york harbor because he was a 13 year old runaway.

it's just a small synchronicity, but it's nice to know that even nearly a hundred years after pop put the oil tank in the ground, it's still tight as drum.

what do i believe?

dina posted this prompt on her blog and asked her readers to respond on their blogs with their answers to this question. it comes right at the same time as the chorus of "where's the christmas spirit" that predictably rears its head among the media, among the bloggosphere, even - i am sad to say - among people i consider my friends.

leaving aside the grieving, the destitute and the seriously ill - ie, those people who have good reason to be angry with the Powers That Be - i'm never sure about the rest of us.

yesterday, the substitute host on the afternoon talk radio show i sometimes listen to if i happen to be driving around between 3 and 6 pm railed about christmas music that's been coopted into advertising jingles as the thing that's just turned it all off for him. we're just missing something this year, he moaned.

for shame, i thought to myself. if i'd had my cell phone handy or had felt a tad bit crankier i might've called in and scolded him for being such a scrooge. we're not missing anything as far as i can tell. yeah, times are tough, but these are the times that challenge us all to reach into our hearts and pull out some genuine feeling for our fellow man because we're all in this mess together. i don't see this as a year of no spirit - i see this as the year of perfect opportunity to REALLY show what this time of year is all about.

and no, it's not about a baby. it's not about jesus. it's about LOVE. if you want to experience the so-called christmas spirit - any time of year, really - but it's really easy around now - is you do something for someone else. you buy one less thing for someone who already has presents, and you buy something for someone who doesn't. you look around and you see who the lonely, the sick, the scared, the hungry are, and you do something - anything - to make them feel better. sometimes it's just a smile. sometimes it's giving up a parking spot. sometimes it's letting someone go ahead of you in a long line cause they have a little kid who's clearly getting fussy. you send an email, you leave a note. you notice the strangers, the outsiders, the ones for whom there is no room at the inn... and you do something.

i dont believe that everything the gospels say jesus said he actually said, but i do believe he said this: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. do is an action verb in my opinion. if you want to feel something, you have to do something. if you want to feel love, you have to act in a loving way toward someone else.

because i also believe that love is the answer. to everything. if we all acted as if we loved and cared about each other, we would never allow each other to live in the conditions under which so many of us live. i believe that the energy that flows through the universe both physical and metaphysical is love, pure and simple, unconditional, eternal. i believe, as i think marianne williams said, we have a harder time accepting our light than we have accepting our shadow, and so we resist that love, for many reasons, all of which i believe we've created ourselves, collectively, across time, with the accumulation of cultures and various belief systems.

i believe jesus himself gave us a key to bring us back to a place of simple understanding. become as little children, he said. and so christmas, the solstice, the time of the new-born year, invites all of us, i think to re-experience that state of child-like wonder and comprehension. it is a time to heal that child within us, to create as closely, as shamelessly as possible whatever it is you believe the child that is you deserves. if it's cookies, bake them, if it's a stocking, hang it. fill it. if it's candles, light them. after all, how can you love anyone if you can't love yourself first? for most people i know, their childhood memories are dark cavey places they'd really rather not go. what a wonderful metaphor for going into the dark and finding the light.

i believe that part of my practice and understanding of "wicce-craft" is how to use the energies of the planet to deepen and enhance one's own inner journey. thus, this is has always been an ideal time for me to go into my own dark places and revisit the demons who dwell in my soul. what i find is that if i "feed" them, they ain't so scary. and i can climb back, toward the light, the new-born sun with a sense of renewal and rebirth.

this year for me is particularly poignant as it is the first one i will celebrate without the presence of my grandmother. my fiftieth christmas, my fiftieth solstice, and my first without her looming, my personal albatross around my neck. i feel both lighter, and sadder. how is it possible i miss the old witch? perhaps i miss the child she let me be.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

and the word count continues...

to grow... 26,528.... and climbing!

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

fifty very random things about me

i was tagged (sort of) by Veggie Mom .... so here you go ... i've been writing and recuperating from my whirlwind weekend... my word count's up to nearly 23,500 words, and my laundry is nearly done!

1. Do you like cheese? no - i despise cheese. the smell alone mostly makes me gag.

2. Have you ever smoked? it's not a question of if, it's a question of what and why.

3. Do you own a gun? NO. NEVER. until the day comes when i am forced to hunt my own food, guns, as far as i can tell, are agents of chaos that exist only to inflict serious injury and damage on living creatures. i don't think they should be necessary and therefore i choose to live as if they aren't.

4. Do you like listening to Christmas music? sometimes...depends on my mood and the song

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? i don't go to doctors unless i know i need a legal drug.

6. What do you think of hot dogs? they head the category: don't ask, don't tell.

7. Favorite Christmas song? every year i have a new one.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? cream with coffee.

9. Can you do push ups? i can do eleven boy pushups.

10. Who is your favorite Grey's Anatomy Character? from the little ive watched the show, they all seem pretty whiny to me.
11. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? at the moment, my grammy's moonstone ring.
12. Favorite hobby? doing nothing

13. Do you eat "exotic" foods? steak and potatoes are exotic somewhere, right?
14. Do you have A.D.D.? could you repeat the question? i wasn't listening.
15. What one trait do you hate about yourself? ive learned its counterproductive to hate anything about myself.

16. Middle Name? benedette. (ben-eh-dett) it's the feminine form of benedict. it means blessed.

17. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? my coffee got cold while answering these question, i wonder what else i should blog about, and oh, what a cute puppy buddy is!

18. Name 3 things you bought yesterday? food, christmas presents and books.

19. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? i don't drink that regularly anymore!!

20. Current worry right now? getting everything done i want to get done by next week and running out of steam in my novel.

21. Current hate? its too early in the morning to hate anything.

22. Favorite place to be? right here

23. How did you bring in the New Year? last year's new year? whatever i did worked!

24. Where would you like to go? the top of the new york times bestseller list

25. Name three people who will complete this? me myself and i

26. Do you own flip flops? do bears shit in the woods?

27. What shirt are you wearing? a long sleeve brown cotton undershirt and a tie-dyed brown, green and pink sweatshirt.

28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? i'm afraid i'm a natural fiber snob especially when it comes to sheets. i prefer all cotton, and a threadcount between 350 and 600. 400 is ideal.
29. Can you whistle? surprisingly well.

30. Favorite color? all of them

31. Would you be a pirate? i AM a pirate. i'm just doing my best to blend in.

32. What songs do you sing in the shower? i dont sing in the shower... that's where the angels talk to me.

33. Favorite girl's name? olivia

34. Favorite boy's name? james

35. What's in your pocket right now? i dont have pockets right now.

36. Last thing that made you laugh? libby

37. Best bed sheets as a child? my ballerina sheets.

38. Worst injury you've ever had? my elbow injury in krav class this past june... sigh.
39. Do you love where you live? Yes.

40. How many TVs do you have in your house? 5

41. Who is your loudest friend? most of my friends are content to speak softly and carry very large and heavy handbags.

42. How many dogs do you have? two

43. Does someone have a crush on you? i hope not. unrequited love is such a waste of energy.
44. Do you get embarrassed easily? To my mother's everlasting exasperation, NO

45. What is your favorite book? my arthurian encylcopedia. i couldn't be without it right now..

46. What is your favorite candy? Anything with caramel.

47. Do you know all the words to the Fresh Prince theme song? i didn't know fresh prince had a theme song.
48. What song do you want played at your funeral? springsteen's promised land

49. What were you doing 12 AM last night? dreaming

50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up? how much did it snow??

and furthermore, the war must end... blessed be!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

catching my breath

the mayhem unleashed by the brilliant gemini moon refuses to abate. my sister, her husband and her two children (6 & 3) arrived just as dinner was being was served. fortunately, my mother and stepfather had pitched in, and everything went as smoothly as it is possible for such an impromptu gathering to go.

the only real drama was created by meg, who had a temper tantrum over a sweater that got shrunk by libby accidentally putting it in the dryer. however, she's trying a new detox diet (under the supervision of her doctor, who has a really HOT son, i might add) and i think it's making her REALLY CRANKY.

for those of you curious to see what sort of menu i can put together for 19 people on 8 hours notice... here's what we ate:

spiral ham with honey glaze
mashed potatoes
homemade cranberry sauce (leftover from thanksgiving)
baby peas in butter sauce
string bean casserole
spinach and cheese stuffed mushrooms
crescent rolls

ice-cream cake
sour-milk cake with buttercream frosting

my mother is planning on leaving today, but it appears that my sister and her family will need to stay until tomorrow, as it is doubtful they'll have power until then. my sister just came up to my writing room and announced that 6 is vomiting.

the fun never stops.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

rolling with the punches

i came home from the chiropractor's feeling particularly virtuous yesterday. i had accomplished a great deal, i had a plan of attack for my next round of projects. that was before i listened to the message my sister left.

i only listened to half of it before i picked up the phone. apparently, the snow-ice-rain line was to our north and west, and the ice hit my sister's area badly. she and her family had lost power at some point in the night, losing not only electricity, but water - because their water pump runs on electricity - as well.

awful, perhaps, but not horrible, until she said to me, "you didn't listen to the whole message, did you?"

well, no, i confessed. i was so concerned about her, about the possiblity that we perhaps might not be able to have dinner with her the following day as plannned... of course i had simply picked up the phone and called.

mommy's coming to your house, said sheila.

she is?! i said, after my jaw dropped on the floor.

she can't come here, said sheila.

why can't she come another weekend? i asked.

because she made plans, nanny, answered my sister patiently. you know how she is about her plans.

i do, indeed.

so unless the powers that be at the power company in massachusetts have miraculously made the the lights turn on, it is more than likely that instead of being treated to a special celebration birthday dinner for libby's 15th birthday tomorrow...

i'll be cooking it instead.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, December 12, 2008

my surreal morning

i was going to title this post "full moon in gemini" but realized i'm just going to write about the effects of it, instead. i woke up this morning to find that so soundly asleep was i last night - the benefits of a full day - i missed my stepdaughter getting herself arrested. she's out on bail now, but it's clear her temper got the better of her. what's sad is that this child has not had a good role model, and so she's behaving the way she believes her mother behaves. or, at least the way her mother behaves towards her.

i'm hoping that some court-ordered anger management classes might have some sort of salubrious this point i doubt it could hurt.

the phone is dead...the cable's all screwed up to the point that becky quick on squawkbox is talking about knitting, not the collapsing financial markets. all the channels are like that. at one point a guy with big ears, a dazzling white shirt and a large chart, had brooke sheild's voice coming out of his mouth about german engineering and routan babies.

astronomically, this is one of the biggest and brightest full moons of the year, and thus, i think it's affect on us is doubled. that it happens to come in gemini, quicksilver, mercurial, the chaotic agent of change - seems to be tripling its effect. and here it comes, in the darkest part of the year, on the very threshold of the solistice. our topic next month at pagan study group is paradox - i think there's one happening all around us right now.

the darker the shadow, the brighter the light. i believe, i believe, i believe.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

how to write a book in 90 days

... is the title of the meetup group i attended last night. it was small, intimate and completely energizing. why do *I* need to know how to write a book in 90 days, you may wonder?

well, because typically it takes me nine months (at least) to write one... once i settle on a project. i have at least five or six novels all languishing, in various stages of development and completion. i would really really like to finish those... not to mention this Other Thing which seems to have a life of its own (17,500 words and counting - and i didn't do much with it yesterday cause i had baby jake.)

but as Beloved says, and i admit, i'm not good at finishing. you're not a Finisher, he says sadly, shaking his head, and i have to admit he's right. staying disciplined, focused and on-task can seem like a monumental challenge.

one of our assignments last night was to keep a daily list. in my case,it's a list of things i'm proud of. so here's mine for today so far (and it's only 6 am!) -

i'm proud i went last night. i dont' venture out much in dark and rain, but something told me i should go.

i'm proud i have a strategy for accomplishing what i want to accomplish today.

i'm proud i honored my writing enough to say "no" to attractive distractors to keep the day clear so i can concentrate on it.

and futhermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

i'm REAL...i'm TAGGED...and i'm AWARDED!

speaking of surprises, lynette was kind enough to give me the MARIE ANTOINETTE AWARD!!!

and no, it's not for people who are good at chopping off heads.

This award is for bloggers that blog about real life. so thank you, lynette! lynette has the cutest blog and her photos of jams and jellies and cookies make my mouth water. i like her insights and observations, too :).

Now the first part of this award is that i ask my readers to leave me a comment, and ask me ANYTHING. (gulp.) so leave me a question and i promise to answer. (no questions from anonymous, though!!! you want to ask a ballsy question, have the balls to leave your name.)

the second part of this award is that i nominate the following 7 bloggers who must pass it on to 7 bloggers. Or not, depending on your aversion to blog awards. but these are bloggers on whom I can always count on to give me a wonderful peek into their REAL selves.

shades of scorpio
kathy the spirit of full disclosure, here's seven random things about me martha tagged me for ...

1. it usually takes me nine months to write a novel.

2. i'm allergic to cheese.

3. i'd take potatoes over chocolate (i know im weird.)

4. my favorite flowers are the ones that smell good.

5. my favorite colors are all of them.

6. my favorite music is anything celtic. i found out why through a past life regression.

7. i love lavender tea.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


a light dusting of snow surprised me this morning when i walked the puppies. the word count surprised me last - im nearly up to 13,000 words.

yes, judy, it does help to count the words. for one thing, the only thing an editor cares about in terms of length is word count. page count is immaterial - a 90,000 word novel can be compressed into 300 printed pages or expanded to over 400 depending on the size of font. so can manuscript pages - though a manuscript page is assumed to be roughly 250 words (double spaced, 11 pt font, 1 inch margins.)

but for me, word count is akin to counting mile markers on a long drive. it gives me a sense of where i am in the story ... by ten thousand words, for example, i know that not only should an initial conflict or complication have been introduced, to hook and grab the reader, but i also know that i need to have either resolved that initial conflict by means of introducing yet a larger conflict, OR i must add more information to develop that initial problem. in other words, whatever is bad at the beginning, has to get worse.

by twenty thousand, i know that certain things need to be stable - the introduction of all the important players in the story, for example. i don't generally like characters who show up late - even though a character who insists on bursting into a story arc can be quite an amazing addition to it. but it tends to confuse the reader if too many people come and go, and i seem to like stories with casts of thousands. so i like to limit who shows up after the first third or so.

by thirty thousand, i want the reader enmeshed in the world of the story. i want the reader to see and feel and know what the characters do and think and want. if i want to hook the reader in the first chapter, by thirty thousand words, i want to hold the reader entranced.

thirty to sixty thousand - the muddled middle - is probably the most difficult part for me. i like complicated stories with plot twists and character surprises, and sometimes it gets hard to keep track of all that in my head. that's when i resort to things like color coded paper for different scenes according to character point of view. i think i had six colors going in silver's lure until i decided to use the color-coding by plot thread, and that dropped it down to three.

once i reach the middle, and head toward the climax - usually somewhere in the 80,000's - it gets easier and my initial draft of the ending is usually something so abrupt as to be rude. "and then they all went home" is how i ended the first draft of one book just to end it (and those six words developed into something like six thousand by the time i handed in the manuscript.)

so to keep track of the number of words isn't just a progress report of how much i've accomplished. for me, its a roadmap of the story, and it helps me figure out what has to happen next.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, December 8, 2008

3500 more

a lively discussion and lots of suggestions from the writers' circle and presto chango, i have 3500 words and one and a half more chapters. and these are GOOD words, not perfect words by any means, but GOOD words, words that move the story and the characters along with ease.

this story has flow... the best flow i've felt in ages and ages, a flow that feels natural and relaxed. i was wondering how to flesh out the bares bone of it, and after only a few days rumination, as opposed to weeks, at times, the story's spilled out like the seeds of a pomegranate.

it has occured to me that this is the first fiction i've attempted since my grandmother died, the first book she will not see. it is also the thirteenth novel i will submit, giving me yet another combination of 1 and 3 to spiral through weave.

i doubt i will do much with it today. it's a baby jake day, a let's get some laundry done if we can day, and a food-shopping day. i have ground meat defrosting in the fridge - its a meat loaf day, too.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

fifteen thousand five hundred

that's how many readers there've been since i started keeping count a few months ago. i dont know who you are... but you live in north carolina, ms or mr 15,500. thanks for stopping by :).

on another subject, my new book has a name. what do you all think of The Secrets We Keep? i like it... especially since it implies more than one secret :).

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, December 5, 2008

when you're hot, you're hot

three thousand words on thursday, and nearly five thousand yesterday, and i have 7500 words and counting. i had other things i wanted to do, but this story seems like it wants to be told. it's about a woman who connects to her long-ago love via her blog. (and no, it's NOT based on reality. at least, not THAT part.)

it's time to let it brew a bit, let the bits and pieces floating in the brew congeal, take shape and form, mostly because i have other things to do. the Angels have been patiently waiting, laying groundwork. i'm reading cards at passiflora today... if you're in the neighborhood, stop in and say hello :).

i have a gift list to make - there's nothing like waiting until nearly the last minute to up the excitement quotient. hopefully most will be online orders. and tomorrow, writing friends are coming - so i have a house to tidy up. i hope we can get our tree today, too. i have to remind Beloved it's time to cut up the old one for our Yule Log. this is the only way i'm able to justify to myself having a live tree for christmas.

so off i head to the shower... to dream, and to plan.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


come to's Seventh Wave Network at 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time and give me and my friend Laura Rose a listen on her radio show - Discovering Nature's Spirit. we will be discussing What To Expect From a Psychic Reading. you might even want to call in and say hi!! the number is on the web site!!!

.. or check out the archives at! thanks to martha and patrice for calling and saying hi!!!

they're here

they're back. the casts of characters, i mean, who otherwise wander in the wasteland of my imagination, roaming like packs of hungry zombies until some attention, some spark springs them into Being.

they've gotten stronger, too... as if their time spent roaming in the Wilderness hones them, refines and shapes and molds them without my looking.

and there's a lot of them, shuffling skeletal forms that rush at me with outstretched arms any time my thoughts turn in their direction.

pick me, pick me, pick me, they scream. i feel the weight of their stories swelling, tugging as the need of a nursing infant.

it's a compulsion, a neurotic compulsion, a workshop leader once assured me. if you weren't addicted to writing, it'd be something maybe less healthy. like cocaine.

the angel book doesn't satisfy in quite the same way,... even blogging isn't the same. i spoke to my agent the other day. and even though i didn't speak directly of any fiction other than the project on submission (i believe i believe i believe), i could feel every last character in my head listening.

so this morning, as a reward for going to the dentist, after i finish this, im going to go read some of my unfinished projects, sit with each neglected group, and see what comes.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

tagged! (joan warren)

kristin - over at the way it is - tagged me with a cute tag!!!

here's the Rules:

* Grab the book closest to you. Now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write that sentence as your title.
* Copy these instructions.
* Tag 5 other friends to play.
* Don't go looking for your favorite book, or the coolest one you have - just grab the closest one.

unfortunately, my closest book (roanoke by lee miller) only has a list of names on page 56. the fifth one down is "joan warren." im not sure this constitutes a sentence, but going off in search of the next closest book seems like a violation of the Rules. so "joan warren" it is - and here's who i tag:

dina (cause i KNOW she reads interesting books!)
rose (likewise)
kim (ditto)
martha (cause i bet she does)
and...sagemoonstone (cause she left me my last comment!)

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


it doesn't come often, but when it does, it's sweet.

my kids think i dress funny. maybe i do. i dress pretty much the way i've dressed since college - jeans, sweatshirts, turtlenecks, sweaters. and sometimes, bright red boots.

the bright red boots seem to upset my children. some have threatened not to appear in public with me while wearing them.

however, just this morning libby told me that in the very center of page 59 in the winter 2009 issue of TEEN magazine, no less, is a picture of MY boots. my very red-jumping-in-puddles-boots. i think i'll cut it out and carry it in the purse they used to make fun of before the style became the height of fashion.

what do YOU know?

i know i have a lot of work to do today i'd better get started on! what do YOU know, gentle reader?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Secret is in the Sauce: THIS JUST IN:

The Secret is in the Sauce: THIS JUST IN:

the ladies of The Secret is in the Sauce are having amazing giveaways this week - all you need to do is click on the link and leave a comment to play! today i believe the grand prize is something like a $200 gift card to target... these ladies are SERIOUS!!!

it's my 500th post!

a brand new month AND a milestone blog. wow. it was less than two years ago when i started this... have i really had that much to say? i guess so. (i can hear Beloved already: of course you have, annie... it's all you write.)

in the last year and a bit, i've chronicled my grandmother's last year - almost to the day, the birth of my first grandchild. i've noticed the moonrise, the sunsets, the nights, the sky. i've even gotten myself thrown out of a coffee group - because of this blog. how way too funny is that?

it's funny but the best part about blogging isn't the writing. it's the reading - the other blogs i read, the comments left here. it's knowing i've connected with silent souls around the world, people who stumble here by accident, looking for all sorts of things - a cure for itchy eyelids apparently the most pressing.

but there're readers who come back - readers from obscure places i know i'll never see around the world who pop in and out with alarming regularity, and readers who check in on occasion just to find out what's new in the annie-verse. i have a lot of friends who say... if i haven't heard from you, i read your blog to find out what's going on, as if it's an ongoing version of those annual christmas letters. (i'm not sure mine's quite as relentlessly cheery as those tend to be, but maybe so...i'm an incurable optimist.)

why do you blog, i asked a few weeks ago, and here's why i blog... i blog to stay connected. so here... on my five hundredth entry...i'm waving... will you wave back?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

in the interests of posterity

because i like to keep a record, and because a gentle reader asked, here's what constituted "real" thanksgiving this year...

turkey with cornbread stuffing and pan gravy
mashed potatoes
cranberry relish (homemade)
cranberry sauce (courtesy of ocean spray)
baked butternut squash in maple syrup and butter
peas in butter sauce (courtesy of the jolly green giant)
string bean casserole
crescent rolls

strawberry cheesecake with graham cracker crust
apple pie
pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust

today, i cook

the turkey, all fifteen pounds of him, is stuffed to the gills with cornbread, bacon, onions, celery, nuts and cranberries, the pumpkin cheesecake with the gingersnap crust is chilling. the apple pie gleams on the counter, the cranberries simmer in their brown-sugar/maple syrup sauce.

Beloved is off to buy last-minute ingredients. the first sleety snow of the season is falling and trying to stick. the snow surprised me, but only briefly - after all, i've been smelling it for days.

meg and libby are still asleep, the puppies are snoozing cuddled up together on the couch. i have a bit more tidying up to do before i make one errand run for the day. i have to yield the kitchen for a few hours while Beloved cooks. there's a short list of chores, too, for the girls.... i wouldn't want them to feel left out!

and then, we gather at four - all our kids, plus baby jake and assorted significant others, for what my children tell me is "real" thanksgiving.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

black friday

don't get me wrong. i like to shop. i don't shop often any more, but when i do, i like to have a clear idea in mind of what i want, and then i like to find it, quickly, efficiently and at the best possible price. a great shopper, in my opinion, isn't one who scores bargains while the world is watching... the great shopper, like the great hunter, bags the prize, stealthy and alone.

the news that a walmart worker was trampled to death by a crowd on long island doesn't really surprise me. im only surprised it hasn't happened sooner, and, between the advertising and the desperation, it didn't happen in more places.

what's wrong with us?

even libby made noises about going to target at four am. what's wrong with you? i asked her. there's good bargains, she declared. there's nothing there worth losing sleep over, i replied. a few more years and i won't be able to prevent her from going if she has her mind made up.

it simply boggles my mind that some of us take pride in getting out of bed before even a rooster crows on the day after a major holiday - a holiday that requires the ingestion by most of us of a sleep-inducing food - to go buy a THING? what THING is worth more than precious hours spent asleep? what's wrong with us that we want to brag about how cheap we got a gadget that will break or wear out or get lost or tossed aside before another year passes?

it's sad and it's sickening, and i hope the poor man's death will encourage all of us to examine why we buy what we buy and why we think we need what we think we do. consumerism begins at the top of the food chain. the stampede at walmart is just trickle-down economics at its most crude.

it seems like half the ads on television or in magazines this year are either about indigestion and sleeplessness, and the other half about how to spend money. is it any wonder we need the former, when we buy into the latter?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, November 28, 2008

a few of my favorite things...

with a twist.

a few days ago, a cute blog topic caught my eye - a list of ten favorite things all starting with the same random letter, which in her case happened to be R. i asked lynette for a letter of my own.. and she sent me J.

a J - i pondered. what on earth did i like that begins with J? it's taken me a few days to come up with this list...:

1. Jumping in puddles. i like to jump in puddles because now that i am grownup, no one tells me i can't. it also means i am most likely wearing my red boots:

which are, quite possibly, one of my most favorite things in the world.

2, 3 & 4. my son Jamie and my brother John. they are cute and smart and sweet. helpful, too. what more would anyone want in a man? then of course, there's my grandson, Baby Jake. he's cute and smart and sweet, too, and maybe not so much helpful yet as agreeable. again, an excellent quality in a man.

5. jabberwocky, by lewis carroll... that's the one that starts... twas brillig and the slimy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. all mimsy were the borogoves and the mome wraths outgrabe. i love quoting it. lines of it spring unbidden in my head at moments both opportune and otherwise. no wonder my kids think im crazy.

6. the jacobites... thats the stuarts and bonnie prince charlie, boggy moors, lost causes and mournful scottish laments. i love all that stuff.

7. james - as in King James and his version of the Bible. i love the sonorous, soulful phrases.. come to think of it, i like to quote it, too. and jezebel, job and jesus are three of my favorite characters in it.

8. johnny-jump-ups and jonquils... i love these wild pansies...with their bright little faces and exuberant greens, and their tendency to spring up in expected places, they speak to me of hope. and jonquils - though i prefer to call them daffodils - always bloom around my birthday.

9. the joker as played by heath ledger in his tour de force performance. not only was this a heartbreakingly human portrayal of a heretofore cartoon character, ledger's joker had a lot to say about the role we allot chaos in our culture.

10. the novels of jane austen. she had an accurate eye, a piercing pen. i wish she'd left us more.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

what a difference ...

... a year makes.

this time last year, i was finishing up a meal i'd cooked for twenty-two people. the feast was merely a punctuation point to a dizzying fall that included katie's shower for sixty in september and the birth of baby jake in october. and let's not forget, of course, moving my grandmother up here the previous august, out of the house she'd lived in nearly all 95 years of her life.

we were five generations at my table last year. i'm glad i wallowed in the thanksgivingness of it all. i'm glad i made four kinds of dessert, four different veggies. i'm glad i made extra crescent rolls. i'm glad i rushed and chopped and carried and shopped.

because i don't feel the need to do it now.

my mother and brother and stepfather have gone to vienna - yes, the vienna of freud and the waltz. my sister is hosting one of her multi-cultural thanksgivings in boston (representatives of five different nations are breaking bread together at sheila's house as i type this.) my brother and his family and my stepsister in california are with my daddy and stepmom. my stepchildren are either working or home with their mother. my grandmother has gone to heaven, of course, and my children have dispersed themselves to each other's houses and foreign turkeys and funny-tasting sides.

Beloved went to the soup kitchen this morning, and helped cooked dinner for over 100 people this year. so far this thanksgiving, i've taken a thirty-minute walk with the puppies and had three naps. the weather has changed from bright sun to a sullen twilight. it's only me and Beloved for dinner, and the cold air smells like snow. i defrosted some chicken breasts - organic ones, no less. there's bread from brooklyn, a pumpkin pie i made yesterday, and rose's rhubarb-cranberry mead. it is a very different sort of dinner from last year, and yet for which i feel as deeply grateful.

may whatever sort of thanksgiving you have, Gentle Reader, make you feel similarly blessed.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

my recipe got picked!!!

my rosemary butter cookies got chosen to be featured over at EAT YOUR VEGGIES - a really fun blog i discovered courtesy of the SITS-tahood. if you haven't wandered over there yet, Gentle Reader, i encourage you to check it out.

it's been a while since i posted any photos... mostly because the old camera broke, and it not only took a while to figure out to work the new one, but also how to upload pictures to the puter. i'm not only technically challenged, i don't do well reading directions and so i tend to fumble around a lot until something clicks. i'm happy to say that it finally did and so, in the spirit of cooking and recipes and cookies and such, here's some before and after photos of the renovations we just finished:

here's what it looked like before june 30 of this year...

and this is what it looks like now, almost five months later:

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

things i am grateful for

the air was warm and soft as april, the rain was steady as june's, but the sky was infused with january's pearly blue when i walked the puppies. i breathed the moist wet air, crunched the pine needles beneath my shoes. it's not the temperature that tells you where you are in the year. it's the light.

we are deep in the dark of it. even january sees the light growing stronger, the days minutely lengthening. november is the slow grim slide into the black, the time of reckoning and shedding. the pilgrims didn't invent the idea of thanks for a bountiful harvest.

and so here, on the eve of one of the quietest thanksgivings i'm preparing to spend in recent memory, in no particular order, is a list of some of the things i am most grateful for this year.

1. for my health. a lot of it has nothing to do with me or the way i treat my body. i got lucky and won some really good genes.

2. for my Beloved. that we met online in a chat room that doesn't exist any more, even in cyberspace still makes us giggle. that we married each other on a golden morning on a hawaiian beach still makes us laugh out loud. that our Souls seemed to recognize each other still takes my breath away.

3. for my kids. they know why.

4. for my friends. i hope they know why, too.

5. that those of us who Think banded together and for one brief shining moment, beat back the Darkness and let the Light shine through. if obama lives up to half that promise, better days are ahead.

6. for my grandmother's death. a long life lived well is a blessing, a long life lived miserably is a curse. you gave me the good fight, roey. now we can both rest in peace.

7. for the Earth, and those who love and care for Her.

8. for my puppies. if only all puppies everywhere could be so loved.

9. for the Silence, the peace and the dark sweetness of the cold i can feel closing in. i'm looking forward to spending thanksgiving mostly in my jammies! :)

so what about you, Gentle Reader? what are you most grateful for? in no particular order, of course :).

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, November 24, 2008

...and what i did with it

i got a lot done. i finished - hooray me!!! - painting the walls in the hallway - so now the only thing left are some minor touchups on the woodwork i can do the weekend after thanksgiving. i can't believe that except for the touchups, and the curtains, the renovations are DONE. complete. finished. it will be so wonderful when i can turn my head and see just the beautiful kitchen without the pile of paint cans in front of it! but considering how awful the place looked just a month ago... i've come a long way :)!

i dusted and vacuumed zone 5 - for those Gentle Readers who are not aware of Flylady's wonderful System i suggest you clink on the link and check her out - her genius for organization coupled with her humor and gentle good will have helped me tremendously manage the chaos-monster who lurks deep within my soul.

i walked, first thirty minutes by myself - and then another bit with the puppies until sam refused to go any further. the skies are cloudy now and it almost looks like snow. i entered my rosemary butter cookie recipe in a contest online run by another Blogger and in case she doesn't choose it... here it is in case any gentle readers are interested. it's not only amazingly easy, it's also flexible - i made a gluten-free (although not egg or dairy free) version for my dear friend laura yesterday that were actually so good Beloved couldn't stop eating them!

granny annie's rosemary butter cookies

1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour (cake flour works best; sift regular flour)
2 Tbs chopped fresh or dried rosemary (lavender flowers also work well)
4 Tbs milk

beat butter and sugar at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy. gradually add flour and salt, at low speed until blended. stir in rosemary, blend in milk.

Mold dough into log and chill for at least 30 min, or up to 24 hours. when ready to bake, wlice into rounds or roll to 1/2 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. bake at 325 degrees for 16-18 minutes.

For a gluten free version, substitute gluten-free flour for the regular flour, and substitute two eggs for the milk. other yummy versions i have tried include substituting brown sugar or regular sugar for the powdered sugar, and flavoring with almonds, cinnamon or ginger, and adding mini dark chocolate chips!

unexpected morning

i totally forgot that my middle daughter doesn't have class this week, and so baby jake did not arrive on my doorstep on the dot of 8 AM. i realized this last night when meg kissed me goodbye and said she'd be here with him around one. around one, i wondered, and then i remembered. vacation. thanksgiving. no class.

and so this morning i did some blissful things, just for me. i fell sound asleep after Beloved and i went back to bed, and slept for another WHOLE hour!!! i woke up with the sun shining directly on my third eye.

Beloved is gone now, the puppies are napping. the house and these hours are blissfully mine. the danger now is not to spend them wondering how i should fill them.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

simple ironies

i watched a show about polygamy last night. it was about a fundamentalist branch of the mormon church that practices a bizarre and antediluvian rite called "plural marriage." they are alive and practicing and abusing women and children even as i write this - a patriarchial monster that dare not say its name but apparently feels safe enough to exist in the wilds of places like arizona and texas (two states that went for john mccain, as i recall.) even the so-called "real" mormons disavow them, or so the real mormons say.

but does anyone else find it interesting that so many of the real mormons spent so much time and money fighting gay marriage in california, while a renegade sect of their own kind flourishes? silence, after all, implies consent. to simply turn their backs and simply ignore these disgusting throwbacks all the while concentrating on spending huge sums of money to deny stable couples the right to marry under the laws of a State, not a Church... does anyone else find this particularly revolting?

didn't jesus say something about them without sin being the ones allowed to throw stones? or am i missing something?

people like warren jeffs and his cronies shouldn't be allowed to exist in america, let alone walk around freely. and yet the Big White Men (who call themselves prophets, no less - jesus said something about False Prophets, too, as i recall) in salt lake city are more worried about gay sex than the abuse of women and children by other White Men who purport to spout their own creed.

it's disgusting and despicable is what it is. i bet if they took half the money they collected to fight proposition 8 in california, and applied it to fighting jeffs and his benighted followers (aren't their souls worth saving, brothers?) they could wipe out the practice of polygamy once and for all. it may take a while and it may ultimatly cost more money, but wouldn't their own people be better served?

the mormons built a church around the corner from my house. the wild celt in me is waiting for some of their nice young men to come knock on my door. just waiting.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

in the company of my kind

i spent the morning at the first meeting of the fledgling Farmington Writers' Circle. in the ironic way of it, no one to whom i initially sent a notice to showed up. but the people who did show up - one nice man and two nice women - were all interesting people with stories to tell, all passionate about things like words and stories and people.

a gathering of writers can be either an intense pain, or a real pleasure, and i have to say this morning, i was pleasantly surprised at how well the four of us meshed. as people of a certain age, we all had stories to share, experiences to relate, questions to ask. we were witty and clever and generous in allowing each other to share and to shine.

are we different, asked my friend susan, she of the thousand-and-one questions and millions of stories to tell. and the answer, if not apparent then, is an unequivocal yes, susan, we are. we ARE different, those of us who choose to spend time watching, listening and wrestling with the voices in our head and in our world; we who carve up our lives and those of everyone we meet into words. we ARE, and it is comforting to know that we are not alone.

it's been a while since i have actively sought out the company of kindred spirits. too many times and too many places i've been burned by people who seemed to expect something from me i had no idea how to give. but there was a time when all my friends were writers.

we made another two meeting dates, set up a schedule, and gave ourselves a writing exercise to share with the group in january.

then we all had coffee afterwards. from somewhere deep inside my soul, i feel the whispers start to stir.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, November 21, 2008

dear whoever comes to read this...

one of the blogs i follow - dina's Walking Within the Spiral - posted a real cool link to a really fun blogsite called The Secret Is In the Sauce or SITS for short. the point of today's linking is to share an open letter. (i didn't initially understand that when i first linked, but then sometimes i don't always understand directions the first time - or the fourteenth time - i read them.)

then i read a few of the blogs (and left comments) and realized i was out of step with everyone else (not surprising) and so, after some thought, i decided i'd better write an Open Letter, too.

then it occured to me i wasn't sure who to write it to. other blogs i'd read had addressed everyone from the Army, clothes designers, God, and personal trainers. and then it occured to me to write it to You, you Gentle Readers, who show up on my reader site counter with sometimes unbelievable frequency.

i have no idea who you are - in billings or miami or vienna, london or adelaide or shanghai - but whoever you are, i appreciate your presence, i appreciate your attention, however brief it may be. it's kind of all of you to grant me so much as a nanosecond of your time, and even if you don't leave a comment or in any way identify yourself, i know you're out there.

and it comforts me, touches me, fills me with hope that in this Brave New World of cyber-communications, we may all reach a new and better way to understand each other and ourselves and to more firmly weave the Web that binds us all.

and furthermore, i most sincerely wish that all wars some day end. blessed be.

a different kind of day

today i woke up to a kidless house. libby left with meg last night, to see a midnight showing of twilight the movie, leaving Beloved and me alone with the puppies. not much is different this morning - certainly there've been other kidless mornings over the long course of my career as chief-mommy-in-charge.

what is different is my acute awareness that this is the direction my life is headed. at this point, i've been a mother longer than i was not a mother, and my collective years spent mothering now number 87. what will i do and who will i be when i no longer need to draw on this prodigious experience on a daily - even hourly - basis?

it boggles my mind so much that most times when i start to think of it, i can feel myself veer off course, dismissing it as a kind of unreality. and yet, i know a lot of people before whose houses the school bus doesn't stop.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

taming a terrible toddler, or more from granny annie

a few weeks ago, my daughter katie and i were discussing the increasing emergence of the Real Person inside baby jake. he looks at me differently, mom, she said. it's like there's a person in there, isn't it, i replied. yeah, she said. and he definitely has ideas of his own.

i remember i said once to my kids' own pediatrician of my daughter, meg, when she was about the same age as baby jake, she seems to be developing a mind of her own. you weren't surprised, were you? returned doctor carey, a wise children's doctor in the vein of norman rockwell.

and well, yeah, i was. meg was in many ways the most easily understood and malleable of my children - at least for me - because she was the one i felt immediately to be most like me. we were of such like minds that it was almost too easy to anticipate her needs, her wants, her wishes, and so, with meg, not only did i feel bound at the hip (or the boob), but mind-melded, too.

alas, even meg eventually disobeyed. the fact that she was my third child prevented me from taking it personally, and by that time, i had grown somewhat adept, or maybe it was only numb, at dealing with terrible toddlers.

and so, in the interests of posterity - and since a Gentle Reader asked - here's what raising four children taught me about how to manage toddlers.

i remember the first time katie, my oldest, looked back at me with what was only defiance in her eyes, and i recognized myself, at 13. (since i was only 20 when katie was born, it was easy for me to remember how i felt at 13.) i better get a handle on this now, i thought, because whoever that is looking back at me is coming back at 13.. bigger.

i won't bore you with the ruminations and realizations that led me to understand that my goal as a parent was to put myself out of a job, and that my "job" was the creation of a mostly-functional adult, one capable of meeting responsibilities, creating a family and experiencing pleasure in life. and since this was what my child wanted as well, i assumed, we were on the same page. so the ability to sleep through the night, for example, without waking mommy at an ungodly hour without a bad dream or being sick as an excuse, became the mastery of a lifeskill, not a battle of wills.

thus it became possible to frame the behavior i wanted into something the child instinctively wanted as well. this is not to say we didn't have occasional tantrums or tears or that sometimes a toddler's NOW superceded her or his ability to imagine THEN. but even the most rambunctious and willful of my children - my son, in case you're wondering, to whom i attribute nearly all of my white hair - intuitively understood an appeal from one Adult to Another.

in the case of a child who wanted to wake up earlier than i did, which was all my children, i would acknowledge that if she or he awoke at an ungodly hour, that could well be something beyond the child's conscious control. and so, i wouldn't try to control that aspect of the issue. what i would control is what that child could or could not do upon awakening, and particularly, i would begin by explaining my own need to sleep. "when you are a big girl," i would begin, "you will need to sleep straight through the night for (insert number of hours i need)- just like mommy. therefore, it's really important you allow mommy to get her rest, because a tired mommy is no fun. i understand you just wake up. therefore, since mommy needs her sleep and you need to wake up, let's figure out how you can wake up and take care of yourself like a big girl without needing to disturb mommy."

by three, my kids were all capable of getting up, amusing themselves and feeding themselves a simple snack (like dry cheerios) for at least an hour before i woke up. jamie - my son - was capable at five of pouring milk and thus fixing a simple breakfast for his younger sister, so on the weekends, i could sleep in even later.

the approach that i needed to put myself out of a job gave me an anchor or a framework within which to function or to fall back on, so to speak, while i watched many other parents flail around me. high school was and is the most interesting by far - i can't quite believe that the kids who did the ballsy - pardon the pun - striptease at the farmington pep rally face any kind of censure. so far, this approach seems to have worked reasonably well. at 28 and 23, my two oldest are indeed people who shoulder their responsibilities, seem capable of creating functional relationships, and take pleasure - generally - in life, and aside from the normal angst associated with growing up... the others are well on their way.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

granny annie's pot roast

for meg... because she asked.

in a dutch oven, preferably cast iron, heat 2-3 tbs olive oil. when the oil is fragrant, brown the meat on all sides until a dark crust forms. season with basil, oregano, garlic, paprika, or any other combination of herbs and seasonings that suits your fancy. the key to a good roast is to completely brown the meat to the point where there's a nice crust. when the meat is seared on al sides, add the seasonings and enough water to cover half the roast. add carrots, onions, and celery... at least. heat oven to 275 degrees. cover roast with lid and cook 7-8 hours. three hours from the time you finish, stir the vegetables and add 4-5 potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters. add more water if necessary, as well. the roast is done when the meat starts to fall apart.

day is done

...gone the sun,
from the hills,
from the plain,
all is well,
time to rest,
god is nigh...

i sit down to blog this evening as the thin dusk thickens outside my window. a red line gleams through the bare branches of the black trees and in the time it takes me to type this sentence, snuffs out.

i've gotten a lot done so far this week - scheduled appointments, had a hair cut, took care of baby jake, cooked and cleaned and put the first coat of paint on the hallway. among other things, i made time for soul collage work, for taking measurements for the new kitchen curtains, and attended book group last night. the laundry's caught up, there's fresh flowers in the vases.

i checked the dow - more red...even Beloved's looking more world-weary these days. i think i'll bake a chocolate cake tonight, and maybe some pear tea bread. times like these call for some serious nesting, i think.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

crossing rubicons

as every mother knows, there are stages and phases not only in the life of a child, but also in your relationship with that child, and in that child's relationship with you. some of these phases and stages are greeted with public acclaim and often universal acknowledgement - the first tooth, the first day of school, graduation. these are the ones we talk about and the ones for which there are greeting cards.

and then there are those turning points unnoticed or unacknowledged, turning points too finely calibrated to measure in simple words. i suspect that these are the most profound.

today my mother and i were talking about christmas presents. what would you like for christmas, she asked, and even i could hardly believe the words i heard coming out of my mouth.

you don't have to get me much this year, i said.

i wasn't going to get you much, my mother replied. i was going to give you money.

give it to the kids, i said.

what? she said. two hundred miles away i heard her jaw drop to the floor.

i don't really need anything, i said. you can give the money to the kids... they need it more than i do.

you really don't want anything?

a tree ornament, i said. a book, maybe, you know i like to read. a sweater if you're going to make it.

oh no, i wouldn't make it, my mother answered, it having escaped her notice that the only child she's never made a sweater for is the one who wears them all the time.

then just get me something small, i said, and spend whatever you would on me on the kids.

wow, said my mother.

wow, i said to myself.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, November 17, 2008

thought for today

The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark.
The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence.

- Tagore,
from Stray Birds,CLXXVI

Sunday, November 16, 2008

soul-full sunday

it's finally occured to me that for me, sunday isn't so much a day to rest as a day to plan... to dream... to think. you're not talking today, are you, observed Beloved, after the third or fourth time i'd simply gazed at him in response to a question. it wasn't that i didn't intend to answer, it was simply that what he was asking about and what i was thinking about were so far apart in mental space i had to wait for the little squirrels to make the proper connections.

it's ten am and so far today, i've re-arranged my dollhouse, cut out pictures for my soul collage project and put up a pot roast for supper tonight. the girls are sleeping, the morning feels ripe. there's lists to be made, materials to be gathered, items to put into place.

the moon is losing light... i can feel the slow determined slide into the Dark Place where dreams grow and turn real. what do i want my week to look like, i wonder. what are my goals, my dreams, my wishes, my wants and my needs? and where do they fit with those of Everyone Else? what must i do, and how will i serve?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

serendipitous saturday

i tend to rely too much on email. the Writer in me embraced email long ago, as a preferred and pithy form of communication that not only happens freely and instanteously, but is created on the keyboard. i LOVE seeing little letters spool into words onto a blank screen. then i tap another key and POOF! email delivered.

it's all wonderful until i can't get on the internet. i tend to forget easily how dependent i've become, until the internet goes down, as it did early this morning, and has been doing for the last couple days. in one way it was a good thing, because i got a lot of stuff done i wouldn't have otherwise. in another way it was a totally bad thing, because it left entirely to Fate that my friend allison and i would actually meet, in the shoe department at nordstrom's.

thus, it was that unencumbered by such things reasonable people would consider a necessity, like cellphone numbers, the girls and i set off on our grand adventure. and we DID meet allison in the shoes - despite a few minor mishaps like going the wrong direction on 84. "i kept hearing a little voice that told me 'you'll meet annie in the shoe department'", said allison.

and her little Voice, just like my little Voice, turned out to be right. ;)

and so i spent a dizzying afternoon at west farms mall, sniffing perfume samples, dipping my nose in the lipstick, rediscovering my love of j. jill sweaters - next time i'm very very good i think i know how i will reward myself - and getting to know allison better.

all in all, a most satisfyingly serendiptious saturday.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Friday, November 14, 2008

and now, on to other things

i have to say as a matter of principle i really am appalled at california, florida and all those other states that banned gay marriage. what were they thinking, and most of all - what is WRONG with california?

have they been replaced by pod people? absorbed by the borg? since when is it the american way to take away a right?

at least i can breathe a sigh of relief that i live in an enlightened state.

the four-one-one

it turns out mister ick got me confused with another person whom he presumably met a writers' conference six months ago. so while he apologized for sending me that "inappropriate" (his word) email, i'm not sure he understands that that email should never have been sent to anyone. ever. at all.

which led me - partly thanks to all you gentle readers who weighed in here - to realize that i need to honor this intensely real feeling and acknowledge that i don't want this person in the new writing circle. first impressions do matter.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

quandry and update on ick

okay, gentle readers... what would YOU do? the guy who sent me the icky email has apologized for it. he also wants in to the new writers' circle that's just getting started. he wants me to call him about it - the writers' circle, not the icky email.

apology aside, i still feel slimed, and my instincts are screaming no no a thousand times no. am i over-reacting? so, gentle readers, i need your help. pray tell, what would YOU do?

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


every once in a while the flotsam and jetsam in the Great Universal Sea heaves and swirls, and when the waters recede, you look down and see a turd or two floating at your feet. at least that's the way i feel... after the events of the last nearly 24 hours.

it began when i myself started to feel as if i were fighting a cold. no fun psychic circle for me last night, i decided... it's one thing to take one's mind off a migraine, but quite another to share cold germs. so i stayed home, and was thus around to witness one of libby's rare complete meltdowns caused by her heavy sinus cold and an assignment she just couldn't seem to do. she calmed down a little bit after i explained to her about brain fog, and how, when we are sick, we're not just not at 100% physical capability - it affects how we think, too. i told her she had two choices - to stay home and do the assignment when she was feeling better tomorrow, or do the best she could tonight and give herself a break. sometimes, libby, i said, even the best of us hand in C work.

it alarmed me how hard she is capable of being on herself.

the next thing that happened was the call about my friend's loss. i know how awful i felt in the days after lorraine died. i remember how empty the world seemed the first morning after her death. how can the sun still come up, i remember thinking. i realized back then that it helps and it doesn't to feel the presences of spirits on the other side. on the one hand, it calms, i think, the horrible anxiety some people feel. on the other, it doesn't in any way negate the loss or the grief.

but it was the third thing this morning that left me feeling absolutely slimed. i found this in my email, entitled "our troubles with our significant others." i print it here, in its entirety. my purpose is not to embarrass the person whose name is on the letter, but to give him an opportunity to either step forward and apologize, or to perhaps claim that his identity has been stolen by an internet hoaxter of questionable taste, therefore allowing him to set the record straight:

Hello Annie,

Alas, you probably won't remember the good looking older fellow who sat at the same table with you when you were a guest at CAPA author's meeting a couple of months ago, but I certainly remember you. I also remember you and Karen telling me about your special problems with your men, and I was very tempted to tell you about my own desperation of another sort.

Since then, I've become more and more convinced that we can be of service to each other and I would very much like to meet you for lunch or dinner at your convenience to tell you what I have in mind.

If you are up for a little exploratory pow-wow, I would dearly like to hear from you.

With best regards,

Howard Layton (Author of 'Love and Sand')

this person is quite real, apparently - i googled him. so what's the dealio, howie? did you forget your meds? get kidnapped by aliens? had your identity stolen?

cause, trust me, even if you just confused me with someone else... this is a slimey thing to do. no woman worth the carbon atoms in her body will respond to this approach favorably...or, at least, she shouldn't.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

good night, sweet prince

a dear friend of mine lost her husband today. a mutual friend of ours just called and gave me the news. i didn't know the man well but he made my friend mostly happy, except of course when he, like all husbands, sometimes made her crazy.

i looked at Beloved with renewed appreciation and burst into tears. i think i might just want to look at you awhile, i said. i'm so glad you're here.

i'm so glad i'm here, too, replied Beloved as he let me sob against his chest.

first star on the right, and straight on til morning, michael cheryl's-beloved, and may choirs of angels sing thee to a most well-deserved rest. you will be sorely missed.

a day spent mostly dusting

the dust from the construction clings to every nook and cranny, and seems to have settled in cracks in the ceiling. the more of it i wipe off, the more of it there seems to be.

it feels so good to clean the house, to sweep and wipe and sort. im still pondering... what i want my year to look like. i think i know one answer at least... clean. :)

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.

Monday, November 10, 2008

the haunting of molly whats-her-name

yesterday was one of those golden autumn days when for a few deceptive hours, the sun shines bright as may. the light moved like liquid through the nearly ordered rooms, waking rainbows of color - indigo and ruby, emerald and azure - from all the glass now displayed. the newly-potted plants preened and stretched, the floors grew warm.

yesterday was one of those sweetly satisfying days in which productivity is balanced by rest and reward, when time in service to others is perfectly aligned with time spent in service to self. it felt good to get things done. it felt good to do nothing.

one part of the nothing was going along with libby to see some kid in a movie about a girl whose soul is sold to the devil at birth. why, exactly, her parents did this is murky, and why, exactly, her mother and other parents so afflicted believe that to kill the child before their 18th birthday nullifies the contract, so to speak, is left completely unclear.

like all fantasy, the movie works on a mythic level - if you substitute personal names for archetypes like Child and Parent and Devil and Angel, you get some interesting juxtapositions of theme. when i tried to point this out to meg and libby they shushed me and told me i think too much, and maybe i do but it's interesting. it seemed to me that the real message of the movie was that rich people are evil and spiritual people are crazy (and suggests its better to be rich than crazy.) i don't recommend anyone actually see this movie unless you happen to be writing a paper about Feminine Images of Good and Evil in Popular Film or something like that. but it gave the little squirrels in my head something to chew on during the drive home.

today's a baby jake day - a day i expect to be short on productivity and long on cuddles.

and furthermore, the war must end. blessed be.