Friday, December 31, 2010

Hitting 2011 Better

Goals? Like those things you shoot a football through? Or snag a soccer ball in? Yeah. I got goals. And they’re good ones too. PVC pipe with a bit of net strung from it. Thick net. With little circles cut in it as though some giant dude with an equally giant paper punch had at them.

I got goals. They’re even new, like the year—2011. And I got them at one of those used sports equipment places. Mostly because I set the same goals in my yard every year. They don’t change much and they last forever, goals. I spend all year shooting into them. Missing mostly. Although once in a while it seems like I’m getting better.

By the end of most years, though, I gotta be honest—I’m ready to scrap the things. Wad them into a ball and take them to an incinerator. I’d love to stand there and laugh maniacally as my goals for the year burn to ash. But I never do. Don’t want to add to pollution, you know?

So I just sigh, put them in the closet for a month or two so I can decide if I want to go out and get new ones. Then, after the memory of the blasted things has had a chance to fade a bit, I go dig them out again. I mean it’s cheaper, right? And one of these years I’m going to knock the tar out of those goals. You know, hit the ball dead center and never look back.

This year I’m doing something a little different. I got me a street soccer ball. More able to handle the scrappiness of my road. Probably be able to aim better with it too. The right equipment. That’s what I need.

This year . . . It’s gonna be different.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What happens when a computer breaks

Adios 2010

How crazy is it that in the last month of 2010, my trashy computer has painfully died. Check out the top screen that can flail back and forth. Oh, I am sad to see this sucker croak.

My computer has been crapped on by a cow and run over by my Niece's tri-cycle. We've been through the best and worst times. Farewell, my crap-tastic computer.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Canine Caper

Merry Second Day After Christmas, folks! Are you recovered yet? I know I'm not. And it's not just lack of sleep and a steady diet of sugar in all its forms. I've been wrapped up in the Great Christmas Canine Caper of 2010, and let me tell you, it was exhausting. Here's how it went down.

Wednesday night: My brother laments to me yet again how much he would like to have a dog of his very own, even though we already have three. Yes, three. But then again, it is Christmas. So I text my mom - Let's get Mike a puppy! - who readily agrees. Then I text Mike's friend, who recently got a dachshund puppy, for the name of the breeder.

(Soapbox moment: generally, I'm not a fan of breeders. I'm all for shelter adoptions and rescue organizations. However, since all of our other small animals, and a couple of our large ones, are rescues in some form or another, I figured we'd saved up enough good karma to go through a breeder just this once.)

Mike's friend answers that Mike is planning to go check out the litter that very night, but they'll tell him there are no puppies left so he won't go. Half an hour later, Mike comes up the stairs, stating dejectedly, "All the puppies are gone." We respond with fake expressions of sympathy.

Thursday morning: Operation Christmas Canine Caper is a go. My mom has an appointment to see the litter of dachshunds at one o'clock.

Thursday, 2 pm: I'm at work when I get a text from my mom: Two left. Got both. They can play with each other :) I call to remind her that we already have three - three - dogs. We don't need five. Really, we do not need five. Not to mention that we now have to keep not one, but two puppies a secret until Christmas morning.
Thursday, 5 pm: We meet at the vet's, where both puppies, hereafter dubbed Things 1 and 2, are pronounced healthy. We head to a friend's house, hereafter dubbed Thing 1 Tender, who has agreed to hide one of the puppies for us. Thing 2 Tender joins us with his own dachshund, and we proceed to have a weenie-fest playdate with all three puppies. Mom and I stop at Kneaders on the way home for Christmas Eve-Eve dinner, secure in the knowledge that Things 1 and 2 are safely hidden for the night.

Christmas Eve morning: Thing 2 Tender has to run errands, but Mike is at work, so Thing 2 comes to our house for awhile. Thing 2 Tender tells us that he took the puppy to a Christmas party last night, where one of the party-goers took quite a shine to him. In fact, Thing 2 spent a good chunk of the evening sitting in the lady's lap. This might be a good home for Thing 2. My blood pressure drops considerably.

Christmas Eve, 6:30 pm: Thing 1 has spent the day being cuddled to within an inch of his life by Thing 1 Tender, but now Thing 1 Tender has a Christmas party, so Thing 1 has to come to our house. By now, Mike is home from work. Mom meets Thing 1 Tender in the parking lot of a candy shop down the street, then smuggles Thing 1 into the house while Mike is downstairs. Meanwhile, Thing 2 Tender calls to say that the lady from the party definitely wants to adopt Thing 2. Things 1 and 2 are reunited for exactly three minutes before we whisk Thing 2 back out to Thing 2 Tender.

Christmas Eve, 9 pm: My mom is sequestered in her room with Thing 1. I try to convince my brother to come with me to our cousins' house. He assures me he'll come shortly.

Christmas Eve, 9:30 pm: I'm playing Shanghai with my cousins when my mom texts me, asking if Mike is there. He's not.

Christmas Eve, 10:40 pm: Mike still hasn't appeared. I get another text, asking me to come home and take the puppy so my mom can leave her room to eat something. We spend the rest of the evening taking turns with Thing 1, who whines if left alone. Every potty trip is a stealth mission requiring two people: one to watch Thing 1 and one to watch out for Mike. All is calm and all is bright and Mike still has no idea.

Christmas Morning, 7 am: We set Thing 1 in a box outside Mike's door and knock. Except Thing 1 doesn't want to stay in the box. Mom has to sit there and keep Thing 1 in the box while I take pictures until Mike opens his door. Having spent the last two days in the company of women, Thing 1 is suddenly overcome with shyness. Mike has to coax him out of the box. He names his new puppy Captain Kirk. And in case anyone's wondering, Thing 2 went home with none other than former Utah Governor Olene Walker. Operation Christmas Canine Caper is a success on all fronts.

Although the Divine Miss Q may still need some convincing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Grinch And The Christmas Tree

Once upon a time after my parents got divorced, and my brother and I were in college, and my mom was having a hard year, she cancelled Christmas. She didn't actually say the word "cancelled," but she did announce that she wasn't getting a tree. Or putting up lights. Or doing any other decorating. That sounded pretty cancelled to me and my little bro.

But we were college students. And we were anything but Christmas-spirit-deprived. In fact we were the opposite. We LOVED Christmas. We had spent four of them in Germany growing up, and Germany is the LAND of Christmas. How do you not adore a holiday in a place where candles are lit on trees, ginormous markets dedicated to Christmas dot the country (Kristkindlmarkt), advent calendars are filled with German chocolate, and St. Niklaus leaves presents in your shoes two weeks before the actual event? We'd been Christmassed from the tops of our heads to tips of our toes. No way in heck was it going to be cancelled that year.

The first thing we needed to do was procure a tree. So we pooled our meager funds, grabbed jackets, jumped into The Great Pumpkin (a horrifyingly fabulous little Plymouth Horizon that was, in fact, pumpkin orange. With brown and gold racing stripes. Awesome), and drove to the nearest tree-lot. Then we got out--which involved me slamming my shoulder against the passenger-side door to get it open, and my brother crawling across both seats because the driver's door always froze shut in winter. It only opened once the car warmed up, and since the heater was broken, this never happened. It was a precarious journey for Lynn as the knob was broken off of the gear-shift and he had to make sure he cleared it or, well, um, you know. Danger. To his person. But we made it out.

Then we wandered around the lot looking at gorgeous trees. Don't know where the tree-guy got his wares, but they were full and tall and green and fresh. Absolutely perfect Christmas tree specimens. I grabbed onto my brother's arm as we wandered around. Partly because we were great friends. Mostly because he was taller and walked faster and it was the only way I could keep up. Also because it was 18 degrees out and we had both grabbed pitiful little wind-breakers without thinking about it. And since neither of us had any body-fat at the time, we needed to stay close together to create a bit of warmth between us.

I remember talking and evaluating and analyzing each prospective tree under the lowered-brow stare of the tree-guy who seemed to think we were making too much noise and taking too much time. I smiled at him, but he just glared. So bro and I kept wandering.

Finally we found the perfect tree. I mean perfect. This baby was at least twelve feet tall. It's branches were sturdy; just right for our heavy European ornaments. It was full and even. And a sharp green pine scent wafted off of it in waves. This was "The One." *choirs of angels burst into song* Nothing else would do. 

I was thrilled. "This is it, Lynn! It's perfect!" We were pretty full of the Christmas spirit and I was practically gibbering with excitement. 

Lynn smiled. "Yeah, this looks good. Let's see if we have enough money."

Bro and I trotted over to the tree-keeper, arm-in-arm and bouncing on our toes. We were excited and frozen. I had even started to shiver. But who cared? We'd found "The One." *choirs of angels burst into song*

"Excuse me," I said to the tree-guy. He sort of scowled back. I don't think he loved his job. Either that or he needed a good stiff hot cocoa. "Could you tell me how much that tree is?"

"Which tree?" he growled.

"This one," my brother said, dragging me back over to it and gesturing. Tree-man jammed his hands into his pockets and walked over to where we were. He looked at the tree, sizing it up. Looked at us, shivering in our sad little jackets and clinging to each other for warmth.

"You got some way to get this home?"

We pointed to the Great Pumpkin, whose windows were still frosted over except for a square on the windshield which we had scraped off. The man grunted.  Then he looked down at my gloveless hand. The one upon which I wore my mom's old wedding band for sentimental reasons. The one I had stuck through my brother's arm. The one on my right, and his left. Tree-guy looked for a long time.  Then he said,

"That tree is ten dollars."

Wha? No! Way!  We HAD ten dollars!

We were so far beyond excited. We were going to have Christmas. And it was going to be dressed in the perfect tree. We gave the man our ten and he helped us drag the tree over and tie it to the car. It hung off both ends pretty far and we had to work to see through it, but it was fine. Very fine. 

We left, and as I turned to look back I could see tree-lot-guy watching us--hands still jammed into pockets. Thoughtful look on his craggy face.

It took me a few years to realize there was no way in the world that tree had been priced at only ten dollars. The man I had judged to be gruff and crabby had a heart of gold. My brother and I had been walking arm in arm. We were wearing insufficient jackets and driving an insufficient car. We had a couple bucks between us to buy a tree. And I had been wearing a wedding ring. He'd come to an obvious, if incorrect, conclusion, and done a lovely thing. And our Christmas was much lighter because of it. Our mom even smiled.

Tree man became an angel to me after that. I hope he had a wonderful Christmas that year. And every year that followed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to survive the holidays

-A pic of my 'rents dog, Beauty. How stinking cute is she? I love my little Hun-Bun.

Do you not love the psychedelic wall paper in the background? So, if you're like me, the Holidays can be beautiful and a tad stressful. I'm learning the trick is to push through the stress and enjoy the moment.

And if you have a crazy family, then, hey, at least you can enjoy the food.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dear Santa. Here's What We Have Earned This Year.

If you have been reading our blog--and we know you have been, Santa--you would know how good we've been this year. We have been conquering gnomes left and right. And encouraging others to do so as well. All in all, we think the world is a better place because of it. So ante up, dude. Here's what we want:

1. A Princess Unicorn doll from "The Office". One apiece. No sharesies.

2. Natalie Portman's entire wardrobe from the Star Wars prequels

3. That dude who plays the whatsisbucket. Him. I want him.

4. Hayden Christensen?

4.5 Yeah. Him. I want him.

5. Lifetime passes to Disneyland

6. Viggo, preferably scruffy, in his Aragorn costume

7. JK Rowling's brain

8. JK Rowling's agent

9. JK Rowling's bank account

10. Sara B. Larson's supply of Swedish chocolate

11. Robin Edmundson's ability to weave, dye, and tap 140 maple trees. All while making soap and bringing about world peace

12. James McAvoy, in case Viggo is busy

13. Rubber bands

14. Kate Middleton's engagement ring

15. On second thought, scratch that last one

16. Access to the crown jewels. To go with Russo's Ugg boots.

17. DVD set of every Lifetime Movie ever made. Plus a plot guide. Both pages.

18. The Reclusive Writer's Illustrated Guide To Stalking Viggo Mortensen.

19. A lawyer

20. Caleb Warnock in a bottle. With a little spray-nozzle.

Yours in all sincerity, and with lots of hugs and cookies,

The Gnomeslayers:
Jane Victor Austen Hugo Mary Aristotle Shelly (Janiel)
J. Stephanie K. Meyer Rowling Asimov (Russo)
The Great Maegini (Maegan)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Feets In The Shoes

See those feets? Those are the feets of a mom and a kid who can't imagine that they wear the same sized shoes. In fact, the kid wears slightly larger shoes than the mom. And the reason it is astonishing? Because a mere ten minutes ago those kid feet supported something more along the lines of this:

Well okay. Back then those feet weren't big enough support anything heavier than itty bitty baby tights. But you know what I mean. *Sigh* And now the mom can hardly wait to get the feet below (which are the same as the feet on the right, two pictures above) home for Christmas:

(I don't know who the icy guy is in my kid's arms, but he ain't coming home with her.)  This all happens awfully quickly. And Christmas takes on a whole new meaning when the college-kid comes back. Everyone thinks she's been gone for a year. Her littlest brother sleeps in her room occasionally so he won't miss her so much. They're all waiting to hug her like she's hugging Mr. Frosty there above.

Me? I can't wait for her to get back and borrow my clothes. Or stay up half the night talking and laughing with me. Or talk me into watching Persuasion one more time. Only after unwrapping every present, singing every carol, visiting every family member and friend, eating every bit of ham and turkey and fudge, playing the very last allowable game of "Apples to Apples," and participating in the traditional sibling-group-viewing-of-Hercules, plus some sledding, will she be allowed to leave again for another semester.

Maybe I can steal her contact lenses while she's here so I have to go back down to campus (yes, she's really not that far away, but she is away), pick her up, and take her to the eye doctor again. If nothing else it will give us a chance to take another picture of our feet together in his waiting room. That might last me another couple months.  In the meantime, we'll enjoy her feet (and her eyes) while we've got them. :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Um . . .

Brace yourselves for another "my cup runneth empty" posts. A weekend spent channeling Clark Griswold in the Christmas decorating department and (gasp!) actually getting a little bit of work done on my book has left me fresh out of glib juice. Instead, I shall leave you this:

And this:

Happy Holidays, my fellow intrepid Gnome Slayers :)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Guest Blogger Robin Edmundson - Affirmations

Robin Edmundson – About Me

I’m a dyer.   I put color on stuff.   Mostly this means yarn and fabric, but occasionally color gets on the floor, the stove, the walls, the table, me [a lot] and on one memorable occasion, the dog, but that was really his fault since I had no idea that he would want to roll all over the huge canvas backdrop drying out on the grass in the yard.   He was only green for a few days. 

Contact: robin@morenna.com

Creativity Exercise:  Affirmations

An unfortunate time honored tradition of artists is that mythical belief that in order to be a ‘real’ artist, you have to suffer.    ‘Real’ artists are tortured, miserable, addicted, sad, etc.  Somehow, they periodically emerge from their fog of dysfunctionality to create masterpieces, the genius of which the public attributes to the misery of the artist’s hard living.    This is nonsense. You are much more likely to be creative and inspired when you have a clear head and feel good. 

Affirmations are positive statements about yourself as a person and as an artist that make you feel good.   Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist’s Way, has a whole section on affirmations. [If you don’t already have the book, get it.   It will be one of the best investments in your art that you ever make.]   Most of what I’m saying here, she said first in that book.  Affirmations are the shield you use to protect yourself from others’ artistic or anti-artistic drama.   Affirmations are personalized to protect your specific vulnerabilities.

The first step to creating your affirmations is to identify your vulnerabilities.   Julia Cameron recommends that you have a little chat with your internal Censor by sitting down with paper and pen and writing down all of the awful things that are bouncing around in your head about you and your art.  This might be hard, but it’s worth the time.   Do it.  Right now.  Spend 10 minutes and begin with this:   I     your name here    am a brilliant, prolific artist.  Write that 10 times in a row, then let your Censor loose and see what it says.  Write down all of the nasty stuff that comes out.   All of it.  Do not stop before the 10 minutes is up.

Once you have your list of nasties [Julia calls them ‘blurts’], you know where your vulnerabilities are.   Now it’s time to build shields to protect these parts of you.    Take each nasty and turn it into a positive statement – an affirmation.   ‘You’re a terrible writer’ turns into ‘I’m a great writer’.   ‘You can’t do anything original’ turns into ‘My art is inspired and original’.   ‘You’ll never make any money doing this’ becomes ‘I support myself with my art’.    Do this for every single nasty.  Email me if you’re having trouble with one of these.  I’ll help you turn it into an affirmation. 

The next big objection that frequently comes up at this point is this:  Why should I do these affirmations, when they are clearly not true?  These affirmations are lies.  Every time I say this affirmation out loud, I feel like I’m lying.    

You have a good point; the affirmations aren’t true. Yet.  But remember this:  Your nasties aren’t true, either, and you were willing to believe them.  You have a choice.   You can choose to keep believing the nasties, which aren’t true, and which make you feel bad, thereby decreasing your creativity and productivity.  Or, you can start believing your affirmations, which aren’t true [yet] and which make you feel good, thereby increasing your creativity and productivity [and the likelihood that they will come true.]  Your choice.  You’ve been willing to feel bad before.  Are you willing to feel good now?


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Guest blogger announcment

I am so excited to tell you that we will be having our very first guest blogger. The extraordinary Robin Edmundson is an artisan weaver/dyer and has lived a life of creativity.

Tune in Friday to see what wisdom she has for us all-can't wait!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to sleep better

This weekend I had a sleepover at my niece's house. Truth to tell, I can conk out anywhere. Sleep is my superhero power. I have been known to snooze for seventeen hours at a time. No joke.

On, Friday at 2am, I found myself restless. My sister's house has large windows, so shadows spilled everywhere. And a large banging noise was keeping me up.

When I turned on the light, I saw a surprise. A pair of paws under the bathroom door.

How cute is that? The banging was my sister's kitty-cat named Fred. He had been trapped, by accident, in the bathroom. Poor lil guy. I'm sure he's now traumatized but he's safe.

This weekend, I made ginger bread houses with my niece. This is our finished product. And low and behold, lil Bebe, my cat has bitten off half of the icing on the roof and the icing door is now gone.

That dang sugar addicted feline.

Learn from my random weekend-Sleep is everything to a dream chaser. Cosmo magazine said, "The next time you feel stuck, go to bed. Sleep inspires creativity and helps your brain sort things out so you can make a decision."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonder-whaaaaaa?

December Challenge: Holiday Adventures

After college, I spent a year in Vermont working on a horse farm. I got to experience East Coast weather in all its many moods and colors. Having grown up in Utah, I thought myself well-versed in the realities of a harsh winter. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

Thanks goodness for snow tires . . .

Come February, I was halfway through my apprenticeship. Up to that point, we'd had about three months of breaking the ice in the stall buckets every morning, three months of doing nighttime barn checks where the air was so cold it literally stung the skin, three months of sleeping fully clothed under a pile of blankets. Little did we know: Vermont had yet to unleash the full wrath of its winter on this poor desert girl and her Floridian roommate.

The Great Valentine's Day Blizzard of '07 started early in the day. The storm was so relentless, we all soon dashed home to hunker until it let up. Except it didn't. We lived in an apartment attached to the main farmhouse. Through our windows, we could see the boss riding up and down the driveway on the farm's ancient tractor/snowplow all afternoon, doing his darndest to keep up with the piling snow. He finally drove the tractor home in the dark because his car was buried.

The main barn, morning after the Great Valentine's Day Blizzard of '07

We emerged the next morning to marvel at the wonderland the storm had left behind. The sky was completely clear and the snow sparkled. It was actually kind of amazing. "Do you have any survivors?" My roommate called in the general direction of the tiny cottage down the lane, where the other two apprentices lived. "Yeah, two," someone yelled back. We could only see the tip of the roof over all the snow.

The beauty of it all kind of wore off when I had to wade through drifts up to my thigh just to get to the barn to feed the young horses I was responsible for. After morning chores, the four apprentices and the assistant horse trainer burned quite a lot of calories (and a variety of colorful cuss words) digging the boss's car out of its snow tomb before driving it back to his house.

The broodmares were the toughest critters on the place.

Then we got to claw our way through the vast ocean of untouched, knee-deep snow that extended from the road to his front door. At the end of that short trek that was somehow so long, I flopped onto my back in the snow, wearing so many layers that I probably looked like that kid from "A Christmas Story," and panted helplessly up at the blue sky. We were all so exhausted, we camped out in the boss's living room and fell asleep to an episode of "The Gilmore Girls."

And that's why Vermont-in-winter will always be "Satan's Icebox" to me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Walking In A Winter Wonder-Whaaaaa?

December Challenge: Holiday Adventures

I learned to ski (read: fell down a lot) on a little hill in Indiana with one rope-tow and a snow machine at the bottom. The place was called "Ski World." Cute, but slightly delusional.

But that wasn't the first time I'd ever strapped on skis. Nope. I did that at the top of a crazy-pants-tall mountain in the Alps called the Zugspitze. Some time in the late 1970's, after our family moved to Germany, we went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen for some Christmas skiing. Garmisch hosted the 1936 winter olympics and was not only gorgeous, but totally geared for winter sports. We skated. We threw snowballs at passing Germans, and got a few lobbed back. We even swam in the indoor "wave" pool that acted like a beach every half hour.

It was great, until someone in my family got the idea that we should go skiing on the mountain whose top we hadn't seen the whole time because it was up in the clouds. Yeah. Don't know what they were thinking. I had one sister with some athletic ability. The rest of us were pretty much dorks: Thinkers. Singers. Brainiacs. Writers. And one spazz. (Not saying who.)

We should have been smart enough to back out when we found out that the only way to the resort was a gravity defying train-ride up the side of the Mountain.  Then we should have been smart enough to back out when we got out of the train and found ourselves INSIDE the top of the Alps waiting on a platform for a tram to take us down to the slopes. BECAUSE WE WERE SO HIGH UP THERE WAS NO OTHER WAY TO GET TO THEM.

Finally, you'd think we'd have worried when we got herded into little corrals while we waited for our rides and all of the Germans started mooing. Yeah. No one was taking this seriously. I mean, the wind was so strong that our tram did some wicked swinging on the way down. But no one seemed to notice. Maybe all the Lager everyone (except us) drank on the way up had certain mind-numbing properties. What did I know? I was only 13.

We got to the slopes and my parents left me with a family friend who was to teach me to ski. But he hadn't skied in ten years and had missed it, so all I got from him was a very distracted "Um  . . . put those on, point the skis downhill and go.  Bye." And he was gone.

Well. I found out it takes a bit more than that to not be an idiot on two sticks. I took one step off of the rope-tow that had dragged me up the hill and fell right over. Took me an hour to get back up again. Wind kept blowing me backwards. 

Once I succeeded and stood over my skis, I pointed down, pushed off . . . and fell over again. Did that several times over the course of the next half hour. It was getting to where I thought I might just stay down there and, you know, study snowflakes, when a German took pity on me and helped me up. It was so kind. I turned to thank him, but he shoved me down the slope. Turned out he was just trying to get me out of the way. 

AAAAAAAAAAahhhhhhhh! I shot straight down. No poles, no turns, no shusshing, no nothing. Just: GETOUTOFMYWAYGETOUTOFMYWAYSORRYSORRYSORRYBAM!!

Yeah. It awesome. And it hurt.  I remember laying in the snow looking up at the hill I'd just come down and thinking I'd rather die than try that again. Ironically I nearly got my wish. The wind had kicked up to like a hundred knots and visibility was going way down. I had no idea where my family was. All I knew was that as I stood up and looked around I was almost alone on the slopes. Some announcement had apparently been made that the resort was closing due to weather and the lower trams had taken their last riders back to the station. The rest of us would have to hike up to the upper trams. Carrying our skis. On our 13 year-old shoulders. In a million mile per hour wind gusts. I barely made it. The few German men around me looked like abominable snow-men as their faces accumulated snow and ice in the wicked wind-chill.

We got on the tram and the thing was swinging so hard in the wind that the sides were almost parallel to the ground. We were all plastered to our benches hanging on to the windows for dear life, with perma-grins on our faces. No one could move. I thought we might die, but at least I had skied, yeah?

We didn't die. Got to the corrals just fine. Found my family, and began mooing with the Germans again.  Then we trained to the bottom of the mountain, alighted in a perfectly calm and snow-sifted village, returned our skis, peeled off our snow-gear, and hit the waves in the pool.

Ahhhhhhyeah. That was the best. What great memories. I still don't know how to ski, though. Even Ski World twelve years later couldn't accomplish that.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonder Whaaa?

December Challenge: Holiday Adventures

I love the Holidays, enough to bake gingerbread houses and apple-N-sausage stuffing. I go housewife wild but then there's the edgy/spicy side of myself that I have to be careful about-
I get horribly impatient while shopping.

Two years ago on black Friday, I got into a nasty scuffle at Wal-Mart. Okay, here's the dirt, so I moved some ladies cart from the middle of the aisle. For some reason that warranted her to go all postal on me. No joke, she come storming up to me and yelled, "Who said you could move my cart? You could 've gone around."

I stared at the booger hanging out of her nose and said, "I'm sorry but there are screw's in my foot holding my bone together. There's no way I'm walking around your cart."

She then called me a string of nasty names. Hunky Handy man stared at me warily, waiting to see my short fuse erupt. And sure enough, I got in her face and said, "I'm gonna tear your throat out."

This year, I had a much better reaction during a tense situation. Today, I saw an old friend at Wal-Mart. She looked stunning, even in grubby clothes. We chit-chatted about random stuff.

Then the old friend said, "I heard you're still at the same job. Funny, I thought your book would've been made into a movie by now."

The old me would've said a witchy comment back but instead I politely responded, "Not everything works out in the time frame that you want."

Who would've thought that this Holiday season would show me that growth is possible, even with stubborn lil me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hunting the Mighty Chahooahooah

I yammered a bit about dreams last week. Do you ever notice the stuff that triggers your daydreams? Writers - all professional artists, really - are people who've figured out how to make a living from their dreams, which means they need a steady supply. Daydreaming can't be a passive process for them. When you're always looking for the next idea, you start to notice the world differently. Any odd, little thing could be the spark that sets your imagination abuzz: a TV show about graverobbers in 19th century Edinburgh, the way the tools are arranged on your grandpa's work bench, even a bizarre word you've never heard before. Fantasy author John D. Brown calls this zing.

I learned a new word this week: CHAHOOAHOOAH.

I know, right? Zing! Now that's a word. Say it out loud with me: cha-HOO-ah-HOO-ah. Imagine all the various possible meanings for such a word. Chahooahooah could be an undiscovered island, hidden off the coast of Hawaii by some vortex of time and space. Its inhabitants would be plane crash survivors who spend all their time writing the script for a TV show that no one understands. Or, chahooahooah could be the name of Taco Bell's newest dessert item. Or maybe Dwight Schrute's very own patented chicken breed. Then again, I like to think of the Mighty Chahooahooah as the chupacabra's kinder, fuzzier, black sheep cousin. Instead of sucking blood, it wanders the desert in search of its favorite food, the aloe vera plant. I could go on . . .

Now imagine my disappointment/profound embarrassment when I found out that chahooahooah is really just a super-groovy way to say chihuahua.

Ah, well. The point is that it got the creative gears turning. And now, I have a challenge for you: start noticing those things that inspire your dreams. Don't just notice, seek them out. Run and be free, my fellow Gnome Slayers. Go and hunt your own chahooahooahs. Zing happens. Follow your zing!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Digestion Day! a.k.a. The Day After Thanksgiving!

When I was a kid my mom had this tradition of killing us for Thanksgiving. With food, I mean. Tons of it. We always started the meal off with wicked-good clam chowder. And that usually filled me up good and tight. But then came the salads, which included cranberry jello and (brace yourself) avocado jello. I know. Seriously. But it was weirdly good, in a tasty green glop-ish kind of way.

Then you had your turkey, stuffing (with the chewy unrecognizable bits that I'm still sort of traumatized over to this day), mashed potatoes, gravy, and candied yams. All followed by pumpkin pie. I think. I can't remember pie, actually, but there probably was some.

Anyway, this one year in Maryland we were invited to some friends' house for Thanksgiving dinner. And I remember being SO excited. This had never happened before. And they weren't just inviting us; they were inviting lots of people, so there was bound to be a sugarboatload of food. New stuff. Things I'd never tried before. Things that weren't green and jiggly. Don't get me wrong, I did like my mom's T.G. Dinner. But New Stuff? How do you not get excited about that?

We went to the house and it was ca-rowded. I had to be pretty young because I just remember a lot of belt buckles and ladies 1970's-dress ties. I also remember barely being able to see over the top of all the food on the table. The place was elegant: dark colors on the walls and brocade table cloths fill my memory. I remember the adults milling around above, and me resting my chin on that sideboard of food passing out in anticipation of it.

Then it was time to eat. I slipped in and out of the adults like an Indy-500 qualifier PILING it on my plate; turkey, potatoes and gravy, about nineteen-hundred black olives, mustard pickles, carrots (I avoided yams which, at the time, I was sure had been invented by really old people with no teeth or taste buds), jello with sour cream on top, and rolls. Rolls and rolls and rolls. Then I found a chair and inhaled the whole lot. Heaven!

I lay there moaning for a bit, then started in again. And after all that, the desserts came out. Whoa! Every pie under the sun, including this really funky one that was sort of brown and had tons of little bits of things in it. Never seen that before. So I ate my fill of pumpkin and apple and something else that I can't remember. And I was pretty sure I was going to burst and it was almost time to go home, but I had to try the brown pie with lots of little bits in it. So I did.

And that, boys and girls, was my first ever taste of mincemeat.

Hmmm. Not sure about that one. It was good. Kind of. Maybe. Needed to take another bite to be sure. Mmm, I thought it was good. It was supposed to be. This was Thanksgiving At A Friend's House. Everything was good. So I kept eating. Eventually it would get good, right? Eventually. At the last crumb I still wasn't sure. But later on, my body made the decision for me.

We drove home and I was curled up in a ball in the back seat praying to die. I had been thoroughly turkeystuffinggravypie-ified, and was heading down the path of full-on bodily dysfunction. Really. Was. Going. To. Die.

Need I tell you that my Thanksgiving Dinner of Fabulousness returned on me that evening? Probably not. But it did. Very soon I was relieved of my incredibly rich and bountiful epicurean experience, in a way that I'm sure my pilgrim-forebears had not been.

Bleah. It was terrible. But *sigh*, what a relief.

So, my Thanksgiving message to you this year is this: Go gather with friends and family. Help cook. Sup on a bounteous offering of every good thing this earth has to offer--including today's leftovers. Enjoy the wonderful camaraderie and cheer of your blessings and of the season.

And this, above all:  Partake Not of the Mincemeat.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Turkey Day

The gnome slayers would like to take the time to thank every single person who has embraced this blog.

Your witty comments and support has meant the world while we took this scary leap of faith into the blogging world.

We are indeed touched and hope that you have a Happy and joyful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to rescue a stray cat

What an eventful pre-Thanksgiving weekend. I adore the snow but my body loathes it. I mean, seriously, how many times must I slip on ice?

The following pic is proof of a stupid weekend. Okay, so, ignore the paper pumpkin because its darling. My sister made it for lil ol' moi. The real culprit is the Fruit Loop necklace that I made with niece.

No joke, I left the sucker on the table and conked out for the night. Woke up from my menthol induced sleep and what do I see? My super-duper sized cat, BeBe munching on the Fruit Loops. And cats and Fruit Loops don't mix, if you catch my drift. Yuck.

Fast forward 12 hours and me and hunky handyman are in a dumpster of trash. All to save this lil Kittie who was meowing loudly. The poor lil stray had broken her leg.

I'm happy to report the stray cat is healing nicely. Me, well, I stink like garbage.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Sara B. Larson got me thinking about dreams this week. Since I was little, I've lived very much inside my own head. A lot of my friends were visible only to me. I could list some of them, but that would just be embarrassing.

Now that I'm older, I'm still a shameless daydreamer. I think my mind is in the same place as the rest of me only about fifty percent of the time. All of my old imaginary friends have morphed into story characters. You may wonder, as my grandma did in all seriousness when I was telling her about the blog recently, if my two blog partners are imaginary as well. Not to worry. I have plenty of people living inside my head, but Janiel and Russo aren't among them.

Why do we spend so much time daydreaming? What makes it so important? The answer, I think, is in the most awesome opening line for a novel EVER:

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality. Even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.*

How great is that? We need to dream. Dreaming is so essential to well-being that even birds and clicking, leaf-impersonating bugs do it. I mean, reality can be boring. And stressful. Overwhelming. Discouraging. Dangerous, even. But it's all good, because we can create our own reality. We are safe in our power to dream.

I'd like to know: what do y'all dream about, awake or otherwise?

*The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Friday, November 19, 2010

I'm Not The Boss Of You - Critical Reading/Critical Living

This past few months has been a season of enormously uncomfortable learning for me. Don't you love that? When you're such an obtuse person that you have to get bludgeoned with the Humility Stick over and over again before you get the point? 

Not to make this blog a confessional, but I learned something significant today from the venerable Shannon Hale (author of "The Princess Academy" and one who has enough apparent humility that she'd probably not want to be called "venerable." But her insight today qualifies her as "venerable" in my book.) It is something that applies to everyday life--and the things I am painstakingly learning--just as well as it applies to writing and reading.  Ms. Hale said the following on her blog:

"It's been interesting to hear over and over again what readers imagined the author failed to do. And I keep thinking, that's such a useless response. Unless you're getting a phd in literacy criticism and doing your thesis on that author, that's not helpful to you. Speculation about what the author was trying to do, or whether or not she was "tired" of writing, etc., is pointless. We don't know. Instead, it's so much more beneficial to focus on understanding our own internal reader, and therefore ourselves. Where did the story fail you? Where did it work for you? So, what does that say about you? What were you hoping for? What did you need from the story? If you're a writer, what does that tell you about what kind of a story you want to write? For me, this kind of responding is just about how I think about the book. Instead of thinking, "The author really dropped the ball on the ending," I try thinking, "What did I want out of the ending instead of what I got? Why did I want that?"

In other words, instead of looking with a critical eye at what another person has done, we can look with a learning eye at what we are feeling, why, and what that means about how we think and operate. What we hope for and desire. And this in turn can help us deal more peaceably with others, with our creations, and with our lives.

In the end, we can't change anyone but ourselves anyway. And what a wonderful way to learn how we operate and how to do things better, more kindly, more effectively, and in a way that is most true to ourselves and how we want to be.  

In Shakespeare's Hamelet, Polonius tells his son Laertes the following before the young man leaves for France:

"This above all, to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

Scholars may debate, and Ms. Hale may or may not feel this quote relates to her statement, but to me, if we are true to ourselves by learning about ourselves, and have the integrity to act in accordance with that--making adjustments where needed instead of focusing a critical eye on others--then we, at least, will always be fair; in writing, in reading, in creating, and most important, in how we treat and regard others.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Of Dogs and Men

I have a weird relationship with Veteran's Day. It's not that I'm not appreciative. Believe me, I am. Say what you want about our current situation in the Middle East, we all need to tip our hats to the men and women who choose to walk into the thick of it every day. Both of my grandfathers served in WWII. I have a cousin serving in the Army right now (hoo-ah Austin! Or um, whatever you guys say to each other). But both of those are somewhat removed from me: WWII was over sixty years ago and Austin is off doing his own thing in another state.

My Veteran's Day weirdness comes from my dad, Leonard (Lon) Langer. He was a Green Beret in Vietnam. He came home with a Purple Heart, partial blindness and a limp due to exploding shrapnel. I don't know much beyond that because he never talked about it. Although I'm finally at an age where I'd like to ask, I can't, because he died of Lou Gehrig's Disease - an evil, vicious illness - in 2001. We weren't close. It's not that he was a bad person, but when you put two solitary, stubborn people in a room together, there's not a whole lot of communication going on.

So there is a bit of a disconnect in my brain when it comes to Veteran's Day. Sure, I'm proud. But it's not the kind of deep, heartfelt pride and gratitude I feel like I should have as the daughter of a veteran. I could never really relate to Lon, and so I can't relate to Veteran's Day on a personal level, either.

Then I found this:

Whoa. If I remember right, it was literally the week after my dad's funeral that the Divine Miss Q made her first appearance. And boy, was I ever in need of something to love right then. I would never equate what I went through with the suffering of those young vets. There's no comparison. But the healing power of animals is something I get. Listening to their stories, I could empathize a little. And in empathizing with them, I understood Lon Langer a little better today: a guy who must have dealt with the same crippling side effects as those young vets. A guy who wasn't perfect, but tried hard to do right by his kids. A guy who passed the writing gene (or mutation) on to me.

So here's to all our military people on this Veteran's Day: active and retired, serving abroad or at home. But most of all, here's to you, Dad.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Destructive Business Plan of Destruction. Compiled by Angus Darkspume, Fangxiety, and BadKarma, Esq. - Gnomes of Despair

Minutes from General Board Meeting of the Gnomes of Despair
Recorder: Willy Wussybottom, Gnomlet of General Uneasiness

  1. It has come to the attention of the Gnomes of Despair (hereinafter referred to as the Gns. of D.) that writers Maegan, Janiel, and Russo have slipped under the radar of said Gns. of D. and have managed to gather 52 followers to their "blog" of "writing". (Let it be noted that Gnome Darkspume disparaged any notion that what goes on on said "blog" could actually be confused with "writing.")
  2. The Gns. of D. suggest that the only reason the "Gnomeslayers," as they like to call themselves (let it be noted that Gnome BadKarma guffawed into his gnome-tea at this absurd self-stylization, spraying Gnome Fangxiety with the slimy stuff, necessitating Gnome Fangxiety's departure to shower and prevent any contamination to his person) . . where was I? Oh yes, the Gns. of D. suggest that the only reason the "Gnomeslayers" have managed to garner 52 followers is because they are cute, and not because of any actual talent.
  3. Gnome Darkspume protests the use of the word "cute." "Special Spirits" (hereinafter referred to as Spec. Spits.) is suggested as a replacement reference. Is voted on and accepted.
  4. Suggestions are accepted on how to stop the Spec. Spits. from garnering a larger fan base. The following Destructive Business Plan of Destruction is voted upon, a referendum passed, and the meeting adjourned in time for the Gnomes of Despair to conduct their weekly "Glee" viewing party:
  • Sabotage Gnomes blog with flashing clipart images of glittering paranormal creatures.
  • Hack into the URL and redirect visitors of the Gnomes blog to Parishilton.com.
  • Hack into Gnomes blog and delete all references to Viggo Mortenson.
  • Place subliminal messages of despair on blog in the form of sound files recorded at canine frequencies with messages such as: "Oh yeah? Well you STINK!" and "You're NOT CUTE!"
  • So let it be written, so let it be done.
Minutes brought to you by the Coalition of Despair Against Successful Writers And Purveyors of Creativity. Scribed by Willy Wussybottom. Copies available upon request.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dinner with Russo

A little known fact about moi- I can never resist a dare. So when Hunky Handyman triple-dog- dared-me to eat a mini octopus you better believe I tried. I used my fork to paw at the tentacles. I even cut the brain of the octopus in half to see the insides. (My grandfather was a Doctor so you better believe I have a dash of a scientist in me.)

Did I succeed? That would be a definite no. I bit off one chuck of the brains and nearly vomited.

So, instead, I gave the slimy wonder to my two cats, BeBe and Lux.

I loved this pic of the two-I dropped the camera mid-shot, so, they look like little ghosts.

Monday, November 8, 2010

If you like dead Scottish dudes . . .

And really, who doesn't? The only strike against them is that they are, in fact, dead, and therefore unable to regale us with their rugged brogues . . . I'm sorry, I get distracted whenever I think about rugged Scottish brogues. Anyway, there are three particular dead Scottish dudes I have in mind today.

I don't claim to be an expert on these guys. I've never read Robert Burns (although I know the tune, if not the words, to Auld Lang Syne), Sir Walter Scott (I own a nifty antique copy of Ivanhoe that I have yet to open), or Robert Louis Stevenson (does Muppet Treasure Island count?). But the city of Edinburgh has dedicated a whole museum to them. It's near Edinburgh Castle, just off the Royal Mile at the end of Lady Stair's Close. ("Close" is a fancy British-y word for "narrow passage that's ridiculously difficult to spot unless someone points it out." But trust me, it's there.)

I enjoyed wandering around the Writers' Museum because:
A) the warped windows produce eerie effects on the buildings outside
B) it's full of cool quotes and artifacts, like Sir Walter's childhood rocking horse
C) it features life-size mannequins of the authors and their friends
D) actually, the mannequins were a little creepy

So if you like dead Scottish dudes and you find yourself on the other side of the pond, drop in on the Writers' Museum. Now, what did I do with Ivanhoe . . .

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Gratitude

Photo by Raja Ramchandra

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say "thank you?"  ~William A. Ward

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.  ~H.U. Westermayer

Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone.  ~G.B. Stern

There is no such thing as gratitude unexpressed.  If it is unexpressed, it is plain, old-fashioned ingratitude.  ~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

Gratitude is the memory of the heart.  ~Jean Baptiste Massieu, translated from French