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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Gnome Slayers Rock

I am a lucky girl. I have two of the most incredible, jaw-dropping writers that I get to call dear friends. This past month has been draining both physically and emotionally. I have had to deal with health issues and my personal life is like a pane of glass that has shattered. All the while, I am staring at the pieces of my life, wondering, "Is this worth putting back together again?"

My fellow gnome-slayers have been by my side completely.

I wonder, is there more people out there like me? Those that cannot handle vulnerability. If you are one of them, take a minute and listen. Do not put walls up around your heart because eventually, you, yourself, will have to tear them down.

Through the gnome slayers, I have learned to allow people into my life. Knowing my writer-friends has been the best blessing I could have ever been given.

Now, if they can help me with my cuss mouth I'd be peachy keen. I'll admit, I can make a sailor blush with my wicked vocabulary.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Gross Post

I was born with a unique hidden talent. But like all strange powers, it's more of a curse than a blessing. It is the power to clog and flood toilets. I think I showed a knack for this fairly early on. It was getting to be quite a problem, until my brilliant mother taught me the art of multiple and strategic flushing. Also, how to grab the float to stop the bowl from overflowing while you yell for help.

It's better now that I'm a grown-up and all. But not perfect. Every now and then I regress. Like the time, a couple of years ago, when I caused a deluge while cleaning out the cat litter box. Oh yeah, that was a great day. Even though I've got this Gnome mostly under control, I still suffer from the emotional effects. I avoid using other people's bathrooms because I'm terrified of clogging their toilet. Oh my gosh, how embarrassing would that be? Like the most humiliating thing ever. How could I look the person in the eye after that?

*Note: In fiction, we would call this foreshadowing.

In my non-writing life - or the real world, whichever you want to call it - I work for a small, independent business. My Boss's office is set up right in his house. I was in the command center the other day, answering phones and grappling with stomach issues, no doubt brought on by a strawberry binge the night before.

Oh no, Maegan, you say. Please tell us you didn't . . .

Oh YES. I totally did.

Cue mad search for the nearest plunger, which I finally found in a downstairs laundry room. I plunged and flushed. No luck. I tried again, and then a third time. Still, the water refused to flow. I removed the top of the toilet, poised to grab the float should the need arise. Aside from Pizookie and Mallory (a cat and a black lab, respectively), there was no one in the house I could call for help. I found myself at a crossroads. Either keep plunging and risk the Dreaded Flood in the Boss's newly-refurbished bathroom, or walk away and fess up.

I walked away. And it went like this:

Me: "So I think I may have clogged your toilet."
Boss: "Okay. Which one?"
Me: "The one upstairs. I tried to plunge it, but I was afraid it would flood, so I stopped. Sorry!"
Boss: "Okay."

And that was it. He didn't get mad. I didn't dissolve into a quivering puddle of shame. It was all very anti-climactic. Turns out that facing one of my biggest fears wasn't so bad after all.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Have You Hugged An Artist Today?

Have you ever stopped and noticed what a beautiful thing a highway overpass is? We've got a new one going in just west of town, and it is a thing of gorgeosity. Lovely broad lanes. Sweeping boulevards of grass, tiny river stones, and indigenous trees. Artistically turned metal railings. The name of the city and street stand in cemented-relief on the bridge's sides so passing drivers know what they just drove under. And it's all done in muted desert-tones. Truly, the new Main Street overpass is a work of art.

You know what else is a work of art? Everything. Seriously. My cousin is an artist and her husband a sculptor, and they are both brilliant and are living on beans because they work in the arts. And yet, literally everything that surrounds us on a daily basis has at some point involved artists and designers. All the things we take completely for granted have had blood, sweat, tears, and serious creative energy poured into them. Take, for instance, the car you are driving. It is designed with sleek lines, rich exterior color, clean and classic interior. Or cool and funky interior. Or even cheap Vegas-ian interior. Controls are designed to be functional and yet allow you to feel smooth, elegant, independent, testosterone-laden, or state-of-the-art. Hmm. There's that "A" word again.

And how about the stores you walk into? They are laid-out and designed with special lighting and evocative displays. There is landscaping out front. Street signs? They are made noticeable and pleasing to the eye. Parking lots are engineered. Pamphlets you pick up at the dermatologist's office, movie ticket-stubs, memos from the boss, bottles of bathroom cleaner, packs of gum, maps, websites, signs and logos, cars, trucks, construction equipment, surgical tools, cell phones, album covers, house numbers, bricks, music - ah music! From my living room to my car to my computer  to my iPod - combs, toothpicks, taxis -- everything we use on a daily basis, at some point along the way, has been sent through design teams, artists, composers, or editors, for the sole purpose of turning them into something that we, as consumers or customers or citizens, will find pleasing, want to use, and want to be part of.

Everything is Art.
Maybe it's time to thank the artists.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byErNvLCOAI&feature=related






Images courtesy of freepixels.com

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just Keep Making Stuff


This came from one of my dearest darlingest best friends and massively amazing creator-persons, Robin (a.k.a. Indiana Weaver), as a comment on one of my posts:

"This made me think of something Julia Cameron says in The Artist's Way. She points out that if you want to make something great, you have to give yourself permission to do a lot of not-so-great stuff. Then it's more likely that you have those fab moments when it all comes together. I love that. It takes the pressure off if all I have to do is just go make stuff. Just keep on making stuff."


Ahhhhh. And now we are set free. What a great way to think of life! Indeed, what an essential way to live. Stress is one of the best creativity-blockers I know. Give yourself permission to be a normal, non-perfect, non-better than anyone else, completely human, gloriously fumbling, endearingly dorky, wonderfully verklempt, fabulously free person. If Thomas Edison, inventor of the light bulb--and a host of other life altering things that we don't even notice we use on a daily basis--can look at his work like this: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work," and this: "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward," then so can we. We haven't failed. We've just found lots of ways we won't do things in the future.


Or maybe we will, for something else. Besides, its often the things we create that we haven't fallen in love with, or don't think very much about that resonates with others. And THAT is probably because we weren't angst-ridden in the making of it.


Thanks, Robin. You're the Bomb. And the Weaver. And the Soap-Mistress. And the Silk-dyer. And the Maple Syrup Maven. And the Outdoor Oven Builder. And the Home Schooler. And the Well Repairer. And the Animal Husbandress. And the all-around cool chick who has no idea how she inspires others just by keeping on making stuff.



Monday, September 20, 2010

I hanglide on a dorito.

*Alternate title: My Cup Runneth Empty

I'm learning that writing takes not only time, but also energy. I think my writing energy stores may get used up more quickly than some. That's a Gnome I'll have to work on. So, I guess I'm saying that I don't have an official Monday post this week because I've been busy working on my book for the first time in, um, awhile, and also contributing to an uber-awesome project we have going on over at Smashing Stories for October (more on that later).

But look, I have videos! The first has some handy advice from YA author Jackson Pearce.



I don't have any good reason for the second one, other than it makes me laugh. A lot. And we could all use that on a Monday, right?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Look At Your Blog. Now Back To Mine.

So, last night I was watching the fabulous "Old Spice" commercial, starring Isaiah Mustafa, followed by the equally fabulous knockoff from Brigham Young University, and I began to wonder: what forces come together when people utterly nail something? You know when those moments are, because when you witness them something settles over you like a bright little net of happiness. I've seen it at the Olympics, or listening to a perfect song, or a perfect story, a piece of theater, a speech. Or hey, a perfect commercial. It is not normal. It is a moment where all muses, inspiration, physical and mental skill, and circumstances come together, hold hands, and sing Kumbaya.

I want more of that in my life.

And the question is, can you make that happen, or is it just serendipity? What would it take to get into that creative groove? I think you have to feel what you are doing, tune-in to the spirit of it, and maybe just let yourself go. Give yourself to it. Letting ourselves go and giving ourselves to things are pretty hard nowadays. Life is often difficult and stressful. But imagine the excellence in this world if we all did it.

What do you think? Could we all become mini-Mustafas if we just chilled-out?

(Pardon me while I bow to the Internet-gods even though I don't know if it really applies here - but Old Spice did not give me manly-scented body-wash to say their commercial was great. Nor did BYU give me a scholarship. I got nothing. Just the happiness from saying it. The End.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rogue Roosters and Vagrant Vermin

So there was this cocky little rooster - you know the type: auburn feathers with a cape of metallic blue-green, resplendent tail, and a strut that said, "Chicks. The line forms here." He wouldn't have bothered me except that he took up residence in the middle of the street that leads to MY street. And it's a busy intersection. Dude was there every day, stopping traffic, impressing local birds, moseying around like he'd brought about world-peace.

I called the cops on him.

His standing there posing for a photo-op nearly made me rear-end the 4x4 in front of me. And honking did nothing. He glared balefully at us human-work-slaves and then slowly, sl-owww-ly, sauntered over to the side, acting like he just went there because he saw breakfast. He was a menace, and I turned him in. But by the time the police got there with their little rooster nets--He was gone.

I haven't seen him since.

I think he's probably hanging out with the mice I've been hearing under my cupboards lately. They keep eluding my peanut-butter traps. And the ultrasonic pest repellers don't do anything but give them a good beat to dance to.

Oh, the mice are taunting me. I killed ten of their kind a few months ago simply by putting traps under my sink. Took them all out in under an hour. Thought I'd won. But they've been biding their time. Mocking me. Scratching beneath the floors when I am in my office below, knowing that I know they aren't falling for the traps and I can't do anything about it.  I think it's the rooster's fault. He's in there with them. And he's getting back at me.

 I wouldn't mind so much,  except that I believe the mice and the rooster have been influencing my socks. Only half of them are coming out of the dryer each day. That's right: one from each pair. Just . . . gone.  Got a whole drawer full of useless half-pairs. I'm pretty sure they're hanging out under my cupboards. Having a party with the mice. Overseen by the rooster. Trying to slowly drive me crazy. But it won't work. I've got a rotisserie-pellet-gun-sock-stretcher, and I'm ripping up floor boards.

Those dirt-bags are going down.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mo, the Muse, and Me

Meet Mo. She has a lot to say, but only to make demands or express displeasure. She's graceful and delicate; a sly ghost. Master flirt. Everybody loves Mo. People gasp and aww when they see her, and that's just the way she likes it. She won't be coerced, reasoned, or bargained with. She comes when she decides to, never when I call her.

Hmm. Rather like the Muse, don't you think?

I imagine that, much like Mo, the Muse has personal space issues. Petting? Maybe. Praise? Certainly. But she doesn't cuddle. And good heavens, do not try to pick her up.

The Muse sure is moody. We often make plans to do lunch. I'll be there at the appointed time with my open laptop and mug of cocoa puffs. Sometimes the Muse shows up. Usually, she ditches me. She's aloof, but demanding too. She drops in when it's most inconvenient - like when I'm at work, or church, or asleep - announcing that I'd better produce something to write with (even if it's an old eyeliner) and something to write on (that Walgreen's receipt will do) because she's got new stuff for me and it is good and if I don't catch it now I'll be sorry because the Muse does not repeat herself.

Yeesh. I'd bet Mo and the Muse would get along really well.


Is that not a face that says, "I am aloof, yet demanding," and also, "I am so unimpressed with you right now"?

However, Mo has a weakness: sugar. The smell of sweetness renders her powerless. It started with my grandpa stealthily sharing Ensure with her. Now, this kitty will do just about anything for the tiniest nibble of cookie dough. One little taste of cool whip from your finger, and she's your friend forever.

I wonder, would that work on the Muse?

One of our friends over at Smashing Stories would say this question is irrelevant. Instead of relying on the ever-flighty Muse, we need to discover the sweet for ourselves. I could be down with that. Anything that encourages to seek out more sugar, writing or otherwise, must be a good thing, right? But I have to try the Muse one last time. Just to be absolutely sure.

Oh wise and gracious Muse, won't you please come down from your hallowed perch on high and inspire me?

Come on! Help a girl out. I have ice cream . . .


Oh, fine. Guess it's all up to me. I didn't really want to share my ice cream anyway.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Two Quotes To Not Die By. Plus One More.

"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure"
--Dan Quayle

Question: "If you could live forever, would you and why?"
Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever."
--Miss Alabama, 1994 Miss Universe Pageant

"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours."
--Yogi Berra

I could have said any of these things. Which is why I know I am supposed to write a book.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What We Can Learn From Derek Paravicini

Derek Paravicini is an Englishman in his late twenties. He suffers from autism, blindness, and is a savant. Derek can play on the piano any song he hears. Perfectly. And he can transpose, change styles, and imitate any composer or musician for all of them. It is estimated that Derek retains over 10,000 songs in his head.

Click Here To See" 60 Minutes" Excerpt on Derek Paravicini

Click Here To See Five Part Series on Derek Paravicini

No one can really explain why Derek is able to do this. Clearly his brain has compensated for the abilities he no longer has. What this shows me is that the human brain is remarkably untapped. Can you imagine what Derek would be like if he were suddenly given full human ability, on top of this remarkable talent?

Can you imagine what we could do if we did not fear, did not doubt, and leapt into everything the way Derek does music? Even if we are not all geniuses, there has to be more. And I'm convinced that if we can just get out of our own way, our amazing minds would let us run places we've never dared to imagine.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Physics vs The Mom


Excuse me, but where did summer go? Time is speeding up, I swear. I think it must be that the world is rotating faster. I do. (Which, by the way, is probably responsible for global warming. Friction, you know?) I mean, how else do you explain this phenomenon: "School?!  It can't be time to go back to school!" "We didn't do enough!" "I didn't get to play with all of my friends!" "I didn't get a job!" "We didn't go on enough vacations!" "Or any!" "No way! I am not going back to school."

My kids feel seriously ripped-off, so I would like to talk to whichever physicist is responsible for this Earth-rotation-acceleration-thing. You know it is the physicists. It's always the physicists. They're the ones who give all the dire news, and spout all the formulas, theorems, and postulates (not to be confused with postulants. Wouldn't that be interesting, though? A monastery for scientists? Can you imagine the Gregorian Chants coming out of that place: Scientus Nerdus Bigbangeeeummm. Multi Degree Superiummmm)

Anyway, it has to stop. I've got a kid already going to college, for Pete's sake, and she just finished Kindergarten. Not to mention I'm still pregnant with my last child, even though he's eight. And the two middle ones haven't even learned to ride bikes or do double-digit math. At least it seems that way. I am so not prepared for them to get this much older this fast. And so, to Mr. Stephen Hawking I'd just like to say:

Stop it.

Sincerely,

Janiel

(who, the way things are going, may be writing this from beyond the grave)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Something to help you on your journey

My weakness with my dream of writing is that I don't think I have the ability. Sure, my will is stronger than a bull but is that enough? I hear that I have a voice in my writing but I do not see what they see.

I have my dear friends who inspired me to take this leap of faith-you know who you are. Not to mention my fellow gnome slayers, a critique group, and a teacher/lifesaver who yanks me outta my comfort zone, thank heavens for that. I could not ask for anything better.

Whatever it is that you as a dreamer desire, look around your sphere of influence. You may have more at your fingertips than you realize.


*Thank you, Maegan for help with the grammar-I learned new things 'cuz of you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cell Phones: Not Just for Concerts


September Challenge: Worst. Trip. Ever.

"An adventure is a disaster survived," so my grandpa says. I wouldn't call this trip a disaster, but we certainly survived it. Hiking is kind of a thing in my family. I have people who've spent 10 days trekking through the Alps, scaled Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, and made it all the way to Mount Everest base camp. It could be some kind of genetic mutation.

So when an intrepid group of us decided to take on the Pfeifferhorn one day last summer, we figured it'd be no big deal. We met at the trailhead at 10 a.m. (a tad late in the day to be starting a 9-mile, 3700-foot hike) and set off. We reached Red Pine Lake in the early afternoon and spread out on top of a giant granite rock for lunch.

Then the real work began. Up to the lake, there's a decent trail to follow. Getting to the actual peak involves scrambling up loose rocks and shale like poor Frodo making that final push up Mount Doom, and climbing over granite boulders (where my young cousin scared the goat spoor out of us by swinging from one corner). At the top, we had a great, family-bonding, rah-rah moment with much taking of pictures and texting of our peeps down below with jubilant messages of conquering the peak.

That was around five o'clock.

Handy hiking tip: always, always carry a flashlight. But if you don't, cell phone lights work just as well. Sort of.

When you're climbing down a mountain in the dark.

It's also nice to have an uber-helpful 9-year-old narrating in detail every rock, dead branch, and crevice in the trail ahead when you can barely see it yourself. Five hours later, we limped out of the trees and across the parking lot to the cars. My right knee felt like it was held together by old jello. We had to use the cell phones once again to find the bathrooms. But we got a killer glimpse of the Salt Lake valley at night, sprawled out like a vast, glowing amoeba framed by the giant V of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

That was the best Wendy's frosty I've ever tasted on the way home.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Good Thing to Remember As You Forge Ahead.

"When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly."  Patrick Overton



Friday, September 3, 2010

Are We There Yet?

September Challenge: Worst. Trip. Ever.

Remember the old "What I Did For Summer Vacation" reports we all had to write at some point in elementary school? Wonder what those were all about. Did our teachers really want to read through 30 children's "I'm hungry!" "He's on my side of the seat!" "I have to go to the bathroom!"-filled treatises on parent-torture? Or those airless summer drives to see the Grand Canyon and every gas station along the Platte River? The dragging of unwilling offspring to view battlefields that the inside of the station wagon could rival? Maybe.

As far as traveling goes, I've got nothing to complain about. With a father in the Air Force and a mother in possession of extreme wanderlust, we racked up serious mileage on the trip-front. Add to that my later job as a marketing representative for a software firm, and I could have hosted a travel show. On the whole I have great memories from these outings. As well as some, ah, interesting ones.

There was the time when:
  1. Our family was camped on Rehoboth beach in Delaware and the edge of a hurricane blew through nearly blasting our little tent-trailor out to sea. On the up side, I got to drink my first pineapple milkshake at 1:00 a.m. in a little cafe as we waited out the storm.
  2. I was beach-slapped by an enormous sneaker-wave that I'd turned my eight year-old back on to holler to my family. After being tossed end-over-end I came up with a years-long fear of deep water and 70 pounds of sand in my swimming suit.
  3. I got the living tamales scared out of me by a witch doctor in Old Town New Mexico. He was a nice man and I think he felt really bad. I wasn't buying it though. You can't tell a five year-old that a dude with red and black war-paint all over his face is Mr. Rogers' best friend.
  4. We spent a year the summer of '72 driving from Maryland to Utah. Station wagon. 55 miles per hour. 5 kids. Enough said. 
  5. I flew from Salt Lake City to Illinois, via Atlanta, plus a two hour drive. With food Poisoning. More than enough said.
  6. We stopped to get directions when going to visit my brother in Vienna, Austria, and a disturbed hitchhiker who thought we were picking him up jumped into the car as we took off. He regaled us with tales of all of his friends who had committed suicide, and got us solidly lost before we dropped him off at the city asylum to visit his brother.
  7. Our intrepid pilot decided to dodge thunderheads above Indianapolis instead of flying over them, or keeping us safely land-locked on the ground. We banked on our wingtips and dropped 20 feet in a shot. Oddly, no one stood by the cabin door to wish us well as we picked our way through the wreckage and disembarked.
So, looks like I do have a few tales to tell. And maybe that's the point. I could use these in my writing. Or at least keep things interesting at a party. I guess an eight year-old's retelling of a family vacation might be good entertainment for a teacher after all. And perhaps for the world at large. Imagine how you could embellish it for a book!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The benefits of cinnamon gum

 I just learned this week that I chew 149 sticks of gum a week. That's about 21 a day. And that's also leaving out the 2 packs of Bubblicious . I'll admit, I have a gum addiction -what's your addiction?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Are We There Yet?

September Challenge: Worst. Trip. Ever.

My worst vacation experience would have to be Las Vegas. And don't get me wrong, I adore that city. Two years ago, I went with mom and two brothers. Because nothing says, "we're tight as a family" like standing under a poster of scantily clad dancer.

In the evening, on our way to Blue Man Group, my mom decided we should take the bus from the Luxor to the Venetian. The problem was we got on the wrong bus. The bright lights of the strip faded from view. We began to head southward, down past the freeway. My mom demanded that the driver stop the vehicle. And surprisingly, the bus driver listened. He dropped us off in the middle of the intersection on the freeway.

I immediately knew trouble lay ahead as adrenaline became my best friend. We hustled across the street and darted into an under pass. Which was the residence of a ton of homeless people. There were no streetlights, my mom and I were cloaked in darkness. Cars were screeching above us and used needles for substance abuse poked at our sneakers.

My mom's eyes widened as she saw the make-shift cardboard homes. She grabbed a rock and turned into this momma-bear 'cuz no ones gonna mess with her and the cub.

I, however, was more nervous for her than for me. I've spent a night on skid row, so a few freeway underpasses were a breeze. Skid Row-I'm not talking about the band.

Anyway, some man, offered my mom a 'cabbie' and she eagerly jumped at a cab ride. I grabbed her arm and said, "Cabbie's slang for something you don't want. Keep moving, don't look down. Just move."

We arrived at the Venetian safely. To this day, I know we both were lucky not to end up like the CSI victims.

P.S. Kudos to Janiel for figuring out the title of this month's challenge. And double kudos to both Maegan and Janiel for the help with my post.