Saturday, December 29, 2012

Or, Do You Say It Like This?

Res-o-lu-tion n. 1.The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination. 2. The act of resolving to do something.*

*The American Heritage Dictionary 1980

Or is it Re-so-lu-tion n. 1. The act of responding to a deficiency, again.**

**LeeAnn Rhoden 2013

The year is ending and a new one is about to begin. And with each turn of the annual calendar, many of us make New Year’s Resolutions. You know, “This year I’m going to work out four times a week,” or “I’m going to home cook all my meals and eat healthier,” or “I’m going to watch less TV and read more.” Uh huh, right. We may start out with good intentions and go like gang-busters throughout the months of January and February and possibly into March but then…
Then comes the warm weather and the kids are out of school, you go on vacation, it’s time to do yard work again, house guests come, you still have to get to your job, bills need to be paid, vet appointments, doctors’ appointments, that surprise maintenance item hits on the house or car or both, football season, autumn and outside winterizing, and with each thing that comes up it becomes easier to put off that trip to the gym, order that pizza, and flop on the couch with the remote control at the end of a busy day. Suddenly it is Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and we arrive right back where we started and what do we do? We make resolutions! Yes! “This year I’m going to work out four times a week, I’m going to home cook all my meals and eat healthier, and I’m going to watch less TV and read more.”

I don’t make resolutions. Why on earth would I tell myself how inadequate I am and that I need to change, sorry, improve? I have enough outside people telling me that. Doctor: “You should lose weight and eat better. It will be good for your blood pressure and cholesterol.” Mother: “You should get your hair done and get some new clothes.” Husband: “Honey, did you have a chance to do the laundry?” Little Man: “Mommy, poop.” Dogs: “Kibble again?” And really, aren’t the resolutions we make for ourselves the very things that fulfill the way others want to change us? I mean sure I’d like to lose weight but I don’t see how going to a gym is going to help me do this anymore aerobic housekeeping is. And I already cook pretty healthily. I guess I could go vegan or eat raw but, yuck. As far as reading more and watching less TV, perhaps. Will any of these things make me happier?

The last resolution I made was some fifteen years ago. I resolved to get organized. It worked! I had a place for everything and everything was in its place. I lived out of a day planner (still do not that it means anything). I would not go to bed until everything on my list was done. I had a laundry day, a shopping day, an errand day, a cleaning day. It was great! I love structure! And while I was single I could keep my life organized and scheduled down to the minute. I’m married now to a spontaneous type of guy. “Hey, let’s run over to the big-box hardware store,” he casually says. Inside I turn to ice and go immediately to my day book. Is it errand day? Did I forget to put something on my list? Can I squeeze in an impromptu trip? What will have to get bumped? How long will we be gone? What if this leads to another trip? And let’s not forget the Little Man who has his own schedule and agenda. And everything has a place but nothing is ever in it. Chaos! Am I happier? Absolutely.

For me, resolutions rarely work. A leopard cannot change its spots any more than I’m going to eat raw food. Personally, I think the best resolution you can make is to know yourself and to accept yourself for who you are.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? When writing our characters, we should take the time to get to know them. What is their backstory? Who are they? What do they believe? What do they think about themselves? Politics? Favorite flavor of ice cream? How do others view your character? Does your character accept himself/herself or does he want to change? And is it merely a want to change or an actual resolution to change. How does that work out for him? Interview your character. Write his biography. The more you, as an author, know about your character the better your writing will be. Remember, they are real people too with all the same quirks, idiosyncrasies, insecurities, and desires to be happy as we have.

 So, Happy New Year and happy writing!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friend Me

Technology and social media has made it possible for people from all over the world to connect with one another. It’s an amazing thing to be able to email, text, tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, instant message and let people know what you are doing and what you are interested in at the very moment you type it into your tech device. But the question that has been haunting me for several days is: are we really connected?

Initially, I was going to make a comment about Christmas cards in contrast to mass tweets/texts/emails. After all, it is that time of year. I was going to be a little snarky (love the word Allison!) and voice my opinion on how these methods of communication has made us lazy. After all, why put in the effort to individually let people know you care when you can just send a mass email? And by sending mass communications we have lost our individuality and become a collective and anonymous thus less important to one another. Really, when was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter to someone? And then I was going to bring it all back to the characters in my novel and their relationships to one another because I am writing a novel and I want people to read it when I’m done.

But in light of the horrible tragedy that took place on Friday the question of connectivity is even more important. Are we really connected? What we do with all our postings is outreach which is nothing more than marketing really. We are offering ourselves, our interests, our thoughts, our goings-on to the public at large. “Look at me! Look at me!” But do we ever really reach out? When was the last time you had a real conversation with a friend over coffee or lunch or sitting on a park bench? Or offered to help someone on a personal level?

We will eventually have the conversations about mental illness, gun control, community values, computer games and security procedures. That’s just great. But ask yourself why these things didn’t happen thirty years ago with the frequency they do now? What was different? What did we have then that we don’t have now? I suggest we had real connections with each other.

So this holiday season, while you are tweeting where you are eating your holiday feast and pinning the sweater your Great-aunt Fanny knitted for you, try to take some time to have a real conversation with an old friend or a new one.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sooooo...This is Christmas?

We are into December. Still, only single digits, but it is Christmas time and the BIG day is approaching faster than eight reindeer can fly! This year is the first year that Little Man is aware of Santa Claus and understands that there will be presents.

His first Christmas was special to my husband and me, the Little Man was only five months old and had just mastered sitting up so he didn't really care. Last year he was seventeen months old and it was FUN to shred the wrapping paper and run, but other than that not a big deal. The tree was a big attraction and something that made mommy yell "Don't touch!" to him all day.

This year it is different. We have told him about Santa Claus, watched the Christmas shows, talk about getting and giving presents. Told him the meaning of Christmas. He lights up at the lights in the neighborhood. We talk about the family members that will travel to visit through out the next few weeks and he is excited.

Do we have a tree yet? No. Do we have the house decorated yet? No. Have I baked ginger bread cookies or started Christmas cooking yet? No. We still have the autumn wreath on our front door. We'd still have a pumpkin too if it weren't for the fact it started to decompose. I can barely keep up with the groceries and cooking needed to feed the Little Man on a daily basis let alone start cooking for a future meal. And the cookies wouldn't make it to Christmas anyway. Sadly, I suffer from procrasti-Christmas.

I start each season with excellent intentions to be perfect. I DO have the wreath ordered. I DO have all the gifts purchased. I DO have the Christmas letter written. I DO have some Christmas cards. But for all that, I can't finish. I don't have enough wrapping paper or tape. I don't have enough printer ink. I don't have holiday printer paper. I don't have enough Christmas cards. I don't have stamps. I don't have packaging tape.

My goal is to have all of these obstacles addressed and overcome by the middle of next week. I have to because that's when the travelling relatives start coming and the cut-off date for shipping hits. I'm beginning to feel holiday stress. And is this what Christmas should be about? Should I feel inadequate because I'm not quite done? And just who are these super people who already have their Christmas cards mailed and their houses decorated?

I have to remember that Christmas is for the Little Man and to show family members and friends our love. That message doesn't change whether there are lights on the house or not or if the cards go out in time to arrive before Christmas. I must embrace my procrastination and not let my wannabe inner perfectionist start making me feel bad. After all, 'tis the season to be jolly!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

There's nothing ice cream can't fix. With sprinkles.

This evening my Little Man learned the meaning of the word "hot." He's two and he's babbling up a storm and has a huge vocabulary already. He knows words that he can put his finger on like puppy dog, socks, shoes, lunch box, etc. He knows how to say "hot" and that Mommy and Daddy caution him against things that are hot, he didn't understand the concept of "hot." Until 6:00 this evening.

While I'm chopping green peppers and onions I have the pan with olive oil heating on the stove. He starts talking to me and I turn around just in time to see him put his little precious finger on the side of the pan. He pulled it away quickly but there was a delayed reaction of about 5 seconds before the pain set in. Then the tears. I was amazed at his stoicism. There were tears, BIG tears and crying but not the screaming I expected. I picked him up and took him to the sink and put his finger under the running cold water. I cried with him. I told him it was hot and "no touch hot." He was saying "hot, hot, hot" over and over again.

Then he pushed away from me. His crying stopped.  He looked at his finger and pointed it up to me and said "hot boo boo." My God he's smart. Then he went to the refrigerator, pointed his finger up to the freezer and said "boo boo ice cream." Then, pointing to the sprinkles container he says "that." Genius! Already at the age of two he knows that ice cream with sprinkles cures all ailments! Is it cultural? Genetic? It doesn't matter, he's right.

I've reached the 43,000 word mark in my novel and the story line is closing in on completion. I look forward to writing every second I get to do it and I'm thinking already about revisions and editing and cover art and formatting. I know I'll be sad to see my characters go and this vignette into their lives be completed. I also know that once I say my book is done and I must put it aside, there will be ice cream with sprinkles.