Thursday, March 27, 2014

It takes Two

Back in September I wrote a blog about a few pet peeves I have. I left one out, but today I shall rant on! Actually, not rant, just say out loud the thing that bothers me right now (and for the past few years) and what I have done and what I will do about it going forward. So, what has gotten me all worked up? *Deep inhale* Narrow parking spaces.

I realize that businesses, in an effort to get more people into their establishments, try to squeeze as many parking spaces as possible into their parking lots. Here's the thing: if people cannot open their car doors enough to get out of their cars, they cannot go into your business. Perhaps the smaller spaces are a subliminal way they (whoever they are) are trying to get people to buy smaller cars, be smaller people, or tote less stuff. I don't know.

No, I do not drive a Smart Car, or a Fiat, or a Mini Cooper. I drive a truck. A BIG truck. A W-I-D-E truck. The vehicle occupies the ENTIRE space with the doors closed. I like to exit the truck when I've arrived at my destination and that requires opening the door. Yes, I like to open the door all the way so I can get out in comfort. I do not like to shimmy and wiggle out of the vehicle afraid my door may tap the neighboring car. And when I have to remove Little Man from his seat, I need to open the door all the way. Even more so when I'm wrestling him into his seat.

I understand that the size of my vehicle and my comfort are not the concern of other people. In an effort to not make my issues the problem of others, I park waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in the very back of the parking lots. Rain and shine. Still, someone will eventually park next to me and I will not be able to put Little Man into the car or get myself in without tapping the neighbor. God forbid a wind come up and grab the carefully balanced door and slam it into the next car. Best laid plans....

So, what to do? Going forward I have vowed to be "that person." I will continue to park in the nether regions but from now on I will park directly over the dividing line thus occupying two spaces so I may fling open my doors wide with abandon! No worries, no neighbors. I suggest that others take this pledge to be two-spacers until they (whoever they are) make parking spaces wider and more accommodating to those of us with trucks, Suburbans, Escalades, Expeditions or other comfortable family car. Let's ALL be two-spacers!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Children's Movies?

So, my Little Man LOVES Disney movies. All of them. I know because I have seen all of them in the past year. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Name one and I've seen it, over and over and over again until he has memorized the storyline AND the songs. Then he will run through the house with his figurines and reenact the movie complete with soundtrack. Yes, it's adorable and annoying at the same time. And he will pick his favorite characters and name his figurines after them. His latest favorite is Frozen and we've seen it at least five times in the past two days.

Ask any of my former students and they will tell you that I am not a big fan of Disney's movies that are adaptations of classic tales. At least not as the only access to the tales. Why? Because they've been revised and I can't stand revisionists. They change the outcome and therefore the moral of the story. For example, in The Little Mermaid they do not live happily ever after like in the movie rather the little mermaid dies. Same thing in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. There's no singing and dancing and everyone dies. No, I don't think small children need to be exposed to death, I'm just saying that when they get older they should be introduced to the real story. However, I read The Little Mermaid when I was no more than four or five years old and I haven't suffered any ill effects.

Anyway, this movie is as far removed from Hans Christian Anderson's The Ice Queen as to be an original story so I don't have a problem with it. In fact, I like it a lot. I know there was some controversy about a Christian undertone or sub-theme and I don't know why. All fairy tales have a good vs. evil, do-the-right-thing, morale. So what if this one does too? And actually, the story is actually about love conquering fear.

I specifically like two things about it. First, there is a lot of humor in it. There is humor for the Little Man. He laughs at the reindeer, Sven, and the snowman, Olaf. I laugh at all the adult humor and subtleties. Actually, it is more humorous to adults I think. Second, is the music. Sure, every Disney movie is famous for its soundtrack and every movie as an Oscar nominated song as does this one, and this one won. But it is not that song, which is fabulous, that I like. What I like is that many of the songs are duets. That's wrong. Not duets. Opera. The music is VERY operatic. It is such a divergence from the typical twittery songs in children's movies. Not the scales or screeching of opera but powerful, harmonic, intertwining, lyrics and music.

If you get a chance to see the movie, do so. It's really good. And, like Little Man, you'll want to see it again. And again, and again, and again.....

Monday, March 17, 2014

Ha ha ha ha!

Image by Grant Cochrane
Laughter is the best medicine. It's an old adage, and a popular section in Reader's Digest, and so true. Ask any woman and she'll tell you that a man with a sense of humor is very attractive, no matter what he looks like. I mean really, Jerry Seinfeld isn't GQ but as soon as you laugh, he's handsome. The same could be said for the recently departed David Brenner, one of my favorites from childhood. I can't think of anyone who doesn't like a comedy club, regardless of the drink minimum and cover charge. Being around people who make us laugh is something we all like.

But what does it mean to be "funny?" Is it acting funny? People do laugh at the Keystone Cops and their slap-stick antics. Then there is the phenomenon of the The Three Stooges. I mean really? Three grown men slapping each other in the head is funny? There's a lot to be said for physical humor - Dick van Dyke, Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, Steve Martin, Tim Conway, Carol Burnett, Jim Carrey, Don Knotts - just to name a few physical comedians. They always succeed in making us laugh. And clowns have been around for  centuries and seem to bring joy to people. (Personally, I find clowns creepy.)

Observational comedians such as Bob Newhart, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, and Phyllis Diller are funny without the physical element. They bring to light the ridiculousness in our every day life by simply exaggerating our silly human actions and responses and most often there is more than just an element of truth to it. Although these comedians tend to be more cerebral than their physical counter-parts, they are just as funny.

Still, what does it mean to be funny? Is it life observations? Is it exaggeration? Is it timing? Who are these joke writers? How do you write funny? Is it merely a matter of writing real actions, real thoughts, real conversations and allowing the audience to find the humor on their own? Does it have to make me as a writer laugh when I write it?

I long to have funny sections in my novel. I want the funny, odd, weird, quirky side of my characters to come through. I want them to be just as funny as they are serious or pathetic or uplifting. Yet, it seems that funny is more difficult to write. Still working on it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Image courtesy of Kamnuan
So, my friend Allison and I were hanging out at my house with the kids and husbands and we, Allison and I, were bantering back and forth stories from the comical to the grotesque and comically grotesque. I was regaling her with a story about a cat I had and how this cat would present me a gift on my birthday - a rat with the head still attached. Other times, she would present the rat without the head but consistently on my birthday it would have the head. So, I laughed and said that I Prefer Flowers to Rat Heads would be a pretty good title for a short story. We laughed. Then we noticed our husbands looking at us funny. They told us that we were dark and twisted. That made us laugh more.

I don't think of myself as dark or twisted but I do have, perhaps, a sideways view of life with an appreciation of the ironic and a sarcastic and cynical sense of humor. But dark? I don't think so. Twisted? Not really. But perhaps a writer's outlook has to lean more toward the dark rather than rosy.

Think about the stories you like. Every one of them has some sort of trouble/conflict/suspense/drama. Even the humor stories have some element of dark in order to show the light. It is the dark side of the story that brings forth the humanity, humor, love, or whatever the theme is meant to be. It is the twist that gives the story interest - showing the paradox or irony or duality.

So, maybe it's okay to be dark and twisted. Maybe that's what it takes to craft a story. Maybe, that's what it means to really see and experience all the emotions of life. And I do prefer flowers to rat heads.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alone Time

Photo by LeeAnn Rhoden
The new project at our house is a tree house. My husband and Little Man have been working on it together. It is being built between two trees in the back yard. Right now it is just a deck roughly 5 feet off the ground. It will have a ladder, a slide, a railing, a house with windows. Husband and Little Man
spend long hours together outside working on it. Husband is teaching Little Man about flat-head screw drivers and Phillips screw drivers, drill bits, screws, hammers and all sorts of "man" things. He also taught Little Man how to climb up and down the ladder that leans up against the open deck.

Lately Little Man has been spending his evenings hanging out with Dada. He "helps" my husband build fires in the fireplace, "drive" cars in the family room, use the remote control on the TV, work on the computer, whatever. I love that they are spending time together. I love to watch them play or just sit next to each other. I love that Little Man will climb up next to my husband and give him a hug.

What it means for me is that I have more alone time. After years of nursing, feeding, changing, bathing, dressing, potty training, rocking, soothing, and teaching I am almost at a loss with how to spend my new found free time. I find myself waiting for the Little Man to need me or something but he is even going to his father to get him snacks and sippy cups. So I sit, and wait, and watch and waste the time I now have.

And while they are outside together I have quiet time. I used to have quiet time all the time before Little Man came into my life. I didn't think much about it or notice really that I was alone and the house was quiet. Now, after years of spinning in every direction and being at the beck-and-call of another tiny person the periods of solo quiet are almost disturbing.

I'm sure that I will fill my minutes with more productive activities like completing my novel's revisions, finish knitting that sweater, complete the needlepoint project, and start French cooking. I've already taken on a ghost writing project. My guess is that this first twinge of aloneness is a precursor to empty nest that will come all too soon. My mother warns that with every age there is a new expression of independence until one day my Little Man will forget to say bye-bye when he leaves the house. Something I'll just have to get used to.

In the meantime, it is day 2 of Lent and meatlessness. Last night we had vegetarian stuffed bell peppers. Tonight we had eggplant parmesan. I looked at Little Man's chicken nuggets with lust, but I managed not to eat any.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mardis Gras

Today is Mardis Gras which is French for Fat Tuesday. Fat because it is the last day of feasting, revelry, and bacchanalia before the Lenten season which is a time of sacrifice, meditation, and atonement. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove is a derivation of the word shrive which means "to confess." Some will spend today in confession with themselves or their clergyman confessing and contemplating their sins and short-comings and what they will do during Lent to amend their lives. Personally, I prefer revelry.

Whatever your denomination or lack thereof, everyone knows about the raucous celebration in New Orleans. Beads, cake, parades, public drunkenness, and outdoor urination. All of which, in my youth, seemed like a good time. (Except the outdoor urination. Eewww.) In Rio de Janiero and other Latin/Iberian countries it is called Carnival. It doesn't get anymore obvious than that.

The whole thing about today is to celebrate the last feasting and partying and good time for the six weeks leading up to Easter. It is to separate normal times from the next major important event. For Christians around the world, that event is the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. People of the Jewish persuasion celebrate Passover at roughly the same time. In Islam there is the celebration of Isra' and Mi'raj the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad being raised into heaven.

Although it is today, this feast day, this party time, that is recognized most newsworthy, to me it is the next six weeks that is most important. Lent is difficult. Lent is reflection. Lent is getting right with yourself and your mindset. Even if you don't adhere to a particular belief, this is still a good time to reassess where you are and what you want to accomplish.

For me, I sacrifice meat. I go vegetarian during Lent. It's hard. I don't like vegetables. But, it makes me recognize my fortune at living where I do and having the life I have and to be grateful for it. It makes me be thoughtful and creative about what to eat and when to eat. It makes me more adventurous in the kitchen with flavors and spices. The daily sacrifice makes me aware of the sacrifices others have made for me. I gain too. I gain in that I typically lose weight and begin to feel better, lighter, more energetic.

So, tomorrow, I begin six meatless weeks. But that's when the really meaty stuff begins.