Wednesday, April 23, 2014

There's more to come

     I am taking the glass half-full or half-empty theory and offering you another way to pour through its transparency: It's goodbye. Or, there is more to come.
     It is simply a fact of life that occurs over and over like the ticking of the old mantle clock. There is no way to avoid goodbyes. Well, actually, you can duck from the goodbye routine if you prefer to leave things open-ended. It works for folks who don't like to draw things to a logical conclusion with friends and acquaintances.
     Taking a few moments to thank those along your path who have influenced your quality of life, is appreciated by the recipient, too, making the relationship a two-way street. It is fine to look ahead. Take the last moments to appreciate the past, too. Then say goodbye firmly and with conviction.
     Someone will say that they are not good at going to funerals claiming that the necessary condolences and honoring of the deceased isn't important to them. It could be said that the family is depending on the kind thoughts from others to get them through the dark days, and you could be part of their healing. People don't want to face their own mortality either, and here lies the remains of another departed soul to cross off the list of earthy colleagues.
     A neighbor or a friend moves to another state. You say that you will come to visit, but you know that will never happen. The other person will get involved in a new life and probably won't come back making time to visit with you. Besides, if you do see each other again, it will never be exactly the same, and it shouldn't be. New interests, new careers and experiences have unfolded. Phone and email connections are great, but they will fade somewhat as time goes by.
     That might be a pessimistic outlook. Perhaps, you are one that works hard at maintaining friendships and it doesn't make a hill of beans where your friends are located. I would dare say that you are more the exception, though. The rest of us are a little lazy and time marches on.
     Sure, there is a void where there once was sharing. Things change and you can remain sad all you want. It's not going to do your mental health any favors. Better still, think of it as there is more to come out of life, and one door must close before another may open. That's the tricky part--the wait and trust that there positively is something different and great on the horizon for you.
     Don't live one more minute without anticipating the surprises that are waiting for you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

$.99 sale Kindle version of A Smidgen of Irish Luck

A Smidgen of Irish Luck ( click the link) is ON SALE today. 
Kindle version for $.99. You can't beat that deal. 



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sleepless at four, five and six a.m.

     My father always said, "Put yourself to good use." Did he mean at 4 a.m.? Yikes. That takes more than a shove from my tiger cat to force me to sit upright on the edge of the bed. It's like a heave-ho, up-you-go kind of change of position.
     I suppose I can write an extra hour or so and see if it takes me into a deeper state of mind. I am fresh out of work assignments from the past week, and in one way, that is a satisfactory place to be on a Saturday morning.There's freedom in exploring my own thing without word counts and deadlines.
      With that heavy thought, I pad out to the kitchen and make a pot of brewed coffee while the cat watches intently for his turn at nourishment. I rustle his bowl of dry food and top it off with a few additional pellets. The water bowl is refreshed.
     From the picture window the shadows loom outside on the lawn like giants sprawled out for sleep. Great. I would love to be in their shoes right about now instead of feeling a fuzzy ache of detachment within my head. Even the coffee doesn't taste right, and I drink it without any enjoyment whatsoever.
     I check my email and there is a thoughtful inspirational card from a friend, and a note from someone else sharing sad news of her mother's passing. Replies are handled before I move on to my professional websites and news.
     Enough with the procrastination. There's writing to be done, and a nap will be in order later, say in an hour or so hopefully. That should realign me once again with the world.
     My father always said, "Tomorrow is another day." Then I am assuming I will be back to my normal routine of waking up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A daily spring routine

     The wind didn't interfere, nor did the raindrops appear late this afternoon. In fact, the sun beamed as much warmth as it could muster, and the path took me along at its own fast pace. When there is no wildlife in sight -- I am very attentive in the present-- I look closer to the horizon beyond my minuscle place in the world and ponder deeper thoughts. Letting go of the noise, commitments and frenzy are simple enough for me on my walks. It's been a habit of mine. Instead,  I work on body alignment, proper posture and an even stride allowing the flow of energy to move through me unrestricted. A mile or so into nature's place, the fire of boldness bursts forth in power and strength like the breeze of a truck passing along at high speed beside me. Returning home, I sense a satisfaction and accomplishment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Word legos build the mind

     On a whim I bought a word poetry magnet box with all the proper intentions of using its contents to stimulate my thoughts. In  spare mements in my office I move parts of speech into uncommon placement for effect. It's a giant word game that I play with myself. Fewer words doesn't mean a lesser ability to explain oneself. 
     My tiny box of seventy-two "happiness" word magnets have been separated, arranged and rearranged many times on my white board energizing my muse within. I am delighted when snippets of beautiful phrases place themselves on paper effortlessly.
     This one works for today:
    Sunshine happiness is the positive warmth of my heart
     It is a half-full or half empty type of day. Outside it is raining cats and dogs, and later it will turn to an icy mix if not more. Sounds dreadful. Fortunately I made a big dent in cleaning up the gardens while the weather was better, and my plans will be to finish over the weekend. Inside it is cozy and comfortable. There’s plenty to do that I have been putting off for just such a day. 
     There may be no sunshine on the horizon. Mine is pouring forth in warm rays from within me. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

The significant others in my life


      Several noteworthy animals stand out paws apart from the rest, and they will be in my heart forever. Through thick and thin, they were there for me when I needed comfort and companionship.
      There are a couple rule-breaking exceptions that don’t have forepaws or hind paws. One is an amphibian. Believe me, “he” is a special case all to himself. The other is a dragon that lives by the sea.
    What’s not to love about Kermit the Frog? He is such an adorable character, and after all these years, he mixes well socially with Jimmy Fallon like an old webbed foot.
     Kermit sat on the new set of “The Tonight Show” and did his best entertaining us. I was mesmerized by his charm and wit. Frankly, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He can enthrall a lively audience in New York City as well as croaking to the water lilies on a rural pond, or teaching preschoolers the do’s and don’ts of navigating early childhood.
     I am not sure that I would be able to clock the number of hours I watched Kermit on “Sesame Street” while sorting diapers, hunting for pacifiers in the sofa cushions and nibbling on Cheerios from a Tupperware bowl.
     There are people, and animals, too, that grow on you without you realizing it. Kermit is one. Certainly, he isn’t the most handsome, and I wouldn’t put him in the leading men category. As a stay at home mom, I might better have turned the dial to the “soaps” to get a little vicarious romance for an uplift. Not so. I stuck with Kermit.
      Kermit was a regular fixture in our household, and part of the important preschool growing up period. Language development skills and basic colors were discussed daily between Bert, Ernie and Kermit. Add in Miss Piggy and you had a television full of delightful friends.  
       I dare say that there were a number of times I talked to Kermit about my adult domestic problems, too, and I got relief from letting it all out like spilled milk all over the carpet. That reminds me of the housewifery humor of Erma Bombeck (Dave Barry is more to my aspirations as a writer) proving that I was no different than the other moms going through early child rearing.
     “Rainbow Connection” is one of my top songs, and I can hear Kermit’s voice singing out those magical words leaving me wondering what’s on the other side, and assuring me that making the wishes believing even if there was only a remote chance they might possibly come true.
     Word from the preschoolers is that “The Muppets Most Wanted” is not doing well at the box office.  I have no doubt that Kermit will pick up the pieces of the plot, and leap on to lower and damper ground to regroup.
     “Lassie” looms larger than life on the movie screen, and my eyes fill with tears as a little kid watching for Lassie’s safe arrival home after getting lost on the Scottish mountainside. If I could only reach out and pet Lassie, everything in life would be fine.
      The smell of fresh popcorn and the steady hum of voices rise to greet Dad and me while we walk down the right aisle of the Suffolk Theater on our regular Sunday afternoon visit.
     I clutch his hand because I suddenly seem so small in comparison to everyone around me. The carpet is thick and plush under my feet, and I sink in rolling my oxford shoes from side to side. We choose our row near the back on the side, because dad tells me that it isn’t good for our eyes to sit up too close. In front of the theater is a red velvet curtain hanging from floor to ceiling that will soon open to begin a magical afternoon.
     I learned that is okay to let my feelings out when I cried over
Lassie. Later, it would be Benji, Beethoven and 101 Dalmatians.
     In “Lady and the Tramp” I lived the journey of Lady, a beloved cocker spaniel, and Tramp, a mutt with a heart of gold. Who doesn’t admire the underdog? I will root for him, or her, every time.
     Walt Disney was prepared to cut their famous spaghetti eating scene thinking that it would not be romantic and that dogs eating spaghetti would look silly. Luckily that did not happen since dogs everywhere love that scene and howl in front of their TV’s demanding more SpaghettiOs.
     “Puff the Magic Dragon” is another character that holds a multitude of memories of getting a little one to sleep with a soothing voice taking her to a land called Honah Lee.
     Several years ago I had the fortune to hear Peter, Paul and Mary on a reunion tour, and everyone sang out the beautiful melody together throughout the auditorium from gray hairs to tiny grandchildren. Memories are made of nights like this that transport us back for a second look.
     Flicker and Black Beauty jump to the top of the list of horse favs. When I visited Virginia for the annual pony roundup from Assateague Island, I reread Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague series for a second time with a new appreciation.
      Real time cats and dogs — a friend’s parakeet, too — have been in my life from day one with their assorted stories. Those precious tales I’ll save for another column.
    

     



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A personal confession

    There is one side of me that puzzles others. Most know me by my social nature. Yet if acquaintances were to track my movements carefully, they would know that I am not consistently one way or the other. 
    The doorbell chimes and I go into a virtual panic. I do the opposite and head to the furthest recesses of the house and wait until the incessant ringing stops. In the distance I hear a car door slam, and moments later, the sound of its engine roaring down the road. Once again, I am safe to go about my writing life without interference.
     Such a solitary soul I am. I hold privacy in the highest regard, and don’t wish to be bothered by useless trivia that will take me off the task at hand. I require lengthy spaces of time of peace and quiet collecting my deepest thoughts like wooing fluttering butterflies inside a net.
     It would make better sense to hang a sign on the door: DO NOT DISTURB. WRITER IN RESIDENCE
     It would make even better sense to find a retreat cabin in the woods and write there. Actually, I have one situated in the furthest outpost of our land, and frequently I take up summer residence. People still walk the path to find me calling out unaware that I am there for a reason. It's hard for non-writers, or anyone not in the creative arts, to understand the way my mind functions and how I am ordering my daily life.

     The best remedy is to get up before the rest of the world and put my hands to the keyboard for a couple hours of quality writing while my mind is fresh and the words come forth easily like smoothing an exquisite piece of silk fabric between the fingertips in anticipation of a magnificent completed garment.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Scissors snip away self-esteem

       No word. Nada. Not from friends, family, and yikes, not even my own husband.
     For two weeks I haven’t received any feedback, and I am getting a little freaky. What is going on? Have I changed that drastically?
     “Alright. Tell me. Just say it,” I query my husband.
     “I love asymmetrical artistically, and you know that, but this hairdo is not working for you. There. I’ve said it,” he replied.
     Ah ha. I get it. Here is the first truthful statement in days, and how I do appreciate my husband’s candor.
    I have been coming in contact with people and they are not giving me false praise, nor are they making up frivolous niceties. They simply are not saying anything I presume, rather than hurting my feelings. I can’t imagine what they are whispering behind my back. I won’t go there in my mind.
     “So, what do you think of my new hairstyle?”
      Not once have I asked anyone his or her thoughts.
     I am beginning to have second thoughts about my radical haircut, and that is so unlike me. Believe me, it is a mega bad hair day personified!
     With a change in season I don’t give it a second thought letting my hairstylist re-do my locks. She has known me for a while, and she has formed opinions about my lifestyle. She envisions me as someone confident enough to pull-off a more daring “do.” It will be uneven with a brush over to one side, and way shorter on the other. Perfect.
     I tell her to go for it. She is competent, and I have full faith in her talent. I will work my way through learning how to manage a curling iron again,  a little more styling mousse on my fingertips and allowing for  precious extra minutes in the bathroom.
     Why, I have everything else under control, so why would hair be a problem?
     The outcome is not what I am expecting from the new hairstyle.
      When I leave the salon I am certain that I am going to have fun with a different look. For years I have kept my hair on the short side, but lately, I have let it stay naturally curly and a bit longer. But like anything else in a woman’s life, a little change once in a while tosses things up.
     I can’t wait for people to comment. That’s when I start having self-esteem issues about my appearance.
     Every day when I look into the mirror — and after awhile I get to the point where I can’t even glance at myself — I dislike my appearance and hope that I won’t have an important appointment that day.
     One night I wake up in a cold sweat dreaming of a time during childhood when I remembered my parents having an argument which was rare for them, and it was about my hair.
     When I was in third grade I had golden brown hair down my shoulders. It looked so beautiful around my face, but no one knew the hours it took of my mother’s brushing to keep out the tangles. Fine hair knots so easily, and I didn’t like to sit still long.
    My mother gave up on me and took me to the stylist to get it cut-off up to my ears. Since we were close by my dad’s store, we stopped in to show him.
     That was the first time I saw my father really cry, although he was truly a sentimental man all his life. He was shocked that my mother had done that to my gorgeous hair. Well, in that case I was right in the middle of it with no control of the outcome.
     I shed tears myself as a teacher when the dreaded lice bug invaded the classroom requiring those who had to get sent home a terrible feeling in the pit of their stomachs. Fortunately, I made it through many years without ever having that problem, but I know that it shattered some preteens egos temporarily.
      I loved to laugh along with a child who came into the room with a completely radical Mohawk or a purple streak down the side for effect. It was so much fun watching how they could handle themselves as part of their growing up.
     Which brings me back to what I decide to do. I call my hair salon, and return for a change in plans. There is no blame game here, and I assure my stylist she is not at fault. I love her thoughtful approach to each client. 
     I leave the salon walking a bit faster. My head held higher.
     “Looks great,” says my husband glancing up from his iPad.
     “Love your hair,” my friend remarks at a meeting.
     I smile and think  how miserable I have felt for two weeks. Serves me right. And by the way, I have recovered to poke a little fun at myself.

    

    
    



Monday, March 31, 2014

Dedicated to a little gal

"A Smidgen of Irish Luck" is dedicated to this wee redheaded Irish girl that listened intently to the music in a thatched roof pub one rainy evening. Someday she will pass along the tunes and stories. For a copy of the book go to 
A Smidgen of Irish Luck on Amazon.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A generation 'like' no other

    I want to poke a little fun with no harm intended. I usually write concisely like a focused tightrope walker deadheading to the other end of the cable. Not so this week. I am stretching words out like a rubber band gone soft from overuse.
    Like I said in my Livingston County News column (“Chasing the Wind”) two weeks ago, instant gratification is bringing current society, especially youth, scrambling to their knees.



     

     Meet the “like” generation, also referred to as the millennial agers. Like it or not, peeps 28 years or younger, like-minded souls, are card carrying members.
     Before I write further, I must make a disclaimer: English teachers, please, don’t throw the grammar textbook at me. I’ll duck in defense of what I have to say. It needs to get out in the open, like when your mother taught you that telling the truth is always the best policy.
     I can visualize grammarians, editors and fellow wordsmiths pulling out their hair at the exorbitant number of times I have already used the word, “like,” and I am only at 177 words. Indulge me. I am making a point like I said previously. (Repeating myself like a broken record is getting boring and putting me into a spin.)


     

     My high school English teacher was a prim and proper lady of undetermined age — my guess as a teen would have been she was in her eighties. (50’s likely would have been accurate.) There was no fun about her whatsoever, and she was like the Grim Reaper. I believed that she would do everything within her power — like making a school year miserable — and English class deadly. Her life must have been hard chopping firewood for the potbelly stove. Smiles were not part of the curriculum, nor was a timid student tolerated — like stoicism is the path to endurance and achievement.
      Her favorite saying, “Please don’t butcher the king’s English,” scares the willies out of me to this day like all the other threats she made of what the future would hold for unforgiving students that didn’t do their homework — like I even cared at the ripe age of sixteen.
     I vividly remember standing at the chalkboard until the bell rang  — it saved my skin in the nick of time — diagramming a sentence and putting those lovely adjectives, adverbs and participles in their correct places like lining up chess pieces. I couldn’t get it straight, and the more I stood with my back to my classmates, the more nervous I became. You would think that I was looking at words to the likes of a foreign language. It went down the tubes from there with no clowning around, including my dislike for teachers singling out students and not rescuing them from a brief moment of embarrassment and distress that they will never forget.
     My English teacher with her furrowed brow and tight bun of wispy hair like a character out of an 18th century Dickens novel claimed that the word, “like,” is one of those boring and bland ones. “Good” and “nice” are not much better in my estimation.
     Her sharp voice broke the silent air in the classroom. She stated in no uncertain terms that I must work hard to get “like” out of my sentence structure: I like my dog; I like the house. We drilled and drilled like a precision military marching team improving our choice of words.
    
      Today, everyone who ventures into the cyber world — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest — is most familiar with the word, “like.”
     “Frontline” had an outstanding show contrasting today’s youth with their efforts at self-promotion — shameless and guilt free — and the 80s generation permitting MTV to dictate the cultural lifestyle for them.
     See a post on Facebook from a virtual friend, and click to “like” it without any other response necessary. Liking is such a bland and easy way to move on in your day. Being a copycat doesn’t require much.
     When someone posts about the death of a pet or family member, it doesn’t seem right to just “like” it without stopping to add a comment. I will post a “dislike” and that is more in likes of an appropriate statement.
     If you count your “likes” at the end of the day like you are in a popularity contest, and worse yet, wonder why certain “friends” don’t respond, you crave approval from the cyber world. It is a flimsy way to live out life.
     Once I posted a picture from a pub in Londonderry, Ireland, and it got more “likes” than any other I can recall. What was that all about? — like it’s about time I had fun and quit working so hard?
    Are you the first to press, “like,” or do you wait to join the crowd of “likes” later?  Perhaps, you don’t state your opinion for fear of offending someone, or a group of people.
     To be truthful, one of my readers asked me to write about the pattern of speech where “like” is included in place of a pause in oral conversation. She says that it annoys her, and rightfully so. You might liken it to casual speech, or meaningless fillers that a speaker uses when he is uncertain of how to express his thoughts.
    I told this reader that I would… like… take up the challenge, and if she clicks,“like,” when the column gets posted online, I will know she approves of the liberties I have taken.         





Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A work in progress: ME


  •      Learning to say, "no," without having to explain myself. 
  •      Figuring out what I need to do, and not second guessing myself.
  •      Pushing my shy nature aside, and boldly accomplishing my task.
  •      Slowing down to relish in all my accomplishments —even for a few minutes.
  •      Looking the other way and not allowing comparisons with others.
  •      Enjoying days off to wander without any plans whatsoever.
That's enough for now; these thoughts are big challenges, and worthy of introspection.  I don't expect to get it right ever, but I feel that I am on the path.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Different sides to a day

"The lonely shepherd working the pastoral countryside who becomes an energetic storyteller weaving tales in the lively pub in the evening, remain back-to-back aspects of an Irishman's daily life." -A Smidgen of Irish Luck