All right. Okay. I just can't say NO anymore. I've been flooded with requests for personal interviews from the media. Magazines such as Popular Mechanical Hip Replacements, Cosmo-Octogenarian, and Elle for the Elderly. Requests to appear on Dancing With My Boots On, and Desperate Gardeners of the Heartland. Calls from newspapers, TV, and talk radio. Well, let's just say that I get a gazillion toll free calls and since they seem to know my first name and they always have SUCH special offers, I know I MUST be on their A-List.
Therefore, I decided I would come out from under the compost heap and take a few minutes to do an interview for EVERYONE. Kind of like a reverse TOLL FREE CALL...a 1-800-number just for you!
There is only one stipulation...I get to ask AND answer the questions. What can I say, there ARE some perks to being an internet celebrity. So here goes...
I am sitting here with Ms. Three Pots and I must say she looks remarkably youthful and chic in her yellow wellies. She has a beaming smile, a twinkle in her eye, large clods of mud under her fingernails and a swipe of lipstick a bit outside of her lip line.
Q. What do you like to do?
A. None of your business.
Q. What don't you like to do?
A. None of your business. (I sense a hostile witness.)
Q. What are your writing eccentricities?
A. I like to write late at night with soft music playing in the background. I start with an idea and usually write for about an hour, slash and burn, wax poetic, dangle a participle, and ad lib with an adverb. I stomp away, pace, give up, go outside and sit awhile in the dark. Then, it just happens. I hear and see the words in my head...the beginning of a sentence or a phrase and when I sit down again the words tumble out. I rarely edit. IT is either there or IT isn't. But when it IS, I smile inside and glance over my shoulder for that someone or something that always keeps me company.
Q. Where do you get your inspiration?
A. I tend to be one of those people out on the fringes looking in. Fascinated by the conversation, intrigued by someone's fashion sense, touched by simple gestures, drawn to the unique, the clever, the original, the never seen before, the risk takers. I think I look for the answers to my own questions by watching others fall and fail, stretch and reach, struggle and succeed.
Q. What does your family think of your writing?
A. I think they are supportive, except when I insert their escapades into my stories, which, they insist, are highly exaggerated accounts. My youngest still swears that one night I forgot about him and he slept in the station wagon in the garage. The oldest's favorite toy when he was three was my vacuum cleaner, and now that he is grown and vacuums three times a day, blames me for his addiction to straight lines in the carpet. However, I believe the year I dedicated my Christmas letter to hemorrhoid sufferers across the globe, they threatened to file a cease and desist order.
Q. What are the most important tools for a writer?
A. A love of words and the art of storytelling.
Q. What is your ideal company structure?
A. A one man show. CEO. CFO. Boss Emeritus. A solo act. Me.
Q. How do you multi-task?
A. Oh, I used to do that, but now I find that multi simply means driving past the garage three times to be sure I remembered to close it.
Q. What are three positive things you can say about yourself?
A. I. Am. Me.
Q. What are three negative things you can say about yourself?
A. I. Am. Me.
Q. What would you do if you won the lottery?
A. My version of "If I Won The Lottery" sounds a bit like the Dr. Seuss tale, "If I Ran The Zoo". I would be overwhelmed with excitement on the first day. The second day I would make a list of all the stuff I could buy and the places I could go. By the third day I would be putting together my disguise for the witness protection program so I could remain anonymous, because if I had all that money and everyone knew about it, I would never have any peace and quiet. I would have to think of investing and mutual free ranging hedging funds and margin calls and cattle futures, then hire a manager to round up the cattle and who would give me an allowance while I paid him a fee. Then on my first trip, what if I took a cruise and everyone got zombie flu and I was trapped on the poop deck in the middle of the ocean? So on day four I would write a check to charity and go back to being myself and buying one lottery ticket at Quik Trip on Tuesdays just in case I got lucky.
Q. Can you name two important ways to use a computer other than writing?
A. Free Cell Solitaire and Mahjong Dimensions
Q. What was your worst addiction?
A. TaB...the pink cans, the sharp metallic taste, the first cold sip. I drank it everyday. I mean EVERYDAY. For a long while, I could buy it anywhere. Then things took a turn for the worse. Only two stores in town sold it and there were three other addicts like me lurking about and we took turns stalking the shelves. We made side deals with the Coke Rep. Until one day, it was gone. Gone. I know. I looked. I called our local Coke distributor. I mailed the bottling company. No more in our four state region. Ever. I wrote scathing letters to Coca-Cola. I found some in a store on the East Coast. Thought about shipping it in. Located a stash in Denver and thought about driving nine hours and selling it out of the trunk of my car. Then I stumbled upon a website dedicated to TaB lushes like me. Filled...filled with pleading letters and possible sightings and petition forms to sign. Weary and sad, I switched to Diet Coke. Two years into sobriety, I paused as the Coke Rep. loaded cases onto the shelves. I admit I saw the pink case and lost all sense of reason. I shoved him aside, bought a case and went home and hid it in the basement. I waited until no one was home and sat in the dark. Popped the top. Visualized myself on a beach covered in baby oil and iodine, hot and happy and took the first sip. Gone. The thrill was gone. I upended every can and ended an era.
Q. Can you explain html?
A. No...and if you tell me YOU can, I don't believe you.
Q. Which lawn ornaments do you prefer, pink flamingoes or garden gnomes?
A. I am afraid of clowns, so that eliminates gnomes, but there is a secret part of me that wouldn't mind a gaggle?, a herd?, a pack? of flamingoes hanging out with me and the snapdragons.
Q. How do you keep your aging brain well exercised?
A. Free Cell and Mahjong Dimensions.
Q. What would the title of your biography be?
A. The Adventures of a Yard Yeti
Q. What is the best part of writing your blog?
A. Waving hello and getting goose bumps when you wave back from England, Australia, Russia, Ireland, Italy, France, Tennessee, Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa, Texas....etc. etc. etc.
Q. How DO you make a garden grow?
A. One tiny seed at a time.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Last night, I had the special opportunity to be the guest of honor at a local retailer, Runways, to showcase my work. Of course I was delighted to accept the invitation, except that I tend to shrink under the spotlight of guesthood-ness. So instead of being a slick salesman, I did what I love most.Talked.
I find everyone fascinating. Well, almost everyone, but I am sure they feel that way about me too. I can go on and on and on and on. You see?
I tell stories. About me. It sounds so self-centered I know, but it is the subject I know best. The day I launched my artwork into the world, I was confounded when other people saw themselves in my work. I still am. It is, however, my favorite conversation. The one that starts with, oh that's us, or that's my mother or I feel like that sometimes.
I see my pen as a gift of visibility. A chance to be seen. An opportunity to be heard. And the sweet and occasionally somber moment when shared life experiences connect us all together. Every writer wants to be read, but more than that, most writers I know, at least once, want their words not only read but understood. Yeah. So true. Been there. Done that.
In the midst of all the conversation, last night, several similar connections took place. A piece I wrote on adoption led to two different and touching stories. The first, an adoptee, wanting the artwork as a reminder of her life story. The deeply personal moment of knowing she is a living wish come true, an answered prayer. The second, an adoptive parent, reliving the dream, the wishes and the hopes that resulted in one and two becoming three.
What brings me to this topic today, occurred in the final moments of the evening. A husband and wife. The husband reading one of my pieces and guiding his wife over to read it together. Him holding Her close and whispering...that's us...that's you...and me. Pointing to the final line, which reads.."a leap of faith".
Herein lies the tale. The picture he was pointing to almost never came to be. It is one of a series of ten. The Circle Series. On the back of each piece is the Circle Series story. I shared it with them and I thought I would share it with you, in the hopes that if you are busy looking for answers, puzzling how to move from here to there, or struggling for a way out or up, you too will learn, as I did, that the direction we should go may be in plain sight...
The Circle Series Story:
Unfortunately for me, I began to draw circle on my writing paper.
I am stuck. Stuck on circles.
Writing, which brings me great comfort, eludes me.
I am off to the bookstore to simply browse. Head down, I bump into a shelf. Head up, I see, not stars, but a circle on the cover of a book. Odd. I buy the book. The story of Enso, a Zen calligraphy symbol. I sense pinpricks on my skin as I read of ancient artists (like me) spending lifetimes, learning to draw a perfect circle in one fluid flourish. One brushstroke.
A circle unique unto its author.
I am still stuck. Stuck now on circles.
I decide to wander through some of my worn lesson plans, sitting dust covered in the basement where I left them several years ago. The first pages I discover are geometry lessons..
...about circles, points and lines and rays.
I taught my fourth graders geometry through the line and design of nature. As I recall the first time I read about the repeating patterns of nature and the Fibonacci numbers... a pressed leaf and a tiny shell escape the yellowed pages.
Nature's line and and design. The repeating patterns of nature.
The complex made simple. The simple, complex.
I find my voice.
The words return.
I forgot how to be still,
how to listen,
how to be patient...
and the power of a circle.
I hope you will find a similar peace here with me...if not here, then out there where nature, like our lives, is ever constant, ever changing. Nature's line and design repeating, renewing, etching the eternal circle of life.
From a point to a ray, to a line, a branch, a meander, a wave, a spiral, a knot, a crag...to a circle.
My gift to you...
The Power of the Oh.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Do you know what's lurking behind your refrigerator?
I hope not.
I am afraid of the dentist. I loathe going to the dentist. I hate the sound of the drill, the paper bib clipped under my chin, the light shining in my eyes. The close up of my dentist's nasal hairs. The sound of my own mouth full of instruments and cotton swabs trying to carry on a conversation, when the only words I want to hear are...we're DONE!
I come to this hysterical hysteria honestly. When I was a child, a trip to the dentist was legitimately scary. In my youth, a shot of novacaine cost fifteen dollars. More than my family could afford, so my Mom would lean down to me and ask if I could stand it, just for a minute...a minute. My recall in this matter is perfect, down to the number of fish in the aquarium next to the spit sink (14), and the smell of juicy fruit breath.
Now a grown adult, I admit to trembling and sobbing in the parking lot getting out of the car BEFORE the appointment. I have been known to plead, beg, shake and squirm so badly the dentist calls me a moving target. That, my friends, is exactly my intent. If he plans to get me to open my mouth, he has to catch me first. What I like to think of as a fair fight in the dental arena of drillers and drillees.
And when the tears and pleadings fail, I make jokes. Terrible ridiculous jokes. To my hygienist. The image of my dentist howling as he lowers his drill is too much for me to even consider with novacaine. Not to mention, that is precisely how I imagine him in my jaw clenching nightmares.
It is impossible to leave the chair without the "FLOSS" lecture. Each tooth, caressed not once, not twice, but three times a day plus the pitch for a new sound wave inducing solar powered pulsating rotating gum stimulating toothbrush, I should REALLY own.
So being a smart aleck, one day I mentioned to the hygienist-floss-dentifrice-life- coach that I had a friend who used her toothbrush to clean out the corners behind her refrigerator. A small pause. I looked up at my hygienist, her face slightly flushed, as she replied, "Ooh, I do that, too. Once a week."
There must, I told myself, there MUST be a twelve step program for her.
If not, I would invent it myself.
The WLFT Program.
The WHY LOOK FOR TROUBLE rehabilitation institute for people with way too much time on their hands.
The twelve steps are as follows:
1. Trouble will find you no matter where you are, how carefully you hide, how nice you are, whether you are tall and scary looking or meek as a mouse.
2. Trouble requires no invitation, will not RSVP, shows up unannounced and demands your attention regardless of your age, sex or IQ.
3. Trouble lurks everywhere, not just behind the refrigerator.
4. Trouble has been known to wear disguises, fake beards, clown shoes, excessive make-up, and wrap around Elvis sunglasses.
5. Trouble can pass through a metal detector, a full body pat down, and a foot x-ray.
6. Trouble may double as a foot you suddenly trip over or be as bold as a knock on your door.
7. Trouble may arrive tucked inside fancy stationery, a well crafted crafty email, a text message or linger in a late-to-be opened voice message...we are sorry to inform you...
8. Trouble is the rest of the sentence after the word BUT.
9. Trouble scoffs at survival kits and emergency preparedness drills. No matter how well you rehearse, organize, graph, collate, detail, outline, plan, scheme, practice and prepare, trouble WILL land on your desk.
10. Trouble is a two-faced, lying, yellow bellied meanie.
11. Trouble flunked the Emily Post School of Etiquette for lack of manners, never raising its hand, opening a door, writing a thank you note and for leaving the seat up.
12. Trouble is not afraid of dental hygienists. Or floss.
As President of the WLFT association, if nobody else will say it, then I will.
Get a grip.
There is no monster at the end of this book. Actually, the name of the book was The Monster At the End Of This Book and my kids loved it. At the bottom of each page, a dire warning, "Don't turn the page!" We would make scary noises, screw up our faces in fear, hearts pounding, and TURN THE PAGE. Phew! No monster. Page after page after page, terror mounting until the FINAL PAGE. Holding our collective breath,we fluttered the last page and I asked...are you sure?...are you SURE?...are you REALLY sure??? We were and we did and found lovable, fuzzy ol' Grover wearing his goofy grin. We laughed in relief, knowing the only monster was the one we had imagined together.
Occasionally, our lives read like the pages of this fantasy tale. There might be a monster. There could be a disaster. We might not survive.
There might be TROUBLE.
Yes. There MIGHT be trouble. Even if we super glue the pages together to avoid the inevitable.
So, here's what I would needlepoint on a sofa cushion for you. A personal affirmation.
We will turn the pages together.
No matter where you are or where you call home. In your life, right now, at this moment you have enough to find your way. If you need a night light, a flashlight or a beacon to see through the fog, let us do that for one another.
It is a wasted effort to cling to the page, to fear the future or to blame the past. It requires courage to clear away the cobwebs and the terrible stories away and to know that we will endure, we can rebuild and succeed. Together we can turn the page to discover how small our "troubles" really are. We have no choice except to turn the page and live.
I resolve to visit my dentist regularly. Without weeping.
I will use my toothbrush to brush my TEETH, but if anyone reminds me to FLOSS....
There will be TROUBLE.
* When things go bump in the night....
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
This tale begins, well before the turn of the century, the 21st century, to be precise. C'mon, I'm not THAT old! Riding along, on a sunny spring day, my four year old and I in the front seat of the car, he, commenting on the passing landscape and I, a nervous wreck, about to have a parent-teacher "conference" with his pre-school teacher.
Not a chat.
Not a visit.
No conversation. No dialog.
A naked light bulb over my head in a darkened room,
where I will be questioned.
And so it came to pass.
My son does not know his colors. He is four and cannot tell the difference between pink and purple. The other children in his class know the names of all the colors in their crayon box.
He knows red. And yellow. And blue.
It did not help that while in the parking lot, post-inquisition, another mother announced she had enrolled her color scholar in a Germanic Language studies course. An advanced course, of course.
I spent the afternoon in the library,
reading parenting manuals and weeping.
On the way home, the sky still a radiant blue, the trees budding out in limey green and pastel pinks.
My son and I in the front seat of the car, my mind racing and once again a running commentary on the passing landscape.
"Mom", he whispered,
"Isn't the new grass such a beautiful shade of orange?"
Did he say orange?
I must have had the face of a madwoman,
as he looked at me and cautiously inquired, "It is orange, right Mom?"
And then, it hit me.
I looked down at his sweet face and panned down to his red shirt, green shorts and the brown socks tucked into his yellow sneakers. He'd dressed himself, a sign of independence, I thought proudly. He'd sort out the matchey matchey part some other day.
Today he is making big boy independent choices. Or?
I waited for the other shoe to drop.
I waited for the final piece of the puzzle to surface under a chair in the kitchen.
I was walking on eggshells.
Easter. The Saturday night before Easter morning and we are dying eggs. He and his brother and I. The table covered in newspapers. The cups filled with vinegar water. The fizzy tablets dropped one per cup. Green. Red. Blue. Violet. Yellow. Orange. Two dozen hard boiled eggs and wax pencils. Hard boiled eggs clutched in four and six year old hands equals eggshells.
On the floor.
Method #1: My older son, the perfectionist, dips his egg exactly halfway into the red cup.
Dabs the egg on a paper towel, rotates the egg in the wire dipper, and lowers the egg exactly halfway into the blue cup.
Method #2: My youngest, "the grass is orange, Mom", settles his egg into the wire dipper and proceeds in rapid fire succession, dipping his egg into the red, the blue, the yellow, the green and the violet.
Holding his gray egg to the light, he grins and says...
"Perfect"....just as the other shoe drops.
My son is colorblind.
Just like his grandfather. My father wore blue shirts. Only blue shirts. All of his life. My mother matched his socks. His pants. His ties.
Oh no. Oh dear. Colorblind.
Tested. I had him tested. Just to be sure. Colorblind.
The recommendation? Buy the big 24 pack of crayons and teach him to read all the names before Kindergarten and he'll be fine. Oh, and he can't be an astronaut, or a jet pilot.
I was heartbroken.
And if I am to be honest, for me.
Early Easter morning, I am up and out in the yard, hiding eggs. Red ones, multicolored ones. Chocolate bunnies and jelly belly beans. Not a gray egg in sight. I accidentally left them huddled together behind the jar of mayo in the back of the refrigerator.
The boys race down the stairs, baskets in hand. Still in pajamas. Pajamas tucked into winter boots.
Out to the yard.
The elder, a crafty fellow, fills his basket, a tisket a tasket, in a race for egg excellence.
The younger, strolls at a leisurely pace, grinning with each new find and chewing slowly, chocolate on his cheeks.
The sun, barely risen, colors the sky above their sweet heads.
At that moment, another mother, Mother Nature, nudges me.
In my world, she whispers, colors never clash,
they complement one another.
The younger, now grown, is still colorblind...and a remarkable musician.
His brother, is still a perfectionist,
but a remarkable storyteller and the keeper of family lore and tradition.
I am proud to say that he carries the colorblind gene as well.
I, so they say, am still a neurotic worrier.
Some day, before the next century, I hope to be around,
when they color Easter eggs,
and watch their children as the sun rises on Easter Sunday.
Dressed in our Sunday best,
I make one final stop before leaving the house.