Horrifying Gifts for the Holidays

If your family is like mine, it’s big, and ungainly and the truth is, you just don’t know each other well enough to buy each other anything but an Amazon gift card. This will, of course, in no way stop you from wanting to play Happy Families, so you will spend a massive amount of money to say “Look, I bought you a Gift.”

In general, the rules for these Gifts are simple:

  1. The Gift must be something durable enough to result in the on-going ownership of something the recipient does not want, or  the awkward disposal thereof.
  2. Recipient will, of course, feign gratitude and acceptance of said Gift, even if Giver has had a lifetime to notice that she/he does not use __________.
  3. Anaphylaxis in no way excuses you from rule #2. Eat another nut bar.
  4. Gift will most likely be identical to Gifts given to every other family member of your Rank and Gender. (ie: Female Cousins, Uncles, etc.)
  5. In the event that Pansexual Nymphette is the Giver, you MUST maintain the pretense that Gift is as G-Rated and Family Friendly as Possible. Do NOT say “figging oil” when you could say **ahem** “massage oil” or better yet, “gourmet cooking oil.”

There is, of course, an unspoken 6th rule: Gifts given to people other than yourself will be even more inconvenient to you.

Your Grandmother will be given a photo-calendar made from a picture of you taken at a Ballroom Dance exhibit. She’s not going to throw it out. That would be hurtful, both to you, and to the relative who gave it to her.

Nope.

She’s going to drive a new nail so it can hang prominently in the living room all year long.

You will spend the entire year fielding questions from random acquaintances about a dance partner you don’t even perform with regularly.

No. We’re not getting married.

No. He’s not special… well, I guess his wife and kids might think so.

Yes, his wife knows we dance together. That’s her on the left.

Yes, I’m sure he’s not special!

No, he’s not Gay. Pretty sure his wife would have told me. And no, I will not introduce you, Steven.

No, We are NOT GETTING MARRIED.

No, you do not get to meet him. No, he’s not with his family for Christmas this year. He’s with them for Hanukkah.

What? You got all six of my great-aunts the very same calendar? In smaller sizes? Oh, well, then…

Fuck it. What’s his name and I are getting married. It’s just more convenient.

I’m sure his wife will understand.

If I didn’t Want You To Be Happy, I Would Have Married You.

So, today is one of my ex’s birthdays.

I haven’t seen him in years, but he was my first real, serious, this-could-end-in-actual-marriage-and-eventual-death boyfriend. Obviously, I was terrified.

He, on the other hand, was not terrified. He was full-speed ahead, I have a schedule to keep, and it is time to get married ready.

He’s the perfect person to think of once or twice a year… uhm… From another state.  He deserves to be happy, and that’s the way I picture him. Wife and kids. A dog, maybe two. Baseball games and camping.

Apart from the kids, the dogs, the baseball, and the camping, it’s not a bad life.

I had the chance to ask a while back. Ran into his father.

I didn’t ask.

I think I know. There’s just enough overlap in our social groups that now and then, I get a whiff of something through a friend, or a newsletter from a shared organization. The most recent update said North Dakota. And a career. It didn’t mention the wife or kids. And it probably would have, if they were there.

He was not cut out to be in a relationship with a creative.

He found my art-folders, once. You know, those big manila things with the plastic handles? No, not really polished enough to call a portfolio. I had two, and naturally, he had to see the one that was labeled “dirty.”

Charcoal dust everywhere.

I’m smiling, but I’m not going back.

And I’m wondering… If he saw me, now. Neck-deep in a day-job, still chasing dreams I’m not even I ever told him I had… revising the novel, collecting the rejections… You know… Would he perceive me as happy?

The Slowest Day of the Whole Year

I know everybody’s out shopping and watching football, but I didn’t really expect the day after Thanksgiving to be quite this slow on my blog. I may be slightly impatient, since I’m turning into a slothful statistics addict. I’d probably be sitting in the corner, convinced I’m a tea cozy by now, except that I’ve been away from the wi-fi almost all day.

So, by the dawn’s early light, yesterday… we went out and took one last look at the Verruckt water slide in Kansas City. The soon-to-be-former world’s tallest water slide is a little over 168 feet tall. It’s taller, apparently, than Niagara Falls (barely) and looks (quite frankly) a little like a ready-mix concrete plant.

I would know. Once upon a time, a boyfriend took me on a date to a ready mix concrete plant.

I never got to ride the slide, which is scheduled for demolition following a fatal accident.

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I would probably point out the fact that there are a couple of smaller slides in the back ground, but since they’re basically invisible, I won’t. If you look closely, they’re under Verruckt’s smaller hump in the top photo.

You look at something like this–the slide, not the accident–and you have to be impressed. The time and resources invested into this thing… The sheer size of it… The fact that so many people can take a day off and do absolutely nothing beyond running around a water park.

It’s enormous. And it was never meant to last forever.

I’ll skip the obvious commentary and add that we also went to Waffle House.

So, I’m Learning a New Skill…

A while back, my favorite chair started bleeding yellow foam rubber. It’s an old chair, but probably not an antique chair, or anything particularly special. Probably something out of the sixties or seventies.I don’t think it’s valuable, or anything.  It’s just… Well, it’s the right size, so my feet touch the ground at the very same time my back is touching the back. And it’s not too rigid, but it’s not too slouchy, either. It has a slight Auntie Mame feel to it.

Well, you know. It’s my favorite chair.

So, I loaded it into the back seat of the car, and headed off to upholstery shoppes unknown.

This is a process, apparently. The first place I thought of went into retirement after the flood, and the next couple of places were either not open at all, or by-appointment-only numbers. Hard telling.

I got desperate. I went to a place I knew perfectly well was “a little expensive” but which held regular business hours in a regular, store-front type establishment.

I left the chair in the car, and went into… uhm… basically a storeroom full of fabric swatches. And a counter. (Also covered in fabric swatches.)

I was informed that the place is **ahem**  currently booking for March.

I admit I was a little dumbstruck. And I suppose the guy felt sorry for me. After all, I’m going to be chair-less until March, at this point. He came out to the car to look at the chair, and gave me an estimate.

Four hundred dollars for the labor. About. And another two fifty on the fabric. Five-ish yards of it. I can bring fabric in from somewhere else, if I want.

Huh.

Well, I’ll think about it. Not for very long, but I will think about it. Because it is my favorite chair.

And frankly…? I look at six-hundred fifty dollars and booked through March, and, well… I kinda wonder why I’m not doing it. Not just my own (probably non-antique, nothing-special) chair but… why am I not doing everybody else’s?

So, I’m going to try it. Worst case scenario, I wind up with an ugly (but still perfectly sized) chair and a good story to tell. Best case? I might actually have a viable skill going. So, off to the internet I go, and learn something new.

 

Halloween Ennui

The last year I handed out candy for Halloween was a long time ago. I spent most of the evening at home, and in the end, there were exactly two trick-or-treaters. Now, I like children dressed as devils and corpses as much as the next girl, but that does seem like a whole lot of boredom for two kids, and especially two kids I don’t even know, even out of costume.

Halloween,–even in my remarkably safe little town– has moved to the commercial sphere. The merchants hand out candy (and advertisements) and the whole affair goes downtown, or to the mall. The greedier parents dump their kids off in **ahem** take their kids to the “rich” neighborhood (not mine) and that’s about the end of it. (Driving through the”Rich” neighborhood on Halloween is like taking a truck through a cattle drive. But a whole lot more pink and sparkles.)

There are, of course, a few activities for grown ups. (Drinking. Also Drinking. You know… Like on Thursday.)

When I was in bigger towns… when I was dancing… it seems like I was in costume, dressed up as something every other week. Costume’s half the fun, you know. And once I started winning costume contests… well, you put the money back into the next costume, until you have your own little costume closet. And that’s been a while, too.

The thought that always comes to me around Halloween is the idea of dressing the candy bars up as books. (Not as my books, of course. Other people’s books. People who write for children.) Print the cover on one side of a paper, and a coupon code for the book on the other side of the paper, and glue the thing on a Hershey’s bar. (Or, you know… something good, if you happen to be in the “rich” area of town.)

I’m not one of those people who would give a sweet, innocent child a box of raisins–or a toothbrush–for Halloween, but a book?  That sounds like something healthy and fun. I could approve of that.

I fiddle around with the details, of course. The coupon codes would have to be set up in advance. It would have to be e-books to be cost effective, especially for a poor writer who’s paying for it, herself. And you might need separate bowls of candy for different age groups. I’m not sure. Different age groups would probably mean more than one writer.

And in order to get much traffic, you’d almost have to barge in on one of the businesses that actually gets trick or treaters, or buy a booth at the mall.

 

A Brisk Walk Through The Pouring Rain

I walked to work this morning. Then, I turned around and walked back from work this afternoon. I am not an exercise person. I don’t mind the fresh air and the nature, though. I saw a few wild turkeys, and took some pictures (Not of the turkeys. Those suckers move fast!) and someone stopped to ask if I was okay. That’s a new one. Usually, it’s Do you want a ride?  This was a straight up, Are you okay? So, I’m guessing that wandering around in the rain taking pictures for a blog is another one of those activities that… well… maybe city people do.

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Here’s my creek again.

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I could probably touch up some of those trees. A little more exposure would do them good.

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Yep. That road is every bit as long as it looks.

Not too bad for a bunch of pictures off a camera phone. It did eventually wind up raining properly. Hurricane dying out a few hundred miles inland?

I got in probably a little over six miles and a full day’s work plus early morning writing, and I’m still waiting for that “feeling good” thing to kick in. Right now, exhausted, and about to pass out is a little more accurate.

NaNoWriMo Home Regions and Immigration

The first letters from our municipal liaisons are arriving, today, and I got back to my home region for the first time this year. Nebraska::Other. A rip-roaring writing community of eight people. Twenty-five percent of them are Municipal Liaisons, if you’re doing the math. Which I am.

As always, I’m seeking out new writers and new writers’ groups. And…

Somebody suggested a Google Hangout, since we’re spread out across the entire state.

And I’m vaguely thinking of defecting to Lincoln or Omaha. After all, that’s a fairly short drive, and there are more people in either one…

And yet… there’s a part of me that’s incredibly loyal to the small-town, stuck alone in the middle of nowhere writers and intellectuals. I connect with that. I am that. Have been for much, much too long. And I can’t imagine growing up, that way, or trying to get feedback on a first novel that way.

There’s also a non-nano writers’ group starting up. I might actually do that, if I have time and energy.

I still have to do my annual search for real live, local, in my own town writers. Last year’s wasn’t wildly productive. I located my next door neighbor. And her abandoned manuscript. And I still haven’t found a good way of bringing up the fact that I recognize someone from on the internet.

And I don’t have an actual idea, yet. I’m still hoping that one will turn up sometime soon, and I can pretend to plot a little bit.

Are you doing Nano this year? I’d love to hear about the novel you have planned (or not planned) and be sure to look me up over on the Nano forums.

Acupuncture, Abortions, and Denver

When I was a kid, I lived in one of those towns. Big enough to have some entertainment, and quite a few restaurants, and isolated enough that as far as it went, there was no driving to a bigger city just for fun. Bowling  alleys, a small summer carnival, and a sadly misshapen swimming pool. Enough to keep people happy.

Or at least, quiet.

If somebody went to a big city, there was a reason.

9 times out of 10, it was because the local hospital ran out of options, and the choice was Denver or death. Well, I know. Some people did take a while to think about that one.

But that 10th time? Well, that was interesting.

If you went to Denver, and you weren’t dying, there was probably a good story about it, and if little girls were very good, and very quiet, and looked like they weren’t paying attention, they could probably hear that story. And why not? Everyone else already had.

We had a family friend who went to Denver regularly. She wasn’t dying any time soon, but she had M.S. and she saw an acupuncturist. (If you’re reading that right, you heard it in the same voice you’d use for “She sacrificed chickens.”) An acupuncturist! And I wasn’t even allowed to get my ears pierced.

My mother asked her about it, once. I remember sitting and listening while she described the general idea of acupuncture, and showed us the black dots the acupuncturist drew on her skin, so that her husband could keep up her treatments at home.

They did a demonstration for us. He took out a long, skinny needle and a glass tube, and tapped that needle right into a black dot on her leg. Sure enough, the muscle–which she couldn’t use, herself–twitched. Yup. That was it. A twitch.

Hope, more than anything else.

The other thing you could do in Denver was get an abortion.

I didn’t find out about that one–or abortions in general–until I was eleven or twelve, and a friend’s mother… her recently divorced, and even more recently pregnant mother… went to Denver.

Her father–my friend’s grandfather–made the appointment. He was the one to drive her to Denver. And in all honesty, he was also pretty much the one to bully her into thinking about it.

No one needed to know.

Except, of course, that she was still pregnant when she got back from Denver. Tough to hide that. Even tougher to hide a ten pound baby boy.

Oh, the humanity! The thought of that five hour drive to Denver with him and then the five hour drive back, when there wasn’t any abortion, and just being trapped in the car all. the.way. back. Ugh.

The World Doesn’t Stop

I watched the news before I left for class, and I walked to campus, convinced that the thing in New York was a freak accident.

By the time I got to the Student Union, the second plane had hit.

My professor did not cancel class.

He didn’t bring in a TV, and he didn’t change things in any way.

I didn’t understand it, then, but there it was. The old man said to sit, so we did. We sat in a basement room in the quiet of a half-drained university, and did what we always did. Half the class wasn’t there. The world was changing. History was being made.

We started the day with a quiz.

We started every day with a quiz.

I expected the old man to dismiss us after that. He didn’t.

That class was supposed to be an hour long, and by golly, it was an hour long. And he expected you to concentrate, too. What case? What case? What case?

After all, New York was hundreds of miles away, and there was nothing we could do. Nothing. As much as we would have wanted to, there wasn’t one single blanket for us to hand out. Not a single drop of water for us to offer.

My professor was old. Very old. Maybe he was the oldest man on campus. He was certainly the oldest man in our building.

He’d been through days like that before, in Europe, in the war. In other wars. Before he moved to the United States. I suspect he’d been through quite a lot of them.

Airplanes hit the Twin Towers, and he gave a quiz. It’s taken me time to understand why. It took me a lot of time to understand there was a why.

What he was saying is the world refuses to stop for terrorism.

I refuse to stop for terrorism. Some people do horrible, violent things. They do senseless things. They kill. They maim. They destroy.

I refuse to give them more. I refuse to give them anything. Not even one, single quiz.

IWSG: Being Open, and Honest, and Finding Time for Writing

I’m an introvert, believe it or not. I’m good at hiding it–both on my blog and in real life–but that’s what I am. Someone who knew me well once said that I’m an audience person. I’m fine as long as no one expects me to be myself. Turn down the stage lights, put down the mic, and I’m terrified.

This blog is somewhere just past my comfort level. And a whole lot past my comfort level, if I have to think about people I know in real life reading it. (Which, I don’t, because there are so few of them who do. Even the ones who have the URL.)

I want to be open about my projects, and about my life in general, but there’s always that fear that I’m just not interesting enough to be worth anybody’s time… or that I’m too messed up to be.  Or that I’ll be open and honest, and shock and horrify everyone until they don’t love me anymore, and pretend not to know me when we meet on the streets.

Question of the Month:

Making time for writing used to be a problem for me. It’s still a problem, but it’s the kind of problem you overcome 99% of the time, like finding time to brush your teeth. No one ever says they don’t have time to brush their teeth.

So, the first time I ever finished a novel–meaning, the first time I made the decision to sit down and actually do it–was for NaNoWriMo. There was something about the community, and the support, and the clearly defined “This is What I’m Going to Do Today” goals that made finding the time seem so much easier.

I’ve slowly crept away from time-wasters. I don’t listen to more than two or three television shows (and always on the internet where I can control the schedule) and the few video games I used to play… gone.

Now, my goals shift–right now I’m looking to build my website–but there’s always time for writing of some kind.

The Insecure Writers’ Support Group’s Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting.

If you want to join us, or just see other blogs on the tour, follow the link below:

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