Sunday, December 06, 2009

Post-NaNo Blog

It can be said that intense activity is the theft of time, or at least our awareness of its passing. No better proof of this for me than what happened on December 3rd. I woke up that morning, rubbing my fuzzy head, and thinking (I am not, as Dave Barry would say, making this up) “Wow, November already, where did October go?” only to feel like I’d been hit over the head as I realized that November was also already gone, given over to my baptism into the craziness known as NaNoWriMo.

Now, I worked my part-time job through NaNo. I took my son to school, talked to my other kids by phone, even fed them Thanksgiving Dinner. I spent time with my husband, AND I wrote. I did, by the way, pass the 50,000 word mark but not the 90,000. I let myself off the hook after 50,000, refusing to drive myself totally to distraction. But I made a respectable 63,069, finishing over 2/3s of the book. Once I’ve caught up on other writing projects, I will take up the rough draft again, complete it, and move on to the next phases of revision.

So, enough said about quantity and about losing track of an entire month. What else did I get out of NaNo? Well, I got a renewed sense of my family’s support, especially my husband’s.

See, Dave has long had good cause for a love/hate relationship with my writing. He likes it – he especially enjoys my blogs (thanks, sweetie). But, the man had to put up with my bringing a typewriter along on our honeymoon so I could finish a story for a contest. He is an early riser, mainly due to his work, but that forces him to be an early sleeper as well. I’m a night owl through and through. When it comes to writing, I am clearly still on college time. And being a mom got me used to going several days on a few hours sleep each night before I collapse into catch-up coma. So…. I’m staying up when he would much rather I retire. The man likes me in the same room when he turns out the light.

We have also collaborated on writing projects, and it’s always gone surprisingly well, um, almost always. But again, that means we get to critique each other’s words and that can be ---- well, dicey.

This all goes to say that having him agree to my trying NaNoWriMo and then to go through the entire month without complaining about my writing, nay, the man cheered me on, is major proof of his support. Add to that the encouragement from sons and daughters and all their significant others, and from other friends and colleagues ---well, it makes a grown woman cry.

NaNoWriMo also showed me how quickly I actually can work, and that was a big surprise. I’ve always been a thoughtful writer. Thoughtful in the sense that I had to think a lot about what I was writing. If I wasn’t sure I was in the mood, or if I wasn’t satisfied with the last segment, I often didn’t push myself forward. That word count hanging over your head in NaNo makes you move forward. Sometimes in your push, you don’t notice when your plot takes a swerve or is hi-jacked by one of your characters. Even though I had chosen a theme and style that had a fairly well-laid-out direction, I was still taken by surprise a few times during the writing. I found, however, that so long as I had a direction I was going in, I could write rough draft material at the rate of 1000 words per hour. To me, that is amazing. Realizing that is like conquering driving long distances. When you realize that you can actually cover 500 miles in just a day, suddenly driving across the country isn’t so daunting. Same with writing a book. Assuming you have something you want to say and that writing is your thing, learning you can work at high speed grants you confidence you can tackle large projects.

Then there is the tangible benefit. What I had at the outset was a concept and a bunch of notes. What I have now is most of a rough draft of a perfectly good novel. At least, I hope it’s perfectly good. It will be eventually.

I’m glad I did it. I will do it again. And, I might even try other writing marathons. Especially if I have a project ready to start. It’s a great way to get it going.

Should you do something similar? Set a crazy goal and try to live up to it? Work in overdrive on a major project and see if you can accomplish it in record time and manner? Sure! Go for it! Challenges are good, particularly if they are genuinely productive. This one has been terrific for me, and I’d love to see the same for you.

Meanwhile, enjoy your family and the holiday season. Never know when the urge to drop it all for one of those challenges might strike.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaNo #5

I haven’t had time to blog much this month. While my NaNoWriMo count looks fine, I’m not quite on target for what I wanted. On the other hand, if I don’t make 90,000 words, it won’t be that bad. I’ll still have a great start on this book.

It’s curious. It still seems like one long dialogue, or maybe conversation, amongst the main characters. And it keeps stretching. I don’t know if it’s because I write in small doses broken up by leaving my desk for a drink of tea, petting the cat, checking ‘So You Think You Can Dance. stirring the fudge, etc. or if it’s just this story. As I’ve said elsewhere, we’re talking a road trip with five sisters, there’s going to be talk, even mostly talk.

When writing this way, moving ever forward, it’s harder to keep track of where you’ve been and where you are. I don’t mean in an organizational sense. I have notes and lists and all of that. More like real-life time, events keep piling on, and eventually it all becomes one long blurry stream. But, to mix a metaphor or two, the way it’s stretching, I’m going to have to take an ax to it to get a reasonable final draft. Maybe it’s a mini-series.

I’m losing some steam as I get closer to the 50,000 words I’m actually committed to. I think this says something, too. I didn’t completely commit to 90,000. I didn’t want to scare myself, since I wasn’t even sure I’d make the 50,000. So, while my determination to hit the 50k is paying off, my less-than-determination to hit 90k is also showing. There is something to be said for officially committing to a project.

Real life is interfering, too. My job picks up towards the end of the month; Thanksgiving, with its round of transporting the college kids back and forth and its mounds of food, is coming up; and I still have work to do on my other wip. So, if NaNoWriMo begins to take a back seat when I’m at 46,000+ words, I guess it’s okay. So long as I hit that 50k. Let ‘er roll.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

NaNo #4

Aahhh. It is officially Day #7 in NaNoWriMo-land. I haven’t written on Nano yet today, but that time is coming later this afternoon. I did promise to post about it, so that’s what I’m here for.

On most of my blogs, you can find a little blue icon that will show you my updated word count. For those of you who don’t want to search it out, the count stands at 21,345 words. I am officially on-target for my unofficial goal of 90,000, and I’m way ahead of where I need to be to meet the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000. Go, me!

Here’s the thing: I don’t find it that hard to sit down and write this way. Since I work part-time, and since I find it incredibly easy to ignore mundane things like housework (note to old friends: I am getting better at doing my housework as a rule, really!), spending the time is easy.

Even more so since we are all computer friendlies at our house. It’s common for hubby and me to be in our office, back to back, working/playing on our computers. We share interesting information we find, TV stuff (hubby has a TV card), and swap pictures and writings. It’s one of the cool things about our marriage. Teenage son is also on the computer a lot. He’ll wander in and out of the office occasionally, but where many families spend an evening with the TV or games, we spend it with computers (okay, TV, too) and books.

As for the writing itself, I’m making myself only write. I have to plot, yes, but much of the book’s direction is dictated by a map. Literally, since this story is about a road trip. I compiled a lot of material before Nov. 1st, too, so a lot of general planning was done. I knew the premise for so long that it’s pretty well embedded in me. Subconsciously that seems to be driving things.

I’ve found myself foreshadowing almost without thought. Nuances of character and dialogue have crept in. Conversations between characters have naturally flowed in the direction I needed.

Now, there was a plot turn that took me by surprise, and to be honest, I had to write it twice because there was a fundamental discrepancy that needed correcting or it would just confuse me. But other than things of that sort, I’ve not gone back to change – or even re-read anything. I do have an unresolved POV problem. I keep trying to write in third person, and the book keeps tricking me into writing in first.

Forcing myself to move forward and simply keep going seems to be the key to making NaNoWriMo work. As for finishing the process and turning it into a ‘real’ book, I’m not that daunted by it. I know how easy it is to work with material already written and reshape and revise it.

Okay, maybe easy isn’t the word. But, revising is working with something that already exists. It has become tangible, and it cries out for modification, polish and completion. That is different from the story simmering inside you that can be ignored for a while, or the one partly written down that can be dropped for months because ‘you’re already working on it.’ There is something about getting a complete draft down that compels you to work on it until you have the final version.

That is why NaNoWriMo works, children. It motivates you to do one thing: get words on paper. Those words take on a life that demands attention until it is full-grown. And then, if you’ve done a really good job, you can demand that it go out and earn something.

[*okay, okay, apologies to those out there who think I’ve oversimplified the process. Of course, I did. I want those who are seriously thinking about writing, seriously, mind you, to move past the fear and enter the realm of adventure and possibilities writers inhabit. There is a great deal of work involved in those simple steps I described. However, if you’re serious and willing to put the work in, it is eminently do-able.]

Monday, November 02, 2009

NaNo #3

I swear, this is true. I’m not just stringing random words together. These actually make a story. And I am at:

10,021 words!!

I can’t believe it either.

Will this pace last? Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Nano #2

Nov 1 – Well, it’s 9:00 EST, and I’ve made it through the day. Besides taking my son to investigate the Society of Creative Anachronisms, I’ve written 4 chapters for 5562 words. At this rate my book will be even bigger than the 90,000 I anticipate. I know I’m getting plot down, and character, but I’ve a feeling I’ll be doing some backfilling on place and description. We’ll see.

I’m having to use whatever time I get to the fullest, as I don’t know when other things will interfere. But this has been a great start. As to plot twists, it’s a little early yet, but I seem to be moving in a direction of possibilities. Pretty good for right now.

Best of all, this is fun!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

NaNo #1

Hello Facebookers, Twitterers, and Readers of My Blogs:

As noted, you’re all getting the same updates, at least for now. Maybe I’ll rotate them thru the week as I go.

Oct 31 – final countdown. At 12:01 am on Nov 1 (remember, we don’t officially change clocks until 2am) I will begin writing. I plan to go until 2:00 am, just because I can. Then bed and back to writing in the a.m. I’m excited about this… and I’ll let you know how it all goes tomorrow

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I've Really Stuck My Neck Out This Time...

My kids will tell you -- really, just ask -- that I've developed an annoying habit over the years. My husband rather likes it, but the kids don't.

The habit is one of practicality and self-survival: I won't commit to anything unless I am ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN (yes, I'm yelling at top of my lungs) that I can do it. Which means they get a lot of "No." "Maybe..." and the perennial favorite (not!) "We'll see." I've had children threaten to defect and run away screaming over my refusal to commit. Dad thinks I'm merely being prudent and honest.

So, now what have I gone and done?

Uhh -- signed up for NaNoWriMo. Yup. Gonna write me a book in 30 days and -- of course, fifty thousand -- that's FIFTY THOUSAND -- words are not enough. I have to try and write NINETY THOUSAND WORDS in 30 days. Publicly. And I've said I would. And so, at peril of life, limb, job, homelife and possibly children and husband, I have to try,

Why, oh, why am I doing this?

Theoretically it's to jumpstart my new project. It's also to have an excuse to act like a college kid again and not get my husband mad at me. And, it's a challenge, and one I can take on willingly. Lordy knows there's not too many of those around!

Probably I'll annoy people, but luckily everyone in the family writes to some extent, or they're artistic in other ways, so they all understand the passion part of this. They have, however, already expressed annoyance at my announcement that I might not blog or FB or Twitter as much, so I've also had to commit to posting periodic updates. They may be identical on all my blogs and the social networks, but people will just have to check to see.

I will say that prepping for the event has already given me a good start on the material of my novel. And I don't remember when I've felt so enthusiastic over starting something, or over meeting new people (I'll meet with fellow WriMos here in Fayetteville at least once). So clearly, succeed or not, this has already been good for me.

Which brings me to my other point for today. Not everyone writes, poor souls. But everyone does something they love. If you have let your passion languish, even if it's with good reason, this is a great time to pick it up and dust it off and launch it once again. Find that thing that you love to do and throw yourself into it. Maybe in a new way or with a new twist, but let yourself get excited about it. Have fun, create/produce, and feel great!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Aww, shuckee durn....

There is absolutely no better motivator for blogging than a very thoughtful friend who compliments your writing and bestows the latest blogging award on you. Wonderful Kaye Barley of Meanderings and Muses has passed along to me the "Honest Scrap Award".

It's a lovely award whose purpose is to reward bloggers who write from the heart. Well, gee. I can't think of a nicer thing someone could say about Blackwater Tales. It's what I intended all along. So, thank you, Kaye, for all your support.

Now this award has a couple of requirements. I must pass it along to 7 other worthy blogs, and I must list 10 honest things about myself (actually, awarding 7 others is optional, but I want to).

Beyond Understanding

Little House in the Suburbs

Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room

L.J. Sellers

Stick to Your Hips and its sister site Living Well... Eating Thin

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

These blogs focus on different things, but each blogger is passionate about what they are saying. I can read them any time and they touch some part of me in a thoughtful or thought-provoking way. Check them out.

As for 10 honest things about myself:

Well. Hmm. How deep do I have to go here, or should I ask, how deep will I get myself in with this?

How about 10 things I maybe should have done but didn't (honestly)?
  • gotten my Master's degree
  • written more thank you notes
  • driven to Eugene (OR) anyway
  • gone up in the hot air balloon
  • taken another tap class
  • re-done the kitchen floor in our last house (sooner)
  • asked the guy on Student Court for a raincheck on that drink
  • bought more stock -- ANY stock
  • gotten a horse
  • focused harder on my writing sooner
Whew. That last one was hard to write. I don't believe in regrets, you see. However, sometimes I have to admit to mistakes, and I do think there are things I could have done better, the last item on the list possibly being the most important. But, as most people know, life has a way of interfering with your plans. And while we can have it all, we can't usually have it all all at once. So I just have to deal with the fact that I didn't settle down sooner. Perhaps, like a lot of writers, I just wasn't ready to say what I need to say. I'd like to think that, because it's the only consolation I'll get. That and firing myself up and making up for lost time.

So, in keeping with writing from the heart, I urge everyone, follow your passion. follow it as quickly and as fully as you know how. And beyond that, no regrets.

Oh! And if you haven't already, sign up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month and write 50,000 words in 30 days!

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Things We 'Love'

Recently Kaye Barley had a blogpost on Meanderings and Muses about inanimate objects to which we are inordinately attached, things that someone else would either look away from or go “Whaaa?” in complete bewilderment over the attraction. Well, honestly, I think I have plenty of those, but I want to take the discussion a step further.

Into the realm of TV land.

I already know the answer to this, as does the television industry, because a great deal of money has been made for years off re-runs, syndication, and videos. How many of us have just loved a television show, or identified with one, to the extent that its ending was akin to losing a relative? In fact, probably more grievous than losing certain relatives.

We know the kinds of numbers Dallas and M*A*S*H and Seinfeld sent up on their finales. Record numbers of people watching the final hours of these television lives. We had invited these characters into our homes and our lives, and we didn’t want to let them go. We didn’t want their stories to end. (I’m sure I’m not the only one still wondering, where Hawkeye Pierce is today.)

Fan devotion can run deep, a fact some actors appreciate while others shy away from it. But I think, our involvement with television shows is at once different and deeper than mere celebrity adulation or fantasy.

This month, two shows that hold a great deal of meaning for me are ending. Reading Rainbow has completed its 26 year run on PBS. I don’t accept the reasons they’ve given for ending the show. ‘Studies’ notwithstanding, I don’t think it is public television’s job to teach our children to read. You need interaction for that. Some shows do provide reinforcement for what parents and teachers do, but a one-sided non-interactive program won’t cut it. Computer software does it better; live people do it best. However, what Reading Rainbow accomplished was to inspire children to read beyond those years when the ‘how-to’ learning is done. Host LeVar Burton made it cool to like books. He showed where books could take us in entertaining and educational ways. He let kids see that their opinions of books mattered, and challenged them to write their own in Reading Rainbow’s book-writing contest. Should this show have ended? No. It could have evolved, maybe gotten a new host if LeVar was busy. But such a program leaves an enormous hole in PBS’ line-up. My kids (all six of them) and my husband and I shed a tear over the loss of this video ‘friend’ from their childhood. It was a part of their preschool and after-school lives. We still own several of the books covered on the show, and one of my children has an Honorable Mention from the writing contest. And they even remember some of the music from the dance numbers! Reading Rainbow and all it did and could have accomplished are already sorely missed.

The second show that is ending – and I may take a lot of ribbing for this – is The Guiding Light. Starting on radio in 1937 and making various metamorphoses until it became an hourlong TV show, Guiding Light is the oldest soap opera in existence, 72 years old. It will end – forever, they say – on September 18, 2009.

Now, let me say that I am not a woman who spends her whole day watching soaps. And I’ve only been a dedicated fan to a few. But I have either watched or ‘kept track of’ Guiding Light since I was introduced to it in 1983. The storyline at the time involved a character named Annabelle Reardon, who was wonderfully portrayed by Harley Jane Kozak. That plotline, and the writing and the acting drew me into this soap opera like no other. The fact that I shared a maiden name with one of the stars (Kim Zimmer) didn’t hurt, either.

So Guiding Light became my backdrop to raising our six kids. Eventually it became something I shared with them, talking about story lines, quality of acting or writing, or the philanthropic things the members of the cast and crew did. I would even use GL moments as teachable moments; soap operas are nothing if not morality tales.

I appreciated the writing, the soliloquies, the sometimes off-the-wall plotlines, always portrayed with sincere emotion – which was, I think, what sold some of the most over-the-top scenes. I even toyed with the idea of trying to write for GL, but – I have to admit – I chickened out.

I have a Guiding Light bracelet my husband ordered for me. I contributed to one of their on-line projects. And I was even able to break the ‘6 degrees from Kevin Bacon’ via Guiding Light, because a childhood friend had walk-on roles twice, putting me at most 3 degrees from Mr. Bacon.

The only time I ever even considered ‘dumping’ the show from my viewing habits, was when they lost continuity. I’m used to soaps aging their children off-screen and then bringing them back. However, it was both disappointing and aggravating to see GL back up a character. A character who’d left the show for boarding school as a fifteen-year-old came back four real years later as – a fifteen-year-old and proceeded to relive her teenage years with a new troubled teen storyline. I’m afraid I’ve never forgiven the writers or producers for that.

I’m hating the fact that the show is ending. I think it got a raw deal from the producers; I think it could have adapted. I hate seeing anything that has lasted so long be ended. I tend to go for records and longevity.

But, I don’t think I’ve yet gotten down to what is really behind all this. Television shows, regardless of their quality, sort of become the soundtrack of our lives. Sometimes they help us ‘remember when’ as we look back on styles that have changed or events that have been covered in story. Sometimes it’s just an ‘oh yeah, I remember watching that when I was going through my divorce or when the kids had the flu’. Maybe watching Robert Young talk to Bud did provide us a clue as to how Father could know best. But mostly these shows become the familiar photograph of the living room with the net curtains, the chicken always served on Sunday, the gathering around a piano to sing Christmas carols. They are part of what ‘we always did’.

When the writing and acting is good, television shows help us work out things in our own daily lives. Not that they replace interaction with living human beings (or even human beings on the internet!), but if the writers and actors have done their job right, there is a conclusion, a take-away a person can get to mull over and see if it applies to his own life. Sometimes a show just lets us see that our own lives aren’t so bad after all.

I’ve gone a long way to say something that is probably very simple. Humans can attach themselves to anything, I think. Things, places, even television shows, take on a value far beyond the intrinsic as they are woven into the fabric of our lives. We invest emotion in them, because they represent a segment of our lives that is important to us. We use them to hang onto the feelings, the memories, the essence of who we are and who we’ve been. So, I’ll be silly and shed some tears for shows that drop the curtain, books that close the cover, and raggedy old stuffed toys that gaze at me with scuffed up beaded eyes. They’ve been witnesses and sound tracks to the movie of my life, and I’ll hang on to them until I absolutely have to let them go.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Suitable for Work"

I haven't tried this before, so I'm hoping it works. If not, the link for the web site is:

All I can say is, I thought we were tech-savvy people in an old-fashioned setting! Kudos to the shepherds!

[make sure your sound is on]

Don't you just love it?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose....or is it?

It's 7:50 am. I have about a half hour before I leave for work. Dave has left for his. The kids are still sleeping in; not much more of that for this year.

The owls -- or an owl, at least -- have returned. Two long calls this morning when I walked the dog. They seemed to disappear for the heat of the summer; evidenced by the many sightings of both bunnies and snakes this year. It seems the rain has brought them back.

I have a short to-do list of last minute items for the girls. A couple things to buy, a couple to apply for, a couple to sign up for. We're waiting on delivery of some new electronics to go with one of them. All last week at home stuff.

I could get maudlin, but mostly I'm quiet. This is one of those becalmed moments in the midst of a hurricane of change.

I don't know for sure why I've always held that the year started in the fall. There's the obvious school connection. Plus I love fall, with the cool temperatures, the wind, and the leaves. It's always enervating. I don't like heat, and summers are not only hot, they're sluggish. Since I was somewhat isolated in my childhood summertimes, I never liked them much. Plus, fall means harvest.

Harvesting to me was always about finding the hidden treasures amongst the leaves. Ever seek out spiney cucumbers on the vine, or alien beanpods dangling down from their bushy hidey-holes? Red orbs of tomatoes deep within cage enclosures? Zucchini, and yellow squash hiding in the ditch or where the vine overruns the grassy yard? Bejewling eggplant, a treasure, even though it doesn't hide so much. And pumpkins, their orange color calling attention to themselves, but maybe not in time for you to pull them at their peak. I love the beauty you can find among the dying stalks, the produce which was the fruit of each plant's grown season.

I think I also like fall because it marks the beginning of the holiday season. We have several family birthdays beginning in October and running through March in rapid succession. Not to mention Halloween -- spooky decorations, costumes and parties; Thanksgiving -- the time of our 'moveable' feast, when we're never sure who will be home or where we'll be eating; and Christmas, which we do up in royal style with a caroling party, decorations throughout the house (and I do mean throughout!), family getting together, and a few presents. On to New Year's with it's party or parties, and then more birthdays. [as for other holidays, Easter has its own time, Memorial Day and the 4th are special in their own ways, and there's one more birthday in July. After that, well, then it's just hot.

I suppose the fact that October is when I was born -- along with my father, my husband, and one of our sons -- has something to do with it. My personal start in life and its anniversary is in the fall; that's my 'renewal' date.

The thing is, fall is coming and everything is ramping up. The girls start college -- exciting for them and us --, youngest son starts his sophomore year of high school, older son is in his senior year of college, with all the complexities and planning that entails, the two older girls are -- in various ways -- working on planning both this next year and the coming few years of their lives. Dave and I are looking at new prospects in several areas of our own lives. It just looks like things are about to get very, very busy.

I'm curious about how many people are surprised by these times in their lives. In our heads, we all know we have phases to our lives; we all know that we shift gears and switch programs and make changes. How many of us, however, are taken aback when it actually happens? When suddenly we are caught up in something new or different? How many of us feel the earth shake a little when we break a pattern, especially one long in use?

Is it unsettling for you when you leave one club to join another with a different activity? Or does it take something really major, like a job change or a cross-country move or a child's wedding to rock your life?

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Next ###### Star

I've been watching the 'catch-up' episodes of Next Food Network Star. I don't watch reality TV as a rule. But I have to admit the Food Network and HGTV star searches pull me in. Partly because I like watching to pick up tips -- and to knock the things I know they do wrong.

Each week I marvel at how they stand up there and take the criticism in public. Obviously they are accountable for anything they do -- they have to take ownership of the dish or the design (oh, Lord, I'm starting to sound lke the shows!) -- but still, to stand there beside the fellow contestants, on camera, and hear it spelled out about what was done wrong! Ooh! (shiver)

Now, it's funny. I can take -- no, let me rephrase that, I have taken editorial or professorial critique on my writing. I've changed things, or I've defended my work. But, it isn't the same. Never mind that these critiques represent the thinking of judges who, at that point, hold your next professional life in their hands. Never mind that your mother, your co-workers, your kids and your kids' friends will watch this, ready to turn to you and ask what you were thinking. As much as I love to cook, and as much as I love to create, build, and decorate, I could not take this. Kudos to those who have enough faith to follow their dreams into such a public arena. And kudos to the networks for giving these folks a chance.

Now, what about you? Do you have to take public criticism? Have you developed skin of armor? Do you let yourself look on it as a merely educational experience? Or do you secretly go home and sob into your pillow and hug (or kick) your cat?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Accidentally-Take-Your-Twins-to-Work Day

Well, when we goof, we goof pretty big.

The girls were going to the library today. spend time reading there while Mom worked. Until we pulled in the parking lot and discovered that the hours had changed and that today, today, mind you, not yesterday or tomorrow, it didn’t open until 11 a.m. Two hours to kill.

So, they came with me to the church where I am Parish Assistant, greeted the rector and proceeded to giggle their way into the Parish Hall.

I promise you, they are 18 and college-bound, but they sounded like 6-year-olds. At least they were sounding like happy 6-year-olds, and I know I will miss those giggly moments. Before they took off for the library at opening time, I asked if they’d guest blog for me, and they graciously accepted.

[Kelsey writes]

The markers are sprawled across the table. Nearby, a notebook sits, just waiting to be colored. And my sister takes advantage of this, idly drawing circles and squares and triangles. Now, contrary to this image, we are adults. But from time to time, my sister and I venture back to explore memories of childhood.

Today, for instance, we were originally going to go to the library. That changed when the hours read 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Disappointed, Kacey and I accompanied Mom to work, where the day became known as “Accidentally-Take-Your-Twins-to-Work Day”.


In any case, Kacey and I found ourselves faced with a question: What to do? When I asked this aloud, Kacey immediately pulled out 18 markers from her bag. She, at last, came prepared. I soon joined her in coloring. We made Mom a sign reading “This is a sign from God” to put in her office. We also hovered around Mom in her office, playing with the Post-it™ notes (I tried to put one on her back, but she caught me.)

It’s moments like this that make me miss being a kid.

[Kacey writes]

To add to my sister’s thoughts, I’m gonna miss being a kid with her. We’re going our separate ways for college, she for English and I for psychology. No doubt the two subjects are linked. (both require exhausting term papers), but there is a difference there, enough to make us step back into our similar twindentities.

It’s a bizarre sensation – to have finally grown enough to be independent. As the feeling often goes, little kids want to be big kids, and big kids want to be little kids. That would explain our childish delight in a case of markers, and more excitement in scented markers. At the same time, we relish the opportunities to pull out our inner child; how much longer will it be until we are paying our own bills and raising our own families?

Not long, that’s for sure.

As I have nearly run out of space in my notebook, and as my drawing begs to be colored, I want to thank Mom for allowing us to color in and out of the lines.

[Kelsey adds]

Yes – thanks, Mom! And may you always fill a blank page (never let it defy you!)

We love you.

I love you two, too.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

the bathroom light is out ...

the bathroom light is out...meaning I have to get a new fluorescent tube.

the kitchen faucet is dripping....meaning we either have to get a new set or figure out how to repair a single-lever combination faucet.

dave's car needed new tires and wipers before inspection...meaning, well, we had to get them.


as they all say, it's always something. anyone out there have a day when nothing went awry, nothing needed fixing, nothing spilled?

Well, I don't believe you.

Life is a mish-mosh of good, bad, and indifferent, occasionally punctuated by chaotic. Sometimes the bad gets very. very bad, and no one wants to joke about it or even make cheerful injunctions about how it will all be all right.

No, when in the middle of catastrophe, you want to exercise your right to feel miserable. Good for you.

When things are good you want to cheer, and not feel guilty because everyone else isn't in the same party mood you are. Understandable, but please hold the good thought for the guy next to you.

And when life is indifferent, when you're in the bottom-most rut of the same old grind, chances are you're not appreciating how good you've really got it.

Yes, there's always some thing going on, going wrong, going left when you want it to go right. Let's just count our blessings that we're at least going somewhere. That we're alive enough to kick up a fuss that things aren't perfect. That things are going well enough for us to be only annoyed by the stuff that's going wrong, not overwhelmed.

And even if you're feeling overwhelmed right now, breathe. Take heart. There is a tomorrow. Your foot (figurative, at least) will go down in front of the other, and you will move out of your current situation.

After all, not only is something always needing fixing; something's always getting fixed.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Buzy, Buzy, Buzy

Yeah, yeah, yeah, okay okay. So it’s been a while. Do you have any idea what I’ve had to do lately?

Twins’ graduation. College orientation with a writing retreat (personal) for me. Meeting Kaye Barley – an adventure all unto itself. Only trouble is she is no longer my-friend-Kaye-in-Boone-whom-I’ve-never-met. Graduation party. Fourth of July party. Daughters visiting with SOs in tow. Finishing final revisions on one ms (DONE). Adding another layer into another ms (still working). Cutting lines into concrete slab to make faux flagstone – it looks great, and I don’t care if you do laugh! Moving roses and other assorted flowers and shrubs. Work. Play. Run around. Hop up and down.

Okay, so I really don’t have more to do than some of you (LJ Sellers comes to mind. I don’t know anyone who works as hard as she seems to. Reading her statuses challenges me to do more.) I figured I owed it to all 7 of my readers – 7 is a lucky number, right? – to come back and add to Blackwater. Trouble is, my focus tonight is still diffused. Which, I guess, is better than defused.

I think it comes from living with so many people. I only partly refer to the live people I’m living with.

See, half of our kids are at home, the other three are permanently or almost permanently away. Two more join that status in August. But just because they are absent from the house doesn’t make them absent from your heart, or your brain. Trying to keep my arms wrapped around them long-distance means keeping my brain engaged in the important parts of their lives. I’m pleased to say our kids enjoy talking with us and letting us know what’s happening. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Such involvement, however, becomes entanglement, even with the best of intentions.

Then there are all those imaginary people crowding my brain, too. The lady doctor who returned home with her boats. The man who is dying of cancer but wants to save his town. The eccentric magnate who writes commercial jingles. The sisters in the aftermath of their mother’s funeral. The funeral director. The five sisters taking one last road trip. The writer with Alzheimer’s who is not ready to reveal it.

Not to mention the characters I read or watch on the screen. So many lives, real, unreal. There are times when I’m not sure whose life I’m actually living. Ever get up in the morning depressed because your friend is going through a rough patch, only to realize your ‘friend’ is a character in your own or someone else’s book? It’s disconcerting.

I find myself staring at my image in the mirror carrying on conversations (and I am so witty!) with people whose lives are manipulated by the whims of people no more God-like than I am (just more successful). I am, in fact, losing track of whose lives are real and whose are fiction. Who I know and who I make up. The fact that I know the people I make up more thoroughly than those who are real amplifies the issue.

So please, forgive me when I hide away and don’t post on my blog. I’ll return when I regain my focus. If I’m missing, I’m probably having animated dialogue with someone in the mirror, trying to remember where I know them from.

A Piece of Ceiling from the Sky and other strange words

This piece also appears in my blog at Sunoasis.

A piece of ceiling from the sky….

I thought it was a nonsensical phrase when it entered my head, but I liked it. I sat here, trying to think of a way to use it. It actually didn’t take long.

Falling sky. Chicken Little. A piece of ceiling from the sky looks like a piece of plaster dropping like a stone kite from above…. what might cause that? A sonic boom.

A sonic boom while I’m standing in the field with my father and sister.

My sister. My sister with whom I argue constantly. You’d think nine empty years between us would prevent that, but no.

An argument with her that ended in my slamming the bathroom door behind me.


“Come back in here,’ spoken in a deadly quiet voice. She is so melodramatic.

I peek around the door and follow the point of her finger.

The bathtub is filled with old plaster dropped off the lathe of our farmhouse ceiling. A hole 30 inches across gapes at me from overhead. A piece, all right, many pieces then.

Pieces of ceiling from the sky.

I haven’t thought of that in ages.

Friday, June 05, 2009

"You, too, can sing the Spaghetti Rag!"

When our kids were younger and we lived in Nashville, they all took dance with Patricia Hill. (Eventually they would take with teachers who had trained with Ms. Hill.) An annual tradition at recital time at TPAC (Tennessee Performing Arts Center) was for all the current capable tappers to do an ensemble number called “Spaghetti Rag”. Dancing with them would be whatever Patricia Hill alumnae could make rehearsals. They’d deck out in pink Patricia Hill Dance Studio sweatshirts and for three minutes the stage would be crowded with up to five lines of tapping, grinning devotees of dance. For some students, dancing “Spaghetti Rag” was bigger than being in the ‘Big Ballet’ at the end of the night.
(There is, in fact, a Facebook group for those who ever danced or aspired to dance the Spaghetti Rag with Pat Hill.)

Things happen, and times change. The twins are graduating this year, and we are no longer at Pat Hill’s in Nashville. However, their Fayetteville high school also has a tradition. Both girls have been in chorus and/or show choir. The South View High School concerts always end with a rendition of “Lord Bless You and Keep You”. And at the Spring concert in particular, chorus alumnae are invited to join in. This time next year, when our young freshmen (sophomores, actually) come home, they will be eligible to go up on stage as alum to begin the tradition of harmonizing with their former choristers.

There is a lingering sweetness about it all for my husband and me. We have watched our children perform in many venues; sometimes we’ve been honored to join them. Now our younger children are on the brink of having a history. The children we set upon their toddling feet those years ago are now setting out into the world itself, for better or for worse, good times and bad. They are crossing into adulthood, and we welcome them as (near) equals.

The years run together over time; toddlers, youngsters, young men and women. Our own family traditions will tie us together and create a thread to tie more generations in. Our children will have their traditions binding them to their pasts. Some of them will be among the dancers who remember the thrill of Spaghetti Rag, some will be vocalists singing sweetly about the Lord being gracious. My husband’s and my connection to it all is a little blurred and run-together, too. As he put it, “You, too, can sing the Spaghetti Rag.” It’s an idea that sets my feet tapping and my heart humming, a very pleasant thought indeed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


At last.

The twins are set for college – at least as much as they can be with finals yet to go. But choices and deposits are made, and they’ve begun filling out housing forms and class registrations online. They’ve picked out roommates – we think, -- and generally are beginning the transitions to college student.

Flora and fauna – which I’ve lauded ad nauseum before, is coming out in abundance. The flowers we’ve moved around and the new ones we’ve transplanted are taking nicely. Currently we have rhododendrons, dogwoods, roses, irises, vinca, amaryllis, and sage in bloom. Not to mention violets, Stars of Bethlehem, and various wild things we don’t know the names of. Turtles from the sizes of quarters to moneybags have been seen – particularly along the fallen trees that bridge the creek.

We have almost converted the island back into an island. Once we construct the bridge, we will break through the final wall and let the water flow. I really can’t wait to get it done. The water lilies are sending up leaves. They’ve actually spread out to two locations now. Fish are poking around the lagoon looking for nesting places. And speaking of nesting places, cardinals have nested and hatched offspring in the camellia (also in bloom) by the front door..

And we are trying to bring the house into shape for things like graduation parties, summer events, and well, just living.

We’ve added to the attic floor, and cleared out some of the many belongings to the attic. Though I still want to replace the attic ductwork. It is old and inefficient and takes up way too much space. However, we have so many plans, its hard to hold back and only undertake what we can afford to do, and what we can finish. I sometimes feel like I have 3 jobs , maybe even 4 although that’s typical for a mom. Working on the inside of the house, working on the grounds, writing, my part-time job as a Parish Assistant, and doing all the regular wife and mom things! Dave too is working at work and taking charge of the grounds as well as assisting me on the house. The kids contribute to all the various chores while trying to maintain good grades – so, we’re all busy.

It’s hard to describe the change in us that has finally transpired. Completing the sale of the Nashville house and working on taking care of long-standing obligations, we feel a little more free, a little more like we’re returning to the way we want to live. At a time when the rest of the world is trying to adjust to dealing with financial woes, we are coming out of our particular tunnel. We want very much to remember the lessons we’ve learned in all this. We want to pay up and pay back to those who have helped us out. We want to plan better for the future.

But, the biggest lesson, we want to live life fully. If we have learned anything in all of this, it is that you have to keep living. You have to get everything you can out of every moment. It might be a moment of peace, where what you get is serenity and reflection. It might be a moment of adventure, doing something you’ve never done before. It might be a moment of companionship where you bond with family and spouse. Even when things are bad and you feel the least like gathering or laughing, that is when it is the most important to do just that.

Trouble will always be with us. In love and laughter we find the curative powers, the magic to give us strength to go on.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

When Weird Things Happen

I have found myself in a curious situation; one of those it-can-only-happen-now type things the Internet has created. I invite you to hop over to my blog at and check out "When Is a Book Not a Book?" I hope some of you will comment on this quirky situation, and maybe help me in my dilemma.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Making Excuses and Giving Directions

I'm actually working hard this weekend spitting and polishing, so while I have my next post in mind, I'm saving it for now.

Instead, I'll direct you to Meanderings and Muses where Kaye Barley graciously requested I 'guestblog'. Check out my post there and read some of the other guests' posts as well as those Kaye wrote.

Enjoy yourselves, and I'll have my new post here soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lookee What I Got: Fabulous Blog Award!!!

Now, you just never know what’s going to happen in cyberspace. Kaye Barley of Meanderings and Muses has just awarded me a Fabulous Blog Award! Considering how much I respect Kaye’s taste and discernment when it comes to good writing, this is indeed an honor.

Kaye is known at Blackwater as “my-friend-Kaye-in-Boone-whom-I-haven’t-met-yet”, a status I hope to change as one of our girls goes to Appalachian State next year. Anyway, Kaye was always a frequent poster on DorothyL (a LISTSERV of mystery lovers – writers and readers alike, named after Dorothy L. Sayers). I loved what she had to say and how she said it. But I never knew where Boone was. Until we moved from Tennessee to North Carolina and I saw road signs for it.

When Kelsey was getting ready to apply to App State, I screwed up my courage (having never done this before) and emailed Kaye to ask her for some information about the college. Her reply was so warm and gracious and welcoming! A friendship was born. When Kaye wrote her first piece about Bouchercon, I was among those who urged her to start her own blog, and the rest is her-story.

There is just something about Kaye that makes her near and dear to your heart, no matter how far apart you are, or if you’ve never even met her. And that quality comes through in her writing. It makes you just want to sit down and listen to her ‘chat’. She reminds me of Fannie Flagg, actually, but maybe a little softer around the literary edges.

Anyway, this all goes to say that I value this honor and I’ll try to pass it on properly. For that is a requirement for accepting this award. And there are a few more. You must pass it on to 5 other Fabulous Bloggers in a post. (You might find their email addresses on their Profile page or, if not available, post as a "Comment" to their latest post.).

You must include the person that gave you the award, and link it back to them. You must list 5 of your Fabulous Addictions in the post. You must copy and paste these rules in the post. Right click the award icon & save to your computer then post with your own awards. This is not only a nice tribute to the blogger, it widens the reading audience.

Well, like many others, I hate limiting this to 5, but you can always check my sidebar for other blogs I enjoy. Here are my picks for the Fabulous Blog Award.

1) BEYOND Understanding

2) BookEnds, LLC – a Literary Agency

3) Editorial Anonymous

4) Cake Wrecks

5) Poe’s Deadly Daughters

5 of my Fabulous Addictions? Family, technology, music, reading, renovating. (Writing and chocolate go without saying, right?)

Kudos to all the Fabulous Bloggers out there!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There's Wildlife Again

It's spring, and the wildlife is at it again. That is to say, it's resurfacing.

Today, resting on the logs that we are just going to have to move, were not 2 or 3 or 4 but 5 turtles! Three brave souls let me get close before they dropped off into the water. And I was so busy concentrating on not scaring the turtles, and on holding the dogs back so they wouldn't scare them either, that I was totally unaware as we turned toward the lagoon. Up flew the ducks we've been trying to track!

We seem to have a pair (or more) of either green-winged teals or wood ducks that are trying to make up their minds whether or not to set up housekeeping in our back yard. They might, if we don't scare them off. We've seen the wood ducks at least three times. And we've heard what we think are the green-winged teals whistling, especially at night. We're hoping something will decide we're not going to bother them and will take up residence.

Tonight we heard the teals, and also an owl. The bats have also been out, and some little bird keeps rustling through the leaves along the creek. Once the water clears up, I'm sure we'll find the fish are back, too.

This year I hope we will also create a little wild life in the backyard ourselves, as the teens invite their friends over and we invite ours, too. There's been talk of a block party, and maybe this year some family will get to visit. Aah yes. A new spring at Blackwater -- and isn't it great we've got that name to ourselves now!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Comfort Books

“I’ve taken this out from the library so many times,” my 18-year-old daughter told me, a happy smile lighting her face as she settled in the passenger seat. “I just love this book. It’s my comfort book.”

‘Comfort book’, I thought, like comfort food. Hmm.

… a comfort book is one you return to to re-read, despite a hectic schedule that would seem to prohibit the re-reading of even prescription instructions.

… a comfort book is one with dog-ears, cracked spine, and smudges in the margins from repeated use.

… a comfort book is one you will take to your favorite reading spot and bury yourself in its pages, oblivious to the world – or sit at a lunch table, book propped against the nearest sturdy food container, and hunker down behind it, hiding away in its world to escape from your own.

You get the picture.

I realize that in a world where reading time has been diminished by the electronic media, social networks and lack of interest, there is concern about getting people to read a book at all. People who are reading usually protest they can’t squeeze multiple readings of the same material into their hectic lives.

BUT – we watch our DVDs repeatedly. We have favorites. And who among us can state truthfully that they don’t watch TV reruns? “7th Heaven”? “I Love Lucy”? “M*A*S*H”? It’s about comfort, familiarity, and feeling good.

It’s putting Mozart or the Rolling Stones on the stereo or iPod, sitting back with an apple or some Oreos and milk, and opening up a book to a familiar scene, returning to a place that intrigued us, gave us joy or prodded our intellect in some satisfactory way.

If I can’t get my hands on a new book by a favorite author, I’ll re-read one. DO NOT ASK me how many Agatha Christies I’ve re-read. I started re-reading favorites by her when I was still a teenager. I will re-visit Pern to ride ‘between’ on dragonback, cook with Goldie Schulz, garden with China Bayles, quilt with Bennie Harper Ortiz, and bask under the Tuscan sun with Frances Mayes. I will even build houses in a town of schoolchildren with Tracy Kidder. And – through less often – travel almost anywhere with James Michener and Isaac Asimov.

Of course, the shorter books are easier. They are quicker to read and easier to put down if I remember them well enough. Longer ones take, well, longer. Still, in times of life that are difficult or even just mildly stressful, familiar faces and places that can be delved into at a moment’s bread are truly comforting. I don’t count the time spent in re-reading against my new-book reading time. Instead, I count it as re-grouping time, stress relief, self-indulgence. I don’t go to spas, or get my hair or nails done; I don’t party or even dine out frequently. I don’t go on retreats. But I read and re-read my favorite books, my comfort books. What are yours?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flowers Currently Blooming at Blackwater

Pink camelia in the woods across the causeway.

Daffodil closeups.

Daffodils and beginning Stars of Bethlehem by fallen tree across Little Cross Creek.

Coming Home

I've not posted to this blog in a while. Too many things have been happening, one in particular that I had to think about before I was ready to write.

We sold the house!!!!!

Our Nashville house finally sold, and we closed late in January. We actually finalized the offer on December 31st, answering the prayers of a lot of people that we sell by the end of the year. This was a second piece of good news; I started a new part time job the beginning of January (a job I thoroughly enjoy, by the way). It's only three weeks ago, so there is still dust settling as we complete our first month with only 1 set of mortgage payments.

Wow. Not used to that.

So. The question on everyone's mind is, how do we feel?

That's what I've been pondering, how to describe what we feel.

Relieved, for sure. Our future was looking pretty bleak. And I sure did make a lot of homemade soup these last few months!

Awed, because now we can really think of Blackwater as home, and you know how I've raved about this place. We'd been feeling a little nervous, as if the repercussions of our financial stretch could have resulted in our losing it. After all, the economic climate is making everyone imagine a Foreclosure Bogeyman lurking behind their front doors. Now we're feeling more assured, and we can enjoy the beauty we're blessed with this spring.

We were walking the dogs in back yesterday, and I stood looking up at the pines and around at the magnolia saplings and thorn olive bushes and gardenia bushes, the irises and peonies poking up, the crocuses and daffodils blooming, and I actually felt giddy that we get to own this place. We get to feel excited about it again.

We get to feel .... normal about our lives. We live in one place, instead of having one foot in Nashville and one in Fayetteville. We can commit to the place and the people here. Life is no longer about what has to be done there, or what left undone here. We can actually live and plan for here.

And while this was going on -- this huge hurry-up-and-wait on the house sale, our lives were quietly taking root around us. Now they are sending up tendrils in new and unexpected directions. The girls are making college visits and college plans. My new job has taken me to a section of town where I've discovered the sweetest group of people who have a similar take on the importance of diversity that we have. David is getting involved in planning and working on Blackwater, and photographing everything in site OR sight. (He even actually likes some of his own photos!) We have, thanks to the Internet, reconnected with old friends from Nashville days, as well as adding new friends online. Our universe is expanding.

I pull in our cul-de-sac, swing up in front of the magnolia and redbud that blend at the corner of our property, and switch off the engine. Getting out, I check to see if our woodworking neighbor across the way is home, or if the neighbor next door has his dogs out. I stride up the newly-swept walkway under the saucer magnolia whose buds are turning purple, checking the flag waving from its pole in back. The dogs are at the windowpanes, watching me. A lizard darts across the bricks of the front wall. It's 1:00 pm as I turn the key in the lock.

A few hours from now I'll pick up the kids. We'll come back amid discussions of what went on in school and who has the better music on their iPod or MP3, and we'll circle the cul-de-sac again, checking for Dave's car in front of the garage. We might even arrive at the same time as him; it happens. Then we'll all troop into the house together.

We've come home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day at Blackwater

I have to say that I think God was awful nice to give North Carolinians the day off so that we could watch the inauguration. Blackwater was transformed by 4 inches of snow. Some areas got 6 inches, the most snow in 5 years. School was out, my new boss said to stay put (I worked a little at home), and my husband's work was shut down. So we played in the snow and took pictures, then watched the inauguration. Which meant I cried, and we stood for the oaths and the National Anthem, applauded the speeches, loved the music.

I don't think we've played in the snow with the kids for a few years now. It was nice to have a chance to do it again before the girls graduate. And it's really nice to know that North Carolina can have snow, even if it doesn't happen all that often.

Here are a few pictures of Blackwater in the snow on Inauguration Day 2009.

photos courtesy dkminnick

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Who Said a Person Has to Downsize?

It's a dreary day outside. We might even be getting snow later, the first we've seen it since we moved here over a year ago. It won't stick; it's too warm out, even though it feels damp and cold inside.

Football games await. We're all working on computers, stopping periodically to check in with each other, tease a little, give a hug, lend an ear. We all have tomorrow off, which will probably be more of the same. It's the last semester of high school for the twins. Next year they'll be in college. That will make 2 college graduates (1 now married), 1 college senior, 2 college freshmen, and 1 high school sophomore. And only 1 of those will be at home. Hmm.

When we bought Blackwater, we were thrilled to be increasing our living space, both indoor and out. Although it's taken this long to even be close to selling our last home, we still have big plans for this property. But, my husband teases, common wisdom would say it's too big for us.

Well, it's not.

We all know the rule: physical property expands to fill available space. That's already begun.

Plus I share feelings with Dame Agatha Christie: I don't want a small house. They're harder to clean, because you keep bumping into things. I want space.

I want rooms that are just for books -- and for housing guests.

I want a room I can move Christmas decorations into without having to climb attic steps. When the season comes, I'll just slide boxes out.

I want multiple rooms to house kids, relatives, guests, all the people we couldn't have over at the smaller house when the kids were growing up.

I want rooms to put desks in. I love desks. In fact, a neighbor had one out by the side of the road for pick-up, and let me take it when I asked. I refinished it and put it in my son's room (the one at college; he was less than thrilled).

I want rooms to wander in and out of. I want to be able to change my surroundings to suit my task, or to inspire me when I write. My husband already has 3 -- count 'em 3! -- locations for his various computers in the house. I work in the office or the kitchen mainly, but I've also gone downstairs, or our bedroom, or even to that desk in our son's room for a change of atmosphere.

Frankly, I would love even more room -- more acreage, more rooms here in the house. Not so much for luxury -- I doubt we'll ever have the kind of luxury home some people have, but just for the space, the variety, the charm that many rooms allow.

My mother used to tell me about when they bought the 96-acre farm the year before I was born. She told me how she went out to the yard and stood there, just feeling all that space around her, knowing it was theirs. I admit to wanting our own land, our plantation, our Ponderosa, our kingdom. I want that connection. I want those roots. I want to make it mine. (okay, more correctly, ours). It's a desire I don't think will ever go away.

Are we at the beginning of the empty nest? Maybe, but it doesn't mean we'll be finding a smaller nest any time soon. Way too much to do yet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Screaming Meemies, I mean, Memes

Okay, so I have NO idea what I'm doing but Kaye Barley (Meanderings and Muses) went and tagged me for a meme which I had to look up the meaning of and which means (from


–noun; a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

[okay, end run-on-sentence here]

This particular meme is the Meme of Tears. It was passed to Kaye by Linda Richards who got it from Sandra Ruttan. Kaye has tagged a number of us with this question, and although she said we don't HAVE to respond, I find it hard not to.

The question passed on to me by Kaye went as follows: "What's hit you on an emotional level and made you cry?"

This is one of those questions that looks so easy. I could answer any number of ways, with responses that would resemble many other peoples'. But I hate being just like everyone else. Don't be insulted; I'm just in love with the concept of being different. It's something I've had to embrace over the years.

Anyway, I decided to try to analyze the things that make me cry. And two major categories emerged.

The first category seems to be Achievement. I cry whenever I see someone achieve. It may be a Special Olympiad charge the finish line -- even on a TV commercial. It may be our daughter's or son's or daughters' graduation. It may be my husband being recognized in his job, or someone winning a contest. There is that innate knowledge that these people worked really hard to reach their goal, and they did it. All their hopes went into the effort, and they made it. The energy, the heart that is being rewarded is worth a few tears from this sympathetic spectator.

The second category seems to be Truth. Truth in the universal sense. When I listen to a speaker, or when I am meditating for myself, or even when seeing a play or program that demonstrates or reveals a concept that I sense is a Truth of the universe, I find myself tearing up. Love comes under this category, and Beauty, and Forgiveness. There are some others in there, too.

It's easy to downplay teary moments. We are easily embarrassed by them, and we usually can't explain them on the spur of the moment. They are intensely personal. So we laugh them off and admit to being 'sappy'. I think we are just covering up for deeper feelings. Our tears mean something. They are our recognition of those moments when human touches human. These teary moments signify a deeper, more raw emotional incidence of connection where we acknowledge what's happening to another of our kind.

So, what makes you cry?

[Kaye, did I do all right?]

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Tale of Christmas

Christmas Window at Blackwater
photo courtesy dkminnick

Ahh, time to start the New Year at Blackwater.

We have just finished a momentous Christmas. We had our first caroling party at Blackwater. To understand the significance, you have to know that our family caroling parties date back to at least 1992. Their roots go back even farther, as I have caroled in some form or fashion since before 1967. It was sporadic, but each year I would doggedly try to find a way to carol. Sometimes it was with a youth group or organized choir. Sometimes just a couple friends and I. The year I was pregnant with our firstborn, our medical records group caroled through the hospital. For some reason we dressed in costume. I wore a Christmas tree outfit made of felt, and I carried a small tree for my ‘wee unborn one’.

By the time said firstborn was in 6th grade, the family had increased to 5 (ultimately it became 6). She was in a musical group at school, so we invited the whole crowd to come out to our house for goodies and a little caroling through the winding streets of our hillside neighborhood. A tradition was born.

As time went on, we continued to invite friends – everyone is told to invite anyone they wish plus the person’s family – to come out and sing and have goodies and watch movies. There is no time limit on the party, except for whether or not it runs overnight. Our caroling usually goes from 6:00pm to 9:00 pm.

I tend to get in a tizzy when preparing for parties. Cleaning and baking is done at top speed while my mind races to see what I can safely leave undone after all. Some years the decorating was complete, and other years a dark green undecorated tree or incomplete crèche stood watch as revelers filed in and out of the house. For me, probably the most significant memory of these years is the mad rush to finish cleaning the house, and the way the downstairs family room would swallow up teenagers as soon as they arrived.

For as children grew into pre-teens and teens, the parties grew. And grew in importance, too. The year of our last party in Nashville, we sent out written invitations to accompany the directions to our house. In the invitation, we noted that it was our last party, as the next spring we were moving to Fayetteville. The response was overwhelming: we had over 50 people! 50 people from all parts of our lives, accompanying us on our last round of caroling.

We made a point to let the recipients of our carols know it was the last year, too, and with hope we encouraged a few of them to take over the tradition.

Last year was our first Christmas in Blackwater, but we couldn’t get everything together in time for a caroling party. We did hear, however, from various friends, including some high school friends of our now-college students, that our party was sorely missed. In fact, even this year, our two oldest, age 27 and 22, informed us they still had friends who complained of missing our party.

So it was with high hopes that we planned a party for 2008. Again we invited friends, although not nearly as many as previously (it does take time to build a following). We tried to set the party for after the older siblings got in, but this year it wasn’t possible. We also set out flyers letting people know we were singing, and asking that they leave a porch or Christmas light on if they wanted to hear us, and that they feel free to join us on our musical journey if they wished.

Cleaning and cooking went the smoothest it ever has. Well, we’re all older and more organized now. We had a half-dozen guests, but put that with our four (my husband stayed home to send along any stragglers), and we had a nice-sounding group. So nice, in fact, that we surprised ourselves. When asked if we rehearsed, we had to say no, but we were able to perform Carol of the Bells in parts with no problem. The key appears to be that even though we didn’t rehearse in a group, almost all of us had sung with someone else in the group, so we were all attuned anyway. We even picked up a couple neighbors who joined us along the way, and they came back to our house to sing to my husband.

We sat around with goodies and good cheer afterwards, promptly making plans for next year’s party. The interesting thing is, with 2 out of the house, and 3 in college, I’m just not sure when we’re doing it!

This was important for us in so many ways. Caroling is a gift we give to our neighbors, and the party is a gift we give ourselves. We love sharing Christmas. We’d been forced to skip one year. It hadn’t felt right. This was a homecoming for us. We really have made the transition to Fayetteville and to Blackwater. While we may not know what comes next, we have indeed finally made it here.