Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Writing Contest: Sharing My Tickle

The eternal question for writers seems to be, "Where do you get your ideas?"

While I've written before about the dream that spawned my completed manuscript, it's usually a bit less involved.  In general, I get my ideas from something I see or hear that strikes me as noteworthy ... I call it "a tickle".

I had quite a tickle today ... and NOT writing about it is actually a force of will.  In fact, I'm only keeping my muse under wraps with the knowledge that I will write a short story based on today's tickle as soon as I get this post up.

Yup, I've decided to have a writing contest :-)

Okay, here are the details ...

1.  Write a short story incorporating my tickle into it.  Genre doesn't matter.

2.  Send me your short story via e-mail before December 30th.

3.  I will choose my three favorites and post them here on January 1st.  At that time, votes will be open for you to vote on your favorite for the next three days.

4.  Winner receives a special prize (and, of course, bragging rights) that will necessitate in your being willing to hook me up with your mailing address.

Any questions?  Leave them in the comments.  Also feel free to let me know in the comments that you're participating.

Okay, onto the tickle ...

Yup, the tickle is ... A GREEN PICKUP TRUCK!

More specifically, here's what happened ...

I was driving home from work on a very rural New Hampshire street that is known to locals as "Mountain Road" (it is well-named).  I saw a green pickup truck coming from the other direction with its hazard lights flashing.  I looked at the license plate and saw that the truck had government plates.  However (and this is the bottom line of the tickle), there was no further identification on the truck.  It didn't have a Department of Transportation decal.  There were no police lights.  It was very generic.  The mystery of that truck fascinated me, and I started making up a story right there ...

And now, so can you.  The green pickup truck is the required presence in your story, although you can feel free to use the other details I shared.

Please feel free to share this writing contest as you see fit ... the more, the merrier!

Happy writing, and I look forward to reading your stories :-)

Monday, December 19, 2011


You all know that, when things come up that make  me think, I share them with you ... to get your take, to open up discussion, even just to get your thoughts roving over that topic.

I also needed a real whangdoodle to re-acclimate myself into the blogging world ;-)

Okay, so here's what happened ...

Addie had a cold, which devolved into a sinus infection.  You can tell when Addie has a sinus infection ... her face gets swollen and she's all pale with dark circles under her eyes and ... well, you can just tell.

I figured I'd found yet another pro to getting Addie a car ... namely, she could drive herself to the doctor and I would not have to miss work.  Score, right?

Maybe not so much ...

So Addie went to the doctor and was told to take Sudafed.

There is no prescription for Sudafed ... and yet you can't buy it unless you're eighteen.

What that meant for poor Addie is that she had to wait ALL DAY for me to get home from work then go to the drug store to buy Sudafed behind the counter at the pharmacy.

I understand that it's a federal law, that meth labs run rampant and that there had to be some sort of crack down.  I get that, I totally do ...

But here are my sticking points:

1.  Addie is seventeen.  She has a license.  Surely the pharmacy peeps could have entered her license as easily as they entered mine so they could make sure that someone with her license number isn't buying up Sudafed all over the northeast.

2.  How many seventeen-year-olds have you heard of operating meth labs?  When you hear about meth operations being busted up (or suspicious fires being caused by cooking meth), the perpetrators are generally in their 30s or 40s.  They are virtually never seventeen.

3.  If Sudafed needs to be regulated to this degree, perhaps it should be a prescription drug.  If Addie had needed Percocet or something, she could have gotten it herself with a prescription backed up by her license.  Yup, she could have run amok with a narcotic, but God forbid she take a nasal decongestant ...

4.  Finally, Addie's birthday is in September.  She's a senior in high school.  Yes, that means that she'll be seventeen when she goes to college.  Does that mean that I'm going to have to take a trip to D.C. if she gets a sinus infection and needs Sudafed?  I suppose I could mail it, but ... if it's illegal for her to buy Sudafed, the idea of mailing it would make me feel decidedly criminal.

I've been doing a lot of thinking on this one, and it seemed a good way to get back to my lovely little blog :-)

Hope everyone is doing well ... I'm off to plan lessons (the two weeks before holiday break necessitate 15 hour workdays for teachers, plus Addie kindly shared her cold ...) after writing a piece for Zelda Lily.

I'll definitely be writing more now that I've broken the seal (or whatever random idiomatic expression you want to use :-)).

Oh, and speaking of Addie, she was quite insistent that I'd committed libel by claiming that her SAT scores were 1750 ... her SAT scores are, in fact, 1850.  My apologies, eldest progeny of mine <3

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lots to be Thankful For ...

I'm not a huge fan of Thanksgiving.  I know, I know, downright un-American, right?  The thing is, it bugs me that our society feels compelled to focus on being grateful one day of the year and foster sort of a dog-eat-dog mentality the rest of the time.

Oh, and I hate turkey, stuffing, gravy, and so on.

But the world doesn't center around my culinary tastes, and I'm as bad about only taking the time to fully, deeply count my blessings on one day in November as anyone.

I challenge you to contemplate your own good fortune (and we all have lots, if you think about it), and also to write about it ... and I encourage you to either leave a link to your own "thankful" post or to leave a comment about what you're grateful for.  I'd love to read the many and varied directions thankfulness can go in ...

Also, I've done something like this on my blog before, and it's kind of funny to read it now ...

As for me, I am especially thankful for ...

1.  My daughters.
I know this is a contrived answer for a mother to give, but I can't help it.  My children are the funniest, kindest, most extraordinary people I know.

It's been a big week for both of them, too.

Addie made All-State Orchestra (you can hear her play on this post), raised her SAT score to a 1750, and had an idea--a random act of kindness--that turned out amazingly well.

Belle has apparently acquired representation in the world of child acting and modeling.  I'm still not sure that I'm ready to embrace this with open arms, but it seems to be what she wants, and I've raised my children to reach always for their dreams, so ....

2.  My mother.
While we still don't get along much of the time and much of what she does confuses the hell out of me, I really appreciate everything she has given up to let the girls and I live with her.

The girls and I spent the afternoon baking with my mother's best friend from high school, then we went back later (with my mom) to eat dinner with her.  We got, as usual, a bit loud ... my girls have gotten the message that our family values laughter to a tremendous degree.

My mother was joking with her friend (who lives alone) about how nice it is to have us visit, but she can have her quiet, peaceful life back when we leave.  Of course, my mother does not have this luxury, since she's kind of ... stuck with us, at least for a little bit longer.

She has given my girls so much love and support, and I will always be grateful to her.

3.  Henry.
Nobody wants to hear how amazing your boyfriend is and how happy you are.  It's boring and drama-less and just not fun to read about.  I am very happy.  Very, very happy.  Very, very lucky.  And very, very thankful.

4.  Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
That should really speak for itself.  If you don't live near a Dunkin' Donuts and love coffee, you're missing out.

5.  Recent life developments.
Details at some point, I'm sure, will be forthcoming.  For right now, I'm just thankful for the winding roads that life sometimes drops you down on ... even if you have no idea how things are going to end up, living the proverb "May you live in interesting times" is exhilarating.  I suppose ...

So that's what I am focusing on tonight in terms of gratefulness.

Where are y'all at?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest Post: 10 Historical Facts About Thanksgiving

The following guest post was submitted by Lori Hutchison, an Art History Professor and owner of Masters in History Schools.  I think history is fascinating, and I look forward to perusing Lori's work myself.  Enjoy!  I'll be back tomorrow to Frag It for Friday :-) If you're interested in doing a guest post, drop me an e-mail.  <3 KL

Thanksgiving is a wonderful way to celebrate our nation’s unique culture and heritage. But the way we celebrate Thanksgiving has a long history that has changed significantly since the Pilgrims first arrived. Here are ten historical facts about the holiday we’ve come to call Thanksgiving.

1. The first recorded “thanksgiving” feast was celebrated in 1541 by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado of Spain and his troops, along with the native peoples of the Texas panhandle region, while they were on a New World exploration.

2. French and English colonists held several thanksgiving feasts in the late 1500s and early 1600s, but the one that went down in the history books took place in 1621 in Plymouth, MA.

3. Everything we know about the 1621 Thanksgiving came from a letter written by Edward Winslow, who was the leader of the Plymouth Colony at the time. This letter was lost for over 200 years. When it was rediscovered, an embellished account of the “First Thanksgiving” was printed in a newspaper in 1841.

4. The first Thanksgiving feast was attended by 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Native American men. The Wampanoag killed five deer for the feast and brought fish, vegetables, and grains. The Pilgrims provided wild fowl, which may have been geese, ducks, or turkey. The feast lasted three days.

5. In the 17th and 18th centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies, then later by early presidents. However, these days were marked with prayer and fasting rather than feasts.

6. President Lincoln declared the first national holiday for Thanksgiving Day in 1863, after the suggestion was made by an editor of a popular magazine. It was to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November.

7. Following Lincoln’s tradition, later presidents continued to declare Thanksgiving each year on the final Thursday in November. However, from 1939 to 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving on the next-to-last Thursday in order to extend the shopping season and help merchants coming out of the Depression.

8. In December of 1941, a federal law was passed declaring Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. However, several states continued to celebrate on the last Thursday as late as 1956.

9. The National Turkey Federation has presented the U.S. President with two cooked turkeys and one live turkey since 1947. Ronald Reagan started the tradition of “pardoning” the live turkey in 1987, in which it lives the rest of its life peacefully on a farm.

10. Americans will eat an estimated 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Turkey Federation.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Stealing: The Madness Meme (Part I)

Sunday Stealing is good fun :-)  If you don't participate, give it a try!

1.Have you ever licked the back of a CD to try to get it to work?
No.  Yes.  Kind of.  Well, to be completely honest, I’ve spit on a Kleenex and tried to clean it up that way.  The crazy thing is, it often works ...

2. What’s the largest age difference between yourself and someone you’ve dated?
Officially “dated”, six years (and, yes, that would be Henry … he’s very wise J).  In terms of more casual kind of things, twenty-five years … in the older direction, of course.

3. Ever been in a car wreck?
Once … I fell asleep while driving to Andy’s condo at three in the morning, took out a “sharp curve ahead” sign, and drove into a ditch.

4. Were you popular in high school?
Popularity is a relative thing.

5. Have you ever been on a blind date?
Yup … And that’s all I have to say about that.

6. Are looks important?
Nah, hygiene is important.  I’ve been through the “you have to be hot to have a chance with me” phase, and it’s stupid.

I've learned that, if a person has a beautiful heart (and did I mention good hygiene ;-)?), they are beautiful on the outside, too.

7. Do you have any friends that you’ve known for 10 years or more?
Of course.  Bless their hearts … J

8. By what age would you like to be married?
I’d like to be married by the time I’m 40.  No pressure or anything, Henry ;-)

9. Does the number of people a person’s slept with affect your view of them?
Funny story, I was having this very conversation this morning. 

My bottom line is no because, once you get to the right place with the right person, you can look back and be glad for the experience and for learning what exactly it is that floats your boat.

If it gets to the point where you can’t keep track of the number, that might be a different story ….

10. Have you ever made a mistake?
I make mistakes at least once every hour.  It’s how we learn and grow J

11. Are you a good tipper?
I’m an excellent tipper.  If you’re aware of the horrible wages given to waitstaff because of the assumption that the real money is in tips, you would be, too.

That being said, I’m also very good at making my point on the rare occasions I encounter a truly sub-par waiter or waitress …  I’m convinced that pennies were created for the sole purpose of tipping badly …

12. What’s the most you have spent for a haircut?
I spent just under $200 for a haircut once … it had been eons since I’d had one, I don’t do change well, so the poor stylist had to put up with my angst.  I don’t begrudge it.

13. Have you ever had a crush on a teacher?
Ew, no!

14. Have you ever peed in public?
Haha, I was ALSO telling this story recently.

I was at the parking lot of Six Flags in Montreal.  I really had to pee.  REALLY had to pee.  The park wasn’t open yet, the line was already ridiculously long, and … well, I really had to pee.

I told Pythagorus I was going to pee in the parking lot if we didn’t go find a gas station or something.  I don’t think he believed me.

He should have.

15. What song do you want played at your funeral?
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

16. Would you tell your parents if you were gay?
“Mom, Dad, I’m gay.”

17. What would your last meal be before getting executed?
A cheeseburger.

18. Beatles or Stones?

19. If you had to pick one person on earth to die, who would it be?
God judges, not me.  I'm pretty sure I know some people on the "karma's coming for you" list, though ...

20. Beer, wine or hard liquor?
Anything but wine…sounds clichéd, but the alcoholics in my life are winos, so the very smell of wine makes me nauseous.

21. Do you have any phobias?
I cannot get on an airplane. 

22. What are your plans for the future?
Happiness, good health, and … well, getting the novelpublished and embarking on a great writing career.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oh, Headache, From Whence Did You Come? (And When Will You Be Going Back There?)

There is nothing quite so debilitating as a really bad headache.  

It's also an obvious target for ridicule, almost.  I mean, who hasn't heard jokes with the "Not tonight, dear, I have a headache" punchline ... or rolled your eyes at someone always complaining about having a headache?

I've long had a migraine issue; in fact, I'm in a unique category of those suffering from migraine headaches (and insomnia) for most of my life.  Yup, I got regularly dropped by headaches and spent countless sleepless nights when I was a toddler.  No wonder I'm not my mother's favorite person ;-)

The idea of having a headache isn't particularly interesting, though, and I'm not self-obsessed enough to imagine that my migraines are worse than anyone else's.

What's of interest to me at this moment is why you can go through life and all of a sudden *bam* get slammed by an unbearable pounding, the inability to tolerate bright lights or any sort of noise, and pain intense enough to induce vomiting.

I'm chatting with Henry at the moment, and I mentioned to him that I've been having trouble coming up with blogging ideas at times.  He had an interesting theory as to why ...

KL: Addie's on her way home from Winter Guard ... one time-intensive activity ends, and the next one begins lol

HENRY: lol
KL: I'm writing a blog piece on headaches   I've been having a hard time coming up with stuff for my personal blog lately ... it's weird lol
HENRY: At least she isn't boring or bored
HENRY: Lol, you don't do the "happy artist" thing well?
KL: Or doing drugs, having sex with multiples, getting into petty crime, or beating up small children lol
HENRY: lol
KL: Evidently not   Actually, I think I will eventually ... I've had some really great writing ideas of late, believe it or not.  Like, better than usual.  The thing is ... well, it's kind of like reading graphic novels ... it's new and different and takes some getting used to

This ties back to the topic at hand, I promise.

See, even though my migraines are idiopathic (in other words, nobody knows where the heck they come from), there is no doubt that stress plays some sort of role.  The whole root cause of migraines is the constriction of blood vessels, and you probably don't need me to tell you how stress figures in there.

And I guess that's the big mystery at the moment since, as Henry alluded to in our chat, I am happier than I've been in a very long time.  I'm sort of abuzz with inner peace, lame as that sounds.

So I got thinking about what would cause my head to explode when life is so very beautiful, and it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks.

Pythagorus has apparently decided that paying child support is optional, which has led to some pretty serious financial strains.  I have to register and inspect both my car and Addie's, for example, and the worst thing--having to tell Belle that things like basketball and Girl Scouts and Happy Meals for dinner (which sounds really bad, but the kitchen is under construction, so we are currently stoveless) are not givens.

He is also doing the disappearing thing again, not answering the phone when Belle calls at the allotted time for six days at a time, answering it on the seventh day, then going back to not answering it the next night.  It's confusing and frustrating for me, so I can only imagine how horrible it must be for a second grader. 

And because I don't want to be that annoying woman that sits around trashing the ex-husband, I keep it inside as much as I can, but the blood vessels in my head are unfortunately an area I have no conscious control of ...

I need to take up long distance running or something ... perhaps yoga.

Anyway, my doctor gave me quite a cornucopia of drugs, so I'm feeling much better now and hopefully the level of this migraine won't be duplicated any time soon.

The stress of worrying about Pythagorus, primarily in terms of Belle but also the kind of distant concern you have when you hear that an old high school classmate has fallen on hard times or something ... I have to just let it go, get a second job to make up the financial difference (since it's obviously too much trouble for him to get a first job), and keep on enjoying the beauty and light that are surrounding my life.

If someone can figure out how to get that message to my cranial blood vessels, though, I'd really appreciate it ...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can't the Golden Rule Just Guide Humanity? Seriously????

I am way too sensitive, a condition of which I am well aware.

I am flawed in a hundred different ways.  I am disorganized.  I'm cranky.  I don't do well without set, drop-dead due dates.  I am goofy when I should sometimes be serious.  My wardrobe is pretty pathetic.  My eyebrows need to be done.  My car might just be radioactive.  I swear like a sailor.

You probably get the idea.

But I am never cruel.

I have the typical human knee-jerk reaction of being pissed off when, for example: 

* Certain ex-husbands who shall remain nameless set up a special outing with the daughter they haven't seen in weeks, ask their ex-wives to spend an additional hour and a half in a car driving said daughter there, then don't show up or even answer the phone, text messages, or e-mails, forcing the ex-wife to try to explain to the sobbing daughter why exactly it's wrong to say that Daddy's a bad person.  Oh, this is particularly egregious when the ex-husband involved owes the ex-wife in question $500.  Just saying ...

* People drag me into drama that does not concern me.  I do not get involved in drama.  I hate drama.  I went on the "Oh, let's make fun of people, isn't it a good time?" trip, the "Let's pick apart every little thing that person does because my friend doesn't like her" vacation for awhile last year, and you know what?  It makes you feel like crap inside after awhile.  I'm out of that, totally out of that.  I made an active choice to remove myself from the set of Mean Girls, and getting pulled back into it when I didn't do a freaking thing is frustrating.

* When your ability to do your job effectively is called into question by fools who have no idea how to be an English teacher.  I once had someone say to me, "All that kids in your class do is read, write, and have discussions."  I was royally pissed off for about thirty seconds ... then I started laughing because, damn, they'd just paid me a hell of a compliment.  But sometimes it's hard to suck up the crap people sling around.  I have never once had my integrity as a teacher questioned by a person whose opinion meant anything to me.  It's easy, though, to say, "Consider the source" and something else again to do it.

Which brings me back to the title of the post.

Let anyone who's never committed a sin throw stones at glass houses (how's that for combining ;-)?), and I guarantee you that ... well, it'd be quiet.

Look, we all suck on some level, in some verb tense.  I used to suck, sucked, will strive to never again suck, but ...

Well, you get it, I'm sure.

Shut the heck up, get over yourself and your stupid childish  mentality, and focus on you.  Look in the mirror, think about what role you play in any of the drama you're so worked up about, and own what belongs to you.

I think you might be surprised, seriously.

If every person in the world could just stop and think about the ramifications of their own misbehavior, to presume positive intentions in others, and to keep their mouths shut if it doesn't involve saying something nice or adopting a "live and let live" policy, the world would be an infinitely better place.

Look, I know I'm living in a world of rainbows and dancing fairies and hobbits.  Just because I make a concerted effort to treat others well or at least to give them common courtesy doesn't mean that others can or will or maybe even should.

But it also drudges up the cynical crystals still floating inside of myself, and the idea of those joining together and changing me because some people are rude, inconsiderate, bullying, lying, hypocritical ... "stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerfherder" ...

Just be good to each other ... it's not that freaking hard!

**Okay, rant over ... my apologies :-)**

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Big, Bad 35

So I turn 35 tomorrow, an event that is giving me much angst and leading to people looking at me like I'm crazy when I articulate this.

Here's the thing.

When you're in your twenties, the teenage years aren't far behind you.  In fact, you can do a lot of the same things that characterized your adolescence.  The world is at your fingertips, so to speak, with the sky being the only limit ... or at least it seems that way when you're young and pretty and such.

And as you approach thirty, you realize the magic that permeates the adult world, how beautiful it is to see connections among and between people, places, things, and ideas.

By the time I was thirty, I knew without a doubt that I'd made a positive difference to a lot of people.  I had a sense of accomplishment that I took great pride in.

And when I'm forty, fifty, sixty ... well, I'll be even prouder of those accomplishments.  I'll be able to say with complete confidence that the world was a better place because I walked its roads.

I mean, I look forward to those days ...

So, yes, I am the odd duck that is perfectly okay with turning 40 ... but totally freaking out about turning 35.  Totally.

And then I realized that it's especially sad because it's a--let's face it--surface thing.  It's a youth thing.  An, "I don't want to look like an old lady", an "I'm going to have to get my eyebrows dyed as well as waxed at the salon now", an "I didn't get carded when I ordered a Captain and Coke Saturday night ... it's the first time I didn't get carded in ... well, pretty much ever" thing.

Wouldn't you think that, if you can take pride in your adult accomplishments and look forward happily to future endeavors, you could get over the fact that you're getting wrinkles and weight doesn't come off easily like it once did and so on?

Bottom line, I have to accept that the looks (such as they are ;-)), are leaving, that being funny and cute and peppy are no longer the things that'll get me through life.

After all, funny, cute, peppy forty- and fifty-year-olds are sort of perennial jokes ...

I know this is rambling and not concise and so on ... honestly, I'm about a second away from deleting it.  It'd be deleted already if I hadn't promised my friend Heather that I'd articulate the catalyst for my 35 freak-out.

Well, Heather, I attempted to articulate the catalyst.  All right, I failed, but the attempt was there ;-)

Any of my wise, articulate blog readers want to try to put the gist of what I mean into words?  The comments are all you, people :-)

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Do Believe in Kangaroos in New Hampshire

I can't stand cynicism.

While I have had moments of being bitter and cynical myself, I still can't stand it.  There is so much in the world that is noble and fine, interesting and thought-provoking, funny and even a little bit magical.

I got thinking about this today on the way home from picking Belle up.

As usual, she was gabbing away a mile a minute (and nope, I have no idea where she gets that from :-p).  She plowed through what she did at school today (drew an illustration for the children's book adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera that she read in music class), her proposed attire for tomorrow (it's red white and blue day ... she wants to wear a sundress ... sigh), and why the tortilla chips at her afterschool program are superior to the ones we have at home before she got down to the real business at hand.

Halloween, of course.

She's going trick or treating with her friend on the next street over.  Addie and her best friend are taking the little girls door to door as a sort of farewell to another childhood ritual, and Belle started telling me how relieved she is that "the big girls" are coming since they have to walk on a path where there might be wild animals.

Okay, I wasn't paying 100% attention until she got to the wild animals.

ME: Wild animals?  What sort of wild animals?
BELLE: You know, tigers, bears, lions.
ME: Oh my.
BELLE: You're so funny, Mommy.
ME: There aren't any lions or tigers here.
BELLE: There could be bears, though.
ME: True, I guess there could be.
BELLE: Probably not, though.
ME: Nope, probably not.
BELLE: Maybe gorillas.  Or toucans.  Or flying monkeys.
ME: You never know.
BELLE: Kangaroos? Wild turkeys? Boa constrictors?
ME: I love your vivid imagination, sweetheart.
BELLE: There really might be bears, though.
ME: Yes, baby, I know.

Believe it or not, the word that most resonated with me from this entire exchange was "kangaroo".

Yes, I'll explain myself ...

Last fall, I was driving Addie to school one morning when an animal jumped out in front of my car.  Addie and I separately thought it was a kangaroo, although neither one of us was willing to state it aloud for a couple of minutes.  It jumped on large legs, the size was right, and ... well, it just looked like a kangaroo.

I never really publicized my, "I saw a kangaroo on a highway in New Hampshire" experience because, really, who would believe it?  It seemed like an interesting little event to break up the monotony on that long-ago day, not something I would ever really talk about and certainly not an encounter that would impact my thought process a year later.

But when I heard "kangaroo" this afternoon, I remembered that day.  I remembered how hard Addie and I laughed over the absurdity of the situation.

And I remembered that damn kangaroo.

Here's the thing--I would not have said a year ago that I saw a kangaroo.  I might have said, "I think I might have seen a kangaroo, but ... it MUST have been something else.  I mean, a kangaroo in New Hampshire?  No way!", but I wouldn't have gone any further than that.

I would have doubted what I saw, tried to force my mind to bend into logical and rational ways that it doesn't naturally go in, and in general convinced myself that it must have been a rabbit, a dog, something other than a kangaroo.

Today, I am stating with certainty that I saw a kangaroo hopping across Route 101 a year ago.  I don't know how it got there.  I don't know why it decided to jump into my life for a matter of seconds.  I don't know where it ended up.

I do know, however, that the mindset allowing me to believe--and believe fully, at that--in the possibility of the impossible is a magical thing, a freeing feeling, a general impression that keeping your eyes and heart and mind ever open for the remarkable will be the only thing that allows the remarkable to come to you.

When something bizarre and, on the surface, utterly ridiculous comes up, consider giving yourself a moment of contemplation ...

You might be surprised what an existential experience it can be (even a year after the fact).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Parallels: "The Bottoms" and "To Kill a Mockingbird"

I've spent the past two days home sick with some really horrific cold/flu/high fever/horrible headache/body ache/cough/generally feeling like crap kind of thing.  

I hate being sick for obvious reasons, and I hate missing work for reasons too numerous to name.  However, one of the few positives is that I was pretty much confined to bed (I'm not a "lay in bed" kind of person ... when I choose bed over lounging on the couch or in the recliner, it means I really feel dreadful), which meant, of course, that I got to read.

Henry lent me The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale several weeks ago, and I'm ashamed to say that it's taken me this long to read, even though I liked it from the start.  Once I got a chance to dig in, though, despite it being in and out of fever-riddled sleep and Nyquil daze, I couldn't put it down. 

Especially when I started noting parallels to Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, probably my most beloved book ever.  I was in English teacher ecstasy throughout, I tell you :-)

I know that To Kill a Mockingbird is both well-loved and widely read.  Lansdale, who is considered more of a "cult favorite", achieves masterpiece status in my mind with his very similar offering.

Both books ...

*  Explore the strong bonds of love that exist between siblings.
Interestingly, The Bottoms is narrated by "big brother" Harry Collins, who feels deeply the tremendous responsibility of keeping his younger sister, Tom (short for Thomasina) safe.  Makes me wonder how different Mockingbird would be if told from Jem's point of view ...

*  Take a contemporary reader into a world where blacks are treated horribly.
Perhaps because of Scout's tender age, the specific horrors of life as an African-American in Maycomb, Alabama aren't expounded upon in detail.

Lansdale pulls no punches in the small east Texas town portrayed in The Bottoms, with the KKK figuring prominently into the story, white doctors refusing to perform an autopsy on a brutally murdered black woman, tarring and feathering, and the lynching of an old black man who was very briefly considered a witness in the murder of a white woman.    

*  Force the protagonist (well, brother/sister team of protagonists, I suppose) to realize that the person-cum-monster that colored the nightmares of childhood are both more and less than what they appear to be on the surface (or in local legend)
Call him Boo Radley or the Goat Man, but this lesson is one that stays with a reader.

There are lots of other connections between the two (too many to list, actually, without being a total spoiler), but I just had to share how cool I found it that another book was able to, in some small way, address the very tough themes and issues brought up in what's arguably my favorite book ever.

I'd never seen it done before on such a grand scale, and I'd never really heard much of Joe R. Lansdale before Henry introduced me.

I figured it was  my responsibility to pay it forward.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Changing Definition of "Fun"

My friend Jessie has a name for the period of time when you first start dating someone and everything is just flowers and light and smiles and so on--"The Hearts and Bunnies Phase".

It sounds contrived, but it's true.  

And no one in the world wants to hear the details of how dizzily happy you are, that what you've always dreamed of seems to be happening, that you're walking around floating on air because life feels so very good.

Which is why I haven't been blogging much lately.

The fact that Henry, who is also an English teacher, lent me his Edgar Allan Poe action figure to share with my students after finding out that we were reading "The Cask of Amontillado" melted my heart, but I'm sure it sounds just lame to other people.  

He made a playlist of songs that reminded him of me, burned them onto a CD, and I listen to it all the time.

As Pythagorus became increasingly unbalanced and emotionally abusive the past few weeks (before disappearing entirely for days at a time more than once), Henry has been incredibly supportive, offering not advice or anger but love, logic, and laughter (after Pythagorus left a couple of disjointed, rambling voice mails that concluded with him giving his full name and phone number, Henry opined that Pythagorus is freaking out because he can't control and bully me anymore ... and stated, "You've got his number ... literally").

It's a very new feeling to be around someone unfailingly positive, constantly kind, and ridiculously funny ... but also trustworthy.  I never thought I'd be able to fully believe in anyone again, but being with Henry is making me rethink a lot of things.

Including the parameters of what a really fun time is.    

Last week, Belle and I went with Henry to his friend/co-worker's house.  Joanna is also an English teacher, so it was a gathering of the minds ;-)  Anyway, we brought pizza, soda, and Rock Band ... and that was it.

I enjoyed Joanna and her husband from the start, and we had an absolute ball playing Rock Band with the kids and such (they have two kids, one almost exactly Belle's age and one a few years older).

After the excitement of Rock Band wore off, the little ones moved on to board games, hide and seek, and dressing up in Halloween costumes, and the adults went and sat out on the porch, talking and laughing (drinking root beer and Diet Coke, I might add ... it was noted more than once how odd it seemed to be dissolving in laughter so often without drinking alcohol).

It was pretty late when we left, so Belle and I slept in Henry's guest bedroom (and she slept in until 8:00, which I still cannot believe).  Belle had a birthday party to attend, but Henry made pancakes for her (and an omelet for me ... yum!) before we left.  He also put coffee into a travel mug for me, but I forgot it at his house in my rush to get Belle to her party on time.

Cue the following text exchange.

HENRY: You forgot your coffee, you goofball :-(
ME: Oh, shit, I did :-(  And after hogging the cream, too...lol
HENRY: Don't worry, I won't let it go to waste.
***a number of texts came and went***
HENRY: Hmmm, the coffee tastes off.  I think I need to clean the maker.  You're not missing out after all.
ME: Haha, that's a relief :-)  It's almost ten, and I haven't had coffee...perhaps a first since college.
HENRY: Lol, oh my!

And the past week, it just keeps coming.  Everything is beautiful, and I want to sing and dance and hug the sky and such.

Henry met my brother and his family last night when we all went to the beach house for dinner.  It was wonderful.  The dinner party concluded, in fact, with Henry and Adam fixing the beach house toilet (while this was transpiring, my sister-in-law kept saying how great Henry is and how close he and Belle are ... it made me feel so good).

And so as I'm finding happiness (some might say "sappiness" :-)) and, yes, joy in pretty much everything right now, I'm also aware of the nuanced changes in the definition of "fun" as I understand it.

I feel an amazing connection to Henry, in every possible way.  He's an incredible man, and I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief to know that he really wants to be with me.  Sometimes I doubt that, but those moments are lessening, that fear of him disappearing dissipating as we seem to grow closer and more dizzily drawn to each other than we did when we'd just started dating.

There is fun everywhere ... if you are willing to see it, to appreciate it, to let it come.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I'm a Blog Slacker ... So Starting Back Up With Sunday Stealing :-)

There is no question, I've been a slacker in terms of keeping this blog up to date.  I've been busy with the kids and school starting back up and all sorts of other things.

So, yeah, I have a boyfriend, who I'll call Henry here (he knows why).  He's an English teacher, a voracious reader, and is a very kind, very funny, very smart person.  I've been avoiding mentioning him because I didn't want to jinx anything.

I guess I'm comfortable enough with where we're at now to mention him here.  That's probably a good sign :-)

Anyway, onward to Sunday Stealing, which is called "That Meme That's Going Around" this week.

A. Age:
I'll be 35 next month.  I don't want to talk about it.

B. Bed size:
So I have Ward and June Cleaver beds in my room.  Yes, I'm serious ... I sleep in a twin-sized bed.  With a golden retriever.  

C. Chore that you hate:
Unloading the dishwasher.  Now, I don't mind loading the dishwasher, which is, according to everyone that makes fun of me about this, the exact same amount of work when all is said and done.  For some reason, though, I just hate unloading the stupid dishwasher ...  

D. Dogs:
I've always had dogs, primarily golden retrievers, and they've always been family members, not just pets.  Right now, I have a golden retriever named Mollie and a black lab named Sonja.  They're wonderful :-)

E. Essential start to your day:
Coffee.  It's not a real day until there's coffee.

F. Favorite color:

G. Gold or Silver:
I actually think silver is prettier, but virtually all of my jewelry is gold ... interesting conundrum ;-)

H. Height:
5'2".  I'm short.  Most of my students are taller than I am.  I've come to terms with it.

I. Instruments you play:
I can pick on the piano a bit, and I used to sing pretty well.

J. Job title:
English Teacher.  

K. Kids:
Two daughters, Addie (17 and a senior in high school, which I do NOT want to talk about) and Belle (7, and a sparkly, sweet little girl) 

L. Live:
In New England, where we have a passion for sports teams that mess with our minds and say things like, "WICKED PISSAH".  

M. Mother's name:
I'm not putting my mother's name down here.  I will tell you, though, that I almost gave Belle my mother's name for a middle name, but I just couldn't do it because the name is so ... well, dumb.  No, it's not Bambi.

N. Nicknames:
Many and varied ... "Teach" and manifestations of my name (such as KLo) are the norm.

O. Overnight hospital stays:
Also many and varied ... I never just get a cold, it's always something that requires overnight hospital stays.  It's been awhile, though ... years, in fact.  Speaking of fearing a jinx ...

P. Pet peeve:
Feet, "Toppers" (people that have to one-up every story you tell ... it's very annoying), rudeness, mean people, being disorganized ...

Q. Quote from a movie:
"Leave the gun ... take the cannoli." 

R. Right or left handed:

S. Siblings:
Two, Adam (four years older) and Mary (two years younger).  I also have two half-sisters and a half-brother.

T. Time you wake up:
During the week, 5:30 a.m. ... on weekends, it depends.

U. Underwear:
Yes ;-)

V. Vegetable you hate:
Peas.  The consistency of the inside of peas makes me gag.

W. What makes you run late:
I'm very rarely late.  My mother is ALWAYS late, and it used to drive me crazy.  It got to the point where I'd tell her I needed to be picked up from practice at 3:30 when it was really 4:00 because I knew she'd still be 15 minutes late.

X. X-Rays you've had:
A lot.  I don't keep track ...

Y. Yummy food that you make:
There are very few things I can make, but what I can make I make very well--chicken salad, corn chowder, meatloaf, a chicken casserole with cheese and broccoli that's pretty amazing, and spaghetti with meatballs.  

Z. Zoo animal:
I think wild cats (tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards) are unspeakably beautiful.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Special Favor: Who is (Are) Your Favorite Author(s)?

I'm doing a rather ambitious project with my high school students.  Basically, they need to choose an author of fiction to focus on for a yearlong project.  They'll have to read a book each quarter and do an accompanying project, then tie it all together with a final paper focusing on a theme that runs throughout the four books as well as analyzing how the author's life and experiences played a role in his or her works.


Yup, like I said ... ambitious.  It might even be overly so, but I'm super-excited about it, and the kids seem to be as well.

Which brings me the favor part ...

A number of my students have asked for an author recommendation list, considering that the parameters include an author prolific enough to have four published novels.

I've made a list, but I tend to have tunnel vision at times with regards to literature.

If you would be so kind as to leave author suggestions (and perhaps a blurb about why you'd recommend a particular author), I would be unfailingly grateful :-)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Stealing: The 20 Questions of Doom Meme

1. Do you believe in Heaven?
II try to, because the alternative (that people just molder in caskets and become worm food) is not a happy thought.

2. Have you ever come close to dying? 
Yup, several times.  Ruptured appendix, internal bleeding following an ERCP, one bout of acute pancreatitis that left me in a medically-induced coma for almost a month.

Oh, and I almost died today at the horror of having to force my child into a nightmarish situation.  Some people should seriously just be shot ...

3. What jewelery do you wear 24/7? 
Diamond earrings (because otherwise I'd lose them), mother ring

4. Would you ever consider having plastic surgery? Nah ... after all the medical drama I've had to contend with, I'd never get any sort of elective surgery.

5. What do you wear to bed? Pajama pants and a t-shirt.

6. Have you ever done anything illegal? Oh, dear God ...

7. Who was the last person that you touched? 
My little Belle <3

8. Where did you eat last? 
Home.  Hannaford's make these seasoned hamburger patties that are just orgasmic ;-)

9. Besides your own blog, are there any that you routinely read but never comment on? I read so many blogs that it would be impossible to list them all here.  I go through spurts where I have time to comment ... wish it could happen more often.

10. Ever been involved with the police? 
Yup, as both a "criminal" (as one example, I called a cop stupid for telling me I was speeding in a school zone when the sign clearly said "20 when blinking", and besides, it was a Saturday...great lesson in the difference between being right and being smart) and as a victim (as one example, I spent time on the phone with the 911 operator for some time while Pythagorus was on a drunken rampage ... and I was holding Belle at the time ... it was a freaking nightmare)

11. Do you talk in your sleep? 
God, I hope not ;-)

12. Now a celebrity fantasy. Who would you take on a ménage à trois for a dirty weekend? 
I'm not in the mood to think in this direction.  I've had a very bad day :-(

13. Do you feel that you’ve had a truly successful life? 
Yes, absolutely.  I've raised two amazing daughters who anybody would be proud to lay claim to (and in less than ideal circumstances), and I've also been a teacher, mentor, and life coach to a multitude of students.  I'm pretty sure my funeral would be well-attended, and I guess that says a lot.

14. Where do you wish you were? 
I really don't care.  Did I mention that I'm in a foul mood?

15. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance?
Actually, no.

16. Is there any type of dancing that you love to do?
I don't dance.  Well, let me rephrase that ... I can't dance ;-)

17. Last gift you received? 
Belle made me a bunch of stuff for Mother's Day.  I'm allegedly very hard to find gifts for ...

18. Last sport you played? 
Basketball :-)  I'm quite a liability, though, being 5'2" and all.

19. Last place you went on holiday? 
New York City.

20. Current Song? 
I'm not listening to anything right now.  When I'm in a foul mood, I tend to avoid music because I'm one of those people that puts connotations with songs.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Accepting Criticism ... Along With a Special Thanks and a Really Cool Opportunity :-)

I truly believe that the reason my novel is still unpublished is that I suck at struggle with accepting criticism.  This is true in all facets of my life, but it's unquestionably the strongest with regard to my writing.

Why?  I suspect because, at least in terms of the tentatively titled Unbreakable, I put so much of myself into it, that I put many years of my life into it, that it has been a part of me for a very long time.

I spent a lot of this summer working on fixing up my novel, based in large part on suggestions and input from you, my lovely readers.

So I'm going to ask you to please do it again ... how's that for grateful ;-)?

Marcy over at Mainewords and Dianne from In High Spirits collaborate on what they call "First Impressions".  Basically, you can submit the first page of your manuscript, and both Marcy and Dianne will critique it publicly on their respective blogs.

If you're a writer, I strongly recommend this great opportunity.  I mean, the hardest thing to hear is that something that you've poured your heart and soul into stinks ... but at the same time, receiving specific feedback on how to improve it from fellow writers is absolutely invaluable.

I'm not getting torn to shreds, actually, which is cool :-)  The big issues seem to be my use of a mother's use of "revulsion" in terms of her son, and my affinity for extremely long sentences.  Both of these are excellent points and remind me that I still have much work to do.

But I'm feeling great about it (my new mindset is permeating all aspects of my life :-)), and am now really interested in finding a critique partner and really, seriously, 100% aggressively delving into getting that book published instead of waiting for someone to say, "I read an excerpt of your novel online, and it's amazing.  I'd love to represent you!" because clearly that is not going to happen ;-)

Anyway, special thanks to Marcy and Dianne, and I hope that you will go over to their respective blogs and add to the critique fest ... myself and my novel need all the help we can get ;-)

And again, please consider submitting a "First Impression" piece to these two wonderful ladies ... you won't be sorry.

"After the Flood, All the Colors Came Back"

Perhaps one of my strangest habits is posting random song lyrics as my Facebook status.  Over the years, Facebook has become almost like a mini-journal to me, and I can chronicle my life by status updates ... and the song lyrics I've posted.

What's interesting, though, is that the song lyrics very rarely have any sort of depth of meaning in my life.  There are exceptions, of course ...

From Alanis Morissette's "Uninvited":
Must be strangely exciting
To watch the stoic squirm
Must be somewhat heartening
To watch shepherd need shepherd

Or, from Phish's "Fee":
You're racing with the wind
You're flirting with death
So have a cup of coffee 
And catch your breath

Most often, though, it's because I'm touched by the beauty of lyrics ("And the four right chords can make me cry"--Third Eye Blind, "After it rains, there's a rainbow and all of the colors are black/It's not that the colors aren't there; it's just imagination we lack"--Simon and Garfunkel, and so on) or else because I'm totally laughing at myself.

Earlier in the week, for example, I was on my way to the beach and found myself singing along with "Hey Jealousy" by the Gin Blossoms.
Tell me, do you think it'd be all right
If I could just crash here tonight
You can see I'm in no shape for driving,
And anyway I've got no place to go.

Now, I happened to be driving along the coast when this loud, windows-down singing transpired ... and Ocean Boulevard was very crowded.  Let's just say that I was the source of laughter for an awful lot of people ;-).  

So I posted the lyrics as my status update, and a lot of my friends were worried about me.  I supposed I could have just put, "I'm stuck in traffic at the beach, and people are laughing at my singing", but to me, posting the lyrics has ensured that I'll never forget the memory.

I'm weird ;-)

But anyway, there really is a point to this ...

On my way to work yesterday, U2's "Beautiful Day" came on, and I was touched by the line "After the flood all the colors came out" as it was capturing almost exactly what I was feeling.

I wasn't referring to the Tropical Storm Irene situation or to anything other than simply this:

No matter what happens, however awful things get, they do end eventually and get better.  Sometimes it takes a long time, but it will happen.  

I was seeing metaphorical colors everywhere yesterday, and they're still shining brightly today (although I have the day off ... four day Labor Day weekend, woohoo :-))

I can't get into details, but suffice it to say that last year was absolutely the low point of my teaching career.  It was a nightmare that had me contemplating leaving the profession altogether (and it had nothing to do with the kids ... the kids were wonderful).

I am back at the grade level that I love working with people who are drama-free and student-focused.  Oh, and of course the kids are wonderful :-).  But seriously, taking adult drama and chaos out of the equation has totally rejuvenated my passion for teaching, and I am incredibly, unspeakably happy :-)

And of course it served as a gentle reminder that this is true in all facets of my life ... I just need to have patience :-)

To celebrate my professional happiness and renewed belief in waiting patiently for other aspects of my life to fall into place (believing that they will, because if whatever higher power you believe in could deliver me from the freaking nightmare that work was last year, anything is possible ...), I got a haircut :-)

Also, I created classroom blogs, which you can look at here and here if you're interested.  I'm pretty excited about it :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Stealing: The August 20 Question Meme

I haven't done Sunday Stealing for ages, mostly because I'm in a funk.  I'm working on getting out of said funk.  Hence, I'll commence with Sunday Stealing now :-)

1. What's for breakfast?
I haven't been able to eat breakfast since I was pregnant with Addie and threw up every morning for eight and a half months.  You would think that after almost seventeen years, I'd be over it, but ...

2. Do you read a newspaper daily? 
I read my news online, from a variety of sources.  I try to get a well-balanced view of things ;-)

3. What do you do when you can't sleep?
Bitch and moan about it on Facebook (in case you can't tell, this happens a lot ;-))

4. Say a word that sums up your mood. 

5. Do you remember your dreams?
Yes, almost always.  It probably goes along with the insomnia thing ... I have seriously messed up sleep habits.

6. Name something from your dream last night.
I had a really bad dream last night, actually, about my sister getting badly hurt.  It was horrible :-(

7. Name a food that describes you. 
Because I am evidently sweet and versatile, apple pie ;-)

8. Today you are wearing:
Very stylish black pants from Wal-Mart (that are covered in golden retriever fur) and a red shirt.  I am a style maven on Sundays ;-)

9. What's in your pockets?
Nothing at all.

10. Did you sing in the shower today?I haven't taken a shower yet today.  We've been getting some wind and flickering lights as a result of the lovely Irene, so I figured I'd wait and take one later this afternoon.

11. What's the last song you heard? 
"Freak the Freak Out" by Victoria Justice.  I was watching Victorious with Belle.  Please don't judge :-)

12. Looking forward to the holidays? Trying to ...

13. Where do you want to be this instant?The beach ... I went to the beach house a little bit ago to get the electric mixer (forgot it there last night when we were in a mad rush of taking down screens and moving in the porch furniture), and having mashed potatoes with chicken for dinner tonight was worth braving the elements ;-)

Here's the view from the beach house porch:

14. What's for lunch? My sister was visiting last week, so our pantry became a bit more organic than it usually is.  She bought this kettle corn dusted with cocoa powder ... I ate a bowl of that for lunch.  Mmmmmmmmmmmm :-)

15. What's something you would like to do soon? 
I am so not going there!

16. Reading anything now? What is it? 
I am always reading something :-)  As always, I have three or four books going at once, but the one most recently read is The House on Tradd Street by Karen White.  I've found myself addicted to her books ... they're somewhere between Jodi Picoult and Danielle Steele, which would normally make them far too "chick-litty" for me, but, hey, it's summer ;-)

17. What's for dinner? 
Chicken with mashed potatoes and some sort of green vegetable that comes out of a bag in the freezer.  That's assuming the power doesn't go out, of course, at which point we'd be up the proverbial creek since much of our food is still at the beach house ...

18. A favorite part of the day is: 
Reading Belle a story and putting her to bed :-) (not because I like to "get rid of her", but because it's a nice peaceful  time)

19. Are you happy? 
Shut up.

20. Guess how many people will do Sunday Stealing this weekend?

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...