Thursday, July 26, 2012

Connection Between Creative Genius and Being "Different"?

One of my students once asked me, "Why is it that every author is crazy?"  I thought about avoiding the question, actually, because who wants to go there, really?

First of all, there's that word "crazy" ...  (which, incidentally, is why it took me five minutes to come up with a title for this post ;-))

It's almost impossible to define "crazy", or I suppose we all have our own individual parameters as to what the word means.  Kooky?  Dangerous to yourself and others?  Impossible to understand?  Unique?  Those who beat to the march of their own drummers?  Manipulative?

And yet that long-ago student stumbled upon a kernel of truth that I had always been aware of on some level but had never really contemplated particularly deeply.

There is, in my opinion, an unquestionably correlation between creative genius and ... well, I'll call it eccentricity.  Michelangelo ... Marlon Brando ... Kurt Cobain ... J.K. Rowling ... Charles Dickens ... and so on.

And the so-called "27 Club" seems more evidence to support this theory than mere coincidence.    

I face it head on now as a teacher, usually through the unfortunate Edgar Allan Poe.  Before we read any of his stuff, I give my students notes about his life (I don't give proscribed notes very often, but I do when introducing Poe's biography).

Consider Poe's tragic existence ...

Dad left the family, Mom died when he was just a little kid of tuberculosis, his foster father didn't have much use for him, his foster mother died when he was still fairly young (also of TB), he had a gambling problem, his military career was a disaster, he married his thirteen-year-old cousin when he was in his late twenties (and said cousin died of TB ... gee, wonder if Poe was a carrier or something?), couldn't hold a job because he was by most accounts a hot-tempered and opinion twit, had a severe addiction problem, and died under very bizarre circumstances.  (That's the nutshell version, obviously)

When reading Poe's works (and I personally think he was a writer of prodigious talent), you can see the tragedies that shaped his life all over the place, an autobiographical legacy from a writer that will be remembered for being ... well, crazy.

There are very few writers, artists, actors, musicians, or any sort of master of a creative outlet who appear to have had "normal" lives.  (I know, "normal" is about as difficult to define as "crazy", right?)

Speaking for myself, I know for a fact that I would not be the writer I am were it not for those traumatic events that have shaped my own life.

And while I'm pretty sure I'm mentally sound, I have definitely been impacted by the learning disabilities that have complicated my existence, not to mention insomnia.

If I ever achieve the degree of fame as a writer where a biography would be written about me, it would probably make for an interesting read (not because I'm an interesting person but because I have somehow had so many interesting experiences).

Anyway, that's my take ... interesting life experiences (and, sadly, the more traumatic the ... better?) and/or mental illness foster creative genius, without a doubt.

What do you think?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

When You Realize Your Kids Are Growing Up ...

Motherhood is, without a doubt, the highlight of my life.

My daughters are both good, kind, bright, beautiful, amazing people, and I couldn't be more proud of them.  There is nothing I would rather do than spend time with them, to bask in their company, to enjoy every second with them ....

Except ... well, they're growing up.

Addie is in France right now.  Even before she left for her latest European venture, though, I got a taste of what the future holds.  We had plans to hang out, to go see a movie, to just spend time together, and so on right before she left.  On both occasions, she got better offers (friends, the boyfriend, and so on).

I am happy about that, believe it or not.  Addie coming out of her shell and becoming a confident young woman has been a joy to behold.

But there is a bittersweet aspect to it.  Every day that passes, every new adventure and experience, leads her further away from me, so even as I am increasingly proud of her and love her just the same as I always have, I miss the little girl who questioned how snakes were able to move when they don't have legs and who had a propensity for streaking as a toddler (she asked me recently why she's naked in so many childhood pictures ... I told her that she started every day dressed).

Of course, there are still these kinds of moments that I can reflect fondly on when she leaves for college ...
And then there is Belle, who has suddenly become "Miss Independent".
I was looking forward to spending a lot of time with Belle this summer, and when I told her this, she thought for a long moment then said, "No offense, Mommy, but I'd rather go to camp."

While she still requires our bedtime routine (which is comprised of reading books and snuggling) and we spend a lot of time together after camp gets out, Belle is clearly starting to grow up ... and it seems to be happening very quickly.  She loves to spend time with her friends, and I think that's great ... but I am starting to really miss her, strange as that probably sounds.

Belle is a character, without a doubt the funniest kid I've ever met in my life.  She also has a tremendous work ethic, which I am very proud of.  It's meant, of course, that this week of home repairs has resulted in us getting to work together on things, seeing each other in a different light.  For me, it's seeing her in a more grown-up light.

Henry even got her using the power washer, which she has a real knack for.
And so I've stopped wondering why people get the urge to have later-in-life children, why that rumor about ticking biological clocks exist.  If life circumstances were different, I would love to have another child, to be able to extend my lease on motherhood.

Except it's not really a lease, is it?  As I've learned with my own mother, it's a bond that never goes away.  It is sometimes strong and sometimes a bit frayed, but the ties between mother and child are forever.

I am more grateful than words can say for whatever higher power saw fit to bless me with my two girls.  They have made me a better person, made me laugh, made me realize the importance of appreciating every moment in life.

So even as the realization that my amazing daughters are growing up and learning to make their own ways in the world makes me sad in a way, the joy I feel when I look at them, spend time with them, even just think about them totally trumps that.

Addie and Belle, I love you more than anything in the world ... and always will.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oh, The Things That You See ...

I try to find humor whenever I can.  Often, that results in sightings (or soundings, I suppose) that I unfortunately forget about sometimes.

Luckily, though, I do manage to capture photographic evidence at times of things in real life that just crack me up.  I figured I'd share some of those pics (and explanations) because ... well, laughter is a valuable commodity.

Enjoy :-)

What about if you're just medium?
I had never seen an extensive array of port-o-potties on a flatbed truck before.  For some reason, it just about killed me ...
 My brother Adam was hiking with my nephew when they came across a crushed empty of a can of beer called a "Natty Daddy".  Needless to say, the name itself had us nearly peeing ourselves.  Adam, being the amazing brother that he is, bought me one (it took quite a bit of searching, though ... and our review is that it tastes like water with a moonshine aftertaste--not that either one of us has ever had moonshine; you could just sort of tell ;-p)
One of my old friends texted me this pic from the San Diego Zoo ... it took me a minute to find what was so funny about it, but we've since decided that the new expression should be "hung like a zebra".
 This is a horrible pic (taken when I was at a stoplight), but there is a red arrow denoting no left turn (which any licensed driver in the U.S. should be able to figure out) ... and apparently that wasn't enough, as there's also a sign saying, "No turn on red arrow".  It made me wonder, are people seriously that stupid that they need a sign to emphasize a common knowledge driving law?
 Henry and I went to a dive bar.  There was a giant hot dog statue.  Enough said ...
 Another one that's hard to see, but we were leaving a restaurant parking lot, and there was a random guy sacked out on a bean bag chair in the woods ("woods" being a relative term, as this is a rather urban area for old New Hampshire).  For some reason, it cracked us up.
 I got an e-mail on my iPhone that read: "CONGRATULATIONS!  Someone may have run a background check on you."  Maybe it's just me, but I don't necessarily see that as something to be congratulated upon ...
 I call this "The Robomney House" as it's a single residence with an equal number of Obama and Romney signs in the yard.  I pulled over to take a picture, but the traffic was heavy so this was the best I could do.  It is sooooooooo funny, though.

Pillow talk?  In the children's section?  Seriously?
 Wisdom (or, uh, something ...) underneath a beer bottle cap.
 I found these disks when I was cleaning out a desk.  Is there ANY purpose for them anymore?
 Belle brought home a coloring page labeled "hens" with a picture of what is clearly a rooster.
 The "hard limits" delineated in Fifty Shades of Grey (reading this series was ... well, a cultural experience for me, I suppose, but I mean, come on ..."
 These t-shirts were sold at the place where I went whitewater rafting in May ... I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry, so I took a picture ;-)
 Ah, Prestone, the stuff that evidently removes bugs AND tar?  Who knew such a phenomenon existed?
 The card companies are going waaaaaaaaaaay downhill, obviously (although, in the name of full disclosure, I was the recipient of this card)
 My students think they're funny ... okay, finding a random human cardboard cutout (wearing a sombrero, no less) sitting at my desk was pretty funny, but ... surreal.
 I'm sorry, but when the receipt says "Open food" and then puts "sweet pot fries" into the category ... well, I was having visions of brownies.  Not THAT kind of vision ...
 This was on a Burger King kid meal box ...
Hope you got a laugh or two ... and a message about the possibilities of finding humor in everyday life if you are willing to look for it :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Movie Time Meme (More Sunday Stealing :-))

Heehee, Sunday Stealing is the best thing to do whilst drinking coffee on a Sunday morning ... you get to answer random questions, readers get an insight into you they wouldn't otherwise, and ... well, it's fun :-)  The Movie Time Meme is this week's offering ... good times :-)

1. What is your all-time favorite movie costume?
In Wolfgang Petersen's The Neverending Story, there is a giant bat with wings that look like black trash bags.  My siblings and I had so much fun laughing at that (like, we'd reference it on trash day ... "Time to take the bat wings out") that it has to be my favorite movie costume.

2. What classic film would you nominate for a remake?
The Legend of Billie Jean.  That movie had potential ;-) (And, yes, it WAS a classic!)

3. Name your favorite femme fatale.
Kate Winslet, because she has the coolest name and managed to become a serious and successful actress despite being closer to a typical weight than most.

4. Name the best movie title.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.  Only because the title is the best thing about it ... absolutely the worst  movie I've ever seen ...

5. Describe the worst performance by a child actor that you’ve ever seen.
The Olsen twins on Full House.  I can remember really being bothered by them.

6. Who gets your vote for most tragic movie monster?
Severus Snape ... the monster that was, ultimately, the true hero of the Harry Potter series.

7. What is the one Western that you would recommend to anybody?
Gotta go with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (it's all about Eastwood, except for the unfortunate Honkeytonk Man)

8. Who is your ideal movie-viewing partner?
Anyone that doesn't talk during movies.  When I'm watching a movie, I want to focus on watching the movie ... a very good way to piss me off royally is to talk during a movie.

9. Has a film ever made you want to change your life? If so, what was the film?
Dead Poets Society definitely changed my approach to teaching and my bottom line attitude regarding my profession.  Plus, it always makes me cry.

10. Think of one performer that you truly love. Now think of
one scene/movie/performance of theirs that is too uncomfortable for you to
The scene where Tom Hanks is screaming, "WILSON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" during Castaway makes my toes curl.

11. On the flip side, think of one really good scene/performance/movie
from a performer that you truly loathe.
Lindsay Lohan was pretty amazing in Mean Girls ... it's kind of sad, because it makes you realize how truly talented she is (or was).  

12. What is your favorite romantic comedy?
Dirty Dancing ... nobody puts Baby in a corner.

13. What is your favorite drama?
Beaches.  You would think I'd no longer cry by now, but I do.

14. Worst film you've seen?
Hmm, at the moment (one cup of coffee into the day), I'm feeling like it's the aforementioned Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or Honkeytonk Man.  

15. How do you feel about the majority of romantic films being labeled "chick flicks"?
Eh, I guess I'd be offended if I thought about it overmuch, but let's be real ... how many guys get together to watch Sleepless in Seattle?

16. Favorite on-screen couple?
Han Solo and Princess Leia, natch :-)

17. Favorite off-screen couple?
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner (because since Ben is clearly never going to be mine, at least he's got a girl that loves her kids, has a good sense of humor, and is occasionally photographed by paparazzi sans makeup and wearing glasses and sweatpants)

18. Best kiss in a movie?
Gotta go with From Here to Eternity in this one.

19. Favorite scene?
In The Godfather, when Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone is filling in his son Michael (Al Pacino) on the ultimate facts of life.  "It was Barzini all along."

20. Who are 2 film characters you wished had gotten together, but never did?
I am clearly overthinking this one ... are we talking the same movie?  Random characters slapped together from different films?  I haven't had enough coffee to answer this one, obviously.

21. Two actors you think would have great chemistry, but have never done a film together?
No idea ... creativity is flowing faster than the coffee this morning ...

22. Favorite song in a film (doesn't have to be from a musical)?
"The Wind Beneath my Wings" because it always makes me BAWL in the context of Beaches (even though the song annoys me otherwise since I've heard it a zillion times).

23. Best score from a film?
Pretty much anything John Williams scored.  The master of the major fifth ;-)  I especially like Star Wars and E.T.

24. Best film quote?
"Fra-gee-lay.  That must be Italian."

25. A film you'd recommend that is a "Must See" for us to watch?
The Legend of Billie Jean ... I'm telling you, it was ahead of its time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Liebster Award (I Got To Answer Questions :-))

Well, this is exciting :-)  I was given the Liebster Award by Jim, my favorite baby boomer (and the most amusing aspiring nudist I've never met ;-)).  So the deal is that I answer Jim's questions then come up with eleven of my own for those I tag to answer, should they so desire (I hope they do, and if you're not tagged and would like to participate, leave a link in the comments).

1. Paper, plastic, or bring your own bag?
Plastic.  I meant well with the "bring your own bag" venture, but I always forgot them at home, bought more every time I went to the store, and it became a situation where I wound up with ten or fifteen reusable bags.

And plastic bags are very useful ... picking up dog poop, wrapping an ice pack to go in a lunchbox, even serves as luggage in a clutch ;-)

2. Pajamas or sleep nude?
Due to my interesting living situation, I wear pajamas.  Well, pajama bottoms.

3. Hamburger or hot dog?
I have developed a taste for hot dogs with onions on them in recent years.  I never even used to like hot dogs.  However, cheeseburgers are on my top three list of favorite foods (the others being lobster and mashed potatoes, in case you're curious).

Ergo, it would depend on the mood I'm in.

4. Tea or coffee?
Coffee, without a doubt.  I am a bona fide coffee addict.  I walk into my "regular" Dunkin' Donuts and they say, "Large hot, skim milk and four Splenda, right?"

And the Keurig has changed my life forever ;-)

5. Walmart or Target?
Forgive me, oh union family of mine, but I have to go with Wal-Mart.  They just have everything right there, you know?  And they're not pretentious about it ... I feel a lot better shopping somewhere with a nickname of "Wally World" than "Tar-jhay".

6. Disneyland or Six Flags?
I've never been to Disneyland (although I've been to Disney World on numerous occasions).  I loved Disney World, but I also loved Six Flags.  Haven't been to either in awhile, though ... probably have to remedy that one of these days.

7.  Cat or dog?
DOG!!!!!!!!!!!!  My dogs are like my children ... they have personalities and mood swings and strange eccentricities.  Plus, whenever I am crying, they come running to give comfort.  My golden retriever even "hugs".

My boyfriend has cats, and they're pretty good as far as cats go.  However, they basically just walk around the house, lay on the refrigerator, and make the basement smell.  I mean, I like them all right, but I get the sense that they couldn't give a rat's ass about anyone ... including Henry.  He's kind of the hand that feeds them.  He would disagree, I'm sure, but I just think at the end of the day, cats are in life for cats.

Dogs love.

8. Book or a movie?
Book.  Always a book :-)

9. Who do you trust the most, friends or family?
I don't trust anybody.  Friends and family can burn you equally, and I've been hurt far too many times.

10. Soda or water?
Soda.  I do not like water.  I know, that sounds contrary to being human, right?  I have cut way back on soda, though, and tend to go with coffee or juice or Crystal Light.

11. Companionship or love?

Both ... that isn't really an either/or question.  I mean, you have to love someone that you are choosing companionship with, right?

Okay, here are the blogs I'm tagging ... I read a lot of blogs on a regular basis (A LOT), so it was hard to boil it down, but I thought y'all might enjoy checking out this very varied list.
1.   Suitably Amused
2.   Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness
3.   What If This Is As Good As It Gets?
4.   An Alleged Author
5.   Salsa Pie
6.   Sitting in a Tree
7.   Shana's Place
8.   From Sand to Glass
9.   The Rambling Person
10. The Maple Syrup Mob
11.  Bubba's Place

And here are my questions :-)

1.  Ocean or lake?
2.  Chocolate or vanilla?
3.  Android or iPhone?
4.  Coke or Pepsi?
5.  Nickelodeon or Disney?
6.  Facebook or Twitter?
7.  Loud or quiet?
8.  Summer or winter?
9.  Car or truck?
10.Marlon Brando or Tom Hanks?
11.McDonald's or Burger King?

The Art of Sharing the Road

I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I can't stand bicyclists.

Actually, that's not completely accurate.  Most of them are just fine.  In fact, my favorite aunt is a bicyclist and participates in rides for good causes and so on.  It's just that the ones that are rude and nearly cause serious car accidents or almost hit children stand out more than the hundreds that are respectful and aware and so on.

Which is, I suppose, true for everything in life.

For some reason, I am running into (not literally, obviously) a significant percentage of the entitled, "I don't want to share the road, I want to own the road" bicyclists this summer.

I was going to go through my list of obnoxious bicyclist behavior--the one that rode in the middle of the lane on a curvy road and almost caused a head on collision when the car in front of me tried to go around him (the posted speed limit was 45 MPH ... he was going significantly below that); the one that pulled right out in front of me with no warning at all (and there wasn't a light or a stop sign or anything, he just suddenly appeared); the one that started screaming at a group of children trying to cross on a crosswalk at a busy intersection near the beach--but there are just too many of them.

It's gotten to the point where I see a bicyclist, and my heart goes into my throat and adrenaline starts pushing through my bloodstream and I am already pissed off at the cyclist before s/he does anything to warrant it (which, to be fair, most of them do not).

Which, considering that I live in a summer resort town that is rather heavy on cyclists, is not a good thing.

I hate it when somebody else's actions change my mindset on things ... and I hate it even more when I am aware of it yet somehow helpless to stop it.  Oh, and the fact that those memorable SOBs are almost always in the minority, but they are the ones you remember.

Reading over this, I realized that this post isn't really about bicyclists.  Instead, it's about learning to rise above the few and far between that are rude, disrespectful, self-obsessed, "the-rules-don't-apply-to-me", and so on.

Most people are good ... what a treat it is to accidentally remind yourself of that :-)

Happy Friday!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Reaffirmation in ... Some Higher Power

Whether you believe in God or not, the kind of experience like I had today leads you to believe ... well, there's gotta be something out there looking out for us mere mortals.

I went to the grocery store three times today, the first by myself, the second with Belle to get ingredients for the dinner Addie was making, and the third another solo run to grab the stuff I'd forgotten (cream cheese and tortilla chips, in case you're wondering).

While waiting in line yet again, I managed to drop my keys.  Twice.  The first time, I bent down and picked them up (this is not uncommon ... I am the world's biggest klutz and drop everything).  The second time, though, the old man in front of me bent and snagged them.

"Here you go, miss," he said, handing them back to me.  "Maybe I'll share some of my luck with you."

"Thanks, I'll probably need it," I said, laughing.  He waved as he headed toward the door.

And then the cashier scanned my cream cheese and Hannaford tortilla chips, I paid, she thanked me kindly and wished me a good day, I wished her the same, and that was that.

Until I got outside, where I saw the little old man, my little old man, wrangling with a shopping cart (odd, since he'd bought a couple of cans of tuna or something) at the front of the parking lot.  I contemplated walking up to him, taking the cart, telling him I'd bring it back, no problem, but then I remembered my grandfather, who was an incredibly proud man and would have been insulting at someone insinuating that he couldn't handle getting a grocery cart back to the front of the store, so I held my tongue.

Still, I stopped and watched him for a long moment, struggling with his cane but trying desperately, you could tell, to do the right thing so some poor schlep that gets paid minimum wage wouldn't have to do it.  It sort of made me tear up, not gonna lie.

As I walked behind the first car in the row, it started backing up.  Quickly.  Nobody tells you how fast these things happen, but I was running (like, all-out sprinting) to get past this stupid, clueless fool before he could hit me (he drove one of those huge old boat-like Cadillacs, and it seemed to go on forever).  I didn't have time to yell, "Stop!"

I made a gesture to him that was not a wave, but I was wasting my time; if he'd been so oblivious that he'd somehow missed almost mowing me down with his stupid boat-mobile, I doubt he'd have picked up on a little bird flickage.

It didn't occur to me until I was back in my car that I could have been badly injured (I was wearing flip flops and shorts, not running shoes), and I just started shaking.  But then I had an even bigger realization, and that made me burst out crying.

If I had walked up to the old man who'd so kindly picked up my keys and taken the shopping cart from him, said, "I'll bring it back to the front, no problem", he would have been behind that heedless Cadillac ... and I'm pretty sure he would have been hit.  The cane was obviously not for show, and he moved slowly and with great effort (but with an absolutely beautiful smile on his face).

As he passed by me crying in my car, he waved, and then he headed for the carriage corral, where he started wheeling shopping carts one by one to the front of the grocery store.

It was a surreal experience in every sense of the word ...

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The New Book Seems to be Taking Off

It took me over fifteen years to write my first book ... and it really wasn't very good.  I wrote it in my typical slapdash fashion, pulling writing all-nighters for days, even weeks, at a time and then ignoring it for weeks, even months.  I finally ended it just so I could say it was done, so I could put both of us out of our misery, so to speak.

I want to do it right this time around.

And so I pondered over what it was that I wanted to write, getting it down to two options.  I then wisely asked for input on Facebook and from my blog readers, and the historical mystery won out by a large margin.

I have been doing a lot of writing (just blogging, yes, but getting myself re-acclimated to the physical act of writing as it had been a distressingly long time), and I've also been thinking a lot about the story I want to write.  I've been (wait for it, friends and neighbors, and if you know me at all, prepare yourselves for a laugh ... I mean it, now is not the time to take a sip of your drink) researching.

And this morning, I woke up ready to write, so I did.

I wrote for an hour (674 words), then I made myself stop.

You might be wondering why I forced myself to stop when I was on a writing roll, in a writing place, feeling the writing groove.

It's pretty simple, really ... writing is like crack to me.  The way I feel when I'm really rocking my own stuff is, other than my family, the best feeling ever.  I do not want to stop, but it's like I burn myself out and have to recharge, and as a result, the story is choppy and lacks flow and cohesion and such because I am usually at such a different place when I go back to it after weeks or often months.

I have no idea of what the appropriate process is, what a typical word count is, how often is typical to spend writing over the course of a day.  I would really like to try to be more traditional about it, though, because my goal is to have this story (which is already written in my head, something that I've never had before, either ... I am usually as surprised by how my writing ends up as anyone else because I just sort of write and let it go where it will) finished before school starts back up.

When I stopped myself from writing my WIP, I needed a "cool down", which is what this post is, I suppose.

Anyway, I have to take Belle to the dentist in a bit, so I'll probably hold off on writing anymore (oh, but I want to so badly ...) until we get back.

Hopefully I'm approaching writing the right way this time around :-)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Insomnia Advice: Bring it On :-)

I have been suffering from insomnia since I was a very young child.  I think much of the reason that I learned how to read before I was three is that my parents told me I had to stay in bed, even if I couldn't sleep, and ... well, there's only so  much you can do.

As you can imagine, I've heard every trick in the book.  Most of them are legal ...

I can honestly say that I have tried to battle my insomnia (which, if you are my Facebook friend, you are all too familiar with since I have a tendency to start ranting on FB when I can't sleep, which is with an unfortunate frequency).

But I've pretty much come to terms with it, all joking aside.  I've had a sleep study done (I learned that I have "ideopathic" issues falling asleep and staying asleep once I get there ... it was very useful ;-)), I developed good "sleep hygiene" (which is basically having a set routine and using relaxation techniques and such), and I have a prescription for Ambien that I use only when I am on the verge of going completely bananas from lack of sleep.

I have tried virtually everything to deal with my sleeping issues with the exception of hypnosis.  I am honestly pretty scared of hypnosis, because in addition to having horrible insomnia, I have horrible nightmares most of the time when I do sleep.  These nightmares are in general based around one of those traumatic life events that scar you forever, and I have dealt with it as much as I am going to.

I even hesitate to use Ambien overmuch because I get trapped in my nightmares sometimes, and I can't even wake up.  It's like being in a Nightmare on Elm Street  movie ;-)

But seriously, I am hoping that you will share your experiences with (and advice pertaining to) insomnia here.

I am compiling a list of things that I have tried and/or had recommended.  I have bolded what has worked for me on some level.

*  Melatonin
*  Ambien
*  Marijuana
*  Nyquil
*  Ginger root
*  Warm milk
*  Honeycomb
*  Reading
*  Watching television
*  Eliminating caffeine
*  Relaxation techniques (for awhile, counting backwards from 100 while actually visualizing each number worked)
*  Sex
*  Exercise
*  Intentionally staying up all night to "get caught up"
*  Advil PM
*  Music
*  Changing pillow positions/beds/and so on
*  Sleeping in a dark room
*  Muscle relaxants (Valium, Flexeril)
*  Sleeping in a bright room
*  Alcohol
*  Getting punished for bugging my parents in the middle of the night when I was a little kid
*  Warm bath

So, yeah, I think that's pretty much the gamut, other than the hypnosis thing, which I am not prepared to tackle.  I don't know that I ever will be, truth be told.

Do you have any advice (or encouragement) for struggling insomniacs out there?  Share in the comments :-)

Commentary Conversations

Let's face it, the sad truth is that I blog because ... well, because I like hearing what people have to say in response to what I write.  It's fascinating, it helps me learn and grow as a writer, plus I've developed some good friendships with people via the blogosphere.

In addition to this, my personal blog, I also write for a site called Zelda Lily.  Blog readership in general waxes and wanes like the moon, and ZL is in kind of a comment slump at the moment (the conversations over there used to be utterly remarkable and really guided the directions that we writers chose to go in).

Instead of writing a post here today, I am going to give short descriptors of some pieces with links over to stuff I've written at ZL.  It is all work that I am very proud of, writing that I believe is capable of generating some amazing conversations.  It is my hope that you'll feel compelled to comment over at ZL, because it's only with a lot of comments that those amazing conversations can happen (and I don't get paid for this ... I write because I enjoy it).

*  This past spring, a drug task force went to a home in New Hampshire to serve papers.  The homeowner killed a police chief and injured several other officers.  He also killed a young woman in the house with him, a young woman whose mother spoke out in defense of her daughter's character ... until her daughter's own involvement in a life of crime came out.

*  A mother forced her 7-year-old daughter to lose weight for a Vogue photo shoot.  If the poor kid makes it to adulthood without an eating disorder, no one will be more shocked than me :-(

*  Henry and I watched the Super Bowl at a cigar bar.  It was, obviously, quite an adventure ... and I felt shockingly out of place.  Quite an experience!

*  Winterguard is a sport (well, I think it's a sport) that incorporates dancing with flag and sabre tosses.  Addie started doing winterguard when she was a junior, and it got me thinking about what defines the word "sport" ... and if winterguard does, in fact, qualify.

*  A high school cheerleader was sexually assaulted by several classmates ... yet SHE was punished for refusing to cheer for them at a sporting event.  As you may know, rape is a very serious and personal issue to me, and I couldn't get over how disgusting it was that a victim of rape had the guts to come forward and was summarily dismissed.  Horrible!    

*  A middle school girl was suspended from school for five days for posting on Facebook that she wished Osama bin Laden had killed her math teacher.  This opens up a really interesting discussion, actually, because it gets into some very dicey territory--it wasn't done at school during school hours, so SHOULD she have been consequenced at school?

Anyway, my internet is being incredibly slow, so I guess that's all I'm going to put.  I do hope you read and enjoy these pieces and, if you're so compelled, get some discussion going.

I will be joining in :-)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Subtly Controlling

In case you've been living under a rock, Katie Holmes has filed for divorce from Tom Cruise.  I doubt many people are surprised, and I further question whether anyone really cares all that much.

Personally, I think she signed a five-year "I'll-stay-married-to-you-no-matter-how-crazy-you-are-because-I-don't-want-people-to-be-able-to-say-"I told you so!" clause and went just a little bit longer than that just so nobody would think that ... well, that there was such a clause in place.

But honestly, I don't care all that much about Tom Cruise or Katie Holmes.

What stood out to me is Cruise's constant need, since the early days of their courtship, to refer to Ms. Holmes as "Kate".  

This might seem silly and unimportant--it's entirely possible that it's both of those things--yet it got me thinking about the subtly controlling aspect of calling your significant other by a different name publicly, constantly, and frequently.

It reminded me of the times that many of my friends used to comment on how strange it was that my ex-husband (back before he was my ex-husband, way back to the days when he preferred me and the girls to Merlot or Chardonnay) called me "Katherine" (in fact, he still does).  Several of them inferred pretty strongly that it was subliminally controlling, and I can remember defending him (again, pre-alcoholism, he was a pretty good guy).

"He knows a lot of people named Katie, and he wants me to be special," I'd say.  (But it occurs to me now that he knew a lot of people named Katherine, too)

"It's an affectionate nickname," I'd say.  (But, really, what is affectionate about calling someone by a name that is otherwise only used in an official capacity--the DMV, say--or by my mother when she is mad at me?)

And so on.

With hindsight being what it is, I suspect that my friends were probably right.  

I don't think my ex-husband has called me "Katie" (which is what EVERYBODY calls me) since before we started dating.  Even when talking about me to friends and family, who always call me "Katie", he would say, "Katherine and I will bring the dessert" or "I'll see if Katherine wants to go to the lake this weekend" or whatever.  He didn't use it as a joke, either ... it was ALWAYS "Katherine".

And it's not like I'm famous or anything, either ;-)

So I wonder if Katie Holmes feels the same way about being called "Kate" by her soon-to-be-ex-husband, if she will feel relief when people are calling her by the name she chooses to use.

To be fair, I might be way off base here and everyone in her personal life calls her Kate, but it got me thinking ...

And when I get thinking, I try to share it with you, so you can weigh in and bring my thinking to a higher plateau. 

Sunday Stealing: The Next Installment of the Imaginary Meme

If you don't do Sunday Stealing, you should ... it's fun :-)

121. Have you gone rock climbing? If not, would you?
On man-made rock walls, yes.  Lots of fun, actually.  On real rocks?  No way … I am the world’s biggest klutz, and … well, it just wouldn’t end well.    

122. Do you believe in forever love in a romantic relationship?
I really and truly hope so J

123. As a kid did you ever sneak anyone into your house?
You know, I honestly don’t think I did.  Whether or not I ever snuck out of my house is a completely different question …

124. Do you personally know anyone homeless?
I do, unfortunately.

125. Do you believe in aliens?
I think it would be presumptuous of humankind to assume that we are the only living things in existence when you consider how truly, immeasurably huge the solar system (which is only one of many) is … it’s mind-boggling, if you think about it.

126. Have you ever killed someone?
What kind of a sick and twisted meme is this?

127. What would it take for you to sell your soul to a devil?
It’s hard to predict how you’d act in a given scenario until it comes up.  Not that I’d ever want this one to …

128. Top or bottom?
Oh, I always preferred the top bunk when I was a kid because my sister had a little bedwetting problem, as I found out when she got the top bunk on a vacation to Florida and I woke up to … well, raindrops falling on my head.

129. Are you happy with your career?
I adore every aspect of the teaching part of my career.  Unfortunately, teaching becomes less and less a part of being a teacher every year.  Does that make any sense?

130. What's your favorite store to buy clothes? Why?
I have two children … I haven’t bought clothes for myself since 2004 or so.

131. What is your eye color?

132. Watching or playing sports?
Depends on the sport.

133. Would you have plastic surgery?
I doubt it, if only because I have a tendency to be very unlucky when it comes to medical stuff.  “There is a one in 500 chance you’ll have this side effect” … “Nobody ever gets this side effect, but we have to mention it” … um, yeah, guess who always seems to get that side effect?  Me getting elective surgery would just be asking for trouble.

134. Name one website that you visit daily. Why do you read it?
This is really lame, but I stalk The Weather Channel, particularly in the summer.  I am scared to death of thunderstorms (my golden retriever and I fight over the bathtub), so I am always on the lookout for them.  I am like the amateur meteorologist from hell … “We have a severe thunderstorm warning, but according to the Doppler, I think we’re only going to get a piece of it.”

I’m a dork ;-)

135. Are you going on vacation this year? If so, where?
Nope.  Too poor.  Also, not enough time (summer school starts in a week, and then there are conferences and trainings and such, plus I am trying really hard to finish writing my new novel this summer).

136. How do you align yourself politically?
I try not to pigeonhole myself that way, because it is dangerous and honestly kind of ignorant.  I try to keep an open mind (if only so my children don’t feel pressured to have my opinions instead of their own), but I tend to find myself on the left side of things (except for welfarereform … I am further right than Rush Limbaugh on welfare reform).

137. Do you have any pets?
I have two dogs, a black lab named Sonja (she was a rescue dog and is the coolest animal ever … ) and a golden retriever named Mollie (she is a neurotic, spoiled princess … but for some reason, I love her very much in spite of this).

138. Do you believe in soul mates?
“Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for life.”

139. What’s one trait that you hate about yourself?
My ADHD (which encompasses the bad things about me, such as procrastination, impulsivity, disorganization, and so on)

140. How long have you played Sunday Stealing?
Good question … quite awhile, I’m pretty sure J  I was off the grid for a bit, though.

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...