Monthly Archives: September 2011

Arts and crafts and other trauma

I’m trying to get back to posting regularly over here, but I’ve been writing and am fresh out of ideas for a blog post this week. Not that I’m going to let a simple thing like that stop me. I figure I’ll just ramble on for a bit and eventually I might make some kind of sense. Or not.

My mom has been cleaning out cupboards in her house. She has lived in that house since I was five years old, so you can imagine there is a bit of accumulated stuff tucked into the odd corner. Stuff that isn’t necessarily hers. And some stuff that is, regrettably, mine.

Seeing as how her polite suggestions that we box up our stuff and take it with us (I have three sisters and we all happily left various childhood treasures behind) have been largely ignored over the years, she recently decided to just do it herself. But there is some confusion about which stuff belongs to whom. This prompted a few phone calls and text messages this past weekend and one of those was my older sister texting a picture of some “artwork” and asking, “Is this yours?”

Sigh. Yes, I made that. In middle school, I think. It’s plaster poured into a milk carton, which we then had to carve into some kind of thing using blunt instruments. Pure torture. I hated every minute of it. I asked my mom to throw it out, but I suspect she’s going to pack it lovingly into a box so I can take it home with me one day. She seems determined to make me appreciate a creativity gene I just do not possess.

I am not artistic. Not when it comes to arts and crafts like drawing or painting or sculpture. Or sewing. Or cutting and pasting construction paper. Or anything to do with glitter or beads or styrofoam or toothpicks as construction material. I’m not good at it. I’ve always known I’m not good at it — all of my sisters are very talented in these areas and the contrast is stark and undeniable — and that doesn’t bother me. Really, I just don’t care. I have other talents.

Those of you relatively new to this blog might not realize that I am in fact somewhat infamous for my [lack of] drawing skills. After one of the first luncheon meet-ups of Imaginary Internet Friends, everyone demanded to see pictures. I hatehateHATE having my picture taken and refused to let anyone take any. Yes, I am a tyrant. So I drew this instead:

Everyone agreed it was hilariously pitiful. [I’d link to that blog post, but it was on a different blog and we broke it anyway.] Delighted my drawing was received with the silliness intended, I’ve continued in those efforts.

Here’s one from a couple years ago, of me having a fine needle aspiration biopsy of my thyroid:

And the aftermath [blog post and more “pics” here]:

And then there’s the one of me imagining my daughter calling me, as promised, after being eaten by a BEAR [blog post here]:

Lest you think I labour over these things, these are all first drafts. No do-overs. Well, except the bear. After the first attempt, I realized I’d better draw the stomach contents first, then fit the bear around it, er, her. Whatever.

I really don’t care if people laugh at my lack of artistry. I’ve been laughing at it all my life. Although, inexplicably, I did manage to create some adequate pottery back in high school. Maybe I’ll round up a few pieces . . . here, I think there are a few upstairs too, but these are the ones I gathered up in a quick tour downstairs. I made these and I like them:

Anyway, back to drawing. I found this link through twitter and it totally cracked me up: Draw a stick man.

This is perfect for me! I’ve actually drawn several now and it makes me laugh every time when it becomes animated and moves clumsily through the little story, aided by other clunky items also drawn by me. I thought I was bad with a marker pen, you should see the results using a fingertip and the track pad on my MacBook. Or maybe you shouldn’t.

Is there anything like this you know you’re just not good at? Something you always hated but did it anyway because it was required at school? Can you laugh about it now or is it still a source of frustration or embarrassment?

Or are you really good at arts and crafts and wish you were back in school where you had unlimited supplies and an excuse to sniff paste indulge your inner artist? It’s okay to admit it, I won’t think less of you. As long as you don’t make me join in.


Filed under creativity, laughter

Finding poetry in titles

Literary agent Janet Reid is having another contest on her blog this week while she’s at Bouchercon, a mystery writers’ conference. A distraction for those of us unable to attend, perhaps. Or maybe she’s just trying to keep writers busy doing something other than clogging her inbox with queries. I usually try to avoid these temptations, because I’m trying to write fiction in my “spare time.” But this one looked like too much fun to pass up.

The challenge was to create a poem using book titles, with each line containing the title of a book. Any book. Well, maybe not ebooks, not unless you have some mad photoshop skills. Because part of the challenge was to include a picture of the books you used, shown in the order in which you used them.

I emailed my entry and then decided to post it here too, including the high-tech sad blurry pic taken with my cell phone. I tried to choose a diverse mix of fiction, a bit of non-fiction, and then threw in a couple of my daughter’s Spanish language titles. Honestly, I’m not sure it qualifies as a poem. Unless you count it in the little known category of “seven-line, four-stanza poems that don’t rhyme or follow any known cadence.” Because then it totally qualifies. As a poem. Sort of.

Either way, it was fun. Ms. Reid has been posting entries over on her blog. If you have a minute or twenty, you should go read them. Some very creative stuff over there.


I knew from DAY ONE in GEORGIA
like a LOST DOG.

HAVING OUR SAY, you claimed.
For THE FAMILY, you said.

Not SHADES OF GRAY, after all,

For me, it’s THE END OF AMERICA.
stay in THE DARK with THE UNSEEN,
in the CANYONS of your OBSESSION.

I have a feeling it’s going to take a lot longer to put all these books back where they belong than it did to pull them out and stack them on the mantel. Or maybe I’ll just leave them there. Let people wonder.

Looking at the titles on your shelves, what kind of story do they tell? If you have time, go ahead and write a poem of your own and post it in the comments. Not as a contest, just for fun. It’s easier than you might think, given that someone else has already written most of it for you.


Filed under creativity, just for fun

I didn’t know you, then

Ten years. In some respects, it seems an eternity. In others, the blink of an eye. So much reflection and remembrance has been perpetrated on this inauspicious anniversary that I hesitate to add to the cacophony. But I’m a writer and I write about things. Sometimes, I write about things like this.

I don’t know what it was like to be in New York City or Pennsylvania or Washington, DC on that day and I don’t want to write about that. I do know what it was like to be in my town on that day and I don’t want to write about that either. Nor do I want to discuss terrorism or politics or a costly decade of war.

We all know, and probably will never forget, how it felt to be wherever we were on that day, how it felt to see the things we saw. We don’t need anyone to remind us.

What strikes me as worth noting, as being different now from what it was then is the degree to which events have become personal despite the barrier of distance. The degree to which we all have become intimately connected, known to one another, familiar. How the internet, more so than radio or television or print media, has intensified not just our perception of events but also our regard and concern for each other.

Because even as we remember that day, we know full well there have been other days, memorable days. Days seared into our mind’s eye with indelible laser-like clarity. And yet, those were days that for most of us were graced, if you will, with a certain distance. A distance that is becoming increasingly negligible.

I will never forget the day I watched coverage of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

I will never forget the day I watched televised images of massive earthquake-loosened sections of freeway pancaked down onto cars and people in California. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

I will never forget the day I saw pictures of the bloodied bodies of slain school children in Colorado. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

I will never forget the day, after day after day after day, as I watched news reports of Hurricane Katrina and the stunning neglect of our government ravaging the city and people of New Orleans. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. Now I do.

And I will never forget the day, ten years ago, when I watched commercial airplanes used as weapons. Back when blogs were rare and twitter didn’t exist. I had not yet met my friend who works in DC. I did not yet know my friend whose family lives in PA. I had not yet conversed in 140 characters with people who live in NYC. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, then. If you’re reading this blog, I didn’t know you, then.

Now I do.

It makes a difference.

Maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe it’s wrong to imagine being more deeply affected by distant tragedy due to a personal connection. It certainly makes it no more or less tragic to those directly involved. But that’s human nature. As horrible and gut-wrenchingly painful as it was to witness those events from a distance, it would have been so much worse had I known, then, the people I know now. And I can’t help but think that if more of us were connected on a global scale, if more of us were personally known and, by association, accountable to each other, we’d have less tragedy and loss of the man-made variety over which to grieve.

Or maybe we’d just have more reason to regard each other with contempt and distrust.

No. I’ve resolved to be more positive. Sorry, easier said than done.

On this day of remembrance and looking back, I choose instead to look forward with cautious optimism at a world that is gradually becoming more connected. And to offer my sincere hope that, wherever you are, there will never come a day, a memorable day, when for whatever unspeakable reason I will find myself wishing, however fleetingly, that I still had the selfish luxury of saying, “I didn’t know you, then.”


Filed under deep thoughts, social media

Summer Stock

I know I’ve neglected my blog lately, but didn’t realize it had gotten quite so dusty over here. What’s up with that, you wonder? Damned if I know.

I think I have the summertime version of SAD. There’s light therapy for wintertime sufferers, but what’s available to those who are depressed by summer? Do I need to find a sympathetic grocery manager who will let me spend an hour every day shivering in the walk-in freezer? I’m so tempted.

This summer has been tedious and uninspiring and depressing. For many reasons. The economy is battered and sulking, politicians are mired in dramatics and self-interest, it’s hot outside, the day job is exhausting and unrewarding, friends and family members are sick or dying, it’s hot AND humid outside, publishing is full of uncertainty and overwhelming choices, and Mother Nature seems to have lost her damn mind. And that’s just stuff in this country.

The day after the earthquake in Virginia, this is what I encountered on my drive to work. It seemed symbolic, a physical manifestation of everything that is just WRONG lately.

That’s one of the bridges over the little creek that meanders through my neighbourhood. The city’s website says they found structural damage and that it’s not related to the earthquake. Probably they discovered it because they were out checking all the bridges the next day. Just in case.

Here’s what it looks like from the other side, on the drive home:

I’m sure you’re wondering why I would even BE on the other side, seeing as how I KNOW THE FREAKING ROAD IS CLOSED. Heh. You’d think I could remember this simple thing and go the other way. But no, several times a week, both coming and going, my mind is elsewhere and I have to turn around.

I was venting about all this, yes ALL of it, in a phone call with my older sister a few days ago. But you know how it is when you’re complaining to someone and just letting it all out and you realize that rather than agreeing and making sympathetic noises the other person is growing increasingly concerned about you and so then you start downplaying your own complaints because you don’t want that person to worry or stage an intervention or tell your mother and get her all upset? Yeah. That.

So I started backpedalling and saying things like, “But you know, it’s really not that bad.” And, “It’s not as if any of this is new. You know, just the same old stuff.” Sigh.

A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is. ~Seneca

Yes, I was placating her, but it’s true. The economy has been bad before and will recover and get bad again. Politicians have always been . . . politicians. I’ve never expected the day job to enrich my soul or feed my muse, people get sick and recover or sometimes die and then we grieve, nothing is ever certain, choices are only scary until you make a decision, and natural disasters are actually fairly common.

And summer is summer is summer. It never fails to depress me, just as the cooler weather of autumn never fails to rejuvenate me.

Now, I’m not trying to make light of depression or suggest it can be shrugged off. It’s a devastating illness that usually requires professional treatment. But what I’m suffering from is more along the lines of allowing negativity to seep into my view of things. Something a friend calls A Big Old Case of the Poor Me’s.

You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent them from making nests in your hair. ~Confucius

Speaking of hair, I’m in desperate need of a haircut but have somehow convinced myself I don’t have the time or energy to make an appointment. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about. I’ve allowed my annual bout with “the summertime blues” to join forces with my natural laziness and talent for procrastination. I’m perilously close to agreeing with Roger Daltry that “there ain’t no cure.”

So I’m calling myself out. There are things over which I do retain control and I’ve been letting them all slide. No, you do not need to see a list, that’s just embarrassing. But I do. So I’m making one. I’m going to stop focusing on all the negative crap in the world over which I have no control and focus on the positive. The things I can do something about, that I can cross off with big bold marks and say, “I DID THAT.”

The most important item on that list? I’m going to stop telling myself I’m too tired or too hot or too overwhelmed, too fucking enervated by summer, too uninspired and boring and talentless to write. And get back to it. Because, taking stock of this summer, the writing is what has suffered most. Well, that and my hair.

Anyone else feel like they need a swift kick in the rear? What’s on your list?


Filed under creativity, health and well-being, writing