The Secret

Henry looked down at the body of Ms. Ainsworth.  “I thought you were too ornery to die,” he muttered. When they brought her in he half expected her to be clutching her ruler.  The ruler that swatted his hand when he was her student.  The ruler that, even after the days corporal punishment, continued its reign of terror as measurer of girls’ hem lines and preserver of chastity at the prom. “Twelve inches apart is sufficient for dancing!” she’d say, thrusting the ruler between clingy couples.

As Henry prepared to dress her, he thought about the woman.  Wayward baseballs were never retrieved from her yard.  She was the only one in town who didn’t decorate her house for Christmas.  She never handed out Halloween candy.  Her tongue was sharp, her neck stiff.  No one would mourn her.

The dress the Ladies Auxiliary had brought buttoned up the back.  He slipped it on her body and carefully turned her over.

A guffaw ruptured from Henry.  “Nobody is ever gonna believe this!” he roared.  The sour-faced, prudish Ms. Ainsworth had the words, “Hot Stuff,” surrounded by red flames tattoed on her backside.

Henry finished dressing her quickly, rehearsing his tale in his mind, and giggling uncontrollably.  He didn’t hear the door open.

“What’s so funny?” asked Lisa, the new cosmetologist, as Henry turned Ms. Ainsworth onto her back.   He started to tell her, but stopped abruptly when he saw his teacher’s stern face.  Her dignified, dead face.

“Nothing,” he mumbled.

The girl walked to his side. “Ooh, I hate doing these old ladies.  I never know what to do with their make-up.  Lipstick or natural, do you think?”

“Lipstick.  Red.” Henry answered.

“Red?  Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

Lisa shrugged. “See, you never can tell with old ladies.”

Henry straightened Ms. Ainsworth’s collar.  “No, Lisa, you can’t.”

And he never would.

——————————————————————–

I wrote this post for the Write On Edge Red Writing Hood prompt. 

We’d like you to write a piece in which a tattoo figures prominently. Fiction or creative non-fiction. There is a lot to think about: why someone would get one, what they chose, when they got it, what message does the tattoo(s) send?

You will have 300 words with which to play.

Honestly, I wasn’t really “feeling” this prompt.  I did it anyway because I promised myself I’d do all the Write On Edge writing prompts in October.  It’s excellent practice, especially in the editing department.  The first draft was 400 words long.  It’s exactly 300 now.  So, regardless of the story’s quality, I got my writing lesson for the day.

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NaNoWriMo: Are You In?

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins on November 1.  What is NaNoWriMo?  Basically, it’s writing a 50,000 word novel in exactly 30 days.  Basically, it’s crazy.  And I think I might give it a try.

Why on Earth would anyone want to do this?  Well, if you’re like me, you’ve read a lot of novels and found yourself wondering, “How in the world did this ever make it into print?”  You think to yourself, “I can write better than that.”  Then you smugly go about your life, resting in the knowledge you could write a novel.  If you felt like it.  If you had the time.  If you knew the right people.  If…

Well, this is an excellent opportunity to write that novel we all know we’re capable of writing.  Expectations are already a little low.  Come on, 50,000 words in 30 days?  You know that a lot of what your writing will be garbage, filled with unnecessary adverbs and long philosophical passages that seem brilliant when you’re churning them out at 2 am but are ridiculously cliché and downright dumb when you read them after a good night’s sleep.  But I think that’s part of the fun.  Who knows?  You might find a new direction in the meanderings of your mind that you can actually use later.  When November 30 is over and you start the excruciating process of rewrites and vicious edits.

This is directly from the NaNoWriMo website:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

Sounds good to me.

The best part about the whole thing is that you’re a “winner” if you accomplish the 50,000 words in 30 days and you get a PDF certificate and a nifty badge for your blog.  Normally, I’m not a “you participate you get a trophy” kind of gal, but if you accomplish this, you are definitely a winner.

I know one person who participates in NaNoWriMo.  Rebekah Loper, Writer, is where I first heard of NaNoWriMo and instantly thought of “Nanu, Nanu” from Mork and Mindy (which I now say in my head every time I see the word NaNoWriMo.)  I hope she can give me some advice before I start this thing.  I’d like to know what I’m getting myself into.

So, what about you?  Do you think you could do it?  Do you want to join me and the 200,000 other crazy people who think they can pull this off?  I’d love to do this with someone.  It might be fun.

I know I’m not the only one who thinks they can write a novel but has always been too scared to try.  This is the perfect opportunity to do so and probably the most stress-free way to do it.  So what if it stinks?  You only had 30 days to do it.  Maybe, just maybe, it will be good.  Really good.  Potentially good. Kind of good.  Whatever.  What have you got to lose?

It’s now or never.  Join me?  

The Games of Life

I love games.  Not video games.  Real games.  Games that require thought, shuffling, rolling dice, spinning a spinner, turning over a sand timer, or leaning over to move a game piece.  It’s a dying pleasure I’m afraid.  Board games and cards have been replaced by Apps. The personal reaction has transformed from the physical face-to-face variety to a virtual world of screen names and avatars.  Don’t get me wrong, Apps are great and the ability to play with family and friends all over the world is awesome.  But it’s not the same as gathering together with snacks, music, conversation, and laughter.  Some of my best memories involve games.

From a young age, I spent the night at my grandma’s house with my cousins.  Apart from arguing about who would get the primo sleeping spot under the dining room table (I never won that argument), we would have so much fun.  We played Uno. The best games were the ones that lasted hours.  I still love a game of Uno, though I’m not keen on the new fangled versions that require batteries and shoot cards in my face.

Another game I used to like was Monopoly.  (I say “used to” because my husband sucked all the fun out of it.  He has great potential as a loan shark.)  When I was younger, I lived two doors down from my cousin and we’d play Monopoly during the summer.  One game lasted a week.  We had the patience and dedication to keep coming back to it day after day until it was finished.  I can’t imagine my kids doing that now.

My cousin’s family loved games.  I remember spending the night with her or going to the lake and the adults playing “Twenty Questions.”  They always laughed so much. I realize now that a lot of that laughter was at the suggestive nature of some of the questions .  A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste.

That same cousin and I played a lot of games together, too.  We loved to play Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit, and Life.  The game of Life is especially precious to me.  I associate it with my great-grandmother who we called Mamaw.  Near the end of her life, she came to live with my grandmother on my father’s side.  My cousin and I would go stay with Mamaw when Grandma wasn’t home and I always brought Life with me.  My cousin and I would play in the floor while Mamaw sat in her chair and watched.  We didn’t talk much, and we felt a little guilty about it.  We were there for her, but we just sat and played games.  When we’d leave, she always gave us a little money, which only made us feel more guilty.  We were only about 12 and didn’t yet understand the concept of loneliness.  Most importantly, we didn’t understand the joy of children.

When I watch my children play, it takes me back to my childhood.  I remember what it felt like to have no other care in the world than who was going to win a game of Uno.  I remember how effortless it was to play Twister.  When I watch my children play, I marvel at their intelligence, their joy, their existence.  I delight in them.  My mamaw, sitting in her chair watching her two great-granddaughters playing games, laughing, and chattering probably felt the same way.  I imagine her thinking about her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren.  About her life.  We needn’t have felt guilty.  While we were playing Life, she was enjoying the fruits of hers.

This post is for the RemebeRED prompt from the red dress club.

The prompt was Let’s Play: mine your memories for games you played when you were young.

A Chihuahua Striving To Be a Pit Bull

Daily Foglifter: The highest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the first wife of Feodor Vassilyev** (1707-1782) of Shuya, Russia. Between 1725 and 1765, in a total of 27 confinements, she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets, and four sets of quadruplets. 67 of them survived infancy.

Mother’s Day is this weekend and I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot this week.  We couldn’t be more different.

My mom is outspoken and doesn’t take any crap from anybody.  I can still hear her arguing on the phone with incompetent insurance agents or in the customer service lines of department stores arguing with sales associates who neglected to honor their sales prices or return policies.  I used to slink surreptitiously away, my face burning in embarrassment, hoping against hope she’d let it go.  She never did.  What’s fair is fair.  If you make a promise, you darn well better keep it.  If you have a job to do, you better do it right.

When I was twelve I didn’t recognize my mom for what she was–A champion of the little guy.  My champion.  When my second grade teacher made fun of me in front of the entire class because I still sucked my thumb, I’m sure she wasn’t prepared for the s**t-storm that awaited her when my mother paid her a visit.   (s**t-storm is a word my mom would use and really, there’s no other way to say it without losing a certain nuance.)  The last snide remark she made about my thumb-sucking was when I picked “The Thumbsucker’s Thumb” as my poem to recite in front of the class.  She said, “Oh, well that’s a good poem for you,”  placing that special mocking, contemptuous stress on the word “you” that is impossible to depict in written form.  It wasn’t nice.  I was 8 and understood she was being insulting.  Witch.

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/I’d like to say that I’ve inherited this quality.  I haven’t.  I can stick up for myself, but only after I’ve taken too much crap for too long, I’ve had a nice, violent, angry cry, and I’ve literally written down what I’m going to say the next time I’m face to face with the bully.  My mom is a pit-bull.  I’m a chihuahua, tail tucked between the legs, shaking violently, and yipping.  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

The perfect example of our differences played out recently when I took my son to the doctor.  You can read about that, here.  She left me a comment:

as per your request I have kept my comments to myself, But right now I am so disappointed in you that I could slap YOU !

That’s right.  I’ve actually asked her to not comment on The Blog.  I have a very good reason.  She actually commented, “I told you so” once.  That seriously hurts my pride undermines my authority, right?   I know.  It’s petty.  BUT, I don’t care what she posts on Facebook.  So we took the issue to Facebook, a conversation that prompted my dad to call me on the phone.  He was concerned we were mad at each other and actually fighting.  It was very sweet.

Of course I wasn’t mad.  I can’t get mad at my mom for telling me what she thinks.  Good Lord, if I got mad and considered us “in a fight” over that, we would be entrenched in a 30 Years War right now.  We have always argued.  One of my fondest teenage memories of my mom is her hopping over a laundry basket to chase me up the stairs as I squealed.  I had smart-mouthed her one too many times and she’d had enough. She caught me, of course. Honestly, where did I think I was going?  Out the front door would’ve been smart.  Up the stairs?  She totally had me cornered. When she got to me, we started laughing so hard all she could do was lightly slap me on the arm.  I never knew she was so nimble.  The sight of her leaping the laundry basket still cracks me up.  Good times.

While I may not have inherited my mom’s tenacity, I certainly share her pig-headedness passion.  Don’t start an argument with either of us.  We’ll nail your sorry butt to the wall.  Our opinions are law and we don’t believe in leniency, for each other or anyone else.  We actually had a Facebook argument about James Taylor.  Yes, the all-important James Taylor issue.  I hate him.  She loves him.  It got pretty heated.

I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve hijacked a friend’s wall to debate politics.  My poor cousin made an innocent airport security comment and we were on her like white on rice.  She eventually deleted the post.  I was so ashamed I made the New Year’s Resolution of “No politics on Facebook.”  (I know she’s reading this so let me just say, “I’m so sorry, Steph, and I will never do it again.”  And the same goes to you, Kim, if you’re reading this.  And anyone else I needlessly and viciously attacked.)

So I am like my mother, to a degree.  From my mom I have the love of music, but not her talent.  I learned to love John Wayne and Sam Eliot, but not James Taylor.  I learned the secret of the best Red Velvet Cake in the universe, but not the knack for making perfect dumplings.  She designs and builds houses and I design and build cakes. I am a diluted version of my mom, with one exception.

There is one thing I do out loud that she chose to do in secret.  She’s probably not even aware that I know about her secret.  I discovered it a long, long time ago.  I’m not even sure how old I was at the time, but it had to be after 6th grade since we were in our new log home.  I came across some papers covered in my mom’s pretty, elegant handwriting.  I knew it was not for my eyes, but it didn’t stop me.  I read it, hungrily.   I can’t tell you the words.  I can’t tell you if it was fact or fiction.  All I know, as I knew then, is that my mom is a writer. I’d never felt more in awe of her. Or more proud.

Here I am, at about the same age as my mom when I discovered her hidden talent, taking the small, hesitant steps she chose not to make.  I’ve always wanted to write.  I made a promise to myself that I would be a writer.  Is it scary?  Yes.  Is it embarrassing?  Absolutely.  But, you see, I am my mother’s daughter. I made a promise, I darn well better keep it.  I have a job to do, and I better do it right.  I’m a chihuahua, striving to be a pit bull.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.

Thumbs

 Oh, the thumb-sucker’s thumb

May look wrinkled and wet

And withered, and white as the snow,

But the taste of a thumb Is the sweetest taste yet

(As only we thumb-suckers know).

~Shel Silverstein

Blogging Wishes and Momfog Dreams

Daily Foglifter:   If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days you would have produced enough sound energy to heat one cup of coffee. 

Friday was a very exciting day for me.  I reached a goal.  While I’m sure people reach goals all the time, it’s not that common for me.  I am an expert goal-setter, but for whatever reason, I rarely get past the planning stage.  Ok, I know the reasons. 

  1.  I’m too ambitious.  All laundry washed, folded, and put away?  Sparkling clean house?  Trading pajamas for actual clothes EVERY day? 
  2.  I’m easily distracted.  By TV, books, shiny things.
  3. I’m tired.  All the time.  Some might say I’m lazy.  Po-ta-to, Po-tah-to.

Momfog is part of a master plan.  I want a job.  I have not worked in over 10 years because I was too busy having babies.  Financially and philosophically, daycare was not an option, so I’ve been home with all five of my children.  It’s been great, but also very stressful.  It’s lonely.  It’s boring.  Every day is exactly the same.  I needed to talk to adults.  I needed to DO something.  I needed a job.  It was an idea, but not ideal.  What would I do with my baby?  What kind of job would make it possible for me to be home when the other kids got home?  What about the summer?  The solution, of course, was to work from home, which wouldn’t solve the problem of socialization, but I would be doing something.  The only problems with that were my non-existent computer skills and aversion to telemarketing.  What was I qualified to do?  I looked into elance.com and got excited about the idea of being a “freelance writer.”  Sounds impressive, right?  It’s not.  The jobs paid next to nothing and were unethical, to say the least.  Rewriting other people’s articles, generating fake positive reviews of products and companies (usernames provided), and pretending to be a blogger and answering his e-mails and blog comments aren’t exactly things to be proud of.  The few legitimate jobs required blog experience.  I cringed at the word “blog.”  It sounded so ostentatious.  The Urban Dictionary explains it particularly well:

Short for weblog.
A meandering, blatantly uninteresting online diary that gives the author the illusion that people are interested in their stupid, pathetic life. Consists of such riveting entries as “homework sucks” and “I slept until noon today.”

Did I really want to be part of that?  What could I add to the millions of blogs already out there?  Would it be worth the time and effort?

I researched blogs and was surprised by the number of people who make money doing it.  I was also surprised that many publications accepted blog entries as “published” writing samples.  I’ve dreamt of being a writer for most of my life.  Of course, I had envisioned being a great novelist, but since I’m already 33 and haven’t written word one of a novel (the ramblings of my 16-year-old self doesn’t count), maybe it was time to focus on a local newspaper or magazine.  Start a blog, get some writing done everyday and bide my time until I wrote the one article that would be suitable for publication.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

After much planning and trepidation I posted my first blog entry.  It went well.  36 views.  I was concerned about returning visitors, but I’ve managed to keep an average of 38 views a day.  Some entries logged as many as 71 views.  I was encouraged so decided to set some short-term blogging goals.

  1. Write every weekday.  This is really hard.  I find myself distracted throughout the day, trying to think of something to write about.  Luckily, life with 5 children is loaded with material.  Maybe not very interesting material, but enough to keep the grandparents checking in, anyway.
  2. Commit to 3 months.  If, at the end of three months, it was just my husband and parents reading, that would be it.
  3. Get 100 views in a single day. 

I’ve done number one and am working toward number 2.  Big deal.  Those had everything to do with me.  Now, number two, that would be something.  It requires outside participation and shameless self-promotion (aka creative marketing).  On Friday, exactly one month after starting Momfog, I met the goal with 113 views.  Granted, I bugged all of Facebook for the hits, but only after I reached 88 and could taste victory.  I also have a very supportive cousin who missed her calling in the PR field.  (Thanks Steph).  

So I actually reached a goal, albeit a goal within a larger goal surrounded by more important goals.  I still don’t have a job, my house is a mess, I’m in my nightgown at noon, and I’m literally counting the minutes until Anna goes down for a nap so I can join her, but that’s okay.  Tomorrow is another day. 

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
~Mark Twain