The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I'm Part of a Deconstruction Crew

        One of the Donalds (Murray or Graves) wrote that, "Writing is as much deconstruction as it is construction."  I haven't bothered to find the book and page where I originally found it a decade or so ago, so it's not an exact quote, but it made a powerful impact on me.

photo by chigmaroff

       I used to love to have hard copies of pieces, and each new draft would be stapled to the top of the stack.  That way, I could look through the various drafts and see the progress--the scratched out part here, the rearranged part there, and so on.  Now, when my piece is on my laptop/flashdrive (after it's handwritten--I rarely begin a fresh piece via a keyboard), I make changes that result in my "progress" becoming invisible.  With a click of a mouse or a few keystrokes, whole paragraphs or pages can be moved around; the original arrangement falls back and disappears out of sight.

        What tips about the "deconstruction" phase do you have?  What helpful tidbits can you offer up when it comes time to revise?  Inquiring minds want to know...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bubble Heads? Or Bubbles Over Heads? Or Is It a Message in a Bloggle?

       Pat Hensley regularly posts helpful sites--sites that teachers (and others) find extremely useful. Check out her blog from today---November 26.

       One of the links she provided was to a cool site which enables you to upload a photo of yours, and then add a speech bubble.

       Immediately, I thought how helpful this site would be with end-of-the-year digital shows.  Photos of the students could be uploaded, and then the comical (or thoughtful) bubbles could be added.

       Below are two photos I did and they only took a minute (which is a testament to how easy it is, because I am a techno-nimrod).

          One of my favorite sites to follow (I have many) is Tammy's blog.  She has conjured up more reasons why we should embrace getting older.  On a day when my cellulite reminds me of the lumpy gravy I devoured last night, I need to see aging with a positive spin...

Thursday, November 25, 2010


      This is to thank everyone---every person who has stopped by and not commented but read, every one who has posted a comment, everyone who has helped me when I had a blogging question or offered suggestions...Thank you.

     I began blogging this summer amidst a swirl of depression; reaching out and finding there are friends out there--unmet, yet supportive nonetheless--is comforting.  It's a strange thing.  Regularly, I want to suggest getting together with a blogging friend, only to remember (again) that they live in California.  Or Spain. Or Nebraska.  Connecting with each other on a regular basis makes the miles disappear.

photo by mosippy

      Have a marvelous day today.  If you spend it reading a book and you dine on pancakes tonight, enjoy!  If you spend it cleaning the house and then sitting down to a great movie, take joy in it.  If you look under your table at a four-legged family member, or across the table and see one or more, revel in the pleasure.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Running Down Kites

          If I was a stalker, I would stalk a few people...Khaled Hosseini, John Reynolds Gardiner, Rick Bragg, Sandra Dallas, John Prine...There are others, but these are ones that come to mind immediately.

        They all have one thing in common: they're all writers (although Prine is a singer-songwriter, albeit a brilliant one).

John Prine---photo by Steve Hopson
       For me, a marvelous book is better than crack or meth (or at least how powerful I imagine the drugs are).  Perhaps I should not include meth, because I think that drug makes you very energetic---you can stay up for days---and since I love to read on the couch or bed and eventually fall asleep, I can't really compare an engaging novel to meth.

       Writing about an alluring author is easy this afternoon, because I just finished watching the movie The Kite Runner.  Truth is, I had been avoiding it for years...

photo of Khaled Hosseini  by wnyc
        Falling in love with a book, and then seeing the story being butchered on the screen, is painful.   When the novel came out, I read it and was completely enamored.  (Alright, there was a part that didn't quite ring true, but I remained loyal until the last page, and it redeemed itself.)  It was such a powerful story, I did not know how a movie---a decent movie---could do it justice.  So when the film came out, I refused to see it.

          Then there were press releases about a second book by Khaled Hosseini.  I scanned the internet when that month came, book.  I went onto this website and found the book was taking longer than anticipated. Drats!

          There I was, waiting like an impatient lover.  And no car lights coming up the street...I was all dressed up, make-up on, anticipating the arrival.

         When the book A Thousand Splendid Suns finally came out, I fell in love all over again.  And as hard as it was to believe, I loved his second book (a book about women) even more than his first (which is really a book about boys and men).  If you have not read either one, and would enjoy seeing a small picture of life in Afghanistan, read them.  They are among my favorites...

         Grudgingly, this morning I put the disc in, still dubious.  Mostly, I was afraid of the movie being all whitebreaded-up.  Would all the Afghans speak English throughout the film? (Why in the world does that happen?  Do producers and directors think Americans are incapable of reading subtitles?  Do they think we don't want to hear the richness--the diversity--of a foreign language?) Would it look like American cheese---all wrapped up in plastic sleeves---instead of fragrant and a bit rough around the edges?  I was prepared for the worst...

        In my opinion, they did a great job.  It was like reading the book all over again.  (And if anyone wants to pay me for this review/opinion, I will gladly accept it.)

photo of Rick Bragg by Kalamazoo Public Library

         To the above authors, consider this a warning:  If you see a frumpy woman, bags under her eyes and a bag of books in her hand, her hair several different colors (unless she gets it dipped this evening) lurking around a corner, watch out.  She might chase after you, snare you, and pepper you with questions about what your writing process is like, as she slobbers out praise for your words. 

The Petrified Ones

       They sat there, squatting together and smug.  Many had tried to emerge victorious, but most left the battlefield after surrendering.  Very few foes or weapons could penetrate the armor of the Petrified Ones.  

       There were 13 of them.  Raised so they could someday sport a garish grin or a wicked wince, their expressions remained unreadable.  Others before me had tried with a simple knife to attack, but no knife had been invented that could even scrape their facade. 

        Seeing me tremble in fear, my husband went down into the basement and---brandishing the "Rock Eater"--- emerged with confidence steeling his stride.  This knife had been used in every home improvment project he had ever done.  It would vanquish the enemy...

photo by neonwilderness

        Both of us tried.  The "Rock Eater" was no match for the Petrified Ones.  They began to gloat and taunt.

          Out to the shed went my husband.  He returned, a jigsaw in his hand.  Suddenly it was the Petrified Ones shivering in fear instead of me. Aaah...Could an end be in sight?

         As the last pumpkin was cut up, the stringy gunk and seeds scooped out, and then the quarters of the enemy roasted, I shook my head in wonder. The tender flesh so easily was spooned out. The Petrified Ones...tough?  Not so much anymore...

        It's amazing what a power saw and a 350 degree oven will do...

photo by dyogi

(This story is true.  A teaching colleague of mine generously offered to broach a local farmer in early October. She then picked up a carload full golden goodness. The farmer had given us a good price on the pumpkins, but we did not know until later that we should have been suspicious of the discount.

The pumpkins did indeed need a jigsaw before they were cut up.  When a couple of them rolled out of the box when I drove them home, they sounded like rocks.

Some people have said they are "pie pumpkins" but if that is the case, it would be a tasteless pie, because the pumpkin had no discernible flavor.  Adding chicken stock, tomatoes, lots of sauteed onions, broccoli, carrots and seasoning---and then pureeing---made a delicious soup, but pie?  I don't think so.)


Monday, November 22, 2010

A Whooping-It-Up Tuesday and Wednesday

          Today my teammate and I spent the day doing a science experiment with our 3rd graders (homemade cranberry sauce), and we also began a huge pot of pumpkin soup.  (The secret to driving nine-year olds to salivation over the prospect of eating pumpkin soup?  Sautee a bunch of onions and add them into the soup.  It will create an aroma that is indescribable!)

         Tomorrow we will have a feast---a chicken casserole, green beans, cranberry sauce, a sweet potato casserole, the soup, and corn muffins.

         But tomorrow night is when the whooping it up begins...

         My mid-quarter progress reports have just been turned in.  The papers have not had a chance to form their usual overwhelming piles yet.  It's going to be a wild night of frivolity, even to the extent of extending into the next day. 

          Knitting...Watching two of my favorite TV shows...Hopefully finishing the book I've been reading and then falling asleep on the couch in a puddle of drool...Heaven!

         Wednesday I am off (my husband has to work!) so I might take a mid-day nap, a kind of daytime slumber party with the dogs.  After all, that's what they do all day!

Annie (on the left) and Foley---both rescued from Love a Golden Rescue

          If I am too busy getting a short story ready, or my knitting needles are clacking against each other at such a furious pace that I am prevented from posting in the next couple of days, have a great holiday.  Gather 'round a table and tell everyone what you are thankful for. You never know when it may slip between your fingers...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You Know, You Really Made Me Angry

        Years ago, when Christopher Paul Curtis' novel The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 had just been published, I went to Missouri's Write to Learn conference and heard him speak.  A veteran of these conferences, I would always get sucked in, and would end up buying a number of books that I would devour.  This year, I swore, would be different.  Having books all over the house already, I made a promise to myself:  I would not buy any books this time...

       Unfortunately, after hearing him read an excerpt of his book at dinner on Friday night, I was compelled to purchase a copy.  It was so funny, and so poignant at the same time, I just had to.  But I was angry.  I was furious with Curtis for making me buy his book.  So I told him...

        The next morning---as always---featured a breakfast buffet, and lo and behold, I happened to be in line right behind Christopher Paul Curtis. Since I don't have a drop-dead gorgeous body or face, I have to make myself memorable in other ways. I chose the "shock" route.

        "You know, you really pissed me off."

         Me, menopausal, frumpy figure and frizzly grayish-brown hair, skin the color of looseleaf notebook paper. Him, much taller and much younger, with dredlocked hair and skin the color of dark caramel. 

          To his credit, he did not react in any visible way, except to ask, "I did?"  (Perhaps he has dealt with a generous helping of crazy white women in the past?) I quickly told him how I planned on not buying any books, but I just had to after listening to his story. We both laughed (perhaps Curtis a bit relieved). Even years later, I hope he took it as it was intended:  a supreme compliment.

         Both of the books I have read of his are well-crafted and have a great story line---a rarity these days.  Many novels have a great plot, and some are honed well, but the story is lacking.  These two books are the "total package."

A Thanksgiving Poem

         Barb Hodges has an acrostic poem on her blog.  It's about Thanksgiving. I am never very good at thinking of beginning lines that begin with the correct letter (they usually sound forced and contrived), and since I almost always try to push the limits, I prefer "staggered acrostic" poems.  Check out Barb's, and then you'll see that she is the light, frivilous and frothy one and I'm the serious, somber and introspective one. (Not!)

Every year I promise That next year,
I will not stuff myself until I have to huff and puff
to zip up my pants following the meal, but alas,
my good intentions turn to jelly (as in jellied cranberry sauce)
when the dishes keep coming out of the kitchen
and get placed on the table---savory stuffing, sweet potatoes
dotted with brown sugar,yeast rolls topped with globs of butter,
(and did I forget to mention the gravy, which is so good,
you want to drink it straight from the gravy boat (if you dare),
and as the finale, chocolate chiffon AND pumpkin pie...
But sadly, since menopause, my metabolism has gone into a coma
and I carry the memory of every holiday with me--my poochy gut
serves as a permanent cellulite "scrapbook,"
reminding me that after fifty, every bite I eat
is like a loyal friend---it sticks around forever...

photo by BarbaraCZ