The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 9: John, Richie, Cat and Harry

Next week I'm going to see John Mellencamp in concert. I enjoy his music, and once made a trip to Indianapolis, a solo car trip, and listened to nothing but him the whole way. Anything else seemed sacrilegious. 

However, concerts and me don't always mix well. I get antsy--sitting for that long--and they never seem to measure up.

I've been spoiled, I guess, by the best. 

My first concert was John Sebastian and Richie Havens. It was in Washington U's Quadrangle. Under the stars, surrounded by the stone buildings as John asked if we believed in magic... as Richie begged over and over for freedom... Well, it was the perfect first.

My second one was Cat Stevens. I admit: I had a serious teenage crush on him... and I was in great company. He had a string of famous, gorgeous girlfriends. Patti D'Arbanville. Carly Simon wrote "Anticipation" about him.

His once-glossy black curly hair is now short and gray. Now he is Yusuf, but he can still sing...

However, it was Harry Chapin who ruined all concerts--forever--for me. An incredible songwriter with a not-so-incredible voice, he made the evening we spent together into an intimate experience. That night he spoke to us of his hopes and dreams--through his music--and joked with the audience and his band in a sometimes-bawdy manner. He was humble and self-deprecating. He was delightful.

What's a memorable concert you've been to, and why was it so unforgettable?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 8: Hairy Noon and Night

The inspiration for this post came to me when I was watching something new on TV. (No How to Get Away With Murder. A bit ticked off.) This actress had a gorgeous uneven cascade of curls... and I thought of my love and hate relationship with my own hair.

In an instant, I traveled back to when I six. I wore a pixie cut. (That was my coiffure choice until I was 12. I went through a Joan of Arc phase. Seriously.) As a teen, I wore it straight, long and parted down the middle. I've had short perms (and since I dyed my hair red--even then--I looked like Corky the Clown), and long ones. My uncooperative and naturally-the-color-of-rat-fur hair has been French-braided, shagged, and pulled up with a clip over the years. Although my hair's rarely even slightly stylish, I've resigned myself to it. It covers my head-wrinkles and prevents my scalp from getting sunburned.

... And yet I still have hair envy when I pass by someone on the street whose hair is so spectacular, I drool.

My trip down memory lane made me think of the musical Hair. One line from the title song came to mind:

I'm hairy noon and night, hair that's a fright.

Yes, even though my hair is short, it's a hot mess in the morning after I've tossed and turned and repeatedly cork-screwed my head into my pillow, but that's not what I want to end with.

Fellow women: You're thirty something. Forty something. Your hair is gorgeous. You love it. But I promise--it'll turn on you. Sometime around the time you cross the 50-year mark, you'll get to the "hairy noon and night" phase of your life. You'll grow a mustache that likes nothing better than showing itself... until you get the Nair out. Then the hairs go into hiding. Your eyebrows will grow as bushy (and white) as Andy Rooney's. And sometimes that mustache gets so brazen, hairs start sprouting out of your chin.

Yeah. I can't get both sides of my hair to lay right, but I do have my mustache relatively tamed... most of the time. 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 7: The Hiss I Love

I was a child of records. Then 8-track tapes. Then cassette. Then finally CDs. I thought I was happy with the music that was "digitally remastered" on the CDs. I never even imagined I'd be looking back.

But then my husband got me a record player a few years ago. I dragged the box of records up from the basement. Probably they were all ruined, I figured. I slipped one of the discs of vinyl out of its cardboard cocoon. Placing it onto the turntable, I switched it on and lifted the needle up, then dropped it into place.


It was a sound I'd completely forgotten, didn't know I'd been missing it for decades but was immediately grateful for.

Then the piano notes came bashing through, setting up a fast-paced rhythm. 

"I feel the earth, move, under my feet. 
I feel the sky tumbling down.
I feel my heart start to trembling,
Whenever you're around..."

Carole King's Tapestry album was the first record I bought for myself, after being weaned off the soundtrack to Mary Poppins, along with Glenn Campbell LPs, my parents' records. 

What was the first vinyl record you ever bought? Or, have you never bought a vinyl record?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Grass is Greener Right Here: Slice of Life Day # 6

Hands that are almost permanently clenched. They're ineffectual. All they're good for--mostly--is swiping at his chin when he knows there's a bit of food there.

Legs that shake until the medicine wears off. The medicine that helps the Parkinson's causes dyskinesia. His head bobs. Over and over and over. His body sways.

His legs. They're extended way out in front of his wheelchair, his feet splayed. The longer he sits, the more he slides toward the floor.

He used to be the breadwinner. The family cook. The shopper. The chauffeur. 

Now he's dependent on his wife. Every day, in every way.

My yard, although it's riddled with weeds, looks pretty green right now...

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 5: Comfort Trumps Chic

I admit: one of the words in this post title makes me shudder, but I'll try to get through it.

I'm of an age where I'm unconcerned with fashion. I gave away all of my high-heeled shoes a long time ago. Shoes that feel like slippers are my go-to.  Clothes that feel comfortable--not constricting--are what I wear.

Last night I came home and was cold. The weather was bitter. It was a bit after 7. After being gone from home for over 12 hours, I needed some comfort.

My one-sy. 

A couple of years ago my daughter gave me a fleece jumpsuit for Christmas. It's similar to the old-fashioned sleepers infants used to wear... except mine doesn't have feet in it.

Curling up on the couch. Watching The Voice. It was almost like I was being embraced by a blanket.

These days, it doesn't take much to make me happy...

Monday, March 4, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 4: Agents, Rejections and Queries... Oh My!

I'm a Butt Kicker. I also get my butt kicked.

Let me explain. I belong to a writing accountability group. We began a little over a year ago--we wrote some large, year-long goals and then every week, we set some goals. Some weeks we achieve what we intend... and then some. Other weeks, we stumble. And we do all of this via Dropbox, because we're scattered all over the world. (One of us lives in Australia.)

Now we're in our 2nd year. The first year, we called ourselves Persistent Pencil Pushers. This year, we're feeling sassier, and call our group Butt-Kickers because that's what we do: we nudge and encourage and push each other to keep writing, keep submitting and keep querying.

I've got a manuscript that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2016. I spent a year writing it. Then I spent the next year revising it slashing and burning most of it and then beginning from scratch.

My weekly goal is to do 2 submission-y or query-y things. (Don't you love those specific writerly terms?) I queried 3 agents yesterday, which means that now 10 agents have my query letter and the first 5-30 pages (whatever amount they wanted). I researched and copied and pasted while binge-watching a show a friend recommended. (Thanks, Tracy. It not only had Nicky in it, it also had Daya and Wes Driscoll. I thoroughly enjoyed it.) 

I drank two bottles of this cider on Sunday--it's from Aldi's and is delicious.

I've already been rejected by one. I printed that email off, and plan to collect rejection notices until I get a resounding yes from someone.

Writers. We're strange creatures. If we make our goals public, we tend to be more vigilant with them. And we revel in getting rejected, because that means we're submitting...

(And here's a picture of my handsome blonde boy. While I was binge-ing, sipping and submitting, he was romping in the snow.)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Slice of Life Day # 3: We Laughed. We cried. We ate.

Okay, so yesterday morning 7 sixth graders, two parents (a mom and dad of one of my students) and I headed to Columbia. We left at 10. It was a two hour trip one-way because I drove the speed limit the whole way, since I was transporting kids whose parents had put their kids' lives in my hands. Usually I drive... uh, a bit faster than the posted speed limit.

We were going to have lunch with Ibtisam Barakat, a Palestinian memoir author.

Backtrack to yesterday at 4. In the morning. The crack of chicken time. I'd had a rough evening the night before, so I couldn't cook then. And since I'm Princess Procrastination, I didn't cook a couple of evenings before. So. I had no choice but to cook--in a frenzy--yesterday morning.

I did cook. Everything got finished in time to load it in my car, along with students. That's not the slice of my life I'd like to look at today.

Today I want to reflect on the conversation we had, sitting in a big circle in the living room of my sister (the sister I've only known about for less than 20 years).

The kids were busily tearing off bits of pita bread to nibble on. They'd slurped up lentil and green wheat soups they loved. (Well, they loved the shorbet adas. The freekeh? Not so much.) They'd drunk way too much soda. Our guest of honor--Ibtisam Barakat--sat at the head of the circle, and she asked one single, mind-blowing question:

What book would you write that would heal you, and heal the rest of the world?

What had I expected when I planned this adventure? I expected my students would ask the author questions. I expected there would be some picture-taking and some book signing. What we got--so above and beyond that--was not at all what I expected.

My 6th graders answered her, one at a time. When they tried to skirt the issue with vagueness, she lasered-in on them and got them back onto the path of raw-and-honest.

The stuff the kids told about themselves. It. Was. Amazing. We laughed. We cried. We ate.

We connected...