Category Archives: Writing

My first Dream house

Hubs and I just got back from spending the better part of a week in the house I grew up in.

Because my mom died.

The last good picture of me and Mom (July 2018)

I’m going to be processing this fact for a good long while.

But for now, let me tell you a little about this special house.

It’s a small house that was filled with a lot of love. It’s very old but well maintained, because of my dad’s abilities with carpentry, plumbing, and virtually everything else.

As the story goes, my grandfather (whom I never met), at the age of 58, had a massive heart attack and died while standing in the archway between the tiny kitchen and the dining area of this house.

Both of my parents had experiences with his presence in that house over the years. It never scared them at all. I think they found it comforting.

This is also the house my father grew up in. He bought it from my grandmother. Between about 1960 and 1985, he and mom raised me, and my older sister and brother in this house.

The kitchen is quite small. I’m always amazed that despite not having more than 5 feet of counter space to work with, my mom always churned out delicious, homemade meals for us each and every night. The woman had a knack for using small spaces as efficiently as possible. It’s too bad she never got an opportunity to visit Ikea, with their mock up small spaces that have cleverly placed nooks and crannies for housing all the necessities for day to day living.

This is the house in which my two teenaged siblings threw a wild party at, in about 1974, while our parents were on a Las Vegas vacation. The party where 7 year old me was slathered with attention and plied with sandwiches and other treats in an attempt to ensure my silence. I, of course, being the bratty little sister, immediately told on them once our parents got home.

This is the house where my dad, fully immersed in his Alzheimer’s fog 2 years ago, gestured towards the corner of the living room, and relived, for me and mom, the delight he experienced in that very space where 75 years prior, his father sat with him and read stories.

This is the house where, back in the 80’s, my best friend burned a hole with her cigarette on the handmade-by-mom quilt that covered my 4 poster bead while my parents were out of town for the weekend. I lived in fear from that day on that mom would notice that little burn hole. But, surprisingly, she never did. 

Yes, the quilt (as our bright 5 year old grandson said: that sounds like it starts with the letter “Q”!) came back home to Colorado with us.

This is the house where people gathered to celebrate. From mom’s bridge club nights to family/friends steak fries during the summer in the backyard to high school graduation parties to wedding present openings.

This is the house where my writing dreams began.

*This post was in response to a prompt from lovely Lorna from Gin & Lemonade: “Dream House”. And in response to the emotions involved in the passing of my one-of-a-kind mother. https://ginlemonade.com/2019/02/13/house-hunting-as-a-wheelchair-user-other-stories/

Hot Mess revisits an old post

I find it annoying when my Facebook friends post something vague that intimates there is some major shit going on in their lives. Examples: “I just can’t anymore”, or “FML”, or “I give up!”. Oh, the drama.

Right now, I legit could be one of these people, based on how I’m feeling about a couple of different, unrelated circumstances going on with people I love dearly. But I am not going to do it.

I am also not here writing this post wishing and hoping that one of you readers will take the bait and ask me to spill the beans. I don’t want to spill the beans. Truthfully, they are not my beans to spill. And there’s nothing more I can do or say to effect the outcomes for the loved ones I am referencing.

That’s where faith comes in. And the Indigo Girls. And some hard liquor.

Okay, enough of that.

Everything will be fine. Eventually. This is life. There are ups and there are downs, right? Dwelling on the downs is not going to get me anywhere.

In the process of starting (this is the key word folks) several new blog posts last week, when things were going along rather swimmingly for me, I stumbled upon an an older post of mine. One I published in my first year of blogging (side note: I just hit my 2 year anniversary with WordPress!).

Please bear with me, kind and gentle readers,  while I take a moment to reflect on this particular post.

I mentioned at the outset in that post that I was lacking focus. Well, what with the number of started and now paused posts in my draft folder (it is getting crowded in there!) from last week and the other stuff I alluded to earlier, I am once again unable to focus on just one topic, one opinion, area of concern.

I am still a work in progress. Especially as a writer. With each post I publish, I feel that I’m working out what kind of writer I am. Sorting out who I’m writing for and why.  Am I just an optimist who is occasionally humorous? Am I an advice giver? Am I a teacher? Or am I just a student of life with her hand up in the air, waiting to be called on to ask or answer a question?

It just might be that I am a little bit of all of those things and perhaps more (to be determined, but I’m hopeful). It depends on what the post is about, I suppose. It also depends on what kind of mood I’m in as I am writing a post.

Clearly, my mood right now is “reflective”.

In that vein, let me just say that since publishing that post back in 2017, I have determined the most important bits of wisdom, aka the things I know for sure, are that, as a writer, curiosity and imagination are my friends.

Curiosity, because I value learning and I don’t believe just because a person reaches a certain age they should stop learning. Curiosity pushes me forward and gives me energy and compels me to keep learning, keep growing.

Imagination, because it takes me out of my funky moods and makes writing so much darn fun. Using my imagination when writing, as opposed to spouting off my opinions or shelling out advice on this blog, brings me back mentally to moments as a pre-teen writing funny stories and terrible poetry in my bedroom. Essentially, my happy place.

Thanks for indulging me, folks. If you got through this entire post, you will understand why I labeled myself a “hot mess” in the title. Because it’s clearly true at this particular moment. I just wouldn’t be true to myself if I had chosen to publish a cheery, upbeat, quirky sorta post like I often do.

As I said, I am a work in progress.

Fiction Writing Angst

Sometimes I worry that I put things out there, in the blogosphere, prematurely. Things that I want to do, want to write about. I worry that I’m setting myself up for failure. For embarrassment.

If you haven’t yet figured it out yet: here’s the truth. I’m a bit of a spaz. AKA, overly enthusiastic/nervous. Especially when it comes to writing.

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Like how I voluntarily shared on my newest blogging group “Kick Ass Creators” (Sorry, Ritu, I’m a tad anal about spelling “creators” with a “K”) that I was going to start writing fiction.

Ever since I did that, I’m in this weird state of feeling overwhelmed, excited, and just flat out scared.

Sometimes I worry that if I start publishing stories on my blog about the fictional characters that have been in my head for years now, someone will steal my idea and make it an even better story than I could possibly imagine. Turn it into the next comedic blockbuster, leaving me frustrated and without recourse. Maybe I ought to trademark this shit? How do I even do that? Is it going to involve a lot of technical skills or legal knowledge that I don’t have? It is going to cost me actual money, which I don’t exactly have much of for extra expenditures, especially given the fact that Hubs is currently furloughed and not being paid?

Sometimes I worry that I will get started on this fictional story of mine, and I will learn that I do not possess the skills needed to write snappy dialogue. Or that I will start the storyline then get totally stuck after a little while and decide that’s it. Or that my characters will come off as cartoonish, annoying, or just unrelatable.  Or that I will be made aware of another show, or book, or movie, that is so similar to what is currently in my head that it would be pure folly for me to press on, because my characters, my story, is simply just not that original after all.

I’m such a freaking mess.

Maybe I should just concentrate on writing blog posts. Keep my eyes, ears, and mind open to the fodder that is around me in the day-to-day. Write about that shit.

But then my characters will be stuck inside my head forever. Never to see the light of day. Stuck as perpetually middle aged, empty-nested, marrieds from the midwest for all eternity (as you might surmise, the main characters are loosely based on me and dear Hubs). Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. Just stuck in my head along with my to-do lists, recipes I really need to try one day, worries about my loved ones, and concerns about the fate of the world.

If I write about these characters and their shenanigans, even if  it is only in my super top secret draft folder, they will not die the slow death caused by being smothered by all those other thoughts and plans in my head.

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And I might have some fun along the way.

On the other hand, when I shared with my blogger’s group that I was going to “try my hand at fiction”, I didn’t exactly say I was going to publish anything. So technically,  I could write stories to my heart’s content about my fictional characters and keep them all to myself. That way I’d still be expressing myself creatively and actually writing fiction, so these poor characters are no longer in pause mode, like Sims characters just waiting for direction. I’d be protected from humiliation and I wouldn’t have to live with the fear of being outed as a horrible fiction writer because no one would be reading my stories.

Or I might just keep writing blog posts about writing and publishing and all the anxiety that comes with it for the rest of time.

At this point it’s a bit of a toss up. Either way, my characters will at least be given a bit of a life in my draft folder. Maybe once they start blooming there, I will introduce them to you.

Excuse me, I’ve got some fiction to write.

And some research to do. Some inspiration to acquire. I’m starting to think I might be in this for the long haul.

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I went to the library! A writer needs to read, right? And FYI,  I’m not planning on writing chick lit. I grabbed that book for the main title. Make what you will of my other literary choices. 

How do you do Community?

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Community is the glue that keeps our society together. I’ve been blessed in my life to have been a part of a variety of different communities. These experiences with community have shaped me. They have inspired me. They have taught me so very much. They have most certainly been a source of joy.

Like the community of church folks who came together back in Wisconsin a few years ago to fix up a single mom’s beautiful old house to get it ready to be sold. This was a days long process involving probably 24 of us. We painted. We put up curtains. Some of us did some electrical work and plumbing. While working on these tasks, we also got to know each other better. We ended with a shared experience that benefited not just the single mom and her kids, but all of us.

Like the community of friends, many of whom hadn’t officially met before, who came together to make a home accessible for a friend’s spouse who in her 30’s suffered a stroke while vacationing out of the country and was soon coming out of rehab. We organized closets, we built an accessible ramp, we updated the bathroom and re-arranged the bedroom to accommodate the spouse’s new way of moving through their day to day world.

Like the community at our local brew pub, 3 miles down the road from our townhome here in Colorado. If ever there was a “Cheers”  in real life, this would be that place. The owners and bartenders know our names. The owners regularly schedule events that build community.

And this sign is prominently featured, which I very much appreciate. This one hangs in the ladies’ restroom.

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Then there’s our current church community. Our major fundraiser each year is a lawn mower clinic, held in May. Hubs and I, along with probably 2-3 dozen other church folks came together on three Saturdays this past May to check the oil, change spark plugs, and clean those well used, clunky machines up so they would be in good working condition for their owners when the time came to get back to mowing their lawns again. Each of these Saturdays were nasty, weather-wise. Snow. Rain. Cloudy, cold, and breezy. From my perspective, only experiencing 2 years in Colorado, this weather was a-typical for the time of year. But yet we all bundled up, drank a lot of hot coffee, and got things done as a community.

The Facebook blogging community I’ve recently become a part of is another example of how I like to “do” community in my life. In this group, bloggers often lift each other up. They turn each other on to new ideas, new tricks to improve their writing and their blogs. They  We support each other as best we can. We seem to understand that while we all have our individual blogs, we’re in it (aka the Blogosphere) together. We all want to succeed at what we’re doing and we all love to write. We respect each other. There does not seem to be a sense of “my blog vs. your blog” competitive b.s. going on in this group. We all seem to engage with this group in an effort to build each other, and ourselves at the same time, up. I’m so glad I decided to join this community.

The bottom line, for me, is that being around others, especially with a clear goal in mind, energizes me. It appeals to my social and socially conscious nature. It opens up my world, teaches me things I didn’t know I needed to learn, both about myself and others. It helps me focus on the positive and reminds me that there is good in the world. That the number of good people in our universe far outweighs the number of bad people. It gives me hope.

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Seedlings and Randomness

Recently, I accidentally deleted all of the content in my “Seedlings” draft within my blog. I was innocently reviewing it for the millionth time, in an attempt to mine for some writing gold, and while going crazy with cutting and pasting content into other drafts I started, suddenly it was all gone. Blank as hell.

So now I’m sorta starting at square one. I do have a few little nuggets of the content from my “Seedlings” draft tucked into a few different other drafts, but the vast majority of it is gone. As if it never existed.

This means that I have to take a serious gander at the 15 other blog posts I’ve started and stopped. This is something I am starting to do at this moment in time. We’ll see where it goes.

But for now, let me get a few random things off my chest. A few (which is all I have left) “seedlings”, if you will. Thoughts and feelings that have been rattling about in my brain and in my heart.  Some things I want to expand upon on this blog when I’m feeling gutsy. Or overwhelmed. Or thoughtful and pensive.

  • Observation about myself: Negative people suck me dry. I need to find ways to fill up my soul and creative spirit directly after being immersed in their gloomy muck for more than 2 hours (give or take).
  • I ought to write a post about expressions. Ones I frequently use, ones I hate, and ones I ought to use more. Considering the times and all.
  • Why I almost titled my blog “Dumb Ass 2 Wise Swan”.
  • Sometimes I wonder if other bloggers tell people that they have a blog. I generally don’t. But why?
  • I hope that we can all agree that no one, regardless of political party, gender identity, sexual orientation, weight, economic status, or emoji preferences when texting friends or family should be judged for expressing their opinions or interacting with others in a manner authentic to themselves. With the exception of those who have committed a crime or were intentionally cruel to another human being. Then all bets are off, IMHO.
  • I have a very strong urge to pen a political post. I’ve been suppressing it for some time now. I’m feeling overwhelmed (I’m guessing I am in good company, right?) by the barrage of bad news lately. Overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending joke of a presidency we are subjected to on the daily. However, I feel like if I did go hog-wild with my political opinions, 1) I’d for the most part be preaching to the choir, 2) it would not have a positive impact on the world at large, and 3) my Facebook blogger’s group might kick me out. So, at least for the time being, I will refrain from publishing purely political posts. The one thing I will say, which is of the utmost importance is this: VOTE! Our futures, as well as our children’s and their children’s futures, depend on this one simple thing.
  • In keeping with the random, unexpected, stream-of-consciousness theme I’ve got going here, I am publishing this post today. The day I started it and the day I finished it, instead of sticking with my regular Wednesday morning time slot.  I think I’ve only done that once or twice since I started blogging. So here’s to shaking things up a little!
I would love, love, love, to hear your random commentary today (or any day for that matter). What is it that you want to write about, but haven’t yet?

Quantity over Quality or vice versa?

I recently read a blog post, written by one of my most favorite bloggers, that turned my approach to writing on it’s head. For the longest time, I’ve been tied to the notion that I needed to focus on quality over quantity with my blogging. This has led to many hours of starting and stopping blog posts, editing and re-editing, and not a small amount of anxiety. Because in my mind, it will be the “high quality” (according to me, and why am I only considering my opinion anyway? Good question) blog posts that will launch my writing into infamy.

Thankfully, CJ set me straight. She explained so clearly in her post how writing more, producing actual crap, and then writing even more leads to improvement as a writer. Quantity begets quality, if you will.

The lesson of the students in the ceramics class being split into two, with one group being tasked to produce one “perfect” pot and the other group tasked to produce as many pots as they possibly could within a set time frame was spot on. When I began reading this post, I made the assumption (you know, making an “ass” out of “you and me”) that the group that was tasked with making the “perfect” pots were going to “win” in the end. Because they were going to be taking their time. Visualizing what the end result was going to look like. Focusing their creativity on one simple “perfect” thing.

I was so wrong.

Of course, the students that made multiple pots were the winners in this scenario. They learned from their mistakes as they created pot after pot.  They no doubt tried different techniques and let their creativity flow, being untethered to the idea of creating just one perfect pot. And I’m sure they had way more fun than the other group.

That’s what I’m starting to do with my blogging. I think it could also be referred to as “Spitballing”, a term of which I am especially fond. As in, writing like a madwoman on random topics or just random thoughts about random things and putting them out there on my blog (or not). Seeing what sticks. Being okay with those posts that end up not sticking.

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Onto the next topic, which is slightly related. But maybe not. 

There are cases, of course, where quality should trump quantity. For instance, my t.v. watching habits. Because while I enjoy getting all comfy at night and gorging on the boob tube, my time is precious. I don’t necessarily need to thoroughly analyze each and every television show I enjoy and weigh their merits, but I think it behooves me to be a little thoughtful about it.

I figure I’ve got roughly 14 hours per week (is that high or low? I have no way to judge this) of time to watch television. There are several shows I enjoy watching. Some with Hubs. Some all by my lonesome. This 14 hours per week is not counting the approximate 1.5 hours daily of news/political programming Hubs and I always watch together (local news, MSNBC, and of course Full Frontal with Samantha Bee).

Perhaps I am watching too much t.v.

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My couch potato inspiration, Liz Lemon

Anyhoo, here’s my list of quality television, according to me-don’t judge, that I will resume watching this fall:

  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • 9-1-1
  • The Orville
  • The Good Place
  • Shameless
  • This is Life with Lisa Ling
  • Dancing with the Stars
  • This is Us
  • SNL

So there is some room there for new programming. Approximately 4 hours per week  (perhaps more if I skip to the end on that second, mostly unnecessary second episode of DWTS, to learn who’s dancing abilities sucked enough that they are booted from the show) left. This is where my radar for quality television needs to be employed. I’ve been semi paying attention to the new crop of shows coming out this season, and so far the only one I’m certain to check out is “Murphy Brown”. I watched that back in the day and always found it smart, funny, and entertaining. The re-boot of this show is featuring the same four actors playing the same four characters but in current times, aka “The Trump Era”, which particularly piques my interest.

The only other show I can fathom adding to my list, based on my personal standards of quality  is “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. I watched the first episode when it initially came out and really enjoyed it. I suppose the only reason why I haven’t picked it up again is because it was too “chick flick-y” for Hubs. So clearly this is one to watch all by myself, on those odd days when I’m home alone or the nights when Hubs goes to bed extra early.

Time will tell if there will be other shows I check out.

Tell me, fellow bloggers, what is your take on “quantity vs. quality” or vice versa, in relation to writing and/or t.v. watching? This curious mind wants to know 🙂

AFA: AKA-Appreciation for Acronyms

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As a person who delights in the English language, I particularly enjoy a good acronym. With the exception of the times when I’ve begun a new job. Co-workers fling acronyms around like our President lies, and until I’m there for a decent chunk of time, I’ve no idea what they mean.

Just for fun, here’s my commentary on my acronyms:

NOAA: Someone I know and love very much works for NOAA (clue: he’s a scientist). He has been known to refer to this acronym as the “National Organization for the Advancement of Acronyms”. Because of course in his field, acronyms abound.

MIAT: This one was created by the great comedic writer, Sarah Silverman. It stands for “Make it a Treat”. I know from personal experience, however, that this one can be overused, especially when the “treats” are the edible kind. I truly need to utilize this one sparsely. Or perhaps I ought to create myself a list of what qualifies under the MIAT acronym that doesn’t involve food.

FEPP: Focused. Engaged. Patient. Positive. This one is my own creation and I pull it out whenever I feel like my brain is all over the place. Like now.

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AF: I learned what this one meant shortly after I began using Twitter. It seemed to punctuate so many tweets and I was simply clueless as to what it meant. So I asked other folks in Twitterland what it meant. I eventually got the correct answer: As Fuck. I believe some of my fellow tweeters enjoyed my naivete as the first response (from the Bloggess, no less) was Air Force.

FYI and ETA: these are ones I commonly use, especially via text. FYI is an attention grabber; it emphasizes the importance of the forthcoming information to the textee. ETA is straightforward and requires a specific response, which is especially appreciated if the texter is anxiously awaiting your arrival.

YOLO: While admittedly overused in our society, this remains a favorite of mine. It speaks the truth: that at least as far as we all know, you only live once. So make it an interesting ride by saying yes to adventure in the here and now.

KISS: A very versatile acronym/mantra I use very liberally. I wrote about it here.

FML: This is actually one I despise,  because it’s typically used in the context of someone complaining about a first world problem. It’s negative and hopeless. A total downer.  I am so turned off when people use this one on Facebook.

WIP: What does it mean? This one was used by another blogger in a comment she made on a recent post of mine. I asked her what it meant and I am honestly still awaiting a response. Perhaps she thought it a dumb question, unworthy of an answer. If that’s the case, so be it. I suspect it is one of those special acronyms specific to the blogging world. But I like to think it means “Work in Progress”. Seems appropriate, right?

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My new favorite acronym!