Monthly Archives: April 2014

Don’t Stop Believin’ or Why Writers Write

“Some will win, some will lose/Some were born to sing the blues/Oh, the movie never ends/
It goes on and on, and on, and on’/Don’t stop believin’/Hold on to the feelin’…” ~Journey

Skip week – No publish, I wrote on the blank index card in the space for last Tuesday. I felt like I had failed myself so fully that I couldn’t help adding an emoticon sad face with my black ink pen. An action which further solidified the fears that this impromptu break brought on by the busyness and demands of life, adulthood, parenthood would very quickly suffer the snowball effect, rolling swiftly into an extreme halt in my existence as a blogger. Fears that this was proof that I’m not cut to be a writer, and certainly not truly one if I allowed a week to stand in my way and keep me from what I have been doing since last June.

For as much as self-promoting this blog every Tuesday has turned into a chore, it felt weird and wrong that last Tuesday was the first one in many long months that I wasn’t spending parts of the day doing exactly that. A tweet around noon. A Facebook status on my personal page that same hour. As many as 10 statuses pre-scheduled on the blog’s Facebook page starting at 5 a.m. and tapering off around 6 p.m. Off and on my mobile and laptop throughout the length of a work shift while caring for my daughter, the house, myself. It gets stupid-crazy on Tuesdays. And it annoys me. And I missed it.

I knew the world wasn’t going to stop just because I couldn’t manage my time better seven to 10 days ago. But I felt like my world was spinning too quickly off of its axis.

Because of how terrible failure makes me feel, I have always harbored a fear of it. This truth about me used to keep me from trying so many new things, some of which I should have at least attempted simply due to how much I wanted to. Yay for me that after growing up a bit more, I found my own way to get passed this. The downside now though is, that when I feel like I have failed, the impact of the sensation is ten times sharper.

Oddly this also serves me well, as both the fear of failure and the actual occurrence motivate me to get back up.

Also, my friends have a different perspective about me than I do. Thankfully.

“‘It’s okay to miss every once in a while. At least you still did a little promotion on Monday!” The rejuvenating optimism of friend and fellow blogger, Big Joe Johnson (www.bigjoessoapbox.com) who was referring to a bloggers’ community that we both participate in on Twitter on Mondays called, yes, mondayblogs. Even though the sad side of my brain was still whining, I didn’t write this weeeeek!! (Think alà Lucille Ball), the rational side nodded in agreement at this very forgiving statement.

Likewise, my brother-from-another-mother, Dave had a similar stop-beating-yourself comment.

Deep down though, I knew inherently that when the pout-fest ended, and I started feeling ok about not publishing for an entire week (because eventually you can get comfortable with anything, no matter how disappointed you are with yourself), that I am a writer. Writing is a part of who I am. Without it I am not a whole person. 

I have always identified myself as a writer. Even during those long years that I wasn’t actually writing, just going around telling anyone who would listen that I was an “aspiring writer.” After the battle it took to get to this point in my life where I feel validated in labeling myself a writer, neither me nor it was going to just shrug and walk off. 

After deciding that this week I was going to write about how terrible it was to not write last week, I came across a column in PARADE in the April 20, 2014 edition called “Sunday With…”  which felt so fate-filled and appropriate. Author Anna Quindlen, the interviewee, was asked about a small assortment of things, including how she deals with writer’s block.

“‘Some days I fear writing dreadfully, but I do it anyway. I’ve discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.'”

Not writing at all leads to nothing. Yes. A big, hollow, empty nothing.

Which I guess, in its own awful way is actually something, just not the something a writer wants.

This made me wonder though if it was merely just poor time management that got me last week. Or if it was my fear of failure. Or if it was writer’s block. If it was all three. Or all three plus other stuff I haven’t even identified.

In any case, Quindlen is reminding all writers, including herself, that it is an art and we have to keep practicing, even when we think that we are sucking majorly. And not just at writing, but at life, too. (Because I have tons of days that leave me feeling like I suck at life.) It’s a reminder that for all the time, work, energy and other aspects that it takes, don’t stop believin’. Really though, I can’t even if I wanted to.

The primary fundamental reason why is that I don’t feel like a complete person when I haven’t been writing. This, in turn, is why writers write. Even when they arn’t getting paid. Even when they don’t garner much attention. Like me. Because the sensation that the act of writing brings is comparable to a higher form of breathing. It serves as an additional filter for life, sifting out yin and yang, helping the head and the heart to make sense of it all.

I suppose as long as I have a need or desire for comprehension, and as long as writing completes me as a person, I’ll use one to fuel the other and continue to be a writer that writes, if for nothing else, but to feel whole. Never thought I’d say this, but I’m grateful for all that I don’t automatically understand.

 

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Holes in Our Leaves

On a recent Friday morning, late this past March, my sister texted me about the passing of yet another aunt of ours. This time, one that I haven’t retained any memory.

My response? “‘Hmm, I thought she was already gone.'” (Not sure why I thought that…probably because it’s been so long since we saw anyone from that part of the family.) “‘I’m pretty sure she was getting up there in age. It was probably natural causes.'” In that moment, my mother had not yet heard how our aunt died.

Isn’t it sad that all I feel about this particular aunt’s passing is matter-of-fact? Isn’t sad that I can’t be sure if the face I’m visualizing in my mind is hers or not? (And if it’s not, who is the woman I see in my mind’s eye when trying to recall this aunt?) I think so. I think it’s sad, as well as my leading myself to believe in the assumption that she had already been deceased, simply because I hadn’t seen her since I was little. I’ll estimate 7 years old, and that might be a generous guess.

It is sad, I thought, that many people don’t know their own families. Case in point, my sister — eight years my junior — never even met our recently deceased aunt.

My next thought? Isn’t it sadder still for our children and our children’s children? Why do we allow this complete estrangement? It creates holes in family trees, making future genealogy more difficult to execute.

Have we learned nothing from the challenges that African-Americans face when looking back over their own lineage? Challenges filled with yet more questions than what naturally arise when tracking ancestry due to the permanent effects of slavery.

Of course, there are times that tragic events occur within a family, or a “black sheep” relative causes such heartache that blood separates willingly, as everyone effected finds themselves without ability to live with what happened. And so, connections get buried and muddled.

But some of us have no concrete reason for drifting apart from extended family. Mostly, our busy lives coupled with the passing of time pose the main threat to forgetting each other. It’s a terrible excuse, but one that I am as guilty of as anyone else. Granted, I have no control over missing bonds with relatives that I haven’t seen since I was a child, but I certainly could have been reaching out since arriving at adulthood.

But I feel that another point to make is that if we don’t know our relatives, we don’t truly know ourselves. Such as, for example, having a strong patriotic constitution. How far back does it trace, and to whom?

Or, being artistically inclined. Was there a painter somewhere in the line?

Even lovers of words. Reading. Writing. Both. Why? Who in the family was a poet, or an author, or a scholar, or an educator?

Which characteristics that you embody are truly unique to you, and which did you inherit?

Personally, I can’t answer any of those questions were anyone to ask me. Nevertheless, I have wondered many times if I am much like any of my ancestors, especially since becoming genuinely interested in genealogy and watching programs on the subject four or five years ago. How did his or her story play out? What kind of person was he or she? What did he dream about? What did she aspire to be?

Thoughts like these turn curiosity into yearning.

I’ve entertained the idea of employing a professional genealogist to begin to piece together my bloodlines, but there are so many missing parts of information. So many holes in the leaves. Transparency leading to nothingness.

Knowing ourselves though, is even about more than identity and the inheritance of certain characteristics. To know yourself also applies medically. Physical issues, diseases, or life-threatening illnesses could run straight through your DNA like an arrow, and if you’ve never been told — either because it’s been kept a secret or no one currently alive in your family has knowledge of it because it wasn’t passed down or retained — you might be none the wiser until it strikes. And maybe you could have prevented the physical issue/disease/life-threatening illness — or at least slowed its progress — had you known.

Were my daughter to ever ask me the very questions that sometimes burn in my thoughts about who we are from my side, I don’t have much confirmed information with which to supply her. Not only is this disconcerting for us, for the branch of the family that we are, my little trio, but if we allow this trend in our familial history to continue, the story of each of us will also eventually be lost to time and even circumstance.

My future kin might possibly never know about me, my husband, my child, or how we are connected through blood and across time.

Just writing this post has caused the realization of how much responsibility actually lies on my shoulders to attempt to turn it all around, to repair current holes in the leaves of the family tree. To prevent further deterioration. A hefty promise that I hesitate to make, all the while feeling at fault if I don’t somehow eventually try.

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April Fools’ to Me?

For about a week, maybe more, my body was talking to me. The more I heard, the less I understood. Sniffly nose. Is the air that dry? A small bit of dizziness during workouts. Did I stand too quickly following floor work? Post-workout soreness. Did I exert myself too much? Fatigue. Why, when there are still incompletes on my to-do list? Finally, a sore throat. The last piece of the puzzle. Duh, we’re under attack.

In my daily drill of pushing myself to accomplish as much as I can as a mother, wife, person, all the signals were obscured. It’s possible that my subconscious was the culprit, silencing the message that my immune system was shouting at me through a megaphone, with which it was then hitting me over the head.

Tuesday, April 1, after taking my daughter to a local play area near a pond, while walking home I could tell how worn out she was from the walk to the pond playground as well as from playing outside. I wasn’t surprised by that, since she’s been stuck in a lot with winter just now behind us. Once we were settling back in, taking off shoes to relax our toesies, I realized that I suddenly had an intense headache, and was beginning to feel extremely worn out myself. This did surprise me. Until I thought about it.

By the time I was cooking dinner, and my husband arrived home, I was doing a full-on power-through just to cope. Just because I felt like a Mac truck hit me, didn’t mean there weren’t still things to do.

Maybe it took days and thought for it to occur to me that I was getting sick because I don’t normally have frequent, or any, illness. Combine that with my penchant for planning my days as if I’m actually in control, when in reality none of us are, and the result is me feeling extremely sidelined. Put out of commission when you least see it as a possibility: a week with particular things on the schedule on top of the everyday things.

This was most definitely in action that saying about life happening while you’re busy making plans.

And even though for everything that I was trying to accomplish (like any day) on Tuesday, April 1, the one thing that I did not do — and with intent — was acknowledge that it was simultaneously April Fools’ Day. Why? Because it’s ridiculousness in my opinion. I don’t see a point, so I move passed the concept pretty quickly each 4/1.

So, ha ha hee hee. I am sick. Joke’s on me?

Dear Life, jokes are supposed to be funny!

And is that even possible for life and a particular date to join forces and exact retribution? Sounds like a bad horror flick. Don’t ignore April 1…or you’ll be made its fool! Coming to theaters. Go see it or April Fools’ Day and its sidekick, Life will make *you* the punchline of the day!

For all that can be put off when one is not feeling well, the one thing that you can not be too weak or tired or sick to do is take care of your child. A few of the people that I am fortunate to have in my life made a point — because they know I never stop worrying and never stop trying to attack my to-do list — to remind me to get some rest. Bah! Rest and Motherhood are not even frenemies.

But after around 24 hours of trying to soldier on, the slowness of sickness combined with the determination to function normally ended up causing a little depression.

‘”This too, shall pass,'” said my lovely friend, Ivanna via text during checking on me, in response to how my emotions were then messing me up more than actually being sick, but which were from being sick. It all looked like one in the same, and I wondered if I was more sick than depressed, or vice versa. I couldn’t tell the difference, especially the more I tried to figure it out. And as mentioned, I wasn’t so quick at figuring things out this past week.

Of course she was right. I knew it in that moment. But you know when you allow yourself to get stuck in a moment all you can feel is what that moment is bringing?

In any case, I feel like there was a chuckle at my expense, even if this isn’t actually true. I guess I’m just a little annoyed that it still sounds like I am smuggling a small frog in my throat in spite of having gotten mostly over whatever it was ailing me. Croaking like a tiny green being, I will continue to battle my rolling list because I won’t let momentary sickness or the suspicion that life pulled a prank keep me from doing what needs done.

 

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Built to Amaze: Our Little Lady’s First Visit to the Circus

Even though the memories are faint and vague, I do remember visiting the circus several times with my mother when I was a child. I know that going to the big top was a happy and exciting event for me. I know that I really looked forward to circus days, and that it was an activity that I enjoyed. What I don’t recall is how long it has been since I last attended. Which circus I visited is also a faded detail.

My husband has similar foggy memories. He also can not place the possibility of the timeframe in which he went to the circus, nor the name, but feels that he did at one point in his childhood experience such a visit.

I know the reality is that circus life is not nearly as glamorous or wonderful as it seems. Not for the people, and certainly not for the animals. Some of the world’s greatest painters depicted the reality in their works. (You remember Dumbo, don’t you? Sure, it was an animated film, but I believe that there is truth in those fictional inks. Just as much truth as in the somber hues of the aforementioned masters.)

Even so, what also can not be denied is how amazing the circus is, with all the showmanship, the lights, the colors, the costumes — and for those of us who love animals, the chance to see those majestic creatures up as close as possible.

Like her momma, my daughter is indeed an animal lover. So, it wasn’t really a surprise to me when, not long after her third birthday last year, she not only gained a better understanding of the circus through her children’s programming, but also began to tell us that she would like to visit the circus.

It took us nearly a year to get next to the plans. But like my elephant friends, I did not forget my daughter’s request. As her birthday got closer this year, I began to remind my husband that we needed to look into which circus comes our way, and when. I thought it would be a terrific birthday gift for our little lady.

Of course, when he checked it out, he learned that the opening day for the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey’s “Built To Amaze” show wasn’t until several days following her birthday. Nevertheless, we picked a date, he purchased the tickets and our little lady had her first circus visit at the Baltimore Arena this Sunday, March 30! 😀 We, in turn, had our first visit…again.

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Our tickets to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Built To Amaze show that we attended this past Sunday, March 30, at the Baltimore Arena.

The weather in our area has been running the gamut lately. For our circus day, that translated into a wet and chilly day (that later turned into snow that no one expected!). In spite of that, we decided that it was going to be a happy day. And upon reflecting later at dinner, it certainly was.

Rain and the exorbitant cost of parking ($20!) led to us only driving part of the way, then taking the light rail the remainder of the way. Besides being more cost-effective, it was my daughter’s first time riding any kind of train (outside of the very small one that is operated indoors in one of our local malls). She enjoyed looking out the window and tracking the stops with us as we headed toward our destination.

Tons of other families had the same Sunday plans; we found ourselves in a line for awhile, but it wasn’t bad, as everyone was in good spirits and ready for a show. The bonus — and the reason for a big line straight-away — was that the Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey were treating everyone to a little pre-show fun. The floor was open, and had a few of the entertainers mingling with all of the visitors, as well as performing a little, such as one of the ladies that climb up and do acrobatics with the hanging ropes, as well as a male clown that passed a ball back and forth with a boy in the crowd.

But for our kiddo, the overtly large bouncy house had her heart from the second she noticed it. So, for $5, she went on a little adventure climbing through, jumping around, and sliding down with all of the other children. “Best five bucks I’ve ever spent, ” joked my husband. Seriously though, she was in there awhile.

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The object of my daughter’s pre-show affection. (Larger than what is shown in this photo, taken by my husband.)

The pre-show attractions only lasted for an hour. Quite promptly following it, the main show began.

Since my intention is for this post to be half photo essay, I am going to allow the images from the show to speak for themselves from here, with captions where I thought it might be necessary.  I’ve included the shots that I feel came out best. Though I do apologize for the lack of quality in some. (As any smartphone owner knows, it’s not called a smartcamera and that is for a reason!)

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Where all the performers entered the show from backstage.

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Opening pomp and stuffs.

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The ringmaster on his mobile podium opening the show. He cruised around on it throughout the duration.

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See the theme? A whole building/construction concept reflected in a majority of the costumes and props.

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Just something so beautiful about those elephants, right?

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These lovely horses’ talent was to trot to the next circle, musical chair-style, as well as spin to the music in between the circles.

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These guys had a lengthy, but entertaining act. Amazing what they can do while riding a unicycle.

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For a moment, I forgot how wild at heart these creatures are — they began to resemble housecats to me!

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Easy bet, he’s taller than me. (Well, yes, the trainer, too.) This cat is a fierce king!

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Clowns clowning.

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Part of their boys versus girls theme that ran through a good portion of the show.

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Amazing strength and balance.

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Incredible. Up 30-40 feet, balancing their own body weight AND that of another person on their shoulders. I’m impressed.

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Yes. Really.

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Once she shot out of the cannon, it was really incredible. Of course, my cameraphone refused to give me a decent shot. So, all I can offer is the setup.

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Some confetti with your intermission.

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I know it’s hard to see, but they did a sweeping routine, as if they were cleaning up.

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This was cool — meant to look like painters on a construction site, the guys did a trampoline routine that obviously depended on listening to each others cues and timing.

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Cutest little dancing doggy there ever was!

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Naptime! 🙂 (For about 10 seconds.)

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The elephants showed us their skills with turning around on top of these metal stools. It was charming and made to look easier than it probably was to get down.

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After all the showmanship and dancing of the v-formation, the two head clowns did a tap dance routine in these skis!

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Wow. That’s all I could manage watching this act. The entire apparatus rotates all the way around, and the guys walk on it like it ain’t no thing.

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Some cool acrobatics — body jumping, for lack of a better description.

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A shot from the finale performance.

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Gotta love the money trap that is special events such as the circus. This box of popcorn was $8! Admittedly, it contained a generous amount.

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This hat was packaged with a bag of cotton candy — our little lady’s first time eating the spun sweet — and cost $14. Egads!

I have tons more photos from the show that I would have loved to share, but they just didn’t end up looking as well as they had through my phone’s screen. Even so, I hope you’ve been entertained viewing what did make my cut.

Sometime during the 3-hour show, my daughter — who was obviously enjoying herself, considering she was one of the loudest audience members there — told me that she wanted to join the circus. My husband told me that following intermission she stated to him that “‘when I grow up and have babies and they grow up, they’re going to want to be a clown.'” What is a parent supposed to say to either of those remarks?

Nevertheless, I was thoroughly enchanted myself, so joining the circus didn’t seem like the worst idea. I actually found myself wondering if there is any chance that I am cut from the right cloth. Realistically, probably not. Besides, sounds like I need to keep my little lady’s interest on my radar.

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