Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Back to Basics

Getting Back to that Little Gray Shack

Some call it a cottage, some call it my little
gray shack. My son Tim calls it 'the cabin.' I call it my home away from home, but I haven't been out there too much lately. I've been out in the world shopping, baking and making myself crazy.
I've had my nose into politics and sports...work and the comings and goings of my kids.

I've read a multitude of resolutions lately and that is just not my thing. But I will make myself one promise and that is...that I'll use it, so I don't lose it. Recently, a friend told me I should rent that space out...pay my taxes. Imagine that.

When I was a very little girl, my friend Nancy Steck had a barn in her back yard. As barns go, this one was pretty nice with a loft and none of the animal smells that other barns in our neighborhood had. It was the place of many a clubhouse meeting, and the place I went to escape from the world. The Stecks didn't care...it was an open door to my imagination. I spent hours there, setting up teddy bears and talking to myself while I waited for the other kids to join me.
We had weddings and communions...we even baptized my dog, Lucky (how original!). I loved it there.

Now, I've got my own writing cottage...and inside that cottage is a desk and a fireplace, a bed, a couch and a small bathroom. I can escape for hours at a time if I choose, such is the circumstance of my life at this point. Last year, a family of sharp-shinned hawks built a nest in a pine tree above the roof of my cottage. I was entertained all spring while the babies learned to fly...flopping sometimes from branch to branch rather than springing forth into the open air. This year my two babies Thin Skinned and Walking on Eggshells are going to take flight too. 
I'm going to put them out there into the world of middle grade and young adult fiction and let them flop around on their own. Who knows what might happen.
In the meantime, I write. Sometimes in my pajamas, sometimes in my jeans, but always, I write. When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about writing. My right-wired brain juggles a million thoughts at once, sometimes driving my kids (and me) crazy! 

Right now, I'm writing a teaching memoir and another young adult book too...first chapter...no title, but I know, if I build it, it will come. The main character is African American and I'm lily white...go figure. Who knows where it came from. I never know...I let it be. Time and space are all that I need. And both...to my absolute good fortune, are covered!

2008: Everything changed...a new spring is coming, and life feels good all over again! The sharp shins will be back, the nesting turtles will too...and America has a second chance to get it right too. All is well.  And in my little gray shack, anything is possible, that's for sure!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Better Luck Next Year

A Tale of Two Seasons

Remember the Titans? 
Remember the New England Patriots? Remember when Chad Pennington wore green and white and was a great guy, but not much of a quarterback in New York? 
Remember Brett Favre's tears and the drama that surrounded all that? Who knew?

Well, this is the life of a sports fan...not a fanatic, mind you. You'd never catch me calling in on one of those ridiculous sports radio shows just to hear myself talk. This is my final, I promise, statement on the current state of affairs of my beloved Gang Green, as they dump Eric Mangenius...and hope to find someone better to lead the charge next year. This is not a sports blog, nor do I want it to become the random ramblings of my demented mind. I am glad I'm a writer and a teacher, and that I don't live my life in the spotlight like these guys do. It's certainly a very cruel life! 
         So farewell to Eric Mangini...perhaps you, like Chad, will fare better elsewhere. Brett, I'm sure, will retire this time, for real. Meanwhile, I  fired the whole Jets team a number of years ago and found myself lost when football season began once again. For now, none of the teams above...with the possible exception of the NY Giants...and possibly the Pittsburgh Steelers (Oh God...I didn't say that!) have the only possibilities for me in the balance. This job of hanging on to a team that makes me believe for the first half of the season then leaves me laying flat in the end zone come playoff time is pure torture. Thank God for pitchers and catchers, a mere 49 or so days away! Go Mets...bring on springtime! (PS: Mets? Well, that's a whole 'nother story. My son would not allow Mets ornaments on our tree this year for fear that it might collapse!! But ya gotta believe, and so I do.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Go Big Green! Well, it was not supposed to be a big hurdle, the Bills' Trent Edwards was standing on the sidelines watching in frustration. Brett was having a great game. "Looks like he's still got some juice in that shoulder," the announcer said. You bet he does. But. The Bills nearly beat my Gang Green! We were favored by 13 points, and won through divine intervention by a measly three points.  I'm going to ask Santa to send us some deeeeeeefense in the weeks to come. C'mon Jetsies, let's rework the game plan. Time for Man-genius to get us going again. J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETs! It's a "W," after all...we'll take it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Full of It.

Did anyone see that moon last night? I had the thankless task of taking out the garbage, or dealing with the smell of it when I woke up this morning. Yick. I ran out in a long-sleeved tee and jeans...and sock feet too. I know, crazy, right? Well, that is the life of a hopeless right-brained writer. And then I stopped dead in my tracks. The sky was a deep blue and the silhouetted pines edged the horizon. That huge white winter globe hung there too, over the garage, a show for me alone. I stood there, like a dumb little kid, garbage bag in my hand and feet frozen to the pavement. This morning, I awoke and my moon was still there, suspended over the farmer's field, distant but very much evident in the early morning. And then...what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature tractor and eight...bulbous brown steer. Well...no, they were a mix of black and brown, now that I think about it. The farmer was bundled,  and he was following the curve of the land in a very purposeful drive up and down the hillside. I wanted to stay, to ask him, what in the sam hill he was doing at 6:30 AM in December. Don't farmers sleep late in these winter months? I had no time, I was late. 
But later, my curiosity got the best of me.  When I got to my coffee stop, I had to ask one of the guys there. Of course, I learned, as I already knew...I am full of it. I call myself a country mouse, but I know absolutely nothing. I'm a country romanticist is what I am. I love all the fluff, but I know nothing of the work. Apparently that farmer was fertilizing. Fertilizing! What? That's the strangest verb I've ever heard. He was dumping cow poop on his field. The real verb should be something like manuring, but not too many people like to think about things like that. Cover it up and make it sound pretty. Make it fertile, Mr. Farmer, dump your poop. It's okay. 

Now I'm beginning to hear the talking heads talk about my Jets and what's going to happen if they don't win tomorrow. More manure, and lots of it. It's drama and hype, plain and simple. Lots of fertilizing going on there. I'm a Mets fan and a Jets fan...and if there's one thing I really am thin-skinned about it is all the "fertilizing" that goes on around my teams. I still believe anyway. I think I'll just step outside and look up. I know my moon is hanging out there over my garage. And all will be well with the world. Ya gotta believe!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh Christmas Tree

Call me crazy. Here I go again. I drove down Main Street in my hometown the other night, and it sure didn't look like the "Main Street" that has been talked about for the past three months. The luminaries were lit and the houses were too. The little kid that lives inside me was dazzled by the old fashioned sights and sounds of Christmas. Last year, a giant pine tree that stood alongside Hawley Pond in our own Ram's Pasture was taken down during a windstorm. It was a huge blow to my New England home town. (No pun intended.) That tree always irritated me around this time of year, though. It never seemed  like the right choice in my mind's eye. This year, our Christmas pine is much smaller, but my eyes seem to welcome it just the same. Christmas and all the other holidays are something we can count on in our tradition. I've been crazed with shopping, and trying so hard to curb that spending too. I can't seem to convince my husband that shopping is a patriotic act! Christmas is smaller this year, but small is the new BIG! Like the tall pine, all the buying and having and craving never seemed normal. So now...it's the smaller that means so much. I may be out there shopping, but this year it's all about finding that just right gift for each of the people on my list. Less is more and small is big. The lessons just keep on coming.  (The photo above was a gift from my new friend, Bunnybua, a soon-to-be world famous graphic designer from Thailand. Be sure to visit her website at bunnybua.com.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Green Beans and Gratitude

Okay, well...I've carried about twenty bags of groceries into my house, cut more onions than I care to think about, shoved more stuff in my oven than it's seen in months, and it's not even Thanksgiving yet! And...I'm not the one who's having Thanksgiving this year! 
Thanksgiving is a mega-event with two huge Irish families coming together (the pre-birth control set). In the old days, pre-microwaves, they did all of this with six/seven kids running around. TV was black and white and they had no childcare either...they couldn't even toss a dvd in to occupy those ankle-biters! Wait, I was one of those ankle-biters...well, not in one of these households. I grew up in a NJ household, this is a Northern Westchester crew. I was of the shanty-Irish variety, although my father would have none of that. To him, we were just as "white curtain Irish" as any other! But we were always told to mind our manners, or the neighbors would think we were no better than shanty Irish. On a visit to County Mayo, the home of my mother, I found out that they had no knowledge of that saying...or perhaps they wanted no part of it, I wasn't sure about that. Their silence made me think about it anyway. I've never used that expression again, until now anyway. I began to respect what that expression really means to the many who starved over there in the "old country."
For now, we're living off the fat of the land...literally! I do LOVE Thanksgiving. What could be better than coming together one more year to stuff our faces, share our stories, and celebrate all the ages and stages, the face of the good life? So, it's back to the green bean casserole, and oh yeah...the creamed onions for Grandpa too.  Nothing new, only the familiar. This is the only time all year that I can honestly say I will be opening a can of Campbell's mushroom soup. Have you ever wondered about that wobbly white stuff inside that can? I sure have! But for now...for the sake of tomorrow, it's all good. (And Dad...I will be sure to mind my manners too!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Writing for Life

I sometimes wonder what I would do in life if I couldn't put my thoughts down on the page...well, really the screen. Having just finished another great session with Pat Giff, and spending the evening hanging out with my writing friends, I realize that this is how I want to spend the rest of my life! Funny how it took me over half a decade to claim that, but there it is. My favorite time of day comes at 5:30 in the morning, when often a few leftover stars, a small lamp, and a computer screen are the only lights in my home. My coffee cup sits next to me and this time of year, I've got my small woolen blanket which came straight from Ireland (Foxford Mills) over my lap...of course, I'm still in my pj's and my eyelids are half-open. But...I've heeded the words of Stephen King, who mentioned the fact that the brain is trained to dream at night (although I don't often sleep after reading his fiction), so I've trained my brain to write in the mornings. I've finally given in, and done what Pat Giff has told me to do for so long. This is so counter-intuitive for me, really. I've never claimed to be a morning person. I write at this hour before my crazy brain gets cluttered with all the ideas that crowd it in planning for eleven and twelve year olds or the politics of work, or even the random needs of the world around me. I've always had that before school anxiety...after all, that job requires constant preparation and attention to detail. But now, my right brain starts my day...and that, for me, brings peace. That is how in the past two years, Thin Skinned and now Walking on Eggshells have found their way out of my head and into the world. Mornings are now, for me, a little slice of heaven.