Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow, Rain, Wind and Other Natural Disasters

Red boots. My main staple all through my little kid years. Just try finding a pair of boots like these now. They don't exist anymore. Ours had a little elastic strap to pull them together a bit at the top. And boy, did we live in those things!

Today, I was outside shoveling snow (my least favorite past time these days) in my pale aqua boots. They're not exactly the same as my little girl boots, but they give me that little girl feel. I picked them up for gardening a year or two ago, and I've been slogging around in them ever since. I've always been either of two things: a barefoot baby or a rubber boot mucking around kind of kid!

The other day, I traded up for a pair of 'Chookas', a fancy brand of rubber boot with polka dots and stripes. I found them on sale, and honestly couldn't resist. But...somehow, they just don't have that same appeal. That got me thinking about my little girl roots in boots.

When I was a tiny thing of a girl, at a point where I first stood on two feet, I remember toddling around in a pair of big girl boots. Those boots, the original ones? Definitely...not my own! I could barely stand up, I teetered and toppled and landed at my father's knee. They were my sister Dub's boots, I think, and probably Carol's before her. Dubbie was six full years older and Carol, a year older than that. I coveted everything that belonged to her; I wanted it all for me.

Imagine. Six years on this planet, and then the likes of me shows up. No way my sister was going to stand for that. She was large and in charge, a personality to be dealt with for sure.But back then, my father was the boss, and she, of course, was given no choice. One time, I was bundled to the point of suffocation in my little blue snow suit and wrapped all around in a scarf. And Dub? Well, while no one was looking, she gave a hard tug on that know, the one around my neck. And of course, when I opened my mouth to tell...but she gave me her most evil grin. That became her MO back then, and of course, I had to succumb. But down deep inside? She always had my back. And as for me? I worshipped the ground she walked on, even though it was a little tipsy at times!

There was no buying new anything back then, so those boots eventually became mine. I wore them everywhere, only taking them off for bed. I loved the scuff, scuff, scuff sound that they made. "Pick up your feet, Gael Susan." And I loved how my toes could lift them into the air. I marched in puddles and then turned around and marched back. When I was on the swings, I had to wrestle just to keep them on. But when it snowed outside, that was when I like them the least.

My dad would bundle me up, kiss the top of my head and wrap me in a scarf. He'd pull my sled down from a shelf in the garage and wax the runners with a bit of fresh soap. "Just the ticket," he'd say. "You'll be flying down that hill!" My sister, of course, would be out way ahead of me, and always made it clear that I was to leave her alone. But my friend, Nancy, was always there waiting with her brother, Peter, and her sister, LuAnn too. I'd sniff that air and fill my lungs and grab my sled by its side. I'd tuck that long pull rope right under my red mittened hand, and then I'd do the next natural thing...I'd let out a yell that'd echo through all of the yards, "Let's go!"

The four of us would race, with our sleds in the air, slipping and sliding all the way. And just as we'd hit the crest of the hill, we'd slam our sleds down, shoving off in the hard-packed snow. The goal was to make it over the brook, to get to the other side. Most of the time...we made it, but once in a while we'd land in the ice and crack through to the cold, black mud. It was then that I'd call for her, that crazy sister of mine...
"Dub!" I'd yell. "Help!" And before I knew it, she'd be running to rescue me. There are some things you never doubt. But then she'd run me back to the house, and my dad open the door. He'd give her one of his looks. "Who was watching her," he'd say. And oh man, how I dreaded those words. Everyone was supposed to be watching me, and so I was never supposed to get hurt.

"It's not her fault, Daddy," I'd say. But of course that held no water with him.

Dub would leave me behind again, and then the towel would come out. He'd wash me up and hand warm my frostbitten feet. Often, they'd be solid white all the way through. "You just don't know when to stop," he'd say. And of course I knew he was right. But honestly, it was the boots, the big sister, the smell of a little adventure, it was all that and so much more. When it came to being outside, there was no greater place to be!

And as for that big sister...the large and in charge kinda girl? Well she's wandering around in this wild universe somewhere, and I know she's heeding my call. I heard the tinkling of bells just a little while ago, a wind chime out on snow-covered my porch. That big sister of mine lives in the wind, and she's always got my back...and of course, I've always got hers!

Monday, January 17, 2011

House of Miracles

Funny what the small circles of our existence reap over time. Today is the sixth anniversary of our time here in this quaint little house of ours. It's an old hunting lodge that's been architecturally redesigned, added onto and then added onto again. It's a cute little sucker, but sometimes I just feel like it's a big old house of pain!

When we first moved in, I told everyone it was like little house on the unprairie...we lost heat almost instantly, one of our faucets exploded, and then we had no water at all. How did we buy this place we wondered? Were we really such big fat suckers? There's a trout up there on top of that cupola, but it might as well have been a mackerel, the symbol of our early existence here.

We moved cross town to a one level home to accomodate my husband's progressive neurological illness. He'd just gotten his wheels, and we knew it wouldn't be long before he would not make it up our old colonial style home's stairs. So, we packed up tearfully, said good-bye to our beautiful pool, and made this quaint little place our home. It even had a cottage for writing, so we all felt that the karma was there for us all.

Now, six years later, we've had a whopper of a snowstorm, a second snowstorm really, this season. First storm...eighteen inches. I shoveled and cleared the walkways and the decks. No sweatski. This one? JEESH. It's a pain in the buttinsky. Thirty back-breaking inches of snow. I saw on twitter someone said it was like a gigantic 'snow-barf'...well, disgusting, but really? We got clocked. Just before Christmas, the gigunda screen on my gigantic fireplace decided to let go of whatever is it was that it was hanging onto in them there stones. So...I can't even have a cozy fire. And now...I'm hearing the incessant 'drip, drip, drip,' a stream of water sliding down my daughter's bedroom wall. But today, a friend from a circle of long ago came and lent me a hand. He knew. He's a roofer, and right now has over two hundred calls on his machine. In fact, he's now posted a message that he's not taking any all. But he came here with four of his guys and altogether they shoveled, raked and filled the gutters with calcium chloride. He promised to come back this Thursday after the pending storm and then over the weekend too.

And right now, I'm inside, I've shoveled and upon his recomendation, shoveled to make little shelves to keep the snow off the path. I even went out and shoveled the cellar God forbid, anything happens with the workings of this crazy house, I can lift that lid and do what I need to do to just get by another day! Life is good, homeownership...even at its worst, is a huge blessing. And a mighty lesson has been learned by me once more...ask, and I always receive!

So, how about those Jets, anyway?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Away in a Manger

Yesterday, I went to church and as the stream of little kids made their way up and down the aisle, I had such a vivid flashback. I don't know if it was all the Christmas music, the cast of wiggling kids that surrounded me, or the wiggler inside myself that just couldn't sit still. But it all just came together.

It was my dad I was thinking about again! The songs at Christmastime just play inside this head of mine. I was thinking about that manger just to the left of the altar. And I was thinking about all the ways that my dad kept me from exploding when I sat there in church. The peppermint lifesavers were a standard, and those he used all year long. But at Christmas? It was the manger and good old (well, young, I guess) baby Jesus that kept me in my seat.

"He's watching you, you know," he'd say. I'd look up at dad, that is. 'How could that be?' I wondered. Baby Jesus was a statue, statues couldn't watch me...I don't think, anyway. I'd suck myself in and pull back, hidden by my dad. I'd stretch out my patten leathers and push myself further back. I'd look at the priest...Father Sico (pronounced like psycho...really!) and I'd make myself as invisible as I could. It worked. The wiggling would stop without even the sight or smell of a lifesaver. I'd look up at my dad from time to time and he'd give me a wink, or a sudden smirk. I'd smell his Aqua Velva (oh God, I loved that smell) and I'd really believe what he said. I'd make it all the way through Communion and then the rest was a piece of cake.

After Mass, my father and I would wait on line as all the other kids streamed up to the manger. Dad would always hold back a bit, adding to my anticipation and anxiety, I think. And then...that moment: the baby J and me. Dad and I would kneel up, and say a prayer...I'd stare at that huge barely clothed statue and not pray...but somehow make a wish--and while I did that, I'd open my eyes just in time to catch my dad...nipping a 'wee bit' of straw right from under baby Jesus' butt! DAD! I'd want to scream...but he'd already have his hand to his lips. And there it was...he'd tuck the straw inside his pocket without even looking around. So smooth, so casual, so clear.

Meanwhile, I'd be having a heart attack...ready to run to the confessional to tell. But Dad? No way. He'd escort me out the side door. We'd make our way to the car. And just before he'd open the door, (because of course, he wouldn't want my older sisters to see) he'd slip that little bit of straw into the pocket of my coat. "Just a little something from baby Jesus to you." He'd lean down then and give me a kiss. "Because you're such a good girl in church." And right at that moment, I really felt like the baby Jesus wanted me to have that little bit of straw. Right at that moment I was the most special one on the earth.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Getting Fired-up...AGAIN!

Inspiration comes from the strangest places. Take today, for example.I was engaged in all the mundane actions that follow the busiest, most chaotic season of the year: Christmas. Other than a well-orchestrated meal, the stringing of lights, or the placement of balls on a tree; it rolls into my life, and forces me to cast aside any possibility of deep, creative thought at all. So, I take a break from the tree. I'm surfing twitter, and I come across the writing challenge. Just what the doctor ordered to jump-start the writer in me.

Last night, I pulled out my sketch book, my journals from 2010, a half-finished manuscript and all the notes from Chautauqua, SCBWI workshops and the Whole Novel Workshop I attended this past fall. So much effort, so much love. My conclusion, I'm like a fish out of water when I'm not writing. I'm currently reading First Draft in 30 Days and reorganizing a major project I've hassled with for the past few years. But while the outlining feature is terrific, it's had me in stall mode for more than a month. Time to recommit, to write and to get myself fired-up all over again.

The answer is...writing, more words, more obsessing over the ins and outs of character and plot and more daydreaming that leads me back to the page! A day at a time, it all adds up, so my time is now, the day is here...and regardless of the outcome, I'm honestly glad to commit to 500 words each day. Yes, a thousand is possible...but 500 well-crafted is simply enough for me. Happy New Year out there in writing land! 2011 is going to be an awesome year!