Friday, January 27, 2012

Time--Running Out of Somedays

I was listening to one of my favorite songs the other day….

Yeah, one of my favorite songs is sung by a frog. You got a problem with that?

So I was enjoying the part about following your dreams and how you hear destiny calling your name when I heard it:

Someday I’ll find it—
The rainbow connection—
The lovers,
The dreamers,
And me.

And it hit me. Crap! I’m running out of somedays!

No, I’m not ill or anything—I’m just getting old. (I refuse to accept that I’m old now, but I will admit I’m progressing in that direction.)

Not sure what made me so introspective that day, but it got me thinking about how many people run out of time before they realize any of their dreams. Of course, as the rock star said, our dreams change as time passes, but more often we just give up on them—convince ourselves that we’d really do this than that anyway. But when we abandon our dreams like worn out refrigerators, they (the dreams, not the refrigerators, though the thought of being haunted by a refrigerator is amusing in a surreal way) come back to haunt us like bittersweet nightmares.

When I was a child, our mother used to entertain my sister and me by drawing pictures of our favorite comic book characters. She had real talent. Only months before she died, my mother mentioned how she’d once dreamed of becoming an interior decorator, but had instead married young and decorated only her own homes. Did she regret it? Not really. But the dream never died, and she wondered “What if?” all her life. I think many people suffer that same fate. Is it because we choose dreams that are too far above us? Perhaps we just aren’t willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve them. Or do we just drift into other things and let our somedays play out without ever moving toward our goals?

When I took my brief detour into melancholy, I had already realized several of the dreams I’d listed when I graduated from high school:

1.     Be first in family to earn a college degree—check.
2.     Become a staff writer for a newspaper—check.
3.     Work for a large company writing and editing their publications—check.
4.     Write novels—check.
5.     Become a published author—oops.

That last one eluded me. But since I’ve cut about 40,000 words, my first novel appears to be on track for publication. I’ve finished a novella, started two more novels, and have plots for three more novellas.

Ok, so I worked for a regional newspaper instead of a national one, for a division of that large company instead of headquarters, and I didn’t get a big advance on my novel. I still feel a little like that country song, “Why Me Lord?” because I can’t think of one thing I’ve done that makes me deserve even to come close to fulfilling so many of my dreams.

Now I find that I need another dream to inspire me through the rest (may they be many) of my somedays. But I did have a Number 6 that I haven’t told you about, and I kind of suspect it’ll be enough to keep me writing as long as I can sit at a laptop—or even croak words into a mike. What do you think?
6.     Win a Hugo. *

(*author’s note: Please be aware that the author realizes that her chances of winning any award, much less a Hugo, for her novel are nil to none. The author will be ecstatic if a few people admit they enjoyed reading it. ( - : )

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Pet Peeve of Presidential Proportions

I wish I could tell you that I’ve been absent from the blog because really exciting things had been happening, but the truth is, it’s just life. A half-written essay about the history of my family sits on my computer, abandoned while I worked on edits, did critiquing for the two groups I belong to, sewed one sleeve of lace on the very fancy dress I started as a Christmas gift for my granddaughter, went with said granddaughter to a fashion swap meet in the Chicago suburbs, went with my husband to his cousin’s funeral in Southern Illinois, and spent a day lying on the sofa whining because the room wouldn’t stop spinning.

And this week’s GBE2 subject is pet peeves. Friend, neither of us has the time to go through all my pet peeves! I’ve had many decades to form and collect them. They range from young whippersnappers who call me honey instead of ma’am as befits my rather advanced age to people who misuse the word “comprise.” And in between are people who don’t know the difference between their/there/they’re, to/too/two… Well, you get the idea.

So let’s just settle on one pet peeve, shall we? Given the year, I have to say it’ll be long political campaigns bankrolled by big business in order to elect politicians who make any promise they think will get them elected, knowing full well that they can’t do a darn thing without the OK of all those other politicians who are trying to line their pockets at the expense of the rest of us.

So in that spirit, here’s a poem I wrote to express my bad attitude:

The Woes of  a Presidential Election Year

All hail the coming election spring!
It doth the fruits of politics bring!
Throughout the land, the song of the lyre
Is heard in volume ever higher.
The telephone pole one year of four
Brings campaign poster blossoms forth.

O how happy we all will be
If we can only survive to see
November bring the winds of change
And the political leaflet begin to wane.
The snows of silence will gently fall
Alike on winners—and us losers all.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Work--The Cake Curse

Why would writing a blog about work be so difficult for me? I started answering the phone for the family business when I was in grade school, and by the time I was 12, I was putting in time at the office.  I’ve worked in retail, fast food, and as a waitress. I’ve been a staff writer at a regional newspaper, an office supervisor, a logistics planner, a metallurgical technician, an editor, event planner, photographer and public affairs specialist. I’ve driven a fork truck and side loader and soared up over mining trucks in a cherry picker. Now I’m an author with short story collections available on the Internet and a book to be published sometime this spring or summer. But nothing is jumping out at me.

So I’m going to tell you about how my sister tried to teach me to do her work.

You might remember from my story, “The Anniversary Cake,” that my sister baked and decorated the cake for their 50th anniversary celebration. My sister was better in the kitchen than I even before she spent several years working for a caterer. And no place was this more evident than in baking cakes.

Not that I couldn’t bake a cake. I mean, you just open the box and pour it into a bowl and add the stuff the box tells you to add. I could do that. What I couldn’t do was get the darned thing out of the pan in one piece to make a traditional layer cake. I solved the problem by buying some attractive glass baking dishes. My kids endured years of sheet cakes for their birthdays.

When my brother-in-law, then in the Air Force, had to do TDY at a nearby air base with Thanksgiving coming up, it seemed like a good opportunity to invite my sister and their kids to spend some time with us. We’d cook Thanksgiving dinner together. It’d be fun!

“I’ll do the side dishes and you do the turkey and cake,” I suggested.

“I’ll do the turkey, but you have to help with the cake.”

“May I ask why?” My sister knew about the cake curse.

“I’m going to teach you once and for all how to take a cake out of the pan and decorate it.”

I went cold. This was not going to turn out well. “But you know what happens when I try to make a layer cake.”

“Nonsense. It’s easy. I’m going you to show you, step by step.”  She selected two identical pans and greased one of them with shortening. “Now you do the other one.”

I did, and she inspected it to make sure I’d covered it sufficiently. Then she sprinkled her pan with flour. I did the same, and again passed inspection.

Finally she poured half the batter in her pan and I poured the other half in mine. We slid them into the oven together, and when the allotted time had passed, pulled them out and tested them with toothpicks. After a short cooling period came the moment of truth.

My sister flipped her pan upside down and lifted it off, leaving behind a beautifully formed layer.  She nodded for me to follow her example. Hands shaking, I flipped my pan upside down EXACTLY AS SHE HAD. And when I lifted it off, the cake split right down the middle.

She stood with her mouth open.

And as you know from reading “The Anniversary Cake,” the curse is effective even when I don’t actually bake the cake. Apparently all I have to do is touch it for something horrible to happen.

My sister now believes in the cake curse. When she comes to visit, she brings her own kitchen. She and her husband park their RV in our drive, and I am not invited to help her bake.