Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zenith

Once upon a time, there was a television--a Zenith, to be exact. It was a small TV, but it served a big purpose: entertaining Dana the College Student. It spent its days on a much-too-big TV stand in her much-too-small dorm room, dutifully fulfilling its destiny.

Television-watching freedom at last!
Image courtesy of Rebecca Merrett,
I loved that little thirteen-inch Zenith. My parents had bought it for me around Christmas time of my senior year. They had given me a choice between a microwave and a television, but there really was no contest. I figured I could always go to the cafeteria for meals or eat cereal or ramen noodles cooked in my hot pot in my room. What I couldn't always do was watch what I wanted to on the floor's one TV. There was just too much competition, and unless I wanted to wrestle for my right to watch Beverly Hills, 90210, I knew it was best to steer clear of the common room.

Looking back, I'm surprised I managed to get any homework done once I started sharing my single with the Zenith. I guess it helped that I didn't have cable and was able to pick up only one network, NBC. Still, NBC featured some great programming back in the "olden" days of 1993 and 1994, and I remember watching Seinfeld, ER, Mad About You, and F•R•I•E•N•D•S--all great shows that I still love today.

After I graduated from college, I packed up my TV and went on to graduate school. That tiny TV looked even smaller in my brand-new apartment, but it remained a treasured possession. In fact, I guess you could say I had formed a sentimental attachment to that Zenith. Did I refuse to go out with my friends in favor of staying home with my TV? Of course not. I'm sentimental, not antisocial. Still, that TV had been with me through a lot: it had helped me stay awake during all-night cram sessions, consoled me after fights with boyfriends, helped take my mind off worries that would threaten to keep me from sleep... I used to say that I had two possessions I would do my best to rescue if there was ever a fire: my Skylark and my Zenith, both of which offered me a much-needed escape from life whenever I needed it.

But one day I noticed that the Zenith wasn't working as well as it once had. It turned fickle at the worst possible moments--like during the many but crucial "Will-this-patient-live-or-die" scenes on ER. Sometimes it displayed a picture but had no sound; sometimes there was sound but no picture. I feared I was losing it (the TV, not my mind, although I have friends who would beg to differ). I started babying it, talking to it, cajoling it, even giving it a little slap when it wouldn't listen to me. I didn't know it then, of course, but, for better or for worse--and minus the slapping--that TV was helping me hone my future parenting skills.

No matter my efforts, though, the Zenith continued to decline, yet somehow I couldn't part with it--not even when I finished graduate school and packed up a U-Haul to move 1,300 miles away to Nebraska to teach. Yes, that old, broken-down, works-only-part-of-the-time-but-still-isn't-quite-dead TV made the trip with me.

I know what you're thinking: I was crazy to keep the thing, right? Why didn't I just go out and buy a new one? That would have been the logical solution, I admit, but I've always been much too sentimental about things, and I have an especially hard time parting with anything given to me by someone I love. To add to that, I was moving far away from home and family, from the Midwest to the Plains, from security to uncertainty... No wonder I wanted to cling to something from my past.

So I moved that TV into my new (rented) house. It wasn't long before it wouldn't work at all, but instead of tossing it out, I boxed it up and put it in the basement, where it wouldn't have to see its replacement and where I could still keep my memories. It wasn't until nearly seven years later, as we were packing up yet another U-Haul, this time for my move to Wisconsin, that I allowed my dad to throw that Zenith away. I couldn't do it myself, and somehow it seemed fitting that one of the people who gave it to me was the one to get rid of it. I guess that having it live in the basement for all those years made me realize that I could live without it--and more importantly, that living without it didn't mean that I would be living without the memories.

And that was a big realization right there. I had come to my zenith in regard to my Zenith, just as we are now at the zenith of this challenge. I'm sad that the challenge is over; I had so much fun meeting other bloggers and enjoyed writing to a theme. I'll save the rest of my thoughts for my reflections post on May 7, but I want to say now that I appreciate each and every one of you who takes the time to read my thoughts. Reading your comments has been the highlight of my day. Thank you!

So how about you? Have you ever owned a Zenith or formed a sentimental attachment to an object? (Please tell me I'm not the only one!)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Harvesting words

Happy Sunday!

Since today is a day off from the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I wanted to share a post I wrote on July 11, 2011. Like the posts I've been writing for the challenge, this one is about one of my favorite things: collecting words.

I'll see you tomorrow with the letter Z!

"The words! I collected them in all shapes and sizes and hung them like bangles in my mind." ~Hortense Calisher, Extreme Magic

Like most writers, I'm in love with words. I collect them. Whenever I hear or read one I particularly like, either because of its sound or its meaning or the thoughts or memories associated with it, I write it down, filing it away in my collection. Sometimes I bring these words out when I want to freewrite, using one as a prompt and seeing where it takes me. Other times I simply read my list, enjoying the sound and beauty of the language.

One of the first words I absolutely adored was identification. I was very young, but I remember reciting that word over and over again, spelling it out loud in the car and during dinner. When I couldn't spell or say it aloud--when I was brushing my teeth, for example--I would recite it over and over in my mind. I loved--and still do now--the cadence of the word, the way it feels on the tongue; the rhythm it makes as it's spelled, all of the letters pairing up so neatly: id-en-ti-fi-ca-ti-on. I must have driven my parents crazy...

Do you harvest words? What's your earliest memory of a word you love?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Yawp

Throughout this challenge, I've been posting about my favorite things--things that are important to me, things that inspire me, things that make me smile. I'm excited to have reached the letter Y because the word I've chosen for today, yawp, holds a very special meaning.

A yawp is a raucous noise, a yell. Children are, of course, masters of the yawp. Like all kids, mine love to be loud and boisterous and often exercise this love from the moment they wake up until the moment they lay their heads down at night. Yawp can also be used in reference to clamoring and complaining, which I'm sure describes us all from time to time. I heard the word used in this sense more than once when I was growing up: "Dana, quit your yawping and clean up your room." (I never thought I'd one day be saying the same thing to my own kids!)

However, the yawp I want to write about today is a different kind of yawp--it's the barbaric yawp that American poet Walt Whitman described in his "Song of Myself":

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

Who can forget that wonderful scene in Dead Poet's Society where English professor John Keating (played by Robin Williams) encourages his timid student (Todd Anderson, played by Ethan Hawke) to find his yawp--that indefinable something that lives inside each of us, waiting to be given its voice. In this clip, Todd hasn't been able to complete his assignment, which was to write a poem, and Mr. Keating uses Whitman's idea of the barbaric yawp to help Todd express himself through poetry in a way Todd had never thought possible:

I cry nearly every time I watch this scene. I used to teach college English, and I hope that I was able to inspire at least one student the way that Mr. Keating inspired Todd, showing him that not only does he have a barbaric yawp but he can express it--and needs to express it. We all do.

I, too, sound my barbaric yawp. This blog is my barbaric yawp, my conduit for expressing myself. It's where I give voice to that something deep inside me that aches to be heard. Every time I post, I sound my barbaric yawp across the blogosphere.

We all do.

And I think Mr. Keating--and Mr. Whitman--would be proud.

What's your barbaric yawp? What have you chosen to give voice to today?

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Kisses (XOXO!)

Beware of the Mad Kisser!

Yes, you read that right. The Mad Kisser is on the loose in our home. Cover your face and proceed with caution, as you'll never know exactly when she'll strike!

Not my daughter, but this is a cute pair of kissing elephants!
Photo by Yana Ray, courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Okay, MK (Mad Kisser, not Michelle Kwan) is actually my overly affectionate two-year-old daughter, and, depending on what she's just finished eating, you might want to run in the opposite direction if you see her coming, lest you fall victim to one of her messy kisses. I've been on the receiving end of more of MK's kisses than I can count, and I've learned that they usually fall into five slobbery categories.

First we have the Standard Wet Kiss (SWK), which most often occurs immediately after MK has guzzled a cup of water.

♥ Telltale sign: a wet face, including nose, mouth, and chin
♥ Recommendation: Unless you're wearing a silk shirt, proceed with the kiss. (Believe me, MK is too cute to resist, especially when her face isn't too messy. Besides, the SWK causes little harm--unless, of course, you're wearing that silk shirt. Wait. Why are you still standing there? Run!)

No, not that kind of goldfish.
Image courtesy of Scott Liddell
Next on the list is the Cheesy Goldfish Kiss (CGK). I must warn you that this kiss can cause severe consequences if you don't take proper precautions.

♥ Telltale sign: Day-Glo orange lips
♥ Recommendation: If you're wearing clothing, run. (And if you're not wearing clothing, you'd better run anyway. This is my house, not a nudist colony.) So...just run. Day-Glo lips mean Day-Glo hands. Trust me. I know this.

Third up on the list is the I Just Ate Pancakes with Maple Syrup and Now I Want to Share My Breakfast with You Kiss (IJAPWMSANIWTSMBWYK). This kiss is as horrifying to behold as its acronym is to say.

♥ Telltale signs: Sticky, shiny lips, cheeks, nose, chin--and sometimes hair.
♥ Recommendation: Don't let MK get near you. If she succeeds in her mission, the two of you will be glued together all morning. Your best strategy is to hold a wet wipe out in front of you and slowly move away. Then call for backup. This girl can move fast.

Next is the Spaghetti/Pizza Kiss (S/PK). This kiss leaves MK with an almost indelible sauce mustache that is difficult to miss.  

♥ Telltale signs: a red sauce-rimmed mouth; hands will likely be red sauce-covered as well
♥ Recommendation: Unless you want to look like you just got home from a food fight, run. If for some reason you can't run, barricade yourself behind the couch, then yell for help. If help doesn't arrive, surrender, then grab the afghan off the couch and wrap it around yourself. (Work quickly!) It's okay. I forgive you for ruining my afghan.

Finally, if I had to choose a favorite of MK's messy kisses, it would be this one: the Holiday Chocolate Kiss (HCK), which tends to be pretty common at our house around Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. Similar kisses include the Birthday Cake Kiss (BCK), Brownie Kiss (BK), and Cookie Kiss (CK).

♥ Telltale signs: a brown, sticky, sweetly scented face
♥ Recommendation: Do nothing. Embrace the kiss, clothing and face be damned. A little chocolate doesn't hurt anything--and it can help a good deal!

So there you have it: an (almost) definitive guide to the Mad Kisser!

Can you babysit next week? ;)

In all seriousness, a few days ago I wrote about how my life, chaotic though it is, is truly my Utopia. Similarly, my daughter's kisses are my Xanadu. Despite the stickiness and the stains and the Day-Glo orange mustaches I inevitably sport after she gets me with one of her kisses, I love them all the same.

Because really, when you think about it, what could be better than a child's kiss, no matter how sloppy?


What's your Xanadu?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Woods

I realized something today as I was paging through the dictionary trying to find a "W" word that fits my theme. It's pretty earth-shattering news. Are you ready?

I'm a small-town girl.

I'm living in a big city.

Somehow this just doesn't add up.

Oh, it's not that I don't enjoy living in a place where there's always something to do, people actually outnumber chickens, and everybody doesn't know my name (and my business), but sometimes I feel pangs of homesickness when I look around me and see something like this

Noisy, noisy traffic and not enough trees.
(Photo courtesy of Scott Meltzer, Public Domain Pictures)

instead of this

Peaceful, idyllic woods. Note the abundance of trees and the curious lack of cars.
(Photo courtesy of David Wagner, Public Domain Pictures)

I grew up surrounded by the woods, and I miss it. There's something almost otherworldly about the loud silence of the wind blowing through the trees and the birds calling to each other and the chipmunks chattering as they scamper across the pine needles and fallen leaves. I always felt creative when I hiked the trails or sat down on half-rotted, mushroom-covered logs, just breathing in the mossy scent. I miss lying on my back and watching as hundreds of trees scratch their limbs against the sky. I miss so many things.

(Except the ticks. I don't miss the ticks. Would you?)

In all seriousness, though, what it boils down to is this: I grew up with the woods literally in my backyard, and I didn't realize until I left home just how important it was to me. To paraphrase glam metal band Cinderella, you don't know that you got the woods until it's gone.

I would love it if someone could find a way to plunk all those trees down in my backyard here in the city. Then I would have the best of both worlds.

And that sounds pretty perfect to me.

What about you? Are you small-town or big-city at heart? What do you miss?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Vocabulary

POP QUIZ! Name these items:


Image courtesy of Alessandro Paiva,


Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero,


Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero,


Image courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian,

Your answers to the questions above will likely depend a lot upon where you grew up or where you now live. For example, according to the The Great Pop vs. Soda Controversy, "pop" seems to be the word of choice in the Northern, Midwestern, and Western states, while "soda" is more prevalent in the Northeast and parts of California. Many Southerners, on the other hand, seem to prefer to use the word "coke."

As far as the quiz above goes, no answer is wrong. However, that doesn't mean that we won't ever run into awkward language situations here in the United States.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved from my home state of Michigan (Upper Michigan, to be exact) to western Nebraska in 1994 was that the names I'd always associated with certain objects suddenly didn't fit them anymore. I felt like I had walked into a different world when I went to the local grocery store one afternoon soon after I had arrived in town. The clerk rang up my purchases, then asked me a question I'd never heard before in the context of a store: "Would you like a sack for that?"

This is what I looked like when I heard her question:

Photo by Robert Kraft
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

(Just look at the eyes. Ignore the dog around them.)

"What?" I said. It wasn't an "I didn't hear you" what. It was more of a "what in the world are you talking about" kind of what.

"Do. You. Want. A. Sack?" She said each word slowly, as if she were speaking to someone very, very stupid. (Apparently, she was).

Slow speech notwithstanding, I was still confused. "A sack?"

"Yes. A sack." She kind of hissed the word that time, and I started to hear grumbling coming from the people in line behind me.

Suddenly--and I don't know how or why, only that it happened--the proverbial lightbulb when off and my brain comprehended what she meant. This is what I looked like at that moment:

Photo by Kim Newberg
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

Don't I look wise? (Again, ignore the fur. And the whiskers. And the whole "this is a cat" thing. I know it's a cat. Just look for the essence of wise.)

"Oh, you mean a bag!" I said triumphantly, like I had cracked some kind of code. (Actually, I felt like I had cracked a code.) "Yes, I'll take one!" (Notice how overly enthusiastic I had become. I was trying to erase my earlier ignorance by turning on my bubbly charm--kind of like pop when you shake up the bottle.)

The clerk ignored me, slammed my purchases into a bag (excuse me--sack), and I left the store feeling like a stranger. In a strange land. Or something.

When I told this story to my journalism students the next week, I was met with the same blank stare I had given the clerk.

Photo by Robert Kraft
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

(That picture's just too good not to use again.)

There was silence. I stared at my students. My students stared at me. Finally, one brave young man spoke up. "Um, of course it's a sack, Ms. P. I don't get it. Why would you call it a bag?"

Clearly, we had a communication problem.

I explained to the class that the only sack I knew was in football, and by "knew" I meant I had heard some announcer say the word as I was surfing past ESPN to get to a rerun of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I had grown up calling these paper containers bags. That's what my parents called them; that's what my grandparents called them. I assumed that was what everyone called them.

Obviously, I assumed wrong.

Since that fateful day in Nebraska when my ideas about everything I thought I had known were dashed, I've come across many more examples of the country's varied vocabulary. Here in western New York, for example, those shoes pictured above are called sneakers. I grew up calling them tennis shoes. People in some parts of the country say that the water receptacle that Jack and Jill carried up the hill is called a pail; others call it a bucket. Some fry their eggs in a frying pan, and others fry them in a skillet. And in some areas of the country, water comes from a faucet, yet in other areas, it comes from a spigot

Moving from one part of the United States to the other means you almost need to learn a new language.

I know I did.

Have you noticed differences in vocabulary in various parts of the United States? If you're not from the US, have you noticed any vocabulary differences in your country?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Utopia

I try not to, but sometimes I complain about the things I have to do each day.

There's a lot of this:

Image courtesy of Dez Pain,

and even more of this:

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero,

I feel like I'm always doing this:

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero,

and I need to start doing way more of this:

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero,

I feel like I spend all day doing this:

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski,

and sometimes I'm even "lucky" enough to get to do this:

Image courtesy of Sanja Gjenero,

On any given day, there may be dishes stacked high in the sink and endless piles of laundry waiting to be washed, dried, and folded. My kids may be fighting in the living room, and I may be standing ankle-deep in water from an overflowing washing machine. The spaghetti may be boiling over, the phone may be ringing, and I may be wishing I could take a nap. Anything can happen, and anything usually does. Yet even though I sometimes grumble and complain about how I rarely get the time to do the things I want to do each day, one fact remains true: My life is exactly the way I want it--this family, this house, these not-always-functional appliances, and these unpredictable, crazy, beautiful days. I wouldn't have things any other way.

This is my Utopia.

What's your Utopia?

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for Tulips

I always thought tulips were pretty flowers, but they were never my favorites. I preferred roses, lilies, carnations...even marigolds and pansies. Tulips, while beautiful, never even made my short list of flowers I absolutely adored. But one day that changed, all thanks to my then four-year-old son.

Photo by Vera Kratochvil
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
My son first spotted tulips about a year ago at the grocery store, and he begged to "buy" me some. I didn't need them or particularly want them, but there was something about the look on his face that just melted my heart, so I gave in to his request. He jumped up and down with his excitement, and I watched as he examined all the bunches carefully, trying to decide which one was his favorite. Finally he handed me a bunch of orange tulips, a big grin spread across his tiny face. "These are for you, Mommy." My heart melted again.

Since that moment, tulips have moved up high on the list of my favorite flowers. It's not so much the tulip itself that I love but the way my son reacts when he sees them and how proud he is to share them with me. When I look at them now, I see my son and his big heart and handsome, smiling face. I never want to forget these moments.

My son continues to choose tulips for me each spring when they're available in our local grocery store. Right now I have a vase full of yellow ones on the kitchen table, and I believe he said that the next ones are going to be the pink ones he saw last Friday night.

I can't wait!

Before I end this post, I wanted to share this short piece I wrote one day after coming home from a shopping trip with my son:

He points out the tulips whenever we pass them, shakes my arm and urges me to look at the colors--the reds and pinks and oranges, the greens and blues and mahoganies, the deep purples and their more subtle and muted lavender sisters--and he presses me forward until we stand at the front of the display, he, clasping his hands and staring with wide, child eyes and I, watching him, the flush in his cheeks and the way he bounces on his feet, the light inside him breaking through to shine upon those flowers and us all.

Do you have a favorite flower? Is there a story behind your love for it?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Opening lines redux

Happy Sunday!

Since today is a day off from the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, I wanted to share a post I made on June 30, 2011. It's about what I feel is the most difficult part of writing: deciding on the opening line. I gave some examples of my favorites and shared some ideas about how writers can find their first lines. Enjoy!

For me, the most difficult part of any piece of writing, whether it be a novel or a short story or even my master's thesis, is usually the first line. As all writers do, I want my first line to be attention-grabbing and provocative, something that draws the reader in and propels her to the next line and the next and the next. I've spent a lot of time studying what are considered to be some of the best opening lines. I particularly like this list from the American Book Review.

I tend to gravitate toward simple, declarative sentences. I love very short, very succinct opening lines, ones that are powerful and dynamic in their simplicity. These are my favorites from the American Book Review's list:

  • "A screaming comes across the sky." —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973)
  • "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
  • "I am an invisible man." —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)
  • "The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new." —Samuel Beckett, Murphy (1938)
  • "Through the fence, between the curling flower spaces, I could see them hitting." —William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (1929)
  • "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)
  • "They shoot the white girl first." —Toni Morrison, Paradise (1998)
  • "Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." —Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) [This one is a particular favorite of mine.]
  • "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
  • "It was the day my grandmother exploded." —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)
  • "Elmer Gantry was drunk." —Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry (1927)
  • "It was a pleasure to burn." —Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
  • "In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street." —David Markson, Wittgenstein's Mistress (1988)
  • "Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." —Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups (2001)
  • "When Dick Gibson was a little boy he was not Dick Gibson." —Stanley Elkin, The Dick Gibson Show (1971)
  • "Vaughan died yesterday in his last car-crash." —J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)
  • "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." —Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)
  • "He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad." —Raphael Sabatini, Scaramouche (1921)

I haven't read all of these novels, but their opening lines draw me, making me curious about what happens and eager to read more. All of them are intriguing; all, to me, present a mystery--and a promise--to the reader. Each of them does exactly what a first line should do.

Opening lines can be difficult to write; so, of course, can opening paragraphs, opening pages, and opening scenes. What's your remedy if writing that first line proves difficult? Some writers freewrite, sometimes about anything but their novels, in the hope of inadvertently hitting upon the perfect beginning. Some lucky writers I know (I wish I were one of them) can simply skip the beginning entirely and go on to a different scene, returning to the opening when inspiration strikes. Others just have to keep working doggedly on that first line until they get it right. For better or worse, that's the category I fall into: if I don't have the first line, I can't write the story. Whatever the method of finding that first line, one important thing for all writers to remember is that even if the first line ultimately gets thrown out, it still served its purpose: it got the writing started.

Tell me about your opening lines. Do you have any that you're particularly proud of or perhaps ones that came to you easily or out of the blue? And what do you do when you begin a story and your muse refuses to cooperate?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Skylark

I have a soft spot in my heart for birds. The birds know this, so they stop by pretty regularly for the old bread and stale Cheerios I often throw out on the grass in the backyard.

I'm not sure my husband is so thrilled about the way I toss food around, but I love watching the robins and sparrows and the occasional blue jays and cardinals as they enjoy their snacks. The birds and I have a deal: I feed them, and they sing for me. That's fair, right? There are few sounds I enjoy more than birdsong, especially early in the morning.

Dana and the Skylark, circa 1994
I believe this picture was taken the day I bought the car.
But this post is about one bird in particular: the skylark. Or, rather, it's not. Because as much as I enjoy birds--and the skylark, although I've never seen one, seems like a nice one--this post is about another favorite skylark: my 1990 Buick Skylark, to be exact.

The Skylark was my first car. I bought it when I was in graduate school in 1994. Up until that point, I'd either walked everywhere or bummed rides from friends, so owning this car meant I finally had some real freedom. I drove everywhere, even to places I could have walked to, and I appointed myself the Official Driver for all Graduate School Students in English. (Okay, I didn't do that. But I did drive everyone to Hardee's once.)

I loved that car. It was a blue, four-door sedan with only the tiniest bit of rust, and I drove it until it just about fell apart. The day I traded it in for my second car, a 1995 Buick Century (yes, I see a pattern here!) was a sad, sad day. I have pictures of that moment as well, but let's concentrate on happy things, shall we?

All these years later, I still think about that car. I guess the memory of any first in life is important--even if it is just a vehicle.

What was your first car? Did it have any special meaning for you?

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Retro!

I should have been born in the fifties.

For as long as I can remember, I've loved everything about it, from the fashions to the decor to the television shows and toys. And even though I grew up in the seventies and eighties--decades of bell-bottoms and acid-washed jeans--I think I would have been right at home in the decade of pedal pushers and jewel-neck pullovers!

Poodle skirt parade
Photo by Peter Griffin
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
My mom and dad were teenagers in the '50s, and as I was growing up, I'd ask them to tell me stories about what life was like then. I loved when my mom described the kinds of clothes she wore, like poodle skirts (love!) and saddle shoes. I've always found it funny that saddle shoes were back in style when I was in high school in the eighties!

Speaking of the eighties, each year my high school would hold a Fifties Day, and I was the envy of all my female classmates when I wore my mom's red poodle skirt with white ankle socks and my 1980's version of saddle shoes. Mom still owns a lot of the clothes she wore back then, and I had so much fun trying them on when I was growing up: Capri pants; form-fitting, short-sleeved shirts; blouses with Peter Pan collars; cat-eye glasses; and cardigan sweaters, which my mom said were sometimes worn backward. The outfit wasn't complete until I had pulled my hair up into a scarf-tied ponytail or tied a silk scarf around my neck. She told me once that another fad she and her friends took part in was to wear small animals collars as ankle bracelets.
1950's diner booth
Photo by Lee Wag
Public Domain Pictures

For entertainment, Mom and Dad would go out to the diner for cheeseburgers or to the drug store for Green Rivers--or maybe they'd attend a sock hop at the school or cruise around town in my dad's old Ford.
The fifties also brought some of my favorite television shows, like I Love Lucy and The Twilight Zone, and toys that my own children play with today, like Barbie and Etch A Sketch. And although my music tastes tend to run a little more modern, I still enjoy some of the idols of the fifties, like Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson. Also, in my opinion, few modern actors possess the brooding good looks of James Dean.

It's official: I love the fifties!

What about you? Do you have a favorite decade? What are your thoughts about retro style?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Quiet, Quotations, and Qualtagh (Oh, my!)

The letter Q has far more to offer than I ever thought! Here are three Q words I love:


Photo by Maria Shemesh
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
I crave quiet time. A few years ago, right about the time my second child was born, I started getting up before everyone else in the house, just so I could spend an hour or two alone. (Luckily, I've been blessed with children who started sleeping through the night at a young age.) I use this time away from everyone to read and write and just enjoy quiet moments of "me" time, with no one asking where the car keys are or demanding that I make pancakes for breakfast or find the missing Hello Kitty sock. I admit that some mornings I'm tired and it's all I can do to get out of bed at 5:30 or 6 a.m., but I know that if I don't have that time to myself, the rest of my day won't feel quite right. What helps on those eyes-won't-quite-open days? Coffee, of course!

What about you?  Do you crave time alone? How do you fit "me" time into your life?

Photo by Petr Kratochvil
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Ever since I was in college, I've been a quotation collector. I have a huge list now, and I sometimes refer to it when I need writing prompts or just a new perspective on my day. Following are a few of my favorites. Some are about writing and poetry, and others are about life. All of them, at least to me, are inspiring. (You can find these and other quotations at The Quote Garden.)
• This one gives me hope on days when following my writing dream seems hopeless: 

"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." ~ Vladimir Nabokov, Russian novelist, poet, and short story writer

• And this one gives me the courage to push through, even when I feel like nothing I write will ever be good enough:

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the guts to do it and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." ~ Sylvia Plath, American poet, novelist, and short story writer

• There's something beautiful about this truth:

"Poetry is life distilled." ~ Gwendolyn Brooks, American poet

• And this one illustrates what I think is a fun truth:

"To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone."  ~ Reba McEntire, American country music artist and actress

• And how could I leave out this life quotation from one of my favorite poems:

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." ~ T. S. Eliot, American-born poet, publisher, playwright, and critic, in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Do we share any of the same favorites? What quotations do you find inspiring?


I couldn't resist this word. It's a new one for me, one I discovered while I was searching online for all things Q. According to The Phrontistery, a qualtagh is "the first person encountered after leaving home on a special day." Other sources define it as  "the first individual a person meets after exiting his or her house."

Interesting, right? I never would have imagined a word existed for that!

My qualtagh today was a sales associate at Barnes & Noble. Who was yours?

See you tomorrow with the letter R!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Passionate About Paper

I love paper. Take me to a stationery store, and I'll wander the aisles all day checking out the journals and notepads and trying out all the pens. (Did I mention I also love pens?)

Photo by Elisa Xyz
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
My obsession with paper comes from my mom--or at least I like to blame it on her! Whenever she and Dad took me to the orthodontist for my checkups, she'd insist on stopping at the stationery store afterward to find out what was new in office supplies. Mind you, she didn't need office supplies; she just wanted them.

As I wandered around the store with her, I began my own love affair with stenographer's notebooks, handmade paper, moleskin journals, day planners, diaries--anything and everything paper. I was charmed by the rainbow of colors and diversity of textures, and I had a special weakness for stickers and novelty items featuring some of the popular trends of the day (think mid-80s). My many trips to the store also started my brief obsession with erasers and four-color pens. (Okay, I admit I still love those pens!) In my mind, the stationery store was the perfect place, not only for me but for my friends as well. I bought many a birthday gift at that store--although I'm not sure all of my friends found the gifts as amazing as I did!

Photo by Shari Weinsheimer
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
My passion for all things paper still rages today. Since I started taking my writing more seriously several years ago, I've gone through notebook after notebook. One of my favorite things to do now is to troll the back-to-school sales and buy stacks of college-ruled notebooks for ten or fifteen cents apiece. I find these notebooks are the best to use for my writing, as I'm not afraid I'll deface them with my scrawl. I buy notebooks in smaller sizes, too, so I can tuck them into my purse or hide them away in the stroller for ideas that come to me when I'm out with the kids.

Photo by Joy Shrader
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
Although I buy far more plain notebooks, I do love the fancier stationery and journals. In fact, I love them so much that when I buy them, I just look at them; I'm reluctant to destroy them by writing in them. A couple of years ago, I bought two beautiful journals filled with acid-free paper. I intended to begin mother's journals for each of my kids, where I'd write down the funny, cute, and interesting things they've done and said. Well, to this day, those journals are blank. I tell myself I haven't used them yet because I can't find a good archival pen, but really, it's the same old story: I'm afraid I'll mess them up. Meanwhile, I have drawers and boxes and purses full of little slips of paper on which I've written all sorts of memories. I just hope I can find them all if--I mean when--I do decide to start filling those journals.

And speaking of my kids, I'm happy to say that they are following in my paper-loving footsteps. Among other things, this year the Easter Bunny brought them some tiny notebooks, and both kids--but especially my five-year-old son--have been scribbling like mad. Will there be another writer or two in the family? I hope so!

How about you? Do you have a passion for paper?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Onomatopoeia

Hiss. Buzz. Shuffle. Bam. Bonk. Sizzle. Clunk.

I've always been a fan of onomatopoetic words--words that imitate the sounds associated with certain objects or actions. For example, murmur, one of my favorite onomatopoetic words, imitates the sound a murmur makes, and whisper, another of my favorites, re-creates the sound made when someone speaks softly. Try saying any of the words I've listed above out loud, and you'll see that they all imitate the sounds associated with their meanings. (You can find two good lists of onomatopoetic words here and here.)

Onomatopoeia is wonderful literary device that can work to the writer's advantage in helping to bring stories and poems to life. Of course there's a danger, as there is with all literary devices, of going overboard, but when used thoughtfully and judiciously, onomatopoeia can be an effective writing tool.


Oh, excuse me.

Probably one of the most famous uses of onomatopoeia occurs in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Bells." In this poem Poe makes use of onomatopoetic language to describe the tolling of the bells he hears. Take a look at these five lines from the first stanza:

Hear the sledges with the bells--
             Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
       How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
           In the icy air of night!

Can you hear the bells tinkling? You can read the rest of the poem here. Notice how the sounds get darker and more ominous as the poem nears its conclusion.

Other poets have used this device as well. For some examples of obvious and not so obvious onomatopoeia in poetry, see this article.

Please excuse me now. I must end this post. The wind is whooshing through my open window, rustling the papers on my desk and jangling the window blinds, and the cheep and chirp and chatter of the birds urges me to take my coffee and shuffle outside to enjoy the day.

How effective do you think onomatopoeia is as a literary device? Is it distracting, or does it add something? Do you ever use onomatopoeia in your writing?

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Noodle Nostalgia

Grandma was a great cook. I remember Sunday meals and holidays at her house: turkey, ham, pork and beef roasts, mashed potatoes and gravy, lemon meringue and pumpkin pies--everything delicious and made from scratch.

Photo by Donna Cosmato
Courtesy of Public Domain Pictures
I think more than anything else, I loved the noodles she would make at the old, blue-topped table in her kitchen. They were the best tasting noodles I've ever eaten, and the memories I have of helping her make them are some of the most precious ones I have.

I would watch, spellbound, as she sifted flour and mounded it on the table, then made a hollow and added eggs, a little oil, a pinch of salt. My awkward child-hands would help beat the eggs, gradually mixing them with the flour, and then I would watch as she started kneading the dough, working it for a while before stepping back and letting me take a turn--pushing and folding, pushing and folding for what seemed like years but was probably no more than ten minutes. My arms would ache--a good ache--and I'd ask Grandma to take over, knowing that soon it would be time for my favorite part of noodle making: cutting the dough with the little pasty wheel.

Grandma would flour the table, then roll out the dough before handing me the wheel. She'd watch as I cut, letting me know if my noodles were too thick or too thin. Sometimes they were just right! When I'd finish cutting, she'd help me pick up the noodles and hang them over the backs of her toweled-covered orange kitchen chairs to dry. Later there would be homemade chicken soup simmering on the stove, and those noodles would always be the best part.

Grandma died on September 16, 2010. She was 95 years old. My kids didn't really have the chance to get to know her, but I hope that one day I can show them what she taught me and tell them just how special their great-grandma was.

Do you have any beloved memories of time you shared with someone who's no longer living?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Intermission and Roy G. Biv

Today is the A to Z Challenge's scheduled day off. I'll be back tomorrow with the letter N.

I'd like to welcome those who are new to my blog. Thanks for following! When I'm not taking part in the challenge, I usually post 100-word entries describing my observations about things like motherhood, writing, and life. So without further ado, I bring you this morning's 100 words:

When I ask my kids to name their favorite colors, my five-year-old son will usually say blue or green. My two-year-old daughter, on the other hand, will start by saying pink but then change her answer to "I love all the colors of the rainbow!" before she dances and twirls out of the room, arms raised high, a wide smile spread across her face. Sometimes she stops, skips back to where I'm standing, and loudly sing-songs the colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Good old Roy G. Biv. I remember him well.

Remember Roy? He's my old friend. I probably wouldn't be able to recall the colors of the rainbow without him. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly by Art Planet
Photo courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

I've collected a few things in my life. When I was a kid, I collected Barbies and books. As a teen, I collected candles and books. When I was a little older than a teen, I collected autographs (fun hobby!) and books. (I think there's a pattern here!)

Now that I'm (suddenly) a lot older than a teen, I collect too many books, too much dust, and butterflies, especially those of the monarch variety, which are fairly easy to recognize by their orange and black pattern. Aren't they gorgeous? I love how their colors light up the sky!

Now I should clarify that I don't collect the butterflies themselves but instead choose items with their images--pins, magnets, bookmarks, photos...anything that catches my eye. I started my collection a few years ago when I was going through a rough time in my personal life and needed to remind myself that every day is a fresh start. For me, butterflies represent rebirth. Their metamorphosis from caterpillar to creatures of such great beauty signifies that a new beginning is possible and renews my hope in the future.

I did some research today on the symbolism of butterflies and learned that in some cultures, they are considered to be good luck. In other cultures, they are bad omens, symbols of the horrible luck that is to come. Some view them as a sign that a loved one will soon visit, and others contend that seeing one means that someone in the family will die. Still others say that seeing two butterflies flying together is a symbol of love.

For me, though, the butterfly will always be a reminder that, as Scarlett O'Hara said so well, "Tomorrow is another day"--a day full of hope and promise and another chance at life!

Do you collect anything?  What made you start your collection?

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Ladybug--and Laughter!

"Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire, and your children are gone..."

Clip art courtesy of
This nursery rhyme, traditionally called "Ladybird, Ladybird," has many different variations, but these are the lines I remember my mother reciting nearly every time we saw a ladybug when I was a child. I've learned recently that some of the verses are actually quite grim, like this one:

"Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire;
your children shall burn!"

That's cheery...

I really don't remember my mother telling me more than the first two lines of the rhyme, but those two lines were enough to foster a love for ladybugs that I've carried with me all my life. Now usually, I'm not the kind of person who wants anything to do with insects, but ladybugs seem different somehow, probably because I've always imagined them to be loving moms just trying to take care of their babies--babies who, it seems, may or may not have been left alone and may or may not have been trapped in a fire.

(Perhaps it would have behooved Mother Ladybug to find a babysitter...)

I still think that ladybugs are among the nicer, prettier insects. First, they're often red, which is my favorite color, and second, I've never met one who tried to bite me. As such, I've always been kinder to them than I am to, say, spiders or the many icky, beady-eyed little bugs that my son likes to capture and then bring over for Mommy to have a look at. I've never tried to squish ladybugs, and I'm proud to say that I played no part in the little-known but horrific battle that took place in my childhood home, The War Between the Ladybugs and Dad, the Mad Vacuum Wielder. The silly creatures were confused one year and mistook our house for their own. Maybe they'd lost their home in a fire, in which case maybe Dad could have been a little more understanding.

But I still think Mama should have hired a babysitter...

So what are your feelings about ladybugs? Beautiful friend or pesky foe?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kaffeeklatsch (and Kooser)

Once again, I couldn't choose just one "K" word, so I present you with two:

Photo courtesy of
I used to be a college English professor, and nearly every morning before classes started--and sometimes in the afternoons as well--a few of the other faculty members and I would grab our coffee and meet in the cafeteria or on benches outside the school and chat. These gatherings were often the highlight of my day--our own little Kaffeeklatsch! When I left teaching, one of the things I missed was this time I spent drinking coffee and talking with my coworkers, who had become good friends. 

Then a few years later, I became a stay-at-home mom. Mothering is often a lonely job. It's hard to get out, especially when the children are very small, and I found I missed my daily Kaffeeklatsch even more.

Before long, though, I realized something: the Internet had become my new Kaffeeklatsch!

Every day I sit with my coffee and log on to Twitter or read blogs and post in chat rooms and forums, and every day I talk online with like-minded people doing the same things. I've made so many friends on Twitter and here at my blog. (A big welcome to my new followers!) Some of these people have become close friends, ones I chat with nearly every day, and I sometimes imagine that we're sitting in our respective houses, sipping from our coffee cups and enjoying our own little Kaffeeklatsch. (And we don't even have to comb our hair first!)


Those of you who have visited my blog before probably know that I enjoy writing poetry. One of my biggest influences is Ted Kooser, who served as the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. I admire him for being able to look at simple, everyday things--a tattoo, dishwater, applesauce--and see so much more. He writes mainly of the Midwest, where I was born, so perhaps that's part of the reason I can identify so well with his subjects and themes. His poetry, though, is universal, and it's the type of poetry I long to write: finding new, creative ways to look at the ordinary, to capture the heart of the simple things in life.

If you're interested in poetry, I recommend that you visit his site: He also writes a great weekly column, American Life in Poetry, which features contemporary American poems. You can find it at

So tell me, have you enjoyed a Kaffeeklatsch lately or read any of Kooser's poems? Are there other poets you enjoy? I'm always looking for recommendations.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jumping Beans

Have you ever seen them? They're seed pods that look like small beans. Larvae of small moths chew their way inside the beans. The larvae don't like heat, so when the beans become too hot, the larvae "jump" as they try to find a cooler spot. The beans are native to Mexico, hence the name Mexican Jumping Beans.

I didn't know that these beans existed until very recently. When I was a kid, I had a toy that was called a Mexican Jumping Bean. It looked like a pill capsule and had something inside of it that would make it twitch. I remember that I enjoyed playing with it, but if I had known there were real jumping beans available for purchase, I'm sure I would have been begging my parents to buy some!

Have you ever owned Mexican Jumping Beans, real or fake?

Looking for blog recommendations? Look no further!

Before I post my A to Z entry today, I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful, kind people who have presented me with blog awards during the past few months. I've fallen way behind in fulfilling the requirements of these awards, but I still want to give a shout-out to these bloggers and encourage you to visit their amazing blogs:

Caitlin at All About Growing Up and Becoming a Writer
Tara at Tara Tyler Talks
Martin at From Sand to Glass
Angie at Write Me Happy

Thanks again, everyone!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Indian Paintbrush and Iceblink

I can't resist--I just have to bring you two "I" words today, one that's an old favorite and one that I just discovered.

Indian Paintbrush:
© Copyright 2011 [Roy Tennant],

When we were kids, my sister and I spent a lot of time outside. We loved taking walks through the woods and fields surrounding our house, where we'd pick flowers and weeds and grasses to use as ingredients in our famous (to us!) mud puddle soup.

What's mud puddle soup? Well, whenever it rained, a huge mud puddle would form in the driveway, and my sister and I would pretend that the water was soup. We'd get our ingredients, then stir the "broth" with big sticks. I'm sure our parents wondered what we were doing whenever they looked out the window and saw us standing there, staring into a puddle, but hey, we were using our Imaginations--another great "I" word, by the way!

One of the ingredients we chose for our soup was the Indian Paintbrush. I don't know about my sister, but I always gravitated toward it because of its bright reddish color and the way it does indeed resemble an artist's paintbrush. Every time I see this plant my mind goes back to those wonderful spring days.


I discovered this word last night when I was searching the Internet for "I" words I had overlooked. I found this one at The Phrontistery, a site that celebrates the English language with its definitions of obscure words. There I learned that an iceblink is a "glare in the sky caused by light reflected off ice." Further investigation at found that an iceblink is "a yellowish luminosity near the horizon or on the underside of a cloud, caused by the reflection of light from sea ice."

Isn't this a great word? Right away I began I imagining how I could use it in a poem...

So what about you? Have you ever seen Indian Paintbrush? How about strange or obscure words: have you encountered any lately--especially those beginning with I?

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Haiku

I first learned of haiku in early elementary school when our teacher presented a lesson plan on the form and assigned us to write our own. Since then, I've been enthralled with these poems, which require the poet to say so much using so few words. The extra challenge of using the correct number of syllables in each of the poem's three lines (usually 5, 7, 5) is what intrigues me most, I think. As anyone who's written haiku knows, the concept is more difficult than it appears.

Some poets, particularly in North America, write single-line haiku containing much fewer than seventeen syllables; others write haiku of four or more very short lines, which is known as vertical haiku. Circular haiku, in which the poem doesn't have a fixed beginning or ending, is also popular. Others adopt their own forms, some counting words rather than syllables.

I enjoy writing haiku. As poet Santoka Taneda once wrote, "Haiku is not a shriek, a howl, a sigh, or a yawn; rather, it is the deep breath of life"--and I think that's beautiful.

Do you read or write haiku?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

The wool blanket

Today's 100 words:

Morning finds me on the other side of quiet. It's not the face of dawn that greets me; no sun breaks through windows to light the grayness of the room. Instead it's the black silence of midnight, that harbinger of a new day, who beckons me closer while I fight the weariness that presses upon me like the crush of a heavy wool blanket. The old man had carried such a blanket with him as he sought those things we all seek. It covered him like stars at night, something familiar to keep out the cold from outside--and within.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Grace

Grace is a beautiful word, both in its sound and in its meanings. It can describe fluidity and charm--She skated gracefully across the ice--as well as kindness and pardon--He was saved by the governor's act of grace. It can also describe ummerited mercy and forgiveness, which I think is its most powerful definition, especially when I think of the word in terms of Easter. It's not always easy to extend grace to others, especially when I feel they don't deserve it, but it's one of the most important concepts I can teach my children.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for F•R•I•E•N•D•S (and friends)

F•R•I•E•N•D•S has always been one of my favorite television shows. I watched it pretty regularly when it first aired on TV, and I never seem to tire of the reruns.

I think what makes F•R•I•E•N•D•S such an enduring program is the closeness between the characters and how well they know and understand each other. These aren't superficial relationships between fair-weather friends; these characters know that they can depend on each other, no matter the circumstances. They offer support and acceptance, they're trustworthy and honest, and they stick with each other in good times and bad.

Isn't this just the type of friendship we desire in our own lives? Do you have a Monica or a Chandler in your life? How about a Rachel or a Ross? A quirky Phoebe? A cute but slightly dim-witted Joey?

I've never been the kind of person to have large groups of friends, but throughout my life I have had a handful of what people usually call best friends, those who not only exhibit all the qualities I described above but share my interests as well. They're the type of people that never quit the friendship, even if circumstances--having to move away, for example--make the relationship more difficult to maintain.

I'm still in contact with my best friend from high school, even though I've moved one thousand miles away from her. We keep in touch as often as we can via phone calls, emails, and Facebook, and when we see each other each summer, it feels like we've never been apart. We look forward to the visits, but we also know that even when we're apart, we can still depend on each other for support.

Since I moved here to New York, I've made another close friend, a fellow 30-something mommy. Perhaps more than any other situation in my life, becoming a mother has made me realize just how important friends are and how much we really need people who understand where we're coming from because they're right there in the trenches with us. They can help us through bad days filled with fighting kids, unhelpful spouses, and perpetual messes, and they can share our glee over our child's potty training and bike riding triumphs.

We need friends. (And F•R•I•E•N•D•S, too, if you're like me.)

What about you? Tell me about your friends and the importance of friendship in your life.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Entertainer

I'm a writer and stay-at-home mom now, but in my adult years I've also held the jobs of journalist, college English professor, and freelance copy editor. These professions were all good fits for me, but they are definitely not what the child-me thought she'd be doing when she grew up. Back then, I told people I wanted to be an archaeologist or maybe an orthodontist, but what I really wanted was to become an entertainer--specifically a singer like Madonna or Cyndi Lauper. I do love to sing, but I have to admit that I'm very happy with my non-famous, ordinary life and can't imagine living any other.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Is it the same job you're doing now?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Daybreak

Even though I can never seem to break my bad habit of staying up too late each night, I still love waking up early and watching the sun rise. To me, there's nothing more peaceful and calming than seeing the sky brighten little by little and watching everything that had been shrouded in shadows become clear. Daybreak reminds me that I have a fresh start; I've been given another chance to do things right. Amid all the chaos of life, I crave the perspective each new day brings.

Lately I've been anticipating the warmer mornings to come, when I can sit out on the patio with my coffee, a book, my notebook. Words.

There's no better way to start my day.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Chocolate (Of course!)

It's no secret to those who know me that I adore chocolate. It's an addiction, really; I can't let a day go by without having some, which is starting to become a bit of an issue now that my metabolism seems to be slowing down. Will that sad fact keep me from my craving? No way.

I've had this obsession with chocolate all my life, but it didn't get to be as bad as it is until I was pregnant with my second child. After my first pregnancy, where I watched what I ate with so much dedication I would get headaches whenever I thought of food, I decided that with my second pregnancy I could relax a little. And I did. Well...a lot.

With my first pregnancy I ate chocolate only rarely, but with my second I ate it every single day, and I've carried on with that habit for almost three years. I feel like chocolate is more of a necessity now than a treat. It calms me down when I'm having a bad day (or at least I imagine it does), and I can always find excuses to buy more: I did some writing today. I'll celebrate with chocolate! or My husband and I had an argument this morning. I'll feel better if I eat some chocolate. or The kids won't stop fighting. Better stuff my face with chocolate so I don't lose my mind. There's really nothing that chocolate can't fix!

Are you addicted to chocolate, too? What's the one food item you feel you can't live without?

So sentimental

Today's 100 words:

My friend texted me today to let me know that she'd like to return the baby clothes I gave her last week, as she could tell I had a difficult time parting with them. She's right: I am very sentimental about things that belong to my children. Another friend had advised me to treat the whole situation as though I were ripping off a Band-Aid--just do it and get it over with--and I really tried to do that as I handed over the bag of clothes. I guess my emotions were still pretty clear, though.

I texted her back, asking her to keep them and letting her know that I've slowly been going through my other clothes bins, looking for more things her son can wear. It's hard--a piece of clothing can hold so many memories--but I know that I can't keep everything, and really, it's the memories themselves that count.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Books

I love to read. When my sister and I were kids, we would stay at our grandma's house in town for a few days in the summer, and we'd always walk to the library, then carry home stacks and stacks of books, which we'd devour in no time and then crave more. I still read like that, which is probably why I don't get as much sleep as I should. Every year I set a reading goal. Last year's goal was 104 books, and I read 108. This year I've set the bar at 110. I'm reading number 27 now.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Art

Since I wrote yesterday's post, I've been giving a lot of thought to the theme I'd like to explore during this year's Blogging from A to Z Challenge. This morning I finally chose one: A Few of My Favorite Things. I decided on this theme because one of my interests is family history, and in the family history memoir I'm currently working on, I've been striving to include not only the big elements that make up a person's life but the small details as well. I want to know what kind of people my ancestors were, not just what job they did or who they married. Did they love peanut butter and eat it three times a day? I want to know that. Did they always buy red cars? Tell me why. These are the kinds of details I seek, these everyday anecdotes that give a true impression of a person's life.

Similarly, during this year's blogging challenge--my first ever!--I want to preserve some of the details of my own life for my children. They know me as Mommy, but I'm a lot more than that. Do they know my favorite number and the story behind it? Do they know I'm claustrophobic? There's a story there, too. Each day of this challenge, I'll share a little about myself so that my two-year-old and five-year-old children can someday read these entries and learn a little bit more about who Mommy really is.

Most of my entries will be written in 100 words, which is the style I've adopted for The Daily Dose. My hope as I begin this challenge is that readers will find something in these words that they can relate to and enjoy.

So without further ado:

A is for Art:

I'm intrigued by the way Monet and other impressionist artists like Renoir and Bazille used angles and light to show common, everyday objects in new ways. Their creativity inspires me, though I am a writer and not a painter (although I often wish I were). In fact, I think there is much to learn from all creative people, and I find it fascinating how artists of any medium can take an emotion--fear, for example, or anger--and express it in so many different ways: through paintings, poetry, sculpture, photography... Art--no matter the type--is born in the soul.