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Showing posts from 2012

Life is What Happens

Every year I make resolutions.Some folks think I am foolish for doing so, but it lets me feel as if I have some control if after all  “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” 
The year 2012 was full of sorrows. 
I lost a precious grandson, a toddler, and I lost my older brother. Several of my friends lost husbands, mothers, sisters, and sons – all just as precious to them. I do not know what we are to learn from this other than life is fragile and temporal. It reassured my belief that there has to be more than what we know of existence.   I broke my right foot in June.  Bummer. It took six weeks and not eight as the doctor predicted to recover, but it restricted my exercise routine for the next three months. My tootsie still tires easily but it doesn’t keep me from getting into trouble.   Then there was that “other” inconvenience when I discovered I had Type II Diabetes.  Rhubarb! (That’s my version of a cuss word.)  I‘ve learned to live with it. I take my meds and …

Yes, Virginia . . .

Yes, there is a Santa Claus.There, I’ve said it. He may not dress in a red suit and drive a sleigh driven by magical reindeer.  He may look more like Mommy and Daddy and drive an econo car, but he exists. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.” The world out there is ugly and cruel, a nightmare where incomprehensible things happen in front of and to our babies, so why not allow them a joyful childhood within the safety of their homes, among the people who love and understand them the most? “There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.” How wonderful to listen to their giggles, or to watch their eyes when they open their presents or see the feast you set before them. We can argue religion or commercialism, but who ultimately teaches that to our children?  Who controls that within our homes?  My three grew up knowing that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, yet they wanted to pretend and enjoy the magic of …

The Ugly Christmas Sweater

I realize I have no one to blame but myself.  One look at my wardrobe as a career teacher and I realize I misrepresented myself. My real persona has a T-shirt and jeans, old rocker chick vibe, but that is not what I wore to work for thirty-odd years. I owned an extensive mix and match “uniform” of shirts and blouses, dresses, pants and skirts in the school colors.  Some of my tops were emblazoned with the school mascot across the chest, on the back, and sometimes both.  I was an Indian, a Falcon, a Wildcat, and a Rocket during the day, and a regular person at night and on weekends. My jewelry and accessories consisted of the same kind of stuff, plus I added “seasonal” pieces, like Christmas socks and special holiday shirts. I was easy to shop for, and over the years, students (and their parents) gave me dozens and dozens of earrings and pins that went with my teacher uniform.  I have almost every piece of jewelry that comes in the shape of an apple, a school mascot, or in the school c…

What is Family?

I’ve never been alone.  I am covered in family, an overabundance of sibs and assorted other relatives.  I even worked at a profession for thirty-something years that afforded me little privacy. I know, I am blessed, but . . . I envied the only child, the sequestered nun, Tom Hanks in that movie about the island and the basketball. For years I drove to and from work in absolute quiet, reveling in the brief solitude of my very own space, no one talking at me, breathing my air, or demanding conversation. Don’t get me wrong.  I love my family and my friends, but I also love being alone. When someone complains about being lonely, I offer them a few dozen of my relatives.  They thank me thinking that I jest, but I am dead serious. My family will cover the whiner with their effusive love and dizzying attention, and before long, the lonely soul will see my side of it (and long for silence and a space of their own). What defines family?  Do you have to live under the same roof?  Do you have to…

Five Hair Mistakes

In the 60’s, everyone wore their hair long, men and women.  I grew mine past my shoulder blades, parted it in the center, no bangs, and topped off the look with “John Lennon” specs. It took my sister an hour or so every weekend to iron (yes, iron like in Sunbeam with Steam) it straight.  It was that or sleep in 16-ounce can curlers.           In the 70’s, I lopped off all my hair and went Afro.  A severe Afro that stunk like burnt tires and required a steel pick so dangerous it qualified as a lethal weapon. The poof dwarfed my face and what was left was covered in large dark glasses that made me look stoned. In the 80’s, the look was the wanton, “loose,” natural curl, the kind that created long coils and fell “naturally” about the shoulders. It also cost three digits and took half a morning to get the perm done. I couldn’t believe that I was paying to put in what I was ironing out two decades before. I looked like the Cowardly Lion spruced up to meet the Wizard, but I was in style. In…

Funny Girl

When someone compliments me on a peculiarity, I don’t know how to respond.  I suddenly become self-conscious and my mannerism becomes an affectation. Someone will compliment my laugh.  They’ll used words like sexy, bawdy, and brazen (Really? Oh, go on!), and vanity takes over.  My sexy becomes a snort, my bawdy chuckle a toothy bray, and my brazen come-on morphs into something creepy and unintentional. I am no better off when someone calls attention to the way I walk.  I’ve been told I have a self-assured gait, a sensuous samba, and a feminine air when I move. (Well, goodness me!) This usually goes straight to my already inflated ego, and I lose all semblance of “graceful” and “alluring.” I gambol ostrich-like, all hips and haunches.  I mince, teetering and stumbling like my shoes pinch, and worse yet, I amble side to side like a mama ape foraging in the jungle. None of my peculiarities are intentional, honest.  They are just a product of who I am, so when someone asks me to be funny,…

The Five Best Books on the Craft of Writing for 2012

Since there is a big difference between writing a story and crafting a story, I purchased several books on the subject in 2012, but these were the five I kept near me when I wrote. I refer to them often and wanted to share them with you.

The Art of Styling Sentences, 4th Edition, by Ann Longknife, Ph.D., and K. D. Sullivan. This is a sophisticated workbook for writers who want to master the twenty basic sentence patterns (and the punctuation that accomplishes each). I can write a sentence well, but I wanted to improve my knowledge on craft. 

A Dash of Style: the Art and Mastery of Punctuation by Noah Lukeman. This book dedicates individual chapters on the many varied ways to use: the period, the comma, the semicolon, the colon, the dash, the parentheses, quotation marks, the question mark, the exclamation mark, the use of italics, ellipsis, and the hyphen.  Not only is it a great reference, but it offers some new creative approaches.

Toxic Feedback:  Helping Writers Survive and Thrive b…

Grandma’s Dining Table

Twenty five years ago my first husband and I bought a new home with four bedrooms and three baths, but my favorite part of the house was the enormous room you walked into from the front door. It had no dividing wall but the design was to use half of it as a formal living and the other half as a formal dining. From the beginning I decided to make it into one huge dining room that would catch the eye when everyone walked in through the front door of my home.   My three children were very young, but I envisioned them grown and married. We counted five at the time, but one day we would grow to eight, maybe more if we factored in grandchildren, so I bought a table that sat a family of twelve.  My husband thought it silly to look that far ahead and convinced me to buy only ten chairs. The room looked magnificent – the long, majestic table, the ten chairs, the buffet, a couple of real ficus, and a few other nice pieces of furniture – I was pleased. The table lasted longer than the marriage, a…

Hit and Run, Misdemeanor

I live off a state highway, not on some meandering country road but on a busy five-lane free-for-all. Six days a week, paper thin econo cars play chicken with semi trucks carrying full capacity loads.  Commuters late for work and hot doggers in their show room, cowboy trucks barrel by, unaffected by the rules of courtesy or the laws of the state of Texas. HoneyBunch says it wasn’t always like this.  When he first bought this property back in the 80’s, he could count the total traffic that passed in one day on both hands.  To see the traffic slow like that nowadays, I’d have to get up around 3:00 AM on a Sunday morning. We witness several speeding tickets a day, one fatality a week, and two Hit and Run, Misdemeanors a year.  Luckily, those hit and runs only take out mailboxes.  Drivers will veer off the road or lose control of their vehicles and our mailboxes end up in the property next door.  All we will find the next morning are a bent post (or what’s left of it), tire marks, and our…

Inexpensive Christmas Giving

My grown kids have asked that we come up with a less expensive Christmas this year.  Could we exchange names and thereby cut down on spending? I totally agree. This past year’s events reminded us all that family is more important than anything else.  Things can be replaced; time with family can’t. The couples in our extended family will exchange names with each other, and the kids (siblings and cousins) will exchange names.  We are to keep it all secret (we’ll see how long that lasts) until we open presents.  We are placing a spending cap on the gifts as well. The individual families may give to each other, but everyone has been asked not to give outside their own household. This way others will not feel obligated to reciprocate. I am proud of them because I have always objected to the commercialism and greed that accompanies this season.  Christmas is about family and not about trying to outdo each other or going into debt. I like what this teaches the children and grandchildren.  
I …

Work in Progress

I write for a living though I’ve yet to make any money at it.You see, I could not live without writing.It is as much a part of my existence as breathing and eating.That’s not to say I don’t want to one day get paid for my writing. I’m just not there yet; I’m still learning the craft. I finished my first manuscript four years ago, and I immediately sent a query to a literary agency and to the editor of a small publishing house.  The agency answered first requesting the full manuscript.  I sent it within two weeks, but it only took them two days to send back a rejection.  It came accompanied with six pages of revisions and the manuscript dripping in editing marks. Ouch. Next the editor from the publishing house requested the same manuscript but I just packaged it all up into a folder and filed it away. What the literary agency suggested made sense. It stung.  It was painful.  But it was correct. I knew I had a good idea; I just didn’t know enough about the craft to do it justice. I soldi…

The Ten Commandments of What I Will Not Eat

I may not land a cooking show on TV, but I have been to the mountaintop (okay maybe it was just a med clinic) and that should give me some cred. I have been eating since birth which makes me an expert.I have suffered from lactose intolerance all my life, so my body can tell from one smell, one bite, or one look whether a food will agree with me or not. The following are the ten foods I avoid.  You have been warned. 1.Nothing alive, nothing of the insect family, and nothing related to octopuses or frogs can skitter, slide, or skip onto my plate. 2.I will not be pressured into eating processed meats (i.e., bologna) or pressed meats (i.e., Spam). 3.Anything that once looked at me, pulsated, undulated, or strained internal body fluids in a past life can just pass on by. 4.Without a proper and polite introduction, I refuse to gnaw on the feet or hooves, ears, necks, or tails of animals; and I don’t care if they are  disguised with clever names like “calf fries” or “mountain oysters,” I am …

LadyBoomer

I called family and apologized in advance for disgracing the Martinez name and honor.I begged my best friends to stand by me as I prepared to publicly humiliate myself. The weekly newspaper hit the neighborhood Thursday morning as I prepared to leave town for the weekend – not because of the column I had just written but because I was on my way to a teacher’s conference in Dallas. I opened my copy and saw her – LadyBoomer – in her place in the centerfold of the small community paper, every word as I had written it. It was up to the readership to decide if I was a writer or not. *  *  *  *  Three months before (December 2001) I had just survived a divorce that had taken five months to finalize.  I was ready to forge a new future when I opened my weekly Herald and saw an ad looking for an op-ed/personal column writer.  All I had to do was dust off my resume, create a column voice, and submit three, 250-word samples – all in one week’s time.  What did I have to offer?  I was a newly singl…

Ten Things a Lady Should Never Admit

Disclaimer:  People and events mentioned below are fictitious and do not resemble anyone living, dead, or writing this blog.
1. A lady never admits to the size on the tag of her dress unless it is a one-digit number and does not include the letter “X.” 2.Her relationship with the bathroom scale is sacrosanct and will NOT be discussed or debated with anyone. 3.A lady’s hair color is her “true” hair color and should not be disputed.  She paid for it; it’s her true color. Get it? Good. 4.It is not polite to ask a lady who really dragged who first down the church aisle. All anyone needs to know is that it was love at first sight and a marriage proposal quickly ensued. 5.A lady never admits to impetuous or unwise purchases.  Large wraps are making a comeback and can accentuate too-tight or too-short dresses dramatically.  Likewise, really tall strappy heels make quite a statement worn with the right dress, besides why else did God create podiatrists? 6.A lady has no idea what the commotion is…

Finding My Muse

1)Because my muse has a wicked sense of humor and visits me at odd times and in inconvenient places, I have learned to record inspirations/ideas immediately before I forget them or they dissolve into nothing. I carry small notebooks, own a digital recorder, and have been known to text messages home. I will scribble on anything – old napkins I find in my glove compartment or old receipts. I even pop out of bed in the middle of the night to jot things on sticky pads. 2)Calendars are great places to find topics. I use important dates, seasons, and upcoming holidays to plan blog posts. I can also go back into my work calendar to refresh my memory about meetings, conferences, or books I have read that might be worth sharing with others.   3)I will sit with a good cup of coffee, pen and paper ready, and read the newspaper searching for topics, interesting characters, or modern trends.  News channels and other newsfeeds are just as good.   4)I love to read the TV and movie guides for titles and…

Farewell to Summer

My favorite season has always been summer.  If you have been to my part of the world (south Texas), you would understand why. No matter how much everyone romanticizes all the other seasons, for me the only one worth mentioning is summer. In the fall, everything turns gray and brown and stays that way for nearly eight months, none of those beautiful russets and crimsons one sees in other parts of the United States.  Winters are more of the same except our Winter Wonderland is not snowdrifts and crystalline icicles.  It is bitter cold weather and clay mud.  Unlike all the gobbledygook put out by Disney or the Lifetime Channel, we spend the majority of our spring waiting for the first Bluebonnet to bloom, and that usually doesn’t happen until sometime in May. Summer is the only time we get to enjoy a storybook season.  We finally get to play with the other colors in the Crayola box.  For a brief period in time, our trees leaf, our flowers burst, our fruits and vegetables flourish.   Soon …

September 11th – In Retrospect

Even after thirty years in a dysfunctional relationship, I missed being married.
I was sad, lonely, and lost.
My kids were all grown and gone, and even the family dog had died.
I was in the middle of teaching a poetry lesson to a group of high school juniors when the teacher next door came running into my classroom, yelling for me to turn on my TV.A plane had just crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City.
Our country was being attacked by terrorists.
For the rest of the school day the whole school, the whole nation, watched as all hell broke loose on our safe, complacent world.It was Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Purgatory all rolled into one.
I don’t remember getting home, but I do remember assuring my three kids (all in their early twenties back then) that if worse came to worst, we would all gather at my house, we would all live under one roof, and we would all look out for and protect each other.
I remember checking on the two useless “rifles” we kept in the bac…

Grandpa HoneyBunch

When my kids were little we would make a big deal of Grandparents’ Day.We planned our weekend visiting and delivering tokens of our love and appreciation to the grandparents - small plants or flowers for the grandmoms and great-grandmothers, cards and a candy bar for the grandfathers.
Only one on that list is still with us.
I became a grandma in 2001; HB acquired the prestigious title of grandpa when he married me in 2006.Since then we have “titled” him seven more times.
He is tickled pink (but mostly blue since seven of the eight are boys) and takes the title of Grandpa HoneyBunch seriously.
He’s built furniture, toys, and playscapes.He’s repaired hundreds of store-bought items not meant for the rambunctiousness of healthy and curious hands. He’s hiked, fished, and roller skated.He has cheered at t-ball, baseball, and soccer games.He’s dried tears, fixed boo boo’s, and given advice.
Nothing makes me smile more than to watch him go about his chores shadowed by a little man, listen to hi…

Retirement

For years I raced top speed uphill with a full load on my back.Some days I careened downhill with no brakes or power steering.
And I did it gladly. I liked my job and I relished the responsibility.
Demands and obligations ruled my sleep, my diet, and my personal life.Alarm clocks, deadlines, and pressure sucked away at my health and my humanity.
I didn’t need a doctor, a therapist, or a psychiatrist to hand me a diagnosis.I gained weight.I suffered anxiety attacks.I spent the little precious time I’ve been allotted in this world with people who only wanted what I could do for them.
I stopped enjoying my profession. I had given all I could. I wanted something in return for a change.
I worked top speed until the end, honoring my responsibilities.I held the line until I handed it to my replacement. I looked out for the very people who would not remember who I was after I was gone.
Then I walked away and refused to look back.
I kept my old life in boxes. My wardrobe hung in the closet.Every …

Credo

One of my children adamantly states there is no God.When a person dies there is no afterlife.The person just ceases to exist.
Nothing I say or do can change his mind, but then nothing he says or does changes mine.The basic difference between us is “belief.”
I see a flower and I believe that something greater than “chance” created such complexity.I hold a baby in my arms and attribute that miracle to more than evolutionary ontology.
I’ve seen ugly in my life, so I know evil exists.If so, then why can’t good also be a palpable existence among us?
Because I need hope in my life, I choose to believe.
When reality hits me square on the head, I need the salve of hope to heal and keep on going.I may not understand sadness or the ugly around me, but I do understand goodness.  I've seen it - a better day always waits ahead.
I refuse to believe that I won’t smile again or love again.No one can convince me that I was better off not knowing or loving someone to avoid the pain when they are tak…

Losing a Child

I lost a grandson a few weeks ago.His death was caused by a freak household accident that claimed his life within hours.No one had time to do more than react and pray for the best.
For once in my life I had no words of wisdom for my daughter, no remedy or solution that would make everything better.I stood by while she heard the words no parent ever wants to hear – her child, her baby, was not responding to everything the trauma medical team was frantically trying.
Her twenty-two-month-old child was dying.
One moment her fearless little boy was bombing around the house playing and climbing on furniture, the next he was injured and quiet. What should have been a boo-boo made better with mommy kisses, ended up a fatality.
I try not to relive the horror of that night, but I struggle to sleep.I wait until my eyes close from exhaustion and I wake a few hours later with a start.Sadness and fear chase me in my dreams.
I do not dare imagine what goes through my daughter and my son-in-law’s drea…