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Showing posts from 2014

Grief

You wake up in the morning and the day laughs at your pain. It is sunny and bright, cheerful and promising; everything opposite of how you feel.   You count the days in minutes.  First a few seconds separate you from the person you loved, then the seconds melt into minutes and hurry into hours.  The minutes become days, weeks, and months. You reach into a drawer, a closet, a cabinet and find you didn’t get rid of everything as well as you thought. Memories hide in the most unsuspecting and unforgiving places.   You hear a voice and you turn, a smile on your face, ready to answer, forgetting for one second that it is not him or her.   You think of a question, hear a joke, remember a story and you reach for the phone before you realize no one will answer at the other end. A couple holds hands, a baby cries, you overhear a conversation, and you pray no one saw the naked look on your face before you walked away.  If you could do it over, you would be more careful, more obedient, more diligen…

Ditch the Divorce Tag

When do you stop being “divorced” and can start calling yourself “single” once again? I don’t like the word “divorced;” it somehow attaches the ex-spouse to you like old gum on the bottom of your shoe, and I don’t think that is what you want. You legally ditched the ex, so being divorced should not dominate your introduction to others.  If you never remarry again, doesn’t it condemn you for all eternity to say things like “Hi, I’m divorced.” to brand new acquaintances? This leads to questions like “Since when?”  And here you go again – dragging that old carcass into the preliminaries when you have more exciting things to discuss like politics, sports, your next dental appointment.      Along with reclaiming my maiden name (and paying off the lawyers), I was newly single the moment I walked down the court steps and headed for the parking garage.  (Isn’t single the opposite of married?) Being divorced is not a permanent condition.  Like the flu or a stomach virus, you survived and it’s o…

Dating Challenged

I stink at dating – always have.  I sputter.  I hyperventilate.  I fail miserably every time.
I blame a pathetically underdeveloped gene that got little use before I married in my early twenties, then atrophied, gathering dust and rust, until I became single again in my fifties.
 I decided to use this defect to my advantage when I needed to do some investigative reporting a few years back.  While on a newspaper writing assignment on Boomer-aged dating, I sacrificed my dignity and my vanity for the sake of the story (and I got several).
But this time I’ve decided I will “show you mine if you show me yours.”  I will swap dating horror stories with you, but you have to promise to play along.
The trick here is to tell about your worst date in 25 words or less.  You must keep it clean and you cannot name names. Our little contest will run only this week and before my next blog posting.  
Me first: 
I’m fourteen. My mom fixed me up.  He spent the evening licking his lips and leering at my ch…
Grace Not Greed By Raquel Martina Martinez “May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:2 (NSRV)
The winter of 1991 found me in the middle of a messy divorce.  I struggled to pay a four-digit mortgage and to feed and clothe three growing adolescents on a teacher’s salary.            On previous Christmases, our letters to Santa had been long and expensive lists of toys and electronics, but this year we would have to find a different way to “make merry.” I tried to explain our situation to the kids, but they stopped me mid-apology with an announcement of their own. “We don’t want anything for Christmas.” They explained they already had everything they needed – we had each other, a roof over our heads and a safe place at night, food to eat (even if it was way too many servings of boxed mac and cheese or ramen noodles), and they had me.  They knew I wasn’t going to abandon them. Grace replaced greed in our letters to Santa that year. Our Nativity set dwarfed the centerpiece-size…

Cheeto Dreams (Again)

The bag of Cheetos in the pantry sings its siren song. There is no way to sneak a handful without it leaving guilty orange stains on your fingers, under your nails, and stuck to the inside valleys of your teeth.  You suck the evidence from your fingers, but first, since no one is looking, you pry the sticky mess from between your back molars and the inside of your cheek. You know they are not good for you, but if powdered milk, powdered eggs, and powdered potatoes are allowed to exist, why not a corn puff covered in powdered cheddar cheese? Why not count it as part of your daily calcium intake? You’ve tried the puffs, the balls, the X’s and the O’s.  They come in white cheddar, baked, natural, and flaming hot, but since they were first created in San Antonio in 1948, and you are proud of your heritage - you are a purist! Only Crunchy Cheetos for you! You follow a sacred ritual.  You inspect them, looking for those rare Cheetos that look like famous people (so you can sell them on eBay …

No Room for Jesus

 “. . . and she gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. . . . and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:7 NIV
Every year we have to move furniture around to make room for the Christmas tree.  Things get shoved into a corner and sometimes end up on top of each other in the walk-in closet. After I put up all the Christmas decorations I am going to use, I have to temporarily hide the everyday stuff in the same Christmas storage boxes I just emptied. We do not have room for all the Christmas angels my husband collected over the years, and I have to limit the Hallmark ornaments I want to display. Wrapping paper, gift boxes, and ribbon cover every inch of the double bed in our one guest room. No one is allowed in there, especially the children, because it hides all of the gifts from Santa.  Anyone who plans to stay at our house during Christmas has to find a room at the closest motel.   Our house is full of “stuff.” Is your house and your life like min…

The Twelve Must-do’s for Thanksgiving

(To be sung to the melody of the 12 Days of Christmas.  Good luck.) 1. The first must-do for Thanksgiving: buy a pair of sweatpants in one size larger. 2.The second must-do on Thanksgiving: run both parades on the TV even though no one will watch them. 3.The third must-do on Thanksgiving: watch all three NFL football games (or take a nap while they are on). 4.The fourth must-do for Thanksgiving: create four meals with the leftover turkey. 5.The fifth must-do: eat five servings of your favorite dish: stuffing, potatoes, pie, whatever. 6.The sixth must-do: eat six pork tamales to offset all that turkey. 7.The seventh must-do on Thanksgiving: watch seven holiday specials (parades and football games count also). 8.The eighth must-do: take 8 shots or 8 squirts of any or all of the following: booze (tequila), beer, wine, canned whip cream. 9.The ninth must-do of Thanksgiving: if on the ninth day, you still have leftovers in the fridge, throw them away, plastic container and all. Eww. 10.The t…

He calls me Goddess and I call him HoneyBunch.

Our eighth anniversary is right around the corner.HoneyBunch and I were just discussing how our eight years together have been the easiest years of our lives. Eight years is a good amount of time, yet it has sped by. It feels like we have always been together, yet we were married for long amounts of time to others and we have grown children to prove it. HoneyBunch is my true soul mate; the kind one reads about in romance novels.  He is the true love one writes about in journals. He is the knight in shining armor discussed in legends. What makes him so easy to love is that he is a true gentle man. To say I love him is not sufficient. There is no word in our language to describe what this man means to me. He is my friend, my lover, my husband, my critic, my comfort, my true other half.   He has never done one thing that would make me lose my trust, my respect, or my affection for him, but he is not perfect.  He does sometime annoy me or cause me to roll my eyes in embarrassment or boredo…

When Did I Lose My Groove?

I used to be hot.  I could walk into a room and the music stopped, heads snapped around to get a better view, and women knew they had been outmatched. Yes, I used to be sizzling.  Even when the pounds started pounding and the years started whizzing by, I still had my groove. I was a Ten before the world even had the decimal system.  (Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the picture.) Then all of a sudden, I lost my groove. Instead of “Hey, Baby,” winks, and ogles, I started getting a lot of “Yes, Ma’am,” frowns, and respectful regards. Instead of men blocking my path to bug me about my phone number, men rush to get the door for me because I remind them of their grandmothers. I went from Groovy to Grandma in a matter of years. I blame this durn gray hair.  I should never have stopped dying it.  I was going to “make a statement.”  I was going to “age gracefully.”  I was going to “accept the inevitable” with a smile. Well, pooh. I want my groove back.  I want someone oth…

Choosing when to Show and when to Tell

In the movie Men in Black, the agents have a pen-like gadget that causes amnesia.I could have used one of those this past week. Two years ago I wrote on how to show and when to tell, so I wanted to be able to reference the older post. In it I gave five pointers on how to “show not tell.” That advice turned out to be erroneous.  Yup, it was wrong. I wish I could take it back, erase it from cyberspace, claim an alien abduction, but alas, I can blame no one else for that post.  In all my eagerness and ignorance, I wrote it and I apologize. Now, not all of it was bad advice; it just wasn’t what it advertized. I suggested that a writer could ensure “showing” by eliminating the passive voice and limiting the use of adverbs in the manuscript.  That, folks, is not “showing;” that is a key to strengthening any kind of writing.  It makes for well-written sentences, meatier passages, and stronger manuscripts; and it strengthens both showing and telling sentences. Showing is more complicated than t…

The Oldest

My brother was a year and nine months older than I was.According to my parents he was supposed to be my playmate and my protector.He considered me nothing more than his pesky younger sister whom he could blame whenever we got into trouble with the parents. There were times his protective, big brother nature did prevail and he would rescue me from boyfriends who did not know how to take no for an answer, and I, in turn covered for him with our old-fashioned, unhip parents. People often thought I was the oldest.  He was always so youthful looking and so handsome.  I looked mature at the age of twelve and never outgrew my bossiness.   He went off to Vietnam and I went to college and that was where our paths started to go separate ways.  We both married within two years of each other.  His life was fraught with pain, the after effects of Agent Orange and PTSD. He went through three marriages and struggled to win back the affection of his two sons.  My life was full with two divorces, a care…

Horror Movies

I hate horror movies.  I was raised by a grandmother who scared us into obedience with tales of “monstruos, fantasmas, y cuyuis.” (That monsters, ghosts, and boogie men for those of you who do not speak Mexican grandmother.) One wrong move, one tiny bit of rebellion and . . . bam! . . . we were dead meat.  Literally.  El Diablo was always waiting for disobedient children (like me) to make one wrong move so he could close the deal. I did my share of naughty stuff in the daytime to make me worry what might be waiting for my mortal soul at night. There is a good reason I have always slept with a night light.  I was born with an overactive imagination and a lack of mental fortitude when it came to anything that lived and thrived in the dark.    Things with big nasty claws (and in bad need of a manicure) waited for me to fall asleep so they could rip through my mattress and drag me off into . . . wherever spooky creatures drag off big, old marshmallows like me. Things lurked in the dark, wa…

Our Trip to Bountiful

One phone call was all it took for us to change our plans last weekend.We packed the car and off we went on a 1400 mile round-trip visit to the In-laws.HoneyBunch’s mom was turning 86 and we wanted to celebrate with her. For the last thirty-something years since HB left the state of Missouri, he has made very few trips “home,” so his parents made two or three car trips down every year to see him and his sons in Texas. They would come for his birthday, summertime, and over one of the winter holidays.  They would stay for weeks at a time when he was a bachelor.  My father-in-law would help in the wood shop and clean up the yard.  My mother-in-law would clean his house and bake and freeze food for him.   Very few of those trips were ever by plane because my in-laws do not like to fly and because they needed a car for all the “stuff” and gifts they would bring to HB and all the stuff he would send back home with them. Seven years ago, he married me, and I nosed around about his childhood.  …

THE HEAVY LIFTING OF A BEST SELLER

Nothing done well is done quickly. Or cheaply. Or rashly. Or naively.
I have learned this as I struggle to become a published writer.  I started on this adventure four years ago and am still a novice, but I have learned some things along the way through experience. (Cue: It’s a Hard Knock Life)
1.Never trust anyone who tells you they too have “written” a book over the course of A.the drive home from Grandma’s B.a weekend of feverish inspiration C.a dream they had where God and/or His angels came to them with a command to do so. Even the best and the most prolific writers have to roll up their sleeves and put in time and effort into their writing.
2.A memoir is not a chronological, birth to death (or birth to epiphany) biography of a person’s life. A memoir has purpose and a theme. It’s a postage stamp of a moment in a person’s life; a biography is the US Postal Service – large, boring, and archaic. Other than to record an amazing experience or an amazing life, why else would anyone want to…

Nakedness

I grew up in a culture where the only time a person is permitted to be naked is at birth, in the bath, and in the privacy of your bedroom; at all other times, a person should be fully clothed. We settled this in the Garden of Eden: we wear clothes; angels wear robes. So someone explain to me this rash of successful new TV shows where everyone romps around au naturelle?  I’m talking about the shows on the regular stations, not the ones that take a special subscription and carry an x-rating. Naked and Afraid is not about internal conflict.  It’s folks out in the wilderness trying to survive in the altogether.  I live in the wilderness.  We country folk would never dare to venture out among the biting insects and poison ivy without covering as much skin as possible.  We know better than to encounter a skunk, chiggers, or a rattler wearing only our bifocals. Dating Naked is another such show. In my day, dating was an opportunity to spend quality time with a person we liked and wanted to kno…

Guacamole: My Life in Retrospect

My grandmother gave me the best advice when I was young.She said one should live life with no regrets.If I should mess up, I should forgive myself, forgive the offender, and move on. I agree. At the age of twenty-one, I had all these dreams:  I was going to get my PhD in Languages, move away from my home town, and travel the world.  There was no place for marriage or children.  Family would only hold me down. Then I got married two weeks before I turned twenty-three and my life took a totally different detour, several actually.  I never got my PhD, never moved any further than an hour from where I grew up, and my travels have been limited to the contiguous United States, a couple of hours into the “interior” of Mexico, and a nineteen day trip into China to meet a handful of in-laws. Not exactly worthy of one single “Yeeha,” but I have no regrets. If I were to go back in time and be able to talk to my younger, twenty-one-year-old self, this is what I would say: 1. Dream big and don’t be …

Wedding Toast: A Mama’s Blessing

In Celebration of John and Bianca Hulsey’s Wedding September 13, 2014 Most of us say we believe in happy ever afters, but happy ever afters exist only in fairy tales and fairy tales are fiction. I prefer to believe in true love. True love is more than just attraction and intimacy.  It is affection and tenderness and kindness. It is holding hands and sharing smiles. True love is unselfish.  It is consideration and caring for the other person more than about yourself.  True love puts the other person’s needs first. True love in not a fifty/fifty proposition; it is both parties giving and doing 100% for the other. It is laughter and conversation because true love cannot exist for long without truly liking each other as well.   It is respect and trust, and it allows for vulnerability. It is confidence and assurance that the other person would never hurt you.  In fact, true love goes to great measure to guard each other from any harm. It is about loving one another when we are not at our best:…

These Are Smart Phones All Right

One of the saddest things I saw once was a whole family out to dinner, and both the parents and the two children did not say one word to each other during the whole meal.All four were on their phones, texting or playing games.A toddler in a high chair looked at her family, probably wishing she had a cell phone too. This scene has replicated itself many times over.  Just this past weekend, HoneyBunch and I went out to dinner and the couple next to us spoke more to the waitress than they did to each other.  Neither took their noses out of their phones long enough to make sure they knew the other person. Cell phones are handy little gadgets and I cannot leave the house without mine.  It is as important as my wallet and my car keys and I carry it in my purse, but once I am home I set it down where I can see it or hear it in case someone calls but I am not anchored to it. My kids get upset with me if I do not answer my cell phone right away, but I tell them that I am not leashed to it and I…

Ten Revision Techniques: The Belly of the Beast

One cannot revise a manuscript (go into the belly of the beast) without a plan, a tactic, or training.Writing well is both a science and an art.There are certain skills that are integral to good writing before a courageous writer can take risks and propel forward to great writing. Revision is a scientific, laborious task and must be done page by page.  Step One: Circle or highlight all the verbs on one page of manuscript.  Identify each verb as a passive or an active verb. Step Two:  Eliminate as many passive verbs as possible by rewriting the sentences, using active verbs in their stead. Step Three:  Circle or highlight all adverbs. (Remember not all adverbs end in –ly.)  Can the verb and its accompanying adverb be replaced by a stronger, more energized verb? Eliminate unnecessary or redundant adverbs.  Can any of the remaining verbs (those without adverbs) be replaced by a more energetic or descriptive verb?   Step Four: Circle or highlight all repetitions: verbs, nouns, phrases, etc.…

Teenagers: Stinky Little Extraterrestrials

Years ago, a skunk sprayed our yard during the night and the nextmorning I trekked out to my car to drive to work and unknowingly stepped into the oily residue. I tracked skunk stink into my Jeep and onto the carpet in my office, a room I shared with a kind and forgiving co-worker. It took a week or two and several large cans of Lysol and air freshener to get rid of the smell. Ever since my profound Close Encounter of a Second Kind (I never saw the skunk but it left evidence of its presence), I became a skunk expert. I learned the way of the skunk. My experience imprinted itself into my hippocampus and I acquired a heightened sense of smell.  I can detect a skunk several miles away, outperforming a normal human nose that can only start to do the same at one mile. I have the same uncanny sense about adolescents.  After 30-plus years of teaching teenagers and having raised three of my own, you might say, I have reached the Close Encounter level of a Fifth Kind: I have actually communicat…