Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kaleidoscope






As I played with Barbies in the floor of my purple childhood bedroom, I knew the names of my children. I knew, and my Barbies knew, and so together, we acted out complicated and dramatic scenes of family and futures that wouldn’t even come close to what my real future would turn out to be.

By the time I was eight-years-old, I had resolved that one day I would have babies. I named these babies Benjamin and Lucy and felt assured that nothing would change my desire for babies or their set-in-stone names.

As time passed, the desire did change. I became more interested in things like horses and travel and writing. I became less interested in my Barbies and any future babies that I might have. My future, once painted in reds and yellows and blues, transformed into vibrant greens and purples, becoming a rich kaleidoscope that no longer resembled anything I had previously imagined for myself.

College rolled around, and my kaleidoscope future at turns both settled and shifted, constantly changing to reflect my current moods and obsessions. When I met Jeremy, I was no longer an eight-year-old with dreams of future children named Benjamin and Lucy; I was a grown woman, and I didn’t know if I even wanted kids.

Jeremy was certain. Positive. He knew more than anything that he wanted a wife, and he wanted a family. Used to, when you asked what he wanted to do with his life, his answer was simple: he wanted to be a dad.

I was uncertain. Questioning. Mind reeling with possibilities and outcomes. When asked what I wanted to do with my life, my answer was complicated, multi-part, and almost never included children.

I worried that this would ultimately be a point of contention. I had seen other couples break up over similar decisions. If this, a most fundamental point of compatibility, was up for debate, then would we ever make it?

Despite my misgivings, Jeremy and I discussed possibilities. Kids, college, career paths. At one point, we even named our possible future children. Beautiful names that still give me goosebumps when I think of how perfect they are. I’ve always been a namer of things. Pets, random wildlife that wander into our sights, stuffed animals, cars. A thing has a name, and it has life, a purpose, a meaning.

Those dream children of ours have a life, a purpose, a meaning, even if they never come to be.

Together, Jeremy and I dreamed and planned, revealing a combined realization for the future that paled in comparison to past versions of the same future. As we built our own family of cats and each other, Jeremy’s desire for children waned. My own desires became less clear. To this day, they are still unclear.

Most of the time, I lean towards the “I don’t want children” camp. Admitting this is hard. I wonder if something is wrong with me, if something inside is broken. I’ve even had friends all but say that something is broken, that something must be missing from me if I don’t want to have kids, that I’m not whole.

And I wonder if that’s true, and honestly, it hurts to wonder that.

Everyone has different wishes and hopes. Everyone has a different kaleidoscope future. Would mine be less vibrant, less bright, less fulfilled if it didn’t include children? Or could I find my own sources for fulfillment and contentment through my husband, through my family, through my beautiful nephew, through my words?


Source: flickr.com via Ruth on Pinterest


Kids are a blessing, no doubt, but they are not the only blessing life has to hand out.

Ultimately, Jeremy and I have to decide what we want. We have to revisit the baby question and think long and hard on what our changing kaleidoscope future has in store. Lucky for us, if we do end up having kids, we already have some stellar names picked out…and if we don’t, well, we’re pretty dang good at naming cats, too. 

Author's Note:  I won't lie. This one was hard to share. Knowing I have supportive readers and friends gave me the courage to hit publish. 


And I'm sharing with the supportive community of yeah write as well. Please take the time to click the button below and discover some truly beautiful blogs. And if you have the opportunity, return on Thursday to vote for five of your favorite posts. 




Friday, March 23, 2012

No Maintenance


I have a confession. 
Self-respecting fashionistas and readers who take any sort of pride in appearance, stop reading now, because this isn’t going to be pretty.
I haven’t had my hair cut in almost a year. This isn’t a religious choice. It’s certainly not a choice based on aesthetics or beauty. In fact, it could hardly be called a choice at all. Truth is I’m just lazy. 
Taking the time out of my schedule of writing, working, and spending time with my family to get a haircut just isn’t high on my priority list. And for me, haircuts aren’t just a quick trip to the salon. No, a salon visit can take hours. Hours to cut. Hours to color. Hours I could spend doing something useful like spot welding or fixing the drip in our bathroom faucet.
I’ve been blessed with thick hair. I know it’s a blessing, believe me, I know that. But it’s also a curse. Every stylist I’ve ever encountered has marveled at my thick locks, eyeing the brunette mess on top of my head with a combination of admiration and horror… probably because they know they are about to have to deal with it. And dealing with it takes hours, y’all. Hours out of my precious life. Hours I’ll never get back.
Low maintenance is putting it mildly with me. I’m practically no maintenance. I’ve always been the kind of woman who’d rather play in the dirt than play with makeup, who’d rather throw my hair in a ponytail than spend anytime styling it. I’m a tom boy, the furthest thing from a frilly, pretty female that you’ve encountered.
I don't tan. 
I only wear makeup 'cause I'm scary if I don't.
I don't bother with perfume or pretty-smelling lotions.
My fingernails are never painted. Nor are my lips.
And I like it that way. Mostly. But there comes a time in every tom boy's life that a little TLC is necessary. A time when your split ends have their own split ends. A time when your eye brows must part ways and become two once again. A time when your gray hairs must take cover for something a little more civilized and a little less Bride of Frankenstein. 
So, my friends, I have decided to visit the dreaded salon. For the sake of those who have to look at me, I will brave having to sit in that uncomfortable chair for hours. I will make awkward small talk with the stylist and valiantly pretend like I'm a real girl. 
And to my Mama, my sister, and all others who beg me to get my hair done every once in a blue moon: enjoy this while it lasts, 'cause it'll probably be another year before it happens again.


How about you? Are you high maintenance? Low maintenance? Or, like me, no maintenance? All tom boys, raise your hands! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

High Notes

Something strange happens sometimes. You experience a moment, a flash in time that is so inspiring, so beautiful, that as a writer you can’t wait to record it.

The words spill out, each one crowding the next as they fly over the page, settling onto the white spaces of it like a flock of birds on a fresh-cut field. You write what could very well be your best work ever in twenty minutes flat, the inspiration so amazing, so beautiful that you can hardly contain it all in mere words.


                                                    Source: weheartit.com via Linda on Pinterest


And then it's over.

The world settles back into place around you, and you're left feeling drained, spent, mind reeling, wondering if you'll ever be able to write again. 

For those few precious moments, it was easy, a perfectly orchestrated symphony of words and images and phrases coming together to create something really special, something beautiful and unique. 

But most of the time, it's hard. 

When I first started writing, it was difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that not everything I wrote was going to be my best work. I just couldn't understand how one day I could write beautifully, and the next it was like I'd forgotten how to string together a coherent sentence. 

Well, it's the next day, y'all. It has been for about a week. 

Now, before this becomes one of those whiny writer's block posts that we all know I'm capable of writing, I figure I better shift gears a bit and talk about Seinfeld. 

Growing up in my dry and witty household, Seinfeld was a commodity, a staple upon which we feasted every Thursday night. I learned many life lessons (particularly what NOT to do) from the likes of Elaine, Jerry, Kramer, and George. I laughed about things like contraceptive sponges and being the "master of my domain," even when the meaning of both were largely lost upon me as a clueless preteen.

Despite the fact that it's been off the air for more than ten years, Seinfeld quotes still pepper the conversation of many a family gathering, where you might hear any member of my family shout out "Cartwright!" or "No soup for you!" over Sunday dinner. We like to say that for every situation life throws at you there is a Seinfeld episode that corresponds and relates in some cosmic way. 

The same can be said for the bout of "writer's block" that I'm currently facing.

This time I’m reminded of the Seinfeld episode when George tries to leave every situation "on a high note." He wants to leave a good impression, for everyone to remember him when he was on his game, and so he adopts an "I'm out!" philosophy. When he happens to pitch a good idea or tell a particularly funny joke, he immediately bows out of the room. He thinks that leaving on a high note will make him seem more clever to his friends and colleagues. And maybe that's true...for awhile. 


But, as in most Seinfeld episodes, George's plan eventually backfires, and he's left juggling more than he bargained for. The English major in me wants to over-analyze the message that the Seinfeld writers are sending. And so I will.

Life has plenty of high notes; if we're lucky, we all get to experience those precious moments when everything is perfectly in sync and grooving. With writing. With work. With life at home. But life has plenty of duds as well, and there's absolutely no way to avoid them. Eventually, they just catch up with us. 

The trick is to keep going. Write past creative blocks. Fight past bad days at work. Look past negative people. And just keep swimming. 


Wait, that's Finding Nemo, and I'm mixing my references, but you get what I mean. Bowing out is never an option, not even when the words escape you, not even when it looks like you may never write anything lovely again...

Because just when you've lost all hope, when you think that your voice is gone for good, that flock of words lights on the white spaces of your page and inspiration takes flight. 

For some beautiful inspiration and writing, I highly encourage you to visit yeah write by clicking the button below, and don't forget to visit again on Thursday when you can vote for your five favorite posts:





Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Catervention


Last night, I was part of a Catervention. As informal as it was, I’m pretty certain that some detailed planning went into the entire thing.
My parents, husband, and I were cruising down the interstate, discussing fascinating topics like the weather and flatulence in the workplace, when the subject of my new kitten came up. They probably thought it was a casual turn in the conversation. I know better.
My love for cats has long been a source of contention in my family. During my twenty-nine years on this earth, there’s never been a time when I was catless. Growing up, my parents begrudgingly surrendered to my obvious need for feline interaction, but we rarely (see: never) had more than one cat at a time. They controlled my addiction as long as I was under their roof.
But when I wasn’t under their roof anymore, I entered the cat collecting phase of my life.
The first apartment my husband and I lived in didn’t allow pets. This minor detail didn’t stop me from moving my diabetic cat in with us. After she passed from an infection, Jeremy and I went to the shelter and rescued Kisa, our first cat together.
We lived in bliss with Kisa for a little over a year before deciding that we needed to rescue another cat: Sushi. Another year passing saw the rescue of Poe.
Up until last week, we were a three-cat household with no plans for expanding our family. Three cats was quite enough, thank you. The shedding. The litterboxes. The never-ending cycle of pouncing, napping, eating, and meowing. It had finally satisfied my yearning for cats. Finally.
The satisfaction lasted a whole year or so. Which brings us to present and last Friday, when a deaf kitten showed up on our doorstep, and I officially entered Crazy Cat Lady territory.  Hence the Catervention.

We’re pretty sure the kitten was dumped, cast off by a family who didn’t have the time or inclination to care for her. We live in a large subdivision, so what better place to dump your unwanted pets? I won’t get on my soapbox regarding abandoned pets today…but suffice it to say, it’s one of the things that make me fighting angry.
I was minding my own business, ironically writing a story about my Pawpaw and his love for cats, when I heard her desperate meowing.
She was curled up on the rug in front of our door, and when I opened the door, she didn’t even budge. Looking back, I should have known right away that she couldn’t hear me and that’s why she didn’t move, but we didn’t discover her hearing impairment until later that night.
Cat lover that I am, I immediately fell head over heels. She was tiny, still a kitten but at that stage where they look more like a miniature cat than a kitten. Golden eyes, black fur highlighted with splashes of gold. Adorable and sweet, so sweet.
Thoughts of “what are we going to do?” rushed through my head. We could take her to the animal shelter, leaving her with an uncertain future. We could advertise her on facebook to a handful of friends.
We could keep her.
I kept circling back to the keeping-her option. What can I say? I’m a sucker.
When Jeremy came home, it was probably already a hopeless case. By that time, I was pretty sure that she was deaf and that put another checkmark in the Keeping Her column. And unfortunately, Jeremy is also a soft-touch with no common sense when it comes to these sorts of things, so there was no one around to talk us out of what ultimately became our final decision.
Futilely, my parents tried last night, five days after Bast (named after an Egyptian goddess) entered our lives.
“We just don’t want you to turn into those women we saw on that Animal Planet Show the other night.” My mom pleaded. “You said you’d stop at two cats, then at three. We don’t want to watch you on Animal Hoarders one day!”
And I don’t want that to happen either, but I couldn’t possibly say no to that little kitten with the black fur and gold spots, especially considering we have room in our hearts and home for her.
Just say a quick prayer that no other strays show up on our porch, because four cats is our limit. No more after four…
Probably.


Linking up with the writers at yeah write once again!

Monday, March 5, 2012

But, Now I See






It’s a surreal experience to sit through the same grandfather’s funeral twice in one lifetime. And yet, here I sit, surrounded by family and mouthing the words of “Amazing Grace” as the pastor strums along on his guitar.

I’m ashamed that I don’t know the second verse of “Amazing Grace,” and when I look across the room and see my grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s, singing along at the top of her voice with every word, it makes me even more ashamed.

Today is a good day. MeMe’s mind is sharp; her eyes are bright. It should be a sad occasion, but instead, it feels joyful and sweet. She seems happy, and that makes us all happy.

My grandfather, MeMe’s husband, has been dead for over sixteen years, but in her damaged mind, he died only recently. His death had been troubling her for a few weeks. She had begun asking Daddy and my aunt Claire daily when the funeral was going to be. One particularly hard day, she was ready to leave for the cemetery when Daddy arrived for his daily visit.

Daddy and Claire finally decided that a funeral was in order, something to put her mind at rest and give her some resolution.

Sitting here now, watching her smile and sing along with hymns that are as familiar to her as her own name, I know that they were right.

Alzheimer’s is a nasty disease. It picks and chooses the memories it destroys, leaving some and taking others without any rhyme or reason.

MeMe has vivid memories of the past. Daddy can ask her about neighbors they had thirty or forty years ago, and she remembers their names and the stories surrounding them. Most of the time, she lives in this vivid past, speaking of her Mama and Papa as if they were in the next room, speaking of her children as if they were still teenagers.

I often wonder where the present fits into this past, because, thankfully, MeMe still remembers the names of those in her present. When I visit, I see the recognition in her eyes, and I feel relieved that we have this, just this one thing that we can all still hold on to. In MeMe’s world grown grand-children and long-dead parents can exist together outside of any physical boundaries of time and space.

It’s a world you could almost envy, if you didn’t know any better.

Today, in this present, her smile is infectious, toothless though it may be. She beams it at all of us and keeps saying, “It’s a shame that something like this had to happen to bring us all together.”

And it is a shame.

We visit the Nursing Home as often as possible. Daddy and Claire are there nearly every day. But it’s hard. Life is moving on in the world outside of those walls that keep MeMe so closed in, life is moving on, and because it is, it’s easy to forget.

Which is pretty ironic when you think about it.

Daddy is constantly reminding us all that the people inside the Nursing Home are still people. They still have hopes and dreams and sadness. They have good days and bad days and days when they might not want to go on at all. They're trapped inside a place that reduces them to nearly nothing if we let it. So we mustn't let it, and thus, he reminds me often that those inside are people just like us.

I have to keep repeating this thought like a mantra when I go down the long corridors of the facility. I make it a point to meet the old eyes of each resident I pass, smiling kindly and offering a softly-spoken "hello" and "how are you."

Yes, it's hard to go there. It's hard to see those people trapped. It's hard to see MeMe in a tiny little room that's shared with another resident, a virtual stranger, whose name constantly escapes MeMe’s damaged mind.

But on days like today, when off-key church hymns fill the stale air and make an otherwise sad place happy, when MeMe smiles like she used to, and you almost forget where you are, it’s easy.



Joining up once again with the fabulous writers at yeah write. Click the button below to read some truly wonderful writers and don't forget to return on Thursday to vote for your five favorite posts.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Falling In and Out of Love

Writing is not my best friend today. It was yesterday, my source of comfort and joy, passion and fulfillment. Today, it represents only pain and frustration, and as I scramble to get it back to good, I am forced to reevaluate our relationship and look at exactly where we stand.

An inevitable part of writing is hitting roadblocks. Lack of inspiration. Particularly harsh criticism. Self-doubt.

The key is to push through those roadblocks and continue on this bumpy journey, never giving in and never giving up.

This week, I hit a roadblock. This week, I wanted to give up.

Part of freelancing, I'm learning, is writing on topics I'm not particularly interested in. I'm given an assignment, and I write on that assignment, regardless of my feelings on the subject. I always want to connect with my subjects, but it's unrealistic to expect that I will be passionate about everything I write.

Until recently, I had that expectation.

When I'm passionate about something, my writing improves exponentially. This is probably no big surprise to anyone and may be true for most everyone, but it's true for me just the same.

I am a machine fueled by passion and love and feelings so strong that sometimes my heart just can't contain them all. So those feelings spill freely and uncensored from my fingertips, splashing onto the page like impossibly bright drops of paint, filling that blank canvas with ideas and characters and just the right words.

When my passion is on empty, the machine slows, choking and sputtering and tripping on every word.

This leaves me at a crossroads. To live the dream and get paid to write, I'll inevitably have to write on subjects of little interest to me.


Source: weheartit.com via Jenna on Pinterest



My husband says to write on those subjects I'll need to apply everything I know about writing, everything I've learned over the years and write from my head instead of my heart. For these assignments, I'll need to look at writing as more of a science instead of an art. I'm not a particularly methodical kind of writer. I feel the words, and I write them.

I don't outline.

I don't brainstorm.

I just write. Just writing has been the only thing I know and understand.

But now, at this crossroads, at this point of looking at writing as more of a profession and less of a hobby, I have to change gears. In order to produce the best work possible, I need to learn a whole slew of new skills.

How to interview. How to ask the right questions, get the right answers. How to inspire my contacts to give me the best quotes possible.

How to work with someone else's words. How to insert those words seamlessly into my own words and make the entire piece flow like water.

How to brainstorm. How to outline. How to draft. How to read an editor's mind and know exactly what they need from an assignment. How to give them what they need.

Relationships change. That's just part of life, I guess. But do I want my relationship with writing to change?

When I first met Jeremy, I tried to talk him into going to culinary school. He loved to cook, so my natural assumption was that he would also love to cook for a living. But he balked at that idea, citing the fact that he didn't want to make cooking into work. It was a passion for him, something he loved to do, and he didn't want the stigma that comes with "working" to change that passion.

At the time, I didn't understand. If you could do something you loved for a living, why wouldn't you? It seemed simple to me.

Today, I understand him and his reasons a little better. Today, my passion has changed.

Can I separate the two sides of myself that have a relationship with writing? Can I keep my passion and keep my work?

As a child, I loved the beach. I wanted to move to the coast and live there forever. When I voiced this dream, my parents always said, "Katie, if you lived there all the time, just like anything else, you'd get tired of it. It wouldn't be as special."

And I guess that's just it. I don't want writing to become living at the beach.


someecards.com - This job is the perfect stepping stone towards not fulfilling my dreams

Author's Note: I want to be clear that I'm happy about having the opportunity to write for pay. After a bad week with freelancing, I'm just taking a moment to look at what that means for me and how that may change my relationship with writing. 

How do you feel about mixing work and play? Would freelance writing change the way you feel about creative writing?

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