Friday, May 11, 2012

Yo Mama

It teaches you a few things…
Like how to open a stroller with your teeth.
That zone defense stinks. Man-to-man is the only way to go.
And that you can achieve perfection…
in your efforts to mimic the voice of Goofy.
Only to be asked to use it in every conversation
for an entire year.
You learn that relief is always temporary…
Your next gig?
Oscar the Grouch.

You realize that those fascinating psychological studies revealed NOTHING about the real-world effects of sleep deprivation.
Because in the real world, you find yourself ending phone conversations with “Love you” no matter who is on the line…
Pediatric nurse
The cable guy.
You stumble around for days not knowing the season or year.
You use the dog’s name when speaking to your child.
And you lose your keys 87,000 times –
only to find them lurking in the strangest places…
The file cabinet – under “S”
The freezer
Your hand.
Good thing the Devil never shows up –
because you become the kind of person who would gladly hand over her soul AND the 401(k) for a 20-minute nap.

You discover that hazmat suits are for sissies –
a person can actually have continual exposure to bodily fluids and live to tell the tale.
And tell the tale you will – to anyone, no matter who, no matter where…
Miss Manners be damned.

Graduate school?
Turns out, that was a cakewalk.
And unless your advanced degree was in choo choos or birdies, nobody you work with gives a hoot.

Yeah, I’m still stumbling my way through the mommy years.
I’ve done well enough to reach the “teen” level.
And this is a tough one –
They’ve figured out that I have no idea what I’m doing.
Even so, I’ve done okay.
How do I know?
If I were in a maturity contest and pitted against my own offspring…

They would win.

PROMPT:  Erma Bombeck made an entire writing career out of motherhood. So, if you mother something – be it human, hairy, or houseplant, you‘ve got material. And hey – if you see a mother this weekend, give her a hug. Better yet – a nap.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Don’t Be Afraid of the DARK

Doesn’t it just figure that Maurice Sendak would bow out during Children’s Book Week?
As I read through a number of obits and tributes yesterday, I was struck by some news that we can all use.
Apparently this talented writer and artist, who delivered delight to so many childhoods, had a dreadful one of his own. In fact, in one interview he said the best way to describe his childhood was “D-A-R-K.”
First off, he was a very sickly kid who spent most of his time in bed. This was in the midst of The Great Depression, which made the outside world pretty grim, as well. On top of all that, stability wasn’t a big part of the Sendak family plan. Maurice reported that his family moved often. Why? Because his mother could not bear the smell of fresh paint. Every time a landlord wanted to spruce up the place, they had to go. Of course, Mom’s “instability” made life difficult in other ways, too. Then World War II came along, and the Sendaks were driven even further into despair as many of their European relatives perished in the Holocaust.
Yes, that is D-A-R-K.
And my heart goes out to the little Maurice who lived through it.
It makes you wonder what one does with darkness like that.
Well, here’s what Maurice did…
From the confines of his bed, he honed his drawing skills. Chaos and darkness surrounded him, but he held fast to bright dreams of a better life. Then he used the darkness itself to transform into something completely different – a Caldecott Medal winner.
Remember those monsters in Where the Wild Things Are? Maurice says they were all inspired by the batty family members who “hovered like a pack of middle-aged gargoyles” over his childhood sickbed.

We all have it.
It’s how we use it that counts.

Many years ago, I had a foot stuck in my own bit of darkness. So I wrote out a little wish.
Funny thing, that little wish went on to be published a couple of times and has even found its way into the blogs of folks I’ve never met. Apparently, other people have this little wish, too.
Now, I want to wish it for you,
as a way through
those times that are D-A-R-K…

Bless my time in darkness
that it may simply be
a waiting within
a chrysalis.

And I will emerge
with the warmth of the sun
to dry my wings.

PROMPT: If you’ve got life, you’ve got darkness. But never, never, never forget – it can always be used to create something beautiful.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Get Your Ingalls On

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am rereading Little House in the Big Woods this week. So it seems like a great time to get my Ingalls on.
Maybe you should, too.
No, I am not suggesting that you run around your yard batting a pig bladder. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about here, now would be a good time for you to reread Little House in the Big Woods.)
I am talking about harkening back to the days when only birds tweeted.
Technology has become such a huge part of our lives that we forget what it was like to live without it. If you are of a certain age, you can probably remember the first time you ever saw someone walking around outside while yammering on a cell phone. I know I do. It was in Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis. Mind you, this is a HUGE wooded park with lots of quiet pathways. I remember seeing (and HEARING) this guy and thinking, Man, that is weird!
Turns out, that was nothing. These days I get to play “Psychotic or Bluetooth?” on every outing. (Let me tell you, psychos were SO much easier to spot back in the day.)
Trimming just a little technology from your week is a great way to make some prairie-sized space for creativity. For example, maybe you can cut email checking down to 4 times a day instead of 57. Or, go technology-free for just 30 minutes at a time. Simply turn off the phone, computer, ipod, tablet, and/or wii – pick whatever your particular poison happens to be. Hint: most of these devices have a useful button labeled POWER. Take back your power by pressing it to the off position once in a while.
If I’m not convincing you, then take a tip from your own technology. You know how you occasionally have to recharge the batteries on most of these gadgets? Well, make sure you’re regularly recharging your own, as well.
Don’t get me wrong – I love technology as much as anybody. I love antibiotics even more. So, no, I don’t pine too much for the days of the Big Woods. But while I’m on my merry march into the future, I try to make sure the best parts of that era don’t get lost along the way.
So if you’re game for getting your Ingalls on, there are lots of ways to play…
Get outside with the sunrise.
Grow something.
Have a picnic.
Sew a sampler. Never mind, Laura wasn't cracked up about that either.
Listen to a fiddle.
Bake some cornbread.
Write a letter… by hand (Gasp!)
Rest a spell.
And if you’ve got a pig bladder handy, well… you know what to do.

PROMPT: Try a little Little House and see what it does for that creative mind of yours. This week, I think I’ll dig around in my garden. I’ll also take time out to pet the draft horses in a nearby pasture. I might even bake a pie. But mostly I’ll just sit in a little piece of quiet and listen for the tweets.
The real kind.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It’s Children’s Book Week!

I know, I know, we’ve all been pretty wrapped up in the fact that it is National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month – but HEY, this is Children’s Book Week! These two national events are completely unrelated, so rest assured that you will not succumb to high blood pressure if you read a few children’s books…
However, I make no such claims if you are writing or illustrating a children’s book under deadline.
Anyway, Children’s Book Week began way back in 1919 – a very good year for me. It just so happens that 1919 was also the year of my grandfather’s birth. Remember him? He was the one who went to school with that dreamy Professor from Gilligan’s Island…
But I digress.
If you are a parent or write for children, you probably spend a lot of time reading children’s books as a grownup. But stop for a moment and consider those books you read as a child. What was your favorite? What made it special?
There is a particular picture book that is a precious part of my childhood memory bank. It was called The Daddy Book by Robert Stewart, but it was not my favorite.
You see, as soon as I was able to read, I was charged with delivering nightly bedtime stories to my little brother and sister. Well, they ALWAYS picked The Daddy Book. Every. Single. Night. We’re talking 800,000 nights in a row, at least.
You may be wondering what was so endearing about this particular book. Sorry literary fans, but it wasn’t the plot. Nor was it the stellar artwork. It was simply the fact that one of the pages featured a bare baby bottom.
Every time that page was revealed, my little sibs fell off of the bed in hysterics. Every. Single. Time. That’s 800,000 times, at least.
As far as I know, they haven’t suffered any permanent damage.
As for me, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder was my most beloved book. We read it in my 4th grade class, and I still remember those particular school days as wonder-filled.
I must have talked about it nonstop at home, too, because very late one night I was awoken out of a deep sleep. My dad had just returned from a business trip to Vermont, and he had something for me to try.
It was maple sugar…
just like Laura had enjoyed long, long ago in the Big Woods.

I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.

PROMPT: Find that favorite childhood book and reread it this week. What a wonderful way to nurture that creative soul of yours. I know I’ll be pulling out my dog-eared copy of Little House in the Big Woods. To my sibs – I found a blog that highlights some pages from The Daddy Book here (sorry, but the bathtub scene is not one of them). For everyone else, check out the Children’s Book Week website. It even features a free bookmark created by Lane Smith.
And if you know a children’s book author or illustrator – particularly one who may be suffering from deadline high blood pressure – give him or her a great big hug.
Hugs make everything better…
I’m pretty sure I learned that from a children’s book.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Oh Happy Day!

What a race!
If you missed Saturday’s 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, you missed two incredible minutes of inspiration.
The winning horse carries the moniker “I’ll Have Another”. The story goes that he was so named because the owner is known to say, “I’ll have another…”
whenever his wife goes on a baking binge.
So the story goes.
And what a story it is!
I’ll Have Another was purchased as a yearling for $11,000. Well, if you know anything about thoroughbred racehorses – that is a markdown worthy of the Dollar Store bargain bin. In fact, at the same sale where I’ll Have Another was offered, three yearlings sold for over 1 million dollars apiece.
In other words, when most buyers saw I’ll Have Another, they said, “I’ll have another…”
Hmmm… Did you ever feel like you were worth a million, but those around you somehow didn’t notice?
Then the big chance – the big race! And I’ll Have Another gets saddled with a young rider who’s never even ridden in the Derby before. If the horse could talk, he would have most likely said, “I’ll have another…”
Hmmm…Have you ever had to deal with folks who lacked the experience you needed to help you reach your goals?
Okay, so the horse already has a couple of strikes against him, and then who comes calling? Bad Luck.
When the post positions were drawn, I’ll Have Another received #19. That meant that he would break from the gate in the farthest position from the rail – WAY outside. Technically, he’d have the most distance to cover in this blistering race. What’s more, no horse in the history of the Derby has ever won from a starting position that far afield. I’m pretty sure the owner, the trainer, the jockey, and the horse wanted to say, “I’ll have another…”
Post position.
Hmmm… Have you ever had a bit of bad luck that seemed impossible to overcome? So impossible, in fact, that no one had ever conquered it before?
So, what does this horse do? He does all he can do. He runs his race…
And he does the impossible.
You can to.
Run your race.
And remember, you only have to win by a nose…
Or you can be like our 2012 Derby champion and stomp the pack by a length and a half.
You can do it.
And before you know it, you’ll be saying, “I’ll have another…”

PROMPT: Today is a great day to do the impossible! Because really, there is no such thing. What are the “impossible” dreams that live inside of you? What’s your race? How do you want to run it today? Get creative. Try something new. Leap from that starting gate!
Or you could just wander around aimlessly and chew on grass…
You decide.
But I, for one, hope you choose to WIN!