WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday, Memoir

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of KL Schwengel.  If you want to participate, post an excerpt tied to the date somehow, and add the link here. This excerpt is from my memoir.  It is much rougher than the earlier excerpts, so criticism is welcome.  It is 23 sentences for the date.

My nearest sibling in age was four years older, and the only one of us who went to kindergarten. By the fall I was 18 months old, I inhabited a dim and quiet house for most of the day.  My mother slept on the couch from the time the older kids left, to the time they came home. I crept silently into my overstuffed chair, and lived a full life with my imaginary friends and my books. I eavesdropped from under the table when my father read to my younger sister, or when my older sister or brother read for my father. In my chair, I began to trace through the pages, finally cracking the code of the letters, and, with tears of joy, the words. My parents were astounded I knew how to read when I was three.  I had received a new book for Christmas from a family friend, and proceeded to read it in the car on the way back home.  Initially, my siblings were scornful, thinking I was pretending I could read, but when they verified I was reading the correct words, no one knew how I learned.  Neither my mother or father had any idea, and questioned my siblings. All of them denied spending the time or effort to teach me to read.  I knew how I had done it, but no one asked me.

I found my siblings’ abandoned readers and dove into them, thumbing through them many times in the three eternal years I waited for school. Books were my escape, my friends, my refuge.  Reading at an early age, after years of long, quiet hours to practice, I stood out in first grade. I gloried in the attention and approbation at first, but teachers’ notice had a dark side.  At one point, my teacher told me to finish reading a story to the class, and left the room.  While the children behaved well in the classroom, even while she was gone, my payback awaited on the playground.

I was surrounded and taunted. Backed by most of my classmates, the largest boy in the class towered over me, jeering, “Spell cat, if you’re so smart!” Even in my terror, I remember thinking, what a stupid word to pick. His face shining in fury, his fist inches from my face, he demanded a confession that I had made up the story and could not read.  Faced with physical harm, I quickly complied.

EM

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday–Memoir

I am leapfrogging again to a different WIP.  All three that I have posted are in various stages of writing, and yes, I do hop around according to my mood.

This is from my NaNo rebel project in 2013, a memoir begun as catharsis, but which moved into exploration of early relationships.  10 sentences figured out thus: 7+16=23-14=9. The extra sentence is a gimme, to finish the paragraph without using a semi-colon (I love semi-colons, overuse them, and blast them from my writing as much as possible).


 

By the age of two, I’d perfected invisibility, without magic potion, industrial accident, or cloaking device. When my mother noticed my presence, her eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, reliving the difficult and unplanned pregnancy that produced me.  My father’s eyes skimmed past me at the breakfast table, the “extra” child who set awry his careful budget planning.  I had tried the “cute puppy” route with my siblings, but that had banished me from my brother’s room, and my sisters were almost magically inoculated against my charms.  “If you wake me up, I’ll tell the tigers under the crib to eat you,” my sister’s version of a bedtime prayer, made me a light sleeper at 18 months.  With nothing to recommend me to my siblings, who had to share already strained space and food with me, my best course was to disappear.

Poster child of being unseen as well as unheard, I hid under draped tablecloths, sidled along walls, never looked directly at anyone and only spoke when questioned.  I loathed winter.  Small, thin, and perpetually cold, I crept near any heat register hidden from the open sight line of parent or sibling.  In summer, I’d burst outdoors at daybreak to hide in the back yard’s pine brush and soak up the warmth of a Southern day.


 

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of KL Schwengel.  Check it out–a supportive group of writers to be found here.

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday Lost love

This scene occurs when my protagonist has made the “noble sacrifice” of sending away the woman he loves in order to protect her. Nine sentences for the ninth day of July.

I’m not liking the purple prose right now, so any help would be appreciated!

I find myself strong enough not to try to see her, or talk to her, but so weak as to wander by the gate, hoping to see her from a distance, standing in the midst of my memories as if addled. I can feel her in my arms, conjured by my longing. I indulge myself by recreating that evening in precise, jewel-like detail—the feel of the back of her neck under my fingers, which slip slightly in her silken hair; her breasts pressed so close to my chest I can feel her heartbeat. I hold the memory of her blue eyes full of love and acceptance like a candle in a dark, moonless night, knowing I will never see them thus again. Sweet Jesus, that way lies madness. I force myself away, refusing to acknowledge the scent of her which I swear on my soul lingers in the air. I leave some part of myself there; nothing so neat as a heart, all limned in lace and flowers. I drag myself away, leaving skin and blood and bone behind; when I see myself in the mirror of my room at the Stag (delicious irony), I feel shock that my skin is intact.

EM

 

Musings

Gratitude for those far from me

Yesterday, I wrote a gratitude post, to which this is a companion.

My aunt was an early positive influence in my life, when so much around me was negativity and despair.  I still miss her, although she passed away over twenty years ago.  She was the salt of the earth, as some describe that sort of honest, grounded, but very giving person.  She helped to bring me out of my snobbishness about education, showing me that common sense and a good heart were often more important in navigating daily life. I thought of her as a grandmother, although in many ways, she was more a mother to me than my own mother. She taught me various kinds of needlework, wheedling the “fairy child” out of her hiding place to bask in her attention. I didn’t realize at the time, but she loved me, and in so doing, countered much of the negativity I felt about myself.

Although my mother still lives, she is absent from me. Her lifelong depression, which made her distant from me when I was small, has been subsumed into the raging bitterness that rules her now that she is in severe dementia.  I regret that I didn’t listen more to her lessons on gardening, botanical names, and the occasional herbal remedy she remembered from her grandmother.  That part of her brain, which she shared with me far too seldom when I was a child, is locked away.  It is there in the frail, wasted body burning with anger, only speaking when there are words formed as weapons to shred the last remaining positive memories I have of her, but I can no longer find the path to it.

Despite present reality, I treasure the knowledge I gained from my mother, the fragile bridge that she managed to forge with me through her depression to pass on something of value to her. When I was about four, she gave me my own small garden, where I insisted I plant a piece of rosebush accidentally torn from a wild rose.  My mother doubted that it would survive, but she helped me prepare the ground and watched me thrust the rosebush into the dirt, watering and watching. Despite the odds, that rosebush flourished, growing over ten feet up the side of a nearby tree, festooned with wild roses every summer. I feel a kinship with that rose, and I appreciate my mother letting me try, even while she was convinced I would fail.

Thanksgiving is a time to cherish those around us, but also to remember those who had an impact on us, in many ways making us who we are.  Who are you thankful for, and why?

Musings

Gratitude for unseen blessings

Thanksgiving is a time I try to express my gratitude for my family, friends, and life.  I was struck by Kristen Lamb’s gratitude post because she concentrates on the blessings revealed by inconveniences.  One example, among many, is to see the blessing in washing the dog blankets because she has a dog for a companion.

Once I learned how to look at several incidents this fall, I see they are unseen blessings. I am grateful for the post-surgical complication that landed me in the ICU, because I no longer take a day, or an hour, or even a minute, for granted.

I am grateful for only having the use of one hand, because I know that it is temporary, and it has made me far more mindful of the things that I do. I often write by hand, with a fountain pen in a notebook, enjoying the process of translating the words to the motion of my hand.

I am grateful for the inflated grocery bill, because my sons are home with us this fall, before going to college in the spring.  I treasure their stopping here on the cusp of their adulthood.

I am grateful for my husband who needs so much more “together” time than I do, because he thinks I am pretty cool, even though especially because I am nerdy.

I am grateful for my sister who cannot figure out the time difference with New York and calls in the middle of dinner, because she calls and cares.

I am grateful for my friends, who dig me out of my hermit self, and make me do things with them that I enjoy, but would never do alone.

I am grateful for my dog who digs up the yard, because she knows when I am sad or feeling ill, and will not leave my side.

Thank you to all of you.  I am grateful to know you, have you as friends and family, and spend time with you.

 

 

Renegade Reflections, ROW80

Writing as Cinderella

Have you ever had to follow your own advice, when you don’t want to, because you will look hypocritical otherwise?  In the last Round, I wrote my inspirational post about not disappearing, even when you have fallen off the wagon, which is an apt description, since I should stand up  to proclaim, “My name is Elizabeth, and I am unable to stick to goals and timetables,” much like in an AA meeting.

Yes, I have had reasons to disappear. My brother ended up in the emergency room last Monday with pneumonia. His oncologist thought he’d have to operate last week to ease his breathing, but by the end of the week, my brother was breathing better, pulled off the “nuclear war” antibiotics, as he put it, and the surgery has been slightly postponed.

Also, I’m up to my nostrils in the blogging course, and have some draft posts in the hopper. I’ve been doing a lot of housekeeping of electronic files, paring back an overgrown inbox, planning for the arrival of my new boss in January, who will want to know what I’ve been doing with myself these last eight months.  I have entered the full marathon of new committees and supervisory assignments as well. One task force meeting was two hours away, and lasted from 10:00 to 3:00, effectively torpedoing one work day. I’ve been working assiduously on the article based on my Pierpont Morgan research trip.

However, I’m just not feeling much of anything this week. Flat, hollow, meh.  The topic of the week for the academic writing group was whether our writing is an ally or a foe.  One of the participants, Z, gave a compelling description of writing as “a prisoner of war.”

This image struck me, because writing has always been my ally, my confidante, my friend, something that understood me when my colleagues did not. Perhaps because I have worked in many non-tenure-accruing environments, I have always been a bit odd in enjoying writing, since many of my colleagues chose such positions in order to avoid writing.  In my current day job, I have quickly become known as a “great editor,” when I am really just a bit more practiced and efficient in my writing, and abhor institutional doublespeak.

Even among graduate students, a group that one would think would embrace writing, I’ve known many bright, engaged, thinkers who lost themselves when handed a compass and a canteen and told to journey forth into the great Dissertation desert.  Some, if not most, of their failure is due to mentoring or lack thereof, but there are many who just discovered they didn’t enjoy writing.

If I am honest, I have often thought of my writing as Cinderella, something that is largely ignored, forgotten, sitting in the ashes of the fireplace, but hard-working and able to shine if given a bath and some attention. However, I am guilty of pushing my writing back into the fireplace as often as not, complicit in keeping it ignored and dull.  I fall far too easily into the “It’s urgent, it must be important,” trap, as well as cancelling appointments with myself, or shorting goals because others are always more important than I am.  I should not be surprised that Cinderella sometimes refuses to work with me, sulking in the corner, or worse, picks up the poker and cuffs me upside the head with it.

I commit myself to being a better sponsor for the rest of the Round; I commit to spending half an hour a day writing something; I commit to re-acquainting myself with Cinderella.

The end of the Round is nigh; please go encourage someone in the group.  The blog hop link is here.

Renegade Reflections, ROW80

More Gratitude and ROW80

Siesta Key Elizabeth Anne Mitchell December White ChristmasI’ve included a very cute video of a puppy playing with his favorite toy below this post on gratitude, above  my ROW80 check-in.  I hope you enjoy!

After writing about some of my family in the last post, I wanted to express my gratitude to some other family members: my aunt, my brother, and my sister. I am very grateful that my aunt found time to spend with her niece, and that my brother and sister have endeavored to stay connected with me despite the centrifugal force that characterizes my family. My mother’s sister was nine years older than my mother, with no intervening children; my mother always looked upon her as a mother, and I saw her more as a grandmother.  A big believer in idle hands leading to devil’s work, my aunt taught me how to knit, crochet, embroider, and tat when I was very young.  She was teaching my oldest sister, but I hung around like a pest and learned as well. She came to see us every month or so; we were always glad to see her, because she knew all sorts of stories and could bake the best pies and cookies I’d ever had.Even though she always made me keep my hands busy with knitting or tatting while we talked, I looked forward to her visits.  I felt as though she could see me, when very few other grownups could.  She despaired when I became a perpetual student, often shaking her head at my explanations of why I studied all these things.  When I finally got married and settled down with my instant family, you would have thought she had been the matchmaker, she was so proud.  And when we added more children, she was ecstatic that I had given her more children to love.Two days before my youngest son was born, Aunt Ellene felt ill, describing it somewhat like indigestion, but worse.  The hospital gave her heartburn medication and sent her home.  Three hours later, she passed away from a massive heart attack.  My mother debated delaying her planned trip to help me with the new baby, but she came the day he came home from the hospital, missing her sister’s funeral, because that was what my aunt would have wanted. My son is nineteen now, and I still miss talking with Aunt Ellene over our knitting or embroidery.
My brother didn’t become a human being until I was 11 and he went to college.  He actually corresponded with me; when he was home on vacation, he still acted like a jerk sometimes, but that behavior diminished through the years.  He married into one of those huge families that gets together for birthdays and holidays and weddings; I have never asked him directly, but I suspect he felt the same kind of attraction/curiosity at the concept that I did when I first saw this unaccustomed behavior.  No matter, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly, leaving my father to shake his head in consternation at how he and his wife travel cross country to see their kids and grandkids.  I stand back in admiration.Last year, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and had one lung removed.  I had not realized until that point how much I thought my siblings were immortal, nor how hard it would hit me.  He is still fighting, but it is a long path through the woods.  He cannot fly anymore, but he and his wife pack up the car and still travel hundreds of miles to see their families. I am so grateful that he has tried valiantly to establish the sort of relationship with me that his wife has with her siblings. I am thankful to them both for showing me that it could work when I was still young enough to do the same for my own family.

One of my sisters is four years older than I am; reportedly she told my father that I was not the fun kind of baby doll, and would he please take me back.  No luck, sorry!  After this bumpy start, my sister and I started to bond her senior year in high school.  I stopped being the “faery child” who did not seem connected to the world, and started being able to see her.  During her college years, we shared hopes and dreams, despite long periods where one or the other of us would pull away to nurse our wounds in private–she, an abusive marriage; me, an early failed marriage, the abyss of graduate school.  Even now, she calls me regularly; I promise to call her, and forget (I am a very bad sister).  She and I are so different in so many of our world views, but we get each other, especially given our shared history.  I am grateful that she continues to knock on my door and pull me out of my little world now and again.

ROW80 Check-in:
While there is still a lot going on behind the curtain, I haven’t much to offer.  I am uploading hundreds of photographs from the past several years, creating a pool to use in my blog from those and others that are not copyrighted or restricted.  I am slowly shoehorning three blogs into one, and endeavoring to find my voice and my niche.  The hardest part so far is to find what might be most interesting about my odd pockets of knowledge or interests.
The day job is heading into high gear, the rush before the holidays. I’m facing longer and longer days, but enjoy most of the work.  I feel the tidal pull to get back to writing, which is only slightly sated by doing the day job writing.  Soon!
If you can take a break from NaNo or your other projects, please go encourage some of the ROW80 folks here.
Renegade Reflections, ROW80

Gratitude

Fall colors, pear tree,
source: E. K. Carmel, from WANA commons

My ROW80 check-in is  at the bottom of this post, if you want only to look at that.

Shan Jeniah, a writer I have met through ROW80 is participating in Thankvember.  While I haven’t signed up, I have been thinking about gratitude. Going through some of my posts while combining my various blogs into one, I found this one still rang true.

The holiday season that ends the calendar year often focuses on family.  Many of the bloggers I read have recently posted about family and family celebrations during the holiday season.  I, too, am very grateful for my family, but I have very few traditions to draw upon.

My parents both had such Dickensian childhoods, it is nearly unbelievable that they grew up in the 20th century.  My father was supposed to be the daughter that arrived two years after his birth.  A fourth son, he was seen as completely superfluous.  My mother was the youngest daughter in her family; in the Southern tradition I thought went away by the end of the 19th century, she was marked to stay with her parents and care for them until their death.  To that end, she was taught early how to run the household, standing on an orange crate to cook and wash dishes at four years old.

My mother and father met on a blind date and married within a year.  Because my father was an Irish Catholic from Massachusetts and my mother a Southern Baptist from Georgia, both of their families summarily disowned them.  My mother’s family went so far as to obliterate her name from the family Bible.  Eventually, some members of both families had some contact with our family, but for most of them, it was limited in both time and warmth. It left a legacy of a real lack of warmth among my own siblings, which is something I realized only in contrast with other families.

Also, my parents seem to have very little tradition to call upon. My father has resisted all my questions about holiday family traditions; my mother has been only slightly more informative, saying that she often got nothing but an orange for Christmas. Because my mother then spun into her “you ungrateful children” speech at that point, I never asked for more details.  Given these deficits, my parents tried to give us children the American dream holidays.  We rarely had a turkey for Thanksgiving, due to the cost, but my father did relax that day.  Christmas Day was a bigger deal, with  presents under the tree for the four children.  I did notice we never had any other family around, like all my schoolmates did.

Due to this upbringing, I really didn’t bring any holiday traditions to my married life; in my first marriage, I played along with traditions I didn’t feel inside.  When I married my second husband, we worked to create traditions together, melding his traditions with my dream holidays. We went through the common tug-of-war between the families, whom to visit when, whom to eat with, whom to stay with if we had travelled.  The situation was complicated by my daughters having their own traditions, as well as another set of grandparents, aunts, and uncles to visit. Thankfully, it got much easier as the girls became older and made their own decisions about the scheduling, rather than being pulled so many different directions.  Even when they spent less time with us, I felt better knowing they were making the decisions.

Perhaps because of my background, family is very important to me.  I don’t tell them often enough how important they are to me.  Some of that reticence is due to my teenage sons, who flee emotion as if it were hydrofluoric acid, but sometimes I take all of them for granted.

I am grateful for my sons, who defied all medical opinion to exist, appearing after three doctors had told me I could not have children.  They helped me learn how to be a mother to alien creatures, who didn’t act at all like their sisters. Furthermore, I had met my daughters when they were 5 and 3, so 0-3 was uncharted territory.  My sons laid to rest any nature versus nurture discussions I had in my mind; their drive and fearlessness taught me how to take risks, while making my face pale with fear.

I am grateful for my daughters, who accepted me as a second mom, and weathered my learning to walk the tightrope, and how to be that second mom. Recently, one of my sons-in-law paid me one of the best compliments I’ve gotten.  He told me that the way I accepted and loved my youngest daughter showed her how to love and accept his two children.  He said she might not have married him had she not grown up with me. It brought me to tears when he told me, and it does so now.

And I am grateful for my husband, who puts up with my weird mental glitch, where I point right and say left, especially annoying when giving directions in the car; follow the hand, not the voice, is the trick.  He accepts my ADD as well as my Irish temper; he glories in my nerdiness, and thinks I’m still as interesting as I was when he met me so very long ago.

To all of you, thank you for keeping me sane, human, and open to the people around me.

writing pencil composition book, L.E. Carmichael WANA commons
source: L. E. Carmichael, WANA commons

ROW80: Not much to report here,  I feel like a cop, saying “Move along, people, nothing to see here.”  While there is a lot going on beneath the surface, I have very little on the surface that reflects the changes. I am learning and working hard in the blogging class; I have managed to keep up my sponsor duties; I have written scads and scads of words on the academic article and procedural documents at the day job (woo-hoo!)

I will return to the novel and blogging by the end of the year.  For now, please go encourage someone in the ROW80 group.  They are a great bunch, and can be found here.

ROW80

ROW80 Round 4 2012 Goals

 With this post I announce my goals for the fourth round in 2012 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, which is a writing challenge that “knows you have a life.”  Click here to read more about it from the creator of the challenge, Kait Nolan.

Round 3 was a tough one for a lot of people, including me.  I’m not sure why it was difficult for me, because not that much changed from Round 2 to Round 3. *shrugs shoulders* However, excelsior!

I am going to retain  the breakout of goals I did last round, which were writing, community, exercise, and family/friends.  This round I am going to include the writing I need to do for the day job, because it impacts my writing in both positive and negative ways.

Writing:

Fiction:

  • I will create an outline of the entire novel, spending at least 7 hours a week in whatever configuration works for that week.

Non-Fiction:

  • I’m starting a blogging course on October 8th, and will keep up with the assignments.
  • I will be doing research the week of October 1-5, which I will turn into a first draft of an article, spending at least 4 hours a week from October 8th on, in whatever configuration.

Community:

  • As a sponsor, I will visit my assigned blogs twice a week.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  I will assess which platforms work for me, and which ones do not.

Exercise:

  • I got stress fractures in two metatarsals by walking, so I will walk for only twenty minutes an evening.
  • I will continue to use the stairs.
  • Starting October 8th, I will investigate low impact exercise, choosing one by week’s end.


Personal:

  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids.