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The creative muse I’ve never met.

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I’ve had a story rolling around in my head for over a year now. It started as a few really vivid images from a dream I had that stuck with me for several days. After talking through them with my husband, it was clear they needed to be turned into something other than an interesting dream. At least a short story, and maybe a novel or screenplay.

So, I sketched out an idea for a story, and even did a little research on the time-period and location I have in mind. That was last year, and I haven’t really done anything with it since then. Until today. Today, John Mayer became my muse.

He’s muse-worthy, don’t you think??

I’m sure that when a musician releases a new cd they hope that it inspires some listeners. They would be happy if it provides a bit of a soundtrack to someone’s day, or even a special event, or a break up, or some other emotional moment. I am confident they hope it means something to some people. When I started working on this story idea, I was listening to The Civil Wars‘ cd, Barton Hollow, a lot, and the sound of that music seemed to fit perfectly with the mood of my words.

Lately, I’ve had Mayer’s new release, Paradise Valley, on repeat on my Spotify feed. I’ve really been loving his lyrics and kind of rediscovered him after not listening to much after Continuum was released in 2007.

Okay, this is where it gets odd…

Sometimes, I talk to myself. In fact, I have conversations with people that are not only not in the room, but are also no one I have ever met or will ever meet. I chalk it up to my highly creative mind. I swear I don’t do drugs. When I was in my early 20s, I imagined entire conversations with Prince Andrew. (Before he met Fergie, of course.) And today, I chatted with John Mayer in my kitchen.

For today’s break with reality, we were both traveling through Europe and met at a hostel somewhere in Bavaria. I was cool when I met him, not letting on that I knew he was a famous musician who dates gorgeous young things. We chatted about meditation and why we’re on the road in Europe. He told me he was taking some time to himself after a break up and I told him about a book I’m trying to write. He made me promise not to write about meeting him… because that would kind of blow the whole anonymous traveling thing. Makes sense, I was fine with that. So, as I described the synopsis to John (who was listening with rapt attention, of course), I had a breakthrough about my main antagonist.

Now, I’m not saying that it was John who brought this creative brilliance on… I mean, it probably could have just as easily been Dave Matthews, Viggo Mortensen or Johnny Depp. Okay, maybe not Johnny Depp… he seems to shy to be much of a conversationalist. But John just happened to be the guy on the patio with me in Bavaria… in my kitchen.

   

The bottom line is that I was chatting with John Mayer(‘s pretend self) and I had a creative breakthrough. That makes him my muse, right? I can list him in my “Thanks” notes in the book jacket, at least.

Works for me. Thanks John. 🙂

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Oh, hello June.

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My youngest daughter is 18, and she has been enlisted in the U.S. Army since last fall. So, we’ve known since that time that she’s headed off to basic training this month to get fine-tuned according to the military code and training schedule. She’s been having mini-panic attacks in the last month or so – homesickness is making a pre-emptive strike it seems. I assured her she’ll be fine, and that once she gets there and gets busy she’ll feel better. And of course, she’ll be home next November.

Last month, my sister was offered an amazing career opportunity in Portland, Oregon. She’s been looking for a new job for a year or so, so I’ve known she was going to go somewhere for quite a while. But Portland… well, it’s not a long weekend’s drive away.

Today, my oldest daughter (and mother of the Grand-Cuteness) found out there is an apartment available at a transitional housing program for single parents called Havenwood. She and her daughter have been living with us, and she’s been on their waiting list for a little while. They’ve called before, but she wasn’t making a steady income… and simply wasn’t ready to make the leap. This time, she’s ready to go. She’s understandably nervous about the idea. She’s afraid of losing her job, and the instability that would cause. But of course, that’s what all “grown-ups” worry about, right? I assured her that life is unpredictable, and that this experience will help her gain confidence and be ready to be truly independent when she leaves there. And a healthy pocketful of fear is not a bad thing.

Daughter & Grand-cuteness

The oldest and the Grand-Cuteness.

So, suddenly, June’s theme is going to be about leaving.

It’s odd, this piling on of things. It reminds me of August 2009… that month my youngest daughter decided to go live with her father and my mother died. It was fairly devastating – dealing with those two loses at the same time. I think I shoved the grief of losing my daughter deep down and haven’t really dealt with it. The grief of losing mom was more than enough. But with my daughter it was not a loss as much as a feeling of rejection and failure. Strange how things come along in rushes like this.

This month will be different… since I know that I’m not losing anyone permanently, but I’m sure there will be some tough times here and there. And of course, I’m also looking forward to some of the changes. Cleaner bathrooms, spending time with my oldest that don’t involve lecturing and griping… cleaner bathrooms…

I don’t have anything wise or witty to finish with. I simply needed to put down the words. Sometimes that’s all I can do, I suppose.

A Sunday drive.

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We’ve been looking around for a parcel of land that will provide a little place to go camp, hike, stargaze, hang out and listen to birds and breezes… all for under $20,000 and within an hour of our house. High hopes much?? 🙂 So every now and then the hubster finds a couple of contenders and we head out on an adventure to find the listed property and decide if it’s worth keeping in the contenders column or if the description is highly creative.

Most of the time the places he finds are off a dirt road (always a good sign!) and often the map online doesn’t quite match the roads we have to travel. Today was one of those days. One of the properties had some breathtaking views, but we had to put the truck in 4WD and low gear to get up the road to reach it. While it would be a great place to hike, and there was a cleared area to pitch a tent, we’d really like to find something that we could invite friends to, and all of our friends don’t own 4WD vehicles. So, it’ll be on the “it’d perfect if…” list.

Elkins, AR mountain views

While we were walking the property I got a little melancholy, thinking about the land my grandparents owned. It was wooded, with some pasture where they raised cattle and grew a gorgeous big garden. The spring breaks I spent there were full of wildflowers, fossil hunting, and learning about the bird calls and plants we found on our walks in the woods.

On the property we visited today there were trilliums growing, and shelf fungus… wild violets and lichens. As we drove down the dirt roads I lusted after large flat rocks that had recently been unearthed by the road grater. They reminded me of drives I took down the roads near my previous house (built on my grandparents’ former clover field that they grew for their honey bees). I wasn’t too proud to throw rocks for my garden into the back of my Subaru.

I also smiled at the sight of mayapples in the understory that are just starting to pop up. When my daughters were small we walked in the woods that I walked as a kid, and we told stories about the fairies who lived under the mayapples and played in and around the tree roots in the dry creek bed. I’m still dealing with unresolved feelings about having to let my mom’s house, which was formerly my grandparents’ house, go back to the bank after mom  died. Some days, not being able to take my son and grand-daughter for walks in those woods really burrows deep in my bones and makes me angry. There’s no one to be angry at, of course, so I have to let it go. But a walk in the woods brings those feelings up out of my bones a little.

Doe, a deer.

Maybe we’ll find our own property covered with mayapples and trillium… peppered with perfect flat rocks just begging to go into my garden. My son can learn the difference between the hoot of a barred owl and a barn owl and understand that “No Service” is a blessing, not a curse. We’ll just keep taking drives on Sundays and hiking the back roads until we do.

Do Over

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a word that I was going to focus on throughout the year. I had put a lot of thought into that word. I drew pictures about it. I wrote in a journal about it. So it only makes sense, then, that I’ve decided to change my word.

*sigh*

Here’s the thing. The first word that I thought of when I was considering the possibilities was “create”, but one of the other bloggers who had talked about doing this challenge had already chosen the same word. I wanted to do something different. But as I try to come up with the sub-text for my word, to put it into little chunks of focus for the year, I get stuck.

So today I decided to change my word. My fellow One Little Word participants agree that it’s okay to have a do-over. One of my favorite people said “…shifting from one word to another means you’ve been thinking about it and it’s evolving for you, which seems to me to be the whole point of the journey anyway!” I’m so glad I have friends like that. (thanks Angie!!!)

So my word is now CREATE. But I’m going to have to get back to you with my plan and my intentions with this new word… stay tuned. 🙂

Choose the Tequila

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I guess if there is a week to be thankful, all out in public and everything, this is it. So I guess this is also the week to write the obligatory thankfulness blog post. I’ve been posting statuses to Facebook about things I’m thankful for… so I will start there.

Okay, here we go: I’m thankful for the employees of the NWA Mall AT&T store, my office Thanksgiving lunch (including The Best Banana Pudding in the Universe), friends who stop by the coffee shop on the way to work, paychecks for my kids, good friends, a large dinner table, more coffee shops, books in the hands of my kids, books in my own hands, friends who write books, people who serve our country, good sense, vintage buttons, amateur art, free chicken sandwiches, paintbrushes, the opportunity to vote in an election, my health, second chances in life, and this kid…

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I have a lot to be thankful for. That half-serious list doesn’t even scratch the surface. Throughout the year, every year, there are numerous reasons popping up here and there for me to express my thankfulness… my gratefulness for the life that I live. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still hold on to a little envy or a pocketful of regret. I silently ask the universe “what if…?” from time to time.

This year I have rejoiced in the thrill of feeling like my tires are all-weather and my internal gps is fully charged. I have celebrated milestones and made memories with my family and friends. I have also mourned the loss of a dear friend, and I have been at sixes and sevens with my inability to comfort a loved-one who was disappointed when their own gps was off-course. I have been blessed with a sweet grand-daughter in my home, while hanging by a thin thread at the end of my rope as I dealt with her mother’s challenges.

But in the end, the thankfulness always wins. The challenges that I have faced in my life have led me to the blessings in the end. The good things are always so much sweeter – like the taste of sweet tequila on the tongue mixed with the salt around the glass.

I will continue to wish that I had learned some lessons in my 20s that I had to wait for my 30s (or 40s) to get right. I will continue to wonder what might have been had I gone to college right after high school. Or, had I moved to New York when I was 21. Or, had I loaded my Toyota and headed for Colorado to become a ski bum when I was 22. Or, had I not become pregnant the first time… or the second time.

But one of those things I learned in my 30s was to be quiet (some of you may not believe this one). I strive to appreciate the things that come along unexpectedly and briefly, and to create moments to be thankful for. During this week of thankfulness I encourage you to look for those moments in your life. No matter how large or small they may be. A sunset you happen to see as you walk to your car after a frustrating day at work… a coupon for pizza when you don’t have time to make dinner… Happy Hour at Sonic… a clean PT scan. Be thankful. Be grateful. Live this life you’ve been given with joy and laughter. You might have to choose to do it sometimes. But it will be the choosing that makes the moments even sweeter. Choose the tequila.

The gold kind of friend…

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As I was on my way to Little Rock a few weeks ago, on a one-day trip for a work meeting, I sent a quick text near Russellville to a friend who lives there. (No, I wasn’t driving.) I hadn’t heard from him in a while. It was just a quick note: “Hey stranger! I’m driving by Russellville, so I’m waving in your direction!” It went unanswered, and I went about my day not thinking about it again.

John and I met on Match.com almost 12 years ago. I thought he Imagewas cute, and his profile was hysterical. He may have even included some Monty Python references, which sealed the deal – I had to meet him. We chatted by email quite a bit, and finally decided to meet at the Little Rock zoo with our daughters for a Saturday afternoon. It was fun, and he was still cute, but it was obvious there wasn’t a lot of romantic spark there. He was a bachelor who pretended to be looking for a relationship, but was really just happy to keep looking. We became great friends, and he even stood up with me at my wedding to the Hubster.

We didn’t speak to each other often, but we’d send an occasional email back and forth. Hecommented on my Facebook posts, and I would on his… it was one of those friendships that would have faded away completely were it not for the advent of social media.

Then early last week while I was on Facebook, I thought of him again. He’d been in NWA for the Bentonville ½ marathon in March, and he met my husband and I for lunch. We had a great time catching up and parted ways with big hugs. But I hadn’t seen him out there online for a while, and when I remembered that I hadn’t heard back after my text, I wondered. I sent him a message: “hey, where are you man?”

Then I felt that knot in my stomach as I looked at his Facebook timeline and saw that there had been no activity for a while… and I did what any friend would do. I Googled him.

“John Russell Baskin age 44 of Russellville died Sunday, July 8, 2012. He was born December 7, 1967 at Chula Vista, CA…”

I hate that I don’t know what happened. I hate that I don’t know how to find out. I hate that I wasn’t at his memorial service because I didn’t know about it. I didn’t know one of my friends had died. I hate that I didn’t know.

John was a great dad, a terrific softball coach, and a good friend. He was a listener, an encourager, and a caller of “bullshit” when he needed to be. He was funny, a smart-ass, loved his Cubs, and could quote Monty Python episodes by heart. He was a former member of the United States Army, and was proud to have served his country.

Even though I didn’t talk to him often, I’m so terribly sad that he’s gone. I will miss him dearly. And my husband reminded me the other day of something that kind of exemplifies our relationship. When we decided we were not really made for each other romantically, we made a pact that if we both turned 60 and were still single, we’d just shack up together. So, if I’m single at 60 with no one to shack up with, I’m gonna be pissed, John!!!

Rest in peace, my friend.

Fresh and spicy Shrimps!

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tasty shrimpI do a lot of my meal planning while actually carrying a basket through the supermarket. I’m going along, thinking… “hmmm… what sounds good?”  Tonight, I thought I was going to do some salmon something for me, and swiss steak for hubby. But then I found tomatillos, cilantro, and oranges, and it occured to me that those would make a great marinade/sauce for some shrimp – something the hubby will eat.

So, I picked up a bag of potatoes for baking (I’m trying to stay away from white rice and pasta), and a bag of frozen, uncooked, 51-60 shrimp.

Here’s the marinade:

1/2 a small red jalapeno

1 medium tomatillo, chopped

1/4 c. chopped cilantro

3 Tblsp chopped red onion

3/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 orange, sectioned

1/4 c. pinot grigio

I had some things on hand, bought the rest. Chopped and/or squeezed it all into my Magic Bullet (it was a gift… don’t point and laugh), and whipped it into a greenish yellow frenzy. I let the shrimp soak in it for 10 minutes or so, then threw it in a skillet to cook on medium until the shrimp were pink. Not too long, or it will get rubbery!

I’m thinking it would be fantastic in a salad as well. It’s tangy, and has just a tiny hint of that jalapeno in it. SOOOO good, and so easy.